Victory Over Witchcraft

“But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:12

Every manifestation of demonic power such as Wicca, Santeria, Obeah, Voodoo, Hoodoo or Macumba is subject to the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many believers assume that they are immune to the supernatural powers invoked by participants in various forms of sorcery. Witchcraft, however, can cause damage in our lives through two separate avenues:

1.  We may open the door to demonic presence through sin. While the Holy Spirit will warn believers again and again, the Christian who neglects these warnings and proceeds into sinful behavior such as adultery, deception, idolatry, greed and other offenses against God will find strategic doors open to demonic influence. How many men or women have fallen to adultery with someone involved with witchcraft?

If Satan is full of fury and with very little time and he is powerful, deceptive, and cunning, won’t he utilize every opportunity and every emissary to entice, trap, engross and destroy? He is not complacent but works “day and night” assessing each saint of God to determine weakness, open wounds, or vulnerable areas for temptation. The Apostle Paul was “aware of Satan’s schemes” but many Christians are not. Alluring participants of witchcraft strategically destroy marriages, homes, and church leadership. To turn from the Lord, to neglect His warnings, and partake in sin opens dark doors that only Christ can shut. True repentance brings restoration but there may be damage and suffering. There is always consequence to sin. Painfully, God can also use enemies to chastise us.

2.   Secondly, the Lord Himself may allow demonic influence to impinge upon our lives. However traumatic and confusing at the time, it is the Lord who is in full control. It is the Lord who measures out the fire and with great purpose. Biblical accounts include the satanic assaults upon Job, the messenger of Satan tormenting Paul and the harassment of Satan upon Jesus in the wilderness. The Word of God is replete with spiritual battles, wars and schemes as dark powers undergird, incite, and target attacks against the people of God. Jesus did not insulate Himself from Satan’s schemes but walked in perfect power to overcome them. At times He allows the devil to touch our lives so we may walk as He did – not in the natural, depending on and engaged with the world – but in the supernatural, depending on God. Demonic attacks should launch us to the Savior’s side, draw us deep into His Word and compel us to trust in His overcoming power. It is God’s will that we spiritually mature through the battle and endure refinement through fire to prepare us as useful vessels for His kingdom.

Many Christians are alive to the world but asleep to the Kingdom of God. Lukewarm and thus useless, God often uses pain to quicken and awaken them, to stand strong against powers and rulers of darkness,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Ephesians 6:10-18 has sadly become almost cliché. This is not a spiritual mantra, it is powerful war cry against the “Amalekites” the “Philistines” against the wiles of demonic powers that come to ruin us today. Against such the Lord does not give us incantations, spells, or rituals…He gives us His authority!

Satan himself does not need spells, incantations or rituals to inflict personal harm, mental anguish, injury, confusion, fear and anxiety. However, luring and engaging people into witchcraft provides emissaries to broaden and personalize his assaults. The power comes wrapped in pure hatred, knowing that those who partake in his evil will share in his eternal condemnation. Foolishly, man believes he is using powers when in fact the powers are using him.

Every battle and cunning scheme we could possibly face is personified in the Word of God. Our measure of victory lies in this one strategy: total alignment and dependence upon God Almighty. As soldiers train before combat, we too must ground ourselves in God’s Word, “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword” to be armed and shielded when the enemy attacks. Our power, our foothold in the trenches, depends upon the authority we weld and grasp through God’s Word. We must recognize the voice of the Lord and discern His will in the battle.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Overcoming strength comes as we determine to shut in with Him and His Word without restraint…search and study the scriptures prayerfully until, like Living Water, they speak into our heart…listen to the Lord’s direction…commit as He leads to ‘late night’ even ‘all night’ prayer. Fast. Pray for partners to join in. Avail ourselves to powerful messages by godly pastors who know victory through fiery trials….determine to praise and worship Him before the victory is revealed.

Christ died to set us free. He ‘disarmed the powers of darkness and made a public spectacle of them’. Brothers and sisters, we are loved by God. God is for us. But anyone who “practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, casts spells, anyone who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” is detestable to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Pity the one positioned against Christ’s Body, of whom God declares, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”.

We are in those “terrible times” described in II Timothy 3, the ‘last days’ before Christ’s return as Judge. Ruthless and heartless, treacherous and brutal, men will seek outlets of power in their rebellion to God. They find that source through witchcraft in its many forms, mainstreamed through culture, religion, and entertainment. It appeals to man’s most deadly lust – the prideful lust for power and control.

We are not immune to demonic assaults but we must resolve to trust our Lord as Defender and Commander over the battle. As we surrender to Jesus Christ, He girds us in His living Word and reveals more of Himself and His power, enabling us as His witnesses in this dark world.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 48:23)

 

isaiah 46b

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Jesus Christ

 

(Do not be alone in your struggle. Reach out to believers even join in prayer meetings online such as http://www.tscnyc.org Tuesday nights, 7pm, EST. Submit prayer requests online or through text message.)

