December 23

We Have Been Deceived

Dante’s fourth circle of Hell, as portrayed by Gustav Dore.

“Greed is idolatry.” Paul (Colossians 3:5)

“Greed is good.” –Oliver Stone (“Wall Street”)

Sometimes fiction seems to create reality. Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie portrayed what was then a caricature of the American financial system. In it, Wall Street trader Gordon Gekko proclaims, “Greed is good!” So far as I can tell, no one had ever said that before. though clearly Stone intended to convey that some people already believed it.

In the ensuing years, the slogan has been echoed not only by Wall Street traders like Ivan Boesky, but by economists and commentators. Both Bill Maher and former [Obama] Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank have quoted this line from the movie with approval.

Our current president, Donald Trump, said, “You can’t be too greedy.”

And it is clear that acquisitiveness is what makes our economy tick. We exploit resources and cheap labor. That’s part of the fundamental philosophy underlying our economic system. We borrow money to buy more stuff.  In May and June of 2015, several websites, including conservative Business Insider and more liberal CNN Money, warned that Americans are “saving too much” and (in the words of BI) “it’s killing the economy.”

Our economic system embraces this simple truth: “Greed is good.” We’ve heard it so often, most of us no longer question it.

Yet the Bible differs. “Greed is idolatry,” Paul says in Colossians.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.” (Col 3:5-6)

And again:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, promiscuous men, the lazy, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, author-modified translation)

And he’s not alone. From Jesus

“Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…” (Luke 12:15)

“You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 16:24)

To the writer of Hebrews

“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

The message is clear: Greed and God are mutually exclusive.

We have been deceived!

But the deception doesn’t end there.

I once expressed to a dear friend, a devout Catholic, my concern about the line in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those of others.” At the time, I was dealing with anger issues and was plagued by unforgiveness. How could I expect forgiveness when I was unable to forgive others? He said, “That’s not what Jesus meant.” Really? Jesus spells it out pretty well!

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Another time, a Protestant reader of my blog took exception when I quoted Jesus on loving our enemies. She said that wasn’t what Jesus really intended. Really? Jesus discusses it at length (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36), and he doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity.

How is it that we, a supposedly-Christian nation, accept these deceptions without thinking?

The Bible warns in many places about the Deceiver, Satan, and those who are convinced by his lies. One site lists 35 such verses. Jesus warns that he will try to lead even “the elect” astray (Mk 13:22, Mt 24:24). The Deceiver tells us what we want to hear. He offers an easier path. He wants us to believe that we are beyond his grasp just because we go to church, though Jesus’ warning tells us otherwise. He even wants us to believe he does not exist!

How is it that, though Jesus cast out many demons and instructed his disciples to do likewise, we don’t believe in evil spirits? We have been deceived! Those very spirits are whispering to our hearts, wanting us to believe they don’t exist so they can do their work without interference.

And their work is to lead us astray.

A friend of mine just attended a funeral of a family member who ministered for over 30 years to those considering suicide. He had no history of depression himself. Yet one day, he took his own life.

A couple we know, both Christians, came to us and asked for help because they were afflicted by demons. But before they completed the deliverance process, they decided that going to church was enough and deliverance was unnecessary. The irony is, what could deliverance hurt? We don’t charge for it. All they might lose is an afternoon of their time!

These people were deceived.

I’m not saying that every mental and physical illness and every wrong belief is caused by an evil spirit. But I am saying that many mental illnesses are exacerbated by spirits, and sometimes spirits are the actual cause. Wrong belief may not be caused by spirits, but the spirits will certainly take advantage of it!

Last night, my son woke my wife up after having a dream in which he was being crushed. He complained that his hands had gone numb.  It didn’t pass like a normal “hand going to sleep” sort of thing, and she considered taking him to the ER. Instead, she decided to check for spirits, and when she had cast them out, his hands returned to normal.

One might argue that the timing was coincidental. Yet I’ve seen this sort of recovery happen often enough that I am convinced that spirits do affect our lives.

Not only that, I have the gift of discernment. I can often see them.

