Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” 

Joshua 5:13-14

This is astounding. The commander of the angel armies of the Lord stood before Joshua. He was about to give Joshua the strategy for conquering Jericho. The Lord was giving the Promised Land to the Israelites. They would defeat army after army because the Lord was with them. Yet, when this angel was asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies,” the angel’s response was, “Neither.”

One would think that in light of Israel being the chosen people of God, the angel’s response would have been different. This angel is, after all, there to give Joshua the strategy on how to defeat their enemies in battle. How could the angel say “Neither” and still be telling the truth?

I believe this gives us insight into the heart of God. God is against evil, but He is not against people. If we position ourselves against God and His Kingdom, we’ll suffer the consequences. Yet, if we align ourselves with Him, regardless of who we are, regardless of which “camp” we are in, we will experience blessing.

Rahab is a great example of this truth. Though she was technically an enemy of Israel, because she aligned herself with God and His plans, she and her whole family were blessed (Joshua 6:22-23).

The apostle Paul highlights this truth in his letter to the Ephesians. He said:

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. 

Ephesians 6:12

God’s battle, and therefore the people of God’s battle, is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil. Those who align themselves with evil will become casualties of war. God’s heart is to redeem people, regardless of the evil they’ve partnered with. Our heavenly Father “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth“(1 Timothy 2:4).

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

So, when we ask God, “Are you for us or for them?” His response is, “Neither. I gave my only Son for everyone involved. I am not against people. I am against evil. The whole point of sending my Son was to rescue people from the evil that dwells in their own heart. To the extent that a person partners with evil instead of with Me, that is the extent to which they will feel me come against them.”

Where are you partnering with sin in your own life? What would it look like to partner with God instead? He is not against you! He is for you!

Angels and other things

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

I was late to the worship service that night. By the time I got there, they were already halfway through the worship songs. I stood in the back of the sanctuary at the center aisle for a bit looking for any friends that I could sit with. While I was scanning the room, an African-American man in his 50s turned around and noticed me. He stared at me. When I found my friend Cam, I worked my way up the right of the pews and sat right behind him.

Toward the end of the evening, the African-American man who had been looking at me earlier came and sat next to me. He told me that when I first entered the sanctuary and was standing in the back, he turned around and saw a huge, 9-foot warrior angel directly behind me. This angel followed me as I walked. He was dressed in armor that would be typical of a first century Roman soldier. That’s how the man knew he was a warrior angel.

This wouldn’t be the last time a person with a prophetic seer gift* would tell me this same thing about this same angel. In addition to that, I’ve had four different individuals, each with a seer gift*, tell me that they see armor on me. As they describe it to me, it is obvious that it is the armor of God listed in Ephesians 6. One lady told me about my shield. One girl told me about my plumed helmet. Two men have mentioned and described the sword that I carry in the spirit realm.

*Note: having a seer gift is a kind of prophetic gifting where one can see through the thin veil that separates the spirit realm from the material realm. It is similar to when the prophet Elisha prayed to opened the servant’s eyes to see the hills full of angelic armies. Whereas in one moment the servant couldn’t see them (and Elisha could), in the next moment (after Elisha prayed that the Lord would open his eyes) the servant could see the chariots of fire that had been there all along (read 2 Kings 6:15-17). Some people have this same spiritual gift today.

I believe each person is assigned a personal angel at birth. I believe this angel is either strengthen by our intimacy with God over time or weakened by our rebellion from God over time. In addition to personal angels, I’ve heard testimony about people who’ve seen warrior angels that battle the demonic and who are always dressed in armor. I’ve also heard testimony about people who’ve seen healing angels that are like tornados of fire and worship angels who sing and dance.

I believe certain angels are assigned to us based on the calling on our lives. While we all have a personal angel, if we find ourselves in a lot of spiritual warfare, we may be assigned a warrior angel. If we delight in worship, we may be assigned a worship angel. If we often pray for people’s physical healing, we may be assigned a healing angel.

If we speak God’s words in some way, either through preaching, teaching, or prophetic gifting, we may be assigned an angel who delivers the words of God to our hearts and minds. A friend of mine told me she saw an angel whispering words into my ear when I was praying for someone. During that prayer session, I sensed the Lord speaking very specific words to my heart about the person.

There is an active spirit realm all around us every day. Do we notice it? There are angels and demons warring against each other, and you and I are often the battleground. Are we aware of it?

