Christian Occultism

Have you ever knocked on wood? Do you know your astrological sign? Do you believe in the power of positive thinking? How about the belief that if you say something negative, it’s going to happen? While many take these things in passing, the fact that they consume any gray matter in our mind suggests we’ve given more than enough attention to the occult. And it’s very prevalent in Christianity (or what passes for Christianity).

I am a solid Christian, yet I don’t attend what people call “church.” The reason I don’t will become clear in this post. Basically, I find too much Baal worship going on in the church system in America. Stay with me, it’ll become clear.

I’m late to this game, but I recently heard about a “pastor” who has a whole series of books published by Zondervan (a Christian imprint, if not company). It’s called The Circle Maker.

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There’s a “Circle Maker for kids,” “…for teens,” “…for pets.” Just kidding on that last one. I think.

Basically, the guy claims to be teaching a “secret way” to pray that will enrich your life with your grand dreams come true. There are Christian-ese catch phrases like “what God can accomplish in you” which give it a ring of orthodoxy. But, the book goes on to say that God is actually offended that we’re not bringing big enough dreams to him for our lives.

If this sounds like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and other Word of Faith folks, that’s not a coincidence. T.D. Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, and the slew of other false teachers out there project a Christianity that makes God a genie to give you all the things that will make you happy. Those things, by the way do not include suffering for Christ, taking up our cross and turning from the love of this world. Quite the opposite, the Word of Faith movement is attractive because it encourages embracing the love of this world.

I’m not going to review this book any further, but point out a glaring, obvious thing on the cover: The Circle.

Here’s another “Christian” book series:

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We have the “Circle” series, complete with a symbol. I read this series a long time ago, and enjoyed the story. It’s basially a fantasy/allegory of Christianity where a guy falls asleep and awakes in a different world that has creepy bats, strange surroundings and some perilous danger. He bounces between the worlds with intrigue on both sides. As I recall, it came out around the time The Matrix was popular, and had that same sort of pseudo philosophy vibe to it.

Then, I noticed that the symbol of the circle bore a remarkable resemblance to symbols from the occult:

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Well, circles are circles, right? I mean, what’s next, that the wheel is an Illuminati device and we’re all driving around on Satanic contraptions?

No, exactly. And, it’s possible the occult design of Dekker’s book came from some designer who didn’t put two and two together that the circle with the cross came from an occult symbol.

Yet, that’s not the only occult symbols that have appeared on Dekker’s books:

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Tosca Lee, by the way, has written a book from Judas’ perspective, attempting to humanize him. I haven’t read it. But, it seems odd for a Christian book to be rebooting Judas for readers. She also wrote a book about Eve. I’m not a big fan of writing fictional books about real people, so I’ll leave it at that.

Notice this cover, though. We’ve got the circle motif, as well as the big eye in the center. That reminds me that I’m short on cash in my wallet. That’s because we have that eye on our U.S. dollar bill. It’s from Egypt and has occult connotations of the all-seeing-eye, the third eye of illumination, etc.

Then there is this book cover for a novel Dekker wrote about Jesus, in which Jesus becomes a fictional character in a story:

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At first, I thought there were ancient language letters on the cover, like Greek or Hebrew. But, they’re not. They are closer to runes:

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Here is a chart comparing ancient letters:

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More Runes:

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Frankly, none of the symbols match perfectly. But, to my eye, they bear a closer resemblance to runes than to Greek or Hebrew. I suspect they are meant to convey some ancient text motif, which they do. My problem is that these images lay in the background and can affect us on a subconscious level. Our cultural lore suggests that if we find some ancient manuscript with strange symbols, we might have stumbled upon a secret code or mystical wisdom that will enrich our lives (materially).

The occult is based upon the notion of “deep secrets” and “higher consciousness” and tapping into the energy of the universe (apart from devotion to God, of course).

All that said, Dekker is a professing Christian. He uses the Bible. I doubt he controls the covers of his books (though I have no way of knowing one way or the other). I am not attempting here to imply he’s part of the Illuminati or some nefarious plot. I’m pointing out how prevalent occult symbols seem to be. The content of his books, as with anyone’s books, should be approached with discernment. To the extent he, or any other author advances spiritual insight, we should use the Bible as our plumb line, not the person’s celebrity or congregation size.