Contrary to what the Enlightenment worldview tells us, the spirit world is real. Not all spirits are evil. I’ve seen benign spirits, which we call fairies and others call earth spirits. But I’ve also seen the dark ones– shadows, and animal forms, and humanoid shapes all lurking with the intent to do harm. They can even disguise themselves as spirits of light! (2 Cor 11:14) Test every spirit– though they lie and deceive, an evil spirit will not confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

The good news is, there are rules these spirits have to follow. Christ conquered them. The war ultimately has been won. But, in our own time and experience, the battle continues. But, with the authority given to us by Christ and some basic knowledge of the rules, we can get rid of these deceiving spirits.

But only if we don’t listen to their lies, because they are going to do their best to convince us that they don’t exist, that we don’t need deliverance, and that this blog post is the ravings of an unstable person.

Don’t be deceived.


November 13

Wild Night

From the Hitka Codex: Jesus casts out a demon.

Ever since our deliverance from unclean spirits in August , my wife and I have expressed a willingness to help others plagued by darkness. We testified at two churches, and we talked to people that seemed to be tormented (not everyone is, but there are many who are). We cast out a few demons that were causing physical ailments in people we know. There were even a few healings unrelated to spirits. And we kept our own family clean from spirits trying to return, no small accomplishment in itself. But as for freeing people the way we were freed–not yet.

(When I say “we did” and “we kept,” I’m giving ourselves credit for things that we don;t really have power to do. All deliverance and all healing comes through God and the Holy Spirit. Yes, even healing through medicine comes through the Spirit. So we didn’t exactly keep ourselves clean, but we did stay vigilant and ask the Spirit for help. When I say “we did,” what I really mean is, “We showed up and the Spirit worked through us.”)

Last month, several people began talking to us about deliverance. I told my wife, “I think our deliverance ministry is about to begin.”

And we waited.

Last week, my wife felt moved to share her experience of deliverance with a woman she had just met. The woman, whom I will call Sarah, was clearly moved and asked if we could help her family. Her husband, Bob, is a meth addict, had been up for several days, and was approaching a state of psychosis. He’d tried to stay clean before but hadn’t been successful. From what Sarah described, her family was experiencing a complex interaction of emotional wounds, addiction, and demons. Sarah called us later that night and begged for our help. We agreed to come to their home two nights later.

We had no idea what we’d be walking into. Would Bob be high? Psychotic? Violent? Could we even be of any help in this situation? My wife and I both have backgrounds in substance abuse, so we didn’t expect to be surprised, but we were very much aware of the chaos that adorns the lives of many addicts and their families. We brought with us another friend who is very strong in prayer.

We arrived to find that Bob had slept a little the night before, but had used again. He claimed the drugs were bogus, that he wasn’t really high. His twitching, constant talking, irrational trains of thought, and inability to sit still said otherwise.

We prayed, and then talked a little about deliverance. We made sure they understood that whatever we accomplished that night would be just a band-aid, a temporary reprieve to give them breathing room to work the steps, get some help, and prepare for a full deliverance. As we chatted, it became clear that both of them thought the other was the problem–not unusual in an addict-codependent relationship. Sarah’s complaint against Bob didn’t need to be spoken, it was obvious. He was paranoid and almost impossible to talk to. Bob accused Sarah of not being fully committed to the relationship, which Sarah denied. In fact, Sarah made a promise aloud to all of us that she would approach deliverance with 100% commitment and honesty.

“Well,” Bob said, “there’s no point in going forward with this right now.”

He got up and left the room, and returned with his glass pipe.

“I need to get rid of this,” he said. “What should I do? Flush it?”

“Don’t flush it,” my wife objected. “That will mess up your plumbing.”

“Put it on a plastic bag and smash it,” I suggested.

Bob headed for the kitchen, and I followed. He was so twitchy that as he fished under the counter for a plastic bag, he knocked the pipe against the counter and broke it. Glass showered over the counter and the floor. Bob swore.

“It’s no big deal,” I assured him. “Let’s just get a broom and clean it up.”

As Bob swept, I could hear my wife in the other room talking to Sarah about deliverance. Our friend stood in the space between the two rooms and prayed loudly.

Bob argued with Sarah about what dustpan to use. Then, as he emptied the shattered glass into the trash, he said to me, “You can hear Sarah telling lies about me out there, right?”

