Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Be Strong

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT) 

In this battle we are not able to stand on our own.  In this intense war we are to engage the enemy, but with the power and armor of God.  

The dark forces are intent on distracting the followers of Jesus from their life in Him.  This is darkness that hates the light and will do whatever it takes to destroy those who walk in the light.  The Apostle Paul says we are engaged in a real battle.  Billy Graham points out that instead of the battle with the evil ones being mythical it was real and was increasing at the end of the 20th century. 

Demonic activity and Satan worship are on the increase in all parts of the world. The devil is alive and more at work now than at any other time. The Bible says that since he realizes that his time is short (Revelation 12:12) his activity will increase.  (Billy Graham, Angels All Around, Decision, December 1996, 3)

Be Aware

In a world where human technology and cleverness rules a spiritual battle with evil spirits seems remote, medieval and ancient.  But what if it were right on our doorstep?  Here are a couple of recent Mayes County Oklahoma cases.

The Case of the Agitated Spirit

Demons often camouflage themselves.  Usually the plan is to come in without being noticed and do the work of spiritual sabotage.  But there are times when in a move to distract and destroy the dark ones reveal themselves or their work in one way or another.  This is a case of an agitated spirit.  

It has to do with a young man who was at the point of deciding on a direction in life.  Some bad decisions had led to dealings with the law which he found distasteful.  Thinking about his situation he decided to move in a new direction.  The Bible gave him hope that a new way was possible.  As he explored pursuing Jesus and began attending church he also had visits of a most disturbing type.
A devilish spirit attached on to this young man.  Going after Jesus was not acceptable to the dark ones so the attacks began.  Whisperings from the dark side came to this new seeker of truth.   Temptations to go back to the old ways kept coming, but with greater and greater intensity.  Demons can adjust the atmosphere in a room so that feelings of a presence is noticed or the air gets heavy and maybe cold.  This young man was trying to go into a room he considered safe, but found it to be foul and uncomfortable.  He kept seeking the Lord, and didn’t know what to do with what was happening to him.  

Afraid of what people might think of him he risked talking to a pastor and then another and then another about what was going on.  He said the counsel he received was to read the Bible, pray and come to church, but he didn’t think they really knew what he was talking about or what to do about it.  

Unfortunately, although the Bible is clear about the issue of the demonic it is something most pastors are not trained nor experienced in.  In Jesus training of the disciples proclaiming the Kingdom of God and casting out demons went together.  We in our day may need to train better.  

Going home after work the young man would find things moved and tossed around in his room.  His parents weren’t responsible and no one else had been in his room.  The agitated spirit was taking this to a physical level. For the young man it was overwhelming.  He was trying to go to school and work and figure out his life and this darkness just kept him in fear, confusion, doubt, and down.  

During a very cold period of winter he gave up sleeping in his room and went out to his truck.  He couldn’t rest well as you can imagine.  He shared some of his story with a friend at school at which point I was contacted to see if I could help.  We met and started a process of counseling with him and spiritual training for the battle he was in.  He found relief from the agitated spirit by the power of Jesus. 

The Case of the Unsettling Spirit

Our enemy has an objective to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  The methods are many.  In the case of the unsettling spirit it is a matter of keeping peace at a distance and distracting with strange occurrences which can disturb a family.  All of that is designed by the dark forces to create as many barriers as they can to people coming to and growing in Christ.  

The occurrences were knocking when no one was there, hearing footsteps walking and no one was there to make them, changes in atmosphere, appearances of people or forms who were not physical among others.  These were witnessed by young and old, by a person alone or with others.  The usual steps were taken to investigate and look for normal reasons these things happened.  After exhausting the normal approaches a look at the supernatural came into view.  

After some counseling and some direction in prayer steps were taken to deal with the dark spirit or spirits involved.  A reprieve was found.  But after a time a recurrence took place.  

