Monday, January 30, 2012

Authority through Submission

While the Bible gives us no basis to believe there are demons under “every rock” making every bad situation happen, it also gives us every reason to realize that demons (like angels) are real and active in our lives and the lives of people around us. Consider: Jesus’s encounters with demons were frequent and real. The angel responding to Daniel’s prayer makes it clear he was delayed in answering because he was caught up in spiritual warfare with a demonic principality for 21 days (Daniel 10:10-14). The pagan gods which people worshipped were (and are, today) true demonic entities—for example, see verses like Psalm 106:36–37 which says: They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and 1 Corinthians 10:20 which says: No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. . . Additionally, it is clear Pharoah’s magicians had true power to some degree that came from a source not of God, as did Simon in Acts. Or, simply talk to missionaries today who have encountered witch doctors with true power over a village and the villager’s health and welfare, or to people in the United States who have encountered the demonic through occultic or “ghostly” encounters.

Yes, the Bible makes it clear the spiritual world is real and that we are not to engage in the occult or contacting it. So, with it being true, and likely, that we will encounter the demonic world at work against us or those around us, what should our stand be as Christians? In a nutshell, we should be aware but not afraid, dealing with it in simple authority and not giving it more attention than we give God. As Christians we have authority against the demonic realm when we encounter it, and interestingly that authority comes from submission. One would think authority would come from being the biggest and most powerful we can make ourselves, but the contrary is true. Our authority comes from our submission to Christ.

The Centurion recognized that structure of authority when he asked Jesus to heal his servant and Jesus said He would come and do it. Matthew 8:8-9 tells us: But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." The Centurion recognized, as seen when he said “I too”, that Jesus was under God’s authority, and he understood the authority that gave Jesus because he, himself, was also a man OF authority because he was a man UNDER authority.

When I was in Panama in the military I visited many amazing villages deep in the interior that I fell in love with, so to speak. I visited them in a place of authority, as a platoon leader with a heavily armed platoon, under the authority, and with the backing, of the United States army. But, as a civilian, as much as I would like to take my family to visit them I wouldn’t because I would not be sure of our safety since I would not be in a position of authority. Back then I carried authority in the village because I was, myself, under authority I was submitted to.

As Christians we have authority in the spiritual realm because we, ourselves, are under authority. The seven sons of the priest Sceva found out what it is like to confront demons when they themselves were not under God’s authority. Acts 19:15-16 tells us what happened when they tried to command a demon to leave a man simply using Jesus’ name, but not being under Jesus’ authority. It says: But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. On the other hand, Paul, who the seven men were trying to imitate, simply commanded demons to leave and they did, and there is no indication it was a big, showy, screaming, drawn out exorcism process. Paul was a man of authority, because he was a man under authority. On his own he was nothing, but in Christ he carried Christ’s authority. This is a Kingdom of God principle we must understand.

Two of the best known New Testament passages about the devil are 1 Peter 5:6-9 and James 4:7. Do you see a common theme in each of them?

1 Peter 5:6-9  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God . . . Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him . . .

James 4:7   Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Do you notice that both talk about resisting the devil, and both begin with humbling and submitting ourselves to God? By placing ourselves under God’s authority and reign, we walk in God’s authority. This makes sense. If we humble and submit ourselves before and to God we will walk in His plans and ways, and that means we will be right where He calls us to be, doing His will, and with His full backing. But when we resist God and go on our own paths, we find ourselves outside of God’s plan, and therefore under our authority and not His (this is not a salvation issue, but a daily issue). May this amazing reality give us a place for thought this week as we reflect on the authority we gain by submitting to authority.

Thanks for sharing in my life. God bless you.   —Erick

Friday, January 27, 2012

From Milk to Solid Food

The more I read the Old Testament through the lens of Christmas and the Cross (meaning it all pointed to, and aimed at, and passed through the life and ministry and death and resurrection of Christ) the more I am rocked by the foreshadows and physical pictures it contains of spiritual truths and realities to come after the cross, in the New Covenant. Like an hourglass turned on its side, all the sand (events, pictures, signs, hopes) of time before the life and death of Jesus on earth pointed to, and narrowed to, and passed through that narrow neck of the hourglass of time from His birth to death and resurrection. Likewise, on the other side (our side) of those events, all of the sand that spreads out from the neck passed through, and finds its origin and source and meaning in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

It is a fascinating reality—everything before that first Christmas (and ultimately the cross and empty tomb) looked to those moments, foreshadowed those moments, and awaited those moments. And everything after those moments—the spreading church, our position as believers, the power and authority we walk in, and our purpose and mission in life—find their origin and source by looking back to those moments. That first Christmas, leading to the death and resurrection, truly was, as Paul said twice, "the fullness of time" . . . the moment all history prior looked and pointed to and awaited, and the moment all history since finds its explanation, purpose, and origin in.

