Thursday, October 8, 2015

Taking back what’s stolen – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare, Part 2

Imagine a person who enjoys a comfortable lifestyle. Then neighborhood bullies come along and help themselves to his property. He whimpers and complains and then rearranges what he has left to make do. 

This thieving goes on for years, and all he does is watch his possessions dwindle, and settles for the little he has. He even forgets what life used to be like because he’s become so complacent and learned to make do. In the end, he’s out on the street, and unhappily accepts that this is the life he was meant for. It’s a pitiful picture, but it’s a picture of ourselves when we know nothing about spiritual warfare.  

So what’s been stolen from you that you’ve settled for? You may not even know what your life was meant to be like from God’s viewpoint. Too many Christians recite the mantra, “Well, I’m just grateful for what I have since so many others are worse off than I…” It sounds wonderfully spiritual, and though being grateful is a godly attitude, it’s wrong to settle for the life that the devil wants, and not God. We dishonor Him when we don’t fight to take back what’s been stolen, when we don’t believe in His supernatural power to undo the work of Satan. Gratitude and praise in difficult times can be a great weapon against the devil, but I’ll explain that in another post. Right now I want to talk about combating that passive spirit that is far too prevalent in Christian thinking.

Example: Your son is addicted to drugs. He’s angry and violent and has betrayed your trust when he stole money from you to feed his addiction. Yes, he is responsible for his own actions, and yes, you did all you could to raise him right. You want to give him tough love to face the consequences of his choices, and yet you can’t stand the thought of him on Skid Row. So you bring him home, just to be accosted by his outbursts. The sweet little boy you used to hold on your lap has been stolen from you and a monster has been put in his place. Who stole his peace of mind? Who has robbed your home? Who is plotting to steal his very life? Who has created layers of unhappiness and insecurity in him over time so that this destruction could build up to this point? Who blocked you and your spouse of the insight and faith to catch all of this before it exploded in your face? There is only one answer. The devil, who comes to steal, kill and destroy.

Spiritual warfare can be a long arduous process—when our emotions dictate our faith. I’ve seen parents whose faith swings like a pendulum from passive acceptance, to emotional outbursts that blame God for their suffering, to wildly swing right back again. They never reach the state of focused intelligent faith. It can only be considered warfare when we set our feelings aside and zero in like a laser on our true enemy, and stick to our guns. That’s when faith becomes powerful and effective. As parents, we have a special anointing by God to raise our kids in His paths and for His glory. We have an obligation to stubbornly command demons to leave our kids’ lives for however long it takes. Each of your children ultimately has to choose salvation for him or herself, but if they are in bondage to demonic forces, your fight for their freedom can help them eventually choose God in the process.  

This battle is many pronged, because it’s a battle for their freedom as well as against your own weaknesses. A parent who really cares, will attend church to fight for their kids as often as they can possibly go. They will listen to the counsel of their pastor and ACTUALLY DO IT! They will learn to undo the negative attitudes in their own hearts that may have contributed to the problem, and will be humble to admit it. They will fight in prayer every day, multiple times, rebuking the demons of addiction, and rebuking the negative thoughts that want to reign in their home. They will rebuke the spirit of violence and theft, and learn how to be more stubborn and more aggressive in their faith in God than the demons are in their attacks. They will learn how to love their child fully, and fight their true enemy tirelessly.

I could write a book about warfare on behalf of a loved one, but this will have to do for starters. You can’t afford to take a vacation from faith—if your child was battling for his life in a cancer ward, would you take off to the Bahamas for a week? Remember that with faith in God, you are always greater than Satan. As you fight in confidence against evil, and in humility towards God, you have victory guaranteed.

The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 MEV)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Nuts and Bolts of Spiritual Warfare, Part 1

I constantly talk about spiritual warfare in my writings and in my preaching.  But the more I talk about the concept the more I realize how few people understand how to actually do it.  Any war, by nature, is an active endeavor, and spiritual warfare is no different.  Just like in a physical war it can be tiresome, the intimidation of the enemy can feel overwhelming, it can be intensely lonely, and it can summon up incredible strength that you didn’t know you had while you’re in the thick of battle.  There is nothing mystical about spiritual warfare.  It’s very real and the results are tangible.

