Demonic Influence?

Are there demons everywhere: under the rocks, behind the trees?  Are they attracted to our sin which we commit once, twice, three times?  Do they cause us to commit sins?  Do we exhibit their behavior if we become so engrossed into our sin?

The reason for the title is exactly what I have suggested in the first paragraph.  I want to suggest two viable routes which demons can influence people.  In the Bible, the book which has been the cornerstone of Christian Doctrine for over 1000 years, suggests in the writings of Paul, the one who expounded upon Christ’s teachings in his letters to the churches, that during the end times some will turn aside to doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-2), will turn to teachers that will tell them what they want to hear, or “scratch their itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).  Although there are other verses which speak of certain doctrines which were seeping into the churches during this time, he mentions them in passing; instead he encourages his readers to continue in the truth, the teaching of the Gospel of Christ and what he has accomplished through his death and resurrection.  Not surprisingly, these teachings that cropped up in the early church are still out there.  Unfortunately, this route is one that is often over looked.  But at least there are teachers who speak on it.

The second route is one which is talked about so much: sinning.  This route into peoples’ lives open doors.  But I want to make a clear difference here.  There is a clear distinction which Paul makes in between demonic and our own sinful nature, or the fleshly nature.  And Paul speaks more on how we battle that sinful nature rather than how the demonic influence upon our thinking.  (Romans 7:7-25, Galatians 5:1-26, James 1:1-27, 4:1-8). Yet this is where it can get tricky.  Although there is temptation out there, and we do have that sinful nature, through Christ that nature no longer has a hold on us, in other words, we die daily to it, there are influences outside of ourselves that can pull us toward doing bad things.  The devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9).  He is not a pet to be tamed.  We do see demonic activity within the gospels.  Yet these seem to just include some type of physical bondage, or cutting, even dangers to others.  The examples are there.  But we also see Satan as the accuser.  This same being is also known as the tempter.  We see this in Matthew 4:1-11 and 1 Thessalonians 3:1-10.

So when we step back and look at Scripture, we cannot blame any devil or demon for our sinning.  We have our own lack of will power which we can direct to whichever desire we wish to follow.  We can either follow our desire to fulfill a desire to worship ourselves and give into our own depraved desires, or follow the desire to steer away from that which can destroy us.  That latter gives us strength, as long as we lean upon God in our weaknesses. (Proverbs 3:5-7).

I’d like to end this with a view of our temptation which I hope can give you some hope as to knowing that God is there to help you, and he will provide a way out.  In the Greek, ‘temptation’: peirazo signifies (1) “to try, attempt, assay”; (2) “to test, try, prove”. (Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible W.E. Vine [2005] pg 375).  With this definition in mind, we can see that the tempter tests us to see where our allegiance lies.  Do we follow him, the father of lies, the father of sinners, or God, the Creator, who wants to be your Father, whose Son died for our sins and was raised again?

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My Apnea

I hit my fists against the wall several times to stop the frustration and anger I felt inside.  At least I didn’t hit my head against it like last time.  It was better than finding some other imaginative way to stop the emotional turmoil.  I sat down and held my hand, thankful I let it out, but I knew this was the wrong way.  At least I felt better, for now.  It was the only way I found that was not noticeable to attract attention.

Some people say I need to stop being negative, or think differently, or pray more, or get out more, or my favorite, quote scripture against Satan.  What they don’t realize is, it is not something you can change quickly or pray away and then go on with God’s plan for your life.  The self-abuse has been around for a long time; I just do all I can to hold it in.  Why have I held it in for so long?  Why doesn’t anyone know, let alone, understand?  I have asked myself those questions often.  But the answer was always there.  Every single time I tried to harm myself in some fashion, or think dark thoughts about myself: it was because I did not find myself worthy of love, nor of any one’s time to help.  I didn’t want to consider myself that poor pitiful person.  Yet I lived in it because that is how I accepted myself, all I knew.

My parents had their problems while I was growing up, but I thank their love for God and each other that they made it through.  But all my issues were not of their design.  I do remember some parts of my childhood, like anyone else.  Yet there are memories which I will never find, and feelings I will never fully experience.  It’s like a void, a timeless moment where an experience wanted to exist, but couldn’t.  I asked my mother and father often of moments in my young years, and even of my birth.  One time, I sat down and made a timeline of my childhood.  It gave me some sense of fashioned design to my life, placing memories and events in order has helped out.  But I now know, what the problem was, even still is.

