True praise: misunderstood and misused

C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian author, once wrote how amazed he was to discover that of all the prayers recorded in the Bible, 75% were prayers of praise. He admitted that it was much easier to make requests of God, ask forgiveness, or even offer thanks, but praise was something he rarely did. After his discovery he made the decision to change his prayers, because if God is truly worthy of praise, we His children should praise Him in every aspect of our lives.

Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unfathomable.” It’s unfathomable – our limited brains are incapable of grasping just how immense God’s greatness is, and just how worthy He is of praise. In Revelation 5, John the apostle saw ten thousand times ten thousand angels shouting and declaring in one voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” In Isaiah 6, the seraphim in God’s throne room cover their eyes and feet with their wings shouting out loudly, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, the earth is filled with His glory!” A great amount of praising and singing and shouting is going on in heaven constantly, every day. But what about us? Do we give Him praise only when things work out the way we like? Or do we praise Him in all things, even before we see the answer to our problems?

A guy with a grudge against God once told me, “God is so full of pride, why should I follow someone who orders people to praise Him?” His small vision imagined God as an ordinary, flawed man who needed to earn the favor of others. God doesn’t have to earn anything, prove anything, or even save us from the consequences of our sin. God created all things, and without Him we are nothing. But something powerful happens to us when we praise Him. God doesn’t require our praise to inflate His ego – first of all, God is incapable of the sin of pride (or any sin for that matter), and second of all, no amount of praise would be enough to repay Him for all He has done. He really, truly is worthy of all praise.

Psalm 22 says that God inhabits the praises of Israel, and that means if we lived in a constant state of praising God, it would cause Him to dwell in us. That’s His promise. Wherever God’s presence is, His light and life are there as well. True praise isn’t singing Christian music 24 hours a day or shouting hallelujah like a religious fanatic. Praise is not done for others to see, or to gratify our flesh (like what happens so frequently in churches today). It’s a personal expression of faith in God that can be seen in the attitudes we choose, what we say and do, and by directing our minds to constantly return to Him for nourishment throughout the day… every day. Choosing to show kindness to someone as a means of honoring God, even when our kindness is unlikely to be returned, is an act of praise. Rejecting the emotional pull of anger or pride and choosing thankfulness to God instead, is an act of praise as well. Determining that His promises will come true to such a degree that we act as if they’ve already been granted, is another act of praise. Praise is much more than a church ritual. It’s a way of living out our faith.

Paul and Silas knew the power of praise when they were shackled in the prison dungeon in Philippi. Instead of being filled with fear or anxiousness, they chose to consider their persecution as an honor to endure for their Lord, and in that filthy cell with hands and feet in chains and their backs bleeding, they sang songs of praise to God with all their hearts. God was inhabiting their praise, and in the middle of the night, their chains fell off, the doors swung open and a great fear fell upon their jailor. That night the jailor and his family were saved, and the church in Philippi was strengthened. Praising God is not repetitive songs or religious words or jumping up and down in an emotional state of excitement. It’s a time of bonding with Him and enjoying His presence as He dwells in us and sets us on fire for His glory.

…it happened, when the trumpet players and singers made one sound to praise and give thanks to the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and all the instruments of music and praised the Lord saying, “For He is good and His mercy endures forever,” that the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud. And the priests were not able to stand in order to serve because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.   2 Chronicles 5:13-14, MEV

Are you a Blabbermouth or a Listener?

Have you ever noticed that some people can’t wait for you to finish a sentence before they barge in to add their own comments? They’re sure that they already know what you want to say, and have no patience to hear the rest since what they have to add is so much more interesting! There have been so many times when the person who interrupted me totally misunderstood my train of thought – sometimes even assuming that I was saying the opposite of what I really meant. They’re frustrating, and require a lot of patience to keep trying until they finally hear me out. Usually their restless minds change the subject, and my idea gets completely lost. I make a mental note to not get involved in conversation with them again if at all possible.

But then there are others who really care about what you have to say, and follow you as you explain your thoughts. They ask questions based on what you said, and you can tell that they’re reasoning through your words. Even if what you say sounds unconventional or even crazy, they’ll try to understand where you’re coming from, instead of dismissing you outright. They’re willing to consider that they may be learning something valuable and new, and that kind of consideration is the greatest form of respect. Conversations like these are a pleasure, and cause you to walk away feeling encouraged to treat others with that same level of respect. Rational, careful listening is always present in any healthy relationship of any sort.

