Merchandise of Wisdom, Part I

The Merchandise of Wisdom

“They’re like sheep without a shepherd,” thought Philip, looking with concern over the large crowd milling about restlessly, trying to get closer to Jesus.  Occasionally a child cried hungrily, or someone laughed joyful.  Looking westward, Phillip saw the sun slowly sinking below the dusty plain.  “Soon it will be dark,” he mused, “and they haven’t even brought anything to eat!  Imagine coming all the way out to the wilderness without bringing any food!”

Jesus and the disciples had come to this lonely, desolate spot near Bethesda to get some greatly needed rest.  They had spent so much time ministering to the people during their recent travels they had not even taken spare moments to eat.  Yet, it was so exciting seeing people healed and set free!  Hadn’t Jesus promised such miracles would take place when He had sent them forth in pairs?  But on returning, their fatigue became obvious, and Jesus had led them away from the crowds to recover.

And so they had come to the wilderness to get a few moments rest.  But the crowds had guessed their direction, and before long they were coming from all directions.

By now, as the stillness of twilight lay across the land, Phillip had been joined by Andrew.  “Perhaps we should speak to the Master.  Unless He sends them home, they will faint for hunger here in the wilderness,” he said as he watched Jesus pick His way through the crowd to where they stood.

“Master, this is a lonely place, and the day is now over.  Send the people away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves,” Phillip said as he and Andrew moved forward to meet Jesus.

In spite of His sorrow over the recent loss of His cousin John, who had been beheaded by Herod, Jesus looked with deep compassion over the crowd.d

“They need not go away.  Why don’t you give them something to eat?”  He said, smiling slightly, the way He always did when He was testing their faith.

But Phillip and Andrew did not notice, for they were overwhelmed by Jesus’ suggestion that they feed all the people.  “Why, there must be five thousand men,” thought Andrew, “not including women and children!”

Phillip responded, “It would take a fortune to feed all these people!  And all we have are five loaves and two fishes!  A little boy’s dinner!”

Jesus merely had His disciples gather the people together in groups and have them sit down on the mountainside.  Jesus then took the boy’s food, lifted it toward Heaven and asked His Father to bless it.

Slowly, He broke the loaves and fishes, dividing them among the disciples, who in turn broke the pieces again and distributed the pieces among all the people.

As the people ate, they recalled a similar miracle in a similar wilderness when Moses spoke the Word of God and water appeared out of the rock.  And as they remembered how their forefathers had received manna from heaven every morning, a great sense of awe came over them as they recognized that God had moved mightily on their behalf!

 

The Spiritual Medium of Exchange

Imagine yourself on the Sahara desert, wandering for hours in the heat of the day without shelter or water.  You need water desperately, but there is none to be found except for the mirages that appear over the sun-baked sand.  And you think, “I’d give all the money I have for just a little glass of water!”

Suddenly you realize that money is valuable only as far as it meets a particular need.  What is most valuable is the answer to the need itself!  If you need water, all the diamonds in the world will not quench your thirst.  And some of the wealthiest people in the world are finding that money will not buy them health, or peace of mind!

Money itself is only a medium of exchange, a system of barter.  But the power of money is extremely limited!  Even if someone appeared with a glass of water, there is still no guarantee that he will exchange that water for your money, especially if he does not have faith in your money!  And money is also extremely vulnerable to the ravages of rust, moths, or theft!

 

God’s Medium of Exchange

But did you know that God has given His children a better medium of exchange than money?  God has given us the means of receiving whatever it is we need without limitation, without the problems of worldly means of barter which are subject to inflation or devaluation, subject to theft or loss!

It is God’s medium of exchange that Jesus used to meet the needs of those people in the wilderness!  The disciples must have recognized that even if they had the tremendous amount of money to buy all that bread, there was still no guarantee that there was that much bread available to be bought!  But Jesus knew there was a better way!  Jesus had something which worked every time, as a medium of exchange, in spite of the need!

Let’s discover what the medium of exchange is that God has provided for His children:

13 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels;
And nothing you desire compares with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways
And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast.  (Proverbs 3:13-18)

Now, if you skimmed over this passage, go back and read it again!  See if you can discover in this passage what God’s medium of exchange is.  We know it is God’s medium of exchange because He Himself recommends that we use it!

Wisdom is God’s medium of exchange!  It is the merchandise of wisdom that is more precious than rubies, or gold or silver!  It is wisdom that is a tree of life, that is, the true means of receiving what we need in this life.

