The Toxicity of Unbelief

“Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” … Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 

John 12:36-37

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 

So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Hebrews 3:12 & 19

Living in a culture that celebrates doubt can cause us to forget all the warnings from Jesus and from the rest of the New Testament against unbelief. Scripture does not paint unbelief as something that everyone should embrace as a “normal” part of life. Instead, unbelief is regularly warned against as something that is toxic and damaging.

Imagine you are in an ancient army, fighting a foreign enemy for the sake of your King and the Kingdom to which you belong. Battle can become wearisome. Armor can get heavy. There are always casualties of war and that, by itself, can be discouraging. But imagine you press through all of this to continue to fight valiantly for your King.

Now imagine as you enter the battlefield one of the soldiers behind you says, “You know, I’m not sure I believe in our king anymore. I’m not sure we even have a king. Further, I don’t think that army over there is real either. I have serious doubts that we are even in a war. This army that you talk about us fighting against, maybe it’s just a figment of your imagination. Yesterday I was talking to this nice merchant who sells furs, I think her name was Lucy, and she told me she’d pay me a bonus fee to go home. I’m tired anyway, so I think I’m going to take her up on her offer.”

What is your response to your fellow soldier? Are you inclined to coddle them with, “Oh, I totally understand. It’s normal to question whether the King is real and whether that army over there is just a fictitious mirage. Take your time and go home. We’ll be here bleeding and fighting if you ever think you might want to return.” Is that what you’d say? I hope not.

My guess is that most of us would tap into our inner Master Sergeant and begin to challenge our fellow soldier to stay in the fight. We would remind him not to be deceived by Lucy’s lies and not to give up. We’d remind him of how much we need him supporting our flank and how being tired should never lead us into unbelief, no matter how tired we get. The King has called us to war and the Kingdom needs us to be all in! It’s a privilege and an honor to be in the King’s army, even when it’s hard.

Let’s call unbelief what it really is. It is deception. And the end result of unbelief is cowardice. It’s choosing the comfort of the couch over the challenge of the battlefield.

The Power of the Spirit

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.

Judges 14:5-6

Samson was set apart from birth. The angel of the Lord came to his mother and father and directed them regarding how to consecrate themselves and the baby to the Lord. Samson was set apart with a Nazarite vow from the time of his conception. God had a calling on his life as one who would begin to deliver the people of Israel from the oppressive rule of the Philistines.

This kind of exceptional consecration and calling resulted in an unusual level of anointing on Samson’s life. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, he was able to operate with an extreme level of power and authority. Samson didn’t always use this power wisely, but it was always available to him.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle.

Judges 14:19

Samson’s early life is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s birth and anointing. Jesus was similarly set apart from birth and operated in a similarly powerful anointing. And Jesus was the fulfillment of all that Samson wasn’t.

Samson is also a picture of what is available to us in the Holy Spirit. Samson had the Spirit come upon him in power. We have this same opportunity. As people who have surrendered our lives to Jesus, not only do we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, but we have access to the Holy Spirit coming upon us in power. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us for our sake but often comes upon us for the sake of others. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, the enemy gets torn to shreds.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person who is preaching. What is released in the room is more powerful than the words that are being spoken. People are cut to the heart by the word of God. People give their lives to Jesus for the first time. People respond with their whole hearts and their whole lives.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person in prayer. Power is released on the person receiving prayer in such a way that dramatic things happen. Demons flee. They can’t seem to get out of there fast enough. Instant physical healings take place. The person’s body conforms to the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of this world. Things are set right. Wounded hearts are repaired as the love of the Father is tangibly experienced.

Without the tangible demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, Christianity devolves into just one religion among many. But when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon us in power, and the reality of the Kingdom of God is on display, Jesus is revealed for who He really is–King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

This is how the apostle Paul describes his own ministry:

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

For Paul, to “fully proclaim” the gospel of Christ meant that signs and wonders through the power of the Spirit had to be on display. Anything less than that was not the full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. We are called to daily walk in the power of the Holy Spirit!

A spirit of rejection

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

Judges 11:1-3

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see how Jephthah being born to a prostitute and feeling rejected by his family led him to connect to “a gang of scoundrels.” This same story is playing out in our culture over and over again.

I’ve prayed for a number of people in the last couple years in extended prayer sessions that last two to three hours. During these prayer sessions we focus on inner healing and deliverance. Inner healing is when wounds of the heart are uncovered, forgiveness is given, judgments are forsaken, and the love of the Father and peace of Christ are invited in to bring healing. Deliverance is when demons, who often entered a person through the wounds of the heart or generational sin, are cast out.

