Exhaustion; that’s the best word to describe how I’ve felt for the past two weeks. And there is no natural reason for it. I’ve been sleeping plenty. Drinking lots of water. Getting plenty of exercise. (Enjoying more than my quota of Starbucks!)
Yet the morning I penned this article—despite sleeping nine hours the night before—I went back to sleep for two hours after taking my daughter to school. And when I woke up, I was still exhausted—and disgusted.
I was starting to wonder what was wrong with me. And then I got a friendly reminder revelation from the Holy Spirit: It’s witchcraft. Wicked witchcraft. How could I forget? It caught me off guard. Now I'm warning you.
Although the Holy Spirit speaks expressly, we see through a glass darkly. Sure, it’s easy enough to understand the words of that still, small voice in your spirit. But impressions, dreams and visions aren’t always as clear as we’d like them to be—and reasoning blocks discernment.
I remember a time when a friend of mine was planning a trip to Los Angeles. She told me she was nervous about going, but I reasoned that it was a natural case of “the nerves” because she had an important meeting there. The week before she left, I started to get impressions that something bad was going to happen to her in Los Angeles. But it was like seeing through a glass darkly.
At first, I thought it was just fear. I was going through a major trial at the time and had so much coming at me from so many different directions that sorting through it all was more than a little challenging. Nevertheless, I pled the blood of Jesus and claimed the promises in Psalm 91 over my friend every day. The impressions—what I reasoned were imaginations—didn’t stop. Yet I never had a clear word of the Lord “come unto me saying.”
I was raised in spiritual warfare. By that I mean, soon after I got saved I plugged into an apostolic church that vowed to run to the battle line to wrestle spirits of Jezebel, witchcraft, religion—and whatever else was opposing the purposes of God.
My church home was akin to a spiritual war zone. We were always on red alert through prophetic warnings, dreams and visions about the next attack. Indeed, spiritual warfare was a consistent thread in most of the praise, worship, equipping classes, Sunday morning sermons and leadership lessons.
You might call it “extreme apostolic.” We hunted down the demon(s) behind every doorknob like a child with a sweet tooth hunts for chocolate Easter eggs. Looking back, it seemed at times like a contest to determine who could present the most detailed dream or vision about the enemy’s impending plan. Once the enemy was spotted, a shouting match with the principality or power ensued that left you with a sore throat—and no respite from the warfare.
I was in a spiritual warfare ditch, where the enemy and his plans were ultimately exalted over God and His plans. Don’t get me wrong. I believe wholeheartedly in spiritual warfare. But we can get into a ditch with any principle if we take it to the extreme. So we have to ask ourselves: What causes us to take biblical principles to the extreme?
Do you remember when the Lord spoke to the apostle Paul in the night by a vision? He said: “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).
That’s the Scripture that came to my mind last Friday after I came home from the spa. Yes, the spa. See, I’m not too proud to admit that carrying the weight and fighting the spiritual warfare that goes along with planting a church, writing a new book about the Jezebel spirit, producing worship songs, commenting in a weekly national radio broadcast, working in media ministry at Charisma, raising a teenager as a single mother—I’ll stop there—I’m not too proud to admit that sometimes the warfare against my mind and body is so intense that it borders on overwhelming.
When that happens, I’ve learned that I need to unplug and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to me. And that’s what I did last Friday afternoon. I never imagined that God had someone in the spa ready and waiting to speak a word in due season that would remind me of just how great our God is and how much He really cares. But that’s just what happened. Call it a divine appointment. God had stationed a powerful prayer warrior (with a strong Jamaican accent) in that spa to minister to me by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are emotional beings. God gave us emotions—and God Himself has emotions. Our emotions can be a great motivator at times and a great enemy at other times.
Think about it for a minute. Sometimes we feel joyful; sometimes we grieve. Sometimes we feel bold; sometimes intimidated. Sometimes we feel triumphant; sometimes completely and utterly physically and emotionally exhausted.
Is it possible that we could avoid the extreme highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster if we maintained God’s perspective? What if we could wait on the Lord, mount up with wings as eagles and take a prophetic perspective of our lives—then rejoice in the Lord for the victory?
