Meditating on the Commands of Christ (12): Hold Thy Peace and Come Out of Him

Do you know anyone who feels like they cannot control their actions? I have known several people who, when deeply entrapped by some addiction, felt like they lost the power to choose and seemed to have no ability to stop their self-destructive habit, whether it was alcohol, drugs, porn, sex, or whatever. I’m not spiritually perceptive enough to know whether or not these people have been overtaken by “unclean spirits,” but there are clearly accounts of this happening during the time of Christ, and so it seems likely that evil spirits can possess people today. As 2018 draws to a close, I find great comfort in this next command of Christ, which wasn’t directed to a person per se, but to an evil spirit who was living within a man and causing great agony. The account is found both in Mark 1:21-28 and in Luke 4:31-37 (written out at the end if you’d like to read them). After the marriage feast in Cana, Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, where Jesus began teaching in the synagogue on the sabbath days. Reading the Torah (Old Testament Law) was a common practice, but the people were astonished by Jesus, because the usual format was to ponder the meaning of the various readings, but instead Jesus was explaining authoritatively what they meant. During one of these teaching times, a man who was possessed with an unclean spirit became disruptive and started yelling for Jesus to leave “them” alone. I don’t know if the man was speaking his own thoughts, or if the “unclean devil” was actually speaking through the man. If it was the man speaking, then it sounds like he was trying to protect the evil within him . . . so like the addict who will lie, cheat, steal, and worse if necessary to protect the evil that is ruining his life. If it was the devil speaking, then the man had indeed allowed the evil spirit to take control of his body, and the man probably had lost the power to control himself.The next declarations coming from the lips of the possessed man change from plural to singular, and I believe this shows a transition from the man and unclean spirit speaking together to the devil speaking through the man: “What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.” I believe that last statement—”I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God— came straight from the unclean spirit, because, at this early point in Jesus’s ministry, practically no human on earth understood that Jesus was “the Holy One of God.” Certainly the man with the unclean spirit would not have known this. However, Satan and his minions did understand this, as we learn from James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.Evil spirits know who God is, and who Jesus is, and they fear, but rather than repenting, they are bent on destroying the works of God. Jesus—on the other hand—had no fear and had complete authority over the evil spirits. (Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”)Therefore, Jesus was able to command the unclean spirit: “Hold thy peace, and come out of him” (Luke 4:35). “Hold thy peace” sounds rather polite in the King James, although alternate translations from the Greek into modern English include “Be silent” or “Be muzzled.” The devil had no option but to obey: “And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not” (Luke 4:35).  As 2018 ends and 2019 is about to begin, here is a wonderful insight for us: Jesus can free people from addictions. Are you or someone you love caught in a trap of evil so strong that it appears there’s no hope for recovery? As long as someone is alive, there is hope! Even if someone has lost the power to control himself, God can still intervene and heal that person. Could that person be you? Could it be someone you love dearly? Ask Jesus to intervene and rescue. If it’s within your power to go (or get your loved one to go) to a facility where you can get help, please do so! However, if that is beyond your power, you can always pray fervently. Ask day and night, in faith, until Jesus steps in and changes everything. I am praying for this in the lives of two precious friends. As long as there is life, there’s hope. Let’s never give up! If you’d like me to pray with you about your own needs or those of someone dear to you, please contact me at: kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint . . . And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (Luke 18:1,7. Luke 18:1-7 tells the entire parable.)

  “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. 26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. 28 And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.” (Mark 1:21-28).

“[Jesus] came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days. 32 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not. 36 And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out. 37 And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.” (Luke 4:31-37)

(The photographs [versus paintings and woodcuts] are courtesy of BBM’s Lumo Project.)

Spinach-Crust, Cheesy Sausage Quiche for a Crowd

How would you like to make a super simple, delicious quiche without a crust ? Or better yet, to make an easy, yummy quiche with a spinach crust? I have a son who can’t be home for New Year’s Day because he is the accompanist at a church where he’s in graduate school. In fact, so many of his fellow graduate students will be “stuck” at the university that he’s decided to host a New Year’s Day brunch lest anybody feel too lonesome or unloved. We were talking about the fact the he’d like to be able to make one big quiche that could feed a dozen people or so, and that inspired me to try to work out a recipe.  I tried my new recipe for a pan-sized quiche on some dear friends when we had a Christmas brunch, and it “passed inspection” as yummy, so I’ll share it.

