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Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands. - Acts 14:3 NASB

Hmmm. What do you know about that? They Paul and Barnabas were hanging out in Iconium for an extended stay. This is one of those fun ‘therefores’ of the Word.

Why do folks do extended meetings today?

Well, sometimes it’s because the people demand more. They stay late into the night and are willing to listen to long nights of preaching, and will worship late into the night. So the organization ramps it up. Extend the meetings for another week, another month, maybe a year if the Lord continues to bless.

But if we chase this therefore back a couple verses, we’ll find the reason holding Paul and Barnabas in Iconium.

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. - Acts 14:1-2 ESV

There was fruit, and then there was opposition.

What does our enemy do when the harvest starts coming in?

He turns up the heat. He plants suspicion—lies—fear.

And was do Paul and Barnabas do?

Preach the Word and let God Himself testify!

I love  the way this verse reads:

“Therefore

they spent a long time there

speaking boldly

with reliance upon the Lord,

who was testifying

to the word of

granting that signs and wonders

be done by their hands.”

What did God do? He allowed them to do signs and wonders.

Funny. Today when I hear about God allowing something, it usually something bad.

You know. God allowed me to crash into that telephone pole so I would learn this or that.

God allowed my mother to die of cancer so…

God allowed the attack on the World Trade Center because…

God allowed…

But look what God allowed—granted—(yes - I know it’s not exactly the same word, but you see what I’m getting at here?) them signs and wonders.

Why?

It was to confirm the word they were preaching in the face of harsh opposition.

God loves to show up and take our part when the heat is on.

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

When the heat was on, God (Jesus) showed up in that furnace and granted them their freedom. The only thing that burned was their bondage—oh and their captors.

One more observation.

The signs and wonders were done by their hands. In other words. God didn’t blast a lightning bolt from the sky and do some magic. They laid their hands on the sick, or cast out demons, or multiplied the food, of shook off the snakes. They preached, then ministered the Kingdom of God in the midst of the opposition and God showed up.

And He’ll do it again today. You stand and preach and He’ll testify to your words by allowing you to do signs and wonders.

Awesome.

I’m stirring up my courage and looking for opportunities today. How ‘bout you?

Thanks for stopping by,

See you again soon.

Ben

5

There is no way to
get rid of this kind of
demon except by prayer.
Mark 9:29

Help My Doubts

Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy

I remember the doctor saying to us, years ago, “Keep a record of his bad days.” My son—my eight-year-old boy—Enoch and I visited the doctor often in those first days. It’s been another eight years since we stopped going to doctors. For seven of them, we’ve found it easier to record the good days than count the bad.

The first sign the demonic attack has begun—we now know it’s a demon—is Enoch’s eerie silence. His eyes glaze over and it seems like he has gone away. He can’t hear—or at least he doesn’t respond to sound—and never speaks.

In the beginning, we thought he was sick. My wife, Havah, and I took him to our family doctor in the village. At first, this demon did not awaken while we were with the doctor, so he didn't know how to help. Enoch, couldn’t tell the doctor much. He couldn't remember what happened during his episodes. He just fell—no—not fell—it was like being thrown to the floor. Then he rolled around the ground as stiff as a board,  foaming at the mouth. If there was anything dangerous nearby, like fire, or water, or a steep drop, he’d head right for it.

Our third visit to the doctor was after a furious episode where Enoch found his way right into an open fire. It scorched more than half the skin on his left side. The doctor said he could  treat the burn, but he told us we should see a priest or rabbi. He didn’t think Enoch had any disease.

“This boy is possessed by a devil, and I can’t help you,” he told us as he gave us some salve for his burns.

After that, we went from rabbi to rabbi, each one shrugged his shoulders and wished he could do more.

It’s been seven years of rabbis and priests. We’ve given special offerings at the temple and paid for professional intercessors. We’ve gone to every house of prayer in Judea. Once we even traveled up to the temple at Shechem in Samaria to see if they could help us.

About a year ago, I started hearing stories of a rabbi from Galilee who was casting out demons and healing the sick. At first, I didn’t want Enoch and Havah to get their expectations aroused, but as the stories multiplied my heart began to hope.