You were walking by faith and not by sight down the narrow path that leads to life. One day at a time, you were pressing on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling you upward. You had the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Suddenly, the narrow road constricted. The eyes of your faith waxed dim. One day at a time seemed like too much and the finish line too far off in the darkened distance. The peace turned to anxiety and you didn’t understand how to get past where you are to where you are going—or even how to get there.
What in the world is happening? It’s a trial—and not just any brand of trial. A raging fiery tribulation. A top to bottom faith examination. A fruit inspection. You are on audition for God on the way to the next level. The good news is you don’t have to waste your pain. You can rejoice—and take a lesson from a High Priest who understands.
Never let the devil see you sweat. If your best friend betrays you, don’t put your disappointment on display. If you can’t pay your mortgage, don’t verbally doom your financial fate. If the doctor gives you a bad report, don’t speak death over your life. If you just feel like giving up, don’t voice your resignation.
There’s no faith in circumstantial fretting. Our frustration and fear is what causes us to overheat and sometimes boil over. Why not decide by your will to agree with the Word of God and receive the grace you need to overcome the disappointment, the financial stress, the health issues and the despair? Why not walk in Philippians 1:28? Pick whatever translation inspires you. Here are a couple of choices:
If you don’t like what I write, agree to disagree or speak the truth in love. But don’t pronounce shame on me. If you don’t agree with your pastor’s theology, ask some honest questions in the right spirit or go to another church. But don’t pronounce shame on him. If you don’t like the way your son is behaving, then discipline him. But don’t pronounce shame on him.
Beloved, I see far too many shame pronouncers in the Body of Christ. And it troubles me. Rather than announce what a shame it is, let me rather turn to the Word and educate shame-pronouncers why Jesus doesn’t want us to pronounce shame on one another. Like Paul, I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved brethren I warn you (1 Cor. 4:14).
In other words, I’m not trying to heap shame or condemnation on people who have adopted the habit of pronouncing “shame on you!” when they don’t like what people say or do. I am merely warning you not to use these three words so loosely because your words carry the power of life and death and Jesus suffered death to give us life.
Put your determination where your desire is. The Holy Spirit spoke those seven simple words to me … and they bear repeating: Put your determination where your desire is. Friends, that’s a key to reaching every godly goal.
Before you decide you don’t need to read another goal-setting article, think again. My goal here is not to teach you how to set goals. My goal is to stir the Holy Ghost determination in you to reach—and even exceed—them to the glory of God.
Doubtless, you understand the principles of goal-setting and don’t need me to tell you that most great men and women who reached their goals first wrote them down on paper, then told other people and finally took daily steps toward their intended destination. So I won’t drive you down that step-by-step route.
If you’ll get in my vocabulary-based vehicle with me for the next five minutes, though, I’ll give you a key that will not only start the engine of your dream machine but also offer the fuel to keep it running despite the rocks and sand that the devil tries to pour into your gas tank.
While I was praying over 2012, I received impressions about many things—some warnings and some promises. But what burned most on my heart to share with the masses wasn’t a list of predictions or a prophetic directive. What burned most on my heart to share are four simple words: Revival begins with you.
We yearn to see signs, wonders and miracles manifest today as they did in the book of Acts, don’t we? But are we willing to pay the price the early church paid? Are we willing to die to self? Are we willing to relinquish control to the Holy Spirit so He can move like He wants to move? Are we willing to repent for the character flaws that hold us back? Are we willing to walk in love and unity with true believers who don’t believe exactly the same as we do? Are we willing to war against the spirit of compromise that is raging against the church in this age? Revival begins with you.
The book of Acts never fails to fascinate me. It is the Holy Ghost in action, the gifts of the Spirit made manifest, a charismatic believer’s delight. Indeed, many of us want to see the Holy Ghost move in the church—and in the world—like that again. Well, I beseech you to consider these four words: Revival begins with you.
After more than a decade of watching the war on Christmas rage—we’ve seen everything from battles over “Xmas versus Christmas” to a ban on nativity scenes and beyond—I’ve concluded that we have to keep fighting.
The war on Christmas is, after all, a war on Christ. Jesus advocates for us before the Father (1 John 2:1). The least we could do is advocate for Him before man. (This is where you offer a good, hearty “amen!”)
Honestly, I get a bit weary of reporting on the twists and turns of the atheistic, humanistic (and other “istic”) affronts launched against all things Christian during this time of year. And you may get a bit weary of reading about it. But we must not only read about the war on Christmas—we must also engage in it.