Generally speaking, however, 21st century Christians are bad at listening to God. So many pray repetitive prayers, shout, cry and raise their hands as they feel obliged to do, and walk away from their time with God just as empty and uncertain as when they began. Of course, it would be easier if we could see God in front of us and hear His audible voice, but that’s not possible right now. We have to believe, listen to and trust in a God that’s invisible. But our restless selves get distracted, frustrated and bored when we don’t hear His immediate responses. When we treat God this way we become that same irritating blabbermouth who doesn’t know how to listen. And what’s worse, we can easily assume He’s saying the opposite of what He really means!

God speaks through His word, and through our meditation of His word. He speaks when we know what He would do if He were in our place. He speaks when the Holy Spirit inside of us confirms that those tough words, or those scary challenges, or those mundane and unglamorous promptings are really Him telling us to go, do and be what He says. Even nature speaks about Him, His character, His Spirit. He’s trying to communicate with us all the time, but so few have developed the discipline to listen more, and interrupt less.

Of course we need to open our mouths and speak to God, to pour out our hearts and souls to Him, to ask and keep asking, knock and keep knocking. But when we don’t take the time to quiet our spirits and just listen, we can turn into noisemakers. The greatest thing God desires is a real and personal relationship with each of us. He wants us to know Him as a friend, a Father, our Lord and God. When we show Him the respect of a true friend who listens, considers, and treats all that He says with care and interest, we build a relationship with Him with deep roots that lasts forever. One thing we can count on, is that He will challenge us with ideas that seem crazy, that feel uncomfortable, and that our flesh just won’t want to do. But when we’re quick to listen, we recognize that He’s teaching us something new and of great value. We can be a pleasure for God to communicate with. Our ears can be trained to listen and hear all He has to say. Remember how Adam and Eve walked and spoke freely with God in the Garden? Remember how Moses spoke with God face-to-face as a friend? God hasn’t changed. Let’s start listening to Him today.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.  James 1:19-21 NLT

How to completely confuse the devil

I was asked this week about tips on how to remind yourself to tie up demonic forces every day. I answered that it has to become an integral part of our lives, even mixed into our worship, our devotions, the asking of requests, our thanksgiving—everything. If confronting the devil is seen as a to-do item on a prayer list, it’ll only happen during specified times in church services, or only when extremely stressful situations remind us of the need. If that’s the case, there’s not much of a difference between our faith and Christians who don’t even believe in spiritual warfare, and the fruit of our lives will be the same. I know a lot of our own church members who live in this mediocre state.

I often see people in the process of deliverance getting tangled up in old religious ideas. They have a false impression of what freedom in Christ is supposed to be like. They yearn for an emotional high, a sense of elation, and imagine that they’ll always be smiling and quoting the Bible and praying in tongues, and that miracles will instantly appear at their fingertips—kind of like a magical Disney character. This false expectation is so common, I have no doubt that it’s demonic—a hyped up illusion that eventually crashes into to disappointment and anger when it doesn’t come true. They completely forget that daily warfare is not an option, but a lifestyle. It’s just one more reason we keep hammering home the message of thinking faith, and not emotionalism.

When real spiritual warfare is going on, the authority of Jesus’ name is being used, and the power of God’s Spirit goes out to fight and destroy demonic forces according to our faith. This has nothing to do with us “manipulating” God or forcing Him to do what we want. It has everything to do with us obeying His commands. His weapons are meant for us to use according to His will, and He promises to accomplish His will through us as partners—weak, unworthy partners, but still partners. If we don’t use His weapons, we’re opting not to obey, as simple as that. But when we do use them, not only do miracles happen, but we grow closer and closer to God. As we fight darkness, His light floods into us. It’s a powerful way of honoring God while knowing that not one miracle that happens is from ourselves, but all are from Him. And in the middle of the battle is when we really get to know Him, we see a glimpse of His face, hear His voice, feel His arms around us and know without a doubt that we are victorious, safe and protected. It’s not an emotional high, it’s a deeper spiritual wisdom.

