Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

Do you want to be happy or sad?

While there are some people who are unhappy because they need emotional healing from a broken heart, others choose to be pessimistic, to look on the negative side of life.

There are a couple of very interesting verses in Proverbs 15. Verses 13 and 15 say this:

A glad heart makes a happy face;  a broken heart crushes the spirit.

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

The impression, especially from verse 15, is that we can choose what kind of heart we have. Are we going to choose to be glad, or sad? Some people perceive the same event as a negative; others as a positive.

Do we choose to see the glass half empty or half full. It makes a big difference. In general, people prefer to be around someone who is encouraging and has a joyful outlook on life. Jesus was “anointed with gladness more than his companions” (Hebrews 1:9). If we want to be winsome to those who don’t yet know the Lord, we would do well to have a joyful attitude towards life.

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Where is our battleground in spiritual warfare?

I’ve often heard it said that the battleground in spiritual warfare is for our minds. That’s certainly true, although I’m not convinced it’s the whole truth.

Photo Credit: micaeltattoo (Creative Commons)

Jesus tells us that our enemy is a liar (John 8:44), that he seeks to steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10). This can certainly affect our minds. For example:

  • He destroys our peace–we suffer from anxiety and fear
  • He steals our joy–we become depressed
  • We believe his lies–we suffer from low self-esteem and guilt

What gives him the opportunity to attack us in this way? I find it useful to think of five main categories of opportunity for Satan to gain a foothold in our lives, for convenience, although somewhat contrived, all beginning with an “S”:

  1. Sin–three sections here:
    • Our own sin–for example, we don’t deal with anger in a godly fashion. We can go from the occasional sin to becoming an angry person, to having anger dominate our life (Ephesians 4:26-27).
    • We have been sinned against–for example, all kinds of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse, Another example: a baby is born to an unmarried mother, As he/she gets older, she may suffer from rejection. It wasn’t her sin, but a parental sin that allowed the enemy in. When this door is closed, she can be set free.
    • The effects of sin being passed down from one generation to another. We can inherit a tendency to certain traits such as depression, alcoholism etc.
  2. “Seance”: Any contact with the occult–ouija boards, fortune tellers, illegal drugs that affect the mind and thinking
  3. Shock: A sudden surprise can give the enemy a foothold. For example, one day I returned from the store and surprised a burglar inside our house. For some time I experienced fear whenever I unlocked our front door. Natural? Yes maybe, but it disappeared when we prayed against it.
  4. Siege: It says in Daniel &:25 that Satan wears out, or oppresses the saints of the Most High. We all know what it’s like to feel under pressure for a prolonged time. Finances are tight, there’s a painful medical condition. Satan takes the opportunity to undermine in every way.
  5. Subtlety: Satan can attack our minds in ways we don’t recognize. For example, we are fascinated by a TV program we would never choose, simple because we’re too lazy to change the channel. It leaves us feeling contaminated.

Praise God, He has given us spiritual weapons to fight against Satan, and we know we are on the side of victory. We’ll cover our weapons in a future post.

But where else can this warfare take place?

A personal story for Memorial Day: in memory of my father

My father, Peter English, was one of the kindest, gentlest men I’ve ever known.

Peter English: 1919 – 2003

In World War 2, my father volunteered to serve in the British Army. His regiment was sent to Singapore, where he was captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore and  taken to Burma. He labored on the infamous Railroad of Death, helping to build the bridge over the River Kwai. He watched from a few hundred yards away as the bridge was bombed by the Allies. (If any of you have read the book, Miracle on the River Kwai, my father was with the author through most of that time.)

The torture and atrocities of life in the POW camps were unspeakable–and my father was silent on the topic for most of my growing up years. Yet the war was always present with us–in the nightmares he suffered, in the fact that we never had a Japanese product in the house. His closest friends were always those who had been with him through the war.

I therefore had mixed feelings when Tony and I took our first trip to Japan. What would I think about the race of people who had been responsible for my father’s pain? In one sense it was nothing to do with me–it had all happened to a previous generation. Yet I found myself surprisingly troubled by being there, especially when I saw someone elderly or in uniform.

