This is the last post of a three-part series to bring you ways you can increase your discernment – Part One is here and Part Two here. It’s an appendix in the book Another Jesus Calling by Warren B. Smith and have supplemented it in some cases with my own opinion from my experience – which you’ll find in italics.
Before I close out this series I need to go back and clarify two issues from Part Two.
In #5 in which Mr. Smith says “Do not seek signs, wonders, and spiritual experiences.” I stand by what I said originally but want to clarify: I absolutely believe that God still speaks in signs, wonders, and spiritual experiences. God will use anything and anyone to get His message across. For me, He has used people, songs, birds, and even secular books to solidify a point. My faith has been built on His Word and the spiritual experiences He’s given to me. What I want to stress is to be careful in interpreting any sign, wonder, or spiritual experience you encounter.
I’ve known people who have become so fixated on a sign that they stop looking to Jesus Himself. I’ve had friends tell me that they asked for a sign and then God said “this” in a cloud but the next morning He said “that” in the waves of the ocean. Our God is not a God of confusion. Just like the issues I have with Jesus Calling, He is and was and always will be – unchangeable. As much as we should test the spirits – test the signs you think you see. This is why we need to continually grow our discernment.
Secondly, I stated under point #7 that I don’t believe angels are spirits. A dear friend pointed out that in Hebrews 1:14 when the author is comparing Jesus to angels he says:
“Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?”
That also reminded me that all demons were originally angels fallen from God’s grace. So I stand corrected. Angels are spirits too. Somewhere along the line I guess I just made an internal decision that angels (good) spirits (bad) and that vernacular leaked out into the blog. I should be more careful! Mea culpa.
Now – on to the last example to heighten your discernment:
9. Gird up the loins of your mind. Take every thought captive for Christ. Fight the good fight. Contend for the faith. Let God’s truth continually preserve you.
Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ 1 Peter 1:13
… since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Fight the good fight for the faith; take hold of eternal life that you were called to and have made a good confession about in the presence of many witnesses. ~ 1 Timothy 6:12
Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. ~ Jude 1:3
Teach me Your way, Yahweh, and I will live by Your truth. Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name. ~ Psalm 86:11
Lord, do not withhold Your compassion from me; Your constant love and truth will always guard me. ~ Psalm 40:11
Take every thought captive for Christ. Guarding your mind is so vitally important! When I read the book Another Jesus Calling I was overcome by compassion for my friends and other Christians who have been reading (and loving) Jesus Calling … a book I believe is not at all from Jesus. Within one day I heard Ms. Young was releasing another new version and my heart sank. How many Christians (fans and/or followers) are being held in the grip of this spirit who is speaking for Jesus?
Please be wary about anything that comes into your mind that is not of God or godly. Learn to see it and oust it before it starts working on you.
I was listening to a talk by Jenn Johnson (Bethel Church) recently and she reminded me about viewing everything with a Kingdom perspective and to not let yourself get mired down in the negativity that has become our society these days. She’s right and it’s a word we all need to hear time and time again.
This is the first post of a three-part series to bring you ways you can increase your discernment. I found this list as an appendix in the book Another Jesus Calling by Warren B. Smith and have supplemented it in some cases with my own opinion or advice which you’ll find in italics.
I was rebuked in a comment last week for boasting about my gift of discernment. I hope I truly didn’t come across as prideful. I use this gift for the edification of the church – to warn you from what I see happening under our noses. I am committed to lifting up the Church and certainly don’t want any of my brothers and sisters in Christ to be swayed in these last days.
That being said, here are some ways to be more discerning:
Be sure you are in the true faith following the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the One True Savior, Jesus Christ.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you fail the test. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5
We are to continually test ourselves. The words ‘test’ and ‘examine’ in this Scripture are in present tense meaning it’s something we should do consistently. Ask God to show you if you’ve strayed off the mark.
Measure everything by God’s word.
… they [the Bereans] welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. ~ Acts 17:11b
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This is the easiest way to see if you are within the adversary’s target. So very often he comes at me with a saintly voice, even quoting scripture. It may take a minute or two of me believing that the Holy Spirit is impressing something to me when suddenly he trips up and I find the crack in his message. He deviates off of what God would NOT say. Ooooo I get so mad! I think I’ve even shaken my fist at the devil. “Try and sway me, will you? NO WAY!”
BUT, in order to have this work for you, you have to get to know the Scriptures. So open your Bible and start reading! It’s the only way you’ll be able to detect the devil’s lies.
Don’t be ignorant of our adversary’s schemes and devices. Be sober. Be vigilant. Be prayerful. Be watchful.
