My mom suddenly got sick a few years ago with a terrible stomach pain while teaching our children’s Sunday school class. Two of the kids came running to my office, where I was having a conversation with our Sunday school director about some stuff, yelling, “Pastor Jeff! Pastor Jeff! Miss Donna is sick! She needs you to pray for her now!” All three of us ran back over to the classroom together and when we entered the room, I quickly pulled them back out and told them to go to the older kid’s class for today. My mom wasn’t sick with a physical pain. She was being attacked by a spirit of infirmity. How did I know? Because the moment I walked into the room, my stomach began to hurt, too. As soon as the kids were out of the room, I began to pray- not for healing- taking authority over the room.
I announced my presence in the room, as a Son of God, as pastor of the church, and as someone washed in the Blood of Jesus, presented Holy, blameless, and above reproach (Colossians 1:22). After I established myself as the one with authority in the room that the spirit had to obey I began to speak directly to the spirit, “I bind you with the authority from the Blood of Jesus. You are no longer allowed to manifest in this room…” At that point, I shifted my prayer towards Heaven, “God, I call on 2 angels to enter this room right now and remove the spirit. Holy Spirit come in and turn this pain in our stomachs into peace. Angels, change the atmosphere.” As soon as I said this, both of our stomachs made groaning sounds! My mom’s head instantly popped off the table as she said, “That was weird. My stomach just flipped and actually made noise, as if in response to your prayer.”
“I know, mine did too,” I replied. I went back into prayer, “In the name of Jesus, I command our stomachs to no longer hurt. Peace, right now. Angels, touch our stomachs with the peace of Heaven. Holy Spirit, bring peace.” Suddenly, my stomach became very hot, as if it were boiling inside. My mom lifted her head again and said, “My stomach is really hot!” I asked her if it was comfortable (because I definitely did not enjoy the heat), to which she replied, “No, this is terrible.” So I returned to prayer, “Holy Spirit, I want to thank you for the change, but this heat seems to make everything worse. Would you please change this to a cool sensation?” Instantly, our stomachs both felt as if someone had put ice cubes inside them. It was an incredible sensation, and a wild experience.
You see, I had never prayed this way before that day. It was a first for me. I did not know it would result in the way it did. I did not know I could pray like that. But I had recently read Hebrews 1:14, which basically says Angels are sent to serve us. So I called on angels to see what would happen. And then I called on Holy Spirit to heal. Once He began to manifest healing, all I did was guide Him in a way I preferred. I didn’t tell Holy Spirit what to do. I wasn’t giving Him orders. I am well aware that He knew everything I was feeling and everything that I was about to say. I believe He was showing me how much He wants to partner with us, as well as how much He values our voice and input. He was encouraging me to use the authority we have all been given.
We know Jesus had all authority over the enemy, and still does (there are multiple places that tell us He gave His disciples authority and power over the enemy- Mark 6, Matthew 10, Luke 10- as well as the many examples where Jesus cast out demons and spirits (Matthew 8, Mark 1, Matthew 12 to name a few). In John 14:30, Jesus said Satan had no hold on him, “…the ruler of this world is coming and has no hold on me.” My friend Robby wrote, “We need to realize that if Christ is in us, then the enemy has nothing in us…” If Christ is in you, then you are filled with Him. If you are filled with Christ, if you are hidden in Christ with God, then Satan has no place or right to mess with you. Demons and spirits can only go where we give them permission to go. Now, I will say that they push the limits, and don’t ever ask permission. I have found that they simply attack us, and wait to see if we shut them down. If we do, they obey. If we allow them to stay, they continue to attack, piling on more and more. We have the ability to dictate to the spirits and demons that attack us daily, and when you forbid them from doing something, they must obey.
So friends, I want to encourage you today to use the authority God has given to you. God wants to partner with you, to help you, to reinforce you. He won’t let you down and He won’t hold back. I have found that when I step out, Holy Spirit moves because He wants to encourage me to do more. I hope this encourages you to do more. Bless you…
Do you ever struggle like I do?
Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed. It could be for a lot of reasons: people, money, time, circumstances. Stuff happens… and with that, we all struggle with our feelings and emotions. The world is so good at getting us to shift our focus off of God. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself looking at others and wanting to defend yourself. Or maybe you defend others who can’t defend themselves… I know quite a few people who are excellent defenders, people who seem to be called to fight for others, to speak up and defend the helpless.
In Revelation 2, Jesus counseled the church of Ephesus to go back to their first love, because they had gotten consumed with behavior, enduring hardships, and working hard for God. As good as those things sound, Jesus still held them accountable to a lack of love. They were doing everything right, but for the wrong reasons.