One of my neighbors returned from a visit with some family up north near Tiberius. He told me of a pair of Jesus’ disciples going through the town. They were healing the sick and casting out demons in the streets. I’ve know Ari for many years, and he wouldn’t repeat these stories if there were any doubt in his mind. He was there. He saw men and women healed before his eyes, even some possessed by demons like my boy.

That’s when I started planning. I didn’t tell my wife, or even my son, what I was really up to. I didn’t want to lie to either of them. I just told Havah I wanted some time alone with my boy. I started planning for a trip with Enoch to find this Healer. I would tell Him my boy’s story. If He refused or couldn’t help, the disappointment would only fall on me.

I learned that He had been seen teaching and healing near Cana up in Galilee, so I packed our things and Enoch and I headed north.

Traveling with Enoch is no holiday. Everywhere we go, we have to be prepared to deal with his oppressor. This trip was no exception. In fact, the spirit's brutality the first night made me think we were might be headed in the right direction. The vile captor in Enoch’s young body protested more than ever. We didn’t sleep at all the first night we were on the road. Before I even had the fire burning hot enough to cook some dinner, he was flailing around and smothered it, at great cost to his own flesh. It was a grueling three days and two nights.

When we got close, someone told us the Teacher was on Mount Tabor. So we followed the road down from Cana to the east. As we approached the mountain, we found crowds at the base. I expected this. The accounts I’ve heard always have large crowds around this Healer.

It was nearly sundown when we came upon a few of the Healer’s disciples surrounded by dozens of on-lookers. They had just healed a couple of blind men. Next, they were laying hands on a lame woman lying on a sort of mat in the middle of the group. As we pressed our way into the center of the gathering, we saw this woman on the bed getting to her feet. Then she started jumping and running around the circle of spectators.

The disciples looked almost as stunned as the no-longer-bedridden woman. One of these men called out, “It’s the name of Jesus that heals the sick and delivers anyone in bondage.”

We had found Him.

I started waving frantically, crying out “My son, help my son!” I must have looked a little mad myself. I began to tell my son’s story to the one they were calling Andrew. There were three other groups like the one I was in, each surrounding what looked like a few disciples.

"I'm Andrew," said the man who was speaking, "and this is Simon the Zealot."

As soon as I began to describe Enoch’s condition, my son flew to the ground. I had my back to him, so I didn’t see the warning signs. I would have steered him away from the crowd before he went it to the full display of fury that is my son’s daily reality.

He was rocking back and forth, jerking up and down, six inches into the air and then slammed down again, rolling over so the foam covering his mouth was full of the Galilean dirt. Andrew and Simon hurried over to him and began to command the demon to come out.

“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out,” they called.

Nothing changed. They said it a little louder. “In the name of Jesus, come out.”

They asked others in the crowd to hold him still while they prayed for him, laying their hands on his head and chest.

He thrashed and freed his arms. Then began slashing at them with his fists and scratching with his fingernails.

Andrew and Simon called two of the other disciples over to them and they started out the same way.

“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out.”

Nothing.

I have to say, they didn’t give up. The sky grew fully dark and the air chilled as this failed exorcism went on into the night.

Finally, sometime after midnight, I took Enoch away from the crowd and we found a quiet place to get some rest. He had been in full manifestation for hours, and when he finally calmed, he was ready to sleep.

The sun was already well above the horizon when we awoke. The commotion that woke us was the arrival of Jesus and three more of his followers. They had apparently spent the night on the mountain. I’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was glowing—glowing! It wasn’t just the sun shimmering off his robes. The light emanated from Him.

As we approached Andrew called to Jesus, “Here they are Mater. We did everything you taught us and nothing changed.”

Once I realized that Jesus was right there, I said, “Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn’t.

Jesus said “What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here."

Andrew took Enoch by the hand and led him to the Master.

The demon in my boy did his worst. He slammed him to the ground with no warning whatsoever. He pushed him right into a nearby fire. He convulsed and foamed and moaned, teeth grinding and eyes wild.

Jesus asked, “How long has this been going on?

