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!

They Could Not Heal Him

“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith…

Matthew 17:15-20

Other manuscripts of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark have Jesus concluding this story by telling His disciples that this kind of spirit only comes out “by prayer and fasting.”

Noticed that Jesus isn’t upset that the man brought his son to Him for healing. Jesus was happy to heal. And Jesus seemed to be okay with the little faith that the boy’s father had. Jesus was not frustrated with him at all. It was His own disciples that frustrated Him.

I find it fascinating that Jesus’s frustration is that the disciples weren’t able to heal the boy themselves. Clearly, Jesus expected them to be able to do this by now. This completely flips our paradigm of prayer that we typically operate with in American Christianity.

We think our job is just to bring things to Jesus. Meanwhile, Jesus expects us to be able to operate in the authority and power that He’s given us. I wonder if Jesus ever gets frustrated with us bringing Him something that He’s already give us the authority and power to deal with ourselves, including healing and deliverance.

Here are Jesus’s expectations of His own disciples: 1) the disciples should have been able to discern that this physical ailment was caused by a demonic spirit, 2) the disciples should have been operating in enough authority and faith to get it to leave, and 3) the disciplines of prayer and fasting should have been a regular part of the disciples’ life so that they were ready for a moment like this.

But the disciples seemingly failed to meet all three of these expectations. I’m sure Jesus was thinking, “What’s going to happen when I ascend back to the Father? What would happen to this boy then?”

The expectations that Jesus had for His disciples then are the same that He has for His disciples today. We’ve been given the authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus expects us to be able to operate in both. We’ve been given gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us detect demonic spirits and release healing and deliverance to people around us. We’ve been given the chance to deepen our faith and our intimacy with God through prayer and fasting.

The truth is that Jesus is no longer walking the earth, so there is no Plan B. There is only Plan A. And Plan A is to see the Body of Christ, the Church, be able to operate in the gifts of the Spirit to such a degree that people with this boy’s condition get set free and healed.

We have to become the kind of conduits of deliverance, freedom, and healing that Jesus expects us to be. We need to be ready for moments like this one through our daily prayer life and regular fasting. Our faith needs to grow so that we can confidently release the Kingdom of God in any situation we face.

Until we do, Jesus’s words about His disciples back then are still true for us today, “You unbelieving and perverse generation…how long shall I put up with you?

Consequences of a Miracle

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus expected people who had experienced or witnessed miracles performed by Him to respond in repentance and faith. Every time Jesus would heal a broken body, cast out a demon, cleanse a leper, or raise the dead it was a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on earth. Repentance and faith are the natural responses to the invasion of the Kingdom.

Yet, instead of repentance and faith, many people responded only with curiosity and amazement. Unfortunately, many people still do. While curiosity and amazement are normal reactions to the miraculous, if it stops there–if it never gives birth to repentance and faith–then the condition of the heart is not where it needs to be.

If a skeptical, unbelieving heart is confronted with a legitimate miracle, that person stands at a crossroads. They can continue in unbelief or they can repent for their unbelief and choose faith. Jesus expects the latter.

We live in a culture that thinks it’s okay to justify our unbelief by continuing to ask for more evidence. We get piles and piles of evidence and still ask for more. We give our unbelief names like “caution” and “wisdom.” But we don’t admit to what it really is: a hardness of heart, a lack of faith.

Miracles, signs and wonders are dangerous in this way. They put everyone involved at a spiritual fork in the road. It’s one thing to waver in doubt having never been exposed to healings, miracles or deliverance. But once you are confronted with a miracle, there’s no more wiggle room. You either believe or you reject. You either repent for your unbelief or you walk away shackled to your unbelief. There’s no more in-between. And there are severe consequences for staying in your unbelief.

Are you still wavering in doubt and unbelief?

Have you embraced the miraculous or would you feel right at home in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

Body-Soul-Spirit Connection

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Matthew 9:32-34

Throughout the Gospels, when we see the English translation “demon-possessed,” it is the Greek word “daimonizomai.” More property translated, it would be “demonized.” Unfortunately, horror movies and media have given the American culture a certain mental picture of someone who is “demon-possessed.” Most people think of the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:1-17; Luke 8:26-37) in chains looking more animal than human. Or they think of some person levitating off of a bed with their head spinning as they puke everywhere.