When Christian Leaders Fall, Fail, and Betray – Crushed in God’s Service

“God has arranged the parts in the Body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.”  (I Corinthians 12:18)

The Lord establishes an unchanging truth through the Scriptures: God appoints and anoints the authority over us as we serveWe are accountable to the godly leadership appointed over us while they who have “ been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Leadership will make an account for every soul in their domain.

Every believer – and every leader – has potential to fall, to take their eyes off the Lord, to walk outside the narrow road and pursue plans conceived in the flesh.  Often these plans appear ‘good’, even prosperous but, unassigned by God, they make the path a slippery slope….

We fall when we miss the warning signs...we can learn from the pain or continue to fail.

We fall when we miss the warning signs…we can learn from the pain or continue to fail.

At the risk of simplifying great truths, falling creates a pivotal point – to either proceed toward failure or to rise up and call out to the Lord.  The Bible assures us that God can “keep us from falling” and surely keep us from failing.  As His ambassadors in this world, He has a vested interest in strengthening us in service and restoring us when we fall, “The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down”.

Scriptures testify of the great faith, courage and passion in God’s chosen leaders.  However, the Lord does not whitewash their disobedience and downfalls.  Some fell due to unbelief such as Abraham with Hagar, yet rose up to God’s call.  Some failed, even to their own demise, as they neglected ongoing warnings of God such as Sampson with Delilah.  Sadly, some fell while having known – even transcribed the Word of God.   Among the many beloved Psalms of David he wrote in 101, “I will walk in my house with blameless heart.”  Anointed king over God’s people, he abandoned his honor during a night of lust that led to failure and worse, a deep betrayal of both man and God.   From looking, to lusting, to sinning and scheming, nobody treads the waters of compromise and sin. Without repentance, sin takes you deeper than you ever thought you would go.

“You despised Me” God declared, and exacted longsuffering consequences upon King David.  (II Samuel 12) The Lord’s response to betrayal by His appointed leaders is sharp and fearsome.

Christian leaders are valued trophies for hell.  The devil works with great stealth as leaders are calculated targets with wide collateral destruction.  Unlike sudden attacks of persecution, foundational faults in faith and character allow compromise and contamination to seep in.   Godly fear, that bastion of protection, is slowly dismantled.  As Pastor David Wilkerson once preached,

Treachery starts with simple acts of disobedience.”

Once a Christian scorns the sure warnings and convictions of the Holy Spirit, he loses discernment, is increasingly given over to sin and, in the end, is capable of anything outside of God’s will.   Long before the fruits of sin and compromise are ripe, “Ichabod” is fearfully decreed.

What about the misled and broken sheep who are betrayed?  Leaders damage many layers of servants and innocent brethren.   It is a betrayal and loss unlike anything in the world as devoted brethren turn from the world to serve the Lord.  Like a betrayed spouse, evidence of infidelity often goes undetected, disbelieved, and rationalized.  Spiritual manipulation is a complicated stronghold that gives birth to confusion, grief, and anger.  The deep wounds of betrayal and loss often bring the servant of God to a spiritual wilderness, creating a profound crossroad of faith.

As with Elijah in the desert, the Lord awaits to minister

As with Elijah in the desert, the Lord awaits to minister

When Christian leaders fall, fail and betray, the ‘work of God’ begins to fold like a slow train crash.  The rush for ‘damage control’ is futile when the Lord exposes sin and withdraws Himself from the work.  But the devil must not triumph over us as plunder – the Lord awaits us in the wilderness with healing, spiritual refreshment, revival and redirection.   

When leadership severs from the Headship of Christ, may the Lord strengthen us to…

  • Move away from the train crash, move far from God’s chastising rod, lest we fall under similar demise
  • Come together with the Body of Christ for times of fellowship and encouragement; wounded sheep who stand alone are easy prey for any wolf.
  • Devote time alone with the Lord, determine to hear from Him. Believe that He is sovereign over all and awaits to share with us the ‘fellowship of His sufferings’.

We can be truly called to a ministry which later implodes from compromise, disobedience, and betrayal.  Our time, our love, and our resources are not wasted or unnoticed by the King.  He will water every seed we have planted and Himself raise up the intended harvest.  The crushing disappointment and loss from the downfall of leadership whom we served and loved is a painful furnace from which we must cry to Jesus….

“Look upon my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.  Defend my cause and redeem me; renew my life according to your promise.”   (Psalm 119:153-154)

Let us be “confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  

(Philippians 1:6)

DOES GOD CRUSH OUR ENEMIES?

God crushes our enemies but we are called to love them.  How can this be?

Loving our enemies is a deep spiritual exercise in our steadfast belief in God’s sovereignty.   When God Unleashes the Giants describes the omnipotence of God as He configures the tribulations, suffering, and even the enemies that will oppress and test us.  When we walk in the shadow of our Master, there are no arbitrary storms neither are there unforeseen enemies.  The Lord orders our steps and measures each trial, limiting the power of any foe over our lives.  Our enemies, even those that would cause martyrdom, are at the Lord’s disposal.   Luke chapter 6 and Matthew 5 expound the familiar yet difficult call of Christ to “love your enemies”.  Yet, within the whole counsel of God there are two separate intertwining powerful truths:

We are commanded to love our enemies and God promises to avenge them:

 “ Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written,   “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.”  (Romans 12:19,20)

Firstly, we must resolve never to take what belongs to God, repenting from even vengeful thoughts and plans of revenge. Such are hatched from the flesh and demonically inspired.  Entertaining retribution is a normal and natural great temptation that will separate us from the purposes of God in that very situation.