If wisdom is God’s medium of exchange, therefore, His means of obtaining God’s answer to every need, then what is wisdom and how is it obtained?

We have just read that the Lord founded the earth by wisdom, so let us look in Hebrews to find out how He did it:

By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.  (Hebrews 11:3)

In other words, using faith we know that God spoke His Word, and the very power of that Word created worlds where once there was nothing.  And that is the same Word, the same wisdom, that accomplished miracles through Jesus and Moses in the wilderness!

What is wisdom then?  Wisdom is the God-given ability to apply and speak God’s Word in faith in a specific situation and see results.  We see God’s provision appear where there is no provision, see God’s healing appear where there is no healing, see the water turned into wine, see the stones made into bread, if necessary!  Wisdom is knowing the plans and the purposes of God through His Word.

You might ask, “If wisdom is God’s medium of exchange, how do I receive it?  It sounds like I need it.”

We will find the answer to this question in our next blog article!

 

 

How Deception Works: Innate Feelings or a Choice We Make?

We live in the Scientific Age, and we all took science classes in high school and in college, if we got that far. Therefore, we all have pretty much decided that belief in the existence of angels or demons is not only misguided but also foolish.

However, we still seem fixated in our culture on the supernatural, particular in the popular media of films and television shows.  Science fiction is highly favored, for it raises the possibilities of the supernatural in scientific ways, and we have no difficulty imagining a time traveler or a super-hero.

Also, we continue to engage the imaginations of our children with tales of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, solemnly relating that they are indeed real, not merely fairy tales.

It is surprising, therefore, that any discussion regarding demonic spirits is usually abjectly ridiculed as being both nonsensical and uneducated.  It only takes a scientific name, usually in Latin, or some kind of logical construction to set ignorant people straight on any issue about the supernatural.

Even in the Church, the subject of demons is often ignored or moved over into the realm of psychology, a more reasonable and rational post-modern approach to spiritual problems.  Or the ultimate solution is an anti-depressant or an “intervention” to clear up people’s problems very quickly.

Living in the Scientific Age certainly has not rid our culture of the remnants of the ridiculous world of the supernatural, for Ouija boards, fortune cookies, astrology charts, seers who solve crimes, and various forms of mysticism still proliferate. Even in college and university campus student newspapers, astrology columns appear.

 

How Satan Continues to Deceive

What better Satanic strategy could the enemy devise, however, than to suggest either that he does not exist or that he is only imaginary and based in superstition.  The enemy either tries to hide completely or flaunt his existence so flagrantly that he is easily dismissed in mocking ridicule.  He is a liar, after all, the father of lies.

The reality is that he and his dominions do exist, and they do exert a powerful influence on our lives, in spite of the fact that they have been dismally defeated and deprived of their power over human lives through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  He still exerts his dying influence using the same deceitful ploys he used against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, disguising himself and telling us lies about his very existence so he can continue his manipulations without discovery.

We Believers know that Satan and his minions exist because they are revealed in the Scriptures. However, in spite of the fact that we are taught to “resist the devil” so he will flee from us (James 4:7) or not to give the devil “an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27), we often live our lives as though these words in practice are untrue.

 

Let’s Call It What It Is

One problem is that we hear the voices of temptation so often over such a prolonged period of time, that we ultimately begin thinking and believing that the thoughts derive from our own brains, rather than the lies of the enemy.  Consequently, especially today, people end up thinking that the temptations they are experiencing are natural and normal, thoughts they themselves have personally devised; hence, they can pursue them without guilt, at least as long as they aren’t caught. Later, after the rationalizations begin, they need no excuses, for “I have a right to my own opinions.”

The trend today is to call sin by another name, whether it be a medical diagnosis phrased in Latin or using a popular term that is politically correct, “cool,” or trendy, just more ways for the enemy to mislead us.  I know of no better example than the claims that homosexuality is normal, not a choice people make in their lives.

 

Where’s The Logic?

Most people who make this claim would probably have faith in the ideas of evolutionists, yet even evolution itself argues against the claims that homosexuality is a normal, necessary part of the human condition. 

First of all, no gene has been discovered that links directly with the choices one makes or the sexual behaviors one chooses.  If there were such a gene, over the millions of years of supposed evolutionary modifications, the gene would have died out for it cannot possibly lead to increased survival of the human species. Even if such a gene existed and it did make human survival more possible, it could not be passed on since homosexual behaviors do not lead to pregnancies, and the gene would die out over time.

