Mary Magdalene

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… 

Luke 8:1-2

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

When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured.

Luke 8:35-36

Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

Acts 16:16-18

In the last four years the Lord has given me the opportunity to be involved in deliverance ministry. I did not seek this out. God placed me in situation after situation where the person in front of me was being oppressed by demonic spirits, and I was faced with the choice to either walk away, leaving the person in their tormented state, or to do something about it. I would pray for people and watch as they contorted, screamed, dry-heaved, shook or coughed violently. I would command the demon to leave in Jesus’s name and it would. The person would walk away more free than they’ve ever felt before.

Over time, I began to learn the nuances of deliverance ministry–how demons get in people, how they fight to stay there, and the inner healing needed in most deliverance situations. What started as a clumsy trust in the power of the name of Jesus has been refined by the Holy Spirit into a regular part of my pastoral ministry. Before the coronavirus and the social distancing orders, I was praying for one to two people a week. In most of these cases, multiple demons would lift off of people during our prayer sessions. Most times they leave quietly and without fanfare, and other times they leave in a way that is more dramatic and violent.

When I describe all of this, people either look at me in disbelief or are often curious why I would want to do this. But this is like asking a nurse why they would want to clean up a bedpan. The point of all of this is not really about the demons. It’s about seeing God’s children set free. It’s about seeing the oppressed have their chains drop off of them for the first time in decades all because of the powerful name of Jesus. It’s about being a conduit of the love of the Father as people experience in tangible form how much God loves them.

One of the best depictions of this reality can be seen in the first episode of the show The Chosen. The first episode is free and you can watch it here. In episode 1, we watch a beautiful retelling of the stories of the people who would have known Jesus best. And while we get to know Peter, Andrew, Matthew and Nicodemus, the emphasis of episode 1 is around the life of Mary Magdalene. If you want to know why I am so passionate about deliverance ministry, watch this episode all the way to the end.

Psychics, Mediums & Spiritists

Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah. Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land.

The Philistines assembled and came and set up camp at Shunem, while Saul gathered all Israel and set up camp at Gilboa. When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.”

1 Samuel 27:3-4

King Saul had been living in rebellion from the Lord for some time. He had been chasing David all over his kingdom trying to put him to death. Then the Philistines amassed their army against Israel and Saul was terrified. We often make really bad decisions when those decisions are rooted in fear.

Saul thought he could use the Lord like a slot machine or a Magic 8 ball. He inquired of the Lord as to what to do. Saul wanted to hear from the Lord on his terms. He hadn’t been interested in hearing the truth from the Lord in years, but he wants God to suddenly start speaking to him again now that he’s in a crisis. How many of us do this same thing?

God refuses to be a puppet for King Saul. God is quiet. The normal ways of hearing from the Lord go silent. Saul doesn’t get a word from a prophet. “Urim” was a reference to one way that the priests inquired of the Lord. And Saul doesn’t get a personal dream from the Lord. These were the standard ways that the Lord would speak to His people–through prophet, priest and king.

In desperation Saul does the unthinkable. Years ago, in obedience to the Law of God, Saul had expelled mediums and spiritists from Israel. Yet, because of his fear and because of his life of rebellion, Saul now seeks out a medium–someone who would consult the dead for him.

God was very clear about his prohibitions on mediums, spiritists, fortune-tellers, and other forms of occult practices.

“Do not practice divination or seek omens.”
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:26, 31

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.

The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

Deuteronomy 18:9-16

The Lord was clear. What God really wanted to do was to speak to each member of Israel directly. But they were terrified by His Presence, so as a people they asked NOT to hear the voice of the Lord. Still wanting to speak to His people, God honored their request and spoke to them instead through a prophet. But they were absolutely forbidden to engage in the occult practices of the surrounding nations. If they did, they would “be defiled by them.”

This prohibition still stands for us in the new covenant.

God is able to speak to each individual personally through the Holy Spirit–something God always wanted with His people. He also still speaks through people gifted with prophetic gifts. Likewise, God continues to reject all forms of the occult and witchcraft. Divination, sorcery, mediums, spiritists, witchcraft, fortune-tellers, psychics and the like are all avenues to the demonic. Any visit to these practitioners or any experimentation with ouija boards, tarot cards, crystals and the like is an invitation for demons to set up camp in your life. I’ve seen this firsthand.

That Sunday the Presence of the Lord was strong in our worship service. When I concluded my sermon by praying over the congregation, a girl in the room started to shake. The shaking continued through the final worship song, and she knew she needed to get some help. This girl knew something was happening that was beyond her control. She approached me and one of my prayer team members for prayer.