For kicks and giggles, let’s compare the use of these symbols with a character from the Uber Popular Marvel Cinematic Universe: Doctor Strange:

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Recognize the circle symbol that he’s creating with his hand? It’s witchcraft. Then, there’s the eye that looks like what appeared on Dekker’s cover.

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There’s another view of the “Eye of Ogimoto” or whatever it’s called on his chest. He’s also doing an occult image of the triangle and the “W” of Baphomet with his hands.

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Here Dr. Strange is walking through one of the circles he makes with his magic.

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This shows the circle window in Dr. Strange’s house, along with astrological signs around the rim mixed with what looks like runes and that pattern in the middle which is on a window at a “Spiritual Center” close to my house.

I’ve commented frequently on whether there is real power in the occult. I reject the idea. I believe the power is spiritual and destructive. But, if you think you’re going to create an outcome in the future, affect objects in your room, or levitate or any other nonsense, you’ll be … deceived. In other words, you will believe that such things are happening. You’ll believe that the horoscope is accurately predicting and directing your life. You’ll believe that you have power over things. You’ll think that your words create things, both good and bad. You’ll think you can control the weather, or heal cripples.

See where I’m going there? It’s so easy to slip from the occult to the Word of Faith. Because they are the same.

Should we fear the occult? No. Greater is He that is in me (meaning Christ) than he that is in the world (the spirit of this age). But, should we think it’s all innocent and indulge like kids in a candy store?

No. We should reject any inference of horoscopes on our lives. We should reject the symbols and motifs of the occult. We shouldn’t “knock on wood.” We shouldn’t get freaked out if we say something negative, or cross a black cat on the street.

It’s not that those things have power over us, but that we allow them to influence us away from true faith and dependence upon God. We eat of that forbidden fruit and believe it will give us knowledge or power or make us wise. The result is not wisdom, power or knowledge, but rather shame, bitterness and death.

Those who practice witchcraft pay a steep price. We shouldn’t take that lightly.

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Are You Saved & Kept?

Growing up I heard the preacher say, “Did you really mean it? Or did you just go through the motions?” This phrase referred to what many call the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ For many, this prayer is how you ‘get saved.’ But, is that really what the Gospel is? Is that what the Bible teaches us? If you say the words, are you truly saved & kept? Let’s take a moment to read the Bible and discuss.

He Will Not Forsake His Saints

Of David. Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose way is upright; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall inherit the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The LORD will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial. Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”  Psa 37:1-40

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.”  Gal 3:16

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  Gal 3:29

In the third chapter of Galatians Paul clarifies the statement that “this promise is for you and your offspring…” that was given to Abraham. He explains that the Law, with its rituals and harsh penalties was a parenthesis between Abraham—who was justified by faith—and Christ, who ratified the promise made to Abraham as Abraham’s offspring. Thus, only those who believe in the completed work of Christ (the offspring) in the same manner of belief that Abraham did, are considered “in Christ” and thus, righteous.

Those in Christ, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, those who believe God, are given the status of righteous. No works of the Law are added in. No deeds of the flesh can increase the righteousness that is bestowed by God according to His promise. No baptism, no communion, no heritage of believing parents will add or subtract one thread of the wedding cloak of Christ’s righteousness that is given by the Father.

Not Inherit – Those who will not receive the promise

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

John Wesley comments: “Idolatry is here placed between fornication and adultery, because they generally accompanied it. Nor the effeminate – Who live in an easy, indolent way; taking up no cross, enduring no hardship. But how is this? These good – natured, harmless people are ranked with idolaters and sodomites! We may learn hence, that we are never secure from the greatest sins, till we guard against those which are thought the least; nor, indeed, till we think no sin is little, since every one is a step toward hell.”