This is not a biblical way to understanding the affect of a demon on a person or in a person. Instead of translating it “demon-possessed,” which gives the impression that the demon is in complete control over the whole person, we should be translating it closer to the Greek text with the word “demonized.”

Properly understood, the word “demonized” speaks to a spectrum of influence that demons can have on a person’s life. A person can be demonized and only be affected in one or two areas of their life. It could show up in a chronic sin, an addiction, or a particular relational our interpersonal dysfunction (like the inability to control one’s anger, or eating, or the inability to show grace, etc).

Demonization starts with what we might call “attachment.” Picture a vulture clinging onto the outside of a person with their tallons. If it continues it can move inside and establish a “stronghold.” This would be an area of a person’s thinking and/or feeling that is fortified with lies, allowing the demon to remain. If we picture a person as a house (Matthew 12:25-29, 43-45), this would be a demon taking up residence in one or two rooms.

If this continues, demonic influence can spread to other parts of a person’s life and become “oppression.” Oppression is where many demons have access and influence over many, if not most, areas of a person’s life. If the person does not have the Holy Spirit in them because they are not followers of Jesus, then oppression quickly becomes possession.

If the Holy Spirit is there, it cannot be possession because the person belongs to the Lord. But severe oppression can occur even in Christians. Jesus owns the deed to the house but the rooms are full of demons. The Holy Spirit has not been given full access, through surrender, to all the rooms of the house.

So, demonization can describe a whole spectrum of demonic influence and control over a person’s life. This man who was mute in Matthew 9 was physically impacted by the demonic entities in his life. Some physical ailments have physical causes, but some have spiritual causes. In western culture, many people have a real struggle attributing spiritual causes to physical ailments. In this case, a mute spirit was causing this man’s inability to speak.

Had the issue been a physical problem–maybe a misfiring between the speech center of the brain and the muscles in the mouth, tongue and vocal cords–then Jesus would have performed a healing. We see Jesus heal people all the time. When it is a physical cause to a physical problem, healing prayer is what we see from Jesus. But that’s not what happens here.

Instead, in response to a physical problem–the inability to speak–Jesus casts out a demon. Not only is this concept difficult for people who have been steeped in rationalism (like most western Christians) but also for people who have been steeped in religiosity (like the Pharisees and many Christians today).

The Pharisees attributed Jesus’s ability to heal the man by driving out a demon to Jesus Himself being demonic. We see this same argument from cessationists in the Church today. They attribute many signs, wonders and miracles that come from the Holy Spirit to Satan trying to deceive the Church. It’s really unfortunate that they think the enemy is more powerful than the Holy Spirit when it comes to the miraculous.

I personally have seen a number of physical ailments healed by casting out spirits of affliction. One of the assignments of certain demons is not just to attack people’s mind, will, and emotions but also to attack the physical body. Not all physical ailments are demonic, but some are. It takes wisdom, and sometimes the gift of discerning the spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10), to know the difference. There is a greater overlap between our body, soul, and spirit than most people in western culture are willing to admit.

Next time you need physical healing, ask the Lord if the physical ailment has a spiritual cause. If it is a spirit of affliction attacking that part of your body, command it to leave in Jesus’ name! If while commanding it to leave, you notice the pain increase or move to a different part of your body, you can be sure you are dealing with a demonic spirit. Keep chasing it out of your body with commands until it leaves in Jesus’ name!

By His Wounds

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.” [Isa 53:4]

Matthew 8:16-17

Jesus was able to set the demonized people free from the demonic spirits that afflicted them with just a word. He was able to heal all the sicknesses that people had. Matthew tells us that this ministry of healing and deliverance was the fulfillment of a prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 53.

This is the passage in Isaiah that we normally view as a prophecy about what Jesus would do for us on the cross.

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:3-6

So you see, what Jesus did on the cross was more than just pay the price for our sin. He also paid the price for our healing and deliverance.

This is really important because some people don’t feel “worthy” to be healed physically or to be set free from the demonic. But we have to understand that healing and deliverance aren’t things we earn. They are things that were earned for us by Jesus on the cross.

When we get healed or delivered, it isn’t even primarily about us! Yes, our Father loves us and wants us set free. But our healing is primarily Jesus’s reward. Our healing is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. When we get set free from demonic oppression in our life, it is Jesus’s reward. Our deliverance is Jesus getting what He paid for on the cross. These things were the “joy set before Him” as He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). It’s all about Him and the fact that He is worthy, not about us and whether we’ve earned it.

I want to pray for people–for their healing and deliverance–all the time. But this desire isn’t about me thinking I am someone special (although God sees all of His children as special). This desire comes partially from compassion for the person, but only partially. The deeper root of this desire is to see Jesus get His reward! It is to return to Jesus the very things for which He paid so high a price!

This is why testimonies of healing are so important to share. If we get healed, we don’t share that testimony because we are saying that we are special. We share that testimony because we are declaring that Jesus is worthy! We also share a testimony of healing because it increases faith for people to believe that what God did for that person He can do for me. People have experienced their own healing just by hearing the testimony of someone else’s healing!

Do you need physical healing? Do you need freedom from darkness? Jesus already paid the price for it!

Teaching-Preaching-Healing-Deliverance

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Matthew 4:23-25

There were four main components of Jesus’s ministry: 1) teaching, 2) proclaiming/preaching, 3) physical healing, and 4) deliverance (casting out demons). Most of the time Jesus would first give a proclamation of the Kingdom (teaching & preaching) and then give a demonstration of the Kingdom (healing & deliverance).

He then taught His disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:1-8). And we see the early church do the same (Acts 2:42-44). The early church was simply obeying Jesus’s command to teach the next generation of disciples everything they had been taught by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). The pattern was proclamation and then demonstration.

This fourfold ministry of the proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom was done in the church for nearly 400 years. When you study church history, nearly all the early church fathers bear witness to many regular healings and deliverances for the first few centuries of the church (Justin Martyr, Hermas, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great).

If this was the early pattern of church ministry, what happened? In most churches, why do we only get the proclamation part today and no miraculous demonstration of the Kingdom?

Unfortunately, Augustine introduced some poor theology about miracles to the church and things started to change. Augustine later changed his view toward the end of his life and himself had many testimonies of miraculous healings. But the damage had been done.

The Protestant Reformers (in the 1500s), when they were breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, picked up on Augustine’s earlier writings (and ignored his later writings) about miracles, signs and wonders. This is how cessationism was born (the erroneous theological belief that miracles, signs, wonders are not normative and that the gifts of the Spirit no longer exist in the church today).

But what does it look like for a church today to get back to its original roots? What does it look like to do more than just proclamation, more than just teaching and preaching, more than settling for just half of Jesus’s ministry? What would it look like for the church to attempt all four main components of Jesus’s ministry, including physical healing and deliverance?

My church is attempting just that. Most churches have teaching and preaching, but how do you add the ministries of physical healing and deliverance? If you want to hear how we are doing this through our prayer team, listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of this podcast episode. It is an interview with me and a couple of the people on our prayer team.

This isn’t about becoming a “charismatic” church. This is about believing Jesus’s words when He said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father“(John 14:12).

Does your church have the four main components of Jesus’s ministry?

We may have many good ministries in our churches, but if we don’t start with the core of what Jesus did, we’ll look more like the church of the Protestant Reformers than we do the church of Jesus and the apostles.

Why Jesus Appeared

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 

1 John 3:8

We get from John one of Jesus’s primary mission statements. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work. But what did that include?

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.

Matthew 4:23-24

Destroying the devil’s work looked like four main things: 1) teaching about the Kingdom of God, 2) preaching the gospel, 3) healing every disease and sickness and 4) casting out demons/deliverance.

Jesus summarizes this mission in the synagogue in Nazareth by reading a prophesy about Himself from Isaiah 61.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free…

Luke 4:16-18

We see here that destroying the devil’s work includes the same things–preaching/teaching, physical healing, and deliverance. If these were the main components of Jesus’s mission, and Jesus then passes His mission to the Church when He ascended and sent the Holy Spirit, then this mission is now ours.

One of the primary missions of the Church is to destroy the devil’s work. We are to do as Jesus did. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you“(John 20:21). Jesus said that we who believe in Him “will do the works (He has) been doing,” and that we “will do even greater things than these” because He was going to the Father (John 14:12).

We are called to: 1) teach about the Kingdom of God, 2) preach the gospel, 3) heal every disease and sickness, and 4) cast out demons. And Jesus told us that the way we would accomplish this mission was to “go and make disciples of all nations” and teach them “to obey everything” that He taught the original disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

Most churches in America are only doing one or two of these, which is why the devil’s work in the world is not being destroyed. Instead, where the church doesn’t take up the full mission of Jesus, the devil’s work in the world runs rampant and creates chaos and unbelief. We were called to more than this!

All About Authority

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Hebrews 13:17

Leaders in the church will have to give an account of how they led. Literally in the Greek text this verse says that leaders “keep watch over your souls.” Their job is to help each member of the body of Christ grow and mature.

Here is how the apostle Paul describes the role and purpose of leaders in the church:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.

Ephesians 4:11-14

The goal for leaders in the church is to equip the people for ministry, not just do ministry themselves. The goal is to build up the body of Christ so that people mature and experience the fullness of Christ. The goal is to have a church that isn’t easily swayed by every wind of false teaching that’s out there.

So it is important for the people of the church to have confidence in their leaders and submit to their authority. Authority in the church is not primarily about position. It’s not about titles and degrees. Authority is more relational. It’s about who is loving people well and leading them toward Christ. Authority is about who has been willing to take responsibility to serve others. Regardless of title, the one who has loved well, established relationships, taken responsibility, and served faithfully is the one with the authority.

Sometimes Americans get squeamish when talking about submitting to authority. Our sense of autonomy and individualism doesn’t like talk of submission or authority. And after seeing the abuse of leadership positions and the abuse of authority in the church there is good reason to have hesitations.

Yet, we also need to remember that the entire spirit realm operates by authority. Jesus told us that He has “all authority in heaven and on earth”(Matthew 28:18). He has delegated that authority to us. The disciples were shocked at what happened when they operated in the delegated authority of Jesus.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy…

Luke 10:17-19

I’ve been in a number of situations where members of my prayer team and I were casting out demons. Demons can sense whether you have authority. Like the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16), if a person doesn’t have an intimate relationship with Jesus, demons can sense that the person doesn’t have the authority to drive them out. The only authority that will drive out demons is authority that comes from Jesus. It is delegated authority, and it comes to us through our intimacy and obedience to the Lord. It is His Name that they respond to in fear, not our name.

Likewise, demons can sense whether you believe you have authority. You may have the delegated authority of Jesus because of your relationship with Him, but if you don’t believe you do, they know it. They can sense your confidence in the Name of Jesus or lack thereof. Yet, if you have authority and know you have authority and use that delegated authority properly, demons flee in Jesus’ name!

A Roman centurion seemed to understand how authority works in the spirit realm better than the Jewish people did. Do you remember that time Jesus healed the centurion’s servant?

He (Jesus) was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Luke 7:6-10

Since the spirit realm is structured completely around authority, it makes sense that we would need to submit to the authority of leaders in the church. We just need to make sure we have good leaders in place!

Signs, Wonders and Plagues

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:3-4

The gospel was first announced by Jesus and confirmed by the early apostles. Then God testified to the truth of the gospel by demonstrating signs, wonders and miracles through the Church. God also testified to the truth of the gospel by distributing gifts of the Holy Spirit for the Church to use.

We still have the announcement of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. We still have the confirmation of the early apostles in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul, Peter, John and others. But if we reject signs, wonders, miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we miss out on half of the ways that God testifies to the truth of the gospel. Paul talks about how vital signs and wonders were in his ministry of delivering the gospel to the Gentiles:

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 

Romans 15:18-19

Signs and wonders have always been a primary way God reveals Himself to humanity. When God was creating for Himself a people by setting the Hebrews free from slavery in Egypt, God performed signs and wonders. Speaking about Pharaoh as God laid out His plan to Moses, God said:

…though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.

Exodus 7:3-4

Before entering the Promised Land, God reminds the people of all that He did for them and gives them this instruction:

 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.

Deuteronomy 6:20-24

My co-pastor reminded me in one of his sermons a few weeks ago that we often call what God did in Egypt “plagues.” But God did not call them that, nor did Israel. To God and His people they were not plagues but “signs and wonders.” Only to Egypt and Pharaoh were these miraculous events “plagues.”

And I have found the same dynamic to be true today. When God heals someone, performs a miracle, or delivers someone from a demon, there will be those who see these things as wonders–signs of God’s imminent Presence, love, compassion and power. Yet, there will also be some who will see the same miracle and react against it as if it was a plague.

The same thing happened with Jesus. Some, usually the downtrodden and poor, celebrated as Jesus healed people and cast out demons. Yet others, usually the religious elite, did not see the miracles as wonders but instead as plagues–moments where Jesus broke the law, moments that threatened their established system of power, moments of offense.

Every time we hear a testimony of a miracle, a healing, or a deliverance, we have that same choice. Are we going to side with Egypt and Pharaoh or God and His people? Are these stories of miracles plagues or wonders? I believe this is essentially the question Jesus was asking the Syro-Phoenician woman who asked Jesus to get rid of the demon who was tormenting her daughter.

(Jesus) answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.

He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Matthew 15:24-27

I believe Jesus was seeing if the woman would get offended at God’s decision to heal and deliver the Israelites first before the Gentiles. He even uses somewhat offensive language, referring to Gentiles as dogs, as a way to see if she would react with offended entitlement or humility.

And we also face this kind of test with each testimony of healing and deliverance. Will we get offended at what God is doing, as He heals someone else first? Will entitlement get the best of us? Will offense get the best of us? Will stories of healing become plagues to our hearts? Or, will we respond in hope and humility as this woman did? Will we celebrate miracles as signs and wonders of God’s goodness?

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Matthew 15:28

Hope at Denny’s

Cam and I were exhausted from shaking all night, and we were hungry (see my post called Hand Spun Shakes for the backstory on that). He suggested Denny’s. Cam is prophetic⏤strongly prophetic. Every time Cam “suggested” we go to a particular restaurant or place, it always ended up being a divine appointment. I should have realized this was going to be another one, but I didn’t. All I could think about is eating a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sandwich, a classic late night meal for me from years ago during “study” sessions in seminary. 

Denny’s in Redding is in a shady part of town. We could sense it as we got out of the car. The first thing Cam said was, “Hey, we need to have our guard up.” I knew what he meant. He was saying there was demonic stuff crawling around, and we needed to have our physical and spiritual heads on a swivel. 

On our way toward the restaurant, we walked past the hotel next door. It was called The Red Lion Inn. I commented to Cam as I pointed at the hotel sign, “We’re heading into the lion’s den.” We both laughed, but we couldn’t have predicted how right we were.  

Just as we approached the entry door to Denny’s (mind you it is 11pm at this point) a dad and his young adult daughter were about to enter Denny’s at the same time. I recognized them from Bethel Church earlier that day. Out of all the people there I’m not sure why I recognized them, but I did, so I pointed to them and said, “Hey! Bethel?” They both turned and smiled and acknowledged that they had been there that day. 

They both had a European accent that we would later discover was from Sweden. People from all over the world fly to Bethel for various reasons. They flew in for a week so that the daughter, who’s 21, could check out their school of ministry. The daughter immediately invited us to have dinner with them, which seemed strange at the time. But since the whole trip had been one adventure after another, we agreed and embarked on yet another unexpected adventure. 

The four of us sat at a booth together, and as soon as we sat down I asked them about what led them to Bethel. The dad (we’ll call him Matt to protect his identity) said he had done bible school in the U.S. before moving back to his home country of Switzerland. As soon as the daughter started to share her story (we’ll call her Lulu since that was the affectionate nickname used by her father) all of the alarm bells in Cam’s spirit and my spirit started to go off. We had seen this sort of thing before, unfortunately.  

Lots of things gave it away: her personal story of hearing evil voices and seeing evil things since she was a young girl, her longtime struggle with deep depression and self-hate, her scars from cutting that went up and down both arms, the way her eyes shifted away from me and Cam when she talked, how she would “go away” into a sudden catatonic state while we affirmed her identity in Christ or spoke of the love of the Father or talked about Jesus. All of these were indicators that she was heavily demonized. She was fighting for her life and the demons didn’t want her free. 

Demonization this severe in a Christian is not unlike domestic abuse or human trafficking. The young girl was being tormented daily by many demons that resided within her. She didn’t know how to get free. Yet, she had been demonized for so long, since she was 12 years old according to her story, she also wondered that if she got totally free whether it would make her lonely. She had gotten used to the voices even if they were awful to her. They were some of her only “friends” as odd as that sounds.

There can develop a kind of trauma bonding with demons. The lies and the manipulations can create this toxic bond between the tormentors and the tormented. We saw this a lot in the world of human trafficking when I was a part of a nonprofit that fought against child sex trafficking in the Baltimore region. The dynamic was similar here. The truest part of her, the real Lulu, wanted freedom. But the deceived part of her wasn’t sure it was possible.  