We escorted her back to the prayer room and began to pray. She admitted that she thought she knew the problem. She confessed to dabbling in a certain kind of tarot card reading. She would get fearful about the future and wanted to know how things were going to turn out (sounds a lot like Saul). The more she engaged in these cards, the more something was taking over control of her body. She confessed that she would also engage in automatic writing. This is when she would hold a pen in her hand and invite spirits to take control of her hand and write a message to her. What started by her invitation soon became an oppression she couldn’t resist.

After she shared these things, I knew she had engaged in divination and was likely heavily demonized. As we prayed against a spirit of divination, she violently convulsed, dry-heaving and coughing until this spirit left. When it left she knew. She felt the peace of the Lord come over her. In subsequent weeks, we would pray for this girl multiple times casting multiple demons out of her. Engagement with the occult is a fast-track to demonic oppression.

Some people visit psychics, palm readers, mediums, spiritists, and tarot card readers just for fun. They think it’s a game, like something you’d find at the county fair. Others are afraid of the future and believe this is the best way to alleviate their fears. Some play with crystals, tarot cards, and ouija boards at home thinking these things are harmless. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These practices are all manifestations of witchcraft. They are all forms of the kingdom of darkness trying to imitate the Kingdom of God. They are all demonic avenues into the spirit realm trying to imitate the real thing, which is prophecy and prophetic gifting (1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:1-4).

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures. So even if you don’t have prophetic gifts or know anyone who does, you have the ability to hear from the Lord. Maybe no one taught you how to listen and hear from the Lord, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t speaking. He wants to speak to you personally, through His word and through prayer. Engaging in the occult in order to hear from God or hear about your future is like going to a drug dealer in the city to learn about the side effects of prescription drugs. You’ll end up damaged and demonized by the process. Go to the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15-17) and the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13) if you need to hear from God. He wants to speak to you.

If you have engaged in these occult practices and now want no part of them, here is a prayer you can pray:

In the name of Jesus, I renounce any involvement in (name the occult or the cultic practice).
I renounce (list the practices you participated in). 

I ask you God to forgive me for my ignorance. I didn’t know how dangerous these things were. Forgive me for trusting in these things rather than in You alone. Forgive me for what amounts to worshipping false gods. I declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus is Lord of all, I will worship God and Him alone. 

I sever all contact I’ve ever had with the occult or with all false religion, and I commit myself to get rid of all objects associated with the occult or false religion. Now I cancel every assignment of darkness and remove every right of the demonic to afflict me because of my sin and my involvement in those occult practices. I break the power of their words over me. I break the victim spirit off of me. I rebuke the fear I have lived under. I cancel my bond to fear. I reject and renounce any unholy prediction made about my life or the life of my loved ones. 

In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against me that came from my involvement in these occult practices. In the name of Jesus, I break every curse against my loved ones that came from my involvement in these occult practices. I take every word captive that has been spoken over me, my loved ones, and that I spoke over myself. I break the power of those curses from hell. I cancel every assignment of darkness and I cast them to the ground. I call blessing to fall on me in their place. I take back every curse I have spoken against another. I cast those words down to the ground. I return a blessing on those with whom I have cursed. Jesus took my cursing so I can live in blessing. 

In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to access my life through the occult to leave me right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any demonic spirit that has tried to torment the life of my loved ones through these occult practices to stop right now. In the name of Jesus, I command any afflicting spirit to get out of my body and cause no more damage. In the name of Jesus, I command any tormenting spirit to get out of my mind, my will and my emotions. You are trespassing on the Temple of the Holy Spirit and I command you to leave now in Jesus’s name!

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

Swept Clean or Free?

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45

Sometimes I find myself in conversations about ministering to those who are demonized. When I talk about the fact that I’ve cast demons out of a bunch of people, the initial reaction is usually disbelief. After they realize that I am serious and that I have story after story that I can share with them about this reality, disbelief changes to curiosity. While casting out demons fits with everything we see in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, it can be difficult for our minds to comprehend because of western rationalism and materialism.

Occasionally, the question is asked, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a believer? Someone who is a follower of Jesus?” My answer is always, “I’ve only cast demons out of believers. I would be hesitant to cast a demon out of someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus unless they become one soon afterward.” This is usually fairly shocking to the person who asked the question.

In most people’s mind, the image they have of a demonized person is of someone like the Gerasene demoniac who was fully possessed, chained hand and foot, and living in caves. Or the image they have is like something they’ve seen in a horror movie. But what they don’t understand is that there is a continuum of demonization that moves from simple attachment, to internal occupation, to stronghold, to oppression. And if they don’t have the Holy Spirit, it can become possession.

The danger of casting demons out of a person without the Holy Spirit is what we learn from Jesus in the Matthew 12 passage above. When talking about the demonic, Jesus compares our life to a house. One might be able to cast the demon out of one of the rooms of that person’s house, but if Someone stronger doesn’t move into that room, the demon will just come back with his friends. The condition of the person will be worse than before. Just putting the house in order and sweeping it clean (what we see many people do in counseling) isn’t enough. Our lives will simply become a more orderly place for more demons to occupy and oppress.

