Friday, October 30, 2015

Connecting the Dots – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare, Part 9

There are obvious and not so obvious open doors for demons to get a foothold in our lives. For those with a basic understanding of the Bible, adultery, stealing, murder and abuse, top of the list of major sins with serious consequences. But demons love anything they can use as leverage to broaden the gap between us, and a loving relationship with Him. 

That’s why Jesus had to teach about the deeper issues of what murder and adultery were all about. It isn’t just the physical act that severs our bond with God, it’s the inner attitudes, the secret feelings and desires of our hearts that give room for demonic activity. What we allow to fester inside manifests outwardly in very tangible ways.  

When we think of stuffy old church ladies wagging their fingers and telling us how to act and what to say, then sin becomes a religious joke. The devil’s done such a good job in conjuring that illusion, that Christians feel embarrassed to even mention the word sin. Sin in all its ugliness has become totally obscured. It’s anything that tears us away from God’s protection. It’s what tricks us into exposing our lives to Satan’s poison. Imagine carrying your innocent baby safely in your arms, to have a kidnapper snatch him away to molest in some way or another. We are that innocent child in God’s arms. As long as we choose to remain there, we’re always safe. But unlike a little child, we can choose to dabble in sinful behavior (which is obvious) and sinful attitudes (which aren’t obvious), giving permission for demons to molest us. It’s a horrific image, but sin has horrific repercussions. Just one act of disobedience was enough to bring death and suffering into the entire world, enough to require the slaughter of innocent animals as sacrificial substitutes for humanity for millennia, and finally the sacrificial slaughter of the Son of God Himself so that we could be free. Sin is not a joke, it’s a very big deal.

Sadly, Christians are oblivious to the many open doors they have in their lives, even though their lack of answered prayers should cause them to connect the dots. The devil loves to hold them up as proof that the Bible isn’t true and that God doesn’t fulfill His promises. He can point to their fine Christian resume of good deeds, and then point out how miserable they are.  

So what inward attitudes is the devil using to molest us? As Jesus said, the sins of murder and adultery are already committed when we feel ungodly desires for others. Of course temptation comes to everyone, but entertaining that temptation takes it to the level of sin. How easy is it to feel contempt for someone who’s treated you unfairly? Especially if it keeps happening? How easy is it to also pretend that you’ve forgive them, while still harboring resentment and disgust? You can tell whether contempt (which is a form of hatred) is simmering under your fa├žade of spirituality when you cringe at the thought of being in the same room with that person.  

Again, how easy is it to fantasize about someone sexually outside of marriage? How easy is it to pretend that it doesn’t matter, that it’s just a little crush, that it’s about someone you would never actually meet anyway? Maybe you imagine you just admire this person because of their intelligence or talents or even their spirituality, that you want to learn more from them. What you may not know is that a large breach opens up in your life when these types of feelings are entertained. Not even your closest loved one may know what is hidden in your heart, but in the spiritual world, you are an open book. God sees the danger you are in, and Satan sees you as raw flesh to devour. And lustful thoughts and hatred are just the beginning of a long list of hidden sins that seemingly good Christians can harbor. (Doubts, fears, skepticism, cheating, fill in the blank…)

You’re not a terrible person because you have hidden sins – the answer comes in humbling yourself to identify and fight them. It doesn’t do any good to pretend they’re not there. The coldness of your relationship to God should be enough to connect the dots and alert you that something’s wrong. The great news is that there is much that can be done to close those breaches, to become strong and untouchable to the devil and to start to see God’s blessings return to your life. It begins with fighting the demonic forces behind these temptations and sins, realizing that they aren’t just “you.” You are under attack and need to attack back with a holy vengeance.

You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires. Adulteresses! Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit who lives in us yearns jealously? But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  (James 4:2-6 HCSB)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Con-artist – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare, Part 8

When I first learned about spiritual warfare and casting out demons, I discovered something that I wish I’d known all my life. When Alan (if you’ve read the last chapter of my book, Possessed Believers, you’ll know who I’m talking about) would manifest violent demons during his process of deliverance, they would argue in full-blown anger, then in mockingly sarcastic tones, then switch to being quietly patronizing in an attempt to outwit whoever was praying for him. 

