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Showing posts with label Grief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grief. Show all posts

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Fields of Gold - The Art of Life and the Hope of Heaven - Purity 791

Fields of Gold  - The Art of Life and the Hope of Heaven - Purity 791

Purity 791 07/23/2022  Purity 791 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a painting of a child walking through almost colorless waves of grain while adoring the light of the heavens that illuminates just the tops of the wheat comes to us from Dave Baun Photography who captured this scene back on July 13th while traveling through Kimba in South Australia. Dave shared this photo on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/DaveBaunPhotography) with the following comments: “Today’s images are of the silo art at Kimba. We were rolling into town just before sunset so the golden hour light and the colour of the sky really made this one a keeper. I love how these little “blink and you’ll miss it” sort of towns have these beautiful paintings on the silos.”

Me too, Dave. I love the fact that someone had the vision and artistic ability to transform what could have just been something common, ignored, and missed while driving through a small town and made it a thing of beauty that speaks of the simple beauty of life in their rural community.

I spend my weekends at my countryside home in rural Easton NY and I although I was born in raised in a small city-town, I am continually surprised how I have found peace with “Country living”. I thoroughly enjoy my short walks with the dog where I can enjoy the beauty of the fields, the quiet,  and the big sky that covers it all. I love it.

I also love how that through social media I can have friends that I have never met in person from all around the world and how they expand my vision to see things I simply would never see. Although one would think that these Facebook friends are more like acquaintances, I know that they are actually my brothers and sisters in Christ and that although we are separated by vast distances we have been introduced to one another because we all have the love of art, nature, and the Lord Jesus in common.  

Just yesterday my friend in the UK, Philip Hand spontaneously shared the following Bible verse and original poem with me, and so I share it with you:  

Matthew 5:4 (KJV)
4  Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

“Tender”

“When the touch of love’s sweet tender hand gently slips away.

When the bittersweetness in my heart is pulled apart again.

The wonder of you as I remember helps me face another day.

The tender kiss of time will wash away the pain.

 

Till heaven gently beckons and angels call my name.

I know the touch of love’s sweet tender hand will gently guide me home.

Cherishing the tender memories.

I will dance and sing in love forever more before God’s throne…”

-Philip Hand

 

Philip is mourning the loss of his beloved grandad who after 93 years on this earth “went to heaven to be with his wife”. Philip’s grandparents had been married nearly 70 years when his grandmother passed in September of 2020 and now Philip’s grandfather has joined her, having gone into eternity earlier this month.  Philip is assured of their destination and reunion in eternity because they were “the most amazing beautiful Christian people” Philip has ever known and have been a blessing to Philip his whole life.   So while Philip is still feeling the pain of the loss, he is comforted because of the memories of the love he experienced from his grandparents and because he knows that his loved ones have eternal life because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

As I considered, Dave’s photography and Philip’s testimony and poem, I thought of Sting’s song: Fields of Gold and the sweeping beauty of the images and feelings that the lyrics “paint” of a couple’s love for one another among the fields of gold and how it endured through the years. The song concludes, saying: 

“Many years have passed since those summer days

Among the fields of barley

See the children run as the sun goes down

Among the fields of gold

 

You'll remember me when the west wind moves

Upon the fields of barley

You can tell the sun in his jealous sky

When we walked in fields of gold

When we walked in fields of gold

When we walked in fields of gold…” (https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/sting/fieldsofgold.html) )

 

I am sharing a link of the song on YouTube if you want to check it out (https://youtu.be/-jMAIuqnFEI)



I always thought that song was beautiful but how it was also sort of winsome and sad, because it was incomplete.  It tells a beautiful story of love between a man and a woman “among the fields of barley” that endured through the years but it sort of indicates that the lovers who “walked in fields of gold” have been separated as the “west wind moves”, leaving one alone to “remember” the other and the days when they walked through fields of gold.   

But as Philip’s testimony indicates, the love story doesn’t have to end.  When we put our faith in Jesus Christ we have eternal life and although death may temporary separate us  we can rejoice as we walk on streets of gold in God’s future kingdom, as Revelation 21:21 assures us.  

But you have to follow the One who will bring you there. You have to follow Him alone. You have to follow Jesus Christ, the One who said: 

Matthew 13:44 (NKJV)
44  "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Jesus came to earth to show us that He was the only way to God the Father. He is the only way to have peace with God and to be adopted into His eternal kingdom. 

As we walk through the fields of gold on this earth, the seasons change, we age, and one day our life will be called into eternity and only the ones who have found Christ will have life with God for all eternity. 

Christ has shown us that He is the treasure hidden in a field. It is only Christ that can give us an abiding peace on earth and an entrance in the kingdom of heaven.

The question: is will you surrender everything you have to the Lordship of Jesus Christ to experience it?

Through the word of God, my life experiences on this path of Christian Discipleship with the manifest presence of the Lord, and from the testimony of other Christians through out the ages and who are still alive today, I know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that truth has set me free and given me the assurance of my place in eternity with God. 

So enjoy your walk through the fields of gold and all the beauty that surrounds us on this earth, but put your faith in Christ, and in Him alone, to have the assurance that your journey through life will have a meaning, a purpose, and a glorious final destination.  

So start, or keep walking and talking with God, study His word and pray to get to know Him more and to be transformed into a person of peace that has the hope of heaven and the words that lead to eternal life in your mind, heart, and soul that will point others to the treasure that is Christ alone.

