Open for Worship in the House of God - Purity 772
Today’s photo of a green mountain under a clear blue sky with an almost angelic cirrus cloud formation comes to us from a friend who recently visited the Lake Placid area in New York State. For those curious about the location of this scene, our friend was kind enough to caption the photo and with their information and a google search I can tell you that this is Baker Mountain, which is a 2,454-foot-tall mountain in Essex County, which is east of Saranac Lake. We are presuming that our friend was somewhere on the shores of Lake Placid but a google map search of Baker Mountain could cause you to doubt because there is more than one body of water near Baker Mountain including: McKenzie Pond, Moose Pond, and Moody Pond. So where they were exactly is still unknown but if your really adventurous, I have given you more than enough clues if you want to follow in their footsteps to experience this view for yourself.
Well, It’s Friday and I am thanking God for the day, for safely bringing me to my travel destination in Bethel Maine, and for providing me with an unprecedented opportunity to worship and praise Him.
I am staying at Sudbury Inn in Bethel Maine for the next three days, leaving on Sunday – no Bible Study with the Cincotti’s this week as we are “on the Road. For those envisioning a trip to the Maine Seacoast and guys with strange Maine accents pulling in lobster traps let me gently burst your bubble. Bethel is in an area of the state that I will call “Barely Maine”. I call it that because as Bethel is only a short drive from the New Hampshire border and I suppose because we are near the “Unorganized Territory of South Oxford and minutes away from Mahoosuc Mountain Range you could also think of this area as Bearly Maine, as in I hope I don’t get mauled by a Grizzly because that would totally “Mahoosuc”.
Forgive the “Dad Joke” pun, but I am traveling with my wife and the youngest pair of my step kids and that’s what we do. Anyway, we are all together to attend the River Rock Music Festival Christian Music Festival for two full days of Christian music and fun. TammyLyn attended the festival last year and was very enthusiastic about having her family experience it too. SO here we are. Anyone familiar with the dynamics of blended families, interacting with teenagers, replicating experiences, and travelling for family vacations, I’m asking for prayers and I don’t think I have to explain why.
Anyway, as the word Bethel means the “House of God”, I am in the house and I am ready to worship! I am ready to praise the Lord.
The River Rock Music Festival seems like it is going to be a first for me. When I think of 2 day music festivals, I can’t help but think of the Woodstocks or Lollapaloozas and think of wild times with alcohol and drugs in abundant supply. I never attended any of those concert events because I was too timid, for those in my past that may be hard to believe but it’s true, there was something about surrendering to a long event with the promise of drugs, large crowds, and loud music that caused me to say “no”. Hearing reports of bad venues, bad weather, inflated prices, and violence and discord at some of those events made it easy to say no to ever going to one as I grew older and less wild. I wanted to have fun and knew that “other people” could really mess that up.
But today’s and tomorrow festival seems to be a far cry from those rock n roll extravaganza’s. First, I was shocked to discover that not only is this event Christian, it is really Christian in that there is no alcohol or smoking allowed at this event. That’s different. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised really, drunkenness is prohibited according to the Bible but unfortunately according to various surveys done over the last few years, many of those who identify as Christians don’t have a biblical worldview and walk the walk of Christian Discipleship and don’t live much differently from their non-Christian neighbors.
So, that’s good – we will worship today with far less inebriated concert goers than normal. I would say none but as a former addict I know that a determined person can bring drugs into any venue and enjoy their affects in all environments. Marijuana, pills, and psychedelic drugs can all be ingested and enjoyed and go beyond detection. So some people today could choose to exercise their freedom from the law and take it as a license to sin. I doubt that anyone would do that but I know it certainly is possible and if I see someone who is “lost to the music” today I will have my suspicions.
As the man in our small band of worshippers, I have the unspoken responsibility to make sure everyone is safe and it is a responsibility I take seriously, so as much as I intend to fully enter in to worship, I will undoubtedly keep an eye on our surroundings. I know the evil that men can do and I know that Satan would love to cause strife at such an event that is designed to give God glory. Today’s festivities run from 11am to 10PM, and the line-up of Christian musicians and speakers include:
So if you are in the area of “Barely Maine”, I invite you to come on our and worship with us at the River Rock Music Festival at Sunday River Resort in Newry Maine. (https://riverrockfestival.com/)
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Psalm 62:5 (NLT2)
5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
Today’s Bible verse assures us that we can quietly wait before God because our hope lies in Him.
Although I will be at a venue today surrounded by Christian music, there is a lot to be said for spending quiet time with the Lord. Quiet time for prayer and Bible study are the foundational disciplines of the Christian Disciple and it is our time with the Lord that can help us to have peace in the world regardless of the raucous or wild circumstances that we may face.
Although I am not really into crowds, I am hoping in the Lord not the security of my situation to give me peace. In Christ, I am assured that I am secure in Him. My hopes for good outcomes and safety are not sole based on my ability to manipulate circumstances and make wise decisions with where I go and what I do.
While we should all be wise and discerning with the things we expose ourselves to in this world, the truth is that in this world broken by sin and subject to the influences of the powers of darkness there is no “safe place”. History has tells us of the evil that men do and the sudden death that can come at their hands or to other situations like accidents or natural disasters.
In the Final Destination movies, the unseen specter of death seeks to take back the lives of people who have escaped death and in those films we see the characters make every effort to remain safe but in the end, for nearly all the characters, death manages to make its way through their defenses and take their lives.
But for the Christian, death has lost its sting. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So no matter what, the Christian really is going to “be okay” because the Lord is with them. It is in the Lord that we have our hope.
