Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

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God Bless Papua New Guineans

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Matthew 5:1 – 12

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

                “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…..

These are the opening words to probably the most famous teaching of Jesus, the “Beatitudes”.  Jesus outlines for people of all ages and all ethnic groups the kind of character qualities that are displayed by those who are truly God’s people.  They are humble people and merciful to others.  They keep the peace between people and they demonstrate righteous living.

When these powerful words of Jesus get hold of the hearts of men and women, truly amazing transformations in their lives can and will happen.  Below are excerpts from a newsletter from 2010 of some very good friends of mine who have ministered for many years to a tribal group of people up in a mountainous area of Papua New Guinea.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

We are celebrating the increased level of hunger and thirst for God and his ways in the lives of the people. We witnessed that again recently while we were in the village in June and July. We held a third Scripture Use course, this one on money issues such as compensation demands, tithing, and serving God or wealth.

We were blessed to see the Holy Spirit challenging and convicting through His Word, and to hear the deep discussions with resulting commitments. Some declared their intention to give God a tenth of the money made from selling vanilla, coffee and other cash crops, or to share a tenth of their garden produce with church leaders and those in need. Pray for courage for the people to follow the Lord’s leading in these things.

[Editor’s Note: Almost all rural people of PNG are subsistence garden farmers who slash and burn a section of the jungle each year and grow vegetable plants and tubers (yam, taro, potatoes, etc.)  Most days are usually consumed with trying to find enough food to eat for that day.  So for the people to dedicate their meagre garden crops to God and to offer a 10% tithe of their food to church leaders is beyond incredible.  It is a generosity that comes from knowing the love of God in their hearts.]

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“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

God is at work shining the spotlight of his Word into the lives of these men and women with the resulting conviction of sin. And they are mourning and longing to repent and change. Alfons (not his real name) is one example. During a time of prayer, God brought to his mind the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He was gripped with the drama of the story of this son coming to his spiritual senses and returning to the father who welcomed him back with celebration.

It was a delight to hear Alfons say, “We need to return to God and His ways. He is waiting, waiting for us to welcome us back”. Alfons helped produce an illustrated Bible story of the prodigal son and is eager to use the story book to teach the Truth of repentance and resulting blessing to the people.

[Editor’s Note: There is nothing so piercing as the death wail that goes forth when someone dies in the village.  It is a shocking reminder to us all that death comes to rip apart people from their loved ones.  What is amazing to me here in PNG is that I have witnessed similar wailing when a person becomes convicted of sin and cries out in repentance to God over the sin that separates them from God.  But the Good News is that this death wail of repentance leads to new life with God for this person.]

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“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When God is at work challenging and transforming lives, there is also an increase in spiritual warfare. Those who harden their hearts and refuse to obey often persecute those who are following God wholeheartedly. We see that amongst the people here. Daniub (not his real name), our local preacher, asked us to pray for him before we left the village in July.

He is taking a strong stand in following the Lord, challenging people to give up their dependence on the spirits to help them. For example, many nominal Christians still turn to the spirits to seek healing in times of sickness. Daniub has challenged village leaders on this, and some are not happy. Pray for him and other bold Christian leaders as they lead in truth and love.

[Editor’s Note: One of the hardest aspects of our work in bringing the people of PNG into a deep personal walk with Jesus is the wide spread syncretism here.  Although there has been a lot of mission work done in PNG over the past 150 years, Christianity is more of a veneer that coats the surface of their lives, while underneath many of them are still heavily steeped in the practices of animism.

For all who read this article, I ask you to pray for the people of Papua New Guinea, that they would not see Christianity as one more form of magical rituals to perform in order to be safe from the evil spirits that surround them.  Pray that the people will give their hearts to Jesus and let the Truth of God free them from their bondage to sin and to the lies of Satan.]

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Satan’s Attack On New Believers

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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  Blinded Unbelievers

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Maybe your story is like mine. I became a believer as a teenager, but nobody taught me to be a disciple of Christ. My church told me what I needed to do (like read the Bible, pray, and witness), but it did not show me how. Nobody told me how to walk in truth, righteousness, and faith (see Eph. 6:11-17). As a result, I lived a defeated Christian life for far too many years.