I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:11
This is a most sobering call to arms. How many people have I met who call themselves Christian and yet do not believe in the devil? It boggles the mind. Luckily, I think these people are safe. Why should the devil bother with those who don’t believe in him? He’s already got them. (That’s not scriptural, that’s my opinion!) The problem is, he will use those people, those seemingly Christian, to get to you.
Additionally, don’t give the devil more credit than he’s due – but neither should you limit him. I met two Christian women once who told me that the devil can’t get inside our dreams. Is it safe to be that ignorant? The devil is the prince of this world, and while he is limited to what he can do to us by God, God has most assuredly allowed him into my dreams.
Pray for discernment. Ask God, as did Solomon, for spiritual discernment to help you determine good from bad, right from wrong, truth from deception.
So give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. ~ 1 Kings 3:9a
In this post-modern world where the lines between good and evil are increasingly blurred, this is a prayer we should pray daily to help keep us on our toes.
Stay with me this week for more ways to increase your discernment.
This is Part Three of a series. Please see Parts One and/or Two if you’re lost. We’ll be right here when you return.
The devotional was given to me some time ago. I’m pretty sure I asked for it for Christmas one year. Hey, all of my friends were reading and gushing over it, I had to have it too.
What a mistake. My unease began with the wording used in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Surely Jesus wouldn’t sound so slick and smarmy. I remember only reading through a couple of weeks before back-tracking to the Introduction to find out more about the author. What I found there solidified my distrust of the message.
When I began to point out the obvious weaknesses to my friends, I was met with an attitude of disdain and sometimes downright anger at my suggestion that their beloved book might not be all that it’s cracked up to be.
I was (and am) worried. Some Christians have become so attached to this book that I wonder if they unconsciously hold it more valuable than the Bible.
It’s my sincere belief that Satan is going to sway the elect with this type of carefully crafted pseudo-Christian rubbish. We can already see it all around us – pastors who water down the Gospel, churches that completely dismiss parts of the Bible, and writers who say they’re Christian but then don’t hold to a biblical standard. Regrettably, there are a lot these days … authors you may have come to trust and suddenly go high-right in their theology, walking away from the Truth.
I’m not going to bore you with everything that’s wrong with the book because there are other excellent writers that detail the issues (I’ve given a small list at the end). But I am going to bring up a couple significant issues that should stand out as red-flag warnings for Christians. When we read things that raise the hackles on our neck or give us pause – even for an instant – our discernment capabilities should raise up like the robot on Lost in Space flailing its arms, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”
Let’s review a few of the facts:
Sarah Young says she is channeling Jesus.
When I’ve spoken to my friends and acquaintances who are readers (and lovers) of Jesus Calling, this is what I hear as push back:
But some of it is soooo gooooood.
It’s not all bad.
Oh, there are some parts that I gloss over but most of it is great.
These types of statements tell me that the reader has already realized there are issues with the book and yet, is unable to stop reading it. Doesn’t that sound like an addiction? “I know it’s not good for me but I still partake.” Who is the one who wants to keep us in chains?
You’re willing to listen to the devil’s lies because “the rest of it is so good?” Are you kidding me?
He is swaying … even the elect.
Sarah Young says she is channeling Jesus.
Yes, that was my first point but now the biblical side. Don’t we read in Deuteronomy 18:10-12a (emphasis mine):
“No one among you is to make his son or daughter pass through the fire, practice divination, tell fortunes, interpret omens, practice sorcery, cast spells, consult a medium or a familiar spirit, or inquire of the dead. Everyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD,”
Why would the LORD, break His own word and come to us through the medium Sarah Young? It’s absurd. You might as well just throw away the Bible because Sarah Young and Jesus just conspired to make the Bible what every atheist and unbeliever says it is – just a pretty good novel.
Let’s also remember Leviticus 20:27-28 (emphasis mine):
“You are to be holy to Me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine. A man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist must be put to death. They are to be stoned; their blood is on their own hands.”
Again, why would Yahweh suddenly change His mind and decide mediums were acceptable? I thought He was unchangeable? (See Hebrews 6:17-18)
Sarah Young states she was inspired by the book God Calling.
Written in mid-1930, God Calling is a book by “Two Listeners” – unknown women who allegedly sat one day with paper and pen in hand and waited for God to speak to them. It’s a classic book in the New-Age arena and I stumbled across it in the early 1990’s. Even though I wasn’t yet born-again, it felt slimy to me and I didn’t read much of it. One listener writes on their website (emphasis mine):
“We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained and encouraged day by day by HIM personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books and other sources.
Oh, poor us. Forced to be content with guidance from the Bible. What humiliation!