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Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

John 14:15-16 (NLT2)
15  “If you love me, obey my commandments.
16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

Today’s verses are Christ’s instructions to His apostles and His promise of the Holy Spirit to all who submit to His Lordship and obey.

The Advocate spoken about here, of course, is the Holy Spirit. Although the third person of the godhead -the trinity – and who thus has the attribute of God’s omnipresence, The Holy Spirit is somehow present everywhere but somehow also takes up residence in everyone who makes Jesus their Lord and Savior!    

Before the work of Christ on the cross, the Holy Spirit only came upon select individuals to empower them for God’s special purposes. But after the power of sin and death was broken by Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross, and after He took His seat at the right hand of the Father in heaven, The Holy Spirit has been given to empower every person who obeys God’s call to repent and to put their faith in Christ.

Jesus’s instructions are clear “If you love me, obey my commandments”: Not anybody else’s commandments or philosophies of life, His commandments, His way.

As the only person who ever lived who never sinned, Christ is our example. He was encouraging His disciples to live the way He lived.

That may seem to be a tall order…

But the fantastic news is that, through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we have all been empowered to be able to follow Christ’s example.  When we “abide in Christ” through continuous communication, worship, and service to the kingdom of God and through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk and live the Christian life.  

So show your love for Christ and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to obey His commandments. Christ’s burden is light and because the Holy Spirit is with us forever it is a burden we can bear.    

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

The Threefold Nature of Evil Influence

In this book the focus on the theme of principalities and powers could lead one to believe Paul gave a demonological root to all evil. That is not the case. Paul’s view of the nature of evil influence on people is very balanced.

In Ephesians 2:1–3, Paul describes sinful behavior as stemming from three compelling influences—to be seen as three strands combining to make one sturdy cable. This cable tightly binds unbelievers, keeping them in slavery to the kingdom of darkness. It may be helpful to depict these three sources of evil influence graphically:

1. The World:

 

“the ways of this world”

 

2. The Devil:

 

“the ruler of the kingdom of the air” “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient”

 

3. The Flesh:

 

“the cravings of our sinful nature … its desires and thoughts”

 

In simplest terms we might categorize these influences as “the world, the devil and the flesh.” We need, however, to take a closer look at what Paul specifically said.

In this passage Paul was disclosing the nature of his readers’ lives before they turned to Christ. Here a set of overriding principles help us to understand how Paul perceived evil as influencing the lives of people in general, Christians or non-Christians. Christians will still need to contend with the same sources of evil influence, but Christians have a new means of overcoming these influences through the power of Christ. Those who are not believers, being apart from Christ, are enslaved to these influences, not having the power or ability to escape.

When he spoke of “the ways of this world,” Paul was thinking of the powerful influence of societal attitudes, habits and preferences that are at odds with God’s standard of holiness. Literally, the text indicts the character of “the age of this world.” There is a stark contrast between the character of “this age” and “the age to come.” John R. W. Stott aptly describes the character of “the age of this world”:

Both words “age” and “world” express a whole social value-system which is alien to God. It permeates, indeed dominates, non-Christian society and holds people in captivity. Wherever human beings are being dehumanized—by political oppression or bureaucratic tyranny, by an outlook that is secular (repudiating God), amoral (repudiating absolutes) or materialistic (glorifying the consumer market), by poverty, hunger or unemployment, by racial discrimination, or by any form of injustice—there we can detect the subhuman values of “this age” and “this world.”

This influence begins at birth with values that are passed on from the parents and extended family. It is reinforced all throughout life, both formally and informally, through the educational system and the media as well as through peer pressure. It continues to be transmitted through patterns of thinking, traditions, customs and even institutions. This is not to say everything in society is evil. But there is much in society that leads away from God.

“The ruler of the kingdom of the air,” the second evil influence Paul delineated, is a powerful supernatural being in charge of a whole host of evil spirits often thought by the ancients to reside in the air. This ruler is more precisely a “spirit,” and Paul portrayed his method as very immediate and direct: “He is now at work in [or among] those who are disobedient.” It would be inaccurate to say all who disobey God are “possessed” by an evil spirit. Yet Paul was clear that this evil agent and his emissaries exert a very close and personal kind of influence over individuals. This spirit exerts a powerful, compelling influence, although many English translations miss this description. When Paul said the ruler is “at work in,” he used a word that was part of his vocabulary of power and could be translated, “The spirit who is now powerfully at work in …” The GNB translates the phrase, “the spirit who now controls the people.” Notice that Paul emphasizes here the work of the evil spirit in people as opposed to institutions.

The final evil influence that Paul drew attention to is what he termed “the flesh.” This is Paul’s favorite expression to convey the inner drive of people to act in ways deviant to the standard of God’s righteousness. It points not only to the inner motivating force behind actions that are associated with the body, such as sexual sin, but also to aspects of the thought life as well, such as envy and anger. This inner impulse to do evil is set in contrast to the new impulse to live with moral integrity provided by God’s gift of the Holy Spirit (see Gal 5:19–23).

Paul, therefore, presented the true character of evil influence in all three of its manifestations. The source of evil tendencies is both internal and external to people as well as supernatural. Individuals possess an internal inclination toward evil, and their environment (peers, media, societal norms, and so forth) also strongly influences them. Such a perspective linking the categories of “the world, the flesh and the devil” was also integral to the thought of James (see Jas 3:15) and John (1 Jn 2:15–17; 3:7–10) and, presumably, common in the early church.