Defending the helpless is a very good thing. As a matter of fact, James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Obviously, helping people who are distressed is something God wants from us. This is the only religion that God actually accepts. I have heard a lot of people say that Jesus hates religion. That isn’t true, because He clearly accepts this- when we take care of the helpless and guard ourselves, not allowing the world around us to corrupt us. But to the point, the actions alone aren’t what God wants. The Church of Ephesus did this well. They were consumed with behavior, not compromising their bodies with the world, to the point they endured incredible hardships for God. But they didn’t understand the “why” behind their actions.
To God, the “why” is far more important that the “what.” After all, God judges the hearts of men, not their actions (1 Samuel 16:7). We must realize that we can do all the right things, never sin, never get hurt, never offend, never stumble, never lose patience or hope, never lack forgiveness, never be selfish… and still be completely wrong in God’s sight. Don’t believe me? Ask Saul, I mean Paul. Paul went as far as to say,
“Though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
Paul understood that it wasn’t about behavior, about doing it right all the time. It is always about your heart. God actually cares more about why you doing something than He does about what you do. The moment that we all understand this truth, the sooner we can actually walk like Him (like we were told to do multiple times in our Bible) and not simply attempt to look like we walk like Him. For many years, I was consumed with the appearance of walking a certain way. I was always worried about my behavior and reputation, as well as whether or not God was pleased with me. Why is that a problem, you may ask? Because it ignores the fact that Faith is what pleases God, not behavior. God is not concerned with what I do. God is concerned with why I do it.
Sometimes I get upset, overwhelmed, or disappointed with people. I let those things outweigh Grace. Instead of seeing through people’s actions and extending grace towards them for what they do, I allow their “what” to affect my actions. Thank goodness we have a book that shares God’s heart with us, reminding us what He really cares about and values. When I find myself getting upset, etc., I have learned to stop what I’m doing and ask God a simple question (and I cannot explain how much I truly do this) “God, you see what their actions are doing to me. How do you see them, Father?” When I ask God that simple question, He gives me a proper perspective that helps me to love and forgive very quickly. It’s in this place that I typically see Jesus on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, they know now what they do.”
Every time I picture Jesus on the cross saying that, it helps me to forgive people for what they do. Another thing that happens when I ask that question is God answers by showing me how He sees me when I do similar things… It’s a lot easier to see how God sees someone else when I can see how He sees me. When I act selfishly or just act stupidly, I know how God looks at me. In my mind, He typically tilts His head a little sideways and takes a deep breath before saying, “You know Jeff, I love you, and that disappointed me. But you are still Holy, dearly loved, chosen, blameless, and above reproach. Nothing has changed. Just be better.” It’s in that moment that I realize (again and again and again) how amazing He really is. He is kind, and His kindness has a purpose. When I reflect on God’s kindness towards me it makes me grateful. My actions follow my heart. I know longer “act a certain way” in order to please God. I choose to do what blesses God because He is worthy to be praised, and because I am grateful. I don’t try to please God. I bless Him with my decisions. My why changes…
Why? Because when I taste His love for me, it makes me want to love Him the same way. Instead of being about what I want, about my heart’s desire, I find myself asking Him, “God what is your heart’s desire?” Because I love Him.
So this week, I hope that you stop what you’re doing and reflect on what God is doing and has done for you. Think of how He sees you. Go back to your first love for God, to the simple Gospel, to a simple relationship with Him… to the beginning. Bless you.
I recently wrote about allowing Holy Spirit to lead you, and that got me thinking about Lordship. What does it mean to make Jesus the Lord of your life? What does Yahweh really mean? And what does it mean to surrender your life to Him?
The word “Lord” means something close to the word boss; the word Yahweh is God’s word for Lord. When we call God Yahweh, we are really calling Him our Lord, acknowledging that He has authority over our lives; when we surrender our lives to Him, that means that we agree to follow His lead, putting our desires and emotions/feelings behind His.
What does a surrendered life look like?
According to scriptures, a surrendered life is the Christian life, and there are a lot of requirements to live by. We could list out the do’s and don’ts of Christianity here in this blog, but that would be really big, so I will try my best to keep it simple. After all, God judges the hearts of men, and not their actions, so I don’t want to emphasize actions.
If you are surrendered, then that means you will be taking every thought captive. Man that is a difficult requirement. Newsweek published an article a few years ago that said humans have over 6000 thoughts per day, which comes to about 350 thoughts per hour, or 1 thought every 10 seconds. That’s just the average. Needless to say, taking every thought captive is a near impossible task. What does it even mean to take a thought captive? It means we are to check every thought and analyze whether or not it is a thought that God would have. In Matthew 16:23 Jesus calls Peter “Satan” because he “has the things of man in (his) mind, and not the things of God.” If it is godly thought, then we are to keep it, but if it is not a godly thought, ignore it and move on. Many of our thoughts are not the kind of thoughts that God would have: all angry thoughts, all sad thoughts, all prideful thoughts, and all of the thoughts about offense or resentment. The second part of a surrendered life is learning to stop before we act, and ask God what He wants. Is He Lord over every part of your heart or not?