They knew that they were no match for the authority of Jesus Christ, so they’d tried to pull us into their twisted logic and tempt us to feel overwhelmed and give up the fight. Fighting demons means fighting on God’s terms, not on theirs. It also means that God’s terms have to be your terms with no ifs ands or buts about them. Early on I saw how quickly demons would cave in when I refused to fall for their tricks and kept my focus on God’s power.

One trick they would pull on Alan was to tempt him into sin with self-loathing mixed with anger against the unfairness of his life, mixed with lust and violence. It was a potent cocktail of emotions that would erupt whenever he’d give into these demons, which we later discovered had been in his family for generations going back into the American Civil War in the 1800s. They were foul and depraved, and when Alan would act on these temptations he became extremely dangerous. But that was just the beginning. Once the rage would subside, those demons quickly switched gears into “holiness” mode.  

“How could you have done that? Did you see the look on that poor person’s face when you behaved that way? You’re evil. And you call yourself a Christian? God won’t have anything to do with you now, don’t even think of praying. You’re disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself ...” The guilt he felt was unbearable, dragging him into dark suicidal depression for weeks. It felt like the voice of reason speaking, the voice of God, but it was purely demonic. For Alan to overcome the horrible guilt, repentance was necessary. God wanted him to run into His arms and find help and freedom, but those demons wanted none of that, so they played a convincing imposter of God. It became a predictable cycle of ramped up, intense temptation followed by devastating condemnation for years and years.

Satan is such a con-artist, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep us as far from God as he can. Switching tactics works especially well on people who still desire God despite being entangled in sin. Meanwhile the devil is feasting on the cycle of misery and confusion he’s created.   

This is where knowing the word of God is so crucial. It’s not enough that your pastor knows the promises of God, you need to know them to fight off the arguments and illusions the devil throws at you from every angle. One truth that you can never forget is that God is ready to accept you at any given moment – no matter what you’ve done. He is your safe haven. He is the home base you have to run to. Another truth is that though God hates sin, He loves you. He convicts us of sin to turn us away from it and to teach us how to fight it, but He never condemns just for the sake of making us feel worthless. That kind of voice is only from Satan and his demons. And another truth is that the moment you repent and surrender yourself to God, He is ready to empower you with the ability to fight and win. He would never withhold his blessings for someone who is ready to live by faith. You can stand up to those demonic temptations, fears, or whatever is plaguing you and command them to get out of your life by the authority of Jesus name, the Name above all names. 

Take the time to stop and listen to the voices that speak to you throughout your day, the ones that condemn, the subtle sense that praying is no use to a loser such as you, the overall feeling of the blahs that says to wait until you’re in the right mood before you reach out to God. They feel like you, they feel like logic, but they are demonic suggestions that you have to immediately rise up against, rebuke and act against. Try it today and see just how much better your day goes when you choose God over an imposter.

“And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14 HCSB)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Follow-through – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare Part 7

God’s power isn’t available for us to manipulate for our own selfish ambitions, or to temporarily use to find relief from an urgent problem. It’s the saddest thing to help someone experience big answers to prayer through months of counseling and care, and then discover that they don’t really want to go the distance with God. 

After the worst of their problems are over, they slack off and wander away with the excuse that it’s taking too long, or that they think they know a better way. It doesn’t occur to them that they’ve been searching for freedom for years, sometimes decades, and God has already transformed them drastically through only a few months of deliverance prayers. It’s only logical to stick with it, but in the case of many, logic takes a back seat to instant gratification.

Spiritual warfare means following through with obedience in everything, after the prayers are made, after the demons are rebuked and after you’ve made the preliminary commitments to getting rid of old sins. The fact is that none of us are where we should be with God, ever. For those struggling against demonic possession, as well as those who are already free and close to God, demons attack us all and the deeper you go with God the more you discover aspects of your life that need to be changed. Anyone who says that God is asking too much of them has an inflated idea of how great his faith already is. So what would a follow-through look like for deliverance?