Paul’s teaching suggests that the explanation for our behavior is not to be found exclusively in human nature or in terms of the world’s influence. Similarly, an exclusively demonic explanation for deviant behavior is unduly myopic. Rather, we should explain behavior on the basis of human nature, environment and the demonic—all three simultaneously. One part may play a leading role, but all three parts need to be considered. Paul’s theology at this point has significant implications for those involved in counseling ministries. Yet we also need to see it as extremely relevant for our church life.

The demonic side receives the strongest emphasis in Ephesians and Colossians, while the flesh is more prominent in Romans and Galatians. The general situations of the readers of each book may have something to do with their particular emphases. If the readers of Ephesians and Colossians tended to need help in dealing with their past involvement in occultic practices, this fact would explain why the demonic side is stressed more strongly in those two letters.

In the final analysis, however, Paul regarded Satan as the chief opponent of Christ and his kingdom. The demonic explanation for evil behavior needs to be seen as the thread that ties together all the evil influences. In practice Satan exploits the depraved tendencies of the flesh and exercises a measure of control over all levels of a social order.

Through the cross of Christ Christians gain their freedom from these compelling and enslaving influences. His death and resurrection resulted in the “age to come,” breaking into the present age. Believers now share already in many of the blessings and resources of the age to come. Through the cross of Christ our flesh was crucified, and we can live under the guiding and enabling impulses of the Holy Spirit. Finally the cross of Christ marked a decisive victory by God over the powers of evil. Through union with Christ believers can resist Satan and be victorious over his kingdom.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship




[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 123–126.

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Finding and Sharing a Good Place - Purity 779


Finding and Sharing a Good Place - Purity 779

Purity 779 7/9/2022 Purity 779 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo of a lakeside campfire at sunset comes to us from friend who shared this scene on social media back on July 2nd to describe their “current situation”.  And even though my friend didn’t disclose their location or any other thoughts on their current situation, we can assume from the setting and the fact that they shared it that their current situation was a good one. And knowing that my friend is pretty laid back and nonchalant, I am assuming that they wouldn’t mind that I share it to emphasis two points as we go into the weekend.  The two points that I want to share are that:

1.    life can be good, pretty general right?, and that

2.    when we discover something that can make life good, we can’t be blamed for sharing it.  

Some of the comments to my friend’s photo, shared with good natured sarcasm I hope, revealed jealousy, envy, or accused them of bragging about their current situation but I think my friend’s silent message was not just bragging about their current situation, although it could be!, but was simply sharing the fact that they were in a “good place” and it could even have been a mild encouragement and hope that their friends would find a good place too.  

Like I said, I think I know my friend’s heart, a little bit, so I think their photo was shared with good intentions and so I am taking a leap of faith trusting they won’t unfriend me and demand that I remove their photo from the blog. 

This old friend was one of my old work friends from the early days of my current career and our paths separated about 12 years ago, maybe sooner.  We were both in our 20’s, had the same job, and spent some time with others from the office hanging out and drinking. We were work friends that have gone separate ways but they still hold a fondness in my heart because of the good times we shared but also because this friend, along with a few others from our “work friend group”, showed me great kindness by unexpectantly appearing at my infant son’s funeral to give their condolences.  

Their showing up at my son’s funeral was a small but significant way in which they showed their care and friendship to me and while I would never hold someone’s not showing up at a funeral against them, we remember it when others show up when we are at our lowest.   

I myself am not the best friend when it comes to that, going to funerals.  I struggled with the specter of death in my earliest childhood. In my first experience with death, at my maternal grandmother’s funeral, while my brothers were openly weeping and were torn up emotionally, I tried to joke and cheer them up, I guess, in part because I was uncomfortable with that raw emotion of pain that comes from loss.  So rather than surrender to the grief, I coped by trying to lighten up the situation.  Maybe I was just being pragmatic…I had been sad for awhile and grandma was still dead…  so let’s move along? I don’t know. 

But after that first experience, I kept the throws of grief from invading my experience when someone died. I was rather matter a fact about death, and chose to focus on the living and lightening the mood, maybe by trying to show that life was still good?  Again, that’s the way I coped with death I guess.  

Of course, with the loss of my sone in 2002, that coping method got derailed as there was just no way to make light of that loss because it shook the foundations about how I thought life should go.  And although I only knew him for a few months I deeply loved my son, Holden. 

So, without any real faith in God, I was angry, depressed, drunk, and lost for a few years until I started searching for meaning, and eventually was pulled out of the darkness of a life full of error, when I heard the message that saved my soul.  

Unfortunately, I am still not good with grief.  After he death of my son, the trauma made me more matter a fact about the death of others.  And if the person was advanced in years, forget about it.  If my infant son could die, why not them?

That’s the way life goes.  People die and life goes on. And it does, that is true, but I would like to emphasize that somewhat pragmatic, and perhaps cold response in the face of death, was before coming to Christ…

Now I know just how valuable our lives are to God. He sent Christ to die for us. And before we die He wants us to have peace with Him, through faith in Christ alone, so we can go to a “good place” for all eternity with Him.

And I also know now that grieving for others, and with others, is okay. As good as life is, there is a time to grieve, as the word of God tells us. We need time to process the trauma of the losses we suffer. 