Secondly, the mandate to love our enemies is impossible to fulfill – necessarily drawing us to the bosom of our Lord.  This is not a fleshly exercise of fluffy love, it is representing the mercy of God to those who have offended us and Him.  God’s love is never arbitrary or random, it is full of wisdom and light.  His guidance must overshadow all our overtures toward the offender so His purposes, not Satan’s, will come to fruition, “…heaping burning coals upon his head.”

Within the fiery trial, in the heat of the battle, our confidence must totally lie in the faithfulness of God’s revealed power and character.  We often think, because it so appears, that the Lord has softened His stand on betrayal and backstabbing, seemingly excusing deep wounds – even martyrdom.  No.

He is rolling up His sleeves.  The burning coals are His merciful warning call.

Our greatest challenge - getting the fire started

                                                        Our greatest challenge – getting the fire started

Heads aflame.  What are these burning coals?

When we show love to our enemies, we are standing between them and God’s vengeance as His call to shame, His appeal to repent with godly sorrow.  Burning coals of guilt, shame, and remorse – inflamed by the Holy Spirit – can be painful and relentless.  If the Lord ‘grants them repentance’ they will enter into a full knowledge of their guilt and sin’s depravity.  Only Living Waters  extinguish burning coals.

Following his powerful sermon to religious leaders, powers of darkness answered violently upon Stephen, condemning him to death.  This imitator of Christ, so wrapped in the Holy Spirit, pleaded for his killers as the stones crushed his flesh.

Then he fell to his knees and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”  When he said this, he died.  (Acts 7:60)

Was Stephen pleading, “Lord, pretend you didn’t see this!”  or “Lord, let them get away with murder!”?  Out of mercy he cried out for their reconciliation, for the Lord to grant repentance and, in doing so, absolve their guilt.  The very next verse, “And Saul was there…” bears witness to the answer of Stephen’s powerful prayer, later piercing the heart of at least one offender, heaping many burning coals upon his head.  The shame and conviction from desecrating Christ’s Body underpinned Paul’s salvation and launched him into abandonment to the Lord’s service.

Forgiving our enemies does not erase the consequences of their act, “God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.” Forgiving criminal and other acts does not preclude punishment but releases offenders from the personal debt to victims.  Many of the forgiven are ‘free’ behind bars, entering into the presence of God and His purposes.

Of His believers Jesus declares, “You are the light of the world”, in a world increasingly wicked and dark.  We have a personal Savior so intimate that He calls us His Body.  Our enemies are His enemies and, when we relinquish our will and determine to walk blameless before Him, the Lord gains glory in the battle – His Kingdom advances. 

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  A “consuming fire” is our God.  He is able to burn in the hearts of our offenders now, push them back or eliminate them.  Can we meditate upon the Lord’s power to recompense, even eternal judgment, and not pity the unrepentant?

“Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of those who go on in their sins.”  (Psalm 68:21)

Syrian Christians slain. "I will repay" declares God.

Syrian Christians slain. “I will repay” declares God.

“He takes personally every act of dishonor as well as every act of kindness done to His disciples.” (Safely Home, Randy Alcorn, excerpt)

ENCOUNTERING CHRIST WHEN DEATH AND DARKNESS REIGN

One of the greatest sermons ever preached may be the shortest – the last dying words of a born again but tortured man.  Destined for glory, his last words on earth were ordained and anointed by God and still resound throughout the ages with eternal value.   Judged by a ruthless government, his day of execution neared with crushing dread, fear, remorse and anguish.  However, within that nightmare, amidst the powers of darkness, he was redeemed.  He honored God in his remaining moments and preached a message that should stir our hearts today.

“Don’t you fear God?” he preached, rebuking the unbeliever and even us today.  We are often among those who insult and challenge God in times of turmoil and confusion, in the midst of  pain and anguish.  So apt to put God on trial, how many times have we indicted Him in our hearts?  In a culture of self importance and self esteem, ‘fear of God’ becomes an obsolete virtue, yet it is the only position from which the life of God flows toward us.   The preacher continued, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve…”   We are that lawbreaker, deserving of the same death – the very wages that our deeds have earned.  (Romans 6:23) 

What an appointment – condemned to die with the Giver of Life!  The most hopeless moment of his life empowered with shekhinah glory and divine revelation of Jesus, the King with an eternal Kingdom.   In utter humility of failure and worldly condemnation, this brother has the bold faith to cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Dig deep into this message recorded in Luke 23:40-43.   With a humble heart and short message (under forty words), this famous nameless man of God demonstrated great eternal truths.  Firstly, there is nothing random about the works and plans of God.  Creator of all, He is sovereign over all.  Only omnipotent God can promise that “all things work together for good” for His people because He will ordain it so. Even the most dreaded and heartbreaking events can, in His hand, become turning points with divine purpose and destiny.  The excruciating death of this man was an ordained appointment with eternal life.

