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Entries in Supernatural (2)

Tuesday
Dec182018

Exercising your Faith

Luke 8:22-25.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 16, 2018.

Today we are going to talk about the nature of faith.  Faith is such that it can be strengthened through its use.  Much like a muscle that is not used, our faith can atrophy to a point of spiritual danger.

This is not an attempt to inflate our egos with images of a spiritual Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Some people too easily think far more of themselves than they should and others too easily think far less of themselves than they should.  We must not err in either direction. 

No, this is recognition that God does want believers to become stronger in trusting Him.  He uses the difficulties of this life to strengthen our faith and accomplish the good work that He has for us to do.  In today’s story we are going to see a day in the life of The Twelve disciples, and how Jesus used it to strengthen their faith.

We must learn to trust the leading of Jesus

By the time we get to Luke 8:22, the disciples have followed Jesus for a while.  In verses 1-2 of the same passage we are told that they had already passed through every city and village “preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God.  And The Twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”  I say this because it shows us that they had a certain level of faith already.  They had come to see Jesus as a wise teacher with the knowledge of God, and a powerful healer who could set people free from the worst of diseases and even evil spirits.  However, they did not yet understand completely who Jesus was.  Even when we know the stories of the Bible and what God can do, we did not walk through those times.  Thus we have to learn to trust God for ourselves in the things that we experience.

In this passage the disciples will be tested with a new set of circumstances.  Jesus tells them to get in boats and go across the Sea of Galilee towards the eastern side.  Now, several of them were experienced fisherman, but not all of them were.  Even then, this storm that they would encounter was the worst that they had ever encountered while in a boat.  

This highlights an issue in the area of faith.  We must resist the temptation to believe that if we are following God the way will be easy and without difficulty.  The devil can undermine your faith by getting you first to believe that you are not where God wants you to be and second that God has abandoned you there.  Even if the first part is true, God will not abandon the repentant.  Remember the prodigal son.  Jesus is always as close as the mention of His name.  So our faith is going to be tested whether we like it or not.  It is the only way to strengthen our faith and accomplish what God wants to accomplish in our lives.

However remember 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.  “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Notice that in verse 12 we are warned to watch out lest we fall.  God does not want us to become proud and arrogant in our abilities.  We can fall at any time, period.  However, verse 13 is the encouragement.  We can trust God’s leading.  He is faithful and it is His help that will enable us to deal with the trial.

Though this verse speaks of an escape, it also speaks of being able to bear our trials.  There is always a way through every test when Jesus is with us, but we should never see avoiding the test as God’s way of escape.  His way always leads right through the trial and out the other side.  The temptation is to treat Jesus like training wheels for the disciples.  Later the wheels will come off and they will be just like Jesus.  In truth, they would only do what they did later by continuing to follow Jesus by faith, and allowing Him to do what He wanted to do through them.  It was still God’s power that enabled them to do anything and the same will be true for us.  There will never be a time in this life that we do not need Jesus.  However, the key is that Jesus is with us, just as real as He was with those disciples that day on the boat when the storm threatened to destroy them.

He picks the best way for us

So let’s follow up on the idea that God has a way through our trial.  The idea to boat across the sea came from Jesus and He was not ignorant to what was going to happen.  He could have had them walk around.  God always has options, and yet he chose this one that lead to this difficult place.

It was imperative for the disciples that they come to the knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, that in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwelt completely.  They needed to know that He was much more than a wise teacher, and powerful healer.  He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Though the situation looks like they are going to die, God is always watchful to the end that our faith is not overwhelmed.  Much like Israel pinned in against the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army, they had nowhere to go.  Let me remind us of a verse in Exodus 13:17-18.  It says, “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’  So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.”  God is always aware of what would be too much, what would overwhelm us.  Just as He was watching out for Israel, so He was watching out for The Twelve, and so He is watching out for you and me.

The truth is not that we can’t go through what is in front of us, but that we don’t want to do it.  We are capable of going through far greater things than we want to do and to be tested at levels far above our comfort zones.  It is not that we can’t follow the Lord, but that our flesh doesn’t want us to do so.  So the question is not can you follow the Lord, but will you?