The context of the verse is Paul being astonished at the wrongs between the congregation, and that the members of the congregation were running to the non-believers and the law to get justice. There is no fellowship, and no wisdom to come from the unbelieving world. The ungodly cannot properly render justice among Christians. We are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers because they have no claim to inherit the things to which we have set our eyes.

The reminder is that if we live in sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality or thievery, etc. we don’t have any part of the Lord. They demonstrate that they have not been washed, sanctified and justified by the name and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and are not filled with His Spirit. Paul moves on to talk about how we should flee the things that dominate the world. We should only be devoted to God and our actions as offering to the Lord. We cannot offer anything as basic as eating and intimacy with our spouse if either is tainted by the obsessive idolizing of the world.

Slave or Free

Galatians 4:30 draws the comparison of Ishmael and Issac: “But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.”

Those who are of the slave, dominated by the flesh, putting their hope in an imperfect, work-based inheritance, will not inherit the kingdom with those born of the power of God. Those born of the flesh will persecute and ridicule those born of the spirit, just as Ismael ridiculed Isaac. How do we know if we are born of the flesh or born of the spirit?

Those who are born of the flesh will believe their justification is in part or in whole, dependent upon works. It will either be in keeping of the Old Law, doing certain outward things like attending a church, attending all meetings, observing a form of baptism, taking communion, getting circumcised, etc. Those born of the spirit know that outward rituals and religious activity counts for nothing (Gal 5:6).

We have been born to freedom. We do not need to appease God through sacrifices, rituals, etc. But, Paul warns in v. 13, we shouldn’t use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. We prevent that by serving one another in love. When we don’t serve each other in love, encouraging each other, we bite and devour each other. We demonstrate we are not walking by the Spirit (v. 16). Rather, we are walking by the flesh, which is against the Spirit.

How do we know if we’re doing the works of the flesh vs. the Spirit? Paul says this in Galatians 5:19-21: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The last part is key: “Those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s important to note what the ‘such things’ are. They include fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy … Many like to focus on the Big Ones: Sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, orgies … But they only make up 7 of the things that are marked as evidence. The other 8 are largely ignored.

The truth is, they are all intertwined. You can’t be envious and full of jealousy unless you are committing idolatry of the things of the world. You cannot be filled with fits of anger, unless you are given to strife, feel dissension and eager to divide people. This tendency speaks to ones impurity, that they have themselves at the center of their thoughts. Self-righteous people who yearn for positions within authority and the respectful greetings in the public places are, ultimately, sensual since they are looking for the pleasure of their flesh, the pride of life.

Such people are showing that they are dominated by the flesh and are born of the flesh, the slave, and will not inherit the kingdom of God.

What is the evidence of the Spirit? Or, as Paul puts it, the fruit of the Spirit? Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

There are 9 of them. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with all 15 signs of its passions and desires. Paul concludes the chapter by urging us that if we live by the Spirit, we should keep in step with the Spirit (v.25), which is the opposite of becoming conceited, provoking each other and envying one another (v.26).

To keep in step with the Spirit, we must be obedient to Christ. We must adhere to the “narrow way” that is His. We must receive the kingdom of God as a child, with faith that just believes, absent proof (Mark 10:15).

Not everyone who claims to be Christian will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). Those who are disobedient, not doing the will of the Father, will not enter.

The false Christians adhere to a form of godliness that denies the Lord’s Lordship (the Power that canceled their debt. He is the Lord of the Sabbath rest. Their “godliness” clings to the belief that their works contribute to their salvation). They ultimately cling to their self-life. We must say about our self-life, as Peter had said of Christ, “I do not know the man.” (ref. F.B. Meyer). The false Christian doesn’t produce fruit. Fruit should first be defined by the fruit of the Spirit within the believer. The outworking of that fruit is a trail of people who have been changed by interacting with those sojourners who walked humbly in their midst.

The fruit of the Spirit comes about from obeying the words of Christ (Matt. 7:24). Failing to do this, will result in a loose foundation.

We need to know the words of Christ in order to obey them. He said that the meek will inherit the earth. He said we should turn the other cheek when smitten. We should go an extra mile when under compulsion from someone. We should give up our coat, if someone takes our shirt.