It is a regular occurrence to find a spirit of rejection as the primary, and often the most insidious, demon a person is dealing with. A spirit of rejection often attacks a person in early childhood and sometimes in utero. This spirit then becomes a kind of “door opener” propping the doors of a person’s life open for other bigger and stronger demons to enter.

It’s not hard to see the strategy of the enemy here. If someone has a spirit of rejection, they feel a pervasive and constant sense of rejection from everyone in their life. Even small slights become major wounds. Over time a long line of rejections–relationships, work situations, church, and family–start to mount. The lens through which a person sees the world is colored by rejection. This is the set up.

Now when other sins start to show up in a person’s life (anger, hate, lust, pride, homosexuality, greed, fear, lying, gossiping) it is nearly impossible to address it with that person without them feeling rejected. They will live in a constant state of feeling that any confrontation of their sin is a rejection of them. They will demand full acceptance, not only of their person, but of their sin. In other words, they will so strongly identify with their sin, they will demand that you accept it as a part of them.

Loved ones are now trapped. How do you let this person know that they are fully and completely loved and yet that their sin is hurting them? A spirit of rejection is often at the root of this dilemma.

A spirit of rejection enters a person’s life at such a young age, they are often unaware of what life feels like without its talons dug into their heart and mind. Babies can often sense what is happening in their mother in utero. If a child was an unwanted pregnancy, a spirit of rejection can attach itself to that child before they are even born. It was given access by the rejection of the mother. I’ve prayed for a number of people where this was the situation.

The antidote to a spirit of rejection is to renounce it, break its bondage, and cast it out in Jesus’ name. It’s important to no longer believe the lies that rejection whispers.

Additionally, experiencing the acceptance and love of the Father is essential. God is able to perfectly love and accept who we really are and who we are created to be without embracing our sin. Without experiencing the acceptance of the Father, a spirit of rejection will often worm its way back into a person’s life. We must go to God and hear from Him about who we really are and how He sees us. A single word from Him is more powerful than years in a counselor’s office or a decade of sermons.

Jephthah was a mighty warrior. That is his true identity. That is who he was before rejection had a chance to speak a different identity over his life. We need the Father to remind us of who He created us to be. We need to daily hear His words of acceptance and love.

Has a spirit of rejection gotten a hold of your life?

Routing the enemy

Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and broke the jars that were in their hands. The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.

When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. 

Judges 7:19-22

Gideon’s army had been reduced by God to 300 men. Yet, take notice that each man had a trumpet. This trumpet was likely a ram’s horn. And normally, I would imagine, there would be one person in charge of blowing the trumpet for a large group of men. This was the signal to charge into battle.

So, without seeing the army, the Midianites heard 300 trumpets. Normally, this would have meant 300 large groups of men would be charging toward them in battle. But no one in Israel moved, so the Midianites assumed that many of their own men who were frantically running around were the Israelites. The Lord supernaturally added to their confusion and Gideon’s army won the day.

This passage really spoke to me about the power of each soldier having a trumpet. In normal circumstances the trumpeter would have been a specialized position representing hundreds, if not thousands, of men. In Christian terms, it’s like having one or two pastors per church.

But what if every person in the church was a pastor? Isn’t that how the Church was designed to be anyway? Isn’t every person in the Church called to be a minister of the gospel?

We, as the Church, are called to be a mighty force regardless of our size. In other words, we are called to be an army where everyone has a trumpet. And rather than charging into battle, we are often called to hold our ground and watch the Lord work.

The apostle Paul had this same vision of the Church:

And he himself gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.

Ephesians 4:11-13 (New English Translation)

Jesus gifted the Church the offices of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. These roles in the Body of Christ are meant not only to build it up, but to equip the people to do the work of ministry. So, the work of ministry is accomplished by the entire church, every single person, with the people in the above roles functioning as equippers. Everyone gets a trumpet! And everyone must use it!

Instead of the church having a few pastors and 300 members, we are called to have 300 ministers with a few equippers. A church of 300 people doing the work of ministry can rout an army of darkness numbering in the tens of thousands. Gideon teaches us that!

Do the problems of our cities seem to big? Do the issues of our culture seem like a massive, undefeated army?

We need to fight like Gideon’s army! Gone are the days where one minister in a church of 300 is enough. We need 300 followers of Jesus each using their a trumpet to sound the call to battle. We need 300 people doing the work of ministry so that we can watch the Lord move in power to defeat the enemy.

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?