The enemy aims his arrows at young believers who have not been discipled. He strikes them with doubt and discouragement. Sometimes he hits them with loneliness, as they move away from their non-Christian friends and try to fit into a church that is unfamiliar to them. At other times, he lures them with the same temptations they faced as non-believers. Whatever his strategy may be, he wants to strike at new believers before they are solidly planted in the Church.

This issue is related to prayer in at least two ways. First, many new believers are never taught how to pray. What they are told to do, they are not taught to do—and the result is a frustrated believer who longs to pray but does not know how. The enemy thus wins when the new believer gives up trying. This failure to disciple is, in my estimation, a primary cause of prayerlessness in the Church today.

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Second, undiscipled believers often live defeated, sinful lives that hinder praying in the first place. Both Isaiah and the psalmist (Isa. 59:1-2, Ps. 66:18) knew that God chooses not to respond to the prayers of those who live in sin. It is the fervent prayer of a righteous man that makes a difference (Jas. 5:16), not the prayers of one living in unrighteousness.

How, though, does a new believer know how to stand for righteousness and fight against temptation unless the Church teaches him? An undiscipled believer may realize that his praying is ineffective, yet not know enough to understand why—and he gives up on the power of prayer. The enemy again wins.

A brief summary is in order here. The enemy seeks to keep unbelievers blinded to the gospel, thus holding them in bondage. He further schemes against believers, striving to discourage and defeat them so their faith is weakened and their prayers are ineffective. Powerless, prayerless believers make little difference in the war inherent in evangelism.

–Adapted from Chapter 69 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (Strategic Prayer for God’s Mission and Missionaries by Mike Barnett).

Posted 30 Oct 2011

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This devotional thought strikes home and pierces me more than I would like for it to do.  It is true what was said above that many of us have been told what it is we are to do as Christians, but I dare say that few of us have had vibrant Christianity lived out in front of us so that we learn by modeling our lives after those who have and exude this kind of living faith.

As I was being drawn to God as a teenager, I was attending a church where there were excellent sermons preached every Sunday.  I still remember vividly how I would go to the preacher each Sunday after the sermon and ask plenty of questions as I sought out to know if the Bible was true or not.  It took over six months of dialoguing with different preachers before I came to fully believe and accept the Gospel message as truth, and was baptized into Christ.

But in spite of the fact that we had excellent sermons, I can’t remember seeing many of the believers live out their faith in such ways that I could model my faith after theirs.  I went down the path that many new Christians went, which was to major in intellectual Bible knowledge and minor in practical daily Christian disciplines and habits.

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That was when I was a child.  When I became a father, I had greater hopes of being able to be a good role model for my children.  I did have the tremendous honor of baptizing both of my sons, and I think that says a lot about how Jill and I were able to pass on our faith to the next generation.  And yet I know that there were also many lost opportunities to teach and to live out our faith in front of their eyes.

The key for me to actually believe that I had done a decent job in raising our sons in the Faith, came when I realized the meaning of the phrase, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  Translating Romans 1:17 this way hindered me as I would think “I’m not a righteous man, and in fact no one can claim to be righteous people seeing as we are all sinners.

But you can translate this as “The one who does the things that God says are right to do, that person will experience real life (eternal life) as a result of their faith.”  And I can live with this a whole lot better.  When I publicly declared that Christ was my Lord and Savior, salvation became mine, as well as the ability to discern from God and His Word what behaviors would be pleasing and have the inner strength to do all that God would want me to do.

And so as I look at the faith that both of my sons have at this time, I know in my heart that we taught them well.  But more than that, with our mission work, we lived out our faith and were constantly praying for and showing the boys how important it is to ask God what the right thing to do is.  And with our attention focusing like this on God, there was not any room for Satan to launch a successful attack against the faith of us all within our family.  And for all that, I say “Praise the Lord!”

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A Hunger For God

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Everyone knows that the human body needs food and water to survive.  And the body has its own natural ways to signal us that it is in need of sustenance.  You know what I am referring to: the stomach growls, the throat is parched, and we feel weak and light-headed. And just like the physical body needs physical nourishment, so also our spirits need spiritual nourishment.