New Christians who are learning how to fight for their freedom can either grab this concept and go all the way, or they can take a longer, more painful, confusing route. Fighting halfway is miserable and exhausting. Seeking deliverance as an addition to emotional religious habits doesn’t work. Hoping that your pastor will do all the fighting for you so you can go on with your slightly more cleaned up life, won’t bring complete freedom, and it doesn’t do you any good to complain to God that the process is too hard.

“But when I rebuke the devil, he hits me back even harder! I’m tired of trying and getting attacked over and over!” One truth is important to understand. When you are fully devoted to God, not just in words or emotional wishes, but when the daily choices of what you do, think, and determine show that you are fully devoted to Him, you are hidden in Christ. Satan cannot find you. He can’t drag you down and accuse you anymore. You completely confuse him, and his tactics have no more power. He can be so convinced that he is about to win a huge victory, and at the last minute be left stunned at his defeat. He won’t be able to figure you out because you will be living in such an intense light of God, that he is blinded, and you are hidden.

This week I have seen Satan stunned and defeated and reeling in confusion. It brings me joy, but also a greater fear of how powerful and good our God is. We can’t afford to allow a single day to pass without engaging in God’s war. Don’t do it half-heartedly. Die to everything that is in the way of your total surrender to God, engage in this battle now and let His power hide you in His light.

If you then were raised with Christ, desire those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then you also shall appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 MEV

The fastest road to joy

Did you know that children don’t have to be threatened with punishment every day if they have a healthy and loving relationship with their parents? Discipline and punishment is important at appropriate times, but that alone can’t be the driving force that keeps a family together. Smart parents discover quickly that their little ones have an innate joy in pleasing Mom and Dad, which can be nurtured to the point that disciplinary measures rarely need to be harsh, if ever. By the time these kids are teens, an environment of serving their siblings and their parents can become so ingrained and pleasant, that it affects the way they treat everyone around them. Maybe you’ve never seen a family that functioned that way – believe me, it happens when God’s principles of serving one another are practiced daily, and of course it has to begin with the parents.

People balk at the thought of serving, as if it’s a form of oppression or injustice, but serving is a natural response to love. It’s probably because we’ve never seen anything outside of worldly, emotional giving. Godly service knows when to give and when not to give, what to give and what not to give. An example of emotional giving is when you feel so guilty to be driving a car while a homeless man is on crutches, that you empty your wallet every time you see him, and the next guy on the road, and the next… Giving out of guilt is not faith, and Romans 14 says that whatever is not from faith is sin. Spiritual serving listens to God, gives wisely without complaining, and trusts fully that God is pleased.

Interestingly, the same people who give and give out of guilt, can also throw a fit when asked to serve their spouse or be submissive to someone in their church. Guys, if you can’t find joy in loving your wife like Christ loved the church, or ladies, if you hate the verse in Ephesians that tells you to submit to your husbands, you will never know what a real relationship with God is like. It begins with the closest people you know, and it has nothing to do with demeaning yourself or being oppressed. It’s discovering and pursuing the joy of servanthood.

I stand in the cold wintery winds, handing out flyers to passersby, many turn their face away from me and treat me like a pest. I invite people to come for prayer knowing that they look at me with suspicion – who is this American? What does he want with us? What kind of religion is he peddling? But I’m filled with joy because I’m planting seeds of faith, and God promises that I will reap what I plant. I’m even happier knowing that God is happy with me, that He knows how much I want to share Him with others, and that He is preparing the right people to come my way. And He does answer me, but the point is that I find pleasure in making Him happy, even more than just getting answers to prayer. The answers will come, but the happiness I give Him in being obedient is something only I can do.

My relationship with God is built on this pleasure. And knowing that my faith makes Him happy makes me so confident that I become unshakeable. This joy also can manifest in a holy anger, a holy revolt against the devil’s attacks to block others from knowing Him. This seems crazy to the world, but I can be filled with both deep happiness and a holy rage all at the same time. It’s just a reflection of God’s character, and it should become second nature to all of us who are His.

All this is to say: run after the joy of serving. If you give begrudgingly or to impress people, if you serve your spouse or children with hidden resentment that snaps when they don’t respond the way you hope, you’re missing the point. Serve God like a child who finds joy in pleasing his parents, and that alone. Serve with the confidence that He is pleased even if everything seems to be going against you. An innate joy that comes from serving Him was built into us from Creation – that’s what we were made for. Live in that joy and be fulfilled.

