Encounters With The Messiah  – Demon Possessed Man in Capernaum Synagogue

Anstruther Harbour, East Neuk of Fife, Scotland.    Photo by Neil and Zulma Scott on Unsplash

They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are⁠—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-28 (NASB)

The incident in today’s sripture happens at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry. After the temptation in the wilderness He returns home to Nazareth, where His interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy was not well received in the Synagogue, being met by violence resulting in Him leaving town. From the Nazareth hill country he walked north east (16 miles approx.) to the Galilean coast and Capernaum (now Kfar Nahum) which was a city on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. With a population of over 1500 people it was once the main trading centre of the region, and would become Jesus’s home. The Synagogue of that city was a gift from a devout Centurion who we encounter later in Luke 7, whose servant our Lord heals.

Synagogues were not large buildings, built by the congregation (or a generous benefactor) mostly of rectangular form facing towards Jerusalem. The lintels of the Synagogue at Capernaum depicted the manna provided in the wilderness and also flowing grapevines with ample fruit.The internal space was similar to the plan of the Temple, with the outer courts being for women and the inner courts for men. The scrolls of the Law were stored in the holiest space furthest from the entrance.

I must highlight the importance that our Lord attaches to Sabbath attendance to the House of God; “immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue.” This is an example to all believers then and now of the importance of fellowship, reading scriptures and worship. As He taught the congregation was aghast at the authority with which He spoke, it was as if He knew the Author of these scriptures. He had their full attention. Then suddenly an unholy cry shattered the air, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are⁠—the Holy One of God!” To the shock of the congregation the voice came from one of their own, uncertain murmuring began but was instantly silenced by the sharp rebuke from the rabbi at the lectern; “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Heads turned from one to the other then back again as their brother fell to the floor writhing convulsively, with loud shrieks he became limp as the evil spirit left him. Can you imagine the embarrassment of this poor man awakening on the floor of the Synagogue amidst his brethren? Then there would be excited gratitude for the visitor, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, who had healed him. The excited debate amongst the congregation lit a flame which became a fire spreading into the town and the regions beyond.

There are many who discount this and other such accounts as myth or fiction, choosing not to believe in the existence of evil spirits. Such dismissal cheers the heart of Satan and his servants; if people don’t believe in them they won’t be on their guard against them! Believe me when I tell you demons are real, I have seen a similar incident as described above happen in a mission tent many years ago.

Dear reader, “be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1Peter5:8). Guard yourselves (and your loved ones) by clinging tightly to your Father God, and your Saviour Jesus Christ. Fill your days with His Holy Word and constant prayer, then there will be no room for any unholy squatters.

Release International News Update

CHINA: CHRISTIANS BRACED FOR TOUGH NEW YEAR

17 Feb 2021

As China begins a new year, Christians in the country are readying themselves for further  crackdowns.

China has developed a powerful system of digital surveillance, which it has integrated with the apparatus of the state. The country is said to have installed more than half a billion surveillance cameras, many with state-of-the-art face-recognition systems.

Our partner Bob Fu of China Aid told us: ‘Digital authoritarianism is a growing challenge. The Chinese Communist Party has hundreds of millions of face-recognition cameras all over China. They keep watch over every street corner, from the four walls of church buildings and even from pulpits.’

Online worship or prayer meetings – a lifeline for the rest of the world during lockdown – have been banned.  

Many churches have been ordered to tear down the crosses from their rooftops and lawyers who try to defend the right to display the Christian cross have been disbarred and even abducted. Parents are no longer allowed to take their children to services, the Communist Party flag has to be openly displayed, and pastors are required to pledge in writing their absolute loyalty to the Party and the ideology of President Xi Jinping.

Please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China. One of the most heavily persecuted churches is the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu.

The church has been under severe attack since 2018, said Bob. More than 200 elders, pastors and deacons have been arrested, and its pastor, Wang Yi, has been convicted and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, accused of subversion of state power.

‘Our investigations show that at least 80 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church were tortured, physically and mentally – some very severely, to the point where they are still struggling with mental challenges,’ said Bob.

Yet, there is good news: ‘Despite the severe persecution, extreme surveillance and forced eviction of many from their homes, the church is actually growing,’ says Bob. ‘Many new believers have been baptised.’

UPDATES

Thank you for praying for Christians imprisoned for their faith in Eritrea. We understand that 70 evangelical and Orthodox believers were released from prison earlier this month. We thank God for their release; some had been behind bars for 12 years. Please continue to pray for those who remain in detention and also for Christians who have been affected by the conflict in the Tigray area of northern Ethiopia: some have fled the area while others may have been forcibly repatriated to Eritrea.