Actually, it is not quite as straightforward or simple as that. We do not stay healthy by simply eating any foods, but rather, we must have balanced or healthy meals for our bodies to be healthy. In the same way, we must be concerned about what we feed our souls, making good choices regarding what we say “yes” and what we say “no” to in our lives.

Consider what is written in this devotion which comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Relentless Pursuit

It is no accident that one of the great spiritual disciplines of the Church is to fast. When we fast, we become acutely aware of our physical hunger. That physical hunger can lead to a spiritual hunger as well. Christians today are returning to fasting and prayer as a means of waking us up to our great need for the presence of God. It may be that we will need to fast from other things than food in order to restore our spiritual hunger.

There may need to be a slowing of our hectic lifestyles that are crowding out our time with the Father. We may need to fast from some forms of entertainment to devote time to seeking the Lord. Those heavily involved in ministry may need to say “no” to that which is good, in order to seek that which is best. We may even need to reevaluate our family schedules.

Tommy Tenney, in his devotional, Experiencing His Presence; Devotions for God Chasers, prays a prayer that we all may need to use daily to build our hunger for God:

“Lord Jesus, my soul aches at the mere mention of Your name. My heart leaps for every rumor of Your coming, and each possibility that You will manifest Your presence. I’m not satisfied with mere spiritual dainties. I’m ravenously hungry for You in Your fullness. I’m desperate to feast on the bread of Your presence and quench my thirst with the wine of Your Spirit.”

May hungering and thirsting for God drive us to a passionate, relentless pursuit of Him.

–Taken from the article Hungering and Thirsting for God by Dave Butts.        Posted 21 Aug 2011

The idea of fasting from physical food in order to be able to concentrate one’s attention upon God is not a new idea. It is a very biblical idea. In fact, this practice of abstaining from food in order to commune with God goes back at least as far as to the time of Moses. While receiving the commandments from God on Mount Sinai, Moses very likely went without food or water for 40 days.

It is possible that the reason Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before he began his ministry was that it was meant to be a parallel to Moses. Both Moses and Jesus had been sent by God to declare the truths of God to the people and to form a new people for God. If that is the case, we must consider a 40 day fast to be the limit for these two very unique and specially called men of God.

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There is not enough room in this short article to go into detail about the biblical practice of fasting. But let me just say this one thing that I feel does need to be mentioned. You may recall in the book of Matthew that Jesus does refer to fasting in his famous “Sermon on the Mount”. What is most interesting in Matthew 6:16 – 18, is that Jesus did not say “if you fast…” He said, “When you fast…”

Now I wish that I could say that I have been able to develop the spiritual discipline of fasting from food so that I could then devote more time to communing with God. And perhaps I may still be able to achieve that. One of the reasons that fasting has been very difficult for me to consider is that during my teen years and 20s, I struggled with hypoglycemia. God has cured me from that (and you can read about the story here) but I still have to watch my eating habits carefully.

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But take a look again at what is suggested in the devotional reading above. There are many other things that we can “fast” from. There may be other areas of our lives that are controlling us too much, or at least are diverting our attention away from God more than they ought to. I would challenge all of us to examine our lives  to see where this would be true.

Pray to God about this, and you may be surprised at what God reveals about your life and what He might ask you to give up and give over to Him. I was very proud of my son who told me at one point that he felt his Xbox was controlling him too much, and he put it away for over a week. I’ve heard of others who will go on a “fasting” period from Facebook.

These are just a couple of examples to consider. So how about you? After praying, has God shown you one area perhaps that you may need to take a “break” from? You may think that this would be too difficult to do. But I believe that if God has shown you an area of your life to give over to Him, He will also give you the strength to be able to do so. May God bless you richly in your hunger and pursuit after God.

And The Angels Rejoiced

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A “Hevi” Moment Turns Hearts to God

I just recently came across an article that we had written sometime after the first year of our time living in a remote village in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.  The vast majority of Papuans consider themselves to be Christians, based on the fact they had been baptized in infancy, and they were able to confess their sins once a year when a priest came around.