So what are the nuts and bolts of actually engaging in it?  The prerequisites are that you have an obedient faith in the Lord Jesus, have repented and chosen to live for Him as your Savior.  That’s when Jesus gives you the authority to use His name and to fight against demonic forces who are otherwise much stronger and more cunning that we are.  You don’t have to be a mature, seasoned Christian to start fighting the devil.  In fact the sooner you learn who your enemy is, the closer you will get to God and the more His love and goodness will become real to you.  Faith in Him will take root very deeply in you if you live a life of surrender and submission to Him on one hand, and warfare against the devil on the other.  So if you just gave your life to Jesus a minute ago, you’re already in a war whether you knew it or not.

Once you know that God has granted you His authority to fight against evil, be in a spiritual mode to recognize attacks, and then attack back. 

Just as an example:  You find yourself in a convenience store with a bunch of noisy, roughhousing guys who look like they’re up to no good.  They start to harass the cashier at the counter, and you suspect they’ve just shoplifted some booze from the shelf.  They look like the kind of guys who would carry weapons.  Your natural reasoning can only see two options.  Since they’re blocking the door, you should slink to the back of the store, deal with the fear and your racing pulse, and hope and pray that the whole situation goes away and no one gets hurt.  Or, you bravely go forward and tell the thugs to leave the poor shop clerk alone, with the hope that they’ll back off and won’t punch you in the face.  Obviously neither option sounds very appealing!

The other option is to bring the power of God into the battle.  What negative energy is pumping through the veins of these thugs?  Who is the motivating power that drives them to prey on innocent people?  Demons.  What if it’s because they’re high on some drug?  It’s still demons.  What if it’s the aggressive music they’ve been listening to, or anger at the poverty and injustice they are subject to every day?  Still demons.  In other words, the spirit that is driving them is inferior to the Spirit of God who lives in you.  These guys are lost souls who are loved and created by God just like you, but are carried away by the power of the devil.  

So instead of religious prayers, tearfully pleading for help, stand back and quietly begin to rebuke those demons with the authority you have.  No one needs to hear you, but your faith is loud and clear to the demons, and to God.  Speak against every spirit of violence, of drugs, of theft, of arrogance, and bind it up in the name of Jesus.  Command those demons to get out of that place because you are a child of Jesus Christ, and they must bow and submit to His name.  It doesn’t matter how scary those guys are, they’re just pawns in the hands of the demons who control them.  Understand that the devil is trembling at that moment because you are forcing him to his knees.  Your warfare isn’t against the poor weak guys who are being used and abused by the devil, your warfare is against the spirits within them, and when you use a stubborn, fighting faith, you will always win.  

This has happened to me many times in big cities and small in our travels all over the world and I’ve allowed God to take dominion over those situations.  My wife has diffused tense situations by using the weapons that God provides.  I’m not encouraging you now to take evening strolls through the most dangerous areas of town because you’re invincible!  God wants us to use common sense in our choices, but when faced with danger, realize that you have authority over evil in very practical ways.  More nuts and bolts of warfare to come in the next posts.  

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete.  (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 MEV)

What god would do that?

If you’ve ever run into argumentative people who insist that the Bible was written by a bunch of men trying to invent a religion like all the other religions, consider this. If the God of the Bible was an invention of flawed, small-minded humans trying their hardest to sound profound and grandiose, they would never have come up with the stories and principles that we have in this ancient book. 

Not one of the sixty-six books of our Bible contradict each other, in fact the exact same Spirit shines through every book to perfection, even though they were all written over a span of millennia. Who could fake something like that? 

One of many aspects that sets apart our God as being unique from all others, is that He has always wanted a close and loving relationship with His creation. He is a Father, and has always wanted to interact with us as a Father. Where other religions speak of their gods upon their lofty thrones as being powerful or even merciful, none desire an intimate relationship of love and joy with their lowly servants. Some religions may have gods or goddesses of love, but have more to do with sexual love, and are incapable of destroying sin and evil.   