The truth is, the spirits behind the war on Christmas don’t stop battling after we take our dying Christmas trees to the end of the driveway.
The first and worst cause of error that prevails in our day is spiritual pride.
So said Jonathan Edwards, a preacher, theologian and missionary to Native Americans who lived in the 1700s. Edwards went on to say that spiritual pride is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ—the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment, and the main handle by which Satan takes hold of Christians to hinder a work of God. Powerful words!
If that was true in Edwards’ day—and it was—then how much more is it true in our day?
Think about it for a minute. In Edwards’ era, there were no megachurches, no Facebook pages where charismatic preachers could woo millions of “fans,” no global satellites to broadcast prosperity messages to the masses, and no Hollywood Christianity with all its trappings. In Edwards’ era, rather, Europeans were fleeing to North America, in part, to gain freedom from oppressive religious systems.
God has given us the ability to reason—but too much mental reasoning blocks spiritual discernment and breeds plenty of confusion.
With that in mind, is it possible that you are reasoning yourself out of prophetic wisdom that could be blocking your spiritual growth, your blessings, and even the full manifestation of your destiny?
I’ll admit it. I am analytical. I tend to reason through every possibility before making a decision. But I also pray after my thoughtful analysis and ultimately submit my plans to the written Word and the Spirit’s leading (which always agree). Of course, I’m not perfect. But my purpose is to lean not on my own understanding—even when my own understanding seems plentiful in my own eyes (Prov. 3:5-6).
Because the human heart is deceitful above all things there is an ever-present danger of flowing in pride instead of flowing in the Spirit (Jer. 17:9). This is especially true when we consider ourselves well-versed, experts even, in any area. Knowledge puffeth up (1 Cor. 8:1), after all, and pride comes before the fall (Prov. 16:18).
If we rely solely on our own reasoning—our own understanding—we could find ourselves shipwrecked. But if we rely on the Spirit’s wisdom—on His reasoning—we may find ourselves with a haul of blessings so big we can’t contain them. Indeed, we can see this very principle in Scripture.
Have you ever felt like you are living in a vicious circle? Even now you may be trying your best to solve a problem only to discover that every step you take is making the problem worse—or even creating new problems.
If that’s you, stop and ask yourself—is this a vicious circle or a demonic cycle? In other words, is one trouble in your life leading to another because of the classic law of cause and effect, a law that can easily snowball for better or worse? Or are you wrestling against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places? (Eph. 6:12)
Before we go on, let me state emphatically that every obstacle or setback we face in life is not rooted in demonic activity. Becoming super-skilled in spiritual warfare isn’t going to solve all of your problems because all of your problems aren’t originating demons. Getting hyper focused on identifying demons and tearing down strongholds can actually perpetuate the vicious cycle. What we magnify tends to manifest. Magnify the devil and he seems bigger in your eyes. Magnify Jesus and His glory inspires you to overcome by His grace.
There’s plenty of talk about prayer, prophetic intercession, standing in the gap, making up the hedge, prayer burdens, and, of course, spiritual warfare. But how do we discern the call to prayer? How do we recognize a proverbial prayer burden?
These questions may seem simple, but far too many saints have come to me carrying burdens they thought were their own when in reality they were feeling the weight of oppression over a person or a city. I know how they feel. It took me some years to learn to accurately divide soul and spirit.
The turning point for me was during a mission trip to Nicaragua. I woke up feeling severely depressed for no apparent reason. I felt down and out, like giving up, throwing in the towel, calling it quits and running home to pull the covers over my head. It felt like my best friend had just died. I sat there for about 20 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong with me and crying out to God to help me escape these oppressive feelings.
As I persisted, I heard that still small voice in my spirit saying, “Despondent. This is how the people of this nation feel. Pray.” Despondence is a feeling of extreme discouragement, dejection or depression. Once the Lord gave me that insight, I joined with others in a circle to pray against the oppression with the weapons of our warfare, which are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4).
It’s irresponsible to loosely toss around emotionally charged accusations. Phrases like “spiritual abuse,” “Christian cults” and “controlling ministries” can be very harmful. I wouldn’t want to stand before Jesus and give account for misspoken words that carry the potential to tear down what He is building.