For the rest of each year, the people mostly revert back to their animistic roots.  They are afraid of evil spirits, and would like to find out how they can harness the spiritual forces of all the spirits and spiritual forces that surround them so that they can use these powers to be beneficial for themselves.

So there is a surface veneer of Christianity, while there is a deeper core belief in the power of the animistic forces that surround them every day.  This is the backdrop against an event that happened in our village.  Here is the story….

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When an unexpected or unhappy event happens in the village it is called a “hevi” (heavy).  During an afternoon meeting we heard “wanpela pikinini em i dai” which translated says, “one little child has died!”  (An important bit of language learning here, the pidgin word “dai” by itself meant to faint or be unconscious.)

John brought his son, Nika, to our PBT house and we had prayer for him. (Names changed for privacy sake.)  John was convinced that the illness was brought on by the workings of black magic.  Jill went to the clinic to ask the doctors their opinion and the word was that Nika had cerebral malaria.  With the amount of seizures he had, they were not very optimistic about the outcome.

The next day, word came that Nika had “dai finis” (died completely).  But John couldn’t find a way to deal with this sudden death of his son.  He was convinced that an old man of our village was a “sanguma man” (sorcerer) and had worked black magic which caused not only the illness but also the death.  When the old man heard the accusation, he fled into the jungle afraid that John would now seek to kill him in return.  But I sent word to the old man to come to see me, and let me talk to him.

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I also sent word out so that many PBT people and friends would pray for both of these families, and for wisdom for all the leadership of the village.  The old man did come back and they all marked Sunday afternoon to have a village meeting.  The local council leaders would come and hear the “evidence” as John would set out to prove that black magic was used to kill his son.

I was invited to attend the meeting.  After listening to all the arguments, I then added my thoughts about how the child had been under our care, was on the mission property (which they considered to be God’s territory) when he had actually died the week earlier, and had also been covered by the prayers of many people.  I presented the thought that the child was in God’s hands before he died and that no force of this world could “cause” the death.

The meeting broke out into a heated argument from both sides.  And even though I tried to help them see what Scripture has to say about the power of God and the power of prayer being more powerful than any spiritual force of this world, John refused to change his opinion about the old man.  This had gone on for a few hours, and no final conclusions were made.  I was quite upset with how things had turned out.

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So all the discussions stopped and since they couldn’t come to an agreement on the case, it would then have to go to the provincial court.  This would not be good for anyone, and our village would be marked as one that has a history of black magic trouble.  The meeting broke up, but then the women began to bring food out for everyone.  (This is the normal way to show hospitality after any kind of meeting.)

I felt emotionally sick about the whole meeting….so I just handed my food to one of the men and said, “I’m too upset to eat,” and I came home.  Now in this culture, it is a major insult to refuse food.  However, it also shows that someone is “bel hevi” (heavy-hearted) when they do not accept the gift of food being offered.

And so I left the meeting, and crossed the shallow stream to go to my house, and I was so upset that I stomped back and forth around my house feeling frustrated at the whole affair.  But about 15 minutes later, two council members came by and said they wanted to talk to me.  I came out and they said, “It’s a miracle!  They’ve shaken hands!”

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Since “shaking hands” is a cultural way of saying that someone has forgiven wrongs done to them by someone else, I was absolutely amazed.  So I asked them to repeat what they had said, thinking that I had missed something in the language.  But both these council members could speak English too, and they said in very plain English, “It’s all settled.  God has brought us a miracle.”

And in a state of disbelief, I asked how this miracle came about.  And one village elder said, “Well, didn’t you say you and many of your PBT friends were praying?”  I said “Yes.”  And he responded, “Well, God answered those prayers.”  And that was good enough for him, and it also was good enough for me.

And just as we were speaking, we heard the sound of singing.  It was a group from the church that had come back from a village hike and they were singing and praising God for their safe return to our village.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  It reminded me of Luke 15:10 about the angels rejoicing whenever a sinner repents.  I wish I could have peeked into heaven at that moment.  But I have a sense that yes indeed, the angels were rejoicing that day.