For example:  Laura has been praying for her daughter to come home after years of rebellion and drugs. She’s thrilled to have her back and to testify to God’s goodness that everything has changed now. Her daughter’s trying to get a job, coming to church and very humbled, but confused. It’s a volatile time that requires just as much faith and sensitivity to God than ever. But Laura is full of emotions. Crying with joy to see her little girl one moment, telling everyone about answered prayer another, and the next moment hovering over her daughter with suggestions and criticisms that she isn’t changing fast enough. Laura isn’t seeing the deeper needs of her daughter’s vulnerable state, but is more worried that her new reputation of a “prayer-warrior” will be ruined if her daughter doesn’t do everything right. Laura’s prayers, fasts and sacrifices were honored by God, but she isn’t anywhere close to the end of the road. She doesn’t realize that God isn’t only interested in changing her wayward daughter—He wants to change her too. The follow-through that God is looking for, what will be the death sentence for the demons in Laura’s family, is patience, praise, encouragement, unconditional love, space, respect and the knowledge that God is the one who transforms people—not her. Laura has to fight against the demons of selfishness, control and emotionalism that played a part in driving her daughter away in the first place. That requires humility and self-control, but as she strives to live that out, the Holy Spirit will enable her to do what she never thought possible.  

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the armor of God, and then to stand. Our fight against demons takes on many forms, and as important as confronting and rebuking is, the follow-through of standing firm in obedience and faith is just as important. Obedience to repent, to love your enemies, to love your neighbors, to humble yourself to others, to be hospitable, to have good attitudes, to refrain from judging, to be faithful, to control your tongue, to serve, to rejoice in trials, to trust and persevere… God will show you just where you need to focus your follow-through efforts as you fight for freedom. But every fight requires a follow-through. Don’t be the guy that does a premature victory dance just to get tackled before reaching the end zone. God knows how much more you will be blessed when you take every opportunity to grow and learn throughout your fight. 

 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be bold like men, and be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.  (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 MEV)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Superstitions and curses – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare Pt. 6

An old friend came to visit our church years ago, not knowing that during our deliverance prayers demons would manifest from time to time. She was ambivalent when we talked about deliverance, as if it had nothing to do with her. 

But when someone manifesting a demon let loose a scream, she bolted for the door, hid in the ladies’ room for the rest of the service, and never visited again! It’s a fact that even Christians who profess Jesus as Lord often have more fear of demonic activity than they do of God Himself. I understand, I was like that too before I learned about the power of God. It’s so backwards, and it shows how sadly misinformed Christians are of the authority we have over the devil.  

For example: Amanda’s friend went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras every year, and brought her along for the festivities. They went to a voodoo shop on a dare to buy trinkets for good luck in their jobs and love lives. They found a psychic who charged a two-for-one deal to tell their fortunes. Strange things happened on the trip, and they jokingly attributed it to the voodoo. But when Amanda got back home and events started to happen just as the psychic had foretold, she became frightened. When nightmares and voices began to appear, she became very afraid, and depression set in. She hadn’t gone to church for years, but decided it was time to go back and ask God to forgive her for dabbling in something she knew was evil. Years passed, and though she’s repented and prayed, she fears that she has cursed herself. The voices, the depression, her blocked life and the intense guilt convince her that she has no right to pray for the curse to be broken, since she brought it upon herself in the first place. 

Amanda wasn’t crazy to be concerned about the presence of demons in her life. But the reason why her prayers seemed to be going unanswered was because God can only manifest His power when faith is based on the truths of the Bible, not just on hunches and feelings. Amanda was mixing superstitions with the Bible, causing a lot of confusion. One problem was that she considered herself a real Christian while she was toying with witchcraft, but a true Christian with a real relationship with God listens to the convictions of the Holy Spirit. She had been a Christian only in name, but wasn’t born of God in the least. Secondly, because she didn’t know God intimately, she knew nothing of His total forgiveness when we repent, or how demons work through lies, intimidation and guilt. If she knew how small and pathetic their power is compared to God, she would have cast them out and been done with them once and for all. Thirdly, she didn’t know that when you’re born of God, He rejects all curses sent to His children. They simply don’t stick. That is, unless you fear the devil more than you fear God – which means you don’t yet know Him.  