Taking that even further, our Bible reveals a God who has purposefully allowed Himself to go through humiliation and be put in weak positions, just to win our love for Him. Just think:  God gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey Him, and when they didn’t, He didn’t strike them dead but had a plan of salvation in mind way back in the garden. He chose to bless Abraham and his descendants, but they kept disobeying and worshipping other gods to the point that He had to destroy the Temple built just for His honor in order to turn their hearts back to Him. He sent God the Son, the Almighty Creator of the universe, to be born to a poor couple forced to bear the unfair stigma of immorality as Mary was already pregnant when they married. He was born in a stable, He was raised in the backwater town of Nazareth, hated by the Jewish leaders, tortured and killed as a criminal, hung on a tree as a curse, and only had a bunch of illiterate fishermen and misfits to carry on His teachings.  

What God would do that? Not one single religion with their great and mighty gods would make such humiliating claims. Only the true God who is higher and greater and deeper and wider than anything we could imagine or think, reveals Himself in such an unexpected and perfect way. Through His acts of weakness, His name is now lifted higher above all powers and all things. No human being would be able to come up with a concept so contrary to human nature.

And all of that done because He loves us with an intensity we’ll only understand when we see Him. He’s giving you His authority to overcome all evil right now. He’s giving you his Holy Spirit to be a constant counselor to live inside of you—all you have to do is want it! He has bent over backwards to bring us, the stubborn and selfish creation that we are, into the safety and love of His Kingdom when we don’t deserve any of it. Whoever treats this amazing gift of grace as worthless, as something that can be put off till later, as an annoyance, are letting a treasure slip through their fingers. Take this gift and run with it. Go as far as you can to serve this risen Savior with all you’ve got in this life, because it’s the only response worthy of the gift.  

Consider how much love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now are we children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:1-3 MEV)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Numb to sin?

For many years a certain teaching has been circulating in charismatic circles that a person can have a demon inhabiting a part of his body but have the Holy Spirit in his spirit. That would mean they would still be stuck in addictions, or depression, living in some sort of sin, or in torment of some kind, but because they love God and speak in tongues, they are considered baptized in the Holy Spirit and truly saved. 

This is false and unbiblical. Paul says, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:21 MEV).

That verse says it all, but for whatever reason, churches are willing to bend the truths of the Bible to allow possessed believers to settle for the miserable situations they’re in as if it were normal, and to even criticize Christians who disagree with them, as being judgmental and pharisaical. But this belief that both God and demons can inhabit a Christian who is saved and infilled with the Holy Spirit, is degrading the nature of God and denying His power and holiness. He cannot and will not share our lives with demons, even though He prompts, urges and intervenes in lives that are far from Him in order to awaken their faith. It’s not as if God abandons those who are under the control of demons, but He will not inhabit them until they choose to reject those demons completely and allow Him to be Lord. How can Jesus be your Lord and Savior when a portion of you is under the lordship of Satan’s kingdom? “What communion has light with darkness? What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 MEV).

When a person transitions from living in the world and being used by Satan, to a man or woman of God, obviously there is a period when both demons and the Holy Spirit are tugging at them, and they alternately open up to one or the other. But this can never be considered a permanent or normal state. A person is always facing one direction or the other, moving towards God or moving towards the devil, no matter where they are on the journey. 

But if we continuously make excuses to allow sin and demons in our lives, we reject God outright. Why would we do that?  We’re saying by our actions that we don’t believe He has power to destroy demons in the lives of His children, or if He does, we’re saying that He doesn’t care enough about us to provide us with that power. Neither of those are even close to the truth! We’re also saying that being born again is just a label, and not a real transformation. When a person is far from God they are numb to sin and aren’t bothered by its presence. But when a person is close to God they quickly identify even the smallest sin and can’t stand its presence. Though we’re all sinners and have our own failings, when we truly know God, making excuses for sin or inviting it into our lives, just doesn’t happen.

Anyone playing this game, in my mind is a possessed believer. 