Ever since he was a little boy,” I replied. "Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!"

Jesus’s eyes looked eager. “If?” He responded. “There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen."

That brought me up short. “I do believe;” I blurted, but then I wondered if I did, so I added, “Help me with my doubts!

I think the crowd knew something big was about to happen because they started to press in. Some just realizing that Jesus was back, others hearing the conversation. Everyone wanting to see what He would do.

"Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!" Jesus spoke directly to the spirit who had tormented my son—my whole family—for the last eight years.

Enoch cried out, lifted off the ground and then fell back down with a thud. This time not rigid, as in times past, but more like a rag doll, begin tossed away. He lay there for what seemed an eternity. The crowd started murmuring.

He’s dead.”

“He killed the boy.”

Jesus walked over to Enoch, leaned down and grabbed his hand and pulled. At that moment, Enoch’s eyes opened, the color came back into his face. He nearly bounced up off the ground. With his hand in the hand of the Healer, he looked more alive than he had since the evil first took him. The joy was back in his eyes, the joy of a child with a future.

The two days traveling home seemed like a dream to both of us. In every village, at every meal, we shared our story with everyone we met. We were not just witnesses to a miracle. We were changed by our short visit with Jesus. His Words changed my boy and turned my hope into an unshakable faith.

My Havah could hardly believe her eyes. One look at Enoch’s countenance told the whole story. My son was bound, but now his chains are gone. His captivity is over. He’s free!

Messiah truly has come in our day.

~~~
To read the original story, see Mark 9:15-30. Quotes come from the Message Bible.

Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2016

Encounters With Jesus - Available Now
Encounters With Jesus - Available Now

If you enjoyed this story you can find forty more in my book Encounters With Jesus. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.

You can get your copy today in paperback or kindle on Amazon. If you want both you can get the Kindle version for only 99c when you buy the paperback on Amazon.

6

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on Monday's post and Part 2 on yesterday's post. Today we have the conclusion. Thanks for coming back for day three.

Enjoy:

---

As I approached Paul looked at me. His shoulder’s slumped a bit as I approached. Then, I think he noticed I was limping, favoring the leg that had not been pummeled.

I started my torturous chant.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

He looked at me. He looked into me. There was a flash in his eyes and a wave of recognition washed across his face.

As I started to speak,

“These men…”

He put his finger to my lips to hush me. In a stern and powerful voice he said,

“I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

The spirit in me started to speak again,

“These men are…”

“Come out!” he repeated.

Then my mind—my heart—flew into turmoil. I felt anger, fear, frustration, humiliation, shame, and then fear again. All of this raging within as the voice wanted to scream. But for the first time since my mother gave me her ‘gift’ I was able to keep quiet when it wanted to talk.

And then it was gone. It was over. The spirits obeyed this stranger. I felt them run up my spine and out the top of my head. Gone. Completely gone.

I crumbled to the floor in front of him.

“Thank you.” I was crying again, but this time they were tears of relief.

Then I thought about my master.

Silas, who was standing near by, saw my expression change, and said,

“What is it, daughter?”

“My master will kill me when he learns that I’ve lost the gift. You can see the way he beat me for the two days I’ve been with you. Now that my seeing is gone, he’ll just kill me.”

“Let me introduce you to a new master,” he said with the compassion of a father. “His name is Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He’s the one who set you free today, and He'll save you. If you will open your heart to Him, He will come in and fill the void left by the evil He drove out.

“As to your old master, we’ll go with you to tell him about your freedom. Don’t be afraid of him. Once the Lord is on your side, there is nothing man can do to enslave you. Every slave in Christ, is a free man. The bonds may remain, but they know freedom on the inside.

“I’m sure Lydia will let you stay here in her home, while you figure out what comes next.”

From the door where she’d been standing, Lydia came to my side and surrounded me with her arms. I felt like a little girl in my momma’s embrace, free and safe.

I prayed, “Lord Jesus, if you will have me, I want to be Yours. You've freed me from the master that held me. Will you come in and be my Master now?”

As I said these words a new freedom swept over me. The shame that haunted me lifted. The fear left too. I was crying again, but this time it was joy streaming down my face. I heard the laughter of others around me. Lydia helped me to my feet, and the women swarmed me with a great hug as the men stood back and clapped their hands, and shouted praise to Jesus.

They taught me a song of praise, and we sang together. Then Paul and Silas took me by the hand and we headed back to my master’s home.

When he saw me with these two men, his face darkened with anger.

“These had better be paying customers, or last night will seem like a stroll through the market,” he threatened. He reached for me, but Paul wedged himself between the master and me.

“Sir,” Paul started, “Jesus Christ delivered this young girl from the demonic oppression that has plagued her these many years. I’m sure you will rejoice with us at her new-found freedom.”

“Delivered? Freedom!” He was almost barking.

“You’ve ruined my livelihood! You’ve robbed me of my income! You’ve stolen my most valuable asset!” His anger grew with each accusation. Now passers-by were stopping to see what was happening.

Again he tried to reach me, but Silas managed to fill the gap as well.

He looked past them and found my eyes.

“You can’t see?” he shouted.

“No, but I can still cook or clean. I can still serve you.”

“What good is that? I don’t need a cook or a maid. I need a seer—I need your gift. Without that gift, you’re nothing—worthless. Go and don’t let me see you back here again. Don’t bother coming for your things. I’ll sell them to make up for what you’ve stolen from me. Get out!”

With his dismissal, he slammed his door in our faces.

Paul and Silas turned to me to see if I was alright. When they did they saw my relief and my brand new joy.

I was completely free.

The chains that held my insides, the chains that kept me in this house and with this man, all broken. Jesus set me free, and my new brothers—fathers—stood with me to face my old life.

Lydia did set me up with a cot in her room. She became a sister and mother to me. We laughed together. I hadn’t laughed since my mother died. She taught me to pray, and taught me of Christ and His ways. She taught me her trade, and paid me to work in her shop.

Today, I am free.