With that said, I am most of the way through Leviticus in my reading through the Bible, and I am struck by an interesting idea I'd love your thoughts on. We have, in Genesis and Exodus, a people in slavery and bondage in Egypt, as well as a line of redemption chosen and being prepared (Abraham's line). Then we have, in Moses, a man coming in, confronting the powers of darkness, defeating them, and setting the people free from bondage and slavery. Then, in the wilderness, before coming to the land they are to occupy, the people are given the Law and taught how to worship God and how to live. Ahead, they will be brought to the land they are expected to conquer—a calling most will turn from and remain in the wilderness, provided for, with God present, but in no victory and no threat to the enemy who occupies the land. Later a new generation will, in faith, take up the mantle and cross the Jordan and see the strongholds of the enemy fall and capture the land.

I was struck, reflecting on this, that it is quite a picture of the New Testament call. We are in darkness, bondage, slavery. Jesus comes in, confronts the darkness, and the power of God sets us free from that (we are born again, saved). We then, as infants in Christ, are taught God's heart, how to worship Him, how to live as His free people, how to be His people who are set apart from the rest. But then we are called to move past that, to a maturity if you will. We are called to confront the giants, to stand and step out in faith on God's character and promises, and to see the strongholds of the enemy toppled and to occupy the land (to be His hands and feet, His body, and to go in His authority). We are not supposed to remain wandering infants, happy and content in remaining provided for and knowing God is real and there, but not moving in any threat to the enemy or seeing the enemy knocked back or strongholds demolished. At some point we are to be God's people who in faith, and with His leading, start to go against the enemy who is holding families and marriages in bondage, people in addiction, people lost and blinded to the Gospel, etc. It is our calling, I believe, I had just not seen the Old Testament parallel or picture of it in that way before.

I'd love your thoughts. I hope that this has been a wonderful week for you and that it will be an amazing weekend in His presence. Thanks for being a part of my life.   —Erick

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I hear a lot about "electability" today in the Republican primary race. It seems a lot of people are talking about voting for a candidate who doesn't best match their values, priorities, etc. because they think that candidate can best beat President Obama. I have some real mixed emotions about that whole issue.

I understand in the pure, "world's" sense, the logic of thinking that way and not "throwing away" a vote . . . but where does God come in to it all? What does it say about Christians who think that way? To the world they are logical and using common sense, but I wonder what God says about it. Some may say they are using the brain God gave them to make their decision and be practical . . . but I wonder.

Where is the God of the impossible in all this thinking? Where is faith? Where is a belief in a God who can, in days, upturn entire nations and regions in revival? What does it say when we vote for a candidate who marginally and questionably supports our values, instead of one who unashamedly has supported them and lived them through decades of visibility in the public sector?

Might it even be possible that God is watching and testing His people. After all, it is His people who He says must turn from their ways and call out to Him for Him to hear and heal their land. What if it is maybe like a time the Holy Spirit nudges you to do something illogical or irrational in the world's eyes (help someone, give someone money or the benefit of the doubt, etc.) and you get "burned". The world shakes its head and says, "Maybe you won't be so naive next time" . . . when maybe God is saying, "You were faithful, now trust Me."

I think that often there is something much bigger at work than what our limited understanding can fathom. At the heart of God is the issue of the faithfulness, and faith, of His people. When I read through the Bible I find example after example of God's anger at His people compromising with the world, though what they did seemed "logical" and "common sense" to those around. Take some time and start to think about different events in history you are aware of that mirror what I am saying.

How about Saul keeping back some of the enemy's goods because of the people, and not doing what God said. It cost him a kingdom. Think about Abraham and Sarah "helping" God out with Hagar—it cost our world a lot of turmoil. Think about Peter caving to the pressure from the Jews. It cost him a public tongue lashing from Paul. Think about the people of Israel wanting a king. It cost them the chance to have God be their king. We could fill hundreds of lines with more examples of people doing what was "logical" and "wise" in the world's system of thought and it grieving or angering God's heart.