I was born with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (O.S.A.).  It was not discovered until the ripe age of 18, right after graduating high school.  My Ear, Nose and Throat specialist was concerned about some symptoms I had been experiencing: snoring, extreme tiredness during the day, and depression.  So he recommended seeing another specialist.  It was then this was discovered.  My sleep study showed even more surprising results.  I was shocked, but not surprised.  I stopped breathing between 35-40 seconds for each apnea episode; apnea meaning, “Without breath”.  This happened over 1,000 times during my sleeping.

I remember this new doctor explaining to me 3 different treatments: A tracheotomy, using a bi-pap machine or a Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).  I tried using the bi-pap machine, but the pressure was not tolerable for me.  Here’s an example of it, as I have told many people before: have someone drive you down the highway at 70 miles per hour, and stick your head out the window and do your best to breath normally.  That’s what it is like.  The UPPP is a procedure which is performed to remove tissue from the throat or mouth.  Unfortunately, a CPAP machine was required after this procedure is performed, and the risks were high enough, plus a tracheotomy would still be required.  So I chose the first option.  I am happy that I chose the tracheotomy, yet there are plenty of drawbacks as well.  For example limiting the type of jobs that I can apply for, and, unfortunately, it can be a relationship killer.  Some people are uncomfortable with someone who has something they don’t understand.  Or maybe they’re afraid they’ll have to take care of me or take care of my tracheotomy.  Whatever reason, I know from these 15 years, and one of the most difficult aspects I have encountered from my sleep apnea as well as having my tracheotomy, is realizing that I have the strength and responsibility for such a burden on my own.

The personal changes that life and even God have required me to undertake are amazingly similar to others.  The required truths are like anyone else’s.  Know thyself, forgive, know your own strength, move on and let go of the past.  My approach has just been different.  That’s one of the reasons why it’s been difficult for me.  I’ve had no way to share similarities with others.  But that hasn’t stopped me from learning about my past, moving on, or even finding the strength I need inside, and even outside of myself.

To give myself has always been an important aspect of my life.  Yet the big issue is how can I give myself, if I do not know who I am?  This was an aspect of my thinking that I had great difficulty understanding, let alone looking beyond my O.S.A has been a difficult accomplishment.  Yet with learning, patience, practicing good things and even choosing to accept myself and guarding my heart and mind of negative things, it is possible.

My recovery from the loss I grew up with has been slow, but it will not fully be captured.  All I need to do is let go, move on and know that I have a future.  This future has been affected by my past, yet it only has the control I wish it to have.  It comes down to knowing I can use it to push forward and help others.  This is only the beginning.

Single Divided, Single Together

Single Divided, Single Together

As a single adult male, I’ve grown in the world where, unbeknownst to a large group, I came across a truth about being a single male in the church. (Although this applies to women to, I’m speaking from a male point of view because, well, I’m a male).  This truth is: when one is told on how they are to be, even if it isn’t a part of the traditional teaching, it has an effect on the person. The teaching of being a man and what it entails can be hazardous to the person.  I know it was to me.  When one is told that a man takes care of their family, is financially responsible, etc, etc, this can be equated with the image of our self.  This is who he is and what he does.   This is who I believed I was to be.  What I should attain.  I know I often found myself asking these questions: If it is Biblical, and the preacher teaches it, and you see it in society, and it is what you desire, why can’t I have it?  What is wrong with me?  (Yet why does this picture of a man fail more and more?  The divorces are crazy and people being hurt are rampant in relationships which can be avoided.)  I have had to realize, we all have to realize, that not everyone will be married in this life.  But is this a correct interpretation of Scriptures concerning our gender roles, or even what all God created us to do with our lives? Is this just a teaching which was influenced by society, let alone how deeply engrained marriage & partnership is within our doctrinal system? Are we being taught to see through rose colored lenses?

From my experiences, readings, and talking with others, I say yes. Why? Why should a relationship make us fulfilled if we cannot be happy with ourselves?  This same concept even applies to work.  The wall I found myself against is that no matter how often I gave myself away to the woman I was with, how happy I tried to make them, I could not be happy without them giving back.  So my happiness was based off what they were receiving from me, in hopes that I was making them happy, and they would in turn share that same action.  It never worked.  I will admit, the American culture I grew up in, was based off giving in hope of receiving.  When it doesn’t work, we seek someone else, or we stick with that person in a relationship where it becomes a strange cycle of reward and punishment.

