(This week's post is in outline form. That's just how it came out. Let me know if this works for you.)

Plundering the Darkness
Your Reward for the Battle
Imagine a bet: I come to you and I offer a bet:
If I win, you pay me $1000.00
If you win, I don’t pay you anything.
Who’s up for a bet like that?
Imagine a war: One country attacks another (say, the war in Iraq)
If our army wins, you submit to us, we establish the government we want, etc.
If your army wins, we’ll just pretend this never happened.
Who can imagine a war like that?
Imagine a spiritual battle: the enemy attacks us in some way.
If the enemy wins, he gets some level of dominion; something comes under the control of hell.
If I win, nothing happens. I just wait for the next battle.
Often, the church has had this picture of spiritual warfare:
We’re on the defensive.
If the enemy wins, we lose ground.
If we win, we don’t lose ground.
Not losing ground is a good thing.
But that’s not all that’s at stake in this battle.
We’re battling for revival
Revival in our own lives
Revival in our families
Revival in this region.
Ultimately: for “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
The Principle:
1 Corinthians 15:46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural , and afterward the spiritual.
“First the natural, then the spiritual”
First the Natural:
Joshua 8:24-27: And it came to pass when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness where they pursued them, and when they all had fallen by the edge of the sword until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword… 27 Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as booty for themselves, according to the word of the LORD which He had commanded Joshua.
2 Chronicles 20:22-30: Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.... 25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much.
(see also 2 Chronicles 14:12-13 & Numbers 31:7-11)
There’s a line in the movie Pirates of the Carribean where two pirates are talking. Their salute is this:
“Take all you can! Leave nothing behind!”
Why should I be concerned about plunder? I just want to live my life quietly.
Three Reasons:
1. The enemy will steal from you. Do you want it back?
What do you have that you’re willing to be stolen from you?
What part of your life are you willing to have destroyed?
Look around you:
· Pick out the ones that you want to leave to the devil’s captivity?
· Who are you willing to let the devil destroy or kill?
2. It brings praise to God
My spirit just can’t help it: when I hear about someone healed of cancer, or set free from bondage, I can’t help but worship.
Free people worship better than people enslaved.
3. It freaks out our enemies.
Think of David after he defeated Goliath.
He took Goliath’s sword, killed Goliath and cut off his head. Then he fought Philistines. Afterwards, he reported to King Saul
He was still holding Goliath’s Head! The enemies saw the one who killed their champion. He was carrying their champion’s sword in one hand. He was carrying their champion’s head in the other, and he was chasing them. How do you think they felt?
What is plunder?
There are 3 types of plunder :
Let’s think about this for a minute:
· When the enemy comes to fight against you, these three things come with him.
· When you win, these three things are lying on the ground, waiting to be taken as plunder.
· Your job is to take them.
People: They took slaves: usually everyone who wasn’t a warrior. Sometimes women & children. Sometimes only women. Sometimes none at all.
· Have you known people that just won’t come to the Lord no matter what happens?
· Is there an area of your own life that you just can’t get under control, no matter how hard you try?
Provision: They took gold and silver, cattle and sheep, fine clothes and weaponry.
· Do you know someone that no matter how faithful they are, they can never get ahead?
· Have you been faithful in your tithes and in your finances, but you’re still broke or in debt?
Places: They took cities and farms, entire nations.
· Do you know cities or regions where darkness seems particularly sticky and present?
· Do you want to have authority in your community? Maybe your name will never be in the newspaper, but when you pray for your neighborhood, it always happens?
So are there any New Testament examples of plunder?
Matthew 12:28-30
28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
According to Jesus, what do we do when we encounter the strong man?
1. We bind him. (We overcome him & we defeat him.)
2. We plunder his house. (We take back the stuff he has held captive)
Who is this strong man?
This verse is in the context of deliverance ministry: Jesus is casting demons out of people. It is not the devil himself. This strong man is whatever demon or stronghold you are facing right now.
How do you take plunder?
So you have defeated the enemy. Now how do you get your hands on his plunder?
Principle: First the natural, then the spiritual: In the natural, how do you get plunder? Do you finish off the enemy, and hold your pocket open, waiting for his riches to fill it? No, you take plunder. You look for what is there, and you take it!
** Principle: Plunder is never given; it is only taken **
In the spiritual:
I can’t give you an outline on “here’s the way you pick up plunder in the spirit,” but let me share a couple of stories:
· People:
o David Andrew and the spirit of homosexuality. After his deliverance, the local “gaydar” expert boasted, “I can tell a gay person instantly; no gay people here!”
o Jill and her miracle daughters (you’ve heard her story)
· Provision:
o I could tell you story after story about people who give extravagantly, and they seem to get into a giving-competition with God: provision is rich and abundant.
o Steve: In debt, wanted to get a big TV for Christmas. God said “no more debt”. 3 days later: same size TV for 40% less money, and God provided the money. Result: a surprise blessing on his finances: he paid off 2 credit cards and nearly paid off his car loan.
· Places:
o Drug dealers on V Street. After prayer, they all mysteriously vanished.
o Town in Argentina (Transformations Video). When they turned to God, they experienced 65% to 92% of the town becoming Christians, incredible prosperity instead of poverty, and the jails closed down because there was no crime.
What if I don’t win the battle?
Romans 8:37-38
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
1 Corinthians 15:57
57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
If you’re afraid of losing the battle, you need to read your handbook.
If you’re not winning, then you’re not fighting your battles the way God says to. He always wins.
Ask your brothers and sisters for help.