Jesus wept when Lazarus died.  The guy with the most insight into the spiritual realities of life and death, wept. He grieved with Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters. And as much as it pained Jesus to delay his arrival and to allow Lazarus to die, He suffered the pain, heart ache, and trauma of the loss of His friend because Lazarus’ death and resurrection would be used to give glory to God and to reveal that Jesus was the Messiah, The Son of God and God the Son

In John 11:25-26 (NKJV) , Jesus says to Martha, and to all of us:
25  …, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
26  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

If you’ve read this blog before or heard my podcast, you know that I believe this! And I want you to know that you can believe it too. Jesus is trustworthy and through Him we can be forgiven and receive a new everlasting life.

While I’m still not a “funeral guy”, although I did attend the wake of another co-worker’s brother a few years back because I considered them a good friend, I do share my condolences and pray for my friends who suffer losses and grieve because I know about the pain of loss and I know that God grieves right along with us, as He is always close to the broken hearted and seeks to heal us through Jesus.  

So, I may have gotten off track a little but the two points I wanted to make was that life is good and that we should share the things we discover that make it good.   

Through His creation of this world and man, God has given us the power to create good circumstances and to experience love for our partners, family, and friends. As we share life together, even if it is just for a season or two, we are bonded together by our common experiences and interests.  We grow closer together in love and can really know that life is good. And it pains us when we lose those we have walked through life with, but the pain of loss doesn’t take away the goodness we have known in the past or the fact that life can still be good even in the midst of our struggles.   So point one: Life is a gift from God, and it is good!

And as for point two, as we enjoy this weekend, it is my prayer that my friends find themselves in a good place and find ways to experience the goodness of life.  While we all can have different ideas of what makes a good life, we can still respect each other’s opinions on what we could do to experience life’s goodness.  So if you like the ocean, the forest, the mountains, or the cities, go to wherever and do whatever that reminds you that life is good.

I encourage you to share those with us. They inspire us to do similar things and they bring us joy when we see our friends are in a “good place”.   

But before I go, as indicated above, I would encourage everyone who reads or listens to this message to find the “good place” and to experience the goodness of life that the Lord has for you through faith in Jesus Christ. 

A relationship with God through faith in Christ will bring us to a “good place” beyond this life but will also give us the ability to experience the goodness of God in the world of the living.  So start your walk by trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or just keep walking in talking with God, if you already know Him.  

It is in going back to God, continually, that we can repeatedly find that we are in a good place and that the experience of the goodness of life can be something we know every step of our walk from here to eternity. 

Have a great weekend and God bless you all!

 

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT2)
6  For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
7  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

 

Today’s Bible verses speak about the spiritual realities of our position with Christ in the heavenly realms through our union with Christ and that we are evidence for God’s incredible kindness and grace.   

Our walk of faith has us in Ephesians 2 again! I was moved to share Ephesians 2:8-10 on Thursday and our resource had us share Ephesians 2:4-5 the same day. And now we are “filling in the blanks” as our resource has us sharing the verses that bridge the gap between those sets of verses.  So I take this “coincidence” as an indication that God wants us to know about His grace and our secure position with Him.  

Today’s verses assure us that somehow, spiritually, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms! 

One of the items on the Who I am in Christ list that I use as part of my regular spiritual practice is “I am a citizen of heaven” drawn from Philippians 3:20.  Ephesian 2:6 makes the list too “I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms”.  

These statements point to the fact that part of our identity is that we are ALREADY in heaven, in a sense.  We are connected to Christ and while we are not physically there yet, God wanted us to know through the Apostle Paul’s letters that somehow in a way we can’t fully understand, we are already there! We are already in heaven!!

While that can make us wonder “how can this be”, we should rejoice!

And not only is our “good place” and future and present reality an absolute certainty, God will also use all of us – all of our stories – all of our lives – as evidence for His amazing grace and kindness. 

His grace was so amazing that He saved me, He saved you, and He saved so many others that are nothing like you or me. 

No two life journeys are the same but when we make peace with God every detail of our lives will be part of a story that highlights the love of God that was displayed through the things He has brought us through and that He has provided us with.

We get to play a part in God’s grand narrative and our lives in Christ give Him glory! 

So rejoice over your present and future place in heaven and go out there and see what’s next in a life that will bear witness to the kindness and grace of God.

 

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As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

They Are Part of Satan’s Kingdom

Paul’s teaching on the powers called for a significant change in outlook for many of his gentile converts. In popular belief, and especially in magic, they were accustomed to thinking there were “good” and “evil” spirits. In magic it was important to know the names of good and helpful spirits who could be called upon to help and provide protection from evil spirits.

In line with the Old Testament, contemporary Judaism and the teaching of Jesus, Paul taught that there was one primary figurehead of evil, Satan, who commanded a host of “spiritual forces of wickedness.” Paul would not have accepted the various distinctions between good and evil spirits made by his gentile converts in their pre-Christian experience. All the spirits called on and revered in magic, astrology and the pagan cults were evil and “demonic.”

Satan, or the devil, is “the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). While God is ultimately sovereign since he is the creator of everything that exists, Satan has been allowed to exercise a great amount of evil activity on the earth. John recorded Jesus calling attention to the devil’s present authority by describing him as “the prince [archōn] of this world” (Jn 14:30; 16:11). While Satan’s authority is not absolute, neither is it trifling. He wields all kinds of destructive influence over all levels of life and exerts his greatest hostility against God’s redemptive purpose in and through the Lord Jesus Christ

According to Paul, Satan holds unbelieving humanity in his captivity. He “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4). Even at the end of his apostolic career Paul’s convictions had not changed. He regarded those opposing the ministry of the gospel as having fallen into a trap of the devil “who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). Elsewhere he described Satan’s activity as holding unbelievers in “slavery.” Prior to the work of God’s redemption the Galatians “were in slavery under the basic principles [stoicheia] of the world” (Gal 4:3). At this point Paul brought into view Satan’s powerful assistants who carry out the same malignant purposes as their leader. In Ephesians Paul described the captivity in terms of unbelievers being “dead” in their transgressions and sins. This was when they followed “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:1–2).