Notice that God picked the easier way, but not an easy way.  We always think we have the toughest road, but the truth is that it could have been tougher.  The tests that Israel went through in the wilderness were tough, but they were also preparing them.  God taught them that they could trust Him for provision, healing, leading, and defense.  All these things were preparing them for the day when they would enter the Promised Land and have to fight giants.  It was all God’s preparation for Israel and in our story today, God’s preparation for the disciples.  They would face far greater storms than the one they faced on the Sea of Galilee that day.  Israel left Egypt unready for war against Egyptians, much less giants.  In the beginning God completely fought for them.  Moses told them, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!”  In the wilderness God had them assist in the miracles of the desert by going out and gathering the manna and the birds, but in obedience to God’s commands about how much.  He had them break camp and make camp, marching dutifully along, at the direction of the cloud that led them.  When they reach the Promised Land, they are ready to go to war against giants, not by themselves, but with the Lord working with them.  This is the careful preparation of God in all of our lives, helping us to grow in our ability to exercise our faith in Him.

If there is an impossible situation in your path, know this.  God has led you to this day.  If you haven’t been living for Him then repent and ask Him to help you.  If you have been living for Him, then reach out to Him to teach you how to come through even this impossible situation.  It may be, “stand still and watch me.”  It may be “Go up and fight and I will be with you.”  Regardless, we can know that He has picked the best way for us to become stronger in Him, to become more like Him.

Jesus is powerful enough for my situation

This brings us full circle to the story in Luke 8.  The Twelve are faced with a situation that is beyond them in the natural, but it is also beyond their faith.  Yet, in their time of need they turn to Jesus and this is always the right answer.  Satan can use fear and doubt to get you to question God’s love.  He does so to get you to walk away from Jesus instead of exercising your faith in Him by calling out to Him.  We may not have Jesus physically beside us, but He is just as close by the presence of the Holy Spirit and just as powerful.

How we turn to Jesus is important.  When we turn to Jesus, we do need to turn to Him in faith rather than in fear and accusation.  In the story the disciples are fearful and their statement to Jesus has a tinge of accusation to it.  Perhaps they waited longer than they should have to turn to Jesus, while bailing water and trying to keep the boat together.  Perhaps they resented the serene look on the face of Jesus as He slept.  Doesn’t He know that we are perishing?  Yet, Jesus was only asleep as long as they did not wake Him.  Why do we delay turning to Christ in our trials?  Don’t do that.  We don’t always get an answer right away, but the answer doesn’t start until we turn to Him. 

The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect to have God’s help.  However, we should learn and do better next time.  Learn to turn to Christ in expectant hope.  Lord, what would you have me/us do?  Is there anything?  I trust in You, Lord!  Clearly this is easier said than done, and none of us do it without error.  Yet, we can learn to become stronger in this area as we walk with the Lord Jesus.

Let us end with the obvious lesson of this story.  Jesus can handle the material world and the supernatural world in our lives.  In this situation the disciples recognize that Jesus is more than a man.  “He commands even winds and water, and they obey Him!”  When they hit the shore only one event happens before they get in their boats and go back, and that is meeting the Gadarene demoniac.  This guy was not just possessed with an evil spirit.  He had a legion of spirits within him.  He represents a satanic stronghold that only God could break down.  Christ demonstrates to His disciples (and us by the way) in back to back situations that He can handle both the natural creation and the supernatural creation.  He truly is Lord over all things. 

May God help us all to exercise our faith in Him by following Him today.  Whatever situation you are in, and whether you arrived there by following Jesus or running your own way, turn to Him today and let Him lead you into a place of stronger faith and victorious living.

Exercising Faith Audio

Thursday
Oct272016

Society under Siege: The Paranormal Paradigm Shift

Acts 16:16-19; Ephesians 6:10-12; Revelation 9:20-21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 23, 2016.

It is interesting that as drug abuse has sky-rocketed, so has alternative spirituality and paranormal activities.  Historically drugs have been used to make it easier to connect with the spirit world.  However, America’s fascination with the paranormal began long before the 1950’s.  In the 1800’s a large influx of eastern mysticism came to the United States and spawned groups that sought to explore the spirit world.  Séances and contacting spirit guides began to catch fire among certain groups.  Contrary to popular conception, we are not becoming more and more anti-supernatural in our society.  Actually more and more people are adopting a spiritual world view that is alternative to the biblical view.  These alternative views typically teach that all things are connected and that the living can tap into this cosmic connection or force in order to obtain information.  They do not believe in a personal God that will judge our life.  Rather, they believe that we are all part of God, along with everything else in the universe.  This paranormal paradigm shift that is happening in America is really a going back to the ancient world views.  I do not mean that there are huge numbers of people worshipping Zeus.  However, they are reaching out to entities and conversing with “ascended masters,” whether they go by the name Zeus or not.  In many cases American Christians are not prepared for the reality of where this is headed.

It is past time for Christians to get acquainted with what the Bible has to say on this issue and be ready to give an answer for the reason for the hope that we hold.