The best evidence of doing the will of the Father is to repent. It is the Father’s will that each should repent and believe (repent from dead works that attempt to earn our salvation by being ‘good enough’). It is His will that we turn from the wicked way of the world and live to give Him glory. That is the call for each to obey, primarily. That is the foundation of the one who abides in Christ.

Confidence Before God

Hebrews 10 outlines the basis and the confidence for our salvation: The body of Christ offered once for the atonement of the sins of the world (the only sign of the New Covenant). No additional sacrifice is needed for our sins when we have been forgiven on account of Christ’s covenant ratified in His doing of the Father’s Will that He be the sacrifice for the sins that we could not atone for with the sacrifice of animals year after year. In that single sacrifice, God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14). The Holy Spirit witnesses the redeemed because they have God’s laws on their hearts and minds (v. 16). God no longer remembers their sins and their lawless deeds (v. 17).

The writer of Hebrews continues that we have confidence on behalf of this sacrifice (v. 19). We can draw near with a true heart of assurance of faith. We will have our evil conscience cleaned, and our bodies washed with pure water (v. 22). We then hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (v. 23). We stir one another up to love and good works (v. 24) which is the opposite of striving, divisions and dissension. We gather together to encourage each other (v. 25).

The antithesis of this is that we use our freedom from sin as an opportunity for the flesh and go on sinning deliberately (v. 26). If we do that, we’ve revealed that we did not accept His sacrifice, and there is no other sacrifice for us, because we have rejected the only sacrifice that would sprinkle our conscience clean and wash us pure. instead, despite any profession of faith, we should have the fearful expectation of judgment, fury and fire (v. 27).

If someone has done this, they should recall the former days when they heard the gospel and faced struggles and sufferings, things we’re promised if we follow Christ (v. 32). We may have shown growth at first, but if we fall away we prove that we haven’t accepted Christ’s sacrifice and we’re not true converts.

Despite the hard times and temptations, the righteous (those declared righteous by God) will live by faith. The one who shrinks back, the Lord has no pleasure in him (v. 38). The Lord has no pleasure in the one who has not been washed by the sacrifice of Christ.

The proof of salvation is that we do not shrink back from obedience in the face of persecution and we persevere.

Perseverance is not only demonstrated in what we say, for many will say “Lord, Lord!” but have not done the Father’s will. They admit to a creed, they have faith that God is supreme, they believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for sin, but they have rejected it as the only way, either consciously, or in the way they live.

Our faith is demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit, which draws us nearer to God and we walk in meekness, humility, purity, gentleness and confidence in our Lord. This results in our confession of our hope. Our unwavering hope brings us together with others who share that hope and we encourage each other in the faith & in purity and a good conscience.

Those who are not unwavering in hope, cleansed and pure, but go on having fits of rage, producing division, contention, strife, jealousy, impurity, immorality … they trample the name of the Lord under their feet and by their rebellion will find no other sacrifice able to cleans them.

Would You Recognize the Schemes of the Devil?

I have a lot go through my mind, things I study, news items I read, and I choose not to share many of those thoughts. But this time, there’s something I think is important. It pertains to the end of the book of Ephesians. Specifically, Paul’s warning of the “schemes of the devil.” What are they, exactly? I’ll share my thoughts, and you can tell me in the comments what you think.

Continue reading →

Did the Devil Really Make You Do It?

A woman slipped a folded piece of paper to me and said, “This will straighten you out.” On the paper were a number of Bible references. Pursing her lips and averting her eyes, she stomped off, head held high.

The verses were of the sort like 2 Corinthians 12:7 and 1 Peter 5:8. The former is Paul talking of his thorn in the flesh as a “messenger of Satan.” The latter is when Peter refers to the devil as a lion seeking whom he will devour.

I’m not sure if she had Luke 22:31, where Jesus tells Peter, “Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat,’ but that’s the sort of list she provided me.

I looked up all the verses and compared them to the horror that I’d presented during the Bible study. What did I say? I advanced the idea that Satan or the Devil, or any of his angels do not whisper words of temptation into the ears of Christians. This idea was met with universal disapproval. After all, subjective experience has taught us that thoughts come into our heads and we couldn’t imagine ever thinking such terrible things!