Secondly, this brother teaches us to suffer well, with endurance and humble faith, that we might see God, fellowship with Him in suffering, and share in His glory.  Can we believe that the Lord can carry us through our darkest hour, through the torment of our worst failure?  When crushed by our own sin, can we trust in Christ’s mercy and faithfulness?  “Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  (Romans 10:11)   The living Word of God has the power to rob Satan of victory every time. In spite of disappointment, tragedy or pain, we can say as Job in 42:2,

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

Thirdly, we are challenged to finally die to this world and relinquish our love for the things therein.  The appealing self-empowering, and self-gratifying culture of our society is an alluring façade, built to supplant the supremacy of God and deny Him due honor and worship.  The pleasures of this world distract while the achievements in this world puff up.   Every strength and ‘self help’ offered by man dilutes our dependence on the faithfulness of God and His supernatural power. Worldly success and prosperity here do not propel us toward heaven and moreover, they are the weakest oars in the storm.  Only when our eyes are fixed on Christ can our love of this temporal world fade away and bring eternity and God’s Kingdom into focused view.

What man intended for condemnation and death was God’s appointment for infamous pardon and eternal life.  Our Savior was indeed “numbered with the transgressors” and surely we are they.   Apart from His protection, powers of hell will tempt, scheme and ensnare, accusing God during our darkest hour.   However, it is the fear of God that rightly aligns us with Him.   Suffering pries us from our confidence in the flesh and love for this world.   Surrendered to the Lord, we have every assurance that His presence is with us and will speak life into every dark hour and lost hope.   Like our famed brother on the cross, we also, as redeemed transgressors, will be honored with words of life for others, words backed by heaven with divine purpose and eternal value.

 

"For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies."

“Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43

                                         

ANTICIPATING FREEDOM

And one thing more:  Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.”   Philemon 1:22

paul_in_prison

While admittedly an “old man” and prisoner in Rome (~59-61 AD) Paul wrote to Philemon, a wealthy believer in the city of Colossae, a brief letter through which come timeless truths.  Paul commends Philemon’s love and encouragement to other saints, his ministry of refreshment, and notably from this, Paul moves into his central purpose for writing – his accolades and advocacy for Philemon’s fugitive slave Onesimus.

The unwritten truths of this epistle are as significant as Paul’s actual message.  ‘Old man Paul’, writing from chains, never waivers from his faithful service to the Lord – extoling, encourageing, and instructing as from a pulpit.  Assured of God’s sovereignty, Paul knew that neither his freedom nor his chains were determined by Roman decree and power.   Hence he could request, with full expectation, that his Christian brother Philemon prepare a guest room for him.  Anticipating freedom, Paul plans lodging with his wealthy friend, over 900 miles away.

Isn’t faith rooted in anticipation?  What are we anticipating about God in times of darkness, oppression and trial?  Could we, while seeking relief and freedom from some oppression – while in our own chains – reach out to others in service to God?   Are we standing on the anticipation of freedom, the certainty of God’s deliverance?

Christians are the only ones with the right to sing their victory song while still in the battle.  That is the essence of faith in a sovereign and worthy God.  We can sing the victory song before the Red sea parts, before our answer comes.  We are authorized and justified to walk towards those fearful waters before knowing God’s plan.  Pastor David Wilkerson expounded these truths in his message, ‘Right Song, Wrong Side’, 11/15/09, declaring, “Anybody can praise the Lord when the victory comes…anyone can dance when their prayers are answered”.  But how do we live in this anticipated freedom, the deep conviction that God will deliver?

None of us are currently chained by Roman soldiers – but our trials and battles may seem just as binding and oppressive.   The painful entanglement of sin, the hounding of false guilt, fear and anxiety, or spiritual and emotional harassment begin to chain our hearts and mind.  When the devil magnifies loneliness, failure and loss – you are descending into that cell.  

And yet, while there, how can we call out and say, “Prepare a room for me, I’m coming out”?

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.   But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”   “A way out” when we are tempted?  Aren’t we looking for “a way out” from darkness, “a way out” of oppressive trial and tribulation?!

But the temptation, even idolatry, is right there, in the place between the chains and freedom.   It is there where we are tempted to lose faith, tempted to complain, endlessly ruminate and ultimately slander God.  We are tempted to idolatry when we see the trial as bigger than God.

The Apostle Paul believed the Word written through him in I Corinthians 10:13.  Without a ‘writ of habeas corpus’ he fully believed in the Lord’s power to free him.  Not chained to discouragement, fear, or unbelief,  Paul was free to trust God and hear from Him while in the place of bondage.  From intimacy with the Lord he could say with authority, “Prepare a guest room for me”…I’m coming home.