While I’m not disapproving of devotionals, I’m also not critical of sitting in your quiet time with your journal recording the impressions you receive after bible study or prayer. But you still have to be cognizant of whom the impressions are coming from, because Satan will worm his way into your mind if he can. Put on the full armor daily and take every thought captive to Christ! (Ephesians 6:11 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
I’ve told this story before but one day while living in Arizona, I came through an intense two-hour session of prayer and picked up my journal, chronicling my thoughts and emerged with a step-by-step plan of my future. Four of the five stages have happened and the last one will conclude soon. This was personal guidance from God. The kind of guidance you receive when you read your Bible and pray to your Creator, your Redeemer, your Lord.
I did not have any doubt that what I’d written in my journal was direction from our Lord. The first three phases were benign enough and I only started to receive pushback from the devil in steps four and five. If I’d had any doubt, it would have been dispelled then. Satan tried very hard (and almost succeeded) to end the fourth step before it ever began and has done his best to wreak havoc on the fifth and final step. To no avail. My God is stronger.
The main issue with Jesus Calling and God Calling is that I’m not quite sure what spirit is being channeled. It doesn’t sound like Jesus in the pages, He wouldn’t use a medium to bring His word to His followers, and if He did decide that this was the way to go now – He has just negated His entire WORD. You can’t just believe part of the Bible and dismiss the parts you don’t like.
Are you willing to continue to take the chance that who you’re reading is really Jesus?
Next week I’ll focus on how to become more discerning; because I believe that only a discerning mind is going to be able to see past the devil’s schemes in these last days.
In the meantime, check out these folks if you’re interested in a better and/or more complete reviews of the issues with this book:
You’ll notice in Part One that I called some of the books I received ‘purportedly’ Christian. Many were absolutely Christian, drawing from Scripture to impart strength and encouragement. Yet there were others that at first glance were going to convey a biblical message but seldom did. It’s in this manner that I believe Satan will sway the elect from God’s kingdom … at least one of his tools.
Those books spoke of Jesus and healing but only dappled in scripture. I use a small ‘s’ because the authors had so watered-down or poorly interpreted the true Word of God that it was almost unrecognizable. There was only one of those books that I actually appreciated – not because of what it stated – but because the author, a Reverend Capps, used disclaimers throughout his work. He fully informed the reader that he was rephrasing and summarizing Scripture and that if the reader wanted to know the true Word, they should look up the listed references. Hey, at least he was honest and didn’t try to make a pseudo-Christian book look legit.
There have only been a few books that I’ve come across in my life that were worse. If you’ve read me for a while, you’ve grown accustomed with my gift of Discernment. Over the years, it has only gotten stronger and when I begin to read a book or hear a message that isn’t authentic or that might be from an adversarial spirit my spiritual gifting kicks into high gear. I’ll either turn off the message, get away from the person, or close the book and throw it away and we’ll end this series by talking about ways to increase your ability to discern.
But the book that led me to write these posts is an especially good example of our adversary using a pseudo-Christian platform to sway followers. I was thinking about this devotional along with the other books I’d received that were either watered down Christianity or maybe not Christian at all.
Why is it that we (Christians) turn to the nonessential reading material to soothe our worries, fears, and anxieties and don’t just open and read the Bible? Honestly, isn’t that why God gave it to us?
When the Samaritan Women at Jacob’s Well doesn’t quite understand Jesus’ offer …
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again – ever!” (John 4:13-14a)
she asked Him to give her the water He speaks of so she won’t have to keep coming to the well to draw water; she’s looking for Jesus to make her life easier, more convenient. (John 4:15)
She didn’t initially realize that He, His Spirit, and His Word is His life-giving water.
Like this woman, we want the convenience. When I was walking away from God I conveniently made up my own religion – for convenience. It suited me perfectly. I still carted my Bible around but was no longer “in it.” But through the years I’ve met people who choose to read a devotional instead of the Bible and others who don’t read the Bible or any Christian literature at all. Every decision is an act to give ourselves a convenience.
The fact is – we don’t need devotionals. We don’t need anything other than Jesus – His Spirit and His Word. I’ll never forget the story of the man who planted over 500 churches in India. A pastor from the States went to find out what kind of teaching material the man was using to grow and sustain these Christians. The man was confused by the question. “What material?” He asked. “We read the Bible and do what it says.”
How many of us read devotionals alongside the Bible? I do and am willing to bet that most of you do too. Please know that in no way am I damning devotional material. Devotionals make me think in different ways about the Scriptures (and some of my favorites are in the picture above). The Holy Spirit may use them to convict me of a sin, or Jesus might use them to get me to read the referenced scripture so He can go in deep and really teach me something. That’s actually one of my favorite uses of devotionals – to open up my heart and head to learn something new from my Savior.
Next up: I’ll discuss the devotional that may be on everyone’s bookshelf, but because of my background in New Age philosophies, shakes me to my spiritual core.
