Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Supernatural Stuff and Spiritual Armor

            I don’t expect anyone to believe me, but I’m going to share my story.  It’s my story about how I came to fully trust in Jesus’ name and to passionately cling to Him, to never be able to doubt the existence of a spirit world, to place such a high priority on prayer and God’s Word, and to always remember my need for spiritual armor.  And once again, you don’t have to believe me.  (But don’t say I never warned you.  And if you are a skeptic and get nothing from this whole section, just remember this: “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”  In case you ever need it.)

            My first real experience with the unseen world was when I was a pre-teen.  I was at my step-dad’s house for the weekend.  My younger half-brother, his step-sister, and I were bored and wanted something to do.  So we decided to play the classic game “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.”  Silly stuff . . . right?!? 
            We had my brother (around seven or eight years old at the time) lay down on the floor, while me and his step-sister (about ten years old) took a position on either side of him.  We both slid two fingers from each hand under him.  Then we closed our eyes and began to chant:  “Light as a feather, stiff as a board; light as a feather, stiff as a board” over and over again for a minute or so.  And then we tried to raise him.  Nothing!  Heavy as a rock and completely unable to lift him a smidgen. 
            I, being the smart older one, concluded that we didn’t chant long enough.  “Let’s try it longer,” I said.  And so we closed our eyes and began again: “Light as a feather, stiff as a board; light as a feather, stiff as a board.”  We said this over and over and over again.  We said it for so long that we kind of zoned out.  It was like a trance-like state where we lost track of time and sense of our surroundings.  After I-don’t-know-how-long, we decided that it had been long enough and we tried to lift him again. 
            This time, I kid you not, he was light as a feather and stiff as a board.  We were able to raise him up with only two fingers on each hand, eight fingers total between the two of us.  We stood up and lifted him to chest level with absolutely no effort.  Meanwhile, he was as stiff and as still as could be, eyes closed and unconscious, completely unaware of anything around him. 
            We, being two adolescent girls, giggled and ooohed and ahhed.  “Oh, look.  It works!  Cool!  Let’s take him out of the room and show Dad.”  We began to walk him to the door and said, “Sean, do not open your eyes!  We are taking you out to show Dad.”  But as soon as his head crossed over the threshold by the door, he shook awake with a “Huh” and immediately regained all of his weight and crashed to the floor. 
            We laughed and ran to tell our dad how it really worked.  I don’t remember his response, but I’m sure it was like, “That’s nice!  Great imagination, you guys.  Now run along!”  And we ran off and found other things to do, forgetting about this supernatural encounter and completely unaware of what really happened.  
            What I didn’t realize, though, was that we were inviting the spirit world to come to us.  We were calling on their help.  And the second time around, we must have given them enough time to do it.  And I doubt, of course, that these were godly spirits.  Godly spirits don’t play these kinds of games.  It’s evil spirits, in the hopes of drawing you in more.  These innocent games can oftentimes lead to dark paths.
            As an adult looking back now, I am always surprised at how this really worked.  And yet, I’m not surprised because I do, after all, believe the Bible when it says that there is an unseen, supernatural world around us.  I guess I am just surprised at how two completely innocent, naive, adolescent girls could unknowingly call on the spirit world, thinking it was just a game, and actually get a powerful response. 
            [P.S.  I just saw America’s Got Talent last night – August 12 - where one guy introduced his spirit friend, Desmond.  Actually, I should say that I switched channels while he did his act.  But I saw enough of it to say this: Desmond is definitely a demon, regardless of what this man says.  And if this man is actually a Christian (which he claims to be and which is very unlikely in my opinion), then he is dancing with the devil. 
            Heavenly angels DO NOT play those kinds of games.  They are God’s messengers, ordered around only by God, never by people.  And they were created to worship God and minister to believers, not to do tricks and play games and intrigue people so that they want to know more about magic.  (Hebrews 1:14) 
            Do not be too impressed by this kind of stuff, but take it very seriously.  And stay away from it.  (Which is why I turned the channel.  As you’ll see, I once unwittingly invited demonic harassment by watching a show about something demonic.  I do not mess with that kind of stuff anymore, even innocently or just out of curiosity.) 