The enemy will hone into our secret fears, personal failures and overwhelming trials and magnify them with supernatural craft.  There is great temptation to agree with what we see…there’s no way out!  This is a disaster! I’ll never make it, I can’t even get out of bed!  The Lord Himself is the “way out” and our place, as part of His Body, is to step out and turn toward Him.   Pharaoh would have laughed if the Israelites sang before the Red Sea, sandwiched between the water and the world’s most powerful army.  But that is the faith that most pleases God: Praising Him before He moves, worshipping Him before the victory.

If we have succumbed to despair, even accused and slandered the Lord, now is the time to reconcile and repent.  The Lord can put us in ‘prison’ to expose our hearts and humble us to be of greater use in His Kingdom.  Therein is the challenge of faith, the call to claim the sovereignty of God:  Decide to believe a victorious Psalm, praise Him and worship Him even when your heart seems the heaviest.   Sing Exodus chapter 15 before the sea parts, before your deliverance comes, taking that spiritual step toward Him…reaching out to the hand that holds the key to every chain.

"In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free." Psalm 118:5

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

 

THE GOD OF BROKEN PIECES

"I have become broken pottery..." Psalm 31:12

“I have become like broken pottery…” Psalm 31:12

From broken and useless….to sharp and piercing.

There is a brokenness common to man – the cumulative destruction of sin. Within our very nature is the propensity, “our own evil desire” to be dragged away, enticed and enthralled. An alluring storefront to every dark behavior beckons us in. James chapter 1:13-15 describes this entrapment and the end result…smashed lives, broken families, despair that leads to death.

There is, however, a brokenness common to the believer – even as one strives to walk in God’s favor and light. They have not availed themselves to darkness but avail themselves to God – offering their lives as His temple in which He may dwell. Where He dwells, however,  He must govern and reign. Every aspect of our life then falls under God’s authority.   He will build up, demolish, give and take away whatever is necessary to make our temporary lives useful for His eternal kingdom.

There is a great truth, however, for both the repentant sinner and faithful believer – God can greatly use life’s broken pieces for His glory – confounding the powers of darkness and forging ahead with His Kingdom.

When man is striving for excellence in this world, he builds himself up, educates, trains, and produces – networking his skills and accomplishments – for accolades and gain. When God is working His excellence in a man, He unravels, crushes, and separates – clearing out the ‘temple’ for His supernatural presence. There is often pain, loss, confusion and disappointment. As a “living sacrifice unto the Lord” our ‘personal kingdoms’ – careers, family life, possessions – become God’s domain.

Yes, He is our loving heavenly Father….but He is also a Man of War, a Consuming Fire, and Righteous Judge. We are not just His sheep, but solders trained by Him for battle – the spoils of which have eternal value.the souls of men.

When our lives are ‘cracked’, we often glue the pieces and move on. When our lives are smashed, there is an undoing that God and only God can redeem as He may well be the hammer that shattered our ‘kingdom’.

In Genesis 39, Joseph, left for dead by his brothers, rises up with the favor and prosperity from God within Pharaoh’s kingdom. His life is governed by God and yet, with divine purpose, slander and false accusation puts this favored and faithful youth in prison. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor….” The Lord took his position, social status and esteem and smashed them, unraveling Joseph’s life to prepare him for greater use.

Whatever is built in our lives with fleshly foundation or human striving – places of confidence and security – are subject to the Lord’s demolition. Even in areas where God has promoted and excelled our position, our ministry, our status – His wrecking ball will likely swing to break, wound, and undo that He may rebuild, heal and create – forging us ahead with supernatural understanding and matured faith.

Can we trust Him at the juncture of brokenness? Can we declare as the Psalmist in 119:71, “It was good for me to be afflicted…”? It is not enough to mechanically recite Romans 8:28. The Lord is seeking the trust of those who stand at the precipice of loss and despair, waiting to lead us forward by His hand and by His Word onto paths unmarked.

The steps of faith here are the heaviest. It may only be sheer will that points us to the Word and compels us to pray. Worship here is the sacrifice of praise. But this is the juncture of miracles, this is the juncture of supernatural. It is here where the Lord takes the broken pieces and magnifies Himself and His power. When Jesus broke the five loaves in Mark 6 they fed over five thousand people, yielding 12 basketfuls of broken pieces. Without the hand of God, this bread would have remained five simple loaves, baked by locals and eaten without acclaim.

Have entanglements of sin caused brokenness and despair? Or has God, in His faithfulness, brought about loss and suffering to propel our faith for greater use? There is only one recourse for deliverance, one position for victory: Defer to His sovereignty, offer up to Him the broken pieces of our life, and trust Him for His presence and favor. He is not a god that glues things together, but a God who heals and rebuilds that which was broken, with supernatural design and purpose.

What will God make from your broken pieces?

What will God make from your broken pieces?

 

Do Real Christians Have ANXIETY ATTACKS?

dizzy image

Or get depressed…..enough to want to die??

A wrong understanding toward these questions stunts the spiritual growth of some and truly damages the spiritual life and fellowship of others. Wrong understanding, often a spiritual haughtiness, can lead brethren – even church bodies – to assess the afflicted as faith deficient. ‘Caring spiritual folks’ shoot pellets of scripture, even sing songs and deliver sermons to convince the depressed soul they need not and should not suffer. ‘Only believe’ invalidates the place of total anguish and despair that true brethren often suffer.

