A story of connections of thought today! Thought 1: I found myself thinking about “Roman Camp Mary,” better known as Mary Magdalene. What perhaps we don’t realise is that Magdalene is really more like a nick name, a name of scorn. Magdala was where the camp of the Roman occupying forces was situated. So “Roman Camp Mary” gives an indication of how Mary was regarded. Perhaps it was the Romans who used her who called her that, perhaps it was the Jews who sought to shame her who gave her such a nickname.
Somehow thinking about Mary who plied her trade amongst the Occupying forces led to Thought 2; my mind wandered away to thinking about what it must be like to live under an occupying power. Some of the places where this blog is read were indeed occupied by the Nazis during the years of the last war. There may even be some who read this who are actually old enough to remember from personal experience what that was like. Whatever, I would imagine that each infringement of freedoms would have been sorely felt, no matter how many freedoms remained.
That led to Thought 3; I remembered when God set me free from what had been an occupying force stopping me from entering fully into the freedom with which Christ has set His people free. For years I laboured under some compulsion that I had to have a growing church and I had to have a “successful ministry” – I had views about what that looked like which I have thankfully abandoned. For years though this vision of success occupied my thinking. As a result my view of God became skewed. I felt He must surely have been disappointed with me. My view of Him was that I saw Him as a dissatisfied judge. My view of the church became negative, critical, jaundiced. In a moment of time I was set free in the mid 90’s. I didn’t know I needed to be set free. It was only once I was set free that I realised how captive I had been. In a moment, heaviness was gone. The face of the disappointed judge was gone to be replaced by the Father who simply loved me because He loved me. I felt the true power of the cross in an experiential way. I remember distinctly the feeling of something leaving from the very depths of my being and thank God though it has sometimes hovered around, it has never returned to take over territory in my life again. The occupation was over! I was set free to rejoice in the love of my Father, and set free to resist a lie which previously had rampaged through my life unchallenged.
I don’t mean to be needlessly controversial, but all I will say is bar one person who became a Christian on the same night they were delivered, all my other experiences of deliverance from evil powers, though not many, have involved the setting free of Christians form enemy occupation.
Thought 4 – for you to think about; what occupies you? is there anything that has an unhealthy control in your life that to a certain extent determines how you act, how you feel, how you relate to God, to others and to life, and to yourself? It may be obviously harmful of course, but it may not be obviously harmful at first. Remember what occupied me seemed a good thing, the desire to have a successful ministry, but that thought represented enemy chains and robbed me of my freedom in God. Sadly I meet many Christians who at least in part seem under enemy occupation. Sometimes, indeed most commonly the manifestation of occupation is a fear of one sort or another often becasue of past events or dysfunctional significant relationships. It may of course be that there has been some involvement in the occult or surrender of control to drugs or to alcohol; it may be something morally askew that has allowed an occupation by the enemy of a certain aspect of life, but there need not be a moral lapse. I think there are many demons around who seem in terms of their human host to be perfectly moral and orthodox in their manifestation, even defending the truth of God to the hilt. Such is the enemy who appears as an angel of light. When such a spirit is occupying a preacher or teacher, or any believer, they may speak words of grace perhaps but actually they sound more like teachers of the law, quick to point out fault, gatekeepers and judges seeing the demerits in everyone, deciding and pronouncing who is in God’s favour and who is not. As a result, the one flock of God becomes disturbed and sometimes decimated. I sometimes have the feeling that this has caused particular carnage between the various strains of Presbyterianism in Scotland, whatever its manifestation may look like in other countries and cultures.
Thought 5; does the love of Christ and that alone occupy you and I? His love for His Father; His love for His Father’s truth and words and works; His love for His bride; His love for the lost; His love for you? May we all be free with the freedom with which Christ has set us free and let’s help one another into that freedom too.
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