We can simply look around and see that there are three areas where people struggle in, and these areas which the church teaches us that men and women do: be married and have children, have a job and provide for their family (either in tradition or non-tradition roles).  So we see 3 desires here: having a spouse, being a provider, and having a family.  Are not these three desires in all of us? Are these not also the basis of our culture and even what we desire?  Yet the question is, why limit them, as a single person, to how married people are telling us, or how we perceive what others tell us, and we tell ourselves, how we are to fulfill them?  I’d like to present a different way of approach.  But first I want to say this: I am in no way saying that one, nor forbid, you to marry.  Like any other single, I get lonely and even want to share my life with someone, yet to just pursue this is like holding back a bow string without the arrow!  If you let go, all that energy from the string which is engaged by the bow, can ruin it when you let go of that string.  You need the arrow for the bow to work properly.  In the Christian life, the main thrust of our belief and existence isn’t to just get married, live life and teach our children.  It is to uplift, through our life, the name of Christ, the name of God, and for him to be glorified in our life, and to spread the Gospel of the Christ, and also to help others who crosses our path.  This is our “arrow”.

So how can we see these 3 areas which in a different light as a single, and yet still carry these over into our marriage with our help-mate?  I want to bring out firstly, that our life can be compared to a field. This field is our life.  We have friends, neighbors, even strangers and our work mates who are a part of this field.  Image your talents, or gifts, even your personality, let alone your job, or even school, is in this field.  We tend to this field because it is our life.  If we stop tending to it, we stop growing.  Our talents lessen, our work or school suffers, and weeds start to overrun our field.  These three areas are a part of this field.

1. A marriage partner, or help mate: This can be a difficult one.  We all desire someone to share life with, even when we habitually end relationships out of fear.  Yet it does not have to be like this.  When we join with someone, we let down walls and we build bridges, understanding the other person in a way that is intimate, and I am not talking about any type of sexual involvement.  Although relationships which are strictly platonic have certain “limitations”, a friendship, either with the opposite sex, can prove fruitful.  These friendships unfortunately rare can happen.  But a special one can only be achieved with your spouse.  But that does not mean right now in your life, you should avoid friendships with the opposite gender.  They can happen with effort and correct belief about friendships.  I have had a female friend now for about 10 years.  It has proved well enough for me that what I was told to avoid by the church and not to, “fall into temptation”, was wrong.  To even have a friend of the opposite sex I have found, I cannot be afraid to fall into sin.  How?  Because I’m not looking to sin!  Why give some effort to the enemy’s tool when you know your focus can be more on growth and development as a child of God?  As far as any type of sexual element in such a relationship, why give it heed?  First off we’re all human.  Secondly, motive proves very useful in the understanding of sexuality in any type of relationship, whether friend or marriage.  I know this can fly in the face of traditional teachings, but there comes a time when we have to shake off the shackles of these self enclosed teachings which can hinder growth.  I am not speaking of Christ and what he’s done and his love for humanity, I am talking about the traditions made by men.

Friendships are an important part of life.  They show how we interact with others and can help open us to new opportunities in life.  Regardless of failure, or fear of anything, if we do not take time to build relationships, how can we build a proper relationship with a spouse, let alone, the Father?

2. Providing: Being self sufficient is a wonderful thing.  Yet nothing lasts forever.  I must ask myself at times, am I providing by my own hand, or while I work, do I trust my Provider?  Being dependent upon God is not a sign of weakness, nor weak, like being able to go along side another isn’t weak.  We are beings who are communal and are made to have each other, regardless of gender.  We do not just stand on our own; we always have someone who has encouraged us and give us guidance.  For me, I know if I did not have others, and if they didn’t have me, we would not be where we are now.  Friendship outweighs co-existence.  Love doesn’t barter feelings or suffer self depravity to the point where we allow things to just happen when we could stand up and do the right thing.  Trusting God allows us to know him, others, and even ourselves more.  It opens doors to helping others, and humbling ourselves to where we allow ourselves to open our hands to the help of others.