Yes, true brethren often suffer.

We can firstly acknowledge here that sin will reap a harvest of destruction in the life of a believer and the discipline and chastisement of the Lord will be painful and costly. There is no doubt that sin will bring despair, guilt, loss, and emotional turmoil. However, we must also acknowledge that a God led life, one which seeks the Lord with a heart to obey, can be afflicted with great emotional suffering – overwhelming sorrow, weighty depression, attacks of anxiety.

Yes, a God led life…afflicted with overwhelming sorrow, weighty depression, attacks of anxiety.

With sin we are ‘reaping what we sow’. However, when suffering comes upon those who strive toward godliness all can be shaken but one immovable anchor: the promise that all turmoil, strife, and despair are held under the design of a sovereign God who can weave great eternal purpose into every pang of pain.

Spiritual giants such as Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, are few of the many anointed who battled with deep inner pain. Great preachers, expositors, and missionaries often quietly suffer the weight of reoccurring depression, anxiety and despair. The question is not why, but why not?? They carry a cross – following in the shadow of a suffering Savior – who suffered great physical, emotional and spiritual pain on His way to victory. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. (Jesus, Matt 26:38, Mark 14:34) God Incarnate feeling overwhelmed…to the point of death.

The great prophet Elijah, in a time of deep discouragement and despair, “…prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough’, he said, ‘Take my life.’” (I Kings 19:4) God’s Word reveals to us the emotional oppression and anguish of godly men, testifying of His sovereign power and ultimate victory over EVERY affliction, ailment, and onslaught over His Body. Ultimate victory does not negate the interim, longsuffering afflictions and attacks upon our body, mind, and soul while in this fallen world. We may be crushed and 100% of us will die one day. But there is an intimacy that is birthed when we hold tight to the Lord when darkness comes with inner threshing.

Depression and anxiety are not the fruits of faith deficiency – they can actually be the ground upon which spiritual fruits grow for God’s glory. Whether the He takes us through the storm or quells the thrashing waves altogether, the Lord Himself aligns with our pain, revealing Himself through itnever forsaking us in it.

Our frail, temporal bodies – prone to sickness, injury, mental anguish, dwell in a fallen world, wrought with powers of darkness that war against us. Those who venture, with faith, deep into the battle may fall under greatest attack. The apostle Paul solemnly warns, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days”. (II Timothy 3:1) We are assuredly in the ‘last days’ and they are indeed ‘terrible’. Those acquainted with despair and those serving in the trenches receive this truth and wisely gain a life view focused on eternity, a view with great value in this temporal, condemned world.

We, as believers, can be ‘down for the count’ and, while there, experience further alienating pain and confusion as modern Christendom makes a ‘faith deficiency’ diagnosis; disavowing possible medical or other interventions. The place of pain is not a place of defeat or waste, but a place of opportunity, of separation, even assigned place of intimacy with the Lord.

Even the weakest heartcry keeps us afloat

WATERS OF AFFLICTION WILL NOT OVERCOME US

Believers have anxiety attacks, bouts of depression and despair but unlike the world, our endurance through the darkness can yield supernatural reward and promise.   As  painful tilling of rocky ground, the Lord can enlarge our hearts for Him, humble us to raise us higher and refine us for His eternal glory.

Crushed in the Wilderness

Christ makes the futile wilderness fruitful

Christ makes the futile wilderness fruitful

For many, the epic ‘Ten Commandments’ depicts the story of God’s people oppressed as slaves by Pharaoh in Egypt. More powerful and graphic than the movie however, the book of Exodus recounts in detail God’s triumph over the contesting powers of darkness. The infamous climax to this spiritual battle shows utter defeat for the slave masters and a glorious exodus – mass departure – freedom for the people of God. These chosen people of God were delivered from their oppressors and marked for a victorious entry into the Promised Land. The Israelites witnessed the miraculous and awesome display of God’s power and deliverance yet the journey towards God’s promise exposed their faithlessness and rebellion. Malcontent and fear slanders the faithfulness of God as the Israelites cower before their enemies.

“We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are….If only we had died in Egypt! Or in the desert…We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” (from Numbers 13 & 14)

Back to captivity?

God Himself led them into a desert and decreed that none of them would enter the land promised to them. “In this desert your bodies will fall-every one of you twenty years and older…who has grumbled against me”. (Numbers 14:29) The Lord provided their necessities as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years however, they lived without destination, without inspiration, without the victory that comes from believing God.

In Deuteronomy 8, Moses expounds the Lord’s purpose for them in this wilderness; to humble them, to test them – reveal their hearts – and cause them to hunger after God. Further, God led them “…to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Forty years, traveling 240 miles to nowhere, living under the chastisement of God, they knew that futile land would also be their grave.

In our lives, the desert place within us can be one of emptiness and detachment; transitional times without sign posts. Uncertainty marks the wilderness. Disappointment, failure and downfall – even success – can rob our sure footing and confidence. Many seek meaning and resolution through encouragement of friends, family, professionals, self-help. However, when we can see that it is GOD who leads us into the wilderness with divine purpose, the desert becomes a place of great fruitfulness – even victory – as we see our living Lord before us.