Please continue to pray for Iranian convert Ebrahim Firouzi, who has just been arrested and detained in Chabahar prison in southeast Iran after releasing videos detailing harassment by Iranian intelligence. Ebrahim, who had been serving a term of internal exile, asked Christians to pray that God would be glorified rather than that he would be acquitted.

It’s now four years since Malaysian pastor Raymond Koh was abducted. Early in 2019, Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission issued a report blaming the abductions of Pastor Raymond and others on the Special Branch of Malaysia’s police. But to date, no one has been held accountable, and Pastor Raymond’s whereabouts and condition remain unknown. Please continue to pray for Raymond and his family. Sign the petition calling for his release here.

Pastor Zhang Shaojie has been transferred to another prison in Henan province where he will spend his first two months in ‘concentrated education’.Please pray for this dear pastor who has five more years to serve of a 12-year sentence. During the time he ministered at Nanle County Christian Church, Pastor Zhang regularly contributed to defending other people’s rights.

Finally please uphold in prayer our brother Zafar Bhatti, who has been in prison in Pakistan since 2012. Pray for peace and that God would provide for all his needs in prison and for those of his wife, Zawab Bibi.

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23rd Psalm Series

The Forth Bridges, Scotland. Photo by Zhanhui Li on Unsplash

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 (NASB)

Here in one convenient post I list all five posts of the recent series on Psalm 23. It was an uexpected series that the Lord lead me to write, the whole process was a great encouragement to me personally. I am forever thankful to His guidance.

Following The Shepherd

The Soul Restorer

In The Valley

The King’s Banquet

A Future Hope

A Future Hope


Clachaig Falls at Glen Coe with the hills of Stob Coire nam Beith and An t-Sron, Scotland. https://www.facebook.com/SpectacularScotland

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 (NASB)

In our last post we met with what the Shepherd is doing in our present realm, today we reach the final verse of this great Psalm and see the hope for our future.

Notice that “goodness and lovingkindness (mercy in KJV) will follow me.” Throughout Psalm 23 the sheep follow the Shepherd. Goodness and mercy following the sheep is the reward for following the Shepherd. If we want the benefits  of being a child of God, we must follow Him each day. Let us elaborate on the goodness and mercy/lovingkindness of God.

In Psalm 31:19 the psalmist tells us that God reserves His goodness for those who fear Him and actively take refuge in Him. We are called to believe His Word and to apply it to our lives, it is only then that His goodness and mercy follows us. Psalm 25:10 assures us that “All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth to those who keep His covenant  and His testimonies.” Thus as a repentant sinner following God I am assured of His goodness and mercy, “all the days of my life” as are you too.

The final line of Psalm 23 is a supreme note of confidence, that can only come from belief in Almighty God. As children of God we seek the shelter of dwelling in His House, now and in eternity (Psalm 27:4). In His Tabernacle we are concealed, protected and lifted up (Psalm 27:5).

Dear reader, let us rejoice in the presence of our Shepherd and in His provision. But also rejoice in our future hope before us in eternity; as a response to the last line of Psalm 23 let us joyfully proclaim together these words of Psalm 27:6“And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.

Barnabas Fund Mozambique Latest Update

FEED CHRISTIAN VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN MOZAMBIQUE’S “LAND OF FEAR”

19 February 2021

Thousands of displaced people are crammed into makeshift shelters on the beach at Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province. They are hungry, sick and traumatised by the savage violence they have seen

Two little boys and an adult hanged on the same tree – probably a family, who died together at the hands of one of the most savage terrorist groups currently operating in our world. In life, this little family were so poor that the older brother, aged about five, has several holes in his worn-out shorts. In death, they do not have even the dignity of a grave, but are left dangling among the branches.

This is Mozambique’s far north, nowadays known as the “land of fear”. It is a Muslim-majority area in a Christian-majority country, where an Islamist group has launched at least 769 attacks since 2017, killing over 2,500 people. The group’s hallmark is beheading and cutting their victims into pieces. Their targets are Christians, moderate Muslims, the government and anyone else who rejects the jihadists’ ideology. Perhaps the little family in the tree should be counted fortunate they were not chopped up.

Half a million displaced

Half a million Mozambicans have fled their homes, trying to escape the violence, which peaked in the last months of 2020. January 2021 saw fewer attacks, perhaps because the insurgents were beginning to exhaust their supplies of stolen ammunition.

Many of the displaced are crammed on to a beach in Pemba, the provincial capital, living in makeshift shelters and begging for food from passers-by. They are malnourished, malaria and cholera are spreading amongst them, and the children are severely traumatised by the brutal violence they have witnessed.