In my life, I am constantly finding parts of my heart that are not quite surrendered. For example, I still struggle with certain personality types when dealing with people. Overall, I think I’m pretty good at dealing with those feelings that arise when dealing with people, but then there are certain types of people that seem to wear me out and break me down. There are certain circumstances that change my mood or remove the peace that Holy Spirit brings. These are areas that I haven’t surrendered. For others, it may be types of music, tattoos, or doctrinal issues. We actually allow these things to change how we interact with people or what we feel. I remember the first time I was in a room where the Holy Spirit entered and I saw 1000 people erupt into tongues. I instantly was filled with “righteous anger”… which clearly is never actually righteous.
Philippians 2:9-12 is a beautiful passage that describes Jesus as our Lord, over all things: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
This is an issue of control. Who is in control of your thoughts and actions?
If we will truly surrender, then we will truly be free from all things that bother us, no matter what. I love Isaiah 41:10 because it shows me what my life is like when I am surrendered to what God wants. It helps me to trust Him when I don’t necessarily want to let go of control. It’s a beautiful promise to each of us: if you will just let go of your life and let Him lead, He will never let you down:
“Don't you be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Sometimes I look at what’s happening in our world today and I get overwhelmed. I look at the different generations of people, how we all grew up at different times, with different cultures and technologies, and how different we are. The older generations alive today were mostly born during or right after the Great Depression. Their first experiences of the world were much different than the ones of today. My first experiences of the world were in the early 80’s, before the stock market scare. I watched the biggest companies of Corpus Christi shut down their offices and move to bigger cities where they could thrive more easily. As a young child, I watched as downtown Corpus Christi slowly became a barren district of empty office buildings. I watched the malls slowly die. And now I see new businesses moving in, rebuilding, investing, fixing up, and old businesses experiencing a new wave of success. In that mean time, between then and now, I watched the culture around me devolve. As I got older, I witnessed more and more people complaining about how bad they have it. Last night, I watched a movie made about 10 years ago that showed how much better our society is from the 1960s. In it, the main character almost mocked the people of his race when he traveled in time back to the 1960s because he hadn’t experienced what they had, and so he found it ridiculous to join them. The movie made a point to show how much better we have it now, compared to then. I was truly baffled, because the same actor has actually gone on record recently to say that we have it worse now than we did in the 60s. As I watched the movie and laughed, I also was stunned at how a movie like this was made just 10 years ago couldn’t and wouldn’t be the same now. It would have a completely different agenda. Revelation 20:3 and 20:10 show us that Satan is a deceiver, deceiving people. As I watched the movie, I reflected on these verses and how Satan deceives us, how people today are convinced how bad things are, when they're the best I have ever seen- at least in some ways. Of course not everything is perfect… not even close. But God has blessed us so much.
Our society is deceived. We fight about issues that God has already addressed, and we fight about it in church. We argue about how to deal with issues, as if God hasn’t already given us directions. Outside of the church, it’s even worse. The Church has done such a bad job representing God that the world no longer wants what we offer… and yet we openly declare things like, “If only they would encounter God, there is no way they would turn Him down.” We know this to be true, yet what we are portraying is not convincing them to come to Him. In fact, they are running away from God. Are they running from Him, or are they running from our representation?
I often encounter people who are running away from God because their parents, church, friends, etc. misrepresented God. They are angry, frustrated, irritated, or just broken. Typically, a simple conversation about who God really is ends with a statement like, “I have been preached at my entire life, and yet I have never heard about God the way you talk about Him. Why hasn’t anyone told me these things before?” It happens all the time…
I can tell you why: Satan is a deceiver, and he has deceived us.
Yesterday, I had a 4 hour conversation with someone I have been trying to work with overseas. For two months we have miscommunicated about plans and needs and intentions. But yesterday, I felt a prompting from Holy Spirit to stop everything I was doing and have a conversation with them. We cleared up so much of the deceptions and speculations that were causing our problems. We both felt Holy Spirit’s presence and began to get so excited about His plans, and quit worrying about our plans. Satan deceives with speculations and emotions, such as fear and worry. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6 to not worry about anything, but instead to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We did that yesterday. We both quit trying to be the boss, and instead finally allowed Holy Spirit to lead us.
John 14:26-27 tells us that Holy Spirit will teach you everything and that peace will be given to you. That happened yesterday, when we quit trying to teach each other and quit trying to control everything.
In closing, I want to simply remind you of what Holy Spirit taught me yesterday: regular life is about going and getting what you want, but the life I designed for you is about you realizing I provide everything you will ever need. You don’t have to go get anything. Life with God is about giving, not getting. Providing, not taking.
Let Holy Spirit lead you, don’t allow your emotions and feelings lead you, and you will find peace. Bless you…