On the other hand, it’s also irresponsible to turn a blind eye to spiritual abuse, Christian cults and controlling ministries. I wouldn’t want to stand before Jesus and give account for supporting ministries that are tearing down what He is building.
When spiritual leaders are caught in sex abuse scandals, the secular and Christian media alike pen stories that offer the detestable details and dogged denials. But spiritual abuse, cultish churches and controlling ministries are less often exposed than pastors who coerce teenaged boys and unsuspecting church secretaries to have sexual relations.
That’s because victims of abusive church authority structures may not even realize what they are enduring until they escape its grip. Spiritual abuse is often subtle. Christian cult leaders don’t always operate like Jim Jones. Controlling ministries tend to hide behind the guise of spiritual coverings. And far too many outsiders are not willing to even question the messages and practices of such churches. It takes lovers of truth with spiritual discernment to recognize the sometimes-subtle signs of abusive churches. And it takes courage to confront it.
You know all too well that you are in a spiritual war against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places. But have you ever considered that you are also in a spiritual war against your own carnal lusts?
When Paul said we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), he did not mean that we don’t wrestle against fleshly temptations. Indeed, we know that carnal lusts war against our soul (1 Peter 2:11). We have to engage in this battle in order to walk out the victory we already have in Christ. We have to declare war on carnal lusts or we may wind up buffeting the air in the name of Jesus while the enemy has his wicked way in our lives.
Before you dismiss this article because you aren’t living in immorality, consider that carnal lusts include more than sexual sin. Vine’s Dictionary defines lust as a “strong desire” of any kind. Although the Bible uses lust in a positive context three times, the Word of God most often describes it as a root of sin. Lust is associated with pride, greed and other strong desires that lead us out of God’s will.
Medical doctors call it Usher syndrome. It’s a disorder that causes deafness and gradual loss of sight.
You may have heard about it in the news in recent years. Jacob, the 9-year-old son of star horse jockey Kent Desormeaux, is suffering from the disease. Jacob is progressively going blind, and more quickly than anticipated. Doctors say one day he may not be able to see at all.
As a parent, this tears at my heart. I can’t even imagine this father’s pain, watching as his son slowly but surely loses his senses of sight and hearing; realizing his son will soon be unable to hear his voice or see his smiling face. But this natural example also awakened my spirit to the Father’s pain in watching some of His own children slowly but surely lose their senses of sight and hearing—through spiritual deception.
Like Usher syndrome, deception is progressive. I don’t believe people move from worshipping God to worshipping angels overnight, for example. Nor do I believe one leaps from the practical study of biblical types and shadows to practicing occultism quickly. It starts with a little erroneous fox. Just as the Word of God warns us how one sin can lead to another sin (read: David and Bathsheba) it is also true that one error can lead us into another error. One wrong belief can cause us to believe many wrong things.
Throughout history, people have quipped about revenge. Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock liked to say, “Revenge is sweet and not fattening.” Edward Gibbon believed, “Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.” And you’ve probably heard it said, “I’m back with a vengeance.”·
I have to admit it. I’ve been tempted to take vengeance on those who have wronged me. I could take justified legal action to collect 12 years of unpaid child support and have enough money to go on an extravagant European vacation. I could justifiably file suit against the brother in Christ who ran off on Christmas Eve with $10,000 of my cash, never finishing the job he was paid for and leaving me with one toilet, no shower and no kitchen. I could expose those who have spread malicious lies about me and bring them to public shame.
Yes, I’ve been tempted to take revenge. But the Lord makes it emphatically clear that vengeance belongs to Him—and He will repay (Romans 12:19). Despite the emotions that rose up when I was wronged, I ultimately believe God’s vengeance will work out better for me than any forceful yet feeble attempt I could make to even the score. God sees everything. That’s why I reject the quips of Hitchcock and Gibbon in favor of the idea that Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius offered, “The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Notice that Jesus is the Finisher. He always finishes what He starts—and He wants us to finish the God-inspired initiatives we start, too.
To be sure, one of the keys of the kingdom is the “key of finishing.” It unlocks the blessing of increase and is a clear manifestation of kingship.
Jesus is our example. Jesus was always concerned about finishing the work His Father sent Him to do. He saw the blessing on the other side of finishing. He had His eyes on the prize—the blessing—that came after He finished.