In addition, mortality rates are notably higher for homosexuals than for heterosexuals, particularly males, making a gene that leads to innate homosexuality even less likely because the “survival of the species” would be even less probable.   Many factors contribute to these mortality statistics, but the results are significant enough to lead to skepticism about the innateness of homosexuality in terms of human evolution.

Also, the claim that homosexuals have no choice but to feel inclinations towards those of the same sex contradicts the free ability we all have to make decisions about our behaviors.   The innateness of sexuality is based on the pleasure of sex itself, not the various expressions of that sexuality.  People make choices all the time about their sexual practices, engaging in sex with thousands of methods they devise in their own minds.  Are these choices innate?  If homosexuality is innate, why isn’t bestiality or pedophilia?  

I suppose their proclivities argue for normality, but only because all sins are essentially “normal,” for we all have fallen short of the glory of God.

To argue otherwise is to deny the evidence.  People constantly choose whom they will love and not love, and those choices are decided by the decisions made in their brains.  Yes, feelings matter, as do pheromones, but as humans we are constantly changing our feelings based on our behaviors and the decisions we make. Our behaviors change how we feel about many situations or conditions in life.  

 

My Own Experiences

When I was about three years old, I somehow decided that I was changing from a boy into a girl.  I’m not absolutely sure why I made this decision, but my memory tells me that I may have been envious of my older sister and her friends who always seemed to have so much more fun than I did, even when they allowed me to join with them in their activities.

If I had chosen to be homosexual, I can see why these beliefs might have led me to think back and conclude that I always had propensities towards homosexuality.

In elementary school, I definitely started liking girls, with whom I had to square dance, but I hung around mostly with boys, mainly to play sports.

In my teenage years, however, I was decidedly inclined towards girls, not boys, though I still thought they had what we called “cooties.”  Since sexual feelings arose unexpectedly and even randomly at times, they were often extremely embarrassing and hence best kept hidden.

When I was sixteen years old, however, a significant event occurred which affected me greatly, adding to the confusion of those years.  Having just obtained my driver’s license, I was sitting in the family car at the park in town waiting for my brother and sister to get out of the local movie theater so I could take them home.  A man who was probably in his late twenties walked by and nodded at me, and being the friendly guy I was, I nodded back.

Later, I was walking through the park, still waiting for the movie to end, when I again came upon the man sitting at a park table.  I decided to stop and sit, and we began conversing.  I don’t recall what we talked about, but at one point he looked at me and said, “Can I ask you something?”  He then proceeded quite graphically to ask if we could have sex together.

I was confused and speechless.  First of all, I had never thought of such a thing, nor was it something I particularly wanted.

Sensing my embarrassed reluctance, perhaps, he tried to convince me that such sex was not only fun but also normal, pointing out another man in the park who was also seeking a partner in a restroom. He said that it would not take much time and I would really enjoy it. He would take me to his apartment, he said, and he would have me back in just a short time, about an hour.

Again, I declined, and hastened away back to my car, telling him I needed to pick up my brother and sister.

Once home, I told my father what had happened, and he was so perturbed that he called the police department, though I gathered that there was little that could be done.  

My father and I talked more later about what had happened, and I eventually learned about many sexual behaviors that deviated from God’s original purposes.

 

God in Creation

Those who believe in God’s creation need only to realize that the essential definition of “perversion” is “to make alterations or changes from the intended purpose of the original design.”  

The Apostle Paul uses this foundation in his letter to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

In other words, even a person who is unenlightened about the ways of God may still understand the nature of God, along with the true functions of the parts of the body, among other parts of creation, for they are “clearly seen.”  They can be understood based on how they are made.  Nevertheless, Paul writes, people may freely choose lies over the truth:

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  (Romans 1:24-27)

The meanings of these verses could not be clearer, and those who have decided that the sexual practices described are not condemned in the Bible not only cannot read, but also have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. To insist otherwise with regard to human organs and sexuality is not only ludicrous, but also horrifically unclean.

When I was in seventh grade, my shop teacher told his students never to use a woodworking tool for any other purpose than for what it was originally designed.  A hammer’s purpose, obviously, is driving and pulling nails, and a screwdriver is used for inserting screws.  I learned eventually that this was a sound policy, for using a screwdriver as a chisel, or a chisel as a screwdriver, usually damaged the tool.  Essentially, however, a carpenter makes decisions about how the tools are used, and people are the same way.