 “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2)

The Son of God was led by the Spirit, as were the Israelites, into the wilderness yet the Lord demonstrates that this desolate place of battle, struggle, and solitude becomes a place of victory and growth as God grooms and prepares us for His service.

You will know you’re in the desert when you get there. ‘Self’, your own strength, deflates and all that seemed sure and predictable slowly unravels. Plans and expectations seem to lose life and fall to the ground. If you knew the presence of God and  the flow of the Holy Spirit – you now  sense a shut down, stagnant in…

a boat with no current.

…a boat with no current.

Gusto and joy ebb away as the ‘sure’ callings of God in our life come to a halt. Like the Israelites, God leads us into the desert to humble us, to test and reveal our hearts, causing us to see the futility of our own fleshly efforts.  Here the Lord may point to unconfessed sin in our life or even our self reliance –all that compromises His preeminent call and lordship over our lives. Pride is damaged as lofty goals dry up in the desert.

We may or may not be fasting as Christ did in the wilderness but God will cause us to hunger after Him. God’s call to wait upon Him with humility and patience challenges our natural strive for immediacy. Yet when God Himself deflates us, detours our course and stops the flow He does so with great purpose. Separating us is a call to intimacy unlike any other. The refining and crushing of the desert is unique.

When, after 40 days, Jesus was led out of the wilderness he “…returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit…” (Luke 4:14)  While the Israelites had failed, Christ triumphed, setting a pattern of victory that we can follow.

Where God leads us He awaits us. When the Lord tests us, humbles us, and reveals our hearts in a place of barrenness, I pray that we seek Him there, trust Him there. By sovereign design He will teach us and refill us, leading us out of the wilderness with less of us and more of Him.

 

The Armenian Question

armenian children genocide
“The Armenian Question” is a phrase historically rooted to the Armenian Genocide, the cruelly horrific massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks. Premeditated and systematic, history records the desecration of a nation – the near extinction of a people group. Often seen as a Christian persecution, the torture, rapes, mass killings and death marches punctuate immeasurable grief endured from 1915 to 1922. Adding to the inhumanity is the ongoing Turkish denial of such atrocities, a futile standpoint in light of historical fact, serving only to fester deep wounds.
Armenians often boast of being ‘the first Christian nation, 301 AD’. I myself was such a boaster who, without notice, could give a historical account of King Tiridates and Saint Gregory the Illuminator to anyone who would listen. From a Biblical perspective, claiming a nation be Christian broadens the definition of Christian to near obscurity if a Christian is one who decidedly repents, receives forgiveness, and follows and serves Christ as Lord. Nonetheless, Armenia was a nation, clothed with a claim to Christ, who was brutalized, pummeled and massacred by Islamic neighbors. History reveals the fate of Armenian borders and genocide survivors around the world. An untold causality, in this near death of a nation, is faith in the living Christ as many in surviving generations have deemed God irrelevant and/or non-existent.

With vehemence an Armenian Question took root: “Where was God?” – a question with deep accusation, not spiritual search.

Rhetorical accusation, without searching, justifies a self-made, even self-serving answer. While there exists an innate desire to know one’s Maker, there is also prideful satisfaction of dismissing God, judging Him irrelevant or non-existent, to live a life seemingly free from His authority. For some however, there is a grieving desire to know God and personally receive the truth of His sovereignty in light of gross injustice and suffering. While volumes have been written on these subjects, there are Biblical truths to ponder in beginning this search for understanding. “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6) and what we find in sincere and diligent search will open a relationship with the living God.

The Bible presents prophetic scriptures pointing to the Savior, Jesus Christ. The coming Christ did not change the course of a wicked and dark world. In fact, in response to the Savior’s birth the king of Judea ordered a massacre, killing all the male children under two in efforts to kill the Son of God (Matthew 2:16). God never said He would change the course of this world, He pronounced His coming judgment on our fallen world. Yet the Bible, as well as believers through the ages and today, proclaims the Spirit of God indwelling faithful men with supernatural power to endure.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

“This is my beloved Son” God proclaimed at the onset of Christ’s ministry and at His transfiguration, seen in Matthew 17 and Mark 9. God allowed, even predestined, His only Son, beloved Son, to die a worse death than we could ever know. Tortured and mocked, forsaken by His people, forsaken by His Father, shamed with public execution, the Son of God took on our sins and defeated death. The punishment for every vile and violent act, hatefulness, selfishness, murder, slander – the pride of man – all laid upon the sinless Son of God as He died in our place. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,” the Bible encourages, “…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2) Your salvation, my salvation was the joy set before Him. Not so we would enjoy this world, but that we would enjoy eternity with Him, being reconciled to God.