Ever since I learned in the Bible that during the end times Satan will use anything and anyone to sway believers to follow him, I’ve wondered how that might happen.
False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. ~ Matthew 24:24
“Even the elect.” That is us, Christ Follower.
It chills me to my bones.
As a born-again Christian I consider myself one of the “elect” [typically any gentile or Jew who believes in Jesus (Yahweh) as the Messiah]. I ‘grew up in the church’ (as they say) but as I got older I still attended Psychic Fairs with friends in Connecticut … having fun whilst paying good money to people we weren’t sure had any true skills. It was a lark but we loved it and only sometimes thought there might be some validity in what the seer said to us.
Yet, when I got to college in Colorado, I found myself in one of the New Age meccas of the US and slowly began to explore this strange world. I experimented with much of the New Age philosophies and found I enjoyed the use of and excelled in creative visualization, tarot card reading, eastern and western astrology, throwing runes, the I-Ching, meditation, and even feng shui; which is not technically New Age but an ancient Chinese system of thought connecting the placement of objects to affect the energy (chi) of the universe.
When Shirley MacLaine’s book Out on a Limb was published in 1983 I devoured it like it was candy and tried (unsuccessfully) to astral project. I stopped before too long because I became concerned that my soul might separate from my body.
As time went on I melded the New Age ideas I enjoyed with Native American beliefs I was learning, and my old friend, Christianity – rolling it all up into a great gooey ball of gobbledygook that served me just fine. Satisfied me. Played right into my hand. I didn’t have a god in charge of me – I was in charge and had supporting players … God, the universe, my spirit animal totem, the sun, moon, winds, etc.
What some may not know about New Age, is that its practitioners will dip into any theology, even the Bible, when it suits their purpose. No world religion or spiritual practice is untouchable. They take Scripture out of context and apply it to any situation they need … which is probably one reason why I’m now such a stickler for using the Word as it is intended by God.
In using scripture, for a New-Ager’s purpose, most of the time a word or two will be missing from the verse (or the whole verse might not be utilized) in order to make it more powerful for their use. One of the most often used verses is:
He [the Lord] says, “Be still, and know that I am God …” ~ Psalm 46:10a (NIV)
The context of this verse is God talking to nations who like to make war and the Holmen Christian Standard Bible actually translates it to: “Stop your fighting-and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” ~ Psalm 46:10 HCSB)
However, when you take the first half of this verse out of context it becomes just words that are especially good when used as a chant during meditation.
Be still and know that I am God.
You see, New Agers believe that God is within every one of us. Not like the Holy Spirit residing within Christians, but that god is a universal life-force that anyone can call on. In using this verse New Agers cut off the first few words (they state that God is talking) and intone “Be still and know that I am God.” The “be still” part draws them into meditation … be still, be still, be still … and then the whammy – “Know that I am God.” “Know that I am God.” “Know that I am God.”
Do you catch what they are saying to themselves?
“I AM GOD.”
Once I gave my life fully to Christ and denounced all the other beliefs, I’ve walked the Christian road becoming stronger and stronger in the Lord. Many of my friends and other Christians are on the same course – striving to know God, to surrender daily, to walk in His will. Because I know the deep love and commitment I have for Jesus, I’m bewildered that Satan could sway me or any one of my friends. Preposterous! It couldn’t be done.
Or could it?
It may already be happening.
When I was diagnosed with cancer many friends and family gave me books to help pass the time and lift my spirits. Some books were secular and some books purportedly Christian and all givers were very well-meaning. I love and appreciate anyone who took the time to tell me they were thinking of, praying for, or loving me and/or my parents. Community coming together to aid in the care of the sick utterly warmed my heart and gave me immeasurable strength. I’ve said on numerous occasions during my recovery that I actually felt prayers. They curled around me like a soft warm blanket of love and gave me a reassuring sense of peace. Never doubt the power of prayer! But now I’m headed down a rabbit hole on prayer so I’ll stop now and see you on Wednesday.
In the next post I’ll talk about a book that has wormed it’s way into many Christian homes and is the basis for this series of posts. Afterward, some tips to grow your discernment. There has never been such a time to be strong, dear Christian. There is so much I want – need – to say about growing in your discernment and being able to accurately discern the spirits that are getting stronger and more insistent as the Lord tarries.
This is a post from my friend Ben Nelson, author and blogger, who writes almost daily on his blog Another Red Letter Day. Ben has this beautiful way of taking stories from the Bible and writing them in first person – becoming a character in the story – and this is one of my favorite stories. In fact, he has a book out the walks you through 40 days with Jesus. It’s remarkable. Please enjoy.
There is no way to get rid of this kind of
demon except by prayer.