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2 MEV)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Organized religion

“I believe in God, I just don’t believe in organized religion,” goes the popular line.  I don’t believe in religion either, but I do believe in and structure my life around Jesus Christ.  Yet most people label my faith in Jesus as an organized religion because it is, in fact, a spiritual belief (religion) that is based on an ancient, written, organized document, the Bible (organized).  

So according to most people, my down-to-earth, practical faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is considered an “organized religion.”  That’s fine—they can categorize it however they want, but that leaves a lot of questions about the kinds of gods they’ve come up with.

If your god is a product of your own intellect, you have a pretty pathetic god.  He’s limited to your tiny imagination, and shaped by the mood you were in when you came up with him, changing his nature and power according to what is most convenient for you at any given time.  People can easily believe in a God of justice and truth, until they decide to cheat on their taxes or spouse or final exams.  Then the rules bend and buckle to accommodate their new set of values.  But if they’re the ones that get cheated on, their belief system is all for vengeance and ruthless justice with no mercy.  After all, homemade gods will never be consistent. 

The God of the Bible is and always has been unchangeable, extremely loving, and extremely just over millennia.  We’ll never grasp how great and awesome He is, yet He makes Himself accessible and understandable to even the simplest child.  The human race is selfish and rotten, so the standards of the true God are impossible for us to live by without divine intervention.  That came in the form of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and continues in the form of His Holy Spirit, patiently guiding us and revealing Himself to us as we trust and obey.  

He is so consistent, that He is inextricably obligated to fulfill His own promises when we do our part.  The evidence of God is all around us, in answered prayers, miracles and fulfilled promises.  The Bible can be verified if you really want to take the time to analyze the evidence throughout history.  But you don’t need to, since He makes Himself evident to you personally when you surrender your life to Him. 

The popular idea that God is who you make Him to be, is worthless.  A demonic force is behind that idea, making it “feel” right and politically correct, appealing to the call of tolerance and acceptance.  The more generations are born and raised without the knowledge of the God of the Bible, the closer we grow to the coming of the anti-Christ.  We are in one of the most godless generations in recent history, and it’s only going to get worse if we are passive about the spiritual battle we’re in.  Our daily calling is to be such a light to this world that we impact those lost in paltry religions, and bring them to salvation.  Not through religious talk or forcing them into churchy activities, but showing them the real results of real faith in the one and only God.  

Be encouragers, be agents of God’s mercy, be servants, uplifters of faith, and fighters against the devil.  Fight for those who are weak in the faith, rescue the suffering. The earth’s days are numbered, and so are ours.  Let’s make the most of this time by becoming all He wants us to be.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)

Three Big Questions

I was taught that living by faith meant agreeing that the Bible was the truth, obeying God’s moral laws, faithfully attending church, and learning as much about God as possible. The only way to overcome evil was to be good so I would avoid sin while in this world, and go to heaven after I die. 

But when evil would attack my mind and emotions, things like fear, injustice, rejection, depression and anger, the only tools I had to fight back with were being good and going to church. Confronted with sickness and disease, or loved ones being dragged down by addictions or broken relationships, just being good didn’t have any effect other than keeping me out of trouble. There was always the question of whether I should accept these problems as the will of God or as attacks of the devil. I’d pray for help during those times, but rarely did any change happen as I watched helplessly from the sidelines and the consequences of that evil played out in front of me.  

So here’s big question number one: Why would a loving God allow so much suffering? Question two: Why wouldn’t a loving God answer the prayers of someone who believed in him? Question three: Isn’t God strong enough to counteract evil?

Going backwards from question three, the God who created the universe is infinitely greater than the devil, who is merely a part of God’s creation. The devil and his demons tremble in fear at the name of Jesus, so God’s capacity to counteract evil isn’t even an issue.  

When people ask question two, they’re implying that just because someone agrees that the Bible is the truth (as I had learned as a boy) that they believe. Millions of people in the world label themselves as believers, but not everyone truly believes. When I was younger, praying for a request was on the level of making a wish as I blew out my birthday candles. I didn’t have real faith, I didn’t know God as a real person who would speak to me and guide me. I never prayed with determination or wrestled in faith or rebuked demons with the authority that Jesus has granted us in His word. I had no idea I could do any of that. And so the only answers to my prayers were the ones to bless my meals, and a few sporadic times when I found lost car keys… Jesus meant it when He taught, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” I learned much later, that the reason I hadn’t been receiving answers or overcoming evil, was because of a weak and unstable faith.

