Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How Evergreen Deals with Demons - Part 1

My guess is that many of you would have wanted me to get to this part of the topic much sooner. However, I feel that a sound spiritual foundation needs to be laid. The US armed forces spend lots of time in training their members. Why? They have learned that a strong foundation of skills and mental preparation yields a greater chance of success on the battle field. The same can be said for God’s children going into spiritual battle.

Ephesians 6 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Six principles for spiritual warfare:

  1. Be strong in the Lord.
  2. Recognize the enemy.
  3. Stand for God—and, keep on standing.
  4. The belt of truth.
  5. The breastplate of righteousness.
  6. Our feet fitted with the readiness.
  7. The shield of faith.
  8. The helmet of salvation.
  9. The sword of the Spirit—the Word of God.
  10. Under-girded with prayer.

Be strong in the Lord: There are times when we are strong in the Lord and there are times when we are not strong in the Lord. It is important that we recognize our spiritual condition before going into battle with demonic forces (we should be mindful of our spiritual condition at all times, as well!). A person who does not spend time alone with God cannot be spiritually strong—they will have to depend on their own natural strength, and that will not be good enough. Athletes train six-day-a-week for years to prepare for a twenty-second race at the Olympics. Too many Christians spend one hour a week training for spiritual battle. There are times when our spiritual energy has been spent. A marathon runner does not run two marathons on back-to-back days. Many could, but they would not be at peak effectiveness. There are times when our spiritual “tanks” are near empty and need to be filled. Take the time necessary to regain your spiritual strength.

Recognize the enemy: Recognize that the enemy is a spiritual enemy and must be fought on a spiritual battlefield. People who do not believe in Satan, demons and the power of Christ cannot, and should not, go into battle against demonic enemies.

Stand for God—and, keep on standing: This is standing for God on the field of battle. It is easy to stand for God on Sunday morning during worship. We need to stand for God in close proximity to the enemy. We do not have a spiritual atomic bomb that can be fired from 4000 miles away. Jesus dealt with demons face-to-face. We have to deal with demonic forces face-to-face. We cannot run away. We have to keep standing. No matter what the attack, keep standing for God. He is the one who will win the battle—he will use us as his hands and feet.

Check back tomorrow as we look at items 4, 5 & 6.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Elders as Spiritual Leaders

In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the elders are suppose to be the spiritual leaders of the congregation. More often than not they are the business leaders of the church. Many years ago my dad served several terms as an elder in a Presbyterian church—I don’t believe he was a Christian at the time. If he was a Christian there was absolutely NO evidence of it. He definitely was not a spiritual leader in the church. Today, my dad is a believer and could serve as an elder if he attended a Presbyterian church. His case is not a rarity. In past years our Nominating Committee has come to me with the list of the people they were considering asking to serve as elders. Several times their list had people on it who attended church less that four times a year! I asked them how a person could serve as a spiritual leader in the congregation when they didn’t even qualify as a “regular attender.” The secret to having a strong church is to have the elders be the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Additionally, I believe that the elders are to be on the front lines in dealing with the demonic beings in the spiritual realm.

I meet with a group of Presbyterian pastors every month for prayer and fellowship. Several years ago one of those pastors called me and asked for my help in dealing with a demonic situation. I suggested that he get his elders involved (exactly how I will deal with tomorrow). He checked with his elders and found out that only two of them even believed that there was a Satan, demons or spiritual forces for evil! I took the elders from my church to join with that pastor and the “believing” elders from his church to confront the situation. You see, the elders from his church were the business leaders of the church—not the spiritual leaders.

Our session spends almost as much time in study and prayer as it does in the business part of the meeting. We make a conscious effort to be the spiritual leaders. Our nominating committee now looks at the spiritual growth and development of a person before that person is asked to serve as an elder or deacon. Last year they left one position vacant due to the lack of sufficient candidates. (Note: That doesn’t mean that we have so few people who are spiritually mature that we couldn’t fill all of our positions. Lots of criteria are looked at: including spiritual gifts, talents, how involved a person is in other ministries, etc.) Our church’s elders MUST be the spiritual leaders of the church. Period!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Not against flesh and blood

Last week I brought up the subject of demons. I realize that this is not a subject that most Presbyterians like to talk about. I have appreciated your comments. As is almost always the case, our collective insight and experience illumines the topic at hand in new and fresh ways!

The Chicago Bears lost to the Miami Dolphins yesterday afternoon. The Bears went into the game as one of the two NFL teams that were undefeated. The Dolphins have been a huge disappointment this year. IMHO the Bears failed to recognize the Dolphins as a threat. This neglect led to their downfall.

The North American church has down played the “supernatural” for decades. Movies like The Exorcist have made demons into Hollywood fiction. Others have tried to use mental illness as a way to describe the strange behaviors of those who may/or may not be demon possessed. For others, it is just too uncomfortable to talk about the evil side of the supernatural.

There are battles against “flesh and blood.” Like most almost-middle-aged men, there is too much of me around my waistline. My problem… I love to eat. This is a battle against “flesh and blood.” Many of our battles are against flesh and blood. However, we can fight our “flesh and blood battles” more effectively if we are spiritually fit.

There are battles that are not against “flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” There is a spiritual enemy. That enemy must be fought in the spiritual realm. Failure to recognize this enemy can be dangerous.