The Real St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really about green beer and leprechauns. Here is the real story of St. Patrick from historians and scholars. He was an amazing man of God!

St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. According to the Confession of Saint Patrick, at the age of sixteen he was captured by a group of Irish pirates. They took him to Ireland where he was enslaved and held captive for six years. Patrick writes in the Confession that the time he spent in captivity was critical to his spiritual development. He explains that the Lord had mercy on his youth and ignorance, and afforded him the opportunity to be forgiven his sins and convert to Christianity. While in captivity, he worked as a shepherd and strengthened his relationship with God through prayer, eventually leading him to convert to Christianity.

After six years of captivity he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home, and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away, where he found a ship and with difficulty persuaded the captain to take him. After three days’ sailing, they landed, presumably in Britain, and apparently all left the ship, walking for 28 days in a “wilderness” and becoming faint from hunger. After Patrick prayed for sustenance, they encountered a herd of wild boar; since this was shortly after Patrick had urged them to put their faith in God, his prestige in the group was greatly increased. After various adventures, he returned home to his family, now in his early twenties. After returning home to Britain, Patrick continued to study Christianity.

Patrick recounts that he had a vision a few years after returning home:

“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish’. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.’”

Acting on his vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary.

St. Patrick was incredibly in tune with the voice of the Lord and the movement of the Spirit. May we follow his example today!

Listening to Wisdom

…the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 

1 Kings 12:3-8

King Solomon had just died and his son, Rehoboam, was appointed to take the throne. Before he did, the people called on Rehoboam to lighten the heavy work load that had existed since the time of Solomon. Rehoboam decides to seek wise counsel from his elders.

The elders advise Rehoboam to become a servant leader. They advise him to listen and be in submission to the elders. They encourage him to lean into humility and compassion rather than pride and hard-heartedness. But Rehoboam arrogantly rejects their advice and seeks out the advice of his best friends and buddies that he grew up with.

He goes to his entourage, his friends from high school and college, and asks them what they think. They, of course, tell Rehoboam he was right to reject the wisdom of the elders. Instead of encouraging servant leadership, humility, and compassion, his buddies tell him that he needs to become even harder on the people. They tell him that to get these people in line he needs to become a tyrant. This advice aligns with Rehoboam’s arrogant view of himself and further puffs up the pride that was already swelling inside the soon-to-be king.

When Rehoboam announces that not only will he not lighten the load of the people but will make it heavier, he loses all but one tribe of Israel. Eleven tribes break away from Rehoboam’s rule and make Jeroboam their king. Only the tribe of Judah remained under Rehoboam’s rule. The kingdom of Israel was divided in half from this point on.

Rehoboam’s friends told him what he wanted to hear. They told him what soothed his own self-image and pride. Only the elders, the one’s with more experience and wisdom, were willing to tell him the truth. Only they were able to see clearly a way forward. Rehoboam’s inability to humble himself and submit to those with more wisdom was his ultimate downfall.

This is an important story for anyone leading an organization, business or church. Listening to the elders, the decision-making body, or the one’s with more experience is absolutely essential to leading well. Taking the posture of a servant leader–in humility and compassion–is essential to being an effective leader.

As leaders we must be grateful for our friends and their support, but we must also have the wisdom to see that they are often biased in their desire to advocate for us. It’s okay to go to our buddies from high school and college when we need encouragement but not necessarily when we need wisdom. In moments when we are in need of wisdom, we must seek out those with more experience, those who are older and have seen more than we have. Youthfulness has its advantages but wisdom isn’t often one of them.

Rehoboam could have ruled the whole kingdom of Israel. He was one act of humility away from keeping the kingdom united and ruling for generations. His own pride got in the way. His unwillingness to listen to the wisdom of the elders was his downfall. As leaders in our various spheres of influence, let’s not let this become our story. King David and King Jesus are two great examples of leading with humility and compassion. Let’s imitate their life of leadership.

Velcro

As Solomon grew old… his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done.

1 Kings 11:4-6

At one point in Solomon’s life, he was fully devoted to the Lord. His heart was fully surrendered to God. Yet, as he grew older, he experienced a kind of heart-drift. In order to appease his wives and gain favor with other countries and kingdoms, Solomon allowed the worship of false gods. Then, not only did he allow it, Solomon began to participate in it. Finally, not only did Solomon participate, but he ordered the building of special high places for the worship of these false gods.

But notice that it didn’t say that Solomon became an unbeliever. There really isn’t such a thing. We all worship something, even if that something is ourselves. We’ll make something our god. It is the thing to which we have the most loyalty. It’s the thing to which we’ve given our heart. Solomon still believed in and worshiped the Lord. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that he worshiped the Lord AND worshiped these false gods. What set his father David apart was his full and complete devotion to the Lord. Despite all of David’s mistakes and failures, David’s heart belonged to the Lord and the Lord alone.