Through blinding, holding captive, enslaving and keeping people in the sphere of death, the work of Satan and his powers runs counter at every point to the loving, reconciling and life-giving purpose of God in Christ. Satan has a multiplicity of schemes to defraud and take advantage of people even after they become Christians (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11). Although his character is dark and evil, he often presents himself in a very positive light to further his deceitful work (2 Cor 11:14).

They Are Involved in the World Religions

The gentile converts to Christianity faced a very important issue: What kind of perspective were they now to have on their former gods and goddesses? How were the worshipers of Dionysus, for instance, to view their god now that they were Christians? Was he truly a god, but of a somewhat lesser stature than the one God? Or, was he merely a stone image who represented no real divine being?

Paul specifically addressed this issue in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 8 and 10). Two questions faced the Corinthian church, which elicited the apostle Paul’s response. They were concerned with (1) whether they could eat a meal in the temple of one of the local gods, and (2) whether it was permissible to eat meat that had previously been sacrificed to a god or goddess.

There was a difference of opinion among the Corinthian believers on both of these issues. It appears some of the more confident Christians, knowing that an idol has no real existence (8:4), had no scruples with going into an idol temple and eating a meal (8:10). The result of such action, however, was the spiritual demise of other Christians. Seeing their more assured fellow believers exercise this freedom gave the “weaker” Christians the courage to do the same and eat food offered to a god (probably in one of the temples). A crisis of conscience plagued the weaker Christians, with some returning to idolatry. It is very likely that this situation was not merely a potential problem Paul was trying to forestall, but that a few from the Corinthian church had actually returned to their pagan worship.

Since Paul was understandably very concerned about this situation, which was “destroying” (8:11) some of these precious believers, he set forth a lengthy argument advocating that the Corinthians should completely cut their ties with the pagan temples, and that the stronger believers should be willing to waive their right to eat idol food out of sensitivity to the conscience of weaker Christians.

One of the central features of Paul’s argument is that there is a demonic character to non-Christian religions. He agreed with the informed Corinthians in principle that an idol has no real, independent existence (8:4). For the Christian, he concurred, there is no God but the one true God; the pagan deities—Apollo, Isis, Sarapis and the rest—are so-called gods. Nevertheless, Paul went on to affirm some kind of real existence for these gods, noting, “indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” (8:5). In one sense he did believe in the existence of other “gods” and “lords,” but in a qualitatively different way than those who worshiped these beings. Paul will later contend that the images represent demons (10:20–21) and not true divinities; they are not to be thought of on the same level as the one God. In another sense, however, they are real gods and lords in that they are subjectively believed to be such by those who worship them; they are “real” to their worshipers. Also, for the “weak” Christians at Corinth, these gods were still quite real in their “conscience” or in their “awareness.” Their “intellectual conviction that there was only one God had not been fully assimilated emotionally.”12 The convictions of their hearts had not caught up with their cognitive understanding. We cannot underestimate how difficult it must have been for people accustomed to believing in the reality of many gods suddenly to transform those years of deeply entrenched religious conviction into a monotheistic framework. The fact that these pagan gods really are “nothing,” however, does not make them any less dangerous.

Paul later contended that there is a close connection between idolatry and demonic activity. He argued, “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (10:19–20). In Paul’s mind there are indeed supernatural beings associated with pagan idolatry—the powers of darkness! In the span of two verses Paul used the word demon four times. He saw demons as the actual recipients of the sacrificed meat (10:20). By eating and drinking in the pagan temples, the Corinthians were drinking “the cup of demons” and eating at “the table of demons” (10:21). In essence they were having “fellowship” (koinōnia) with demons, a fellowship that should be reserved for their relationship to Christ alone (1:9). Communion with the Lord Jesus at his table should completely replace participation at the table of demons. For Paul, then, there was an intensely demonic character to pagan religions in general.

For Paul this position was not at all novel. It represented the established position of Judaism. Moses’ song of praise to God, reflecting on the idolatrous behavior of the Jews while they were in the wilderness, proclaims, “They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God” (Deut 32:16–17). This attitude toward idols is reflected elsewhere in the Old Testament and in the Judaism of the New Testament period. Jewish belief closer to the time of Paul is well illustrated in a second-century B.C. Jewish document, which, at this point, comments on the idolatry of the sons of Noah:

And they made for themselves molten images, and everyone worshiped the icon which they made for themselves as a molten image. And they began making graven images and polluted likeness. And cruel spirits assisted them and led them astray so that they might commit sin and pollution. And the prince [of these demons], Mastema, acted forcefully to do all of this. And he sent other spirits to those who were set under his hand to practice all error and sin and all transgression, to destroy, to cause to perish and to pour out blood upon the earth. (Jubilees 11:4–5)

Another Jewish document, dating just prior to the time of Christ, connects idolatry to witchcraft and the demonic: “I have much grief, my children, because of the lewdness and witchcrafts and idolatries that you will practice against the kingdom, following mediums, soothsayers and demons of deceit” (Testament of Judah 23:1). The Testament of Naphtali speaks of the Gentiles exchanging the worship of the Lord for idolatry, which is also connected with the demonic: “The Gentiles changed their order, having gone astray and having forsaken the Lord and they followed after stones and sticks, having followed after spirits of deceit” (Testament of Naphtali 3:1).