Back in the rural areas from which they fled, their homes have been burned, their farms are left untended, a third of the health facilities are damaged or destroyed, and no one knows how many of the remaining civilian population perished last month when the insurgents used them as human shields against a government offensive. Until the beginning of this year, food was arriving from Tanzania by boat, through the mangrove swamps, but then the jihadists cut the supply lines, bringing the real possibility of starvation.

Half a million people have fled Islamist violence in the “land of fear”, the far north of Mozambique. Please help our Christian brothers and sisters

Unreported but true

Barnabas Fund has been reporting this situation since May 2020, although little world attention has been given. International journalists are banned and local ones have been intimidated, with two held for months in a military prison. But Sky News are now showing it on TV.

Battered by storms and cyclones, struggling with coronavirus, the UN calls the situation in Mozambique “a perfect storm of instability”.

Isaiah 53 Salvation Check

I was inspired yet again today by the End Times Persecution Survival Guide devotional written by Bethany from Back To Jerusalem. Today is day eight and the testimony of Pastor Zhang Rongliang, in which he recounts how his grandfather lead him to Jesus by opening his Bible to Isaiah 53 : 2 – 6 and reading it inserting his grandson’s name into the passage. The effect was instantaneous: “After hearing that, I couldn’t help but weep over the guilt of my sin and the high price that the Lord had paid to take it from me. From that day on, I decided to follow after Christ. The way Grandfather Sun read that passage has stayed with me until this day and I will never forget it.”

After reading the devotional I immediately opened my own Bible and carefully read the same passage, entering my name as done in the devotional I had just read. Let me tell you as a saved believer in Jesus my heart and spirit was still pierced by this reading of Isaiah 53 : 1 – 6. In a way it was a good way of touching home base again, which encouraged me in my resolve for my Lord and Saviour. Let me encourage you to do the same today, whether you are a believer or not.

He had no beauty that _______ should desire Him.
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and __________ hid as it were his face from Him.
He was despised and _________ esteemed Him not.
Surely He has borne _________ griefs and carried his sorrows, yet __________ did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
But He was wounded for __________ transgressions,
He was bruised for __________ iniquities;
the chastisement of ___________peace was upon Him and with His stripes ____________ was healed.
________ is like a sheep who has gone astray,
________ has turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of ________.”

Dear reader, let me finally encourage you to visit Back To Jerusalem and read about them and also read the devotional I refer to. These can also be found on dingdash.com which is growing Christian social media platform open to all.

The King’s Banquet


Black Cuillin during a snowstorm photographed from Morar near Mallaig, Scotland. https://www.facebook.com/SpectacularScotland

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5 (NASB)

Verse one of Psalm 23 says “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” – in verse five we encounter the Shepherd meeting and filling our needs. A magnificent banquet is provided by Him; who has not only the bounty to feed us, but power to protect us; and, though surrounded by enemies, we sit down to the table with confidence, knowing that we shall feast in perfect security. Can we begin to imagine this scene? In our darkest moments with enemies all around our Lord doesn’t just provide the necessities, He provides a lavish banquet! Around us our enemies (human and spiritual) watch in disdain as we prosper despite their best efforts, unable to harm us for fear of the Shepherd beside us.

In His company we are all special and loved beyond measure, we are honoured guests at His table. He anoints our heads with costly perfumed oil, as one did with honoured guests in Biblical times. Think on this, the Lord who anoints you is denied this privilege by His enemies during His earthly life (Luke 7:46). What have we done to deserve such honour from our King? Nothing! There is nothing we could do to earn such provision, it is an act of Divine mercy and love.

Dear reader, rejoice in your position in His family – your Lord and Saviour. In your darkest moments He is there lavishing provision and love on you. In His presence your cup is more than full, it overflows with the riches of Heaven. Hallelujah!

Reference: Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].

Latest Open Doors USA News

PRAY: 50,000+ Christians in North Korean prison camps

Written by Sylvia St. Cyr Tuesday, Feb 16 2021, 4:30 PM

There are currently 50,000 to 70,000 Korean Christians suffering in prison camps, and one former inmate is sharing the heartbreaking and horrifying realities they face.

According to an article published by Open Doors USA, any person in Korea, North or South, whose faith in Jesus is exposed face torture, labour camps, or execution. 

Christians caught and accused of their faith are often simply sentenced to a life of hard labour until they die. 

While it’s rare, some people have escaped from this living hell. 

Hea-woo* survived the deplorable living conditions and torture in a re-education camp, the second level of prisons. Once arrested, people are often sent to detention centres first for interrogation. After that, prisoners are then sent to either a re-education camp or a political labour camp which no one comes back from.

“Every day was like torture,” says Hea-woo. “People were dying and their corpses were burnt. The guards scattered the ashes over the road. We walked that road every day and each time I thought: One day, the other prisoners will walk over me.”