This is the sort of “correction” mainstream religion offers. If you dissent from the popular narrative, no matter if you’re pointing to the Bible, you’ll be rejected, branded and dismissed. When the question of whether Satan is murmuring things into our hearts and minds appears to be more speculative on the mainstream’s part, the objection turns to “you’re worried about meaningless things and should focus on the majors of the faith!”

The problem is, knowing how the enemy works is a major part of our walk. We’re called to put on the whole armor of God to withstand the “wiles of the devil.” (Eph 6:11).

See? We’re attacked by Satan! And, yes, we are. But not directly. There are only two people the Bible records being directly tempted by Satan (Eve and Jesus). All others were dealt with indirectly. Peter was to be sifted as wheat, but Satan never approached him. No, he sent a servant girl. He arranged the midnight trial for Jesus and the riot that followed with the beatings and blasphemy. The air was charged with despair for Christ and Peter was right there in the court, watching.

It is crucial for us to realize how the enemy of our souls operates so we can be wise in how we do battle. There are two key ways he attacks us:

He Uses Situations To Fan Our Flesh

Peter was in the middle of a situation. It incited his flesh to fear that he’d been wrong about his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. The trial, the beatings, the yelling spun a web of confusion for Peter till all he needed was to have a simple question posed, “You were with him, weren’t you?” In that moment, Peter did what satisfied his flesh, the thing that all our fallen nature craves, he denied his Lord.

In the story The Lord Of The Rings, the ring of power represents sin. In the story it is all of Sauron’s evil distilled into the ring (for no apparent reason). When the ring comes to men, it attracts them with the promise of wealth, power, esteem, etc. Instead, it drives them mad, leaving them shriveled and shivering in caves, forced to live out a miserable existence of unnaturally long life. In one scene of the movie Gandalf reminds Frodo that the ring will always lead back to Sauron. The ring wants to be found.

I’m not advocating that the fantasy novel is a good analogy to the Bible. It’s not. But this illustrates a small truth about our sin nature. Ever since Eve turned from God and sought a blessing that she believed God was keeping from her, ever since Adam joined her in disobedience, our natures are wicked. They answer to one master, Satan. Our flesh wants to be with Satan and fears being with God. Our flesh tries to cover itself with leaves and hides from God.

It is clear from Scripture that Satan cannot do anything apart from God’s sovereign will. It is clear that Satan doesn’t know the future. But, it is clear that he’s an accuser of God’s people and an enemy to our souls. There are actions he’s permitted to take, such as possessing people who are not indwelled by the Holy Spirit. He can direct the actions of godless men (or servant girls) to inflame our flesh to respond the way it wants to.

He Uses Cultural Norms To Make Us Drift

Notice how Paul had to correct the Galatians about drifting back to an outward religious gospel after he’d brought them the true Gospel of a new nature based on an inward rebirth. They were pulled, as people are throughout the ages, toward the pomp and ceremony of outward religion that is empty of an inward reality.

We see this today as Christians bend over backwards to be winsome by eliminating terms like “sin,” or “repentance,” or “tribulation.” Instead they turn to yoga, meditation, contemplative states, ecstatic experiences and supernatural phenomena. They make statements like “It’s not religion, it’s a relationship,” and then downplay doctrine as a divisive thing that doesn’t “build up the body.”

Christians are sending out Instagram pictures of themselves with godless celebrities, praising artists and performers who are living hedonistic lives in open rebellion against God. So-called pastors are taking shots in bars and making themselves friends of the world in a desperate attempt to be relevant.

They’re following Satan’s grand scheme that is silent and seductive. You see, the enemy won the biggest victory when he tempted Eve and got her to disobey God. From there, he counted on Adam to be willing to die before he’d be separated from his bride. At that point, Adam fell from being made upright (unlike any other creature on Earth) and in God’s image, to being a mockery of that pure goodness.