As we returned to the living room, it was clear that talking wasn’t going to get us anywhere. We began praying. Then we broke some curses, including the curse of addiction. Bob squirmed on the couch, obviously miserable. I anointed him with oil and bound the demons of methamphetamine, not knowing if it would do any good. To my surprise, he calmed down, and we proceeded with the deliverance process. Bob actually became somewhat rational by the time we finished.

But it didn’t last. Ten minutes after we left, Sarah called. Bob was preventing her from taking the car to go to her mother’s house, and she was scared. I called Bob, and he accused my wife and I of taking Sarah’s side. He couldn’t hear anything I had to say, and soon lapsed into unintelligible accusations, then he hung up.

My wife and I sat at home later, processing what we’d experienced. On the one hand, it was clear that the Spirit had worked through us. For a time, at least, the Spirit had calmed even the effects of Bob’s being high. But on the other hand, their insanity had returned almost as soon as we’d finished. We consoled ourselves in the hope that we had planted a seed that might sprout at some point in the future–if Bob lived long enough.

The next day, I reluctantly called Bob, expecting another unintelligible stream of accusations. This is what he said:

You’re not going to believe this, man! I went into my job, and they were going to fire me but instead they just gave me a few days off. So I drove home and I thought about using, but I turned on some worship music instead and I got home without using. Then I had this really powerful experience of Jesus. I went down to Sarah’s mom’s and I got my son, and I apologized to him for being such a bad dad, and I promised to do better. And he was like, “What are you talking about?” So I sat on the couch and held him. Then I got up, and something took hold of me and threw me to the ground, and I started choking. And I don’t know where the words came from, they didn’t come from me, but I said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, leave me alone!” and then it released me. And I have felt such peace ever since that moment. My son drew a picture of what he saw, and it was like a huge green cloud coming out of me. I’m telling you, man, something has changed. I’m not going to use anymore!

I was stunned and awed. I’ve had powerful spiritual experiences, but nothing like that. Here was a man who, less than 24 hours earlier, had been on the verge of psychosis. Now he was both clean and rational. I commented on the amazing experience, and reminded him that this was just a reprieve. God had given Bob grace, and now Bob needed to respond to that grace by working the steps and following through with the deliverance process. He assured me he would, but I had my doubts.

I spoke with Bob again this week. Eight days after our meeting, he’s still clean, and he’s begun making an inventory of his sins and gateways. A week clean may not seem like a lot, but when you’re an addict, it can feel like an eternity.

What will happen next? That depends on whether Bob and Sarah follow through. God gives us grace, but it’s our job to respond to that grace with fruits worthy of repentance. As Paul makes clear in Colossians 3:1-17, new life in Christ is not just a matter of professing faith, but of cleaning up our old behavior and living in love and compassion.

September 22

This Is the Day

This is the day that the Lord has made! (Psalm 118:24)

I’ve been thinking lately of my friend, Margarita Mike. We called him Margarita Mike because he got sober when he was in college, stayed sober five years, went out and drank one margarita, and came back. He stayed sober another five years.

Then Mike decided he could have another margarita. This time, things didn’t go as well. He couldn’t stop. He’d been drinking for eight months when I called him about a business situation for a mutual client. I asked him how he was doing.

“I’m not doing well at all,” he replied. “I can’t stop drinking. Would you have coffee with me sometime?”

I readily agreed. Helping people get sober as I got sober is one of the top priorities in my life. We agreed to meet the next afternoon at a local coffee shop.

That night, I got a phone call. Mike had wrapped his car around a telephone pole. My friend was gone.

I have always wondered whether things would have been different if I’d met him for coffee the day we spoke. Maybe they would have. Maybe they wouldn’t. The point is, I’ll never know–because I didn’t. I know from experience that alcoholism is a deadly disease. I almost died from it. I’ve been to more funerals than I can count on my fingers and toes.

No one expects that today is the last chance. Sometimes it is.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because of a couple of situations I’ve run into. One was a woman I rode the elevator with at the hospital. I didn’t know her and didn’t speak to her. Yet I could feel that she was toxic, so oppressed by darkness that it was rolling off of her. We got off the elevator and went our separate ways, and I said nothing. Surely she’ll realize her torment and seek help when she’s ready… right?