Not all dark spirits stay away after being dealt with in God’s power.  They sometimes return just because they had a hold there, but at times something is done that draws them back.  And they are always looking for opportunities to unsettle anything good the Lord is doing.  Got to watch for them, and keep up the battle.  

These are recent cases, but it was another shared with me this week that brought to mind the need to remind you to be ready. 

Be Ready

This battle with the evil one began with Adam and Eve and will continue till Jesus puts Satan in the Lake of Fire so we must be ready.  Ready for the deception, the dark powers, the destruction the enemy brings.  Like a warrior getting ready for battle or an athlete training for a competition learn, practice, and excel at God’s ways of winning in spiritual warfare.  Here are some ways to prepare. 

Know the Ultimate Power Lies in Christ

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 (NASB)  The devil is at work, but Jesus has come and He is here to destroy the works of the devil.  The Lord intends to use us in this process which is why we need to be ready.  

Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 (NASB)  The power we have received in the Holy Spirit given to us by Christ gives us victory because He is greater.  

Dig into the Scripture and find more and more about who Christ is and what He can do.  Don’t be afraid to read theology books that deal with the nature of Jesus or the work of the cross.  This is so much better than superficial superstitions that assume something, but have no foundation in truth.  Study deeply, drink deeply at the well of Christology.  He is greater go find out why. 

Show the Devil that Your Allegiance Belongs to God

When a Christian just goes through some religious motions and still does things their own way the devil doesn’t get the idea that God is all that important to that person.  But when a believer intentionally gets close to God that lets the devil know who is really important to that person.  Look at this:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. James 4:7-8 (NLT)

Practice getting close to God.  This is a relationship that calls for love, respect, and real conversation.  The devil knows he can’t take on God directly and when you are there with Him the devil has to go.  Build your relationship with God.  Daily spend time with Him learning, connecting, talking, listening, and letting Him work in you.  Set aside times for extended time with the Lord.  You get some on Sundays with church and maybe with a small group Bible study during the week, but add to that a time during the month or a few times a year when you focus on Him for a number of hours or days. 

The enemy won’t like that you are getting close to God and will do what he can to keep you from it.  During a retreat for an extended time with God an enemy agent came into my cabin in the night in order to distract, frighten or destroy the time with God.  With God’s power I stood against him and he left.  The enemy will come for you, but resist him and get close to God and the devil will leave. 

Be Trained

There is a lot more that could be said on this topic and much has been said in the Scriptures as well as books along these lines.  Do some work on this.  Be trained.  Find a mentor knowledgeable, skilled, and experienced and ask to be trained.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 and the description there is of battle gear.  It is important to learn what the gear is for and to learn how and when to use it.  

Recent missionary story: 

After a few months on “our” mission field—a post-communist, dead, atheistic region—my family and I were reeling from shock. No, not culture-shock, though there was plenty of that. It was the shock of coming face to face with demonic forces beyond our comprehension.

Numerous strange events transpired: liters of urine poured into our stroller, blood splattered on our apartment door, a small hole drilled into our front door indicating a planned break-in (the hole is used to insert a small probe camera), much sickness, poor sleep, and even sensing an evil presence in our bedroom. At first we thought we must be imagining things, but the horrid climax was the nightmares that tormented our 2-year old son. For many months he'd wake up screaming bloody murder, and we could not easily settle him back down. At two and a half, he was finally able to verbalize what he'd been dreaming about for the past few months. One of his most vivid dreams was about a woman with black hair and red eyes who wore only a bra and black pants and would offer him a basket of rotten fruit and force him to eat. His nightmare was X-rated, not a typical toddler-being-chased-by-a-bear dream.

Satan was not playing fair. Now the shock turned to anger. I scanned the recesses of my brain. What had seminary taught me about demonic activity? I couldn't recall any class where we had discussed anything remotely similar to what we were experiencing. “Demonology 101” wasn't even offered! 

