Last week I visited a Catholic shrine up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I drove through rain, sleet, and snow to get there. It was a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts. I'm not Catholic. I don't understand a lot of things they do. I’m the odd looking one at mass who doesn't know when to sit, stand, kneel or how to cross myself. But, I think there are strengths in every denomination. Someone told me about this place, and I was compelled to go and pray; to meet with Jesus; to experience God in a new way.
In late October I went to a Catholic healing mass led by a Rwandan priest. He loves Jesus, and survived the genocide years ago. But 80 of his parishioners didn't. His mother was murdered. After months of prayer and healing, he went back to Rwanda to preach forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing to his nation. He also adopted the children of the man who murdered his mother. For. Real. That's not a human kind of forgiveness. That's the Jesus kind. After meeting this priest I wanted to take this pilgrimage up to Green Bay.
We all have boxes for God. But I want more. I'm learning to be willing to let God broaden my view of Him. You never know how He is going to move. I'm gaining an appreciation for the different ways we all worship the same God and celebrate our Savior, Jesus, even though we may not agree on all the details.
Anyway, I'm sitting in this Catholic sanctuary up in Green Bay. Icons, pictures, symbols, and stained glass surround me. A few people are waiting in line for confession. Some are in the pews praying. The silence is palpable. It's like a library in here. Full of reverence and full of faith.
I'm reading about the stations of the cross and following along a guided meditation filled with Scripture. One of the things the meditation guide suggested I do while I was reflecting was to say, "Jesus, take me with you." Meaning, "Let me go on this journey with you." Or as Mary said, "Let it be unto me…" It was a phrase indicating a posture of surrender. I start to whisper this phrase as I begin the meditation. But as I do, I get a tickle in the back of my throat. I clear my throat. I cough once. It continues. I cough again. It starts to agitate to a point my eyes begin to water. I feel an obnoxious round of coughing coming on. But I'm in a pin-drop quiet atmosphere of a church. Finally, I realize this is intense and immanent. I start to gag. What? I don't have a cold or flu. This is out of nowhere. The more I try to whisper these words, "Jesus, take me with you" the less I can speak. Literally. I grab my coat and quickly make my way out of the sanctuary into the restroom. Upon arrival at the restroom, I gag, choke, and dry heave into the garbage can.
Y'all I don't heave. I never throw up. This is completely bizarre. I went from totally calm to retching in 90 seconds. What in the world is going on??!!
You know what in the world is going on? Spiritual forces we can't see. Not all of our problems are our fault, or flesh and blood. Some of the stuff we encounter and experience is just plain demonic oppression. Does this mean every cough is demonic? Certainly not. But in this moment, at this time…it was so OBVIOUS to me.
Don't be surprised as you step out to do something for God, or you seek to be obedient to God, that some odd things, difficult things, happen. It's just the way it is. But rather than get afraid or become anxious about it, I'd love to encourage you to do a few good things to prepare for these dark encounters. (By the way, once I hacked up my lungs and finished retching, I continued my day in a normal fashion.)
1. Trust and know God is greater. 1 John 4:4 says, "Greater is the One who is in us, than he who is in the world." Which basically means, "My daddy can beat up your daddy!" So don't worry. Know who your daddy is and lean into His protection.
2. Nothing gets to you without first getting permission from God. Have you ever noticed how the demons have to ask Jesus for permission? This is because they do not have authority over God's children. We can give them open doors and authority with our words and actions sometimes, but ultimately, everything gets sifted through Jesus' hands. Again, we don't have to be afraid. We can rest in the care of Jesus.
3. If you are in Christ, you cannot be possessed by a demon. We can however, be oppressed. The demonic forces can whisper in our ear, taunt us, and try to derail us. But they cannot overcome the Holy Spirit who has sealed us through the blood of Jesus. Rest in the finished work of Jesus for your soul.
4. When you encounter spiritual warfare speak the name of Jesus out loud. Speak Scriptures out loud. Rebuke, command, and tell the demons to leave in Jesus name. We don't have to be polite. We have authority because we belong to the King above ALL Kings. We can act like it. It is our spiritual identity and birthright to overcome the enemy. Why? Because we have been born again into a living hope. We are co-heirs with Christ. We are children of God.
We have King's privileges.
5. Don't fixate on demons. They aren't worth the crap shoot. Seriously. They may come to taunt, make us cough, disrupt our sleep, or even try to gag us. But ultimately let's fix our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith. He is the One who will lead us into life and godliness. It is God who has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ.
The enemy can just go pout in the box of shame.
Stand firm. Fill yourself with truth. Whisper the name of Jesus over every area of your life. Resist the devil and he will flee. It's what he does. It's who he is. Just in case some of this isn't making sense, I'm going to leave you a list of Scripture references you can look up on your own time.
Oh and one more thing, when things start going haywire, my friend Jill Miller always says, "Sic 'em Jesus!" You can use that if you want. I do!
Merry Christmas and "Sic 'em Jesus!"
Ephesians 4:32, Eph. 1:13, Eph. 6:12,
John 16:33, Luke 9:23, 1 Peter 1:3, Rom. 8:17,
James 4:7, Heb. 12:2, 2 Peter 1:3, Eph. 1:3