Once you find the plunder:
Take all you can! Leave nothing behind!


The Miracle Truck

I drive a miracle truck. Here’s how it happened.
I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for a truck for about the last nine months. I’ve checked all of the car lots, watched the papers, had professionals look for the right truck. I’ve even prayed extensively for a truck. During an extended time of prayer one weekend, I told the Lord specifically what I wanted in a truck, and I listed about fifteen very detailed specifications that were on my heart. I was specific about the year, the mileage, the engine size, the bed size, the number of seat belts (5), and even the color.
After two years of this, I concluded that this desire for a truck was not God’s desire; that this was my flesh rising up. So I confessed it, repented of it, and renounced the desire. I expected the desire for the truck to leave.
No such luck. The desire grew. The more I renounced it, the more the desire grew. Aargh. I couldn't get away from the desire for a truck. THIS specific truck on my prayer list from months earlier.
One day, I was trying hard NOT to observe this nice truck that fit most of my specifications, and I heard a little voice say in my mind, "I can give you a truck like that." Now, I didn’t know God's voice as well as I thought I should, but that did NOT sound like His voice, so I rebuked it in Jesus Name, and asked God to shut the mouth of the devil. Besides, that wasn't the kind of thing God would talk to me about! ...Was it?
About this time, God began speaking to me about my prayer life. He instructed me to pray a little less along the lines of “Oh God, would you please….” and more along the lines of, “Move! In the Name of Jesus, you’re coming down!”
You know, this didn’t settle all that well with my Calvinist upbringing. But I wanted ALL that God had for me, so I began to seek Him about it. The more I prayed, the more I felt like I ought to at least TRY praying that way before I wrote it off. I was willing to risk my understanding of "How God Does Things" if that was what He really was asking me to do.
So one afternoon, I got a little bold. Amidst many prayers of “God, if this isn’t of you, don’t hold it against me, OK?” I decided to try this kind of "commanding prayer." I had several things on my mind to pray for, some that were real significant eternally, and that I felt that I wanted to pray for. If this was going to work, I wanted to use it on something Really Important. But it seemed that God was leading me to pray for a truck. THE truck. The truck on the list.
So I did. I commanded the truck to be released, in Jesus’ Name, from whatever was holding it back. It wasn’t their truck anymore, it was mine, and it was time for me to take possession of it!
Ok. That was wierd. But as long as I was experimenting, I added, “And I want it here by Friday!”
In the intervening days between then and Friday, I had to wrestle doubts to the ground a couple of times, and that was a challenge. On Friday morning, I realized that I hadn’t specified a price. Then I reminded myself that if God had a truck in mind, He’d know my budget, too. And if He didn’t have a truck in mind, then I’d know that I had bigger problems with my theology than I did with my finances.
To make a long story short, I bought the truck on my lunch hour that Friday. It matched EVERY ONE of the specifications on my list--even the color!
That was several years ago. I still can’t get into the truck without thanking God for His faithfulness!


The Curse of the Bell Curve

I have come to resent the bell curve. No, that’s not strong enough. I’ve come to loathe the bell curve.

The bell curve itself is unworthy of my wrath. It’s merely a chart, a tool to handle information and present it in a way that makes some sense out of a subject as complex as the human being. Psychologists love bell curves; come to think of it, that may have something to do with my opinion of the thing.