 

The Rest of the Story

Inexplicably, from this first encounter in the park with a homosexual (the word “gay” was not used back in those days), I found I was the focus of many such advances, some more aggressive than others.  For instance, after I had been married for a short time, I went to the university to register for classes.  While there, I somehow caught the attention of another student, probably a graduate student, for he was older than I.

In the midst of a large crowd of students, he made some kind of suggestive remark about my clothing and said he wanted to talk to me.  It didn’t take him long to take me aside and broach his subject, one with which I was familiar.  I told him I was married, but that didn’t dissuade him.

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out and see,” he said.  “You might find that you like it.”

This young man’s approach was much more difficult for me to resist than other propositions, for I found that I had much more difficulty turning him down or even getting away from, despite the fact that my wife was at home waiting for me.  It was like I couldn’t make decisions because I felt so controlled, somehow.  It wasn’t until years later that I understood why.

When I finally was able to get away from him and go home, I erupted in tears of frustration and helplessness when I got to our apartment because I felt so manipulated, dominated, and enslaved to someone I didn’t even know.

From those early times, I couldn’t understand why some men seemed to think I was one of them, and there were plenty of times when I even wondered myself whether my childhood insistence that I was turning into a girl was actually true.  I was very happy being married, however, and we even had a child on the way.

 

Released from Bondage

It was not until I received prayer for deliverance some years later that the whole problem arose again in a different way and with a new perspective.  After prayer and commands to the demons to leave me, I was marvelously delivered of the demonic spirits of lust and homosexuality, and since that time I have not had the come-on’s or the propositions that I had endured for so many years.  I truly felt free and delivered from a bondage that I didn’t truly know I had, much less desired.  I’m sure that many gay activists might claim that being gay, or at least bi-sexual, is who I truly am.  It hasn’t been difficult for me to rebuke these lies, however, for I am a happy father of two children with six grandchildren.  And I have been married to my loving wife for 45 years since 1969.

Rather than living as a typical gay man who likely would have had his life shortened, I have never worried about getting AIDS or other  kinds of Sexually Transmitted Diseases.  Nor have I had as many as five hundred to one thousand sexual partners in my lifetime, for I have only had one.

Believing a falsehood or a lie does not make it true.  Instead, we need to resist Satan,  the “father of lies,”for as Jesus once said to those who persecuted Him,

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  (John 8:44)

The Warfare We Face

Like a Roaring Lion 

Much controversy exists in the Church today over how vulnerable we may be to the forces of the enemy.  Clearly we are not invulnerable, however, for before introducing the spiritual armor used by Christians to engage in spiritual warfare, the Apostle Paul writes about our warfare:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

From this passage, we clearly learn that Paul sees the battle as dangerous, a struggle to the death. In addition, Paul writes that we need the full armor of God that covers every part of our bodies to resist in these days of evil.  In particular, Paul mentions the shield of faith by which we may extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the enemy.  Here is the complete list of equipment we need to resist the forces of darkness:

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.  (Ephesians 6:14-18)

Likewise, in the letters sent by the Apostle Peter, we are also taught to be alert and of sober spirit, for our enemy, the devil, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:9).  The assumption is that we face much danger from Satan, but we must resist him, standing firm in our faith  This same message also applies to all believers within the Body of Christ even today, not just those living in the persecutions of Nero, for Peter writes that “the same experiences of suffering” are being experienced by our brethren in the world.

Most Christians, in my experience, do not really know their enemy as the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  Jesus declared that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” and he “does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).  Throughout, the Scriptures declare that Satan is our adversary, both a tempter and a thief who seeks to destroy us.

Of course, the subterfuges of Satan have been so strong that many people today, even Christians, deny even the existence of these spiritual forces.  Any manifestations in the lives of people are attributed merely to psychological causes, one of the reasons why even those who suffer from the lies, temptations, and deceptions themselves believe that they originate within their own minds, rather than from demonic entities that speak to them from the spirit world.

 

My Near Death Experience

Growing up, I learned very little about the enemy of my soul, and despite dressing up like a skeleton or roaming the neighborhoods with ghosts and witches on Halloween, I knew nothing about how my enemies were deployed against me, despite growing up in the church and attending services three times a week as the son of a deacon and choir director.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I first came to understand the nature of the warfare we all face in this world.  In spite of the fact that I had been born again and Spirit-filled, I only understood the nature of the spiritual warfare I faced when I nearly had my life stolen from me.