After that victory, the bent of every human is evil, not good. Satan is the prince of the powers of the air (Eph. 2:2). He’s the wind that fills the sails of this hell-bound ship of our culture. It doesn’t matter if the culture is from 2017, or way back to 1853. It’s the same culture. We are the same people since that day long ago when Adam and Eve were driven from the garden. We think the same thoughts, we seek the same things.

We didn’t evolve from cave men. We didn’t–at any point–lurch around like apes. We were always incredibly bright and inventive. Adam’s grandchildren invented music and forged iron. Not long after that, humanity went to war, pillaging each other.

We tend to think the Druids sound weird, but we have the same things today. Wiccans worship the earth, pagans practice yoga and seek to be one with the universe and feel the power of the divine in each person. The common narrative is that back then they really thought there was power in the rituals. Guess what? people still do.

I was in Ace Hardware one day and there was a little plastic figure for sale in the impulse aisle. It was St. Christopher, or something. It promised that if you buried the plastic Action Saint in the back yard, your house would sell in short order. I laughed out loud, pointing at it and asked what idiots would buy such a thing. The clerk told me that it worked! His mom did it, and her house sold.

We’re no different from the Druids or any of the other mystics of the past. If a movie star said that burying your relatives in your garden would give you good fortune, everyone would start doing it.

Each August, or whenever the Summer Solstice is, the Burning Man festival takes place in Nevada. It’s a gathering of young people where they build elaborate statues of divine mothers, copulating people, giant words, etc. The festival involves music, dance, booze, and sex. It all culminates in a bonfire that lights a giant “man” on fire. Strangely enough, this is identical to rituals performed by pagans throughout history. Do you think archeologists will see anything different between the pagans at Burning Man versus the Druids, Wiccans or Mayans?

Someone might say, this is just a crazy party with young people acting out. And I’d say that’s always been the case. People coming together, cavorting in front of an idol and indulging their flesh, then hoping for some amazing experience.

So, Does the Devil Make Us Do Things?

Satan is at the center of our culture. Not to trivialize the enemy of every human, but he is like an ad man. He fans the flames of the desires that already course through our flesh. He helps us minimize the consequences and maximize the potential benefits. So, in that sense he makes us do things.

I believe the dark forces allied against us have control to direct and possess people who are unrepentant and unsaved. I don’t believe Satan, or his angels can do anything to the elect without seeking permission from God. I base this on the fact that the gospels clearly indicate people were possessed by demons, and that Satan had to ask permission to afflict Peter through circumstance and culture.

What I fear is that too many Christians believe the Hollywood version of Satan and end up both giving him too much credit and minimizing him to a spooky story. For example, I don’t believe he can actually affect matter or perform real miracles. God has the power to raise the dead, Satan does not. God can declare the future, Satan cannot. God can create lice from dust, Satan cannot. That last one is taken directly from the plagues that God did, then the Egyptian magicians mimicked. In the incident of the lice, the magicians could not replicate life from dust. There are those who believe that they actually turned the water to blood, called forth frogs, etc. The Bible says they did miracles with their “secret arts.” The supposition is that demons were helping them.

But, since we know that demons don’t know the future and cannot explain the past (read Isaiah), we also can be sure that they can only imitate the miracles of God. Never has a “faith healer” raised someone from the dead. Never has a witch doctor ever cured an illness. But, each of those examples have people who ardently believe that the miracles were real. Similarly, none of the bleeding, or weeping statues have ever been objectively verified. They’ve appeared to “the faithful,” but to no one else. Even the Vatican won’t confirm all of the reports.

When we give Satan credit for parlor tricks, or when we blame him for the actions of our own flesh, we buy into the idea that he has power that he doesn’t (which the pagans readily believe) and we minimize the vileness of our own sinful nature. In doing this, we allow part of us to think that there really is power that Satan could offer, and we struggle to understand the gravity of our condition and the greatness of God’s grace and sacrifice.