If you want to read more from someone who can see into the spirit realm, I recommend this book: The Veil

The War

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

Revelation 12:7-9, 17

Satan was cast out of heaven. But where did he go? He now creates havoc on the earth. That is why he is called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). And with him came 1/3 of the angels (according to Revelation 12:4) who now operate under Satan’s command and control structure–not unlike the mafia. Paul calls the different levels of demonic entities “the rulers… the authorities… the powers of this dark world and… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms“(Ephesians 6:12).

Just as the different angels had different roles and different levels of power and strength in heaven, when they were cast down to the earth, they retained a measure of that same hierarchy. Only now, out of fear, they answer to Satan–the former archangel.

So there are principalities of darkness that operate over entire geographical regions (see Daniel 10:13). These beings have retained more of their angelic presence and can deceptively appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). They also don’t seem to need to dwell inside people. They seem to have retained more of their spiritual bodies after their fall from heaven. People with spiritual discernment can even feel the shift when you drive through different regions of our own country. Different principalities operate in different regions and over different cities.

There are powers that operate under these principalities who are strong but are clearly evil. These powers retain more of an identity as their names are personal names. They often retain the name of a pagan god or an evil character from the Bible. I’ve personally cast out ones named Jezebel, Baal, Thor, Hades, Hermes, etc.

While they have some power and can be harder to cast out than lower level demons, they don’t have any authority (see Matthew 28:18). So they are constantly trying to usurp and steal a person’s own authority. The main way these powers try to get into someone’s life is through chronic sin (including unforgiveness), trauma, and using deception. They try to get the person to agree to the lies they are whispering in their ear. Once the person agrees with the lies, the door is opened.

Finally, there are demons in operation under the powers. Demons are weaker and need a “host” to cling to (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:24). They don’t have much power or much of an identity. Their name tends to be what sin they try to tempt their host to do. So they tend to be named spirit of anger, spirit of hate, spirit of lust, spirit of death, spirit of suicide, spirit of despair, spirit of perversion, spirit of pride, spirit of doubt, spirit of unbelief, spirit of addiction, etc.

Like a gang or the mafia, the lower level spiritual forces of evil answer to higher level ones. And like a gang or the mafia they only work together for selfish reasons. They actually hate each other and are in constant competition with each other. Submission to the demonic entity above them doesn’t happen out of honor or love but out of the fear of pain and punishment.

While spiritual forces of evil hate each other, they hate humanity even more because we are created in the image of God. We remind them of all that they lost in their fall from heaven. They especially hate Christians because of the Spirit dwelling in us and our position as sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God. We are the royal heirs of the Kingdom they lost. Because of this, the kingdom of darkness wages war against all followers of Jesus everywhere around the globe.

If you are a Christian, you are in a war. It’s raging all around you. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Pick up your weapons and your armor and fight (Ephesians 6:10-20), or you will be just another casualty of war!

City of the Living God

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel…

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”[Deuteronomy 4:24]

Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29

When we worship God we get to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We get to walk among thousands upon thousands of angels who have gathered to joyfully worship the Lord. We get to approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that Jesus has made a way by His blood.

Can you picture it?

As you walk toward God’s throne, surrounded by cheering angels, you are clothed in garments of white. The aisle to the throne is as clear as a crystal sea. The angels, as servants of the King, all know that a child of the King has entered the throne room. Royalty has walked in and they all act accordingly. You are an heir of an unshakeable Kingdom, a co-heir with Christ.

As you approach God on His throne, your pace slows. Your steps are careful. You are reminded that this is not only the King of Kings but also your Heavenly Father. You stop. You know this is close enough. The rest of the distance from you to Him is for Him to walk if He decides. He is a consuming fire, and you can feel His power from here. You bow down with your knees to the ground to honor the One who deserves all glory and honor.

You bow your head in reverence and awe. You don’t bow as a slave bows to a master. You are not afraid. You don’t bow in shame and guilt. His eyes see through you, but it is not a stare of disappointment or judgment. It’s a gaze of pure love. He loves that you bow your head in reverence, but He doesn’t want your head to stay bowed. As a loving Father, He signals to you to lift your head. He doesn’t want the top of your head but your eyes looking back at Him. He loves to see your face. The joy and pride of a proud parent fills His countenance.

As He stands to His feet, all the angels–the cherubim, seraphim, and all the other heavenly beings–drop to their knees in worship. As He walks the transparent aisle toward you, He signals you to your feet. You’re not sure you should be standing so your personal angel has to tell you to stand up. You stand before pure love and pure light walking toward you.

