May 1 - Encouragement to Be With God

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Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
Praise God. 
Praise God that there is nothing in heaven or on the earth that is beyond his control. Praise God that he has given all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus. Praise God that while the Devil does roam the world seeking whom he may devour, he does so only with the permission of God. He cannot do anything without God granting it for His own purpose and glory. Matthew 28:18, 1 Peter 5:8 and Job 1:2
Acknowledge sin.
Confess the sin of failing to understand just the magnitude of Christ's authority and power, and the limitedness of the Devil's, albeit dangerous, power.

Let us "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.
     Give thanks for the work of ARPA, as it seeks to keep the church in Canada informed about the actions and decisions of the provincial and federal governments, as well as giving helpful advice on matters affecting human life and the church. 

Let's read Luke 4:31-37.
Pray for the Holy Spirit's help to receive God's Word.
Matthew, at this point, recounts for us the calling of the disciples. We will come to that in the next chapter of Luke, after the events that unfold when Jesus arrives in Capernaum.
V31, 32. From Nazareth to Capernaum.
What town does Jesus now go 'down' to? (‘Down’ because the lakeside town lay on a lower level to that of Nazareth.) What do we find him doing? Jesus' teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath has become his practice. He is now into his ministry full-time. What is the reaction of the people in Capernaum to his teaching? They, like the people in the other towns where Jesus has preached and taught, are astonished because of the authority with which he speaks. He teaches with dignity and power. Mark says of Jesus' teaching that it is, 'and not as the scribes.' Mark 1:22. Nothing more had to be said; everyone knew what he meant. As we have seen before, Jesus' teaching was on an entirely different level because he was declaring and expounding the living Word of God, and not trying to make sense out of the traditions and rules of men. While no minister can teach with such authority today, such dignity and power, nonetheless, when the Word of God is preached with integrity, the voice of Christ will be heard, and the Holy Spirit will work in saving and sanctifying power. 
We often take the act of 'listening to a sermon' for granted. I'll repeat what I suggested the other day. Why not set a time on Saturday and specifically ask God to prepare your heart and mind to receive his Word on the Lord's Day? Pray that he would also bless the preaching of his Word with Biblical authority. Ephesians 6:19.
V33-37. The Conflict in the Synagogue.
Who was in the synagogue on this day? Demonic activity has always been present in the world. However, care must be taken not to overplay it because the Bible says very little about it either before or after the life of Jesus. What is clear from what the Bible does say is that, in this region, at this time in history, there was a definite surge in such activity, and it was obviously focused on the person and work of Jesus. The fact that Satan failed in tempting Jesus in the wilderness didn't send him scurrying for cover for a few years. No way. He was back out on his prowl again as soon as Jesus began his ministry. Remarkable when you are given the fact that he knew that Jesus had come into the world to destroy his works. 1 John 3:8. It is the same today. This dogged determination is a characteristic of his daily approach. Day after day, relentlessly transversing the world, as though oblivious to the fact that the Cross has signalled his defeat and death. Hebrews 2:14. Could the degree of his evil persistence teach us a lesson, assuming, of course, that it is appropriate for us to learn anything from the behavioural patterns of our enemy? 
By God's permission, Satan had taken hold of this man's life, through an unclean demon, and was controlling his words and physical movements. Why is the demon described as unclean? The commentators are not agreed. Is it a description of the moral character of the demon? Or is this man in a dirty, dishevelled state because of the demon's presence? Maybe it is both; we don't know. But the word 'unclean' certainly speaks of something potentially unhealthy, unsafe, and unwanted. 
What does the man do? One translation says he 'shrieked at the top of his voice', which gives us a sense of the tone of the loud cry. What does he say? It is phrased as a question, but it could equally have been a statement. How does he describe Jesus? What do these words tell us about the devil's knowledge of who Jesus is? The phrase, Holy One of God, is an unusual one, but it indicates that the demon is conscious that Jesus is working in the service of God. There is, of course, no faith or hope contained in the words of the demon. There are overtones, though, of what James said when he wrote, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder." James 2:19.
Surely, this is a sombre warning to us that we can know about Jesus but not know Jesus. The fact is simple, "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up," I Corinthians 8:1. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness." Matthew 7:21-23. Take real care, therefore, to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Philippians 2:12,23. 
What does Jesus do? Note the simplicity of it. There are a rebuke and a command to be silent and come out. The devil’s modus operandi is one of generating noise and chaos to create dysfunctionality. God is the one who brings peace, calmness, and contentment to our life. Even in doing what he has to, given Jesus' authority over him, this devil-sent demon still seeks to have the last word. He throws the man down. Mark writes of "the unclean spirit convulsing him". Mark 1:26. So, there is violence involved here, but take note – it's violence that is not allowed to reap its intended harvest, for the man is left unharmed. 
Those watching this are just amazed. They are dumbfounded. "What is this word?" In other words, what is going on here, who is this man? They had never heard or seen anything like it in their lives. It is not just the fact that he is giving them 'new teaching', Mark 1:27, but he is dictating to the demons what they must do. 
As I hinted at earlier, we need to be careful about seeing demons around every corner. There are charlatans in the church who do so out of greed for personal gain. Thankfully, our exposure to them can be controlled; turn off the TV. Nevertheless, for those of you who do have a particular concern for these things, and I express it in the words of the apostle John, "he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world". 1 John 4:4. Remember, and hold fast to the truth, that you can, and you must, through submission to God, resist the devil, knowing that he will always flee from you. He will do so, not because of the strength of your commitment, but because he knows Christ, the One who has made you the new creature that you are, and he knows the Holy Spirit who indwells you. James 4:7, 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 2 Timothy 2:14.

A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 25B. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.

Memory Verse. 
Memorizing God's Word is an active defence against sin.
Psalm 121C:1-6, 
"Unto the hills I lift my longing eyes; whence comes my aid? 
The Lord's my help, the heavens and earth by him were made. 
Your foot from stumbling he will always keep; 
the One who guards your life will never sleep. 
He who keeps Israel slumbers not nor sleeps By night or day.
The Lord keeps you, a shade on your right hand The Lord will stay.
Throughout the day the sun will never smite, Nor will the moon afflict you in the night."
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 25 - How does Christ fill the office of a priest?
Answer - Christ fills the office of a priest in his once offering up of himself to God as a sacrifice, to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God; and in making constant intercession for us.

This is taken from 
Thank God.
Thank God that there is nothing beyond his authority and power, and that when he says he will be our refuge and fortress, that we know that nothing will be able to get at us. 
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley