And like every other time that we experience new freedom in Christ, there’s also a fresh resurgence of legalism trying to take away our freedom. I can’t remember ever seeing so many people pushing an agenda of “Return to the Law.”
You may have run into people online who warn you about “going too far” in experiencing the infinite grace of God. Some are concerned about holiness and believe that holiness is the result of their good works. Others appear to have invested so much of themselves in making themselves acceptable that they resent those who are made acceptable without the same effort.
I’m finding more books than ever, arguing for a return to an obedience-based covenant, some emphasizing dietary laws, others emphasizing whom you may associate with, others focusing on Sabbath law, or using Hebrew names for God, or celebrating Jewish holidays instead of the “pagan” holidays of whichever culture you live among.
It is EXACTLY this environment into which Paul writes Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” This is also the context in which Paul writes, “... some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” (Galatians 2:4)
The apostle Paul was in the midst of the first great outpouring of the Spirit of God, the very first expansion of the Kingdom of God, and then, like now, there was a great surge towards returning to legalism, whether by circumcision, or by obeying Old Covenant rules about food or fellowship. The “Judaizers” who are promoting this legalism often call it a “restoration,” but the Bible calls it a “Yoke of Slavery.”
This is also the context into which Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
This is a normal response of hell (often through people who don’t have freedom) whenever God’s people are moving in freedom: try to drag those who are escaping slavery back into slavery; if they can’t do that, then they’ll persecute the free ones and say all kinds of evil against them. Rejoice when that happens to you.
My encouragement is NOT to focus our attention on the people or the influences trying to drag us back into slavery. That’s an unworthy focus for our attention. Rather, be aware that some want to draw you back into their “yoke of slavery;” avoid them, as you avoid potholes in the road, while we “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
As you follow Him (who IS worthy of our attention!), He’ll lead you “along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3) Trust the freedom that he’s leading you into; it really is for freedom that he has set us free!
Let us “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
It’s hard in that place. It’s easy to get disgruntled, angry, bitter in that place: why isn’t God changing this? It's like he doesn't even hear your prayers on this.
Here's my experience, my testimony: I spent a bunch of years disgruntled in a lousy job, and I surely didn't thrive. I complained to God and man about legitimate issues, blatantly illegal issues. I ended up doing the job poorly, and the boss noticed. Yikes.
I realized that I was letting my job be the thing that determined the state of my soul: my circumstances were the thing that determined whether I had joy or depression, whether I was thankful or ungrateful. Yikes again: I decided I wasn’t OK with somebody else controlling me.
I took positive steps to change my attitude. The job didn't change; if anything, it got worse. But I looked for places to rejoice (often the people) and ways to excel (one big one came through an on-site accident: weird how that worked). I went out of my way to perform that lousy job to the best of my ability, while submitting to their stupid and unreasonable limitations. More, I went out of my way to be positive and encouraging to the people I worked with, and with myself.
Time went by. A couple of years later, my job was pretty much the same, but I was happy and thriving and doing my job well. The boss noticed, and talked about promotion, but even more, Father noticed, and he released me to the next opportunity: I was not released from the prison until I overcame my own soul in the midst of it.
It seems that he wasn't willing to bail me out when I'd given up: he doesn't reward disgruntled
ingratitude. God’s ways do not include giving in to our petulant temper tantrums and continuous whining. He rewards faithfulness, especially in tough circumstances. He always has.
That appears to be his way throughout scripture: he rewards those who are faithful, whether with great gifts or with small ones. This is also his way: he always saves us through the difficulties, never from them.
It’s when we’re faithful in the midst those difficult circumstances that he is free to reward us, not before.
Nobody in their right mind counterfeits $3 bills. What gets counterfeited are $20 bills and $100 bills. Why? Because they’re the most valuable.
When things are valuable, they are counterfeited. When they are meaningless, they are not counterfeited.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. – [1 John 2:18-20 NKJV]
Let’s follow God, shall we, wherever he shall lead us.
One day, the young men had delivered everybody of their demons except one old cuss, whose demon obdurately refused to leave. They tried everything they knew, prayed every prayer they ever heard, quoted every scripture, and still the demon mocked them.
They’d been at it for hours, determined to see this man set free. The main meetings finished, and people left, and still the demon resisted them. They determined to keep at it – all night if need be – until this poor man was free.