Remember the former days, after you were enlightened, in which you endured a great struggle of afflictions. In part you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and afflictions. And in part you became companions of those who were so abused. For you had compassion on me in my chains and joyfully endured the confiscation of your property, knowing that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession for yourselves. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which will be greatly rewarded. Hebrews 10:32-35, MEV

Be a bully for God

She’d been a faithful churchgoer and sang in her choir, but her pastor only offered sympathy and encouraged her to wait on God. I listened to her story, and she admitted that many of the cases in “Possessed Believers” reflected her life. She agreed that she needed deliverance, and she wanted to learn how to fight. When our counseling session was over, I gave her some specific things to start doing, and prayed strongly against every spirit that had been working in her. But she was resistant. Something in her didn’t want to fight, just to cry and praise God and behave in the churchy kind of way that I’ve seen all my life. She was sweet and friendly, but her heart was stubbornly closed, even though her mouth told me how much she believed and how much she appreciated my prayer. She left saying she felt better, but I knew that she was clutching onto those demons, refusing to let them go. Interestingly enough, she never came back for any more counsel or prayer.

I could clearly see the demonic attacks, from her childhood all the way through her multiple marriages and her troubled relationships with her kids. The only way was for her to become a real warrior in faith, and that would mean being willing to learn how to view her problems spiritually, and react to them spiritually, based on the Word of God. Just learning a few tips, getting a prayer or two and waltzing out the door was not going to change a woman like her who’d been oppressed for years. She’d have to change her old churchy habits, because it was those very habits that allowed demonic forces to dominate her family for generations. Demons love religiosity as much as flies love rotting garbage.

This is the big frustration in working with people who are already Christians and need deliverance. They don’t realize that the most dangerous demons are the ones that make them content not to fight, that feel so comfortable, so sweet and sociable. They’re the demons that insert the thoughts, “Now wait a minute, that kind of prayer doesn’t seem very Christian – all that yelling and demanding demons to leave. We’re nice Christians – we don’t practice craziness.”  Religious demons will cause their victim to laugh sweetly when I determine a miracle in faith, they’ll smile at me as if I’m naïve and idealistic, but behind the smile and laughter is the darkness of hell. I can confront a demon of addiction or witchcraft and hear it scream in hatred, but confront a demon of religiosity and it’s all gentle contempt and patronizing smiles – unless the victim of those demons is humble and ready to let go. Then their mask is removed and they behave just like any ordinary demon; easy to take dominion over and cast out.

As I always say – the proof of faith is not being patient, loving and kind. Demons know how to imitate virtues to keep people in confusion. Real faith terrifies the devil, no matter what his disguise is. So what does that mean for those of us who want to use real faith? It means that if our deliverance prayers are just repetitious phrases we heard pastors use when rebuking the devil, we’re no better off than a religious church lady. “Get out devil!”  “I don’t accept you in my life!”  “You’re tied up!” are all meaningless when we aren’t conscious of who we’re actually speaking to, and of the One who’s Name gives us that authority. We have to get into warfare mode, to become spiritual terrorists to forcefully take back what the devil has stolen from us. That doesn’t happen automatically, and it definitely doesn’t happen by just repeating the right words. Being in warfare mode means looking right through the devil’s disguises and attacking him ruthlessly by faith, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and fueling the fires of hatred against evil with every prayer we utter, and every sacrifice we make.

Some of you just made a huge sacrifice to God last Sunday in church. What you did was a weapon of warfare – or was it a passive religious act to “buy” a blessing? Keep this passage in mind and remember you are facing principalities behind the problem you want destroyed. You have weapons that are powerful and effective. Become a bully. God’s waiting for more bullies to join His side.

“I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not return until they were destroyed. I wounded them, and they were not able to rise; they are fallen under my feet.  For You clothed me with strength for the battle; You subdued under me those who rose up against me.  You gave me the necks of my enemies, and I destroyed those who hate me.  They cried for help, but there was none to save them; even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.  Then I beat them small as the dust before the wind; I cast them out as the dirt in the streets.”  Psalm 18:37-42 MEV

If God is good, why am I suffering?

A song came out in 1995 with the lyrics, “God is good, all the time, He put this song of praise in this heart of mine…” After hearing it for the fifth time, I was already tired of the song. Not because the words aren’t true, but because the message seemed unbalanced. It’s a happy-go-lucky worship song where you’re encouraged to clap and dance and smile. It felt more like a song to sing when you wanted to forget your problems, instead of giving you the focus to destroy your problems. When we state that God is good, we’re not talking about a fairytale. God is goodness in it’s purest form, and goodness repels, fights, and destroys evil.

I was visiting with some old family friends a few years back, and heard the sad story of the death of a loved one. It was a painful time for that family, and though they loved God, they had no concept of how to identify the attacks of the devil and how to fight back. They had begged God for healing, but that was as far as their faith could take them. They were in anguish, inwardly questioning why God had allowed their loved one to suffer so intensely. I had felt that pain many times in my life before I’d learned about spiritual warfare and the authority over the devil that God has given us. I felt for them as they told their story, wiped the tears from their eyes, shook their heads and tried to smile saying, “Well, God is good!”

It’s heartbreaking to see Christians barely holding onto their faith by a thread because problems have battered and bruised them so badly. But it’s even more heartbreaking to know that they could have experienced so much more of God’s goodness if they’d understood how to use the tools and weapons that are available to us all. But how do you tell a grieving person once their loved one is gone, that they didn’t do enough? That it didn’t have to end that way? It’s practically impossible. But what’s worse, is that for the rest of their lives, their image of God is a being that is distant and uncompassionate. Because they’ve chosen to believe that God is good, they feel forced to conclude that enduring the horrors of death, destruction and loss, even as they beg for His mercy, is part of God’s goodness.

Yes, sometimes God’s time to take a life isn’t always when we expect, and yes, we can go through difficulties that God allows for our good, and yes, God’s people have been persecuted for their faith through prison and torture – yet as it was with Stephen, Paul, Silas, Peter and the rest, God’s glory prevailed through it all. But if we don’t know how to identify an attack of the devil, we’ll never fight it. And if we don’t understand the goodness of God, we’ll accept demonic attacks as if they were the will of God. And that is the travesty of most Christians’ lives.

Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans: He sent us the power of the Holy Spirit, the right to pray in His name and the authority to trample on “snakes and scorpions”… meaning all evil. Jesus never refused blessings to anyone who sought them with faith. He never told anyone to go back home because it was God’s good will that they suffer a long and painful death. Whenever He saw the presence of the devil’s work, He was ready to reverse it and bring glory to God, as long as there was faith among the people. Interestingly, the Bible says that He was unable to do many miracles in His hometown of Nazareth, because of the lack of faith there. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of Heavenly lights, says James 1. What is God’s will? That His goodness prevails in this world, that evil be destroyed, and that we stop ignoring His commands to pick up our weapons of warfare and fight.

Start identifying today what the devil has been craftily stealing from you over time. Do you live in a constant state of anxiety and frustration? Are you just tolerating a sickness that you assume God has doomed you to suffer for life? Are you blaming the stress of your family or career on other people without seeing how the devil is trying to manipulate both them and you behind the scenes? Are you just complaining without picking up your weapons, going head-to-head with the devil and determining that God’s goodness has to prevail? If Jesus says that He has come to bring life to the full, let’s honor Him by fighting any spiritual force that wants to steal it from us. Then we’ll see with our own eyes that God is good – all the time!

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any of you who is a father, will you give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will you give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will you offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?   Luke 11:9-13, MEV

Beware the emotional zone

John the Baptist was not your ordinary Jewish boy. He lived in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey, wearing clothing made of camel’s hair and preaching repentance as his way of life. He’d been born into a respectable home; his father was a Levite and priest in the Temple, and his mother Elizabeth was from the lineage of the high priests, the elite line of Aaron. His birth had been a miracle, announced by the angel Gabriel to his father by the altar of incense in the Temple. But instead of growing up to be a respectable priest – or high priest, as some would have expected – he became a wild looking, bug eating, desert preacher. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit was upon him, even while in the womb of his mother. So that conviction of God to proclaim the coming of the Messiah was something he just couldn’t shake. It was his calling.