The theological word for mixing our worship of the Lord with the worship of other “gods” in our life is syncretism. There are consequences for treating the Lord as if He is just one option on a buffet of spiritual food.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.

1 Kings 11:9-12

Like the tearing of a garment, the Lord declared that He would take the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands. But, for the sake of David, the Lord would not do it in Solomon’s lifetime but would wait until the next generation came into power. Because Solomon’s connection to the Lord went from being intertwined to being little more than velcro, God would rip the kingdom out of his hands like velcro pulling apart.

A highly prophetic friend of mine once gave me this word that said, “whatever isn’t interwoven will be removed.” If we are interwoven with the Lord, nothing can pull us away from Him. Our heart will be fully surrendered and devoted to Him. But if our connection to Him is little more than velcro, when life pulls on it, there will be a ripping away. Likewise, our relationships to each other must be interwoven and not just velcro or they’ll pull away.

So, we must ask ourselves, “What other ‘gods’ are we worshiping?” “What other things have crowded our hearts and stollen some worship from the Lord?” Like David, is our heart fully devoted to the Lord? Or, like Solomon, have we set up a few high places that have us bowing down to priorities other than God’s priorities?

Freedom For All

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Luke 8:1-3

During Jesus’s ministry, the twelve disciples traveled with Him wherever He went. Jesus not only preached to the crowds and healed their sick, but He also had ongoing discipleship conversations with those closest to Him.

Notice the women that were also with Him. The list of women given in this passage either experienced deliverance (being set free from demons) or physical healing (being set free from diseases). Their response to being set free–either from demons or diseases–was to follow Jesus wherever He went, listen to the same teaching The Twelve were getting, and support Jesus and The Twelve out of their own resources. The combination of 1) being set free and 2) ongoing, discipleship community led to radical life transformation.

This is one of the reasons why I believe deliverance happens best in a pastoral context. While people have certainly experienced deliverance from those who specialize in this kind of ministry and in conference settings, I believe the most fruit comes from when people are set free from demons in an ongoing, pastoral, discipleship context.

Mary Magdalene is a great example of this. She was set free from seven demons by Jesus and then followed Him for the next few years. In fact, Jesus so treasured Mary Magdalene that she was the first disciple to bear witness to His resurrection.

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 

Mark 16:9

To date, I’ve been in structured, scheduled prayer sessions with over 35 people where deliverance (casting out demons) was part of the session. I’ve been in a handful of other scenarios that were not structured or scheduled but where deliverance happened. In a few of these situations, the person was heavily oppressed to point where someone from the outside might be able to tell something was wrong. In most cases, however, these sessions were with Christians who no one would suspect are demonized. Here are the reasons I believe deliverance is best done in an ongoing, pastoral, discipleship context:

  1. Deliverance often happens in layers. Trying to cast out all the demons in one session is often too much of a shock to the system. Doing one or two layers at a time ends up being more productive and more lasting in the long run.
  2. Demonic oppression often creates bad habits in a person’s life. Thought patterns and behavior patterns need to be changed after a person gets free from the actual demons. It’s one thing to get free; it’s another thing to stay free. This takes discipleship, accountability, and loving community. Without this, the likelihood of “reoccupation” increases.
  3. Teaching about demonization and deliverance is often a necessary part of deliverance ministry. People must discover not only the demons that are oppressing them but also how they got there. If the open door in their life is not closed, demons will just find a way in again. So, basic instructions about how all of this works is necessary. Most people don’t grow up in churches that teach about this stuff. This kind of teaching happens best in an ongoing, pastoral setting.
  4. Follow up appointments for deliverance not only address the next layer of demonization, but they also empower the person coming for prayer. The person begins to see that they have authority in Christ, and they can cast many demons out of themselves if they know what to do and what to look for. This is a discipleship process that decreases dependency on the “deliverance minister” and increases the confidence and authority in which the person seeking prayer operates.
  5. The power of the testimony of someone who has experienced deliverance is amplified when it is given within their own church community. When people in that church community can see firsthand the “before and after” effect of deliverance, more people begin to take advantage of the freedom offered to us in Christ through deliverance ministry.
  6. Deliverance ministry was meant for the health and protection of the Body of Christ, just as our immune system was meant for health and protection of our physical bodies. When talking to a pagan Gentile woman, Jesus called deliverance ministry “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:26-27). In other words, getting free from demons is something that was always meant to strengthen believers and bring greater health to the Body of Christ, the children of God (Romans 8:14). It was always meant to be done in a church context where there is ongoing pastoral care and discipleship.