I was an English teacher in a public school in Central California, and my wife and I regularly attended a Baptist church.  The pastor’s wife somehow decided that we were worth mentoring, so she often asked me to go with her to minister to those who were hurting.

One incident in particular revealed the supernatural to me.  A young man had been enduring extreme distress, alternating between what appeared to be hallucinations and periods of unconsciousness.  I remember praying for him while he stared off into space, yet in frustration, at one point I said, “In the name of Jesus, I command you to look at me.”  It was the only response we got from him, for he immediately obeyed my command.  We didn’t see much immediate improvement, however, and I was left to wonder what exactly had happened.

 

Opening the Door

Meanwhile, I had decided that I wanted to be not only a teacher but also a writer of plays and screenplays, so I began searching for a good topic for  a film for Christian audiences.

I determined to write a screenplay about the dangers of the occult and occult practices for Christians.  Unfortunately, I had little firsthand experience on this topic, so I did what I always did in college:  I began to do research on the occult using primary sources, so the sources I found were occult books, not just books about the occult.  Consequently, since no one had experience with computers or Google in those days, I went to the public library to check out my sources, books about witchcraft, sorcery, divination, even ouija boards.

I began writing a prospectus to send to someone I knew to be both a Christian and a producer of films.  It wasn’t but a week or so later, however, before I became very ill, experiencing severe head pain and double-vision.  In just a few days, I was admitted to a hospital with a very high fever, one hundred and five degrees, along with severe diarrhea, double-vision, and strong headaches.

I recall sitting in a wheelchair, riding in the elevator to my hospital room, and sensing that my soul was leaving my body. Whether true or not, I actually believed that I was ready to meet my Lord.  My wife prayed for me, however, and I ended up in a hospital bed for four days, then went home only to return for another eleven days.

During my lengthy stay, I was not able to rest much at all between hourly temperature checks, bed pan requests, and every kind of medical test the doctors could think of, from x-rays to barium enemas to intravenous injections.  I was exhausted both physically and mentally, yet no true results appeared from the tests to show what illness I had.  I merely was diagnosed with the symptoms of gastroenteritis and encephalitis.

I was unable to eat or drink, and I had to make constant trips to the toilet or the bedpan, unable to keep anything inside.  At one point, I was even given “astronaut food,” a kind of beef broth that was supposedly predigested, yet I still couldn’t keep it down.

At the end of the fifteen days total hospital time, I was finally able to return home.  I had lost a lot of weight, only weighed 126 pounds, and was extensively weakened from my ordeals of vomiting and diarrhea.  Yet I slowly began to improve in strength, and in a few months I began taking graduate classes in the fall.

While I slowly began to gain strength, however, my spiritual life began to deteriorate, in spite of being newly filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit the previous year.  Finally, after one year of decline our marriage was slowly deteriorating, to the point where my wife packed up the car, took our two-year-old child, and left home.

 

Finding Help

Desperate for some answers, I turned to a man who had been my pastor years before when I was a pre-teenager.  I had heard that he was doing Christian counseling, praying for people with great success, so I rode the five miles to his house on my bicycle.

What followed was a lengthy and laborious time hearing Scripture verses, singing choruses, and experiencing prayers for deliverance to expel the evil spirits that had entered my life.  I can definitely say that these spirits were inside me, for expelling them through my mouth was never easy.  I felt their feelings of terror at hearing the name of Jesus and heard their words being spoken through my own mouth.

The minister, along with a number of prayer partners, began leading me in prayers of confession, followed by insistent demands that the demons leave me.  I can’t say that I always approved of their methods in retrospect, for they were focused on seeing the evil spirits manifest themselves and state their names, but the reality of the spirit world and the power of the hold these spirits had on my life was certainly confirmed to me.

Appallingly enough, I found that many of the thoughts I thought were my own had actually originated from the evil spirits that had come into my mind and body.  I was asked to write down the names of the spirits so I could see the progress being made, and I slowly began to experience the freedom and joy that deliverance brings.  I even began to pray for others in the process, for I actually lived at this man’s home for two weeks or so.  I experienced home group meetings with singing and prayers for people, and I saw amazing changes in people’s lives, including my own.  

At one point, I began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I even began actually seeing the demons leaving those we prayed over in the form of a fine mist coming out of their mouths.  One time, I actually saw them leave the house through the sliding glass door.  I also began seeing spiritual manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seeing a mist over the heads of those in our group who were praying and praising God.  