            Demons are not your friends.  They will be more than happy to "play" around with you for a while (in the hopes that they can ensnare someone), but that kind of “fun” will be very costly in the end.  And I do not say this judgmentally; I say it as a warning to not be led astray by tricks like that.  Do not think it is all harmless, good fun.  It is soul-destroying. 
            And if this man really did want to get rid of Desmond – which I do not think he does because he is benefitting from keeping Desmond around – it is possible.  What he would have to do is renounce his association with Desmond and turn to God completely, choosing Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  Jesus Christ is the only way to be free from demons.]        
            The "light as a feather" thing wasn’t my only encounter with the spirit world.  Over the years, I have woken up with that feeling of a “heavy weight” on my chest, feeling like it’s squeezing the air out of me or paralyzing me.  While different people define it different ways, I believe that some of those times are not just bad dreams or “sleep paralysis,” but that they’re actually demonic attacks.  Or more accurately, demonic harassment.  (Once again, you don’t have to believe me.  But skeptics beware.  Right before the first of these attacks, I had scoffed at a fellow Christian who told me about his experience with this.  Yeah right! I thought.  This guy’s just being overly dramatic, a daydreamer.)
            In fact, I went through a stretch of five months of demonic harassment not too long ago.  We were starting to meet regularly with a Bible study group, and I had been getting really serious about living a more holy, godly, God-seeking life.  This was as I was going through my “furnace” time, those years of trials that broke me of my self-sufficiency so that the Lord could rebuild me in Him.  And these five months were a major part of refining me and growing me in the Lord.  They were the most vivid encounters I have ever had with the spirit realm, not counting the “light as a feather” time.  Here is the super-duper short version of what happened (the longer one is at sweetlybrokengirl.blogspot.com in the “Chapter 22: In Jesus’ Name” post in the “Child of Mine” section):
            I had just finished watching a National Geographic program on the Codex Gigas (aka “the Devil’s Bible”).  It wasn’t a “demonic” program, not sensational or anything like that.  It was just a look at an old book and who might have written it.  I actually watched it because I wanted to be able to scoff at it, to criticize it.  (I don’t scoff anymore.)
            Anyway, the joke was on me.  That night, I woke up to the sound of screaming in my ears.  Horrible, distant screaming, as though thousands of people were crying out in torturous pain at once.  I had never had that happen before.  (And we were out in the middle of Iowa where there is complete silence at night, not even the sound of a car going by.)  If I remember correctly, I called out the name of Jesus or said, “Jesus, help me,” and it stopped.  But that was just the beginning of months of nighttime harassment.
            Several times a week for the next five months, I was woken up with various different sensations.  At different times, I woke up hearing screaming, feeling something heavy on my chest, feeling paralyzed, or (the usual one) feeling like my body was being electrocuted by a bolt of lightning or a blast of electricity.  I would feel this electricity and it would paralyze my body and mouth, making it hard to call on the name of Jesus for a moment.  Many times, I could almost sense something in the room before I went to bed, a chill or a presence. 
            Later on, it began to feel more vivid and violent.  Once, in my “dream,” I could feel a snake-like demon wrap itself around my leg, which woke me up feeling electrocuted.  And another time, I was “dreaming” that a demon was in the room, hovering over me in a cloud of black smoke as I slept.  I could feel the intense hatred radiating from this being, as though he wanted to cause me serious harm, but was prevented from doing so.  And then, I saw these long, black arms reach out to grab me, and immediately I felt the electricity and woke up.  Other times, I could sense their presence as I slept, without really “seeing” anything.  And just as I began to realize that I needed to call on Jesus for help, I would feel the electricity and wake up and struggle to break through the paralysis and make my mouth move again so I could call on Jesus’ name. 