Finally, the last car leaving the parking lot stopped by the deliverance tent, and out stepped AA Allen himself. In a glance, he saw what was happening, and walked over to the demoniac. He bent over, and whispered a sentence, and the demon fled, screaming. Allen stood up, and walked back to his car.
The young men were astounded, and one ran up to him. “What did you say? What authority did you use? How did you do that? Why couldn’t we?”
Allen paused. “I said, ‘My name is AA Allen. Now get out!’” and he stepped into the car and drove off.
There’s a reason that we’re told to walk in the authority Father has given us. Some of us handle Father’s authority like it’s precious china, or like it’s an expensive and complicated tool: we must be careful and we must use it exactly right!
And Father is calling us to just walk in the authority: we’re his kids, so of course we carry his authority. It’s not something we do, it’s not about the right words, the right prayers, as if they were incantations.
It’s about us being his beloved children: we speak and we don’t even need to mention his name: all of heaven and all of hell already knows that when we speak, we’re speaking in his name.
I felt God drawing my attention to second hand smoke today.
Second hand smoke is smoke that you breathe from someone else’s cigarette, or pipe, etc. It doesn't come as a result of your actions, but its smell still clings to your clothes, and it exposes you to lung cancer nearly as much as if you were smoking yourself.
In some ways, it's more dangerous: pipe-smokers (and some cigar and cigarette smokers) don't generally inhale their own smoke, but if you're in their company, you don't have a choice about whether you inhale their secondhand smoke: it's just part of breathing when they're smoking around you. Your body actually experiences more of the deadly smoke than their body does.
In my own experience, there are far more times that people around me are smoking, than there are times when I am the person smoking. (Full disclosure: I do occasionally smoke a pipe.)
Second hand smoke happens in the spirit realm as well. We experience things – smells cling to us; we’re exposed to deadly danger – not because of things that we’re doing, but because of things that others are doing around us. I suspect it is true here: there are far more times when people around me are doing things to stir up the hornets' nest, than when I'm stirring that nest. After all, there are many people around me, and there's only one of me!
May I encourage us: when we're feeling the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" coming against us, avoid the foolishness of self-accusation: "Well, I must have done something wrong." Sure, sometimes we do something stupid and open a gate to give the devil permission to steal, kill & destroy. And he generally makes use of those opportunities. In that case, all we do is repent, kick him in the teeth, and move on.
But sometimes the troubles coming against us are brought about by the actions of others: maybe stuff passed on by parents, or foolishness committed by people we're in covenant relationship with, or maybe we've associated ourselves with a group that has given place to some sort of stronghold. Just because we're in relationship with a number of people, there's secondhand smoke around.
It's probably appropriate to remember that our own actions affect many of the people we're in relationship with; in another way, there's no such thing as a "secret" or a "victimless" sin.
I'm not trying to bring a teaching on how to overcome demonic attacks: there's lots of that around, and we all remember: repentance is a super-power, and I suspect the 'kicking the devil in the teeth" exercise will still be valuable.
Rather, this is about diagnosing the source: when trouble comes our way, it isn't always about us; sometimes it's from second-hand smoke
- What benefit does understanding provide to my ability to obey? I find that my understanding is limited by my capacity to understand, which is – as hard as this is to believe – noticeably less than God’s capacity to understand. He can see the relationship between my obedience and my sister’s salvation whether I can or not.
- When I ask for understanding, have I already chosen to obey and even begun to obey, or is my decision to obey going to come after I understand, if I understand?
- What do I do if God has a different plan for my life than I do? What if “success” in God’s mind is the thing that we call “failure”? Jonah will work as an example here. He wanted to live the comfortable and well-regarded life of a prophet in
. God had other plans: “Go to Israel !” Later, Jonah reveals his agenda. “You’re doing exactly what I didn’t want; that’s why I went the other way! Go ahead: kill me now!” (Paraphrased from Jonah 4:1-3.) Nineveh
The other day, I went for a walk in the woods, in “our place”: a set of trails that God & I used to spend a lot of time on together. What with the price of gas to get there, and the business of life, I haven’t been to those trails much recently; we’ve been meeting in coffee shops and back rooms instead.