~~~

To read the original story, see Acts 16:16-18

I hope you have enjoyed this story. It's part of my upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit.

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

2

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Because of its length, I've decided to split this story over three days. You can find Part 1 on yesterday's post, and the conclusion will come tomorrow morning bright and early (if you live on the east coast of the US.)

Enjoy:

---

This brought a smile to his face, so I said it again.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

This time I heard some accent from the crowd. Once again, this time even louder I cried out,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The more I called out the more the crowd grew. It was curious to me that my captors would help this one they so feared, but they—I—continued to call out the virtues of these men of God.

When we got down to the river, we had quite a crowd. This manPaul, began to try to quiet the crowd. He said they had come down to the river to pray. It was the time of day that those women meet down here every day.

But today, the crowd was large. Rather than pray, Paul tried to teach, but the crowd was restless. He tried to lead in prayer, but that did not work either.

All the while, I stood up at the head of the path that lead down to the river calling out my now familiar declaration.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

Finally Paul sat down and kept silent. After about an hour of silence, he got up and walked back out to the road we came in on. He and his companion, Silas, headed back into the village, and the crowed followed along with them.

I led the way, calling out as we went,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I wasn’t sure where they were headed next, but as we got to the edge of town, they headed into the Lydia’s, the fabric shop. Lydia lived above the shop, and there they went for the evening meal.

I stood outside in the street, and continued calling out  the words my seeing spirit gave me every few minutes.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I finally went home after dark, fearing my master would have harsh words for me. He didn’t disappoint me. But this time there was something new. He hit me. I knew, or thought I knew anyway, that he had beaten my mother from time to time, but until that night, he kept his hands to himself around me.

“Don’t you ever walk out on our shop again while we have a line of customers,” he roared.

I slept well that night. The night was cool. The air was still. The voice was silent.

But with the light of dawn, the voice returned. It compelled me to find Paul again, so I headed back to Lydia’s where I found him speaking to a small group in front of the shop.

Then I started again,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

All day and everywhere they went, I followed with my incessant call. I could see now my keeper’s plan. This call, though it seemed like a great pat on the back at first was wearing, not only on Paul and Silas, but on those would be followers as well. By the end of the day, their number was down to just a few women. There was no longer a man in town who would walk with the pair.