            There was one minor time when I heard “thunder” in my ears (that rumbly sound you get when you yawn really deep and long) after saying this in my dream, “You know the book that the guy wrote about his trip to Heaven, I believe him.”  Immediately after saying that, the thunder sound came and woke me up. 
            I’ve heard strange loud noises just as I was falling asleep and crossing over from conscious to unconscious, like a cup of marbles being dropped onto a sheet of metal.  Weird noises that jolt you awake but would have no real explanation.  (My husband has recently experienced this, too.)
            I often have very disgusting, bizarre images that pop into my mind out of nowhere as I am falling asleep, grotesque images of severed heads, corpses, and really strange images I would never even dream about imagining.  And they come one after the next as I try to focus my thoughts back on the Lord.  I believe these are spiritual attacks, too, and not just “my own thoughts.” 
            And then there were a bunch of disturbing times when I woke up feeling like something was choking me or holding my mouth shut or sucking the air out of me or sucking my face up into a “vacuum.”   
            (While you may doubt it, I no longer think that most of those “dreams” about a demonic presence were actually dreams.  I know what a dream and a nightmare feel like.  And this felt nothing like that.  After really thinking them over, I have come to believe that they are more like visions – an awareness by my spirit of what is going on in the spirit realm around me, even as my physical body sleeps.)
            At one point, near the end of the five months, I began to wonder how and where the “electricity” starts.  Does it start in one spot, like my knee, and spread?  Does it come on slow or fast?  Could it really just be a residual effect of a bad dream?  Well, one morning removed all doubt that it might just be a dream. 
            I was laying in bed in the morning, wide awake.  The sun was shining and I was just lounging when, out of the blue, I felt like I got hit by a bolt of lightning.  It was fast and hard and fierce, almost to the point of paralyzing me and making it hard to call on Jesus’ name, as it often was upon first waking up that way.  But the difference was that this is the first time it happened while I was fully awake.  So now I was absolutely sure that it couldn’t be just a lingering effect of a bad dream.  These really were spiritual attacks. 
            And then another day brought the oddest incident that happened during these five months.  It was a Sunday morning (attacks almost always happened every Saturday night to Sunday morning, which was the first night that it happened, too.  Odd!)  and I was laying there wide awake, getting ready to get up for church.  But as I laid there, something began to walk up my bed toward me.  I could feel the mattress go down and the blanket get pulled with each “step.”  At first, I thought it was just my son sneaking into our bed.  And so I gently swung my foot in his direction to catch him in the act.  But there was no one there. 
            That’s odd, I thought.  And so I waited a moment.  And it happened again.  And again, I swung my foot at him.  But no one was there.  I even got up and looked around the mattress (which was on the floor because we never got our boxspring up the stairs).  And this happened three or four other times in the next minute or two.  I felt the walking, and I kicked at it.  Only to see and feel nothing there.  (For some reason, I never thought to call on Jesus’ name during this episode.  I was almost too freaked to think clearly.) 
            That was one of the most disturbing moments because I began to feel like not only were my nights unsafe, but now my days were, too.  And it really scared me.  Were “they” able to do other physical things, like push me down the stairs or smother me in my sleep?  Would they hurt my children?
            Long story short, the way to handle these attacks is to call on Jesus’ name.  To call out either His name or something like “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”  I had to learn to have this phrase always at the ready.  I would practice it as I fell asleep so that it was the first thing on my tongue when I woke up. 
            Nothing more dramatic or worse happened than what I have shared here, but I have had moments like these again in the following years.  The last one was right after I sent this story to a Christian radio program.  I wasn’t sure at first if I should share it with the host because it always feels weird to me to share this.  I have told very few people.  But in the end, I did because I felt that the guest host had misinformed a caller who asked if the “heavy weight sensation” could be a demonic attack.  He told her not to look for a demon behind every bush, that not every weird thing is a demonic attack.  Which is true, of course.  But I felt like he had not given her the help and advice she needed in this situation.  She needed to be encouraged and to be instructed to call on Jesus’ name for help.  He left her vulnerable to further attacks, without having any tool to fight it. 