Cheesy Sausage and Spinach Quiche
(Serves 12±)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Saute in a frying pan until thoroughly cooked:
1 pound ground, spicy sausage (spicy is better than mild for this)
1 medium diced onion
8 oz. fresh diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon garlic
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s but suit yourself)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper   Beat together in a mixer:
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour(I combine the milk and flour in my mother’s antique copper shaker, but use whatever works for you to make sure it’s not lumpy)  Fill 9X12″ baking dish with:
10 oz. fresh spinach (becomes the bottom “crust” if you will)
8 oz. of Swiss cheese sliced or cubed (can use other types of cheese) Add sausage mixture on top and spread evenly Add egg mixture over everything Sprinkle 8 oz. shredded cheese on top  Bake for 30 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown on top Serve hot! (I also made pecan rolls and served fresh blackberries, but the quiche by itself is quite a healthy, filling “meal in one.”) This morning, I didn’t have time to make the pecan rolls, nor were the blackberries on sale, but it’s good “any old way!”      “He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes” (Psalm 147:16).

Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends!  This has been a year of joy for me, not because everything has always been easy—or even because everything went the way I’d hoped—but because I knew God was in it, and God is good. He loves us, and everything He gives us, He gives us for our good, and so that we will bring glory to Him! Bearing this in mind, I’m going to share the happy highlights and leave the lowlights right where they belong— in my prayer closet!  First, Alan and I have had a truly wonderful year in most ways. Alan still hasn’t retired, although he’s thinking he might in a couple of years.  Meanwhile, he’s working like a trooper, which gives me ample time to enjoy  family and friends as well as pursuing writing and photography.         We took a few big trips together: A full transit of the Panama Canal last winter, & a relaxing, fascinating trip to Iceland, Norway, and the North Sea last summer.   We also spent a week in Southern California with our oldest son and his family.                   Aaron and Carleen have four sons, who are really growing!                                         Aaron still works at LinkedIn,  and Carlie is busy helping with Classical Conversations, which is the homeschooling support system they use in conjunction with teaching their kids.     Gerlinde is also involved with home schooling and Classical Conversations. She and Jon (our son) moved to Chicago this year, where Jon continues teaching for Moody but is also busy developing and directing an innovative virtual reality system for higher Christian education called the Center for Global Theological Education.  Jon flies all over the country (and world) helping provide training for people in leadership positions within the Church global, but now that they live closer, we have the happy privilege of spending more time with Gerlinde and the girls while he’s away—something we couldn’t do when they lived on the West Coast! In July, I had the great joy of traveling to Italy to help out when Michael and Grace had their fifth child:                                                  A precious baby boy! Since then, they’ve moved to Belgium, where Michael serves as a major in the army and is the Dental Clinic Commander at his base. They home schooled until this fall, but now their two oldest have enrolled in public school and are busily trying to learn French so they can understand their lessons!  We have one daughter, whose husband directs the videography department of a mega church in the Detroit area. They have three children and are doing great, although she prefers privacy in public spaces, so I don’t share much about her (although I’d love to!). We are blessed with one married son who lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and two little ones.         Jon and Gerlinde bring their kids to visit often, which we love,  but it’s really a unique privilege to have one family living close enough to interact on a more constant and casual basis. Dan directs the dental clinic at Exalta Health, an outreach to the uninsured and underserved population,                        and Brianna is very busy with Sammy and Ellie,                                        who keep us totally charmed.                I’m just wondering what they’ll be like when they grow up!  Stephen is continuing work on his PhD in musicology from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. He is in a whirl of teaching and presenting at conferences, and I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, but I’m thankful he’s healthy and productive.      Joel is working as an editor at Kregel Publications here in Grand Rapids.Alan and I feel extremely blessed that he has rejoined the “home team” during this season of his life (although we are praying for a wonderful wife for him). 🙂             Meanwhile, we’ve even enjoyed some travel adventures together! We now have 12 children (including in-law kids) and 17 grandchildren, and we  love each one of them with all our hearts!                           We’ve been privileged to keep up with our sibs,               enjoy close fellowship with our church and extended families,                      and have an amazing circle of friends in Grand Rapids,  which is the only community I’ve ever lived in where there are so many kindred spirits I can’t keep up with all of them!  Best of all, we have a God who is our Father, a Savior who is His Son, Jesus, and a Comforter and Guide, who is the blessed Holy Spirit.  Through faith in Christ, we have inherited eternal life, enjoy the fruits of His Spirit,and have become joint heirs with Jesus. Who could wish for more??  My prayer is that you are enjoying the blessings of being God’s child too.                 There is nothing in heaven or on earth any better than that!  “[Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (11): Draw Out Now and Bear to the Governor of the Feast