Thankfully she managed to escape the North Korean prison camp, which is how she was able to share what a typical day at the camp was like.

5.30 am: Roll call in the barracks. “We lined up with our heads bowed until we were all accounted for. Then there was some time to wash ourselves.”

6 am: Breakfast. “We [lined] up again and slowly moved through the barracks where the food was distributed. This took a lot of time. We got only a small cup full of rice. Maybe about two or three spoons in total.”

8 am: Work. “We marched outside the camp, to the countryside, where we had to do agricultural work until lunchtime. There was no break. Prisoners have no right to rest.”

12 noon: Lunch. “About the same amount of food as during breakfast and dinner.”

2 pm: Back to work.

6 pm: Criticism session. “We had to criticize each other and ourselves about the things we did wrong that day. After that, dinner.”

8 pm: Ideological training. “The hardest part of the day. We were hungry and weary. Our eyes fell closed. But we had to stay awake and pay attention or we would be punished.”

9.30 pm: Counting of the prisoners.

10 pm: Go to bed.

On February 5, 2021, Open Doors USA released the names of five Christian missionaries who have been in North Korean prison camps for years, encouraging people to pray for them by name. 

Kim Jong-Wook was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to a life of hard labour in 2014. 

Kim Kook-Kie and Choi Chun-Kil were arrested in the Chineseborder city of Dandong. They were sentenced to a life of hard labour in 2015.

Ko Hyon-Chol was arrested and sentenced to a life of hard labour in 2016.

Kim Won-Ho was a North Korean defector and missionary who was abducted in China in 2016. 

North Korea has been No. 1 on the World Watch List according to Open Doors for the worst place for Christian persecution in the world and has been for 20 years. 

The short video below shows the cruelty many prisoners face after being sentenced to a prison camp in North Korea. (Some content may be hard for certain viewers to hear or see).

Barnabas Fund Persecution Update

Myanmar Army document instructs soldiers to shoot, “punish and breakdown” civilians

16 February 2021

Amid widespread mass protests in Myanmar (Burma) and reports of a ramping up of armed patrols in Karen and Kachin States, a chilling Myanmar Army document was discovered instructing soldiers to “punish and breakdown” ethnic-minority Christians and other civilians deemed to be against the military regime, or even appearing critical of it in social media posts.

A Myanmar Army document was discovered that instructs military personal to take violent action against any dissenting civilians, including Christians in Karen State

The official document lists a sequence of actions that military personnel should take including firing a 12mm weapon (equivalent to a powerful machine gun) at individuals or using a 38mm weapon (a gun capable of launching grenades) on groups of civilians.

The directives include special instructions to round up any dissenting civilian doctors and nurses and to report on any local leaders who are not fully cooperating with the military.

Regional reports show military patrols have escalated from carrying side-arms to automatic rifles

Periodic internet blackouts are being imposed in regions of the country, according to a Barnabas contact.

Christian leaders in the region requested prayer for the people of Myanmar and for a “change of heart” of army and coup leaders. “Please pray for the Karen people in hiding in the jungle,” they asked.

An exhausted little boy rests after fleeing from the military in Karen State

Thousands of Christian villagers fled military bombardment in Karen State to take refuge in remote jungle on 1 February, the same day as the Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was ousted in a military coup.

The Encounters With The Messiah Series

“Natural Lighthouse” Photography by Spiros Lioris https://www.facebook.com/spiros.lioris

This post is purely a list of links of the entire “Encounters With The Messiah” series, bringing together on one page all the posts for anyone wanting to read them. This series came from a very brief moment of inspiration by the Holy Spirit; I had turned in prayer to Father God asking for guidance what I should write next. Throughout my writing I say often that I am just a scribe writing what God wants; in this I am rewarded with plenty to write – all praise and honour to Him! I would like to tell you that the “Encounters With The Messiah” series is not finished, there are more stories yet to explore in the near future. Finally, I pray that these simple devotionals will carry on being a blessing to those who read them and encourage them to read the scripture accounts deeper.

Simon of Cyrene

The Boy With Loaves & Fishes

The Woman at the Well

Nicodemus

John the Baptist

Satan the Tempter

The Leper With Faith

The Centurion

The Demoniac Man

The First Disciples

The Paralytic Healed

The Apostle Matthew

Two Desperate People

On The Way to Emmaus

Peter In The Storm

The Canaanite Woman

The Rich Young Ruler

Bartimaeus

The Deaf Man of Decapolis

The Blind Man of Bethsaida

The Nobleman of Capernaum

The Man at Bethesda

The Adulterous Woman

Mary Magdalene

Christ Washes The Disciple’s Feet

Lazarus, Mary & Martha

Mary & The Anointing