            So I sent my story, in the hopes that they could pass it on to her.  And that very night, I woke up with another paralyzing, electrifying, air-sucked-out-of-my-lungs-as-my-mouth-was-sealed-shut feeling.  It was the first time it happened in months.  And my first response, after calling out “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave,” was to think, Good.  Now I know that I did the right thing.  It made them mad and stirred them up.
            For a while, these attacks really scared me and disturbed me.  But they do not scare me anymore.  Because I learned to find my security and strength in the Lord to fight these attacks.  I don’t have to be afraid.  I’m fighting from the winning side and I don’t fight alone.  The Holy Spirit in me is “greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) 
            Think of demons like the wizard of Oz, a giant scary projection in the air.  As long as we keep focused on the giant scary projection, we’ll remain terrified.  But if you can look past the projection and see that it is all just a “light and smoke show,” it takes the terror away.  They have power over you if you remain terrified of them, if you live in sin and cut yourself off from God’s protection, if you believe that they have more power over you than they do, if you fail to recognize when something is a spiritual attack, if you forget that you have the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ name on your side, and if you forget that prayer is your life-line. 
            Of course, this isn’t to minimize the real damage that they can do in the world when they entice people to rebel against God, lie, cheat, steal, murder, rape, etc.  Demons do everything they can to hurt, kill, terrorize, and destroy.  But this is all the more reason to take the spirit world seriously and to learn to recognize spiritual attacks and to get into the spiritual battle.  Pray for our families, society, the leaders, the world, etc., and live righteously and remain intimately connected to the Lord. 
            While they wield a lot of power and influence over the world, when it comes to Christians they can only do so much to us because we have the Holy Spirit and spiritual armor.  And so, they usually try the “light and smoke show” to make us more afraid than we need to be, to make us cower in our beds instead of taking up our armor and fighting back.  While I wish that these attacks would never happened again, I have come to see them as a normal part of doing spiritual battle. 
            One thing’s for sure, this whole time period has made me completely aware that there is a spiritual battle going on around us all the time.  And I need to get involved with it, through prayer and seeking righteousness and drawing ever nearer to God through His Word and spending time with Him.  I need Him desperately because there is a battle going on around me – a battle for the souls of people – that I cannot be effective in or protect myself from, apart from a complete, humble dependence on Him.
            Once again, we do not need to fear these times.  Because Jesus’ has given us the power of His name to fight demons.  Luke 10:17 says “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’“  And for the more stubborn demons, Jesus instructs us in Mark 9:29 to pray.  He has given us tools to do spiritual battle and a whole set a spiritual armor that we need to keep in place.
            According to Ephesians 6: 10-18, there is: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a readiness to share the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - which is the Word of God - and prayer. 
            As I was going through those five months, it was helpful and encouraging to realize that nothing odd was happening to me.  It’s just a part of a Christian’s life.  And I had to accept that these attacks were something that I would just have to deal with, along with all the other battles and trials that I was facing. 
            When I desperately wanted these attacks to end for good so that I could sit back and relax, I noticed a verse that made me realize that we are not necessarily supposed to be able to sit back and relax, not on this earth and not while we are in the midst of a spiritual battle.
            Ephesians 6: 13:  “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.” 
            Oh, how I wanted to read “and after you have done everything, to sit and relax.”  But that’s not what we are told.  We are supposed to stand, even after fighting today’s battles.  We are supposed to stand and be ready for the next attack, never dropping our armor and letting our guard down.  Once I realized that this is just the way it is, I didn’t fight it so hard anymore.  I didn’t try to run.  I didn’t get overly upset about what was happening to me.  I just took up my armor and dealt with these attacks as they came, knowing that I wasn’t fighting on my own.  I had the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit on my side. 