Help My Doubts
Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy
I remember the doctor saying to us, years ago, “Keep a record of his bad days.” My son—my eight-year-old boy—Enoch and I visited the doctor often in those first days. It’s been another eight years since we stopped going to doctors. For seven of them, we’ve found it easier to record the good days than count the bad.
The first sign the demonic attack has begun—we now know it’s a demon—is Enoch’s eerie silence. His eyes glaze over and it seems like he has gone away. He can’t hear—or at least he doesn’t respond to sound—and never speaks.
In the beginning, we thought he was sick. My wife, Havah, and I took him to our family doctor in the village. At first, this demon did not awaken while we were with the doctor, so he didn’t know how to help. Enoch, couldn’t tell the doctor much. He couldn’t remember what happened during his episodes. He just fell—no—not fell—it was like being thrown to the floor. Then he rolled around the ground as stiff as a board, foaming at the mouth. If there was anything dangerous nearby, like fire, or water, or a steep drop, he’d head right for it.
Our third visit to the doctor was after a furious episode where Enoch found his way right into an open fire. It scorched more than half the skin on his left side. The doctor said he could treat the burn, but he told us we should see a priest or rabbi. He didn’t think Enoch had any disease.
“This boy is possessed by a devil, and I can’t help you,” he told us as he gave us some salve for his burns.
After that, we went from rabbi to rabbi, each one shrugged his shoulders and wished he could do more.
It’s been seven years of rabbis and priests. We’ve given special offerings at the temple and paid for professional intercessors. We’ve gone to every house of prayer in Judea. Once we even traveled up to the temple at Shechem in Samaria to see if they could help us.
About a year ago, I started hearing stories of a rabbi from Galilee who was casting out demons and healing the sick. At first, I didn’t want Enoch and Havah to get their expectations aroused, but as the stories multiplied my heart began to hope.
One of my neighbors returned from a visit with some family up north near Tiberius. He told me of a pair of Jesus’ disciples going through the town. They were healing the sick and casting out demons in the streets. I’ve know Ari for many years, and he wouldn’t repeat these stories if there were any doubt in his mind. He was there. He saw men and women healed before his eyes, even some possessed by demons like my boy.
That’s when I started planning. I didn’t tell my wife, or even my son, what I was really up to. I didn’t want to lie to either of them. I just told Havah I wanted some time alone with my boy. I started planning for a trip with Enoch to find this Healer. I would tell Him my boy’s story. If He refused or couldn’t help, the disappointment would only fall on me.
I learned that He had been seen teaching and healing near Cana up in Galilee, so I packed our things and Enoch and I headed north.
Traveling with Enoch is no holiday. Everywhere we go, we have to be prepared to deal with his oppressor. This trip was no exception. In fact, the spirit’s brutality the first night made me think we were might be headed in the right direction. The vile captor in Enoch’s young body protested more than ever. We didn’t sleep at all the first night we were on the road. Before I even had the fire burning hot enough to cook some dinner, he was flailing around and smothered it, at great cost to his own flesh. It was a grueling three days and two nights.
When we got close, someone told us the Teacher was on Mount Tabor. So we followed the road down from Cana to the east. As we approached the mountain, we found crowds at the base. I expected this. The accounts I’ve heard always have large crowds around this Healer.
It was nearly sundown when we came upon a few of the Healer’s disciples surrounded by dozens of on-lookers. They had just healed a couple of blind men. Next, they were laying hands on a lame woman lying on a sort of mat in the middle of the group. As we pressed our way into the center of the gathering, we saw this woman on the bed getting to her feet. Then she started jumping and running around the circle of spectators.
The disciples looked almost as stunned as the no-longer-bedridden woman. One of these men called out, “It’s the name of Jesus that heals the sick and delivers anyone in bondage.”
We had found Him.
I started waving frantically, crying out “My son, help my son!” I must have looked a little mad myself. I began to tell my son’s story to the one they were calling Andrew. There were three other groups like the one I was in, each surrounding what looked like a few disciples.
“I’m Andrew,” said the man who was speaking, “and this is Simon the Zealot.”
As soon as I began to describe Enoch’s condition, my son flew to the ground. I had my back to him, so I didn’t see the warning signs. I would have steered him away from the crowd before he went it to the full display of fury that is my son’s daily reality.
He was rocking back and forth, jerking up and down, six inches into the air and then slammed down again, rolling over so the foam covering his mouth was full of the Galilean dirt. Andrew and Simon hurried over to him and began to command the demon to come out.
“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out,” they called.
Nothing changed. They said it a little louder. “In the name of Jesus, come out.”
They asked others in the crowd to hold him still while they prayed for him, laying their hands on his head and chest.
He thrashed and freed his arms. Then began slashing at them with his fists and scratching with his fingernails.