The other was someone I know fairly well and consider a friend, but not a close friend. As we were praying together, I felt a deep heaviness from this person. As I focused on it, I realized it was a curse. (Yes, curses exist. And Jesus died cursed so that our curses may be broken.) I brought up the subject of curses as an invitation, but my friend said nothing. We parted with no further discussion.

I have some knowledge of the ways of darkness. My family was tormented for five years. We experienced accidents, depression, psychosis, substance abuse, and illness, not to mention a ridiculous series of random setbacks in our lives. We became self-destructive. More than once, I was close to suicide. My wife nearly died twice from reactions to benign medications.

The torment of darkness can be fatal. And it’s surely miserable, especially compared with reconciliation to God. Moreover, if we believe what Christianity teaches us, the repercussions of what we do today can follow us beyond death. I’m not talking about merely accepting Jesus as Christ to avoid going to Hell. There’s far more to it than that. Sometimes, as any addict will attest, Hell follows us.

Yet most of us, including myself, don’t approach our religion with the urgency this suggests.

There are those who stand on street corners wielding a Bible and a hand-made sign proclaiming that you need to find Jesus today. I wonder if anyone listens to them. I hope so, but I never did.

There are those who go door-to-door and teach [their version of] what the Bible says. They are committed, loving people, and I think sometimes they do some good.

Most of us accept that other people are responsible for their own spiritual health. Yet when my own spiritual health was in jeopardy, I was unable to solve the problem myself. I needed help. This was as true last year when I sought deliverance as it was 32 years ago when I got sober. In both instances, I had no idea how to solve the problem. I needed someone who did.

Since Mike’s death, more than five years ago, I never put off meeting with an alcoholic or addict who asks for help. I also confront someone who appears to need help but not be willing to admit it. It often doesn’t help. Statistically, some 90% of alcoholics and addicts die from their disease. But I’m one of the 10%, and I want them to have every chance to be one, too. And never again do I want to be a day too late.

Why don’t I take the same approach with those who are suffering spiritually? I hate confrontation. I don’t have the confidence; after all, I’m new to this myself. Maybe I’m afraid of being labeled a religious nut. Maybe I’m afraid of damaging a friendship.

Would I damage a friendship to save someone’s life from addiction? Risk being labeled a nut? Step out on a limb and take a risk? You bet I would.

But religion is a private thing… right?

In a nation in which suicide rates are rising, violence against people unknown to the perpetrator is rising, drug overdose rates are rising, and antidepressant use is rising, I’m not so sure that’s true. We are a spiritually sick culture, and that sickness affects us all.

I’m tired of going to funerals of people who died too young, and seeing misery on the faces of people who are materially well off compared with much of the world. Not when there is an answer.

The challenge set before me, then, is to take the same attitude with those who suffer any kind of spiritual malady as I do toward those dying of addiction. I have been saved from misery, and it’s my responsibility to pass that on, today.

It’s a challenge I set before you, too.



March 19

An Invitation

I have a confession to make: I only recently became a Christian. It happened on August 11, 2016, to be exact.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been reading the Bible for years. I did my best to follow the teachings of Jesus. I professed Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.

But there was still something missing.

I didn’t know this until last August. My family had been plagued by demons for several years, and in the course of our deliverance, I discovered two things were missing from my faith. One seems obvious now: I had not yet accepted forgiveness for my past sins, some of which I thought were unforgivable.

The other was less obvious: I was still a sinner, and I failed to confess my current sins.

I should rephrase that. I am still a sinner. I continually fall short of what God wants for me. I suffer from sloth, fear, and doubt. Occasionally I fall into greed and gluttony. And selfishness is a regular companion. What’s more, I act on these defects of character with alarming frequency.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Whether I can, in this life, be cleansed of all unrighteousness is a matter for debate that I will not go into here. My point is, it hasn’t happened yet. And confession is the means by which I bring my sin before God and ask for his forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Having unconfessed sins separates me from God. It also provides a gateway for demons, those evil spirits whose torment I would in the future like to avoid.

