Leftovers

These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs.

Judges 3:1-7

When God used Joshua to lead the people into the Promised Land, God gave the Israelites victory in battle. They cleared out or subdued many of the people living there, but not all of them. God gives us two reasons why He left some idolatrous pagans in the land that was supposed to be holy: 1) to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience, and 2) to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands.

In other words, these people and their gods weren’t left in the Promised Land because God thought they should stay. They didn’t belong there. God didn’t want them there. God didn’t want people worshiping idols in the holy land. The worship practices of these pagans were pretty vile (human sacrifices of babies, temple prostitution, etc). God didn’t leave these people there because He wanted Israel to make peace with them. God left these people there because He needed the next generation after Joshua to learn how to fight. God needed them to learn how to trust Him in battle and gain the victory, just as the previous generation did. God gave this new generation an opportunity to be tested and strengthened.

But, instead, this next generation began to adopt the practices of the people in the land. They began to worship their gods and their idols and never learned how to fight. Sounds familiar.

I have seen this truth play out in the lives of Christians over and over again. When a person becomes a Christian, they often find that they feel set free from so many of the old sins that they struggled with. And yet, there may be some areas of their life where they still don’t feel free.

Why does this happen?

It happens for the same reason God left some of the pagan peoples in the Holy Land. Just because you become a follower of Jesus whose sins are forgiven doesn’t mean that every demon is gone or that every demonic stronghold has been addressed.

Yes, you have the Holy Spirit. The land (your life) now belongs to the Lord. And just as the people of God were now dwelling in the Promised Land, the Holy Spirit now dwells in you. The process of sanctification involves gaining freedom from that which is unclean and yet has remained in the land.

For Israel, while the whole land was given to them by God, they still had to go reclaim the lands that had been redeemed. The same is true for followers of Jesus.

Question: By surrendering your life to Jesus, have you been made a 100% new creation? Answer: Yes. You are brand new. You are reborn. All of you has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The work now is reclaiming all that has been redeemed.

But this isn’t bad news. The Lord wants to teach you how to fight. These things were left “in the land” so that you could learn to fight and gain the victory by trusting in Him. These are opportunities to be tested and strengthened. Yet, too often Christians do what Israel did and make peace with these strongholds rather than root them out. Too often Christians begin to worship at the altars of these demonic strongholds rather than giving their full devotion to Christ alone.

I’ve seen this happen in deliverance sessions with people. I have been in prayer sessions where I cast out a number of demons from a Christian person’s life. And yet one or two demons still remain. I can’t seem to get them out. It’s as if God is leaving them “in the land” until the person really wants them out.

Up to this point, the Christian has made too many agreements–has made too much peace–with this demonic entity. And until they break those agreements, reject its presence in their life, and command it to leave (at a heart level, not just an intellectual level) the demon will stay. It has permission to stay. Yet, when the person learns themselves how to fight, the demon leaves immediately.

One time I prayed for a couple hours with a guy, casting out demon after demon. Yet, there was one that wouldn’t leave, and it kept distorting his face. A few days later, he was at home and was tired of this thing in him. So he asked the Holy Spirit what it was and how to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit popped an answer into his mind. So as he was laying down to go to sleep, the guy kicked this demon out of his life on his own. It left immediately! What I was not able to accomplish in a couple hours, he did himself in a few minutes.

Why?

Because God not only wanted to set this guy free (God always wanted him free), but God also wanted to teach this guy how to fight. And now this guy is doubly dangerous. Not only is he free from these demonic things in his life, but now he knows how to fight on his own.

So, are there still strongholds left in your own life?

Freedom is available! You don’t have to assume that the demonic stronghold is “just you.” God wants you free, but He also wants to teach you how to fight. Ask Him if there are things “in the land” that shouldn’t be there. And ask Him how to get rid of them.

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

Fighting by not Fighting

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah (the southern kingdom) in the time when Ahab was king of Israel (the northern kingdom). Armies from Moab and Ammon came to war against Judah, and King Jehoshaphat didn’t know what to do.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:

“…Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, … a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”

2 Chronicles 20:3-5, 12-17

There are times we need to put on the full armor of God, stand, and fight. We often too easily give up and give in. To be faithful to the Lord, there has to be a certain amount of fight in us. We don’t fight against people; we fight for people. We fight for the Lord. We fight not against flesh and blood but against our real enemy, Satan. Those who tend be passive and tend to retreat, hide, and avoid the fight need to learn how to fight.

But for those of us who are natural fighters, this passage above is a necessary correction. Some of us grew up with the message that no one was going to fight for us. And we learned early that we’d have to fight for ourselves if we wanted anything accomplished in this world. So we grew up fighting anyone and anything that tried to get in our way.

And even after we became Christians, we kept fighting for our rights, our cause. We fought anything that seemed unfair or unjust. We fought anyone that seemed to cross our boundaries or even our preferences. We started to become like a boxer beating the air.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air”(1 Corinthians 9:26).