Self-limitation is an act of love and had He not reduced His own glory and power in this moment, you’d be fatally consumed immediately. And you know it. You can feel Him dial down His presence and majesty in order to draw near to you. It’s what He did in Jesus and here He is doing it again…just for a moment with you.

He has a smile that makes you smile. When you see His smile it’s so contagious you can’t help but feel joy well up from your gut and overtake your face. He puts His left hand on your right shoulder. You instinctively know that if His power wasn’t sustaining you in this moment you’d collapse under the weight of His glory.

He doesn’t have to say a word. Somehow everything that needs to be communicated is already being said, heart to heart, mind to mind. And somehow He’s not speaking one word at a time but instead it feels like He’s downloading whole ideas instantaneously. These thoughts would take a long time to explain using words but somehow the ideas come all at once.

He draws even closer. He wraps you in His arms. He transmits a love that is intoxicating and overwhelming. Tears burst from your eyes, and your heart feels like it is about to explode. It’s like your current heart wasn’t meant for this amount of love. You need a new heart, one with the capacity to hold a fraction of what is coursing through you in that moment.

The encounter ends.

Grateful is such a small word for what you feel in the aftermath, but it’s as close as you can get to describing the feeling. You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and you are in awe!

Angels Among Us

In speaking of the angels he says,

“He makes his angels spirits,
    and his servants flames of fire.” [Psalm 104:4]

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:7 & 14

Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.

Psalm 103:20-21

Then the devil left him (Jesus), and angels came and attended him.

Matthew 4:11

“Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Matthew 26:53

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10

I believe that at birth each of us are assigned a personal angel to be with us throughout our lifetime. Like a plant in sunlight, the more we walk in the light as He is in the Light (1 John 1:7), the stronger our angel gets. And then based on our calling and our obedience to the Father, we are assigned more angels that are connected to the assignment on our life.

Some angels are there to whisper the word of the Lord into our ears. Some angels stand guard. Some angels are warriors who fight off demonic spirits and the kingdom of darkness. Some angels bring the comfort and care of the Father. Some angels dance and sing in the midst of worship. Some carry fire from the throne room of heaven, the residue of being engulfed in the glory of the Lord. Many have swords, spears, armor, and trumpets. Others appear to be wearing robes.

I have family members who’ve seen angels. I have friends who see them regularly. These friends have what’s called a “seer” gift. This gift allows them to regularly see beyond the thin veil that separates the material realm from the spirit realm. According to them, angels come in all different sizes, and their appearance usually indicates their purpose and assignment.

We don’t worship angels, and we don’t obsess about them. In God’s Kingdom, He is the King and we are the sons and daughters–the young princes and princesses. Angels are the servants who obey the King and serve the sons and daughters. They are there to help us and even to partner with us in ministry, but ultimately, they answer not to us but to the King.

Daily you are accompanied by angels. Daily you pass by a number of heavenly hosts sent here on assignment. You’re not alone. You’ve never been alone. There is no such thing as a secret sin, nor is there such a thing as being forgotten or abandoned.

…you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 

Hebrews 12:22-24; 13:2

A Day-dream

I want to tell you of a dream I had. Forgive me if some parts seem fantastical. That is the way of dreams.

The dream started with me and my friend Cam landing in Sacramento on our trip out to Bethel Church in Redding, California. We rented a large sedan to make the two hour drive north from the Sacramento airport to Redding. But they didn’t have any sedans when we got to the rental counter. Instead, they asked if it was okay if they gave us a small SUV. It turned out to be a red, Dodge Journey. We were on a journey, now in a Journey. We couldn’t help but laugh at our new chariot of fire.

The next day Cam and I went to the Healing Rooms at Bethel. The reason we were there in the first place was because of a dream Cam had months ago. In Cam’s dream Bill Johnson, the senior leader at Bethel Church, showed Cam around a town he had never seen before and then dropped him off in front of a building that was surrounded by piney, snow-dusted mountains. He vividly remembered the picture of the mountains from his dream. We felt that this dream was the Lord saying that Cam needed to go receive prayer at the Bethel Healing Rooms. When we pulled up to park at the church, we couldn’t believe our eyes. There they were, the mountains, just as Cam had seen them in his dream. Tears welled up in his eyes as the Lord confirmed the dream and God’s desire for us to be there.