Andrew and Simon called two of the other disciples over to them and they started out the same way.
“In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, come out.”
I have to say, they didn’t give up. The sky grew fully dark and the air chilled as this failed exorcism went on into the night.
Finally, sometime after midnight, I took Enoch away from the crowd and we found a quiet place to get some rest. He had been in full manifestation for hours, and when he finally calmed, he was ready to sleep.
The sun was already well above the horizon when we awoke. The commotion that woke us was the arrival of Jesus and three more of his followers. They had apparently spent the night on the mountain. I’d never seen anything like Jesus. He was glowing—glowing! It wasn’t just the sun shimmering off his robes. The light emanated from Him.
As we approached Andrew called to Jesus, “Here they are Mater. We did everything you taught us and nothing changed.”
Once I realized that Jesus was right there, I said, “Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn’t.”
Jesus said “What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.”
Andrew took Enoch by the hand and led him to the Master.
The demon in my boy did his worst. He slammed him to the ground with no warning whatsoever. He pushed him right into a nearby fire. He convulsed and foamed and moaned, teeth grinding and eyes wild.
Jesus asked, “How long has this been going on?”
“Ever since he was a little boy,” I replied. “Many times it pitches him into fire or the river to do away with him. If you can do anything, do it. Have a heart and help us!”
Jesus’s eyes looked eager. “If?” He responded. “There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”
That brought me up short. “I do believe;” I blurted, but then I wondered if I did, so I added, “Help me with my doubts!”
I think the crowd knew something big was about to happen because they started to press in. Some just realizing that Jesus was back, others hearing the conversation. Everyone wanting to see what He would do.
“Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you—Out of him, and stay out!” Jesus spoke directly to the spirit who had tormented my son—my whole family—for the last eight years.
Enoch cried out, lifted off the ground and then fell back down with a thud. This time not rigid, as in times past, but more like a rag doll, begin tossed away. He lay there for what seemed an eternity. The crowd started murmuring.
“He killed the boy.”
Jesus walked over to Enoch, leaned down and grabbed his hand and pulled. At that moment, Enoch’s eyes opened, the color came back into his face. He nearly bounced up off the ground. With his hand in the hand of the Healer, he looked more alive than he had since the evil first took him. The joy was back in his eyes, the joy of a child with a future.
The two days traveling home seemed like a dream to both of us. In every village, at every meal, we shared our story with everyone we met. We were not just witnesses to a miracle. We were changed by our short visit with Jesus. His Words changed my boy and turned my hope into an unshakable faith.
My Havah could hardly believe her eyes. One look at Enoch’s countenance told the whole story. My son was bound, but now his chains are gone. His captivity is over. He’s free!
Messiah truly has come in our day.
To read the original story, see Mark 9:15-30. Quotes come from the Message Bible.
Back when I was in 5th or 6th grade the girls got pulled out of class to watch a movie called “It’s Fun Being a Woman,” or something like that. It’s a change-of-life movie about beginning menstruation. Oops. Should I have had a disclaimer for all of you eating breakfast? Sorry. It’s okay because this post isn’t about that movie – although I’m still trying to understand why that makes it fun to be a woman!
What we should consider making is a change-of-life movie about how fun it is to be a Christian. Seriously, we should make ourselves a movie to show the world how much fun we have.
Oh I see. It would be too boring, wouldn’t it?
There wouldn’t be any murder, there wouldn’t be any thievery, or any illicit love affairs. Heavens, we wouldn’t even spend the extra bucks to make it into 3-D ~ and that’s a real shame because I dig those glasses.
Instead we’d just show a big fat community of believers singing and dancing with indescribable joy! All that faith, gorgeous poignant times of prayer, all those blessings being poured out, scads of miracles happening everywhere you look, and a soundtrack featuring great worship music from a host of spirit-filled singers …
Hmm … Good times.
Wait a minute. That whole paragraph is just a fantasy, isn’t it?
Or is it?
Who’s in the cast? We have our hero in Jesus and our antagonist in Satan. The Father is the Director and we are the supporting cast.
Dang it. It’s already been done. We are living our movie.
But wait. The script’s not old, don’t we write new pages to this story every day?
Scene: Felecia sits down at her computer and prays briefly before typing.
It was a dark and stormy night …
We just need to make sure we’re writing the right story – making the best movie we can. Check out this Scripture from 1 Peter:
So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy – their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead. ~ 1 Peter 4:1-5 (NLT)
Isn’t that wonderful? I know you don’t want to think about the suffering that Peter starts with but in verse 2 when he says: You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. Every time I read that line, I smile. It completely reminds me of where I was when Jesus captured me and made me His own. When I surrendered to Him I almost turned on a dime and stopped doing what I was doing because I’d read a lot of the Bible and already knew that God didn’t like it.