[C]onfess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

Often I find it necessary to confess my sins directly to God, in order to do so in a timely manner. However, I find it much more beneficial to confess in the presence of another Christian. Shared confession, like shared prayer, is powerful. And, so far as I know, each person I have chosen to share my confession with has accepted it with respect and confidentiality. The relationship between sincere believers is also powerful.

As I encounter other Christians in the world, I am often amazed that confession is so little talked about. Most admit to being sinners, yet to hear them talk, it is as if they never sin. They seem to see no need for confession. Maybe they don’t sin. I’m not here to judge, though John’s letter strongly suggests that they may be overlooking something.

Some tell me that their sins are forgiven– as indeed they are, but only after they have been confessed.

Some look at me blankly, as if the idea of sin never occurred to them.

So here is my invitation to you:

Consider the three passages below, honestly asking yourself if your life reflects them as fully as you believe the Bible intends.

[T]he righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40)

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:9)

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? (James 2:19-20)

If the answer is yes, ask yourself again. If it is still yes, congratulations. You’re a better Christian than I am.

But if, as I suspect is true with most of us if we get honest, the answer is that we fall short, I invite you to find a suitable person and confess your sins. Because that’s part of the deal God made with us, part of the New Covenant. And it’s also a way to become closer to God.

I’ve tried it both ways. Living in confession is better.


November 14


Once in a while, FaceBook challenges me. Some time back, someone posted asking if I had prayed for Satan. This opened up a lengthy internal debate about the nature of evil.

I never believed much in evil. I never thought much about it until I studied theology at Loyola Marymount University. There, I encountered theodicy: If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, how can evil exist? After reading a fair bit about how others answered this question, I came to the conclusion that evil cannot exist, and that any other answer is inconsistent with the Bible. Yes, there are things that happen that I don’t like. People make bad choices that cause suffering, sometimes for millions of people. I wouldn’t wish those things on my worst enemy (if I had an enemy). But, in my view, that didn’t make them evil.

I noted the book of Job, where Satan is described as God’s prosecutor. He can’t touch Job without God’s permission (Job 1-6-12). “Satan” is also a generic term in Hebrew, not a proper name. It literally means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Clearly in this passage, the character identified as “Satan” opposes not God, but Job.”

When I was working hard to end the war in Sri Lanka, I was given a realization: While the work I was doing was both good and consistent with what God wanted from me, in some way beyond my understanding the war was also consistent with God’s plans. Yes, it was God’s will that we end that war, but the war could not exist if God didn’t allow it.

A wise man once said, “Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.” After that realization, I no longer doubted that wisdom.

Then came my struggle with darkness and my eventual deliverance. I saw dark spirits and was tormented by them. I was asked to believe that they were minions of Satan, who is seen as the source of evil in this world. I accept what I experienced, but I have no theology to explain it.

Then came that fateful FaceBook post. It challenged me with this inevitable question: Is it possible for Satan to be redeemed? Could he turn his heart back to God and renounce evil? Or is he excluded from God’s promise that all who repent are forgiven?

I’m not saying that Satan (assuming he exists and that he opposes God) will repent. I’m just asking if he could.

I can see no basis on which to argue that he could not.

Then another analogy occurred to me: Suppose a wold is prowling my yard. That wolf is clearly dangerous, even deadly. But is it evil? It was made by God as a predator, and it is doing exactly what God created it to do. Predators fill an important role in God’s creation of nature. How can that be considered evil?

Likewise, these dark spirits I struggled with were doing what was in their nature to do. They are dangerous, perhaps deadly, and perhaps worse than deadly. But does that make them evil, or were they created (like the wolf) to do exactly what they are doing?

Was it consistent with God’s will that I be tormented by darkness in order to find a way to a stronger faith? Was it God’s will that Jesus be tempted in the desert? I think the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

I don’t deny that there are events in this world that I dislike. The Holocaust is one, a dreadful loss of innocent lives that I would be tempted to call evil. (On the other hand, good things came out of it, like the philosophy of survivor Viktor Frankl, the awareness of genocide throughout the world, and (arguably) the restoration of Israel. Can evil produce good? I have serious doubts.) Surely the Israelites could say the same after first Israel was destroyed and its residents scattered, and then Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews taken into exile. Yet the Bible clearly tells us both were God’s will. And restoration followed.