On the flip side, what about Abraham offering up his son through whom the promise was to be fulfilled? It earned Him God's tremendous favor. What about Gideon leading an army of 300 against over 100,000 enemy? It was a great victory for God's people. What about the woman "wasting" a perfume worth a year's wages on Jesus' feet, to the complaints of the disciples? She will be remembered for eternity for it. What about a young virgin agreeing to carry a baby from God at tremendous cost to her in this world? It earned her a privilege beyond measure. What about a man building an ark for decades of his life when those around him probably mocked him? It saved him, his family, and all mankind.

I am a little leery of the word "electability" being thrown around more than the word "God" and "faith" and the concept of honoring God first and trusting Him with the results. I don't know who we will end up seeing in the Presidential race opposing President Obama, but I know that I, for one, at this time and based on what I currently know, am going to vote for Rick Santorum. He appears to be a strong Christian candidate who, by all accounts that I have read, embodies (and doesn't just tout) the values of our faith, who seems humble yet uncompromising, who has a wife who has chosen to stay home and raise and school her family at the sake of her career, and who seems to understand foreign policy through a Christian world view and lens. I'll just trust the results to God, and know He is always at work. I just know, for me, that I can't let the world's "wisdom" be a stronger pull to me than my faith. From there it is a short road to caving on most of the issues facing us in this culture. I would rather honor God and "lose" in the world's eyes, than "win" in the world's eyes and compromise my faith. My God is very, very big and I can trust Him with the results. May He just see my heart pure and my trust and love for Him being the driving force in my life. I am not saying anything about other Christians who don't vote for him, that is between them and God, I am just saying that for me I want to let my faith have more power than human wisdom. There may be other reasons to vote for a candidate than electability, and God may show someone them, but I want to be sure that, in my heart, I never compromise who I feel best represents the values and faith I believe are most important to God.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Need I Say More . . .

It wasn't until I was a cadet at West Point and had to memorize more than the first stanza of the Star Spangled Banner that I found additional stanzas to it I was not aware of because they are rarely sung. After becoming a Christian the fourth and closing stanza of it came back to me strongly. Then, in homeschool yesterday, Mary Ann shared with the girls from a book of the history of hymns the story of My Country, 'Tis of Thee. I was blessed, listening to her, by the fourth and closing stanza of that as well.

With all the caving in of people about the origins of our nation and the heritage we have in God . . . and with the elections dominating the news right now and people deciding if the economy or values are their top issue and whether or not it is important to have a true Christian President, I thought I'd share the fourth stanza of each song with you in case its been awhile since you might have heard them. (The words and dates are copied from online sources. Please feel free to let me know if there are any mistakes in them.)

May this nation return to the reason it is great—our faith and trust in, and obedience to, the God of the Bible. May the winds of revival blow, not in an emotional frenzy that lasts but a short time, but in a turning of hearts back to Him. May those who claim His name and who claim they are His children start to make choices and vote and use their time and resources consistently with what they claim they believe. May those who don't know Him be awakened to their lost condition apart from Him and to His glorious love and grace for them. God bless you all, and thanks for sharing in my life. —Erick

Star Spangled Banner, fourth stanza, 1814
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust;"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

My Country, 'Tis of Thee, fourth stanza, 1831
Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

Need I Say More?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

God's Plans

In March of 1997 Mary Ann and I went with another couple to Hume Lake Christian Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. We were taking a couple of cars full of middle schoolers to winter camp . . . and I did not want to go! I wasn't a big fan of kids back then, and if I went in to a restaurant and there were a bunch of kids there I'd asked to be seated away from them. But, we were the logical couple to go with them when one of the couples who were supposed to couldn't. Mary Ann and I were the youngest people in the church, we didn't have kids, and we were self-employed. So, Mary Ann excited and me dragging my feet, we went. In the last chapel session there God overwhelmed my heart with a brief sense of the cumulative pain and tears ahead in the years to come for the 300 or so kids in the chapel. It deeply affected me and when we got home and an excited youth told his dad about his experience with God and his plans to read the Bible and the dad replied, "That will last about a week, get in the car," it broke my last wall and we decided to keep working with these youth. It was the working with youth in the next couple of years that made me the natural one to be asked to pastor the church when the pastor left, and in the years since then (January 2000) I have been both the senior pastor and the youth leader of our fellowship.