Today, Universalism is on the rise. Not so coincidentally, so is the idea of pagan power embodied in the Word Faith movement and the New Apostolic Reformation. To be fair, not all Word Faith adherents or NAR proponents would say they are Universalists. In fact, most Universalists won’t say they are Universalists. You might be thinking, what’s a Universalist? It’s the belief that everyone is saved, no matter if they declare their faith in Christ. It’s when Rick Warren says that Muslims worship God, they just call Him Allah. It’s when Billy Graham says that Hindus who don’t know the gospel, but are sincere and try to do good are saved, they just don’t know the words. The list goes on. The Shack’s William P. Young is a Universalist. Rob Bell is a Universalist. They reject the idea that Jesus death was in our place. They, instead, call it an example of being selfless. It’s a good deed, but didn’t pay for the wrath that we deserve. They reject the idea that our sin (they’ll call them mistakes) is so bad that it warrants God’s wrath. They reject the idea of a God who can have wrath.

On the other hand, we have people who believe that they have the power to create things with their words (the Druids thought this, too). We’ve got people hungry for amazing shows of power and ecstatic experiences. They want to experience extravagant love but not the kind that is bound in obedience to the Lord.

These trends are the moves the enemy has made over time, unseen, and in great power. The decay in Christianity is rampant but it actually looks good. It looks like Joel Osteen is funding missionaries around the world. So does the Roman Catholic Church. So do the Mormons. So do Jehovah’s Witnesses. Actually, mercy missions and aid campaigns are also done by people who have no religious affiliation, too.

But the attack has been waged long before you or I were ever born. I believe Satan is powerful, but it isn’t in moving lamps and making footstep sounds in someone’s attic. I believe his power is quiet, unnoticed and pervasive. When we realize what has happened, we’ll be shocked and wonder how it ever got this far.

How do we combat this enemy? Well, we can’t. Jesus defeated him at the cross, and Jesus continues to defeat the works of the devil each time a sinner repents and turns to the Lord for His grace. But, we can renew our minds with scripture and remember to mourn our own sinfulness. We can remember that we were, indeed, bought with a precious price and that our Lord is in sovereign control of this world. We can trust in God’s sovereign power to keep us from the evil one, delivering us from temptation and putting to death the desires of our flesh. It’s a personal journey of sanctification. If this is not happening, and if you are swept up in fascination with witches, demon power, miracles and signs and wonders, then you are what Jesus call a person among an adulterous generation (Matt. 12:39, 16:4, Mar. 8:38). If you are lulled by the teachers who promise amazing wonders and that salvation is easy, and that everyone can have it, then you’re being led by a false teacher.

Salvation is a narrow gate and most will miss it. It requires turning from your life, putting your hand to the plough and never looking back (Luke 9:62).

 

Are Hurricanes Messages From God?

During Florida’s evacuation ahead of hurricane Irma, Christian evangelical celebrity Kirk Cameron live-streamed a message to Facebook that the hurricane was God’s power on display. Quoting from Job, he pointed out that God is in control of the weather. The proper response to seeing God’s power is to be in awe and repent.

Not long before, movie celebrity Jennifer Lawrence claimed that the hurricane was Mother Nature’s judgment on our nation for electing President Trump.

Are these celebs right? Is the weather a message from God (or mother nature)?

Continue reading →

What The Rainbow Really Means

Genesis 9:9-17 KJV — And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

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Outward Signs of Inward Realities

Does a wedding ceremony make you married? “Of, course,” you say! Well, does baptism save a person? Many will answer “no.”

This morning I was reading Acts chapter 2 where Peter says, “repent and be baptised …in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit.”

Peter later says in one of his epistles that baptism is for the remission of sins. 

Many take this literally to say that you aren’t saved until you get baptised. 

Of course, the rest of scripture indicates that isn’t the case. And since there is only one gospel, there must be something else going on. 

Look at what Peter says “…in the name of Jesus Christ…”

A name is more than the word. It denotes the character and essence of a person. It includes their reputation and all that they stand for. 

The name of Jesus is Lord, Savior, Sacrifice, Master…the list is long. 

Being baptized into his name is not an outward ritual. It’s an inward change that we accept by grace and through faith. We take on a new nature, a new name. The old is gone. The new has come. The bars used for outward cleansing are filled with the new wine of Inward renewal.