One time a pagan woman came to Jesus to ask Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Initially, Jesus denies her request because she is a Gentile. Jesus goes on to describe the ministry of deliverance–casting out demons–as “the children’s bread“(Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27). In other words, the ministry of casting out demons was always meant as a gift for the people of God.

Casting out demons is a cleansing tool meant to be used mostly in the discipleship process of becoming more like Jesus in holiness and purity. Occasionally, it can also be used in evangelism when combined with the message of salvation. But deliverance ministry was always meant to be for the people of God.

Christians should feel no more ashamed of needing deliverance than a sick person should feel ashamed of going to the doctor. In the earliest traditions of the Church, in the first few hundred years, a person received deliverance prayer immediately after they were baptized. The normal process was: 1) surrender one’s life to Jesus, 2) get baptized in water, 3) invite the Holy Spirit to baptize and fill the new believer, and 4)cast out any demons that are there. Most of the church has lost these last two steps. Based on the ineffectiveness and brokenness of the Church today, I believe we need to recapture #3 and #4 as a normal process for the new believer.

Is there an area of your life you struggle to gain victory? A chronic sin? An addiction or compulsion? Self destructive thoughts or behaviors? A temptation that feels impossible to resist? If so, there’s a good change you need deliverance ministry. God’s gift to His people is deliverance ministry. Never be ashamed to take Jesus up on His offer of true freedom!

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!

Demonic Faith

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

James 2:19

In a polytheistic culture, there were some who thought it was enough to be monotheistic. They believed in the one true God, but they weren’t expressing that belief through obedient surrender to Jesus and faithful action. James was challenging their self-congratulatory complacency.

Demons believe in God. They know He exists. They believe in Jesus in the sense that they acknowledge His existence and are terrified of Him. They shudder at His name and squirm under His authority. They don’t like to be around God’s Presence or anyone who carries God’s Presence through the Holy Spirit. The fire of the Lord burns them and the Light of Christ blinds them. While they are completely comfortable around nominal Christians and at home in religious settings void of the Spirit, they despise Christians filled with the Spirit and on fire for the Lord.

I’ve heard a number of people say, “I believe in God; I just don’t like organized religion.” By this they usually mean they have a generic belief in God that doesn’t require anything from them and doesn’t impact the way they live life. Their “faith” without action is dead (James 2:26). This kind of faith is no occasion for self-congratulations or pride. This faith just barely reaches the level of demonic faith. This person has about as much confidence and trust in God as the demons. Not exactly something to be excited about.

James reminds us that just as our spirit expresses itself through our body, our faith expresses itself through action. To take active risks and live in obedient trust is the life of faith. To call oneself a competitive athlete and yet never do any physical activity doesn’t line up. Likewise, to call oneself a follower of Jesus and yet never express our faith through action doesn’t line up. At the very least we should challenge ourselves to have faith that surpasses that of the demons.

Not Against Flesh and Blood

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

When we fight this spiritual battle, we fight as the Israelites did to take possession of the Promised Land. We are given new life in Jesus and there are some parts of this new life that we must fight for in order to possess. The land of this new life in Christ is already ours, but we must kick out the inhabitants of darkness that previously occupied our life.

This passage in Ephesians 6 indicates that the kingdom of darkness has a hierarchical command and control structure. Demons seem to be the lowest level spirit of darkness. Then there are powers (authorities) and principalities (rulers) that seem to be higher level beings of darkness that retained more of their power when they fell from heaven with Satan. We might call these powers and principalities “fallen angels” who are able to retain some of their former glory–though it is fading.

Satan is a counterfeiter. He is constantly trying to imitate in his kingdom of darkness the things of the Kingdom of Light. I believe this hierarchical command and control structure is an attempt by Satan to imitate and counterfeit the omnipresence of God the Father. Since Satan can’t be everywhere at once like God, he sends his minions everywhere.

I believe the principalities of darkness that are over a geographic regions are trying to imitate and counterfeit the fact that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. And I believe demons, with their constant need to be embodied in something physical, are attempting to imitate and counterfeit the Holy Spirit who dwells inside the body of believers, His Temple.

The reason I believe Paul needed to remind the Ephesians that our battle is not with people (flesh and blood) but with the kingdom of darkness is because we can so easily miss our target if we make people our enemy. We are like the Israelites, taking ground for the Kingdom of God, but different from the Israelites we are not fighting people. We are not even fighting ourselves. We are fighting the darkness that invades and persuades people. So our weapons are different. Our most powerful weapons in a battle like this are love and forgiveness.

And we don’t fight in order to attain the victory. Jesus won the victory for us on the cross and in His resurrection. We don’t fight for victory but from victory. We fight the battles knowing that the war has been won by Jesus alone! Here is how Paul writes it to the Colossian Christians:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:13-15