The Early Church Had A Supernatural World View

In Acts 16:16-19, we join the Apostle Paul in the Greek city of Philippi.  Now a large percentage of the modern Church has rejected the supernatural element of the Bible.  Yes, they will acknowledge that there is a God, but the idea of angels and demons interacting with the world is just too much for them.  Miracles are too much for them.  Thus they explain away the miracles and supernatural events of the Bible.  We will see in our passage today that this is completely foreign to the first Christians.  Such a “belief” is not true Christianity.  It is something else entirely.

To set up this encounter in Acts 16, we need to understand that the Bible presents the reality of spiritual beings.  Just as there is a hierarchy among the peoples of the earth, so there is a heavenly hierarchy within the spirit world.  The Bible presents a cosmic problem.  A rebellion against the Creator has begun in the spirit world and mankind has been caught up in it.  There are good and evil spirit beings that are of lesser or greater power.   There are holy and fallen angels.  Now when Paul entered Philippi, he had come to preach the Gospel of Jesus to those who would listen.  At some point a young girl began to follow him around loudly proclaiming that Paul was a servant of the Most High God and people should listen to him.  This went on for several days.  No doubt Paul was praying about what motivated this girl and what he should do.  We are told that the girl was possessed with a spirit of divination and was used by her master to make him money by telling fortunes.  The word translated “divination” is literally python.  She had a python spirit.  This snake spirit was connected to the god Apollo and was supposed to be responsible for the amazingly accurate prophecies given by the oracles of Apollo.  Now this is not a story of Greek mythology.  Paul meets a real slave girl who is apparently good enough at fortune telling to make her masters money.  Notice that this spirit that possesses the girl operates in a “benign” way in order to give her information.  This is quite the opposite of the spirits that possessed the Gadarene demoniac that Jesus met on the sea of Galilee (Luke 8).  Those spirits manifested in a raging and insane manner that scared the daylights out of anyone who met him.  Thus some spirits are predatory in a malignant and dysfunctional way.  But, other spirits are predatory in a seemingly benign and somewhat functional way.  The ancient world was afraid of the spirits.  This fear and yet desire to know how to be safe in this world is how Satan kept the ancient world under his sway.  The early Christians knew that demons and deceiving spirits existed.  Any fortunes that this girl was ever able to give were part of a deceptive game plan to keep the Philippians under the control of the evil spirits.

Notice how Paul responds.  He is annoyed by what the girl is doing.  However, his problem is not with her.  He knows that the real problem is that python spirit that possessed her.  Early Christians knew that their warfare was not against people, kings, or nations.  They knew that their warfare was against spiritual entities that Satan used to manipulate the people.  This girl was not just a slave of men.  She was a slave to a predatory, evil spirit. 

Look at Ephesians 10-13 for a moment.  This is the famous armor of God passage.  Notice that this is about spiritual warfare against spiritual entities.  The armor of God is also spiritual.  They are to arm themselves with: Truth, Righteousness, The Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, The Word of God, Prayer, and a Watchful Disposition.  He says in verse 10 that these things are needed to stand up to the schemes of the Devil.  Do not let yourself be deceived.  Our real enemies are the spiritual powers that hold the world under their sway.  Our job as Christians is to labor to set people free by the Truth and Power of Jesus Christ.  Of course, most people in Philippi were not possessed by an evil spirit.  Most of them were only “possessed” by the teachings of these evil spirits.  The devil doesn’t have to have everyone possessed.  He only has to manipulate and influence the larger masses to do all his bidding.  This young girl was set free by the Apostle Paul because he first recognized it and then called upon the authority of Jesus to set the girl free.  She needed an exorcism first and then the truth.  But most people Paul ran into needed simply needed the truth of God to cut through the blindness that they had embraced.  We don’t have to look for evil spirits.  Paul wasn’t doing that.  Rather, he was doing what Jesus had sent him to do.  He was looking for people who would listen to the Truth.  Those evil spirits that had dominion over the city didn’t like it and that is why this manifestation occurred.  So focus on people and their need for the truth.  As you are successful at counteracting the lies that these spirits promote in our society, you will start to run into opposition and perhaps even a person who is possessed.  Remember, they don’t all look like the foaming at the mouth girl in “The Exorcist.”

The Failure of Scientific Materialism

The West has come under a world view that is sometimes called Scientific Materialism.  It teaches that there is no spirit world and that all things can be explained through natural processes.  If there is something that can’t be explained we are given a kind of promissory note that promises that science will eventually figure it out.  This materialism points to the supernatural beliefs of the past and labels them all ignorance.  This itself is ignorant, but let’s press on.  It is partially true that the ancient supernatural beliefs were because of man’s ignorance.  However, because it rejects a spirit world, materialists do not recognize that much of the ignorance was because of meddling, evil spirits.