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Our Battles With Satan – Part 2

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How To Do Battle With Satan

My article two weeks ago ended with the words, “Engage in battle against our true enemy – Satan.”  We don’t often talk this way to one another, but we must realize that we are in fact in the middle of a spiritual war.  Mark Atteberry in his book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” says this on page 57:

His goal for the last two thousand years has been twofold: to keep unbelievers right where they are and to destroy the faith of believers.  Therefore, every grave you see along the hard road you happen to be traveling represents a victory for him.  Every time a believer gives up the struggle, Satan laughs and thumbs his nose at God.

Personally, I find it distressing when I hear of Christians in North America not taking Satan seriously.  For some, the idea of Satan has been watered down to see him as a funny cartoon figure in a red suit, pointed tail and pitchfork that has him be just a nuisance or a little voice in the ear whispering to people to show them how they can have more “fun”.

For others, Satan is not even real at all.  Either the “love of God” is emphasized which makes them rule out the idea of the existence of an evil Being, or the physical materialism of our culture has masked over the reality of the spiritual realm.  Sometimes Christians actually play around with the spiritual realm, but they don’t know that they are playing with fire.  Let me tell you a story.

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Many years ago, when I was going to Youth Group, we went to another city for a youth conference.  Our group shared the basement of a church with another group.  On one of the afternoons, I was back at this church with some of the other youth and they decided the conference was boring and they wanted to have some fun.  So one guy turned to a girl and asked if she wanted to black out again.

When I heard that, I was immediately concerned.  But the guy said, “Don’t worry, we’ve done this lots of times.  It’s fun!”  So the girl (who was probably only 5′ 3″ and weighed maybe 110 lbs) started to breathe real fast and hyperventilate.  Her face turned red and then she held her breath.  The guy then picked her up and squeezed her real hard until she blacked out and her body went completely limp.

The girl was eased on to the floor and the group waited.  Slowly the girl got up and opened her eyes and her eye balls had turned back into the sockets so all we could see were the whites of her eyes.  Then suddenly she started to lash out and punch the guys while they tried to hold her.  I was shocked and dumbfounded as I saw this petite girl fight off five guys that were so much bigger than her.  Then she finally slumped down semi-conscious and we waited….and waited….and waited.

The guy who had begun this started to get nervous, and I asked how long she had ever been like this before.  He said the longest was about 6 or 7 minutes.  This time it took over 15 minutes for her to come back to her normal conscious self.  Now I don’t know what others might think.  The group thought it was real funny (after she finally recovered).  But from what I had witnessed, I believe that I may have witnessed a person open themselves up to demon possession.  And that is NOT funny.

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What does our author have to say to all of this.  How are we to do battle against our enemy, Satan.  Atteberry says there are four things that we can do to “confound and frustrate the devil’s efforts to destroy you” (pg. 59-63):

  • First, you can take control of your thought life.
Paul makes it quite clear in 2 Corinthians 10:4 – 5 that our battles are primarily in the spiritual realm, and that includes our thought life.  He says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
  • Second, stay in fellowship with other people who are actively resisting the devil.
Regular fellowship with other strong believers is critical to our spiritual health.  Hebrews 10:24 – 25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
  • Third, if you’re serious about resisting the devil, pray like crazy.
Ephesians 6:10 – 17 is the well-known passage about the “Armor of God” that we are to put on if we are going to fight the spiritual realms of darkness.  But verse 18 really needs to be attached to this passage, and note what we must do in addition to wearing and using the armor of God, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
  • Finally, if you’re serious about resisting the devil, always run from trouble.
Running away from situations that we know in advance may cause us to stumble or be tempted to do something wrong is not a weakness.  Actually it is the sign of a strong person to know your areas of weakness and avoid them rather than to test or tempt yourself.

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There is so much more that needs to be said on this topic of the reality of Satan and our need to do battle with him on the spiritual level.  The most important thing in our study together here is to keep on keeping on the journey of faith, no matter how difficult it may seem at times.  Do not let Satan fool you into thinking that he can have the victory over you.  In Christ, we are always victorious in the end.

Our Battles With Satan – Part 1

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We Have an Enemy!  His Name is Satan!

We continue along now on our book study of “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel.”  We are going to look at chapter five this month, “Step Over the Dead and Keep Going.”  This may sound a bit gruesome, but in this chapter we need to come to grips with the reality that as Christians, we are engaged in spiritual warfare over the destiny of human souls.