When John saw Jesus as he was baptizing people in the Jordan River, John knew right away that this was the Messiah, and he humbly confessed that he wasn’t worthy even to untie Jesus’ sandals, much less baptize Him. He saw the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and heard the voice of the Father speak from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” as he lifted Jesus up out of the water. What more could anyone want as confirmation that what they hoped for was true? God was validating all he had preached and done up until that time. Now, all that was left was for Jesus the Messiah to take His throne and reign, just as the prophecies of long ago had said. That glorious hope was right in front of him!

But time passed, and the Messiah didn’t overthrow Rome or create a Jewish revolution, and the evil in Judea was just as evil as ever. And after boldly criticizing the false King of the Jews, Herod had John arrested, and thrown into prison. No rescue party was sent to set him free. No miraculous wonders occurred, and as he sat in jail, John the Baptist’s fire and zeal began to waver. He’d given so much, sacrificed a life of comfort to preach this message that had burned inside of him. And when he thought he’d found the Messiah, nothing seemed to be happening. If Jesus was the Messiah, why wasn’t He striking their enemies in wrath? Why wasn’t He breaking down the walls of Herod’s palace?

As he waited in prison, John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the one they’d been waiting for, or if they should look for another. That’s pretty shocking for a man who had seen and heard the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all in one place at the Jordan River. But it shows how changing circumstances and unmet expectations can shake our faith. Even the faith of a radical prophet, who had seen God in the flesh.

Jesus’ response to John, is the same one that He has for all of us: Look at the evidence. Remember what I’ve already shown you. Don’t be distressed about how things aren’t falling into place the way you’d like right now. I am faithful to My promises. Keep believing. Victory is yours.

When we use our faith, ramp up our determination that our miracle is a sure thing and the vision God gave us is coming true, we can easily step over the line of faith into an emotional zone, and God knows it. The devil knows it too, and tries his best to take advantage of our weakness. Right after a long hard fight, our expectations are easily shaken to the point that we’re even tempted to give up. It’s funny that Jesus referred to John as Elijah, because even Elijah had those moments of powerful highs in faith, and depressing lows of doubt. Those of us who are just trying our best to live by faith can get caught up in those peaks and valleys too. But the voice that tempts us to give up is never the voice of God. Hold on to what God has already shown you. Don’t allow unmet expectations to cause you to throw away your faith and settle for a mediocre life. John was a part of the biggest revolution the world had ever known, and he didn’t even realize it.

Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who does not fall away because of Me.”  …Truly I say to you, among those who are born of women, there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. But he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has forcefully advanced, and the strong take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah, who is to come.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  –  Matthew 11:4-6 + 11-15, MEV

Using “Faith” to Manipulate God

If you know the story of how Satan tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness, you’ll remember one of His responses: “you shall not tempt the Lord your God…” It’s easy to think that we would never fall for a trick like that. But what exactly was it that the devil wanted Jesus to do?

1. To treat the promises of God like a childish game. The devil took God’s holy promise of protection (found in Psalm 91) and reduced it to a dare, a mere game.
2. To doubt His identity as if He had to prove to the devil that He was really God’s Son: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written…”
3. To manipulate God into rushing to His aid, just because “it is written.”

Most would agree that point number one is a terrible temptation that would work only on immature or false believers. But what about point two? How many times do Christians want to “prove” how spiritual they are? This temptation works on the insecure, the people-pleasers. Being admired by others means more than seeking the quiet contentment of knowing that God is pleased with them. They’ll go out of their way to perform some sort of public good deed, which they then have to pretend was spontaneous and from the heart. But God sees their game, and the praise of others is all the reward they get. Unfortunately, this affects everyone no matter how long they’ve been saved, how much they know the Bible, or what their title in church is. To our shame, all of us can remember times when we’ve fallen for this stupidity.

