The Exorcism Before the Election

fog

Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or simply a member of the Apathetic Party, I feel an urgency to bring something to your attention. In the fog of the election season and all its political ads and pundits, it’s easy to overlook root issues that must be addressed before Election Day.

Although I don’t usually write much about the devil and demons, the current situation demands an exception. Whether you are for Hillary, Trump, or someone else, there’s an important matter not mentioned in any of the party platforms…

Before the final votes, we need a National Exorcism.

Yes, you heard me right. Our central problem isn’t the Democrats or Republicans, but rather the demons and strongholds.

I don’t really need to provide specifics at this point, but the evidence is clear to anyone willing to face the facts and look beneath the surface…

Hillary has her demons. Trump has his demons. And let’s face it: American has its demons, and this has led to our crazy match-up of candidates.

The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that their real battles were not a matter of flesh and blood. Likewise, I’m sure he would remind us today that our struggle isn’t primarily between political ideologies:

We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).

Thankfully, Paul also wrote that Jesus is positioned higher than any of these unseen enemies:

He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church (Ephesians 1:21-21 NLT).

You see, our prayers have spiritual authority to lift the demonic fog that’s blinding so many people’s eyes to the real issues facing our nation. Romans 11:8 calls this fog “a spirit of stupor,” and it’s extremely dangerous to have an election unless that spell is broken.

Before it’s too late, will you join me in praying for our country? Will you join me in humbling ourselves before the Lord and repenting of our national sins and narcissism?

Frankly, I don’t want the Democrats in power. But I don’t want the Republicans in power either. Nor the Libertarians or Green Party.

I’m not particularly excited about having the first woman President or the first billionaire President. The governing establishment has become too demonic to be remedied by any mortal person, whether male or female. And the strongholds are too deeply entrenched for any single election to fully change.

It gets down to this: Instead of just having the right outcome in the election, we need right hearts and a spiritual revival. Rather than just choosing the best person to be President, we need to look to King Jesus for “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17).

When we submit ourselves to God, the Bible says we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). That’s really good news, isn’t it?

May our nation submit to God once again, starting with those of us who profess to follow Jesus as our Lord (1 Peter 4:17).

Then let the national exorcism begin!

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You, the Magic Kingdom & Happily Ever After

Magic Kingdom

I had a strange dream last night. I was doing a Q & A session at a Christian conference, and someone unexpectedly asked, “What do you think of Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom?”

Considering it a very odd question, I initially started to brush it off. “Well, I don’t really have much to say about Mickey from a Biblical perspective,” I said.

But suddenly I had a flash of insight…

“One thing I would point out, however, is that the original Disney franchise thrived because people were thirsting for something magical—which we would call supernatural or miraculous in the Christian life,” I explained. “Glass slippers, fairy dust, magic wands, and kisses that can raise the dead were symbolic of the kinds of things we’re yearning for God to do in our lives. We inherently sense that we’re unable to accomplish these things without His supernatural involvement.”

As the dream continued, I pointed out other parallels. “God’s kingdom IS a ‘magic’ kingdom. When Jesus preached on the kingdom of God, He performed healings and did all kinds of miracles. In His kingdom—as in an old Disney movie—each of His sons and daughters is a prince or princess, and we should treat other Christians like that today.”

Right before the dream came to an end, I went on a rant about how our churches and our Christian lives today should rediscover the “magic”—reflecting more of the miracle-working power of God.

Living Happily Ever After

After waking from this unusual dream, I’ve been reflecting on why we love the Disney fairy tales so much. Yes, there have been some great love stories, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. But it’s not just  that the protagonists are handsome, beautiful, hard-working, or intelligent. They’ve needed something magical  and supernatural  in order to get to their happy ending.

In the same way, the Christian life is a magical, supernatural life, energized by the Holy Spirit instead of mere human effort. Without Christ living His life through us, all we have is dead religion—which doesn’t make for a good fairy tale at all.

Just as in the Cinderella story, we all need three things in order to experience a happy ending in our Christian life: (1) A love relationship with Jesus, the Prince; (2) Recognition of our glass slipper, the customized purpose we were born to fulfill; and (3) Reliance on the power of the Spirit to bring about His “magic” in our life.

Cinderella’s life was dreary until she experienced these three things, and ours will be as well. But the good news is that God wants to come on the scene and work some of His magic to turn things around for us.

Yet you may ask, “Is it really possible to experience a ‘happily ever after’ kind of life?”

I understand why you may be skeptical. This world is full of discouraging circumstances, making it exceedingly difficult to “wish upon a star,” as the Disney theme song prescribes.

Nevertheless, King David’s words at the end of Psalm 23 show us that “happily ever after” is possible, after all: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

David was a king who had met the Lord as his loving Prince and Good Shepherd. And He was confident the “goodness and mercy” of that Prince would last him all the days of his life.