At the end of our first conference, we had a time for feedback. I mentioned how healing it was for me to have Japanese friends because my father had been in a Japanese POW camp. To my surprise, the Japanese we were with broke down in tears.

“Please give your father a message from us,” they sobbed. “Tell him we are so very, very sorry for the way we treated him.”  These people were far too young to have been in the war.

Also present in the group were two others who had been personally impacted by the war. There was a Korean girl whose parents had been captured by the Japanese and deported to Japan. And then there was a Japanese girl from Hiroshima whose family had been deeply affected by the nuclear bomb that ended the war. If I remember rightly, her grandmother had survived the bombing even though she was quite close to the center of the blast, but never spoke of it until towards the end of her life. The people of Hiroshima live with the constant reminder of “The Bomb.”  They are taught about it from a very young age in their schools; they live with the sickness that has resulted from the radiation.

The group of people we were with then prayed through the situation. With tears, we repented on behalf of our nations for what had happened during the war. We prayed for healing. It was a powerful, Spirit-breathed time of restoration.

I look back on that time of prayer as one of the most healing times in my life.

Blurring the distinctives

One thing I've observed over recent years is that the Lord is blurring the distinctives between groups of Christians.

Blur
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It used to be that charismatics and non-charismatics were divided by theology. They looked down on each other–the non-charismatics thought that charismatics were flaky, all froth and no substance. The charismatics thought the non-charismatics were not fully following God. Today, I never hear those opinions. Some of the most Spirit-filled people I know would not claim any kind of "baptism in the Spirit" experience. We often teach people in non-charismatic denominations how to prophesy and they don't seem to be at all put out. God has blurred the distinctions between us.

Another set of distinctions that is increasingly blurring is that between simple/organic church and legacy churches. It used to be that legacy churches viewed those in simple/organic churches as rebellious, rejecting authority, unsubmissive. In turn, those in simple churches tended to view others as not really on the cutting edge of what God was doing.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Small and large churches are working together. The Kingdom has become more important than what we ourselves are doing. 

 

The ultimate source of healing

This post will conclude the series I have written on Kingdom skills: dealing with inner hurts.

As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, I spent two years researching the area of inner healing–at least in part because so many people we came across were wounded in various areas.  At the end of that time, I was excited and thrilled to come to the conclusion that there is a single source for healing of the inner person–the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Take a look at this passage from Isaiah 53, and see how many of the problems we have discussed are actually dealt with by Jesus' death (links take you to the relevant post).

 3 He is despised and rejected by men, 
      A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. 
      And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; 
      He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 
       4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

      Yet we esteemed Him stricken, 

      Smitten by God, and afflicted. 

       5 But He was wounded for our transgression
      He was bruised for our iniquities
      The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, 
      And by His stripes we are healed. 
       6 All we like sheep have gone astray; 
      We have turned, every one, to his own way; 
      And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

Add to that the victory that Jesus won over Satan and his demonic forces when He died and rose again:

Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.  He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.  In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross  (Colossians 2:13-15).

All that we need for emotional wholeness is ours through what Jesus has done for us.  When we apply these truths to our lives, we can be set free and we can set others free!

 

The battle for the mind

For several posts now we have been looking at the various causes of emotional problems from a spiritual perspective with the aim of equipping people to help those who are challenged in these areas.  (More of the tools in a later post.)  

The ground where the battle needs to be won is the inner man–which as we saw in a previous post, includes the mind, will and emotions. If a person can win the battle there, and have these areas of life controlled by the Spirit, then he/she can be set free from oppression, fear, depression etc.  So someone may have been set free in response to our prayers for them, but they need to know how to continue to win the battle in their daily lives.  

There are two especially relevant verses here.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Scientists tell us that our brains are wired so that if we develop a habit of thinking a certain way, it becomes automatic.  It's as though there are channels in our minds that our thoughts may run along. So we may be healed, for example, from fear, but we have to retrain our minds in the opposite direction to fear. Meditation and proclamation of various verses from the Word of God is especially relevant here–for example, in the case of fear, 2 Timothy 1:7 is a useful verse.  