I immediately got anxious to do the will of God and I wanted to shake off the old me and put on the new me of Christ.
So what is to be our movie’s plot?
Let’s look to Peter’s first verse. I know he is talking about suffering persecution and we in America are beginning to get glimpses of what that might look like. But as a Christian, how can I feel like I’m suffering when I look at all those people who have not been born again in Christ and who are really, truly, suffering?
They fill their lives with alcohol and drugs trying to erase the pain they feel. They throw their bodies to anyone who shows a bit of interest trying desperately to find the love they are missing. They chase after false gods that epitomize their idea of being successful; trying to feel like they are someone, like they’ve made something of themselves, like they have a purpose in life . . . and missing the point of life entirely.
I know. I was there. I was empty and tried to fill myself up with whatever I could.
But we know that without Christ Jesus as their Savior they will never be able to do it. They will never find that peace and they will continue to agonize.
Now that’s sad. That’s pain. That is suffering.
Let’s live our Christianity out loud and in full view of everyone. Let’s tell someone about the Good News today. Let’s pray for those who don’t yet know Christ. Let’s show them the script that can help them on the road toward a life with Christ. Let’s fulfill our commission.
You know how God leads you to read or hear something at just the right moment? People who don’t know God call it a coincidence, but Christians should realize that happenings like that are directly from the Holy Spirit.
The other day I caught a FB post from a friend of mine, Ben Nelson, who has the wonderful blog Another Red Letter Day and who was touting a post in another blog called “Go to Heaven Now!” Written by Jonathan Brenneman, I thought it was a pretty interesting title for a blog. Is the guy telling me to die now and go to Heaven? No. I’m fairly sure he’s just helping prepare his readers to go to Heaven. The title of the post was “When Not to Cry Out to God” and considering that I’d just finished six posts on prayer I thought to myself, “Self. Is there ever a time NOT to cry out to God?”
The post is an empowering piece; and even though I get Jonathan’s point I actually believe there is never a time not to cry out to God. I believe that God wants us to cry out to Him ~ perhaps to demonstrate our need or maybe to increase our faith when He delivers. While Jonathan will argue that we, as followers of Jesus and vessels of the Holy Spirit have more power than we understand or know what to do with, often there are instances when God has given us marching orders and the power in which to do something for the Kingdom and we, in our human frailty and fear, sit on the sidelines asking God for (1) the power to do it, heal it, change it, rebuke it or (2) to do the work wihout us – or worse – to do the work Himself.
If I hadn’t cried out to God to help me get through cancer (of which I’m not through yet) He might not have given me the promise I needed to remember that He was in control and He was walking me through the season. Did I have the power of the Holy Spirit within me? Absolutely. But I, in my human weakness, needed a word from Him and He delivered. I’ve lived through this entire last year on the joy that that word brought me.
But what spoke to me most within Jonathan’s post was his preamble about Satan.
It wasn’t too long ago that I learned to rebuke Satan (and his demons) when I needed to. Sometimes I felt he had left but sometimes I felt like he was still hanging around ready to antagonize me. Then, somewhere along the road I read Jude 9 which states:
Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
I sat back on my heels. Whoa. If Michael, the Archangel no less, wasn’t going to rebuke Satan on his own what makes me think that I have the authority to rebuke him myself? And since I read this, I’ve been asking God to rebuke Satan when I needed it done.
I’ve spent a couple years operating in that manner and I actually felt very secure asking God to rebuke Satan. In doing so, I always felt he had been removed from my proximity or sufficiently beaten back to not have influence over me in whatever was going on.
But then I read Mr. Brenneman’s post which states, in part:
“I very regularly hear people pray “God, please rebuke all evil.” I’m not sure if this is a common prayer in the US like it is in Brazil. But where did God ever tell us to ask him to rebuke evil? He told us to rebuke it. One of the very reasons that Christ came as a man, was because God gave authority to men. I’ve recognized how these attitudes are crippling many in the churches, resulting in powerlessness. Believers need to learn to use their God-given authority.”
Whoa. That’s a great point. God has given me the authority to rebuke Satan, and more-over, Michael has not been given that authority. That was my mistake. Angels are not like humans – nor are humans like angels. Jesus did not die to save angels. He died only to save humankind. I haven’t had to rebuke Satan since I read this post, but I know that I will no longer ask God to do what He has already given me the authority to do. Thanks for the reminder, Jonathan!
I’m still going to blog about prayer because I love it so much! But in the interim, here are some of my favorite books on prayer (no affiliate links):
I used to post what I call ScripturePictures every Wednesday. This is where I take my photography and lay God’s glorious Scripture over it. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to that practice every once in a while. It’s a nice respite during the week and will help us to dwell on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely …
Today’s ScripturePicture is John 12:46. The subject is the Jupiter (FL) lighthouse. Enjoy!