In a similar way when Paul wrote to the Romans, he indicted the Gentiles for exchanging the worship of God for a lie. In his eyes they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:23). What he said to the Corinthians in no way contradicts his statement to the Romans. Paul went beyond describing pagan gods as lifeless images to affirm that Satan and his powers of darkness have used these non-Christian religions to hold humanity in bondage.

It is perfectly clear why Paul urged the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (10:14). By maintaining any kind of involvement with the pagan temples, the Corinthians were exposing themselves to powerful demonic activity and compromising their allegiance to the one true God. Some were being “destroyed” by this involvement (8:11). Those with “knowledge” among the Corinthians failed to take into account the extremely dangerous influence of the hostile powers of darkness that were so closely linked to the non-Christian religions. Their baptism and observance of the Lord’s table did not guarantee immunity from the treacherous activity of the demonic powers. Likewise, neither were the people of Israel immune to the deadly effects of idolatry, in spite of the fact that they too had been symbolically “baptized” and had consumed “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (10:1–12).

Paul did make a distinction between eating in pagan temples (which he regarded as participating in idolatry) and eating in a private home food that had once been sacrificed to a god (10:23–33). For the latter case, sensitivity to weaker Christians should guide the stronger Christian; idolatry was no longer the issue. Paul, on the one hand, advised them to “eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience” (10:25). Yet, on the other hand, he urged restraint to the person who, by eating the meat in the presence of another (weaker) Christian at the home of a nonbeliever, may offend the conscience of that weaker Christian (10:27–29).

There is much to learn from Paul’s handling of this situation at Corinth that is vitally relevant for the church today, especially as we minister to people from a background of various forms of pagan worship. Gordon Fee provides a very fitting description of its relevance:

Those who have been involved in the rescue of drug addicts and prostitutes, e.g., or of people involved in various expressions of voodoo and spirit worship, have an existential understanding of this text that others can scarcely appreciate. Many such people must be forever removed from their former associations, including returning to their former haunts for evangelism, because the grip of their former life is so tenacious. Paul took the power of the demonic seriously; hence his concern that a former idolater, by returning to his or her idolatries, will be destroyed—that is, he or she will return to former ways and be captured by them all the more, and thus eventually suffer eternal loss.

One of the main principles that guided Paul’s reaction to the Corinthian situation was the conviction that demons animate idolatry. For Paul idolatry consisted of worshiping any handmade image. It involved worshiping and serving anything other than the one true God. Participating in idolatry included everything attached to the service and worship of the gods. For the Corinthians this involved eating in the pagan temple.

By extension the operative principle for us today is that all the various non-Christian religions represent a special manifestation of the work of the powers of darkness to deceive people and turn their attention away from the one true God.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 


[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 92–98.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Last Call Before Mourning – Purity 757


Last Call Before Mourning  – Purity 757

Purity 757 06/14/2022 Purity 757 Podcast

Good morning,

Today’s photo a group of palm trees under a 4 p.m. sun comes to us from a friend who recently visited the shores of Kahekili Beach in Kaanapali, Hawaii.  Our friend enjoys snorkeling here and decided to scatter some of the ashes of their beloved grandmother 25 yards off the beach between these palm trees in one of the most breathtaking views on the island of Maui to honor her memory.  So now they can visit her every year, and if we ever visit Maui, our friend invites us to visit her too.  

Deciding what to do with the ashes of our departed loved ones is a highly personal decision. When my ex-wife’s mother died, my family took a trip to southwest and spread her ashes in a couple of undisclosed locations in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico because Mary had deep affections for those areas of the United States and had vague plans to retire there someday.  So we honored her memory with the trip and released her ashes to desert winds to mingle her ashes with the sands that she loved.

The spreading of ashes was our way of honoring her wishes and it was a way of saying goodbye to her. Our relationship with her, although it hasn’t ended, has changed.  Our relationship with her lives on in our memories of course but the spiritual reality of life beyond the grave indicates that we very well may see her again.  

As far as the departed go we may not always know if they a saving relationship with the Lord, but in Mary’s case, I can testify that even though she was far from perfect, quite far actually, I can state when push came to shove, and when things were serious concerning the state of her health and the uncertainty of the length of her life, Mary named Jesus as her Lord and Savior. 

And as funny as it sounds, Mary’s health crisis that eventually led to her death was one of those time stamps of my entrance into God’s kingdom.   In 2010, Mary suffered a ruptured ulcer and had to section of her intestines removed. The doctors tried to put her back together but she wounds never really healed, and after a subsequent surgery to try to put her back together again, after 18 months of being in the hospital, the pain and trauma of that surgery caused Mary to decide to give up the fight and let nature take its course.

But before that end there was a beginning, Mary was in the ICU after her rupture and I was a full fledge practicing Buddhist at the time and working construction as part of  splicing crew.  I did a lot of flagging of traffic in those days.  After Mary’s admittance in the  hospital, I looked up some Buddhist medicine chants/prayers I guess, and while I would flag traffic at work, I would speak those unintelligible words and phrases in hopes that their utterances would somehow result in “good karma” and healing for my mother-in-law.   I know, they didn’t work. Surprise…. OOFF. 