God built us to be fighters. He wants us to be fighters. But in order to learn to fight the right things in the right way, we must learn how to be still and let God fight for us. We must reach a moment in our life when we realize the battle is too much for us. We must lean into dependence on the Lord. We must lay down our weapons and take up our worship. We must rest as we wait upon the Lord and watch as a battle we would normally race into resolves itself because the Lord went ahead of us and fought for us.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie Braveheart. William Wallace is totally out-gunned and outmatched by the British cavalry. His Scottish army waits as the cavalry advances at full speed. And instead of yelling, “Charge,” Wallace yells, “Steady…Hold…Hold…Hold…Hold…”

If they want to win the battle they must stand still. They must let the other army charge at full speed. And when the time comes, they will pull up long spears and stand their ground. The key to their victory is not fighting at all but instead, dropping their swords and shields, holding their ground, and letting the enemy ruin itself.

Sometimes, like Jehoshaphat’s army and Wallace’s army, we must do the same. “For the battle is not your’s, but God’s.” Sometimes we must “hold” long enough to let God move in and do what He wants to do. Sometimes we have to quell our natural tendency to fight, and instead trust. Trust that there is Someone who will fight for us. Trust that we don’t always have to be the one fighting for ourselves. Trust that the Lord will be with us, going before us, and fighting our battles.

Are you in a season where you are called to fight? Or are you in a time when the Lord is telling you to trust that He will fight for you?

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!

Resist

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 

1 Peter 5:6-9

The enemy is real. Satan is not a fictitious personification of evil. On several occasions I’ve ministered to a demonized person and seen the demon take control of the person’s body, face, and voice. I’ve had demons talk to me through these heavily demonized people. And while I shut down their chatter immediately, these occurrences only verify the truth of scripture that warns of the reality of our enemy.

This passage clues us into areas that can come under attack by our enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Any area of our life where we haven’t humbled ourselves becomes an easy target. That’s why the exhortation to humble ourselves comes before the warning about Satan’s attacks. An area that we’ve not submitted to the Lord but have pridefully held under our own control becomes an easy target. It becomes a weak spot in the wall of our spiritual defenses.

Likewise, any area of anxiety becomes an easy target. Fear is like artillery that softens up our spiritual defenses before the enemy attacks. Any area of our life where we are full of anxiety, fear and worry will be targeted. This is why we must cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.

If there is an area of our life where we are not “alert” and of “sober mind,” it will likely be targeted as well. These tend to be areas of addiction or ways that we indulge in escapism as a way to cope with pain and hurt we experience in our life. These become areas where we no longer operate with a “sober mind” because we are self-medicating with our favorite drug, pleasure, or form of escape.

We need to sure up these vulnerable areas in our life. We’re commanded to stand firm and resist the enemy’s attack. We need to strengthen these weak spots in our walls. We must remember that these words from scripture were written to Christians. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we’ve automatically surrendered every room in our house to the Lord. And any room in our heart, mind or body that hasn’t been given over to the Lord can be broken into and occupied by the enemy.

The Holy Spirit has infinitely more power than the demonic invaders, but we must hand the Spirit the keys to that room. We must give the Holy Spirit permission to take over and revoke the right of the enemy to be there. Otherwise, we remain a house divided.

Grow Up In Your Salvation

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3

Getting a taste of the goodness of the Lord causes us to crave more spiritual food. This process of going between hunger and satisfaction is something we physically experience through out the day. We eat and then we get hungry for more. This same dynamic happens spiritually.

And we must continue to feed our souls the spiritual food that it needs because salvation is only the beginning. We are called to “grow up” in our salvation. Maturity was never meant to be an optional part of the Christian life. Salvation is not the finish line but the starting line in our development into a person who looks and acts more like Jesus.

This discipleship, this development and growth in our spiritual life, is vitally important because we were born into a war. We are living in enemy territory and we’ve been commissioned to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Peter goes on to say:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 

1 Peter 2:11

Growing up in our salvation not only means we grow closer to Jesus, but it also means we become more equipped for the battles we face. We get better and better at recognizing the vulnerabilities in our own heart and our own tendencies toward temptation. We get better at recognizing the schemes of the enemy and how he tries to exploit our weaknesses. We train in warfare, learning not only how to defend ourselves but also how to advance and take back ground for the Kingdom of God.

If we never pursue maturity in Christ, we leave ourselves vulnerable, like a newborn baby who never grows up. Instead, we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”(Hebrews 12:1).

Wrestling in Prayer

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Colossians 4:12

Epaphras was a fellow servant of the gospel with the apostle Paul and was considered to be one of the Colossians. So when Paul concluded his letter to the Colossians, he was sure to let them know that Epaphras was always wrestling in prayer for them. The word for “wrestling” here in the Greek is the word agonizomai. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that Paul used this word to describe his own ministry in Colossians 1. It means “to labor, struggle, fight, or contend like someone engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare.” It’s where we get our English word agonize.

This passage shows us that sometimes in prayer we must contend for what we are asking for. We must fight for it in prayer. There is warfare going on around us and we must wrestle in prayer for others. We are not wrestling something out of God’s hands, but we are contending against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and prayer is one of our weapons, our spear. God is not resisting us but the enemy is, so we must contend.

Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6:

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. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:12, 18

So who are you wrestling for in prayer? Who are you contending for in your daily prayer life? Answers may not come instantly, but know that your prayers will affect the war raging around us in the heavenly realms (Read Daniel 10 if you need reassurance of this, especially verses 12-14).