We sat in a waiting area as Cam filled out a paper indicating his need for prayer. The flow for the day would be waiting area (5 minutes), informational classroom (10 minutes), worship sanctuary soaking in God’s Presence (until Cam’s number was called), then healing room (where they prayed in teams of 3 or 4 for each person needed prayer). God wasn’t interested in waiting for the healing room. One girl who hadn’t had any feeling in her foot for 12 years was healed in the waiting area.

As we walked from the waiting area to the classroom, I could feel the air get thick. You know how humid air seems thicker than dry air? That was how it felt to walk down the hallway, but it wasn’t a change in humidity; it was a change in the spiritual atmosphere. In the informational classroom they gave a quick overview of the process and a quick teaching on Jesus and His desire to heal. I started to shake uncontrollably. The Presence of God was already moving and my body was reacting to it. No one was even praying yet.

Then we left the classroom and walked over to the sanctuary. As I walked through the doors into the sanctuary it felt like someone jabbed a finger in my right side. It was another reaction to the Presence of God. I almost fell over. A worship band was singing in a kind of continual worship. Some people sat quietly, peacefully, yet others were dancing around. I saw some people weeping and others laying down. Everyone was encountering God in different ways.

After a while, Cam’s group number was put up on the projection screens so we walked to the healing room. I had to pee. By the time I got back from the restroom, a group of people were praying for Cam. Nothing much happened for him but others in the room were being touched. For one lady, her scoliosis was healed right there in front of us. We all celebrated.

The morning ended with a quick debrief in the informational classroom and a short visit to the Bethel prayer chapel. Cam was fighting disappointment. So we engaged in the well-known cure-all for disappointment, worship and pizza.

What seemed like a random selection from Google maps ended up being a divine appointment. We picked the pizza place with 4.5 stars on Google, Westside Pizza. As we ordered we smelled pizza in the air and heard Bethel worship music blaring in the back. We asked about it and found out that the owners went to Bethel Church. The worship that was happening in the car on the way to the restaurant continued inside the restaurant. The pizza was really good too.

Bellies and hearts full, we took in the sights of Redding. There aren’t many. We walked around the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and across the Sundial Bridge. There is an amazing view of the Sacramento River with the snow-dusted Shasta mountains in the distance. Then we drove up to Whiskeytown Lake. The lake is surrounded by the awesome beauty of the Shasta mountains and the devastating remains of the Carr fire. The juxtaposition was heart-breaking.

Whiskeytown is almost half-way between Redding and Weaverville. Weaverville is where the movement known as Bethel started before Bethel. Bill Johnson was the pastor of a church in Weaverville called Mountain Chapel (also where Kris Vallotton was a leader) for 18 years before ever coming to Bethel Church. So Cam and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

Weaverville is a very small town tucked away in the mountains. Mountain Chapel is a small church, about the size of the one I grew up in. Cam and I walked around the property praying. We were looking at a mustard seed, the very definition of insignificance, a Bethlehem of sorts. How could something so powerful, something that is now impacting Christians around the world, be born out of this? Only God.

Our prayer? Do it again, God. Do it in us. Two roadrunners sprinted across our path just as we finished our prayer. It was God’s amen. Let it be so!

The drive back to Redding winds through mountains blanketed by pine trees. Cam and I talked of beginnings, John Wimber, and what we’re called to be in this next generation of the Church. I’m driving.

As we round a bend, Cam presses his left forearm firmly against my right arm as if to say without words, “Did you see that…did you see that…” I turned to him and asked what was going on.

He tells me that as we came around that bend in the road, he saw a huge angel standing on the side of the road taller than the pine trees. The angel was bending at his side as he looked around the corner for us, like a child playing hide-and-go-seek who just can’t wait any longer. The angel looked right at us as we drove toward him. He was giant, blond and was holding a huge pocket watch in his hand. The clock part of the watch was dangling down at the end of a long, golden chain and the angel was holding the top of the chain. The hands of the clock were tick-tick-ticking. Cam could barely take it all in before the angel disappeared and the prophetic pocket watch with him.

“What could it mean?” we wondered. It seemed as if the Lord was highlighting His timing of things and this giant angel was a time-keeper. The rest of the drive to Redding we marveled at God’s goodness.

This dream continued with me giving a prophetic word to the hostess of a restaurant that night and, later, casting black, demonic butterfly wings off of a person. But it’s all too much to record here. You know how dreams can be. Fantastical.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 11:15)