Again when I returned home, my master beat me.

“I don’t have a choice.” I wept. “The spirits make me go, make me follow. If I don’t go, there no telling what they would do to me.”

He didn’t understand—or carebut he did stop hitting me.

“You’re mother could turn it on and off. She didn’t go trailing after strange men.”

“She didn’t make you the kind of money I make you either, did she?”

As soon as the words left my mouth I was sorry. The blows began again. Finally he left me, sobbing and huddled in the corner. He stormed out, slamming the door. I locked it behind him. I wouldn’t venture out even to eat that night. I cried myself to sleep, hoping tomorrow would be different.

I really didn’t want to taunt these men again, but there was some part of me that hoped for a chance to hear the older one, Paul speak once more. His words cut through the clamor in my head. Each time I tried to listen to his preaching, the voice would repeat my tedious refrain.

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

I’m not sure I slept that night. For hours I lay with my eyes closed, trying not to press against one of the bruises the brute left on my body. I rolled over and over, top, bottom, left, right, half asleep. I dozed off just as the birds began to announce the dawn, and there it was again, this irresistible  urge to go find Paul and Silas.

I crept out of my room, trying not to wake my master. Thankfully I could hear him snoring in his room as I tip-toed by it. Off I went to find them.

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus.It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

1

photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)
photo credit: A Single Tear via photopin (license)

Over the next three days, I will be sharing the first draft a new story that will be part of an upcoming book, Encounters With the Holy Spirit. This story ran a bit longer than my usual posts, so I am breaking it into three installments. You can read it day by day, or come back Wednesday and read all three at once.

Some of the ideas for the life of this young slave girl were inspired by the Praying Medic podcast:
"Alan Champkins – From Witch Doctor to New Creation."

And now, with no further ado:

I Am Free

A Slave Girl

I wasn’t always able to see, but my mother told me it was in my blood. She could see. Every time she put food on my plate, she reminded me it was her sight that paid for the food. It was the sight that gave us a place to sleep.

She told me tales of her life before the master bought her, on the street, begging, starving, in rags and tatters. She loved to tell me of the day her gift caught the master. To hear her tell it, you might think she was the master and he the slave. But that’s not really how it was.

On my sixth birthday my mother first put her hands on me, and asked her spirits—that’s what she called them—to share her sight with me. She told me it was for my own good—that I would thank her some day.

She must have already known she was sick then, but she didn’t tell me until she could no longer serve the master’s customers. That day came two years later. I was almost eight the day my mother couldn't get out of bed to sit with the guests.

I thought he would kill her right then. When she choked out her refusal with blood on her lips, I feared he would kill her for her weakness.

Then she told him about me.

“She has the gift too,” she told him. “She can see your guests.”

His eyes searched me. At first, pride filled me. My mother trusted me. But as he looked me over, I felt like property for the first time. The change hit me. My sight was not just going to put food on our table. Gone were the day when my mother and I would play at seeing. Now I had to see on demand, I had to tell his guests their fortunes. I had to put food on his table.

My gift—this sight—shackled me. It demanded my obedience. It put requirements on my life which I was too young to bear. My sight was my jailer and I felt it’s manacles. Every time I tried to stop seeing—stop knowing—life would turn against me. I can’t explain it. It seemed like everything turned sour. So I kept seeing, and my sight treated me well. And that made my master happy too.

The master seemed unsure that first time, but in a few short weeks, lines of customers down the dusty path to his door—all day—every day, convinced him. The gift was strong in me, stronger than it had been in my mother.

Those weeks were my mother’s last. She grew worse every day. My time with her grew shorter as the lines at the door grew longer. She died in our bed while I told a Grecian man of the woman he would meet. I cried myself to sleep that night. He hired a couple men to bury her in back of the house that was my home—prison—workplace. The men who buried my mother didn’t know her. No one spoke a word on her behalf. I was reading leaves for a hand full of Phoenician women when the soil filled her grave. He cared so little for her—for me. She worked for him for thirty years without complaint. She gave him her days, her nights, her body, her soul, and now, her own daughter—me. And he tossed her into a hole in the ground without so much as a wooden marker.