I began receiving words of knowledge from the Holy Spirit as we were praying for people, revealing very specific moments when lives had been changed because of demonic activity. These words of knowledge were confirmed by those being ministered to.

About one week later, my wife returned to me with our daughter, and we both began living with this pastor’s family, seeing and experiencing the miraculous on a daily basis.  I can’t say that I later approved of all of the methods and practices of deliverance that we observed, for we eventually found that some were detrimental to the lives of those being prayed for. However, the wholeness that my wife and I began to share was truly miraculous.

Yes, we endured further periods of trial as we entered first into home ministry, then into pastoral ministries over the years.  But the reality of what we experienced was life-changing.

The deliverance I received was both humiliating and horrific, but I was thankful for the new freedom I experienced.  I realized that most of the sinful thoughts and temptations I had heard were not just my own.  Yes, my old nature was inclined in those directions, but I learned how to say to myself, “I reject that thought in the Name of Jesus!”  Even if I had to repeat the sentence five times in a row, I found that I could resist the temptations of the enemy successfully and powerfully.  Over time, resisting sin became easier, and I found myself overcoming in the areas of sin that once had so easily beset me.

In addition, I learned that I could help others find deliverance as well, a ministry that was truly edifying to me.

 

Are Christians Immune? 

I can state emphatically from personal experiences that a Christian can “have” a demon, for I was a spirit-filled Christian yet I was delivered of a very many demons over the course of several weeks, enduring much labor and stress, yet experiencing a freedom I had never known.  How was this possible? 

So many Bible teachers state without hesitation that a true Christian cannot be demon-possessed, but unfortunately there is much confusion  in the language used.  

In the original Greek, the word is a verb:  δαιμονίζομαιI, or “daimonizomai.”  Even in the Authorized Version of the Bible the phrasing is “possessed with,” not “possessed by,” and the difference is more than significant.   The most important factor is the choices we make.  We may choose to entertain sin in our lives to the point where it becomes addicting or dominating

A person who is “possessed by” something or someone no longer has freedom of choice but is a slave, yet a Christian has made a choice to make Jesus Lord.  To be “possessed with” has an entirely different meaning.  This phrase means “to have,” not “be a slave to,” much like “having” a cold or “possessing” the flu.  

However, a more accurate translation of daimonizomai is “to be demonized,” and those who have experienced addictions of any kind know what it means to be attacked by temptation and evil desires.  Christians are constantly exhorted to resist temptation and refrain from evil, but we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the reason we continually need His grace, His forgiveness, and His mercy.

 

Finding Clarity

After witnessing a miraculous deliverance of a man with a mute spirit, certain people in the crowd accused Jesus of using the power of demons to cast out demons, saying, ““He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons” (Luke13:15).

Jesus emphatically refutes their charge with just a few sentences, pointing out the false logic of their conclusion:

Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? (Luke 11:17-20)

Jesus continues to refute His accusers with the following example:

But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.   (Luke 11:20-23)

Ironically, comparing Himself to a thief, Jesus essentially is saying that only a more powerful opponent can defeat and overthrow a man who is secure in his own house.  The inevitable conclusion is that He is overcoming the unclean spirits using the “finger of God,” not the power of Beelzebub.

Jesus then makes the following application:

When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.  (Luke 11:24-26)

Thus, even a house that has been cleaned, therefore, may be inhabited again, and the end result is worse. Likewise, even Christians who have been cleansed, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit may be inhabited by unclean spirits if they give in to temptations.  This is why we are exhorted to “walk in the Spirit” so that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh or enter into sin (Galatians 5:16).

 

More Proof

I believe that the story of Peter’s experience during the Last Supper with Jesus and other disciples helps explain this conclusion even more convincingly:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. . . .[He] got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.Then He *poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He *came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter *said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter *said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  (John 13:1, 4-10) 

This story is filled with significance, and many truths may be gained from it.  However, one important application relates to the deliverance issues.

Much of the story focuses on how Jesus changes his attire, wears a towel around his waist, and washes their feet, along with Peter’s strong objection.  However, another question should come first: Why did the disciples need to have their feet washed?  

The many places in the Scriptures that describe this custom of foot washing show that the practice was very common, usually performed by a servant or attendant.   Given the eating customs of the people, particularly their reclining while eating, it was appropriate that the feet be washed before gathering together.  Otherwise, the smells and dirt of the streets would have been very disturbing to the appetite.