The second passage comes in  verse is 2 Corinthians 10 and shows that there is a battle for the minds of men:

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Although this is primarily talking about seeing unbelievers come to faith, the principles apply to seeing people set free in their inner man too.  If we want to see changes in the inner man, spiritual warfare may be necessary.  What are our spiritual weapons?  Praise (Psalm 149:6-9), the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11), our testimony and the blood of Jesus (Revelation 12:11).

Many years ago, back in the UK, we had a trainee nurse staying with us.  She had developed abdominal pain that was so overpowering it would cause her to black out.  Despite full investigation at her teaching hospital, the doctors had been unable to find a cause, and had decided to send her to see a psychiatrist.  Obviously her nursing training was in jeopardy.  But before referring her to the psychiatric department, her Christian doctor asked if she could spend a few days with Tony and me in the hope that we might find a cause for what was going on.

One morning as I was praying for her, the thought came into my mind, "Ask her if she hears voices!"  When I did so, her reply was immediate:  "Yes, but they've told me never to tell anyone!"

The following story came out.  As a teenager, she became troubled by voices in her head.  These became more and more insistent, and the only way she could find to block them out was to lose consciousness.  It was very simple to pray for her and see her delivered and set completely free.

Thankfully, we had warned her that Satan might try and attack her again, and we taught her how to use spiritual weapons if the happened.  About a week later, she experienced another attack, but she was able to praise and pray her way out of it.  It was the last attack she ever had.  We heard from her around 10 years later.  She had been completely set free since that time, and her nursing career was going well.  Praise God!

 

 

 

The 5 “S’s” that give Satan a legal right

Continuing the series on Kingdom skills: helping those with inner pain and problems.

In the last post we looked at the first of the 5, rather contrived, "S's" that allow Satan access to our lives–namely sin.  Here are the remaining four.  


Letter s
 
Seance:
This “S” refers to where we
have given Satan access to our lives by involving in any form of the
occult.  A friend of mine, years
previously as a student, had gone to a séance with the intention of praying
against it.  She hadn’t thought
about it for years, but when she realized that her contact with this might have
affected her, she asked Tony and I to pray about it with her.  A few days later she came to us, amazed
at the difference the prayer had made. 
Without knowing it, her life had been oppressed—a sense of being under a
cloud—and our brief prayer had set her free.  
Dabbling with the occult is expressly forbidden in
the Scriptures.  There are many
different forms of it including things such as Ouija boards, palm reading and
so on.  Also included in this
category are mind-altering drugs which sometimes allow the enemy access.

Shock: Debbie and her boyfriend went to visit his
uncle one day.  When they knocked
on the door, no one answered but finding the door unlocked, they went on
in.  They discovered the uncle dead
on the floor—natural causes, no suspicious circumstances.  But from that day on, until we prayed
with her, Debbie was overcome by fear. 
She was afraid of opening doors. 
She was afraid in any kind of unfamiliar situation.  Satan had taken advantage of the shock
of finding a dead body and supercharged a natural reaction to give her a major
problem with fear. 

We know that God doesn’t give us a spirit
of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.  Any time fear is present, it’s worth finding the source and
dealing with the enemy.

Subtlety
In the Garden of Eden, Satan is described as subtle (Genesis 3:1), and
he tricks us.  For example, you are
watching some innocuous program on television, and when it ends, you drift
without thinking into whatever program comes on next.  Before you know it, you are into a topic you would never
have chosen—semi-pornography, or graphic violence.  I remember praying with a friend who was feeling under
oppression—nothing very major, just that all wasn’t right.  In those days we lived in a very
socially deprived, inner city area of London, where every kind of crime was
committed on an almost daily basis. 
When she traced back to find out when the problem had started, she
realized it stemmed from reading our local paper, which was full of accounts of
murder and crime.  When we prayed
against it, she was set free.

Siege: Sometimes Satan lays siege to us.  Take for example, a situation where finances are an issue.  Month after month, they are a source of concern and worry, and over time, the burden gets heavier and heavier.  In Daniel 7, one of the kings is described as wearing out the saints of the Most High, and this perfectly describes the activity of the enemy.