And notice that while we all hope for a “happily ever after” outcome in this present life, God gives us something even better to look forward to—happiness with Him for all eternity…forever.

No wonder the classic Disney movies are so popular. They tap into our heart’s longing for our Heavenly Prince, our glass slipper, and the magic available by His Spirit.

It’s fitting that we’re treated to these classic Disney stories decade after decade. We all need periodic refresher courses in the supernatural, love-filled Christian life, reminding us of our high calling as princes and princesses in God’s magical kingdom.

Some stories never get old, nor should they.

 

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Decaffeinated Coffee & Other Oxymorons

I woke up this morning craving a good cup of coffee. Not the decaffeinated kind, but REAL coffee. You’ll never convince me decaffeinated coffee is legitimate. After all, they’ve removed the most important and most valuable ingredient. How can they still call it coffee?

That got me thinking…

Fill in the blank: “Coffee without caffeine is like _________________.”

Lots of things could be put in the blank, I suppose. Bread without gluten. Milk without lactose. Or what about sugarless ice cream?

What a weird world we live in. Some days I feel like I’m living in an Alice in Wonderland culture, where nothing is real.

It’s one thing to change the composition of our food products through the magic of modern chemistry, but many of the extractions today have far more serious consequences:

  • Loveless marriages
  • Fatherless homes
  • Christ-less Christmases
  • Churches and Christians with no evidence of the Holy Spirit

These are all quite grievous—never God’s plan. Marriages just aren’t the same without love and passion. Families without fathers are precarious at best, needing an extra dose of God’s grace and a mother’s love.

And what can we say about churches and Christians that have an absence of Christ and the Holy Spirit? Nothing could be a bigger travesty than that.

Yet we’re living in a day when there seem to be lots of decaffeinated churches and professing Christians. At first glance they may look like the real thing, yet they’re lacking the most important ingredient.

And one more word picture…

Perhaps decaffeinated Christians could be compared to a helium balloon that has lost its helium. There’s still some hot air, but no lift. Instead of rising high and victorious, the forlorn balloon languishes on the floor. It’s hard to have much of a party with balloons like that.

What about you? Have you allowed life’s most important ingredient to escape? If so, there’s still time to get it back.

And here’s the good news: You don’t have to put up with the agony and frustration of Christ-less Christianity (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s not too late to regain the joy and wonder of Christ living His life through you by the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Friend, let’s not settle for empty substitutes. I don’t know about you, but I need as much “caffeine” as possible.

 

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The Power of Full Dis-Engagement

One of the top concepts in the corporate world these days is “the power of full engagement.” It’s a paradigm for managing your personal or organizational energy, and I think you would find it very helpful.

But recently I’ve been learning about the flipside of that concept: the power of full DISENGAGEMENT.

Let me explain why this is so important…

My baby blue 1976 Fiat was the favorite car I’ve ever owned. With 5-speed manual transmission and a responsive engine, it was a complete blast to drive.

But sometimes my Fiat was so much fun that I forgot to press the clutch before changing gears. The result was a horrible grinding sound, not to mention considerable embarrassment on my part. And occasionally my failure to press the clutch even resulted in the engine stalling.

Lately I’ve realized that God is getting me ready for a new season in my life, and I’ve thought about the lesson I learned years ago with that old Fiat: If you’re going to make a smooth transition from one gear (or season) to the next, you’d better press the clutch first.

In many ways, this seems a great paradox. In order to be fully engaged with the next gear, you must first take time to be fully disengaged  from your present gear. Shortcuts simply don’t work. In fact, shortcuts will eventually cause permanent damage to the gears.

No one modeled the power of disengagement better than Jesus. When He saw that His disciples were facing burnout because of never-ending activity, He instructed them to “come apart” to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31 KJV). Then and now, those who don’t intentionally disengage from their daily grind on a regular basis will eventually “come apart” (i.e., fall apart) in unpleasant, unintentional ways.

Jesus realized the POWER in disengagement, especially when we use that time to better engage with our Heavenly Father. We repeatedly see Him disengaging from the crowds, and even from His disciples, to go pray in the wilderness or on top of a mountain. What was the result of such times? Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

Isn’t that beautiful? After Jesus purposefully disengaged for a while, He was able to reengage with new strength and power.

Today, do you find yourself anticipating a new season in your life, but unsure how to get there? Or perhaps you feel stuck in “second gear,” unable to move on. Or maybe you keep hearing a loud screeching sound every time you try to move from one gear to the next.

If you can relate to any of these symptoms, I encourage you to discover—or rediscover, like I have—the power of full disengagement. Leave your friends and family for a few days. Disconnect from your work responsibilities, your smart phone, and your social media. Find a place to quiet your heart and rest.