That’s when I began to hate him. The sight of him turned my stomach. And yet, I had to eat, and I knew of no other way to live.

One day, two men walked past the door of our shop in Philippi. As they walked by, I felt them and looked up. Really it was my internal jailers who sensed them walking by. The business men who had come from Antioch to get advice from my seeing voice started as I ran out of the room and into the street.

When I caught up with these men, the spirits in me went berserk. My insides were out of control, and I couldn’t stop them from speaking. Usually I have a measure of control. They show me things, and I use my words to bring their influence to my customers. But this was different. I’m not sure what I was sensing. At first I thought it was joy—a strange elation—at the sight of these two men. But now I see it was darker—perhaps fear—dread.

The spirits that speak to me—show me things—have never been fearful before. Never before has their command been so immediate and so compelling. They drove me out into the street, and I started following these two men. I was not the only one following them. There were at least eight other women and two or three men following after these two as they headed for the river. There’s a place down there were some of the women of the city have been meeting to pray and worship the Hebrew God. That’s exactly where we went.

I pushed through until I was right behind the one they called Paul. When I was sure he could hear me, I started saying,

“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

[To be continued.]

Come back tomorrow for part two of I Am Free

To read more first person encounters check out my new book Encounters With Jesus. It's a collection of forty stories from the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched. Available now in paperback or kindle editions.

benheadshot1Thanks for coming by,

See you tomorrow,

Ben

9

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My friend Felecia from A Life Sanctified (a wonderful blog, I highly recommend you follow) asks:

Q: Ephesians 6:12 says (in the NLT) “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

As you probably know, I did a blog post on this verse and purposely didn’t address what falls after the last comma because I don’t really understand it. I’ve always been a touch concerned about the “evil spirits in heavenly places.” WHY would God allow evil spirits in Heaven? Is “heavenly places” some peripheral part of Heaven? Perhaps just outside the pearly gates where Pinkerton’s patrol to keep out the “evil spirits?”

This is a great question Felecia, and I do have some thoughts. Admittedly some of what follows is extrapolated from what is written explicitly, but I will try to document why I believe what I believe as much as possible. The executive summary is that there are three different things referred to as "heavens" in the Bible.

The Third Heaven

Let’s start with Paul’s telling of his (we assume) trip to the “third heaven.”

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a man was caught up to the third heaven. - 2 Corinthians 12:2

From his description

was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. - 2 Corinthians 12:4

I think it is safe to say this is what you and I might call heaven, where you would find the throne room of the Almighty. This is the place described by John, Isaiah and others, the location of the sea of glass, and that heavenly worship service.

This would also be the heaven we are invited to be seated in, since it is the heaven Jesus was raised up to:

which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, … and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, - Ephesians 1:20, 2:6

The First Heaven

Then there are many references in the Bible that speak of the “heavens” that are clearly that which we can see and perceive with our natural senses.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. - Psalms 19:1

This to me is a precursor to Paul’s comments in Romans 1

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20

This heaven is visible and reachable if you have the right equipment all by natural means.

The Second Heaven

Then there is another aspect that the Bible speaks of as another heavenly realm, which you have referenced here.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12

We see it in Daniel 10 where Daniel prayed in Chapter 9 and heard nothing for twenty-one days. Finally an angelic messenger makes an entrance, and describes a battle between what I take to be “spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” and Michael the Archangel.

Then he said to me, "Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. - Daniel 10:13

Since this is for the most part an invisible realm, my understanding is that, to put it in natural terms (which will always fall a bit short in explanation of supernatural reality) it exists more or less in the same space that we are in. To think of it in SciFi terms – an alternate reality, that co-exists, and is just as real, or perhaps more real, that what we can touch and feel.

In this day and age of wireless communications, microwaves, and satellite signals, it is not a stretch for anyone to understand that there are things going on beyond what we can feel and see.

So – if that satisfies, you can stop reading here. I do have a couple further thoughts that might muddy it up a bit.