If all of this is true, then all pastors everywhere need to be trained in deliverance ministry. This wasn’t meant to be relegated to deliverance specialists or apostolic leaders who speak at conferences. Every church was meant to be equipped to see their members set free from demons.

Imagine how healthy and free the Church would be if there were as many deliverance ministries as there were children’s ministries or women’s ministries. The result would be that the Holy Spirit would fill and transform so many believers that churches would never be the same. There would be widespread revival sweeping through the Church! Come, Lord Jesus!

Filled With His Presence

The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark and its carrying poles. 

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.

1 Kings 8:6-7, 10-11

Solomon had just spent seven years building a magnificent temple for the Presence of the Lord. The whole thing was made of cut stone blocks and cedar. The entire inside of the temple, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place, were covered in gold. Most of the objects in the outer courtyard were made of cast bronze.

Once the temple was completed, Solomon ordered the priests to bring in the ark of the covenant. First they gathered the people, and then they sacrificed so many sheep and cattle to the Lord that their number couldn’t be counted. Finally, the ark was placed into the Most Holy Place. When the priests left the Most Holy Place and the Holy Place, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.

The Presence and power of the Lord came with such intensity that the priests couldn’t re-enter the Holy Place to perform their services. Here is how the writer of 2 Chronicles describes it:

…the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord…

2 Chronicles 7:1-3

Their natural response to the Presence of God coming in power was to drop to their knees, bow their faces to the ground, and worship the Lord. Sometimes God shows up gently and brings us peace and comfort. Yet, other times God shows up with ferocity, and when He does we might find ourselves on the ground. It’s probably best to stay there and worship Him in a posture of submission and humility.

Some Christians today have trouble with phrases like “God showed up in power” or “She was filled with the Spirit.” They tend to push back against this language saying things like, “Isn’t God always present?” Or, “How can you be filled with the Spirit if you already have the Spirit in you? Do you get more of the Spirit? Is He like a liquid?”

These responses reveal a misunderstanding about God’s Presence. We could ask the same questions about Solomon’s temple. Scripture says that “the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” Wasn’t God’s Presence already there in the temple? God is omnipresent after all. How could God fill the temple if He was already there? And why did the priests react so dramatically?

What this scene shows us is that, while God is always present, He can, at times, increase how much of His Presence is tangible or manifest. Theologians sometimes call this God’s “manifest presence.” This is sort of a measurement of how much of God’s Presence breaks through the veil between the spirit realm and the physical realm. The tangible Presence of God (or manifest Presence of God) can increase and decrease based on the environment. Because of this, our bodily reaction to God’s tangible Presence can change based on its intensity.

This is why Paul commanded the Christians in Ephesus to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He wasn’t commanding them to become Christians again by accepting the Holy Spirit into their lives. He was commanding them to allow the Spirit to take over more of their lives. He was telling them to allow the Presence of God within them to become the tangible or manifest Presence of God within them. When we are filled with the Spirit there is naturally going to be an overflow, and this overflow will affect the people around us. Being filled with the Spirit will often, though not always, cause physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit in our body that are beyond our control.

As followers of Jesus we need to accept the fact that God’s tangible Presence, and the Holy Spirit’s tangible Presence, will increase and decrease based on the situation we are in. It doesn’t mean God wasn’t there in one moment and that He is there in the next. But it does mean that God will increase or decrease how much of His Presence we will tangibly experience at any given time. This is what James was trying to explain when he wrote:

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8

We know, of course, that God is alway near. James is talking about the tangible Presence of God here. If we draw near to God with hearts and minds that are worshiping, we will often experience an increase in the tangible Presence of God drawing near to us.

Married Life

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 

Ephesians 6:31-32

I’ve had friends fall away from their relationship with Christ just as I’ve had friends get a divorce. The similarities in these two scenarios are striking.

When we get married we happily choose our spouse. What we may not realize is that we will have to continue to choose them. It’s easy enough to choose them when we are in that honeymoon phase and we see them at their best. But what happens when you’re a decade or more into marriage? What happens when they are not at their best and you are not at yours?

The challenge of marriage is not what you will do when everyone is 100%. The challenge is to still choose your spouse when they are running on fumes after sleepless nights with kids, job changes, hospital visits, unpaid bills, credit card debt, misunderstandings, arguments, and life transitions. The challenge is to still choose them after you see all their failures, weaknesses, and shortcomings. It’s much harder to choose them when they change on you and it feels like you’re married to someone completely different. This person standing in front of you isn’t who you signed up for, after all.

In the midst of this, the enemy will often provide you an “out.” The way out of the marriage can come in a variety of forms. It can come as a secret escapism that you hide from your spouse. It can come as the numbing distance of living parallel lives. It can come as an addiction that you try to keep private. It can come in the form of an affair. It can come as a strong desire to throw in the towel and get a divorce. Choosing your spouse will feel like fighting a force that is pulling you apart because that is exactly what is happening. The enemy is intentional.