As you take time to disengage and be still, you’ll experience the powerful message of Psalm 46:10: He is God—and you’re not! That is really, really good news, isn’t it?

———————————

I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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5 Things You Can Expect When Jesus Is in the House

 

Churches all over the world claim to have Jesus “in the house,” but sometimes there is scant evidence to support that claim. Mark 2:1-12 provides us with a vivid outline of what it looks like to have Jesus actively working in our gatherings. The chapter begins by saying that Jesus had come back to Capernaum, His home base, and word had gotten out “that He was at home.”

I pray that this kind of word-of-mouth marketing is happening for your congregation today. Long before Facebook and Twitter, word quickly got out that Jesus was in the house, and a number of stunning results followed.

Here are 5 things you can expect to happen when people hear that Jesus is regularly “in the house” during your church gatherings:

  1. Crowds will come. Verse 2 says, “Many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door.”  While your congregation may not be a megachurch, the Biblical model makes it clear that large numbers of people will be attracted if they truly know that Jesus is in the house.
  2.  The Word of God will be taught. Verse 3 tells us, “He was speaking the word to them.” Other aspects of Jesus’ ministry would be demonstrated later in the story, but first He taught the Word. Today we have many churches that teach the Word, but which demonstrate no power. We also have churches that are highly experiential, with very little teaching from the Scriptures. Yet when Jesus is in the house, the two go hand in hand.
  3. Radical faith will be sparked. Hearing that Jesus was in the house, four men carried a paralyzed friend to the meeting place. When the large crowd prevented them from bringing the paralytic through the doorway, they climbed up on the roof and dug a hole to lower the man on a pallet in front of Jesus. What radical behavior! This kind of passionate determination would be so out of character for polite, conventional, American Christians. Verse 5 says Jesus SAW their faith—quite a contrast to the common misconception today that faith can be a private, personal matter that we keep to ourselves.
  4. Forgiveness will be released. Although the man had been brought to the meeting for healing of his paralysis, Jesus saw a much more critical need, telling the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). Countless people today are paralyzed because of a need for forgiveness. Either they are immobilized by guilt and shame over things they’ve done, or else they are locked in an emotional prison because of their unwillingness to forgive others. Jesus was about to perform a miracle of physical healing as well, but first He made sure that the forgiveness issue was fully dealt with in this man.
  5. Miracles will happen. When was the last time you witnessed a genuine miracle in your church? Yet that’s the kind of thing that can be expected when Jesus is in the house. After He had taught the Word and dealt with the forgiveness issue, He boldly told the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your pallet and go home”  (v. 11).When people saw the man immediately set free from his paralysis, they “were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’”  (v. 12).

I absolutely love this conclusion of the story. God was glorified  by what had happened, as He always is when we invite Jesus to freely work in our gatherings.

People testified that they had never seen anything like this before. That’s exactly what will happen again today when you and I allow Jesus to come and fill our house today. Even if we’re longtime Christians, we will marvel at the blessings and miracles released by our Lord’s presence among us.

So let’s not settle for anything less in our churches and our homes than to have Jesus in the house.

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12 Tips for Powerful Prayer Meetings

Sadly, church prayer meetings in the U.S. have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Even when a church attempts to rouse God’s people to come and pray, the results are often disappointing, both in attendance and in results. However, God wants the church to become “a house of prayer for all nations,” and these 12 tips can help make your prayer meetings exciting!