This weekend I sat in that same chapel with Mary Ann and with some other counselors and 16 of our high schoolers (among the 600+ people there) and reflected. This was my 25th trip there with youth, and as I looked back to that first trip I thought, "If you had told me, when I set out that first time, that I would be here at least 24 more times with youth (and multiple times as a family), let alone that I would be a pastor, I would have never believed it." In the years since then we have seen youth get married, have children, some walk with God, and some walk from God. As a pastor, youth leader, and volunteer fire fighter I have been there with them when a home of theirs has burned to the ground, when a sibling has committed suicide, when families have fallen apart, and when families have risen from the ashes and grown in to God-loving, strong units. I have done weddings, and funerals. I have confronted demons, seen the sick healed . . . and lost a lot of battles as well. I have felt the Holy Spirit moving strongly . . . and wondered just where He was. It has been an amazing journey, and certainly one I never, ever would have picked or designed or thought of for myself.

It all began when we said "yes" (even though I said it grudgingly). God's plans for us, each of us, are amazing. While they may never make headlines, or get on talk shows, they are miraculous and amazing simply in that the Creator of the universe partners with us and privileges us to walk out His plans and to colabor with Him as He works in and through us. It was truly stunning to sit there in that chapel and reflect back, and to see how different my life was from anything I would have ever planned, and how much more amazing it was than anything I would have ever planned. God is amazing, and God in us is incredible. I truly encourage you, if God is nudging you somewhere or to something, no matter how much it differs from your own plans, to trust Him and say, "yes." His plans for you will be far more fulfilling, meaningful, eternally valuable, and amazing than anything you can do by holding on to control of your life.

God bless you all. Thanks for sharing your life with me. —Erick

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snakes and Awe . . .

I hope that this finds all of you having a wonderful start to the new year. May God pour out His favor over you during it and help you to be more aware than ever of how much He loves you.

I have been reading through Exodus lately and I keep coming back, in my still time, to when Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh and his magicians and their rods, turned into snakes, were swallowed by the snake which Moses and Aaron's rod turned in to. I have found that with that story . . . and with most in the Bible . . . it has become far to easy for me to simply read it, be familiar with it, and move past it. But . . .

. . . stop and think about it for a minute. A stick. A piece of wood. A part of a tree. It turns in to a snake! A living, twisting, life-filled snake. And then, tapping into Satan's power, Pharaoh's magicians do the same, but God shows that His power is always superior to the enemy's when their snakes are eaten! Sometimes I really struggle in my walk when I realize how far my anxieties, fears, priorities, expectations, etc., fall short of the incredible things I claim I believe. Then Satan comes along whispering, "Do you even really believe them? Are you even truly saved?"

I do believe the Bible. I do believe it is true, cover to cover, word for word. And that is why I can be so bothered by how easily I can read it and about the events it records and . . . be unmoved, be blase. I have had to force myself to slow down and process. To actually stop and think about what it must have been like to be a spectator in that room and literally, before my eyes, watch those rods turn in to living snakes and enter into mortal combat on the ground. Or later to watch the Red Sea literally part into two walls of water. Or to watch leprosy disappear . . . or a white and blind eye slowly turn clear and a person see for the first time . . . or to see the dead come to life. Yet, I believe these have happened, and I have met people who have, in our lifetime, seen the dead come back to life and seen a formless eye transition before their eyes into a seeing eye.

I believe these things, but unless I force myself to stop, project myself into the scenes, and be still and meditate on it until if affects my heart I find I too often breeze past them in to my next "crisis" or negative expectation or fear or grumbling or gloomy state. Yet, when I can slow myself down and take my feelings captive to the reality of the basic foundations of my faith I claim I believe, I find that awe starts to follow that exercise, and the things in my life that have gotten disproportionately big start to shrink down to their proper size and perspective in relationship to my God, His love for me, and His power.

One of my biggest hopes for myself this year as I read through the Bible is that the things it records will rock my world and my expectations and my faith and my attitudes, and not just be more theological knowledge that puffs up or makes me religious in form, but not different than a non-Christian in my true and deepest attitudes and fears and outlooks.

God bless you all. Thank you for reading and sharing in my life. As always, I treasure your comments, thoughts, feedback, things God has shown you, etc. I look forward to traveling through 2012 with you and seeing what our mighty God has in store!   — Erick


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