So that the environment in which the Lord decided to come into my life and pull me out of the darkness.  Doing Buddhist medicine chants in the morning, I got saved by a Christian gospel radio message in the afternoon of March 19, 2010.  But I believe that I wasn’t the only one the Lord had in mind when He brought me into His grace.    

So, full fledge Buddhist gets saved and his mother in law is in the hospital and it is not clear if she will live our die, so what do you do?   You try to save her too!

So sometime after my salvation, I went to my mother in law’s hospital room and to lead her through a sinner’s prayer to confirm that Jesus was her Lord and Savior. 

My ex-wife who had the dubious pleasure of watching the shifting winds of change of her husband’s life and personality through the years, thought I was absolutely insane, I think, and she wasn’t happy about my new found faith in Christ and my status of a self proclaimed “born again Christian”, as evidence by our eventual divorce.

But it was desperate times with her mom, and even though she didn’t quite know what to make of what had happened to me, Michele didn’t try to stop me when I told her I wanted to pray with her mother.  

Mary was a mess.  Her hospitalization had done a number on her and when I sat before her to pray her voice was a dry almost soundless whisper but she was fully conscious and relatively normal after her extended stay and release from the ICU.  So she was fully awake and in her right mind, as far as Mary went anyway, shots fired. What? I kid.  If you knew Mary Sapp, you know what I’m talking about. 

Mary was an ultra-liberal feminist and protesting champion for almost any disenfranchised group or cause but she did have a semblance of Christian faith, as an Episcopalian, and even served on the vestry of her Episcopalian church. Before we anoint her St. Mary though let me be clear that it was liberal church. I was liberal I went there before walking away from Christianity.  The reverends their were good servants of the church and I always enjoyed the liturgical services they performed and the messages they delivered.  But Reverend Keith and Reverend Bob were gay.  Yup, not like flamboyantly gay, but cohabiting life partner quasi closeted gay.  So yeah, I was married by a gay minister. Wide and Deep were the errors of my former existence.    

So after coming to faith in Christ and understanding that church membership, no matter liberal or conservative, wasn’t enough to save you, I wanted to make sure that my mother-in-law was specific in naming Jesus as here Lord and Savior. It is by grace alone and through faith in Christ alone that we are saved, and with Mary’s life in question I wanted to make sure she was “in” the kingdom.  

So, I sat down in front of Mary and explained that I had put my faith in Jesus Christ and that I wanted to lead her through a prayer to make Jesus her Lord and Savior.   Much to my surprise, she didn’t object or smirk but wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agreed to be led through the sinner’s prayer. Even though her voice was a whisper, Mary prayed the prayer to be forgive of her sins and that proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of her life.     

So when comes to her eternal destiny, even though it’s hard to imagine considering her past, I believe that Mary put her faith where she needed to, in Christ alone, and that she has been saved from God’s wrath and is in His kingdom now.   

After my salvation, I couldn’t just assume Mary’s service on the vestry of her liberal Episcopal church meant she had faith in Jesus.  Even though I didn’t know the scriptures verses at the time, I had

Romans 10:9-13 (NKJV) in mind, that tell us
9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11  For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
12  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13  For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."  

In a hospital room, with tubes, scars, and a raspy voice that was only above that of a whisper, Mary Sapp called on the name of the Lord, and because the word says it, I believe she was saved by the Lord’s mercy and grace.  

So as we begin the second day of the work week, keep walking and talking with God. And  let’s be clear and let’s be specific in who we believe in and make our loved ones know about the gospel of Jesus Christ and clear up any misconceptions they may hold about “being a good person” or having their “good works outweigh their bad works” and let them know that salvation and the forgiveness of sins only comes by faith in Christ alone. And let’s be bold to encourage our friends, family, and anyone else to call on the name of Jesus, as Lord and Savior, to be saved.  

______________________________________________________________

Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.

This morning’s meditation verse is:

1 Peter 1:22 (NLT2)
22  You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

Today’s Bible verse reminds us of what happened at our salvation and the obligation of love that comes with it.  

The verse says we “must” show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters as we are called to love each other deeply with all our hearts.   As my testimony stated, we may be called to love difficult people and be called to make sure they are indeed our brothers and sisters in the faith.  

The greatest act of love, as demonstrated by Christ, is to save that which is lost, to save someone’s life.

So if we are unclear about someone’s salvation or if we know they are not in the body of Christ, we must show our love for them by praying for their salvation and by delivering the good news and encouraging their reception of God’s free gift.  

But we are also called to not stop there, we are to love our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ after they are saved too. And that could be difficult!

If you ever wondered where you could learn to be faithful, kind, gentle, forgiving, loving, and patient, wonder no more! The place where you can learn to practice those characteristics of a mature Christian is the local church!   

People are people and just because we are all saints the moment we put our faith in Jesus doesn’t mean we will always act like saints.   So the local church is where we can develop godly friendships and relationships, that will require the application of our faith.  

IF we love our brothers and sisters we will be patient with them, we will be kind, we will be faithful in our dealings with them. We will be gentle in our interactions.  We will undoubtedly be called to forgive from time to time. And all of that will strengthen our patience.  

So if you don’t attend church, you should. It is in the body of Christ where we can grow as Christians, and if we are not taking a chance and putting ourselves out there to show the love of God, we won’t grow into the person God would call us to be.  