We do know that at least at one time, satan stood before the throne (I guess I am actually assuming it is in the throne room) and accused our brother Job. This has often complicated my understanding of God not allowing sin in His presence.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. - Job 1:6

I suppose that does not have to be in heaven – could have been on earth – or some other neutral territory, since long before Job was on the scene, satan was cast out of the Third heaven.

One last thing – my understanding – though I would not defend this to the death – is that the pit of hell is actually in heaven. This comes from Revelation 14:

…he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." - Revelation 14:10-11

Well – that’s enough unpleasantness for today. I hope that sheds a bit of light on the heaven question.

What do you think? Please jump in and add to, or correct what I have said. The conversation is the best part.

I bet Pastor Joe Lillie (@josephlillie) could shed more light on the matter. He is doing (and has been for quite some time) a series blogging through every mention of heaven in the Bible simply called Heaven. You should check it out.

Ben NelsonThanks much for stopping by. If you have questions of your own you would like to discuss, I would love to take a shot, and see what others have to say.

See you again soon.

Ben

This week we have been talking a bit about Jesus getting out of the boat on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

One reader pointed out to me that Matthew has two demon possessed guys, and Mark and Luke only talk about one.

The question is clear – is it one or two and why the difference?

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” ~ Matthew 8:28-29

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, ~ Mark 5:2

And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. ~ Luke 8:27

That’s an easy one –  Matthew was after all a tax collector and those guys knew how to count! – Just kidding

But seriously folks, I sit in meetings and take notes every day at work. I will sit there with a couple of my colleagues and take detailed notes. One of the reasons I take careful notes when I am interested, or the content is important, is that I know we all observe things from completely different perspectives. Sometimes I am amazed that we can both listen to the exact same people saying the exact same thing, and we all hear completely different details. To the point where I will argue my side, then go back to the source and find out I was completely wrong.

It is amazing how differently we see things.

In this case my assumption is that Jesus interacted with one of the men in detail and the interview with the demonic hoard revolved around only one of the men, though this army of demons may have inhabited both.

It may be that only one wanted to join Jesus’ band, or one was more notably frightening.

Do you have a better explanation?

Share it with us, will you?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. Don’t miss our study of the Song of Songs tomorrow.

See you then.

Ben

4

This week we have been talking a bit about Jesus getting out of the boat on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee.

One reader pointed out to me that Matthew has two demon possessed guys, and Mark and Luke only talk about one.

The question is clear – is it one or two and why the difference?

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, “What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” ~ Matthew 8:28-29

And when He had come out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, ~ Mark 5:2

And when He had come out onto the land, He was met by a certain man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. ~ Luke 8:27

That’s an easy one –  Matthew was after all a tax collector and those guys knew how to count! – Just kidding

But seriously folks, I sit in meetings and take notes every day at work. I will sit there with a couple of my colleagues and take detailed notes. One of the reasons I take careful notes when I am interested, or the content is important, is that I know we all observe things from completely different perspectives. Sometimes I am amazed that we can both listen to the exact same people saying the exact same thing, and we all hear completely different details. To the point where I will argue my side, then go back to the source and find out I was completely wrong.

It is amazing how differently we see things.

In this case my assumption is that Jesus interacted with one of the men in detail and the interview with the demonic hoard revolved around only one of the men, though this army of demons may have inhabited both.

It may be that only one wanted to join Jesus’ band, or one was more notably frightening.

Do you have a better explanation?

Share it with us, will you?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. Don’t miss our study of the Song of Songs tomorrow.

See you then.

Ben

Caution sign

And when He had come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. ~ Matthew 8:28

We left off a couple weeks ago with an account of Jesus calming the seas. Now when He and the boys reach the shores on the other side, they are faced with an impassable road.

Seems as though somebody did not want Jesus coming to this side of the lake.

How do you deal with resistance?

Have you ever sensed that God has given you direction and at every step the path itself is against you?

The trick is discerning whether it was my idea, and God is preserving me by closing the door, or is it God’s idea, and the hater of my soul would rather have me dead than walk in the will of my Father.

Jesus knew.

Have you ever tried to walk the path and seen the road signs that say, “Demon ahead, find another path?”

What would you do?

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

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