My point in highlighting this reality of marriage is not to give marriage counseling. My point is that this is the same pattern that applies to our relationship with Jesus. Our intimacy and connection with Him will often go through a similar cycle. We willingly choose Jesus at the beginning of our faith journey, but we will have to continue to choose Him if we want to stay connected to Him. It is a relationship that must be cultivated and cared for.

A decade or two into your relationship with Jesus you will have to decide to choose Him again. Only this time you will not be naive about the obstacles you will face. You will have to choose Jesus not as He invites you to drop your nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:19-20), but you’ll have to choose Him as He invites you to take up your cross and go with Him to Golgotha.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 

Luke 9:23-24

The disciples faced a moment of decision like this with Jesus. They were all so excited to follow Him and witness all the healings and miracles that Jesus performed. They were excited to leave behind their old life and join the Messiah on His quest toward Jerusalem. But then Jesus decided to prune the crowds with a hard teaching, and most of them turned away.

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

…From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 6:60, 66-69

Each of us who follow Jesus will face this same question. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” In this moment, we’ll have to deny ourselves, lay down our “right” to understand, give up our plans, and choose Jesus all over again, knowing that we’re not headed to the palace but to the cross.

Will we say “Yes” to Jesus again?

One Wish

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

1 Kings 3:5

Solomon had just become king over the people of God. This huge responsibility weighed on him. Then God came to him in a dream one day and essentially gave him one wish.

If God did this with you, what would you ask for? Or, in an attempt to say the “right” thing, would you assume that in humility you shouldn’t ask for anything?

Solomon did ask for something. He understood the difference between real humility and false humility. False humility doesn’t ask for anything, assuming that’s the right thing to do in this situation. Real humility doesn’t shrink back from asking for God’s blessings and gifts, but asks for things that will benefit others.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

1 Kings 3:7-9

Remember that Solomon is asking for this in a dream. We can’t fake it when we are standing before God and especially not in a dream. Solomon was in a situation where God was seeing the true contents of Solomon’s heart. What Solomon truly wanted was a discerning heart so that he could rule over the people with wisdom and justice. God loved this about Solomon.

Notice God’s response. God doesn’t say, “Because you were humble and didn’t ask for anything…” No, God didn’t have time for that kind of false humility. God loves that Solomon truly wanted a gift from God that would ultimately benefit all of the people of God and not just himself.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

1 Kings 3:10-13

So what would you ask for if God let you pick one thing? We all could use a little more wisdom, but we’re not all kings, so wisdom may not be the thing that would be most beneficial. Would it be more love? More grace? More power? More authority?

When we start talking about God’s power and authority many Christians get squeamish. I’ve noticed that people get skeptical about those who would ask for more of God’s power or more of God’s authority. People automatically assume poor motives when power and authority enter the conversation.

If someone asks you, as a follower of Jesus, if you want more of God’s power and more of God’s authority, do not shrink back into the lie of false humility. Many Christians think they are being humble and holy by saying, “Oh no, I’m not interested in getting more of God’s power or authority.” But this is the epitome of false humility.

The purpose of God giving you more of His power and His authority is not about you; it is for the sake of others. With an increase of God’s power and authority in your life, you will be used to help set others free from things that oppressively hinder their life with Christ. It could be sickness and disease. It could be demonic oppression. Whatever it is, you’re going to need all the power and authority you are able to carry in order to help that person get free. By shrinking back in false humility, you’re essentially saying you have no desire to help others get free.

Imagine that a group of people are being held captive, and you’ve been assigned the mission to help them get free. Then someone comes up to you and says, “Before you go in there, I want to give you the gear that will help you accomplish the mission. I want to give you these weapons and this armor. Further, I want to deputize you as a federal marshal so that everyone understands you are operating in the authority of this government. All of this is going to greatly increase your chances of getting those people free.” Now imagine your response to that is false humility. Image you say, “Oh no, I don’t want all of that. I just want to stay humble.” Can you see the problem here?

The truth is that when God gives a person more of His power and authority, it is an incredibly humbling experience. Just as there is a weight to carrying heavy armor and heavy guns for the sake of other people’s freedom, there is a heavy weight to walking in the power and authority of God. It is a huge responsibility. But God is looking for those willing to take up the challenge.

So, if God asks you what you want, don’t be afraid to ask for more of His power and more of His authority. One of the most humbling things you can do is to ask for more power and authority because you know that, if He gives you more, it won’t be for you. Your life is not your own. You will now be commissioned to go and help others get free. Just know that whatever you ask for will come with its own weight, its own responsibility. God’s gifts are not toys for self-glorification. They are expressions of His love and weapons of spiritual warfare.