Last week we ended our study of Jesus’s ninth command with everybody holding their breath to see what was going to happen next, and this is what happened: “And he [Jesus] saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.” (I think they were very brave souls!!) “When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;)  the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (John 2:8-11). Let’s start at the beginning and think through the details of this occasion. Jesus and his disciples were attending a wedding feast in Cana where they ran out of wine. Jesus’ mother, Mary, told Jesus about the problem.  In response, Jesus directed the servants to do something that was possible but probably made no sense and was possibly a little scary; they were to fill up the waterpots with water. But . . . how would that solve the problem?It might be worth noting that these ancient waterpots held “two or three firkins apiece” (John 2:6), and my understanding is that a firkin is a quarter of a barrel. I’ve heard estimates of these waterpots holding between 20-30 gallons. Multiply this by 6 (there were six of them), and you have as much as 180 gallons of water!  Given that the water was turned into wine, even if the wedding celebration lasted seven days (which was common), there would be no shortage of drinks again! As someone who’s never had an alcoholic drink, I’ve often wondered why Jesus turned the water into wine. Jesus could have purified the water as his miracle, and pure, cool water might have tasted better than anything any of them had ever tasted before. Water symbolizes life, as Jesus taught us in John 4:14, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.Paul wrote that “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Jesus could have simply purified the water, but he did not.       Jesus turned the water into wine  . . . wine better than the best they had.  For the sake of clarity, “wine” comes from the Greek word οἴνῳ, (or in Latin: vino, “from the vine”) and was used generically for both non-alcoholic grape juice and fermented, alcoholic juice products. “Wine” in the Bible is symbolic of joy, and of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if Jesus turned the water into fresh, non-alcoholic grape juice or fermented “wine,” although after much study (which I’ll write about separately someday), I personally believe it was fresh. Still, as I pondered this, the thought crossed my mind: Am I missing out on joy by refusing to drink alcohol? The Lord brought these verses to my mind: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .” (Galatians 5:22). In the flesh—in this world—people experience a certain type of pleasure by drinking wine, but true joy comes from being filled with the fruit of the Spirit—not fruit of the vine. If you’re drinking in God’s spirit, you have better than the best the world can offer! So, none of us who are abstinent are missing out on joy . . . and we may be avoiding great sorrow. 🙂As  a last thought, turning the water into wine was such an obvious miracle that the disciples couldn’t miss it. Reading from our perches 2,000 years after the fact, it’s easy to see that “the miraculous draught of fishes” (as it’s commonly called) was also a miracle, but the disciples didn’t really recognize it. They recognized Jesus’ power, but it just made them afraid of him. This time, in Cana, the change from water to wine was indisputable but not the least bit scary, and the disciples began to trust him: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”How about you and me? Do we believe the testimony of the miracles that Jesus performed? Has that made us trust him? Are we enjoying the true fruit of the Vine, the Lord Jesus, who is “drink indeed” (John 6:55)? Are you looking forward to participating in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, to which all are invited, but only those who are dressed in the robes of Jesus’ righteousness will be attending (Revelation 7:14)? As Christmas approaches, I hope you are experiencing true joy—the joy of knowing Jesus as your Lord, King, and Savior!