But point 3 is the most dangerous of all. It can appear like real faith, but is degrading and disrespectful to God. A person with a secret sin can say, “God has to bless me, I’m going to make a sacrifice and go on a fast in the faith that I’ll get this new job! I’ll pray every night at midnight, I’ll go to church as often as I can, I’ll read my Bible every morning and God will be faithful to His word to bless me, because I’m using me faith and His word can’t lie!” He looks so on fire for God. But he has no intention of killing his old life. He still loves his secret sin. He may suspend that sin for a while and even ask God to forgive him, but he never hates it enough to repent in true sincerity. As he fasts, prays and reads his Bible while ignoring the condition of his soul, he treats God with the worst form of contempt: “You are the All Powerful God.  I believe you keep your Word. I will continue to serve my flesh, and I demand that you serve me.” Satan’s thoughts exactly.

Tempting God, or putting Him to the test, is trying to manipulate God to perform for you. You may look committed, but it’s all for show. Christians like this will go so far as to cry out in boldness, “Oh Lord, I don’t accept these attacks of the devil!” and turn around to please the devil the same day. Any repentance is just a religious rite to alleviate guilt, and then they’ll scour the Bible to justify why God has to bless them, like expert lawyers compiling arguments to trick their opponent into handing over what they want at minimal cost. “I have rights before God!” Sure you do…

If you think God wants business partners that haggle with Him, go right ahead and tempt (test) Him. But what God truly wants is relationships. He wants bonds of trust and understanding and obedience based on love. He wants to envelope us with His goodness and power – but sin has to be hated and killed. It’s so simple. We can’t demand His word to come true if we won’t follow it! Psalm 34 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Why would anyone manipulate a good God who already wants to bless us? How in the world do we think we can “trick” God into blessing us? And more than anything, how dare we treat the God of all Creation as our slave? If you’ve been doing this and haven’t realized it, untangle yourself from the devil’s trap and run to Him in repentance now.

You search the Scriptures, because you think in them you have eternal life. These are they who bear witness of Me. Yet you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. “I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, but you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?  John 5:39-44, MEV

The Cancer of False Humility

I’m so grateful to have grown in my faith around people who are audacious and gutsy – who say things like “I don’t accept that!” “I determine this!” “That’s tied up!” and “God has to do this!” It’s become second nature for me to really believe and react with these attitudes, and the Holy Spirit confirms those words when I do. God instills this kind of stubborn faith into His children who don’t get tangled up in religiosity because He’s a no-nonsense God. It’s as if His own Spirit confesses those bold truths through our mouths, and those truths return back to Him, having accomplished exactly what He wanted. But speak like that among Christians who aren’t accustomed to that kind of audacity, and I get very strange looks. But then again, God opens doors that unseen demonic forces were trying to keep shut.

I understand them because I was there once. But being audacious shows respect for God, and if I have to offend others by doing so, then what choice do I have?

False humility is one of the biggest cancers of modern Christianity, infecting even the most sincere believer until whatever faith they have is totally impotent. A prayer request could be given for a family member in the hospital, and all that are offered are prayers for mercy and comfort. No demons of infirmity are rebuked, no anger against the attack of the devil, no binding of spirits, no determining of healing, no fire, no zeal, no certainty of God’s word coming true. And when the prayers are over, there’s an attitude of relief that they did their duty. Then the subject switches to daily chit-chat. Spiritual forces are battling for the health of that sick person, forces that we can directly affect by faith, yet bringing up the subject is offensive.

If I told you to call the fire department to save your burning house, would you be offended? If I could show you a real solution to your overwhelming problem, would you reject it because it doesn’t agree with your style of worship?

The reason why I continue to stubbornly stick to my audacious, rude and pushy form of faith, is that it works. If the way I rebuke demons was a sin, why do problems crumble? Why does it bring me closer to God? Why does God respond so graciously when I tell Him that I don’t accept a problem and that He “has to” answer me? I sense Him cheering me on, telling me, “Keep it up! Don’t give up! This is the kind of faith I need from you! Fight!”

I belong to the church of spiritual revolt that brings about physical changes. But that means being so sure of God, so certain of His promises and His character that we can at times appear arrogant. But the absolute certainty that He is Lord to the point of basing your life on it, is the essence of humility.

It’s so important to purge ourselves from anything false, anything that would nullify our faith. So important, that my next few posts will be on that topic. What are the differences between true humility, false humility, and outright pride? Are you wallowing in either extreme without knowing it?  Check back tomorrow for the beginning of our series.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man viewing his natural face in a mirror. He views himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in his deeds.  James 1:22-25 MEV