When I got to the trailhead, my first words were according to tradition, “Hi Papa,” and then He broke our tradition. Instead of waiting for me to quiet my mind over the next mile, He immediately began speaking to me of reciprocity in relationships, particularly His relationship with individuals. He seemed very excited about it. I’m afraid I loved that part best: His enthusiasm is very contagious.
“My relationship with you,” He began, and I could hear Him smiling, “is reciprocal.” And He let me think on that for a bit.
I sometimes teach a model of relationships that uses a bridge as an illustration of our relationship: the stronger the bridge (the relationship) between us, the more weight that can be carried across the bridge from you to me, or from me to you, but we both have to build the bridge.
I thought of this illustration now, as He was teaching me. “That’s actually not how I relate to you.” I was getting excited with Him by now.
So He began to describe to me how He limits Himself in His relationship with me – or anyone else – based on how I approach Him. While He is always attentive towards me, if I give Him my time and attention, then He gives me His time & attention: the degree to which I experience Him is pretty much determined by how much I’m willing to invest myself in Him, in our relationship.
I wish I could capture the joy, the immediacy, the clarity that came on those trails.
He pointed out that He’s “pretty much omnipotent” and if He relates to me in His omnipotence, I’ll pop, or my brain will fry, or I’ll burn up in a puff of smoke. “No one can see My face and live,” He said to Moses, and suddenly I understand better. If He brought the infinite force of His personality to our relationship, I would crumble to dust when He showed up. That’s hard on the relationship.
It’s mercy that keeps Him at a distance from me.
And so He must limit Himself, His glory that is in His person, His personality. I pray, “Show me your glory” like Moses, and He must answer, “I cannot.”
But the limit that He puts on Himself is the limit that I set. Or to put it the other way, the more I open myself to Him, the more He opens Himself to me.
I long for His presence. I appreciate His mercy.
Multi-Level Marketing is Expensive:
1. It costs relationships. Multi-level marketing (MLM), by its very design and nature, changes my relationships. People are no longer only my friends or family, but must become—to some degree—prospects for the business. MLM requires by its very nature that you bring others into it. I have not been willing to pay that price.
Furthermore, some of the relationships that are spent are those of my family. MLM works well only if both husband and wife are equally committed to and enthused about “the business.” But even then, the time and attention siphoned away from my family relationships is hard for me to live with. Besides, I’ll miss our golf games on Fridays if that’s part of the cost.
And beyond all that, every successful MLM that I have ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot!) virtually requires my joining their social subculture in order to be “successful.”
2. It costs time. Any business endeavor will require an investment in time. Ten hours a week (such as is often quoted) strikes me as idealistic, but even if it is true, I have other uses for those hours that are more consistent with my long term (eg. ten thousand years and beyond) goals. Ten hours a week usually means ten hours on a quiet week and more on other weeks. But even ten hours a week comes out to 520 hours in a year, or the equivalent of three months of full-time work every year. I’d rather spend that with my family, or with baby believers, or even raking out my lawn!
3. It costs money. Likewise, any business will require a significant financial investment. Even if I don’t buy product to sell (but then what would I show my customers?), I must buy advertising, brochures, gas to attend meetings, costs for meals & conferences, meals for some meetings, bookkeeping paraphernalia, office space, etc. TANSTAAFL, you know.
4. It costs focus. MLM is, by its nature, an opportunistic business. That means that when I find an opportunity, I must seize it and make the presentation. (Rather like evangelism, though it’s an either/or situation. One can’t evangelize for both MLM and
5. It costs reputation. Thanks to Amway, MLM has a really bad name in America: a low-life, get-rich-quick reputation. Of course, people involved in MLM aren’t always “low-life, get-rich-quick” people, but you’d be hard pressed to convince many Americans of that. They hear MLM and they begin to look at you differently.
6. It costs my values. The last thing I need is a values war inside me. Many people have observed a spirit of greed in MLM adherants. In my experience, this is a very (I repeat, very) common problem with MLM. Soon, often before they even sign up, people stop seeing a business and start seeing dollar signs. This is largely related to the way many MLM members promote “the business:” “Look at the potential,” they say. “Think of the things you could do with the money!” I know, this is not a given. It is a serious danger; one that I choose not to expose myself or my family to. I don’t want any of my family flirting with the lust of the eyes or the boastful pride of life.