            (In fact, if I do not have any attacks like these for a long time, I begin to wonder if I have gotten comfortable and lazy, if I have become distracted with life and am forgetting God’s Kingdom.  I think we all need to be living in such a way that we have great big targets – big bull’s eyes – on our backs.  When the demons see us get up in the morning, they should be saying, “Oh no!  Not them again!”) 
            Anyway, the reason I am sharing this very condensed story is because I want to challenge others to seriously think about the fact that we are in the midst of a spiritual battle all the time.  And yet how often are we aware of it?  Do we engage in that battle or do we focus on making a nice, comfy life on earth?  Do we take the commands to have on our spiritual armor seriously?  Do we believe that our prayers really do have an effect on the spirit realm and that the way we live has an effect on our prayers and God’s Kingdom?  Do we really believe that Jesus’ name has power?            
            It’s something we all need to think about seriously (without being overly interested in spirits).  And we all should be prepared for if and when the attacks come our way.  But if I may point out, most attacks are not as vivid and obvious as what I went through.  Most are subtle and more “human” kinds of attacks, such as shame and anxiety, or temptations to dabble with sin, to envy, to gossip, to become jealous, to run after idols, to become bitter, to be prideful, etc.  And then there are the attacks like sleepless nights that wear us down, unfair treatment from someone else, addictions, accidents, thinking negative things about ourselves, hearing voices, unexplained health problems, evil thoughts that pop into your mind, etc.  Satan has many tools to distract us, wear us down, or cause us to fear and doubt and sin. 
            While these are less obvious as “demonic” attacks, they can be spiritual battles just as much as sensing demons at night in your room.  And they are probably much more effective at getting us away from God and righteousness, because they are so subtle.  They are much more damaging to our lives and our faith than the kind of attacks I went through.  The attacks I experienced drove me closer to God, because I knew that I needed Him to make it through those.  They were clearly spiritual.  But the more subtle, “earthly” attacks can sneak up on us before we know it.  And some of them can look so enticing (like a temptation to have an affair or get rich quick in an ungodly way) that we don’t even recognize them as attacks, as part of a spiritual battle.  So we need to be even more on guard against those. 
            And of course, not everything that goes wrong is a demonic attack.  Sometimes it is just a part of living in a fallen world or a natural consequence of something.  But we need to be alert for if it is spiritual and to battle it as such.  We can’t fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons.
            [If you are facing clearly spiritual attacks, try to think about what may be causing it.  It could be because you are seeking God more than ever or doing some great work for Him, because these things really provoke and anger the demons.  And if this is the case, then keep it up, and remember to keep your spiritual armor on, to remain in the Lord, and to pray and use Jesus’ name. 
            But if you are not growing in the Lord, it could be because you are in sin and have grieved the Holy Spirit, shutting yourself off from His protection.  It could be because you dabbled with something ungodly, New Age, withcraft-y, or from a false religion.  It could be because of an object that you brought into your house or an activity that you engaged in that is occultic or from a false religion.  It could be because of demons other people brought in, and you are just an innocent bystander who was in the vicinity.  Or it could be because of ancestors who welcomed and encouraged demons by things they engaged in. 
            If need be, take the time to figure out (and pray about) why the attacks are coming and to seek help from a pastor or godly friend.  Confess sins that need to be confessed, and renounce sins from your past and your ancestors.  Purge your home and life of things that celebrate false religions, evil, or the occult.  Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your mind.  Consider the music you listen to and movies you watch, and surround yourself with music that praises God.  Thank God for Jesus’ sacrificial death and pray that His blood covers and cleanses your home, your life, and your family’s past if they were involved in ungodly things.  Pray that God sends His heavenly angels to protect you from evil.  And learn to call on Jesus’ name when the attacks come.  They have to leave when you call on Jesus’ name, maybe not immediately but they do leave if you keep calling on His name and praying.]        
            When your eyes are opened to the spiritual battle going on around us all the time, your life and faith will never be the same again.  And I can honestly say that those five months were some of the best things that ever happened to me.