It is because of God’s love that we will live, and so we should share that love and grow in that love as part of our purpose to be more like Him.   

 

 

 

As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk. 

Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work.  This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.

Simon the Magician: Acts 8

In the book of Acts Luke records four separate instances involving the use of magic. In three of these instances Luke directly connects the magic with the work of Satan or his demons.

In Samaria a magician named Simon was bringing great attention to himself because of the amazing things he accomplished with his magic. So awestruck were the people of Samaria that they nicknamed him “The Great Power” (8:10).

Philip’s preaching of the gospel proved more compelling, however, and many Samaritans turned their lives to Jesus Christ, eventually even Simon. Luke paints Philip’s ministry in terms of what some missiologists would today call “a power encounter.” Although Luke does not describe it in terms of a showdown between Philip and Simon, he clearly indicates that Philip’s display of divine power is what gave him his hearing: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said” (8:6). Philip’s miraculous signs completely overshadowed Simon’s. Philip made evil spirits come out of many people and healed numerous paralytics and cripples.

Luke simply tells us about Simon’s conversion without going into detail about whether he too had evil spirits commanded out of him. Unfortunately Simon allowed his affection for supernatural powers to take precedence over his devotion to the Lord Jesus and asked to buy the ability to impart the Holy Spirit to others. Detecting his perverse motives, Peter rebuked him in the strongest of terms, telling him to repent of his wickedness and observing that he was “full of bitterness and captive to sin” (8:23).

Some later church tradition claims Simon continued in his quest for divine power and became the originator of what would be known as Gnosticism. The second-century apocryphal book Acts of Peter vividly narrates Simon losing in a “power encounter” with the apostle Peter in Rome. After leading many astray with his heretical teaching, Simon allegedly flew in the air over the city of Rome, defying Peter. Peter prayed to the Lord, and Simon was struck down, causing his leg to break in three places.

A Jewish Magician and False Prophet: Acts 13

Luke surprises us by introducing his readers to a Jewish magician who went by the name Bar-Jesus (son of Jesus), or Elymas (13:4–12). Actually, we will later find (chapter four) that there was widespread Jewish involvement in magic, witchcraft and sorcery. The apostle Paul encountered this magician on the island of Cyprus at the outset of his first missionary outreach. Interestingly, this sorcerer was formally attached to a major political figure on the island, the proconsul Sergius Paulus.

Luke does not elaborate on the extent of the influence Elymas wielded with Sergius Paulus. Since political officials frequently consulted astrologers and diviners for guidance, we are safe to speculate that Elymas’s influence extended to the proconsul’s governance and to the political and economic structures he was responsible for. Most important for Paul, however, was the decisive opposition the magician presented to communicate effectively the gospel to Sergius Paulus and perhaps even to the area over which he governed.

Luke presents this sorcerer as the major opposition to Paul’s mission. Paul perceived the man to be under the control of Satan himself and pointedly revealed his true character to his face: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, [he] looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?’ ” (13:10). Paul then took firm action against the magician. He announced that the hand of the Lord Jesus would be against him and he will be blinded. Immediately Elymas lost his sight. The “power encounter” again proved effective for the success of the gospel; the proconsul put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Spirit of Divination: Acts 16

While Paul was in Philippi, a slave girl with a “spirit of divination” troubled Paul greatly by following him and his companions around day after day shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” This spirit of divination was literally a “Python spirit” (Greek=pythōn), according to Luke. By this spirit, the girl was able to predict the future. Meanwhile, some profit-seeking individuals, who later created great problems for Paul (16:16–21), exploited her and her supernatural ability.

The Python spirit was associated with the oracle at Delphi in Greece (about eighty miles northwest of Athens), where the female prophetess was called a Python. In classical mythology the Python was a serpent that guarded the Delphic oracle and was slain by the god Apollo. Throughout antiquity people came from all over the Near East to consult the oracle at Delphi for advice. It was widely believed to be the center of the earth. An opening in the ground at the site emitted a gas that the Delphic prophetess would breathe in order to receive her prophetic insight. She would then pass on the information to the person in verse form. The grateful traveler would then depart, leaving votive offerings and expensive gifts.

Many people also believed the Pythian prophetess had a god living within her belly. This belief led to her being called “a belly talker,” since she was observed talking in a deep second voice while making her predictions. In fact, some ancient literature attributes this second voice to a daimōn.

Because Paul clearly believed a demon controlled this girl, he commanded the spirit within her: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” Without any argument or hesitation, the spirit departed. Luke’s attention then shifts to the irate reaction of the girl’s owners, and this brief account is all that we know about her in Scripture.[1]

---------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

Join our “Victory over the Darkness”, “The Bondage Breaker”, "Freedom in Christ" series of Discipleship Classes via the mt4christ247 podcast!

at https://mt4christ247.podbean.com, You can also find it on Apple podcasts

(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-mt4christ247s-podcast/id1551615154). The mt4christ247 podcast is also available on Google Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartradio, and Audible.com. 

These teachings are also available on the MT4Christ247 You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTxjSNstREpuGWuL0bF3U7w/featured

Email me at mt4christ247@gmail.com to receive the class materials, share your progress, and to be encouraged.

My wife, TammyLyn, also offers Christian encouragement via her Facebook Group: Ask, Seek, Knock (https://www.facebook.com/groups/529047851449098 ) and her podcast Ask, Seek, and Knock on Podbean (https://feed.podbean.com/tammalyn78/feed.xml)

Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship



[1] Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 31–33.