Question one’s premise is just plain wrong. God hates evil. He hates seeing His creation suffer the consequences of their choice to reject Him. He hates the perversion and violence that is done every day. And because He is strong, full of love and full of righteous anger against evil, He has provided a way for us to overcome it all and be free. That is through a real and living faith in Jesus—which has nothing to do with just agreeing that the Bible is true. It means living out that faith to such an extreme that you obey every command, and sacrifice every obstacle that blocks you from serving Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It means believing in what you don’t yet see, and insisting that the devil be crushed under your feet because you know who your redeemer is.

Maybe you have hidden pride that’s keeping you from obeying God’s promptings, whether it’s giving up an unhealthy relationship or quitting a negative habit. He sees the doubts that you nurture in your heart or how you feel offended with what He teaches. You and I have the ability to tie God’s hands through our own stubborn will to do what we want and dwell on what we like. We also have the ability to allow God’s hands to work wonders, to heal us, raise the dead and cast out demons. Living in faith and by faith, is the only way to please God, because then He can finally rescue us and set us right, and we can know Him as our loving Father.    

“Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.” He could not do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.  And He was amazed because of their unbelief.  (Mark 6:3-6 MEV)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


These are the facts: 
In the early 1500’s, no one in Europe was allowed to own or read a Bible other than Catholic priests or scholars.  
Church services were done exclusively in Latin. 
Common people didn’t speak a word of Latin.
Disobeying the rules of the church could mean imprisonment, death, or being excommunicated, which meant being condemned to hell. 

Along came young William Tyndale who decided to study theology in Oxford. Drinking and carousing with the other future priests was normal in his day, and a relationship with God was not even a consideration. But something happened to William Tyndale as he began to study the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew. He began discovering amazing truths about God, that He wanted us to know Him, to be forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and transformed into new creatures by faith. He had never heard these things before, and the more he read, the more he realized that the church had been lying to and abusing its people. He decided that ordinary people needed to have a Bible of their own to read and understand the truth directly from God’s mouth, and not from a bunch of corrupt church leaders.

Tyndale soon became an enemy of the church. He illegally translated the Bible into English with painstaking attention to detail. Martin Luther, another Catholic scholar and monk who rebelled against the Catholic Church, was doing the same thing in German. Tyndale met him in Germany not realizing how God was inspiring them both to create a revolution that would shake the world. Tyndale’s New Testament was one of the first to make use of the Guttenberg printing press and the Bible was mass produced by the thousands in English and smuggled back into England in barrels of flour. Once those Bibles got into the hands of ordinary Englishmen and women, the movement of God’s Spirit was unstoppable. 

The angrier and harsher the church’s punishments for anyone caught with a Bible, the more the English people wanted it. For the first time, farmers, merchants, the elderly and children were reading and being transformed. Souls were being saved, and Tyndale was a wanted criminal. In 1536 he was caught and sentenced to death. He was strangled and then burned at the stake for his crime. His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” God did, and three years later, the king ordered official Bibles to be printed for the entire country. 

Tyndale was one small man against a massively rich and powerful institution. But his faith won. His sacrificial obedience blesses us now, 500 years later. His burning desire was to do what was right – what God had called him to do. He based all he did on the truth of the word of God, which guaranteed that his life’s work would never be shaken and that he would spend eternity in the joy of his Master.  

Does the world need heroes today? Do you have a burning desire to do what’s right? Do you hear what God is calling you to do? Rise up and be God’s hero for yourself, your family, your community, for His Kingdom. Remember that your fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and rulers of this dark world, but the victory is already promised as long as you fight in faith and obedience. Today’s fight could impact lives and save souls for generations to come.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion.  It cannot be shaken; it remains forever.  Jerusalem – the mountains surround her. And the Lord surrounds His people, both now and forever.  (Psalm 125:1-2 HCSB)