3. Children: Children are not just someone you have to help, watch grow and guide with lessons, they are an investment.  You invest in them, not necessarily for the return, but that they themselves will invest in others.  This is just how it is being single.  Who in your field are you investing in?  Is there are chance that you can open to others to invest in?  Investing means you stretch yourself, not just for the exercise, but for the chance to become more involved with God in others, and even see how God is involved with you.  I know that opening to others has proven effective for me and helped me to overcome obstacles which have built up walls.  If I had not taken time to allow others to invest in me, and in turn, invest in others, I would not be where I am today.  I believe a good reminder is in order.  From Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1982), he reminds us of one of the most profound principles in history, “Principle 1: Become genuinely interested in other people.” (pg. 112)

I hope and pray this blog encourages you, if not challenges you, like it has me learning these things and even writing it.  I recommend another book which goes into more detail.  They Were Single Too, by David M. Hoffeditz.

Remember that there are other singles out there who feel the same you do.  Any type of singles ministry, let alone friendship, does not exist without others.  Even if you are a single parent, mother or father, you are not alone.

Following Christ

There appears to be a lack of knowing discipleship within the church.  Why do I say this?  If you’ve grown up in the church, had a disillusionment about it, or had your time with it, or even still in it and not sure what to do, we all have asked ourselves from time to time, “What is this about?”  We assume, because we see it every week, that it is about just going to church for a class once or twice a week, going to the services, maybe setting aside time to go help the less fortunate, and of course we need to study our Bible and learn to give up things which take away our relationship with Christ.  It all sounds pretty simple, and if we falter some place, we’re told God will forgive us, pick ourselves up and move on. 

But isn’t there more?  Isn’t there anything exciting, making one come alive rather than just going for a weekly service, and waiting for a revival every two years or so?  Could it be that we are being presented with a gospel of formality, a safety net to our culture, saying this is all you have to do?  Could it be a blanket that we could wrap ourselves tightly around our body which we are lead to think of as either precious or evil?  We need security some place in our world.  And with Christians, it seems to be in our theology, maybe a nice warm bubbly theology with a nice hot cup of tea.  But what is following Christ about?  What is discipleship?

As we know a disciple is one who is learning from another.  In the Greek it is:

H3928

למּד    למּוּד

limmûd  limmûd

lim-mood’, lim-mood’

From H3925; instructed: – accustomed, disciple, learned, taught, used.

 

Yet Christ calls us to be even more than that.  We are a family, brothers, sisters, and mothers and fathers to each other, to Christ, in Christ.  And if, and dare I say when, we are persecuted, we have to remember, that the persecutor hated Christ first (Matthew 10:22, 24:9, John 15:18, 17:14).  Maybe this is what we’ve forgotten?  Why aren’t we told to count the cost while we’re being told to follow him (Luke 14:25-35)?  Maybe we have to hear the message first, choose to believe, than choose to abide, along with counting the cost? 

I grew up going to church, singing the music, tried out for some things, went to classes, all the things we’re shown to do by others.  Yet when we hear the message, we are given a choice, not forced, at least in my case, to believe in Christ Jesus.  Yet most of the Scriptures I have read countless times over the years have never been relayed to me in any of those classes, these discipleship classes.  Set below are seeds which have been scattered throughout the Bible to encourage, strengthen, and inspire us.  I encourage you to read them and meditate on them.

A Set of Principles:

Know the cost of your discipleship (Luke 14:25-35)

Live minimally, practically, not extremely (Luke 16:10-13)

Remember the poor, widow and orphan (James 1:19-27)

Speak up for others in love (Proverbs 3:27-28, 31:8-9)

Study and defend the Word of God in love (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Test your faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Remember Christ’s humility (2 Timothy 2:8-13; 1 Timothy 3:16; Philippians 2:3-11)

Remember the struggle of all believers (Ephesians 6:12-18, 4:1-16, 2:11-22)

Keep your hands working (Ecclesiastes 9:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Eph. 4:1-6: One Spirit, One hope, One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and Father of all.

To close this episode of this blog, I’d like to encourage you with this one last piece of viable Scripture.  Do I have more to say on this topic?  Anyone who knows me, it would be a resounding yes.  Godspeed, and Shalom.

2 Peter 1:3-10: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.  For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.  Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.  For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.