The Armenian Genocide was a horrific display of brutal wickedness – not quickly done nor in the dark but a procession of death – while the world watched. Those with power chose not to intervene as a nation was crushed. Men at heights of leadership utilize great skill in covering guilt, cloaking complicity, and diverting responsibility. There is accountability upon all of us who do nothing when screams of terror come forth.  While cries for justice slowly die of exhaustion, God remembers every detail with accuracy.  “Vengeance is Mine”, says the Lord, “I will repay”. Even the most just of men have but a brief lifetime to exact judgment. God has eternity.

“Armenia – the first Christian nation, 301 AD” is a historical fact but an unlikely spiritual reality. No king can decree that all his subjects repent, and ‘deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow Christ’ with a readiness to give their lives for this faith. (Luke 9:23&24)  Nonetheless, many with great faith in Christ perished.   Many survivors held to Christ with a living faith, only possible through the Holy Spirit.   Following the Savior is an unpopular path on which thousands today suffer persecution, rejection and martyrdom.  Yet surrendered to Christ, His Spirit indwells us and “the joy set before Him” becomes our joy, His strength becomes our strength.  Only He can take us through a storm of suffering.   Testimonies of Christian martyrs tell of the “fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings”, often describing an overshadowing love and power that conquers the sting of death and brings revelation of eternal life.

“Where was God?” is a cry of anguish and pain but filled with accusation to a Holy God. He can receive our anger, our unbelief, and accusation if, once vented, we can honestly cry, “Who are you, God? Forgive me, Lord, show yourself to me.”

Great – But Left Alone to Die

Old prison windowHis was no ordinary conception, born to parents past child bearing age.  John the Baptist was the fulfillment of great prophecy – bridging the Old Testament with the New – in the ‘spirit of Elijah’.  Endowed with the Holy Spirit in the womb, he consecrated his life to one mission:  ushering into the world the incarnation of God on earth.  John’s calling exceeded the realm of priesthood.  He would not sit before the scribes or teachers of the Torah.  He became John the Baptist through years of sequestered fellowship with God.   When he “grew and became strong in the spirit” he was drawn to the desert in preparation for his high calling.  This meant total separation from the world, from all that would distract, all that would influence and indeed – even that which would bring natural comfort – home, family and friends.

Prevailing culture and social protocols had no power to restrain John’s convicting preaching.  This great herald emerged with divine anointing, baptizing an estimated 300,000 in Judea.  His anointed ministry was fulfilled at the sight of Christ, “Behold!  The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!.”  With words endowed by the Holy Spirit, this was the peak of John’s life and perhaps the beginning of the end to his profound ministry.  He would not serve alongside Christ in His mission, nor would he continue his preaching and baptizing.  “He must increase, I must decrease” was his prophetic declaration. This powerful, godly man was arrested by Herod the tetrarch.  Imprisoned in the remote fortress of Macherus, John was again separated from all and – at the whim of a dancing girl – was beheaded. Disciples went and claimed the headless body of this beloved prophet of God and buried him.

In Luke 7, Jesus declared John to be a prophet, even “more than a prophet…among those born to women, there is no one greater than John”.  The Lord’s ministry was well founded as John languished in a cold stone cell. ‘No one greater’, Jesus proclaimed of his anointed cousin, but did nothing to rescue John.  All knowing and all powerful, Jesus Christ knew of the darkness that overshadowed John and the debauchery that would lead to executing this holy man.  It was well within the Lord’s power to dispatch powerful angels, to release John and even strike Herod dead.  What was Jesus doing as John – held in highest esteem by Jesus – was led to his gruesome death?

In Isaiah 53, an infamous prophecy of the coming Christ, Jesus is called “a man of sorrows”.  Is there not great  sorrow in knowing that your beloved kin, acclaimed even in heavenly places, is suffering and will die at the hands of reprobates – and you could but don’t intercede and rescue? 

In God’s sovereignty, evil men do not prevail.

John had a singular high calling, yet it was far second, an underpinning, to the mission and passion of Christ on earth.  Leaving the grandeur and majesty of heaven, Jesus came to be despised, rejected, oppressed.  While He displayed supernatural power in compassion – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead – the Son of God came not to extend His power to intercept or overthrow worldly kings and kingdoms.  The Son of God refrained from rising up against Herod, an act which would change the course of His mission,  the pathway of the cross.   Rather than establish Himself as ‘hero’, saving a man from wicked men in this world, Jesus maintained His singular focus – saving mankind from damnation for all eternity.  As Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness with places of power and position in this world – regardless of outward appearance  here –  again the Lord prevails.   He would allow no temporal victory in a condemned world to undermine His victory over death for all eternity.

This “Man of sorrows” had the anguish of foreknowledge here and would deeply grieve the death of His beloved prophet, servant, and cousin who would be left alone to die.   More than foreknowledge however, Christ divinely knows – even if we don’t – that for those surrendered to Him,  suffering and death are servants to the purposes of God.

Great – and none greater – was John the Baptist.   His divine mission complete, the sword could not rob him.  “Alone” was John’s place of communion and strength in God.  In the desert or a prison cell, John knew intimate heavenly fellowship that would strengthen and encourage, buffering all torment and fear.  The one who prepared the way for  God into the world would himself be ushered from this world to great reception and reward in the presence of almighty God.