7. It costs my self-esteem. When I am in MLM, I am associated with values that are opposed to my personal core values. I am part of a group that is considered “low-life, get-rich-quick” by people whose opinions I hope to influence. I get a dozen “No thank you” and a handful of “Hell No’s” for every “I’ll think about it.”
The official figures are that one out of every twelve presentations will be interested in the business and one out of every ten persons who signs up will do anything with it. (These figures come from Amway.) That means one out of every 120 people I take the time to make presentations to will be influenced by “the business.” That’s a lot of work.
The concept of “If you work hard at your business, you can be very successful,” is true for most businesses, most jobs. If I own a drug store and work with as much focus and dedication as is required to make a success of the MLM business, I’ll be a wealthy drug-store owner before long.
Benefits of Multi Level Marketing
Now, lest I be found guilty of one-sidedness, I should present some of the “other side:”
1. If your boss is involved, it may be the “politically correct” thing to do.
2. If you are willing to pay the price(s), MLM can indeed make you rich. My personal opinion is that nobody does it better than Amway, but then Amway has so many people and so much exposure that it’s hard to make it to the big time with them. (A note about startup MLMs: the support services are usually pretty skimpy.)
3. If everything goes exactly as planned (not a regular occurance in our world, but it does happen), you can end up with a sizable residual income, if the MLM company doesn't go bankrupt. (Most do.)
Having said all that, it occurs to me that perhaps I should explain where my opinions come from.
I have studied MLM quite closely. I have a friend who is in an Amway offshoot and is probably going to be rich before he’s my age. He and I have spent probably 100 hours or more discussing Amway and other MLMs (he had studied several before joining his organization). He is a single man who is fanatically devoted to his group. He got a job as a taxi driver simply so he can have contact with more people to “present the business” to. He reads dozens of books, listens to hundreds of tapes and CD’s, hangs out with his “upline”, and attends lots of meetings. He makes several presentations a week and has built a substantial organization. He probably spends (or spent, when I knew him), 15 hours a week actively working on the business, but it consumed him.
I have also studied several MLM companies fairly intentionally. I’ve gone to meetings, read magazines and books, evaluated programs, propaganda, and merchandise. I’ve interviewed both winners and losers in a load of programs: NuSkin, Herbal Life, NSA, Quorum, Amway, Shaklee, Fuller Brush (yes, they went through a MLM stage) and a dozen or more others selling everything from diet plans to insurance and annuities to houses to home security systems to home computers. I’ve named Amway in my concerns above, but every single issue (or “cost”) that I raise above has been found in every single MLM organization I’ve looked at. No exceptions that I’ve yet found.
And last but not least. I have been personally involved in two different MLM programs. My experiences from the inside have confirmed everything I had observed from the outside.
Why did I join? I wanted to invest some of my “spare” time and make some money. It seemed like a good thing at the time. I had been approached by a man I respected. What did it cost? Every thing I’ve mentioned above and more. For years, I carried a sizable debt from the last endeavor. I know whereof I speak.
Multi-level Marketing opportunities are everywhere, and they have a measure of truth in them. If you are willing to give your life to “the business”, you can make a lot of money in some of them. They are naïve (or worse) in their communication of how much work is required. That work is better spent, more cleanly spent, in other places.
As the book of Exodus begins, Israel is in captivity. They were the chosen people of God, descendants of
It was interesting that Reuel’s daughter’s described
Some have suggested Mo was in line for the throne; that may be just an interesting theory, but it illustrates the reality:
No wonder the ladies thought he was an Egyptian.
The church in America is in captivity. Genetically, at our very core, our essence comes from the realm of heaven, but we’ve lived on earth for so long, that we’ve become earthly, natural, in every other way. We think in natural terms. We live among the natural world. Our culture and mannerisms are of this world. We believe in the world we live among.
If the church were actually free, we’d reflect the culture and values of our birth-culture, Heaven. We’d see the events and people of the natural world through the values and resources of heaven. Like it happened around
God is raising up deliverers in our day. God has spoken it prophetically, but it doesn’t really require prophecy to see it: there have been only three times that a generation has been wiped out: the massacre that preceded
Here’s my point: I believe that many of the deliverers that God is raising up in our day will look like “Egyptians.” Egypt has often been used as an illustration of the ways of the world, and many deliverers will look very worldly. They’ll speak in worldly vocabulary and use colorful worldly metaphors. They’ll use worldly mannerisms – not church-cultured mannerisms. They’ll have worldly friends: business leaders, gang leaders, political leaders, artists, educators, barkeepers.