Jesus began washing the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the nature of true leadership and godly service: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14-15).

Much may be written about this aspect of the account.  For example, Jesus also washed Judas’ feet, for Jesus discloses the treachery later.  But the exchange between Jesus and Peter is significant, for it illustrates the idea that walking about through this world, even Peter, the one whom Jesus used mightily in the Early Church, would be soiled as he walked through the world as a disciple and a later apostle.  Yet, Peter did not lose his place even after he denied three times that he  knew Jesus just before the crucifixion.   

Walking through the world, we will be dirtied by the sinful conditions we may face, but we need only seek the forgiveness and deliverance freely given by the One who willingly gave up His life for us and Who continues to wash us of all that soils our house. 

 

Drugs and Spirits

The True Source of Enlightenment

Many people would never think of looking in the Scriptures for guidance about using drugs, hallucinogenic drugs, in particular. Given the number of states that have allowed the legal use of marijuana in recent years, at least for medical purposes, it is apparent that the minds, lives, and laws of many are being changed and influenced by the “tune in, turn on, and drop out” generation of the post-Vietnam era.

Even many Christians have been less opposed to marijuana legalization than in past years, tending to focus on what they believe may be more pressing issues.  After all, the Apostle Paul recommended that Timothy take a little wine for his stomach, so it doesn’t seem much different to use pot to feel better also.

Two arguments are central in the movement to change the laws.  

  • First, some seem exuberant that tax revenues are being collected in the legal states from the sale of marijuana to support children’s educations or other local concerns.
  • Second, many proponents argue that medical marijuana is highly effective in relieving the painful symptoms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other such illnesses.

Consequently, citing studies and even supposed government experts, many advocates claim that no brain cells are damaged or destroyed, and no brain damage results even from long-term, high-dose use.  Regardless, the tides have changed, and the rise in  pot acceptance seems to have accelerated just in the past few years.

Proponents of legalization have argued that since cannabis is a natural plant, not the product of a chemical laboratory, it was designed by God for humans to use, at least for medical dosages.  God did not design plants to be used to to be used to get high, however, as I will demonstrate from the Bible.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Be not drunk with wine but filled with the Spirit.” And being drunk or high limits our ability to make wise decisions and resist the temptations of the devil. There is a reason why, I think, that liquor is often referred to as “spirits.” And how can any kind of smoke inhalation be benign, especially when marijuana supposedly lowers the user’s IQ over time?

No, I have never smoked, sniffed, or toked, unlike certain recent U.S. presidents, and I have never even been drunk, so my opinions are a bit unique, perhaps. However, I don’t believe I have suffered at all by not engaging in pot smoking or other mind changing drug activities: For example, I have never had a hangover or wondered where I was when I woke up.  I never learned that I had acted foolishly at a party or received a DUI.

Proponents Have Their Reasons

I have an idea that many proponents of “medical marijuana” are being disingenuous about their advocacy:  They only want to start moving in the direction of legalization for everyone by starting with those who are in pain and deserve sympathy.

And the excuse that legalizing pot will raise tax incomes for the local governments does not inspire confidence because the governmental “powers that be” are not especially wise overall in how tax money is used.  Marijuana production does not produce true wealth since it all goes up in smoke, just like tobacco. Yes, profits may be made, but it is all worse than paper money.  

And it may be that the ingredients in marijuana my indeed be helpful in some cases for medical purposes, although I have an idea that other medications are probably available that are just as good.  Regardless, why not just extract the chemicals and make them available to ill people in a form that is not smoked. Abuse is abuse, no matter how it appears. 

I’ve personally witnessed the deleterious effects getting high has on students who come stoned to the classroom enough to know that pot does not produce healthy minds, even if the effects appear to be only temporary.  Supposedly, marijuana is not addictive like tobacco, but once any habit is formed, it is very difficult to stop the behavior, whether the user is chemically addicted or not.

However, my concerns are not so much political, cultural, or social, and I have no direct personal or scientific evidence of my own.  I am nevertheless concerned about the spiritual ramifications of any drug use, including pot.

Supposedly, the main reason for using drugs, aside from peer pressure, is to get “high,” at least in the beginning.  Everyone wants to feel good, and anything that produces good feelings is highly valued in our society, even if the overall long term effects are negative.  As the saying goes, “If it feels good, do it!”  