There is no magic formula or words to recite to break a curse. Beware of ministries that put together written texts to repeat in a certain order as some sort of Christian incantation. Satan can imitate praise and worship, he can imitate tongues, he can preach from a pulpit, and he can be right there repeating deliverance prayers as long as the prayer is made in weakness. Don’t trust in formulas. The devil only fears real faith based on an intimate relationship with God. The Christian who’s sold out for God, on fire for God’s word, and dedicated to obeying His commands has been granted all the forgiveness, grace and authority he needs. He’s covered in Jesus’ purity and is given the right to stand up to the devil and order him to leave his life. He finds pleasure in aggressive, raw faith that confronts the devil head-on, because he knows who his Lord is, and he knows that with God he will always win.

I’ve been casting out demons for twenty-nine years, praying for people involved in witchcraft, Satanism, voodoo and all sorts of evil. Curses have been sent against our pastors, our church and against me, but instead of enduring suffering and loss, we have thrived and been blessed under His perfect protection. God promises, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you” (Genesis 12:3). Christians like Amanda need to know God as a Father, to take authority over demonic thoughts, and to stand on what is true, not on what they feel.  

Let them curse, but You will bless; when they arise, let them be ashamed, but let Your servant rejoice. Let my adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own disgrace like a cloak. (Psalm 109:28-29 MEV)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Half-blessings gone sour – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare Part 5

Remember old King Ahab, the husband of Jezebel? He was the only king of Israel who took a Baal worshipper to rule with him as his queen. He wasn’t faithful to God, he was a negotiator who had no problem selling out God to make a deal with the devil. 

When Ben-hadad, (which means son of the god Baal) was defeated because God wanted to reveal Himself as Lord of Israel, Ahab though he had a better idea than God. Since Ben-hadad had surrendered and begged for mercy, Ahab didn’t put him to death as he was supposed to. Instead, he made a deal. Ahab would get lands back that Ben-hadad’s father had stolen from his father, and Ben-hadad could walk free. Ahab wasn’t fighting to honor God to keep Israel pure from the filth of Baal, he was fighting for his own personal gain.  

Too many Christians don’t realize they are making deals with the devil. They’ll compromise if a half-blessing is offered, and they snatch it up thinking that it’s the best they can hope for. They don’t see the demonic aspects of that “deal” and that the half-blessings will turn sour very soon.  

For example: Sean has been praying hard for a good job since he lost the last one because of his drinking problem. His wife left him and he’s broken and humbled before God. He pleads for forgiveness and is determined to do whatever God asks of him to become the man he ought to be. But deep inside, Sean’s prayers are not totally sincere. He’ll say he will sacrifice his past and give his all to God, but he’s too independent to become like all those other church people around him Sunday mornings. He won’t admit it to himself, but that’s where his heart is, even though he’s showing up for the men’s Bible studies, for evangelism outings, helping the pastor out with handyman work around the church and being a generally great guy. He gets baptized and gives his testimony while the congregation wipes tears from their eyes. He plugs along and doesn’t miss a beat, and in time a job comes along. Then he gets the news that he’s going to be promoted—only it’s for a job hundreds of miles away. But don’t worry, he says, I’ll still be praying and fighting, I didn’t come this far just to slip back!

I’ve worked with the nicest guys just like Sean, and this is the modus operandi of these demons. Get him away from the routine of faith, get him away from people who will hold him accountable, and then pounce. Sean is offered a little weed after work, a drink or two with the guys, and then the whole slew of demons that had been cast out are back in greater strength. Now Sean won’t even answer the pastor’s calls, and may only return a few months later, to slink in the door worse off then before. Instead of placing God first and choosing to stay close to God’s people, he followed the lure of money and that little voice that says, “You’re doing great, you can handle it!  Of course you’re changed!”