  1. “We” trumps “I.” Jesus instructed us to pray “OUR Father…” (Matthew 6:9). Ordinarily, things are getting off-track if there is too much use of the word “I” in corporate prayer.
  2. God-centered rather than problem-centered. The Lord’s Prayer, the prayers in Acts and Paul’s epistles, and the other prayers in the Bible sometimes addressed current problems (e.g., the prayer in Acts 4:23-31 regarding persecution). However, the overwhelming them is always God’s power, glory, and sovereignty (e.g., “Hallowed be Your name” and Ephesians 1, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion”).
  3. Brief trumps long. The Pharisees were known for their lengthy prayers, but Jesus encouraged His disciples not to put their trust in long prayers or “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7, Matthew 23:14). Compare the longwinded prayers of the prophets of Baal with the simple, short, and powerful prayer of Elijah (1 Kings 18:22-39).
  4. Focused prayers trump shatter-shot prayers. Too often, people’s prayers are unfocused, covering too many topics and petitions all at once. If we want to have our prayers answered, it’s much better eliminate “fluff” and unnecessary rabbit trails. Specific prayers bring specific answers.
  5. Prayers filled with faith and victory will always trump prayers marked by doubt and defeat. Nothing will bring discouragement to a prayer meeting faster than people who are praying prayers of unbelief.
  6. United prayers trump individualism. Corporate prayer is only powerful when the prayers are offered in one accord (Matthew 18:19-20, Psalm 133, Acts 2:1-2). This is undercut if people’s prayers cannot receive an “Amen” from the rest of the participants. When Jesus described the power unleashed through prayers of agreement, the Greek word for “agree” is symphōneō, from which we get the English word “symphony.”
  7. Spirit-led prayers trump human concerns. Understandably, prayer meetings often attract people who have “burdens” to pray about, whether the burdens are for themselves or for others. But unless these human concerns become motivated by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-30), they will end up just being filled with well-meaning “flesh.”
  8. It’s often helpful to mix elements such as worship and Scripture into prayer meetings. We see this approach in Colossians 3:16-17: God’s Word and “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” etc. Our prayers should not be based on wishful thinking but on God’s promises in His Word. This is not meant to endorse longwinded preaching during our prayer meetings, but rather prayers that are Scripturally based (e.g., Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21).
  9. Prayer meetings should be times of HEARING from God and not just SPEAKING to God. The principle in James 1:19 applies, being “quick to listen and slow to speak” (or pray). This means it’s OK to have times of silence and listening, not feeling it necessary to fill the entire time with speaking/praying. This means waiting on God, not just speaking to Him.
  10. Prayer meetings usually work best when there is a balance between human leadership and free-flowing group involvement. If the hand of human leadership is too strong, people will be intimidated from listening to God or participating. But if there is no leadership at all, the prayers will often go off on tangents and become unfocused. This doesn’t mean the leadership has to be from just one person, but it’s helpful if people know who is “in charge” of sensing God’s direction in the meeting. People who are intercessors or prophetic sometimes distrust structure and time constraints, but the Bible provides numerous examples of God instituting structure before He performed miracles (e.g., breaking up the people into groups before feeding them loaves and fish). However, if there is going to be structure as to the format, time limitations, etc., they should be clearly communicated in advance (e.g., Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 14 about the use of spiritual gifts in public meetings).
  11. Since repentance and revival are objectives of corporate prayer meetings, the elements of 2 Chronicles 7:14 should be kept in mind: humbling ourselves, seeking God’s face, turning from our wicked ways), listening, receiving forgiveness and forgiving anyone who has wronged us.
  12. Just as in our individual prayer lives, it’s helpful to keep an informal record of some of the prayer requests offered, and then the answers received. Keeping track of some of the testimonies will build faith in God’s faithfulness and in the power of prayer.
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Untapped Potential

Over a year ago, my precious wife Mary got her first iPhone. She bought a nice blue case for it, and the phone looks really pretty.

Before getting her fancy new phone, Mary just had a very basic cell phone that she used for making calls and sending text messages. And after having her iPhone for more than a year now, she still uses it for exactly the same purposes—phone calls and texting.

I’ve gently tried to point out to Mary that she is using on a very small percentage of the phone’s potential. There’s so  much more that the phone could be doing for her!

Mary’s phone could  have been used to wake her up in the morning…show the week’s weather forecast…remind her of the day’s schedule…provide navigation to her appointments…keep track of her contacts and her finances…surf the Internet…check emails…provide restaurant reviews and movie show times…read her the Bible in multiple translations…play audio books…take pictures and immediately post them to Twitter and Facebook—and much more!

Why buy an expensive phone and not use even close to its full potential?  It seems like such a waste to me. But despite my repeated attempts to reason with her, Mary still uses the phone for little more than talking and texting.

As I’ve pondered this exasperating situation, God has convicted me that I’ve been doing something far worse  than not using the vast potential of my smart phone. “Jim,” He has challenged me, “do you realize the incredible potential I’ve put in you by the power of the Holy Spirit?”

How convicting! When Christ lives in us by the Holy Spirit, why do we still rely so much on our own ability and ingenuity? And how come we utilize such a small portion of the overwhelming power available to us?

Of course, some believers are simply ignorant of what God has made available. They’re surrounded by other people who aren’t tapping into the power of the Spirit either, so their Christian life seems quite “normal” to them. Like a person who has no idea of all the features available on their phone, they simply don’t know what they’re missing.

But I’m convinced the problem often is spiritual laziness  rather than ignorance. Many people have heard  about the amazing apps available for their phone, yet they refuse to take time to download the apps and learn how to use them. This isn’t really very difficult, but they must see a need for each app and be willing to invest a little time to download it and put it to work.

I wish I could claim ignorance about the power of the Holy Spirit, but I can’t. I’m quite familiar with fantastic Bible promises like these:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”  (Philippians 4:13).

“He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father”  (John 14:12).

“God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”  (Colossians 1:27).

Sadly, I have to conclude that I’ve been no different than Mary with her iPhone. Despite the incredible power at my fingertips, it has gone mostly untapped.

Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus to see the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power”  (Ephesians 1:18-19). Today, let’s pray this same prayer for each other. God has some amazing new “apps” to show us in the days ahead.

 

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