Then there’s the issue of free choice. Surely a person can refuse to follow God’s wishes, and therefore cause evil, right?

Ask Jonah, who refused God’s command to go to Ninevah. God gave him a ride to Ninevah.

God tends to get what He wants.

So, is there really evil, or are these “evil” events merely things God ordains that I cannot understand?

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)

I may never know. But I choose to believe that God can do anything, and nothing can happen if He wills it to not happen. Thus, everything that does happen is somehow consistent with his will. And despite this, I am called to love Him, his Creation, and all the creatures in it, both human and otherwise.

August 22


Who do you talk to about being plagued by demons? Most people are going to think you’re crazy. But our experiences with them were real and, as far as I’m concerned, incontrovertible.  In Utah, we’d spoken to some Pentacostals who suggested that we could get rid of the demons ourselves by just ordering them out in the name of Jesus. That was only partly true. The demons would leave, but they wouldn’t stay gone. My pastor in Denver suggested that someone here in Harrisonburg could help. After our move, we talked to him, as well as to another couple we trusted.  Both suggested that if our problems were severe, Isaiah 61 Ministries might be able to help.

Our problems were severe, disrupting our daily lives with illness, depression, and despair. So we contacted Isaiah 61 and spoke with Roger. He warned us that if we pursued deliverance, the demons would try hard to stop us.  He was right. By the time we had completed the application process, I was beginning to wonder if I belonged to the demons and was beyond help.

The deliverance process began with a 15-page application. I submitted my genealogy, information about sins I know my ancestors committed, my own history, and my own sins and infirmities. My past is less than clean, so I was somewhat encouraged to see that there were sins listed on the checklist that I had never heard of. I filled out the application as thoroughly as I could, withholding nothing. Some of my history I felt embarrassed to share with people I barely knew, but I was desperate, and what’s the point of the process if I’m not going to be honest?

The deliverance itself took three 5-hour sessions for my wife and me. Everything the four-person team did or proposed was firmly based in scripture, though I have to admit much of it was foreign to me as a Mennonite. And, as the sessions approached, I became quite nervous.  I was about to bare my soul to four strangers. But, more importantly, what if my faith was insufficient?

My first session began with a prayer, which among other things acknowledged the team’s power and authority over demons before God as justified in the Gospel.  Then came the first part, a lengthy interview to clarify my answers on the application. In the second part, I repented and renounced my sins and the sins of my ancestors, renounced my vows to other religions, and acknowledged my broken vows, including my marriage vows to my first two wives. The team also broke any and all curses that may have been upon me.

Curses? Really?

Yes, really. Though I have no intellectual framework to support the idea, I now accept that curses exist, and that they pass down through generations. (Not long ago, a psychic told my wife she was under a multi-generational curse that was over 400 years old. Ironically, though she was correct, consulting her worsened the infestation of demons.) There are specific curses mentioned in the Bible, such as that of Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God, and that of the Jews, who claimed responsibility for the blood of Christ when they demanded His crucifixion. There are curses spoken or written, some even by our own selves as when we “claim” a certain negative characteristic through our self-talk. And there are curses associated with specific actions. Roger claims that the French are under a curse for the killing of the Hugonots. I also discerned a curse associated with the House of David I of Scotland, though for what specific act I could not tell.

In the third part, the team “tested” for spirits. This involved the team leader, Roger, calling out the spirits one by one and commanding them to leave. I was amazed at how many of them came out. There were at least dozens, possibly more than a hundred, though I have no way of counting them. Most surprising to me was a strong Norse presence, which I saw manifested as a steel helmet. I know I have Viking ancestors, but they’re so far back I doubted they would have any effect on me. Apparently, they did. I also have one ancestor who seems to appear from nowhere, and I suspected he might be Native American. When Roger called out any Native American spirits, I saw a vision of a Native American village in which a blonde woman was bound with leather things, leading me to believe that my ancestor was in fact half Native, the child of a kidnapped female settler (which apparently happened quite often on the frontier in Maine). Perhaps the oddest encounter, though, occurred in my second session. There was a darkness lodged in my abdomen, and Roger called it out but it refused to move. He asked what it was called, and it replied, “Flexus.” He asked why it was still there, and it replied, “Because it’s warm.” He asked its purpose, and it answered, “I’m the defiant one.” Which, obviously, it was. Roger then began a very legalistic prayer, terminating its rights and canceling its assignments, and it left very painfully through my head.