Almost any way you examine the human species, most of us fall in the middle, and less of us are exceptional either in the positive or the negative. The vast majority of us are of average intelligence. There are a few exceptionally brilliant ones and a few that are were paying attention to something else when God passed out reasoning ability. That’s what the bell curve measures: how many of us are average and how few of us are exceptional, whether ahead of the curve or behind it. The vast bulk of our species is somehow in the realm called “average” and then there are the leftovers that don’t fit into that group.

The Bell Curve Theory says that all points on the chart – both the masses in the middle, and the tiny quantities at the fringes – are legitimate: it’s not “wrong” to be on the cutting edge, or the trailing edge, any more than it’s wrong to be in the vast middle ground.

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a truly “average” person, and so I question whether the bell curve is all that accurate at describing our species, but that’s not my primary problem with the thing. Nor is my antipathy based on its reduction of a complex and beautiful species down to a handful of simple statistics. Rather, my frustration with it is much deeper. Let me illustrate.

I am the proud father of three spectacular teenaged examples of what’s good and right with the human species. My children are all wonderful, but they are as different from each other as I can imagine. I used to think this was merely the wonder of my own offspring, but my sister has five children, and they are equally diverse; I’m coming to the conclusion that kids are human beings – not an opinion I’ve held my whole life, I’m afraid – and they are as unique as the human species is.

Of necessity, I am also the father of three examples of the product of my community’s educational system. And this leads me to the heart of why I despise the bell curve. In our community, the school system is designed for the “average” student, their programs and teaching styles designed to fit the bulk of kids that fit in that vast middle ground o the bell curve. Since my kids are not “average”, they’ve had to adapt themselves to the school’s methods in order to benefit from its lessons. One daughter learns best, for example, when she can talk through the process one-on-one, and when she can work with her hands; another daughter took the toughest classes the school had and still wasn’t sufficiently challenged. The school makes room for neither.

As a teacher, I understand the benefit of kids adapting to the methods of the teachers. As a father, I resent the requirement that they must change or else be excluded. But the school system has become an education factory, and of necessity must adopt factory methods, and these require addressing the bulk of the bell curve.

The same problem has infiltrated the Church, and this is where the bell curve really irks me. The overwhelming majority of churches – local congregations, large and small – are built for the bell curve: the majority of churches cater to the majority of Christians, those who are “average.” And just like the school system, if I hope to gain something from my association with the church, I need to learn to adapt myself and my needs to the “average” ministry that is being provided by my church. That is never stated, but it’s true nevertheless: I must learn to conform to the way they offer church if I want to receive from their offerings. I must meet when they meet, I must learn from the lessons they teach in the way that they teach them, I must benefit from the spiritual gifts they manifest, and I must find someone to trust among their limited circle of people. It’s almost as if the church were becoming a factory, too.

This strikes me as a question of integrity. I can conform, and fit into the “average” mold, but that sacrifices the man God made me to be for the sake of conformity, or I can maintain my integrity, but sacrifice my ability to relate to my church and the resources God has there for me.

It seems to me that part of the reason is that churches have fallen into something of a pragmatic mindset: “How can we reach the largest number of people with limited resources?” (If, however, the church contains the presence of the infinite God, then perhaps there’s room to question the “limited resources” issue, but that’s another conversation, isn’t it?) It is awfully appealing to look at an established budget of time and money, and look at that bell curve, and realize, “I can start this program which will be meaningful to 5% of the population, or that program, which will be meaningful to 60% of the population, but I can’t do both. Where do I want to spend my budget?”

Jesus has been quoted as saying “A bruised reed [I] will not break, And smoking flax [I] will not quench.” He promises to take each of us as we are and rescue us, equip us, and unleash us into an unsuspecting world. The key phrase here is “as we are.” Even if we don’t fit “average” we belong in the Church.

I could go on about how much of the Church is embracing the values of the business world in making spiritual decisions, but that won’t solve anything. More to the point, how shall I respond myself? What can I do to fight the curse of the bell curve? How do I maintain my own integrity and still be part of a congregation that doesn’t mean to, but nevertheless does require conformity to function? Beyond that, what can I do to address the needs of the people at the fringes of the bell curve, the ones who are functionally overlooked by the local church? What can I do? Oh, wait. The Infinite God lives in me too.