We are in a battle, and that being the case, there will always be some casualties.  Unfortunately, there are also going to be some fatalities as those who had once considered themselves the people of God, who once had faith in Him, for one reason or another they lose heart, turn their back on God and die a spiritual death in addition to their natural physical death.

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Throughout this book, Mark Atteberry retells some of the history of the 40 years that the Israelite people spent wandering around the wilderness.  They were the inheritors of the promises made by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  They had witnessed firsthand the awesome power of their redeeming God as He brought them out of Egypt.  They were formed into the people of God at Mount Sinai, and had been sanctified by the blood of that first covenant.

In spite of all this, the people rebelled and would not put their trust in God, for they feared what they considered to be the hard road to victory to obtain the blessings of the promised land.  And because they had turned their backs on God, He in turn removed His hand of blessing and protection and condemned a whole generation to die in the desert.

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Atteberry uses this story as a backdrop to drive home an important spiritual truth in this chapter.  Satan is constantly watching for these critical moments when our faith is challenged by a hard road experience and he comes in for the kill to snatch us away from God.  It is quite sobering to read what he writes on page 57:

Just as surely as those Israelites died in the wilderness, many believers will die spiritually on the hard roads of our modern world.  Yes, many will make it through and end up stronger and better people.  That’s the whole point of this book.  But along every hard road you’ll see the spiritual graves of those who fell along the way.

You’ll see the grave of the man in extreme financial bondage who decided to compromise his integrity to make some fast money.

You’ll see the grave of the unhappily married woman who decided to go home with a man who was not her husband.

You’ll see the grave of the cancer patient who decided that God was the culprit rather than the answer.

Simply put, whenever despair swallows up the last vestige of hope, causing a hurting soul to surrender to the devil, a new spiritual grave will be dug.

Satan’s Realm of Hell Fire

I am certain that everyone who reads this can think of people who used to be so passionate about knowing, loving and serving God, but then some crisis hits them which overwhelms them to the point that they give up on faith and hope and turn their backs against God.  The danger that lurks here for us who still believe in Christ is that we can see these people who have died spiritually and we let this discourage us in our own faith.

We don’t realize just how susceptible we are to the influences of negative people and events around us.  We’ve seen people get divorced whom we thought were solid Christians and we wonder if our marriage is secure.  We hear of a church being split apart by dissension, and then when we see problems creeping up in our church, we start predicting what disaster is looming on the horizon for our congregation.

But Atteberry anticipated these negative thoughts near the end of chapter five and he gives us two profound pieces of advice.  He says on pages 65-68 that we must not let the “graves” of others who have spiritually died deceive us or demoralize us into thinking that none of us can survive the many challenges that our faith will encounter in this life.  We should be looking at those who are victorious, and not those who have been defeated.

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Two outstanding examples of people who have overcome in this world by their faith is Corrie ten Boom, and Joni Eareckson Tada.  Corrie survived the horrors of a German concentration camp where thousands of others were slaughtered.  The faith of her sister Betsie (who died in the camp) helped to fuel Corrie’s faith as she adopter her sister’s famous words, “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Joni on the other hand fought an inner battle, not an external enemy like Corrie, as she tried to come to grips with a diving accident at the age of 17 which left her paralyzed from the neck down.  It was a difficult journey for Joni, but her anger against God was re-molded into a deep appreciation for the love and grace of God to all who give their lives over to Him.  She has traveled around the globe to speak of God’s love, and she has not let her physical handicap restrict her from impacting thousands of people for Christ by her love for people and her faith in God.

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There is so much more I could say about these giants of the faith, but there is not enough room here.  I would encourage you to read their life stories like “The Hiding Place” which is about Corrie, and then for the other, “Joni: An Unforgettable Story“.  If these or other great Christian books interest you, you can check out my ideas of how I can help you obtain them in my article “Great Christian Resources“.

The secret, I believe, is to keep our eyes lifted up to Jesus, and not cast down on to our difficulties and hard road experiences.  And also to engage in battle against our true enemy – Satan.  We will talk much more about that in two weeks.

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