And making drugs illegal only makes them more desirable for some people, for people often want what they cannot have. This fact makes illegality an incentive for those wanting “forbidden fruit,” especially when the criminal justice system and penal systems have not been effective in preventing drug use.

 

What the Scriptures Say

Therefore, in spite of common assumptions, the Scriptures have much to say about drug abuse that are more significant than merely the legal, mental, or social problems that may arise.    This is what the Apostle Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.  (Ephesians 5:15-21)

Paul’s exhortations give many suggestions for walking in God’s wisdom, including using our time wisely, lifting our moods by praising God instead of getting drunk, and being positive in our outlook by giving thanks to Him.

The negative aspects of dissipation are present also by contrast, including living foolishly or living aimless lives.  Paul’s exhortations mean we should no longer amuse ourselves by spending money on what we don’t need, eating or drinking excessively, or immersing ourselves in sensuality and sensuous pleasures.

It is significant that being “drunk with wine” is pointed out by Paul specifically as being “dissipation.”  When fog or smoke dissipates, it disperses or evaporates and becomes less dense, eventually becoming invisible.  When we live lives of dissipation, we waste our resources, our energy, our time, and our talents, until eventually we have nothing.

Notice also what Jesus said to His disciples:

Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth.  (Luke 21:34-35)

Notice how Jesus, like Paul, links drunkenness with dissipation.   Though the effects may differ, being high on drugs and being drunk both produce dissipation in the user’s life.

The Apostle Paul also warns that drunkenness is a “deed of the flesh,” and he mentions a number of other sinful behaviors which prohibit those who engage in them from inheriting the Kingdom:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (Galatians 5:18-21)

I want to focus on the word “sorcery” in this passage because it links directly with the problems of spiritual warfare.  

 

Sorcery and Hallucinogens

As an undergraduate student at the University of California in Santa Barbara, I was first exposed to the ideas of Carlos Castenada in an Anthropology 101 class.  His book (The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Berkeley: U of California P, 1998) was required reading, and I went through it with astonishment, for it told of Castaneda’s apprenticeship with Don Juan, a shaman, or “man of knowledge” from a group called the Toltecs in Northern Mexico.

Castenada wrote about “Mescalito,” a spirit that inhabits peyote plants, that facilitates divination, and allows the user to fly in the form of an animal.  To different drugs were used to show these powers: peyote and jimsonweed, or datura, also called the “devil’s weed.” Peyote is also a recreational drug because, like LSD, it can cause hallucinations.  Unlike LSD, however, it is a natural plant rather than a manufactured chemical drug making it more acceptable to nature-minded people.

From these descriptions, one can clearly see that hallucinogenic drug use has its foundations in the demonic realms of sorcery. Indeed, the Greek word used in the New Testament for “sorcery” is pharmakeia, the root of the English words for both “pharmaceutical” and “pharmacy.”   

Merely walking into a pharmacy is not like walking into a den of sorcery, however.  The difference between medicinal prescriptions and hallucinogenic drugs is primarily distinguished in the New Testament by the use of this Greek word that we translate “sorcery,” as in Galatians 5:20.   

Essentially, sorcery entails magic, wizardry, enchantment, spells, and other occultic practices, all those listed in Deuteronomy 18:10-12.  However, the use of hallucinogenic drugs is also included, for they are used to control people or induce people to use mind-altering drugs in a search for the divine within, rather than above.  This was essentially the sense of the original temptation in the Garden of Eden: 

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Peter understands that Satan has easier spiritual access to non-sober individuals.  Furthermore, the Apostle Paul writes down a searing message to those who practice “pharmakeia,” that is practicing sorcery by using substances to get high:  “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).  Even an “altered state of consciousness,” not just hallucinations, opens people’s minds to demonic influence, for their ability to think clearly and resist evil is diminished.

Essentially, then, people who get high on drugs will not inherit the kingdom of God, even if it’s only to feel good or relax. Hallucinogenic drugs open the divide between the physical world and the spiritual world, and demonic spirits may enter the user and take as much control as they are allowed.  One who is on hallucinogenic drugs rarely can say no to the demonic influences in their lives, leading to unwitting bondage to the enemy.

These Scriptures remind us that we must be vigilant against the schemes of the Devil, who seeks to ensnare us through deception. We are exhorted to set our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2), not seek for a disguised demonic spirit within who is deceiving us into thinking we ourselves are divine.  This was the temptation of the serpent when it said to Eve, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

 

 

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