But they’ll be God’s people inside, under all that “worldlikeness.”
The first thing we might see in some of these leaders is that they’re standing up for believers in the secular arena. We’ve already seen some of that: when radical Hindu’s blamed Christians for a popular teacher’s death and started massacring Christians wholesale, there was an outcry, and some of it was from the secular world. The mainstream media didn’t touch the story as far as I can see, but the blogging community did, and many “secular” bloggers spoke out about the injustice.
Does the appearance of a secular person standing up for Christians mean that they’re a deliverer, that they’re even a believer? Certainly not in every case. I don’t believe we’re seeing God’s “Egyptian” delivers quite yet, but I expect that we will in the next several years.
Many men and women who find themselves in the position of defending God’s people against Egyptian slave-masters will shortly find God moving in their lives. They may have a dormant faith, from their childhood or youth, that God suddenly fans into flame. They may be “about to be” Christians, ready for harvest. Or they may be genuine followers of
We are coming into a day where God is bringing deliverers out of hiding, men and women who will not look like church-goers, and who in fact, won’t be church-goers, but they will be deliverers sent by God. If we’re not careful, we’ll reject these young leaders because we don’t recognize the clothing, the mannerisms, the style of speech. If we do, we’ll be rejecting something powerful that God is doing among us.
My favorite teaching passage for deliverance is Mark 9, and Jesus is our model here, not the boys.
Some principles that work well for me:
- Be loaded up on the glory of God before going into that battle. Since it’s hard to know when you’re going in, go ahead & stay loaded up on glory. (vs 1 – 12)
- Don’t be surprised if the occasion is marked by crowds, disputing, amazement, hubbub and such (vs 14 – 16).
- It’s not unusual for believers to not know what to do with demons. (v. 17-18).
- Demons often manifest (act out) when confronted by the presence of God. (v20). Nevertheless, in His presence is the best place for them to become free (v20 – 27).
- There are 3 pieces of information that may be helpful in finding the key to that person’s deliverance:
- History (v21)
- Symptoms (v 22)
- Ungodly beliefs (v24) (This was the one that Jesus picked up on in this event, and he corrected the false belief before delivering the boy. Note that it was his father’s belief that was the key.)
- Note that these can be learned supernaturally (through prophetic words or words of knowledge) or naturally (by conversation or observation); a combination is always helpful.
- Rebuking and commanding are appropriate (v25). Note that
- a) these do not need to be loud or aggressive in either the physical or soul realms to be forceful in the spirit realm; my experience is just the opposite: the gentler my voice, the stronger my authority is on the spirit, and
- b) the rebuke and the command are directed at the demonic spirit; the person hosting the demon are almost uninvolved in the encounter.
- Making a scene is to be avoided (v25) if for no other reason than to avoid embarrassing the person to whom you’re ministering.
- Expect to see a physical reaction (possibly convulsions or something dramatic; more likely a substantial and Godly peace) in response to the exercise of real authority (v26)
- Ministering to their physical needs comes after the deliverance (v 27 and other examples).
- The best authority is a life characterized by prayer and fasting (v29: note that Jesus neither prayed nor fasted during this event).
The biggest issue is knowing that you have the authority in the circumstance and the demon has none when facing Jesus. In circumstances like yours – where you were dealing w/ a demon in a friend (if I understood the facts right) – then it helps to explain some of these things, at least enough to be comforting, to the person being ministered to.
Don’t be freaked: that’s the enemy’s goal: to get you to look at him instead of at Jesus. Weird voices, weird manifestations and the like are just part of the sideshow. I could tell you stories, but it would be redundant: if you’re looking at Jesus & listening to the Spirit in all of this, then the vitriol, the vomiting, levitation, or whatever, is completely irrelevant.
It would be easiest to teach this if we were ministering side by side with a demonized person; this will have to do for now. Please ask questions if you have any.
Walk in warm footsteps!