Jesus is the light that came into this world to remove the darkness.
As we begin to see evidence all around us of attitudes intolerable of the Christian, remember that the world likes the darkness and shuns the light because it illuminates their wrong doings. We are in a war, my friends, but our enemies are not our neighbors. Our enemy is not flesh and blood at all.
Earlier in Chapter 12 John records Jesus saying, “While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” ~ John 12:36
Stand strong, my fellow sons and daughters of light, because we will live with our Lord forever, in pure and glorious light. (See Rev. 21:23 and 22:5)
We hear again today from David Arthur. He relays a wonderful story about a man he met who has planted thousands of churches across India. David had been excited to meet the man particularly because he wanted to know what curriculum the man was using to disciple all these people. When asked, the gentleman was confused by the question.
“What materials?” he asked David. “We simply start in the book of Matthew – just reading and doing what it says.”
How simple. We don’t need reams of studies and piles of curriculum. We need to read the word and obey it. Sounds a little familiar no?
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
~ James 1:22
When I was a new Christian I didn’t receive any dedicated discipleship at the church I was attending. I also backslid pretty quickly and blamed my church for it at the time. Here I was a brand new Christian … now what? What do I do now? But you know what? I owned a Bible. I have no one to blame but myself for not picking it up, and as the man from India said, “Start in Matthew and read and do what it says.”
I do find it interesting however, that because of that experience I developed a real passion for the discipleship ministry. I am always hoping to help others from falling off the cliff like I did. Because when you backslide you develop very guilty feelings. You know you’ve walked away from God and back into your old life and you wonder if God’s too mad at you to accept you back into the family. New Christians (and non-believers) are too naïve at that point to comprehend that God will never leave you. Period. End of story.
But wait. Might not a portion of that be true … or at least feel true? Each time we sin without repenting, we move ourselves farther from God. The widening gap allows the enemy of our souls to slip in and isolate us further. We stop reading His word due to guilt or shame and we shut off the main conduit He has to speak to us. Have you, like me, ever felt far from God?
But guess who moved? It wasn’t God.
One of the participants in a small group I was leading was having a hard “season” (as we say in Christianeze). Nothing was going right for her, at least nothing that she wanted or expected was happening in her favor. She’d been a Christian for a couple of years and as I talked with her I discovered that she was pushing against everything – and I mean everything – that was happening in her life. I asked, “Have you been praying? What does God say?”
There comes a time when you have to take stock of your life and ask God, “What is up?” I find that when my wheels are spinning and ‘nothing is going right’ it’s usually one of two reasons (1) I’m walking in God’s will and the enemy is trying to thwart me, or (2) I’m trying to do my own thing and bucking against God. There is no secret to determining which it is. In some cases it might even be a little of both. The first thing I do is stop, drop, and roll. Oh no wait, that’s when I’m on fire. The first thing I do is stop spinning and ask God what is going on. I don’t make any more moves until I hear an answer. In the meantime and just to be sure there is only one influence in my life I will ask Him to help me control my flesh (quiet my mind and put the kibosh on my wants and desires) and rebuke Satan by removing his influence from me.
I waited for an answer from the girl whose life seemed to be falling apart. She just looked at me with sad eyes so I backed up and asked, “Do you read your Bible?”
“No,” was the unfortunate answer. “I can’t concentrate long enough to get anything from it.”
I sighed … probably literally. Not one of us is going to hear from God if we are not in His word … and hopefully on a daily basis. If you’re not reading your bible daily I urge you to work toward making that a habit. It’ll take time but I guarantee you, as soon as our Lord starts speaking to you through the pages, you’ll crave His voice and that will make it easier. We must remember that God’s word is alive. It’s really the only way to begin to communicate with Him. Read it, meditate on it, and obey it.
David Kay gives us an important lesson as he reminds us of the importance of God’s Word. In the second letter to Timothy, Paul knows that his time is nearing an end. Everything he writes to Timothy in this letter is going to be the most important information that he could pass on to this young man he considered a son. Think about it, if you know you’re about to die your last words are not going to be, “Water the plants.” They are going to significant and meaningful. They’re going to be words Timothy needs in order to live well.
Paul tells Timothy to, “guard the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:14). This treasure is not gold and silver that Paul buried in the desert, but the Word of God. He shares the reason why the Bible is so important and why it must be guarded:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man (and woman) of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Like my friend from the Trinity post who regrettably believes only the parts of the Bible where Jesus speaks, it’s vital for us to remember that all scripture is God-breathed – which is – inspired by God. To miss that one mind-blowing fact is to miss out on a Book that we really cannot live without.