Joy to the World

Joy to the World; the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King!
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields & floods, rocks, hills & plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love. (—Isaac Watts, 1719)

(*Photo credits: Photos of famous, “Public Domain” paintings are from free online sources, particularly Wiki Commons and Wiki Arts Encyclopedia: https://www.wikiart.org/en/Search/Marriage%20at%20Cana . I took the photos of the Greek storage containers last fall at Getty Villa, California. The photos from a modern reenactment of the biblical story are from http://www.freebibleimages.org and can be used freely on blogs or for teaching purposes with attribution to: www.LumoProject.com. These are great resources. If you know of other free resources, I’d love for you to share the links in the comment box below. Thanks so much!)

 

 

Savory Parmesan Potatoes

My daughter-in-law Brianna makes “the best” potato dish. There are rarely any leftovers, and it’s versatile enough that you can serve it with anything, from fancy to plain . . . or even as a snack.  I served it recently for a special Christmas dinner party, and both couples wanted the recipe. So, if you’re looking for a way to dress up potatoes, try this!

Savory Parmesan Potatoes
(6+ servings)

#1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

#2. Place 4-6 tablespoons butter on a large baking sheet and melt the butter in the oven. (One large baking sheet can hold about 6 medium-sized potatoes.) Remove from oven to cutting board.

#3. Sprinkle on top of melted butter:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper (Brianna doesn’t use pepper, but I like it)
*
Also, this is an old family recipe, so Brianna doesn’t really measure anything. I measured as I went to try to replicate what seemed about right, but feel free to experiment for yourself with the cheese and seasonings.

#4. Remove a small portion of each end of your potatoes to create a flat surface.
Cut six medium-sized potatoes into 1-1.5cm slices each.   #5. Place the potato slices with one side completely flat on the pan. #6. Rub the top side of each of the slices in the sprinkled mixture and then turn it over (so that both sides are coated). #7. Bake at 400°F. for 15 minutes and then flip. If the cheese has not yet started to stick to the bottoms, wait another 5 minutes and try again. After flipping them over, bake another 10 minutes and reassess. You want the potatoes to be baked through and crispy/browned on both sides.                                                 #8. Serve hot and enjoy!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Choosing Joy

She had given up all hope of ever needing to make a blanket for her own baby, it had always been for a friend’s newborn. Just a few more months and she would be holding the son promised to Zachariah, her husband. The angel had appeared to him one day in the temple as he was doing his priestly duties. At first Elisabeth had almost been afraid to believe what the angel had said, yet she fervently hoped it was true.

For years she had suffered the disgrace of barrenness, which to the Jews, was always considered an indication of God’s disfavor. Despite her disappointment of not having any little one to hold in her arms, she and Zachariah had continued to faithfully serve God. Over the years, Elisabeth had learned to find her joy in her Lord, not in her circumstances.  It would have been easy to be bitter or discouraged, instead she had chosen to joyfully serve God.

Smiling again, she carefully stitching the blanket, her musings were interrupted when her cousin, Mary, greeted her as she come into the house. At the same time the baby in her womb seemed to leap for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.

Instantly Elisabeth stood up and blessed Mary, the mother of her Lord, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary stayed with Elisabeth for three months. Elisabeth was one in whom Mary could confide.  Yes, her cousin did understand Mary’s fears. Day by day as they worked together Elisabeth shared her life of joyful service to God. Elisabeth’s long life of trusting God was reassuring to Mary. Elisabeth’s confidence and joy were infused into Mary’s much younger heart.

Elisabeth had learned that her joy was not dependent on circumstances, children, position or wealth but in serving God alone.

What is your response when life isn’t what you had dreamed it would be?  Have you become bitter and angry?  Or have you learned to love and trust God, to obey and serve Him with joy?  Are you able to find joy in Christ alone? Joy is often a choice, it does not always come naturally.