Only when we forget this fact of our spiritual reality can fear, anxiety, or depression come in and invade our lives. So spend some quiet time with the Lord to remind yourself about who you are in Christ and how your hope is assured because your hope is in the Lord.
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.
Perhaps nothing reflects Jewish popular belief in demons, spirits and the powers of evil more clearly than the widespread information illustrating Jewish involvement in magic. Contrary to Old Testament and official Jewish restrictions against the use of magic, many Jews throughout the Mediterranean world adopted and even further developed these occult practices of their pagan neighbors. In fact, Jewish magic gained a notoriety of its own in antiquity. Its importance for illuminating folk belief is rightly stressed by P. S. Alexander:
[Jewish] incantations and books of magic … open up areas of popular religion which are often inadequately represented in the official literary texts, and which are in consequence frequently ignored by historians. As an indicator of the spiritual atmosphere in which large sections of the populace lived—rich and poor, educated and ignorant—their importance can hardly be overestimated.
The New Testament itself helps to confirm this Jewish interest in magic by specifically naming two Jewish magicians—Simon (Acts 8:9) and Bar-Jesus, or Elymas (Acts 13:6–12). Luke also writes about certain itinerant Jewish exorcists, who had added the name of Jesus to their repertoire of magical names (Acts 19:13–20).
Over the past century archeologists have discovered numerous Jewish magical charms and amulets. Many of these have been collected and published with photographic reproductions as part of a beautifully done twelve-volume work by Jewish scholar E. R. Goodenough on Jewish symbols of the Greco-Roman period. Goodenough helped call the scholarly world’s attention to Jewish involvement in magic (and perhaps even mystery religions) by his analysis of the material evidence. The magical charms typically have a depiction of some Jewish symbol (such as a menorah or a representation of Solomon) on one side; the other side may contain a series of magical words or names (such as Sabaoth, angel names, names of patriarchs and often names of pagan deities). These amulets were used for many purposes, but most commonly for protection from evil spirits.
There are also a number of Jewish magical documents. In the standard collection of Greek magical papyri edited by Karl Preisendanz, some of the magical texts are distinctively Jewish. Just as significant is the extent to which Judaism influenced the development of the magical tradition as a whole. A number of scholars agree there are few Greek magical texts from late antiquity without some sort of Jewish component. The Jews provided the Greeks with new magical names to invoke, such as Iao (a Greek form of Yahweh) and numerous other names thought to be laden with power. Most scholars are not concerned to draw any firm distinction between Jewish and pagan magic. The occult sciences crossed all religious boundaries and borrowed from all religions.
In Jewish magic it is interesting to note the prominence of Solomon. According to the biblical account of Solomon’s life, he was granted a measure of wisdom from God unsurpassed by anyone preceding or following him (1 Kings 3:12). Later Judaism understood this gift to include wisdom and expertise in dealing with the spirit realm. The eminent Jewish historian Josephus believed this tradition:
God also enabled him [Solomon] to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men. He composed such incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country whose name was Eleazar, releasing people who were demonic in the presence of Vespasian, and his sons, and his captains, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. (Josephus Antiquities 8.2.5)
Josephus then gives a very detailed account of how this Eleazar performed exorcisms using a magical ring and by reciting incantations ostensibly written by Solomon. A number of these Solomonic magical traditions have been preserved in the form of a document known as the Testament of Solomon. Although the Testament postdates the New Testament, many scholars agree it may have been put together in the first century A.D. It is a major source for helping us to understand early Jewish demonology. The Testament functioned as a serious Jewish work on magic and a sort of encyclopedia of demonology. The work centers on Solomon’s rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, but focuses specifically on the demonic opposition he faced and his ability not only to thwart the evil powers but also to manipulate them into actually aiding the construction of the temple! According to the Testament, the archangel Michael gave Solomon a magical seal ring that he used to interrogate the evil powers. By using it, Solomon was able to find out their names and evil activities, and to force them to divulge how they could be thwarted. The Testament is thus filled with accounts of Solomon’s interrogation of the demons and how he manipulated them.
These traditions about Solomon would have had great significance for the Jew, who was fearful of evil spirits, and who sought a means for protection. A number of early Christian writers are familiar with the Solomon tradition and allude to exorcisms taking place using Solomonic formulas. The Testament is significant for our study by giving us yet another glimpse into the belief in demons and the use of magic that flourished throughout the Mediterranean world in popular culture, even in Judaism. The Testament also employs many of the terms used by the apostle Paul when he referred to the powers of darkness. This certainly does not imply that Paul agreed with everything said in this Testament, but it does show that Paul was concerned to give a perspective on these evil powers (that he believed to exist)—a perspective he based on the Christ event.
One final point needs to be made about first-century Judaism. Many of the common Jews were firm believers in astrology. The Testament of Solomon itself testifies to this Jewish interest in astrology (since magic and astrology overlap significantly). In the past fifty years, new archeological data and newly discovered documents have confirmed and further illustrate this interest in astrology. For example, among the Dead Sea Scrolls was an astrological document (a horoscope containing the signs of the zodiac) that likely reflects part of the beliefs of the Qumran community, also illustrating that astrological beliefs even extended to some of the Jewish sages.
This discussion verifies and illustrates the strong Jewish belief in the powers of darkness throughout their history, and which intensified as the birth of Jesus approached. Furthermore, the Judaism of the Roman period shows a prevalent tendency toward overlooking the Old Testament restrictions against practicing magic and astrology. These activities became a common mechanism for overcoming the fearful threat posed by the powers of darkness.
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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
 Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 71–74.