There are countless examples we could use: a woman who lets her abusive husband move back in just because he’s nice for a while and buys her a new car, parents who make deals with rebellious teens who refuse to stop the demonic music and promiscuity as long as they get good grades, Christian guys who fall for women with false spiritual personas just because they look good, and the list could go on. Ben-hadad’s men came up with the bright idea of appealing to Ahab’s wimpy nature. “We’ve heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings.” But what they really meant was, “We’ve heard that the kings of Israel are pushovers,” and they were right. The devil knows who’s a pushover and ready to water down their faith for quick gratification.

It’s no joke making deals with the devil. People have the gall to blame God when their half-blessings turn into curses, as if their mess was all His fault. If we want to fight for what’s rightfully ours as God’s children, we have to obey every step of the way, sacrifice all He asks, and not settle for the crumbs the devil throws at us. Only God and you know how faithful you really are. If any shred of unfaithfulness is hiding in you, make it your priority to clean it out today so your battle with be victorious. Who wants a half-blessing when you could have God’s best anyway? 

The prophet said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because you released from your hand the man I had set apart for destruction, it will be your life in place of his life and your people in place of his people.’”  The king of Israel left for home resentful and angry, and he entered Samaria. (1 Kings 20:42-43 MEV)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Enduring Gladly – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare Part 4

When Jesus told His disciples that when they pray, they should “—believe that you have received them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24) He didn’t even say, believe that you will receive them, but that you have received them.  We are to believe that what we ask for has already been given to us. That’s just plain crazy if you only believe in the physical world. But it’s the only option if you believe in God.  

So does that mean that the “name it and claim it” formula that a lot of Christian TV evangelists tout is the way we should pray? “Oh Lord, I want that Porsche, I claim it!” As always, every promise, command, and teaching in the Bible is to be taken within the context of all other teachings in God’s word. Faith that believes before it receives, is only real faith when the believer‘s motives are in line with God and submit to His ways. That means prayers of selfishness won’t have the blessing of God, which will leave a believer to stretch and strain and pretend he believes, while the agreement of God’s Spirit is noticeably absent from that prayer.

But when you’re praying with a faith that pleases God, you can even sense His Spirit giving you inspiration and motivation to stick with it—even when answers take a long time in coming. It doesn’t mean that God has denied you, or that you’ve fallen from His favor. If your request is to honor God and you aren’t seeking anything selfish or sinful, if His Word has promised what you are asking for, and you’re living in obedience to Him, there’s no reason why you should doubt that your prayer will be granted no matter how long it takes. Exactly when and how it is granted is God’s domain. Your job is to keep up the fight, keep up the prayers, and keep choosing to live each day in the joy of having already received that request—even when it seems nowhere in sight. 

Why do answers delay? Sometimes we block them by our own unfaithful lives, but aside from that, there are demonic forces that resist our prayers from being answered. God is all powerful, but in His wisdom, He wants us to be actively involved in the process of faith and fighting for His will to be done. That’s why there are so many commands for us to go forth and make disciples, to use weapons of warfare, to bind and loose, and heal and set free those who are demon possessed. God is looking to us to be the agents of change, but it is through His Spirit that the change happens.  

And so in our obedience to fight in this battle, there are times when we come up against principalities (demons of authority in the devil’s hierarchy) and spiritual powers that resist and discourage us. We can feel stuck, and sometimes even feel like we’re going backwards instead of forwards. But that’s okay, because God is never thrown off balance, and always keeps His word. He knows we need to go through the struggle against time and doubts and to push through dry spells, because that’s the only way for the muscle of our faith to be strengthened. He could easily swoop in and demolish every problem without needing us to make a single prayer, but that would mean breaking His own principles. We want God to keep His promises of blessings, so we have to stick to the principles that He established, requiring each of His children to live by faith. Our flesh doesn’t like tests of endurance, but if we could see into the spiritual world, the power we have in Jesus and the guarantee of victory, we’d do it gladly.   