Materialism has problems though.  If humans are just biological machines and our thoughts are merely the random firing of synapses (i.e. just natural processes), then there is no right and wrong and there is no purpose or free will.  A crushing hopelessness lies at the end of such a belief.  It also runs into a logical contradiction.  If there is only material then the material had to either bring itself into existence or it is eternal.  Yet, if it has always been (if we can eternally go back to an earlier time) then time would never have gotten to us.  You cannot have an infinite regression of a material thing (space, time, matter).  This adds to the weight that few humans can actually follow such a world view.  It is too cruel and too inhuman.  Something in us cries for something beyond.  The weakness of scientific materialism has given rise to a new wave of the old spiritual ideas and paranormal activity like Paul encountered in Philippi.

As I said earlier, this began in the 1800’s as gurus and Tibetan masters interacted with the West.  The mystical world view of the East promoted a mushy spiritual paradigm.  Everything is God and we can learn to tap into it and the collective wisdom of all the spirits.  Thus séances, channeling, the occult, and many other vehicles became popular ways to connect to the spirit world.  Now surely there were charlatans who were out to make a buck off of the superstitions of suckers.  But, some activity could not be explained with this.  Early debunkers were not entirely successful.  Of course they didn’t have the scientific know how that we do today, right?  But then explain why even modern debunkers have trouble explaining away every experience and story that comes along.  Explain why our colleges and military still conduct experiments in the paranormal.

This alternate spiritual world view was different than the biblical world view.  However, during the 1800’s many Christian denominations began to give up the idea of the supernatural and miraculous.  Thus the Church was seduced to embrace scientific materialism and create a hybrid that allowed for a God, Jesus and not much else.  Jesus became a mere example and most of what is said about him never happened.  These moralists on one side and a harsh scientific materialism on the other side became a perfect dichotomy for funneling people toward something more and something spiritual. 

The alternative spiritual world view offered something that was new and exciting to many in America and the Western countries.  Thus many unwittingly opened themselves up to evil spirit with malignant designs.  The Bible warned us about them, but we have been set up to disregard what the biblical prophets had to say.  These spirits are deceivers and they cannot be trusted.  This is why God forbids and warns against attempts to contact spirits.  Christians are to pray only to God Himself.  We interact with only His Holy Spirit.  Don’t get me wrong.  The “wisdom” of these spirit beings can be powerful and seductive.  But like Satan with Eve, they only seek to steal from us what we have.

So What Should Christians Do?

First we need to quit running away from the Bible and start believing it.  You do not have to reject the reality of science in order to embrace the Bible.  You might have to reject the world view that some scientists have.  But, many scientists are Christians too.  Some of them do not have a biblical world view, but some of them do.  So what is the biblical world view?  God created both the spiritual and material world.  A rebellion in the spirit world came into the material world, when Satan tricked mankind into disobeying God.  God then gave mankind over to the desires of their heart and they became enslaved to these spiritual beings, or false gods.  Yet, in His mercy, God provided a way for humans to be saved from this slavery and His eternal judgment.  Christians have been sent into the entire world to set people free from the rule of these false gods and their demonic spirits.

In fact, Revelation 9 reveals that in the last days before Christ returns, a spiritual prison called the bottomless pit will be opened up and the earth will be inundated with malevolent spirits who will angrily attack mankind because they know their time is short.  The earth is not becoming less spiritual.  We are headed towards a time of great spiritual deception and attack.  Revelation 9:20-21 says, “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.”  This is where we are headed.

We should also be busy warning people about these deceiving spirits and the deceptions they have promoted in our society.  Many are enslaved by the teachings and ideas that come from these evil spirits.  Science is not our enemy.  Our enemy is using science and a deceptive interpretation of its findings to deceive mankind.  He wants us to be caught off-guard by his true intentions.

Lastly, Christians must walk in the authority of Jesus Christ.  Paul said to the demon, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”  A little girl was set free that day because Paul knew that these evil spirits cannot stand up to Jesus.  We have been sent on a mission from God to tell people about Jesus.  If you read the entire chapter of Acts 16, you see that Paul got his first convert by preaching by the river where people gathered to pray.  Lydia believed in Jesus and asked Paul to stay and teach her more.  The world would call Paul a cultural murderer.  But, He knew he was operating under the authority of Jesus who is Lord of all Lords and King of all kings, both on earth and in the heavens above.  Let’s trust Him and be about our Father’s business.

The Paranormal Paradigm Shift audio