Because we were so overwhelmed with our situation, we needed help. We called our teammates to come pray with us. While our son was asleep, we prayed at his bedroom windows, that God would not allow any evil to enter into his room and that he would sleep peacefully. The next morning, I asked him, “Did you have a nightmare last night?” His toddler answer was flabbergasting: “Yes, but this time the woman was outside my window, and she couldn't come in.”
-Eowyn Stoddard 

Be trained.  

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)


The battle with demons for followers of Jesus is real.  It is here.  It is coming.  We are to be involved.  We are to pray asking God the Father to “keep us from evil.”  The evil one is desperate to take you and me down.  Be strong, be aware, be ready, be trained and in Jesus we will overcome.  


Friday, February 19, 2016



In a God story the focus is on God.  Sure.  Simple.  It is so obvious why bring it up?  You know the human tendency to up talk ourselves and insert unnecessary elements while sometimes downplaying the place or role of the Almighty God.  Focusing on God in a God story may take some effort in order to rightly honor Him.  Interested?

Observe John’s telling of his journey to heaven.  Look for how he tells this story.  Read through it and we will review it afterwards.  

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. 

Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal. In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” 

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,
“You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” Revelation 4:1-11 (NLT)

John’s God Story

A Goal of Honoring God is Present

The conclusion “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power” is woven in the whole of the story.  God is worthy and John wants Him to be central and not focus on his own feelings or questions or experiences or observations.  He has a goal and it is to honor God. 

A Personal Testimony to God is Involved

John tells his experience with God as it was.  What John witnessed he tells.  This isn’t a second-hand retelling (though there is a place for such stories, this is a personal God story).  He uses “I” to let us know what he experienced, but not to point to himself.  

A personal testimony to God is a powerful thing.  In Revelation 12:11 it is included as part of a trio that overcomes Satan.  In Acts 1:8 the disciples are told they will be witnesses to Jesus among all sorts of people in the world when the power of the Holy Spirit comes on them.  John is sharing what God invited Him to experience and to make known.  You have an opportunity to share what God has invited you to experience.  In the power of the Holy Spirit as you tell your God story you honor Him and overcome the enemy. 

A Story Free of Bunny Trails is Told

Have you heard a story told which could have gotten to the point with beauty and simplicity, but was complicated with layers of excursions which I am referring to as “bunny trails?”  Bunny trails are tangents the story teller finds interesting but don’t enhance the story or move it forward. 

John was in heaven in the presence of the Almighty and surrounded by amazing sights, sounds, feelings, aromas.  If anyone ever was in a position to start telling stories about all he experienced this would be a great time, but John stayed on track.  He tells this story in 341 words. 

Write Your God Story Down

That sounds like a waste of time since you already know your own story, right?  It will help to write it down so that you can see how it flows and where it goes. 

Look for words that don’t communicate well and find others.  See if you have enough detail in the telling so that others can understand what is going on.  See if you really make the point that is on your heart.  If you are comfortable with it have someone else look it over and give you some feedback.  Work with your written copy until you are satisfied it says what needs to be said and it honors the Lord. 

Practice Telling Your Story

You may have told your God story over and over, but with the process of shining it up it may be a little different.  Practice by reading through it as you wrote it.  Do that until you are comfortable with the way the story flows and where it goes.  

Practice telling your story without notes.  It doesn’t have to be exactly like your written copy, but it should keep the essential elements and reach the right objective.  Time yourself and see if you can tell your God story in 5 minutes going at an easy natural pace. 

Pray Over Your God Story

You have a powerful tool in your toolbox as a result of getting your story ready.  Pray and ask God to point out anything you may need to add or remove.  Ask Him to give you boldness as you tell your story.  Ask Him to use your story for His honor and glory. 

You Are Ready to Share Your God Story

At a moment’s notice you can now pull out a polished story to point to God.  If you have a chance to share with a stranger in a quick meeting, you have something wonderful to say.  If an opportunity comes up to tell about your great God at a public meeting you can join in the concert of praise. 

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.   Malachi 3:16 (NLT)

I am excited to hear your God stories.