The other interesting thing about Lulu is that she had a really strong seer gift, which means she could see things in the spirit realm. Cam is a seer too. Lulu had been seeing demons and other things in the spirit since she was very young. Lower level seers get glimpses of things. Higher level seers can see things in great detail. Yet, if this gift goes without guidance, instruction and wisdom, this gift can be turned and used against the person who has it. Even worse, it can be recruited into the occult world of witchcraft. This kind of powerful gifting is a threat to the enemy, and so he often goes to great lengths to torment and demonize seers if he can get a foothold. She, unfortunately, gave him all too many footholds and open doors into her life.

We talked as we ate dinner together. We tried to encourage Lulu and her dad. We explained a little about deliverance, and Cam and I tried our best to wait until dinner was over before we set about to get her free. When you can literally see demons (in Cam’s case) and/or sense them (in my case), it is hard to have dinner with them sitting in the booth across from you. We did our best.  

We then adjourned to my favorite ministry room known as the parking lot. Cam told me later that angels were encircled around us out there as demons were moving in to help their “compatriots” residing in the girl. He commanded them to leave in Jesus’s name so we could have room to work. 

We worked through the deliverance process with her and cast out a handful of demons. Most of them were so deeply entrenched that each one took a while to leave. Though the dad had a charismatic church background, he had never seen a deliverance firsthand and certainly not with his daughter. It shook him. 

We didn’t have the time or energy to try to get them all out, so we didn’t try. Instead, we took her hands in ours and imparted everything we could—the increase of the Holy Spirit’s presence, more power, more love, more joy. We could see her confidence growing. Hope was returning as her identity in Christ was being re-established.

When Cam released joy to her it was something to behold. She collapsed in laughter from the sheer overflow of joy that was being downloaded into her soul. Of course, demons don’t like their host so full of joy, so the spirits of despair and depression rose up, yelled obscenities, and gnashed their teeth at Cam. Spirits of despair and depression hate joy, and Cam was releasing a weaponized joy into Lulu that they were powerless to prevent.

During this process, both Cam and I experienced the Father’s love for Lulu. This was His daughter. She was trapped, enslaved, abused and tormented by these demons. He wanted her free, and so did we. She felt the Father’s love too. She kept hugging and holding on to me and Cam. She didn’t want us to leave. Through us she got a taste of the freedom, joy and love of the Kingdom of God. She got a taste of her real identity; she is a warrior princess. She is the one whom Jesus loves. She is a daughter of the King.  

It was nearing 2am so we had to leave. We strongly suggested that Matt take his daughter to the deliverance ministry offered by Bethel Church during the weekdays. We stressed that more ministry was absolutely essential in order for her journey into freedom to continue. We exchanged information and left. During the drive back to the place where we were staying we felt saturated in the love of God for Lulu. She was our sister, and in some ways, our daughter. The love and compassion we felt for her was unusually strong. It wasn’t love we were capable of conjuring up ourselves. It was the Father’s love. It was the compassion of Christ. 

I am happy to report that we got word yesterday that Lulu has a time slot for tomorrow (Friday, March 8th) to receive more deliverance ministry from the Bethel ministry team. Please be praying for her to be totally free and for her identity in Christ to be restored. 

A final postscript to this encounter with Lulu:

One of the more interesting parts of ministering deliverance to a girl who is a seer is that she could see things in the spirit as they were happening. Sporadically throughout the night she would tell us things that she was seeing in the spirit. At one point, she was hugging me tightly and said to Cam and me, “You both have the most beautiful armor on. I see it. It’s beautiful. It looks like Roman armor. And you have helmets on with that thingy on top.” 

I asked, “Helmets with a plume?” 

She said, “Yes, and it is so beautiful with all different colors.” 

Since Cam is also a seer, I asked him about it later. He said that as soon as she started describing the armor he could see it. He said it was beautiful, shiny gold. As he was searching for words, he finally said, “It looked royal!” This is the armor of God. And while not all of us are gifted in a way where we can see it in the spirit, we can all be sure to put it on daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

Who would have thought that a late-night trip to Denny’s would end up in a parking lot deliverance for a daughter from Sweden? Only God. The Father gave us all something that night. It was the beginning of hope and freedom for Lulu and her dad, and it was a download of love and encouragement for me and Cam. Thank you, Jesus!