Daniel experienced this when he was a captive in Babylon, crying out to God for the sake of His people. God told him that his prayer had already been heard. Daniel had set his heart to understand what God wanted—not just his own selfish wants. He had humbled himself, and God heard his words. But a demonic “prince” had resisted Daniel’s prayer for twenty-one days and the angel Michael had been sent to help in the battle. It was Daniel’s perseverance that pushed through that answer to prayer.

You may be in a battle against principalities that resist you. You wonder why some prayers are taking so long to be answered, and doubts creep in. Don’t be afraid, God has heard your words. Keep the faith, stay the course and know that God won’t push you beyond what you can bear. God’s not punishing you or ignoring you. You have a battle that has to be fought, so find pleasure in honoring God each day that you persevere. And at the perfect time, you will enjoy the fruit of your faith.

Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. For from the first day that you set your heart to understand this and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come because of your words.  But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me for twenty-one days. So Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. (Daniel 10:12-13 MEV)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tempest in a Teacup – Nuts and Bolts of Warfare, Part 3

The toughest kind of spiritual warfare is against the thoughts in your own head. People’s words and difficult circumstances can stir up negative feelings, but it’s your own mind that takes hold of those feelings and jumps to conclusions. When we make assumptions about a hunch or suspicion, we actually act out a form of negative faith, and that rotten faith has power. We begin to behave as if those suspicions were fact, and the more we live out our assumptions, the more we give the devil permission to turn them into a reality.  Just like Job, who said, “For the thing which I greatly feared has happened to me, and that which I dreaded has come to me.” (Job 3:25)

One giant sign that the devil is trying to take over an area of your life, is when you feel dread. To anyone who doesn’t understand spiritual warfare, that sounds discouraging—but to those who do understand, it’s an easy way to catch the devil in the act, and pull the rug out from under the his plans so that they have no effect.

Example: Janet’s coworkers had been whispering and gossiping in the corner quite a bit for the last few days. She tried to remain professional and ignore them, but whatever they were talking about was pretty intense. Janet would ask God to give her strength to focus on her work, but her ears were also straining to pick up the gist of what they were saying. Her thoughts and suspicions that someone was going to be fired overcame her attempts at faith. Was it her? Was it because of that problem in the last project she hadn’t caught? Were they all conspiring against her? Wasn’t that her name she just heard them say? She always knew that some of them were threatened by her, so it must be true. She’d better be on the defensive now, she’d better watch every step. Those selfish conniving women, how dare they treat her this way! It’s about time someone taught them a lesson.

This goes on in workplaces, in schools, in families constantly. The devil is having a ball just whipping up imaginary problems and then watching unstable Christians fall for his emotional manipulations so he can make those problems real. Janet’s choice to be on the defensive visibly changes her behavior towards everyone at work. Believing in her fear actually strengthens those demons, who in turn, create suspicions in Janet’s coworkers that she is proud and secretive. The coworkers suddenly feel contempt for Janet, and treat her in ways that confirm all her fears. It’s a tempest in a teacup, but all of them are convinced the suspicions are real and that they have no choice but to strike back. I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this scenario.

Instead of being on the defensive with people you suspect are conspiring against you, start first with being on the defensive with the devil and his lies. There is never any doubt that he is constantly conspiring against you, and there is never any harm in binding and confronting him in your prayers daily. Start answering back the accusations and suspicions in your mind with the truth of the word of God. Start slamming down the demonic fears and sense of dread that try to build up inside of you. Don’t give them any room, or allow any of their half-baked arguments to take root in your head. With each subtle suggestion of the devil, come back at him with the promises of God. Stop targeting the people who are mere conduits for the devil’s suggestions, and instead fight him directly. Treat them with kindness, but be ruthless to the real enemy who lurks around you every day.

Who is he who will harm you if you follow that which is good? But even if you suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. “Do not be afraid of their terror, do not be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to every man who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and fear.  (1 Peter 3:15 MEV)

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)

Wednesday, October 7, 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)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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)

Sunday, October 4, 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)