As we study His Word and live in obedience to it, we will understand His character more deeply and find joy in Him.  Then our joy will be contagious to those around us, encouraging them in their not so desirable circumstance or time of trial.

Have you experienced a disappointment and struggling to find joy and peace?  I encourage you to allow “… the God of hope fill you with all joy…”

If you have learned to choose joy, is there someone you can encourage like Elizabeth did Mary, who is struggling in her faith or facing a difficult time in her life?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.” Romans 15:13.

© Cynthia Wedge 2017 (Cynthia has a wonderful tea shop in Grand Rapids [englishcottagetea.com ]and is also a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers Group. Cynthia writes devotionals to share with her customers at Christmas time and has graciously agreed to share a couple with me because I enjoy them so much! Thank you, Cynthia!)

A Man of Obedience

Working in his father’s carpenter shop in Nazareth, the same thoughts filled Joseph’s mind today as they had for the last three months.  Why did Mary, his future bride, leave so abruptly without letting him know?  All he knew about her disappearance was what friends and customers had said while in the shop.  When was she coming back home?  Oh how he longed to see her.

Even before their parents had made the arrangement for their marriage, Joseph had noticed Mary’s love for God, her quiet, sweet ways.  She would smile shyly when they had met occasionally.

Deep in thought, he only half listened to people as they came into the shop.  Wait. What was this he was hearing?  Did someone say “Mary”?  His Mary?  Had she finally returned?  Frozen, he listened intently?  No, it couldn’t be, not his Mary, she was not the kind to be unfaithful to their marriage agreement.  Pregnant?  NO!

Mary had been home a week.  The rumors were true.  Joseph was beside himself with grief.  No, he could not bear to think of having Mary stoned as the law allowed. He decided to quietly break the engagement.

Heartbroken, Joseph laid down to get some sleep.  Waking from a deep sleep, he sat bolt upright.  The angel had seemed so real, as if he was right in the room with him. The angel said he was to take Mary as his wife, for the baby in her womb, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was the promised Messiah and was to be called “Jesus”.  So, Mary had not been unfaithful to him.  No matter what other people may think of her or him, he knew the truth.  He would obey God and take Mary to be his wife.

On the night Mary gave birth, shepherds had come to see “the Savior, which is Christ, the Lord”.  Today, wise men from the east had visited them, worshipped the baby and given them gifts.  Sleep came quickly to Joseph this night as he lay down next to his sweet wife. Then, just as quickly, Joseph awoke. Another dream.  This time the angel said to take Mary and the baby and flee to Egypt to save the baby from the sword of Herod.  Joseph woke Mary and they quickly escaped under cover of night.

Twice more Joseph was visited by the angel in a dream.  Each time he obeyed.  It hadn’t been easy moving to a strange country so far from all that was familiar.  They rejoiced when the angel had told him they could go back to Judah.  As they traveled back home, Joseph thought of all that had happened since he had first become engaged to Mary.  It was not at all what he had envisioned as a young man.

Finally, they had reached Judah. It wasn’t far now to Bethlehem.  One more dream. This time the angel instructed Joseph to go to Nazareth, not Bethlehem.  Jesus would be safer farther from Herod.

While life had taken many different turns as God had directed him, Joseph had never questioned what the angel told him.  He had not hesitated to obey no matter how strange it may have seemed or what hardship it had caused him.  He simply trusted God and obeyed.

This same immediate obedience is what God desires from each one of us.  God sent an angel to Joseph, but today we have God’s written commands.  Sometimes people say they want to know God’s will, but they aren’t obeying the plain commands in the His Word.  God expects us to obey what He has already made available to each of us.  As we do He can lead us in specific ways.  Notice God did not tell Joseph to go to Nazareth when he was told to leave Egypt, it was as he obeyed that God told Joseph a detail left out before.

Is there a command of God you have been resisting?

“When Joseph woke from sleep,
he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”
  Matthew 1:24.

© Cynthia Wedge 2017  (Thank you, Cynthia! I love the way you bring the characters to life and help us understand them as “real” people just like we are.)