But let’s back up a moment. As part of my interview, I was asked the date on which I was “saved.” I left it blank. Though I believe in God and Jesus, I had no faith whatever that Jesus’s sacrifice had anything to do with my sins. I felt that somehow my sins were so bad that I could not be forgiven. I was very clear about my lack of faith.

And here’s the problem:

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)

Without sufficient faith to fill oneself with the Holy Spirit, the demons return in even greater numbers.  That had been our problem in the past.

During the interview, I was again clear about my lack of belief. They asked me if I believed in eternal life, and I answered (honestly) that I didn’t, and I didn’t much care about eternal life. They asked me if I believed that my sins could be forgiven by Jesus, and again I answered in the negative. But after some discussion, I was able to envision giving Jesus a suitcase full of my sins, and letting Him do with them as He sees fit.

That turned out to be sufficient. I can now say with my heart, though not with any theological or intellectual backing, that I believe my sins have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus’s self-sacrifice.

There’s another catch. Jesus asks for repentance, from the verb “to repent,” which is “to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right” (Webster). Obviously there is a question whether repentance is sincere if you keep doing what you were doing. But there is a more practical concern. If committing a sin opens a door for a demon (or multiple demons) to enter, then one must stop committing the sin in order to keep the demons out. My wife and I cleaned our home of all representations of other religions, including my Buddha collection and her Alan Watts tapes. We burned our tarot cards. We threw out books and pictures. I deleted much of my old music from my MP3 player and computer. We’ve virtually eliminated course language. We’re careful about what we watch on Netflix and listen to on Youtube. This hasn’t been easy. Some of the items we disposed of were antiques and rare books. And some days, I miss Black Sabbath!

But how much are these things worth compared to peace with God and a life free from demonic oppression? The answer is clear. Since my first deliverance session over two weeks ago, I haven’t been angry or depressed.  I’ve experienced a feeling of comfort and settledness I have never felt before. I have not been struck perfect. There are days I still struggle with vulgar language, fear of financial insecurity, and inappropriate sexual thoughts. They won’t be canonizing me any time soon. But the peace that I’ve found, after literally years of torment from these things of darkness, is incomparable.

August 19

The Spiritual Journey – Darkness

Hiding didn’t work, of course. God was in Utah just as much as anywhere else. And my spirit pined to continue my quest. One day, while visiting family in Denver, I attended a Mennonite Church. I felt like I was home. I loved the message, the music, and the people. I was baptized later that year, and began to wonder how I could immerse myself in this spirit I found at a church that was eight hours from home.

That’s about the time things got complicated. I found myself increasingly plagued with despair and depression, and my wife suggested I might have some darkness in me. I didn’t take her seriously.  Darkness?  That’s fiction, right?

It’s not fiction. As things grew worse for me, I became willing to consider that perhaps I was infested with some sort of dark entity. That sounds crazy, right? But it wasn’t. One day, as I was praying to God for clarity, I saw it. A small, dark, nebulous creature was inhabiting my chest. I told it to leave, and it left.

But it didn’t stay gone. It returned with others, and soon we were in a full-scale battle with demons on our ranch. We had no idea what to do.  We searched the internet. We talked to pastors from various denominations. Everyone told us that of we cast them out in the name of Jesus, they would go. And they did. But they didn’t stay gone.

I need to interject here that I still have no coherent theology to account for demons. I don;t believe in ghosts, either, except that I’ve seen two in my lifetime. I’ve seen these demons. I’ve fought them. I know they are real.

My desire to lead a God-centered life led me to move to Virginia to attend seminary. I desperately hoped that we would leave the demons behind when we left. And for the first month, it seemed like we had. Then things started to go wrong. Like ten emergency room visits in six weeks. Like crisis after crisis, most often on Saturday nights so we’d miss church on Sunday.

We sought help, and were led to a former business professor who had retired to study deliverance ministry. He explained to us that casting our demons was as simple as we’d been taught, but not if you want to do it thoroughly. To get rid of them all, and have them stay gone we had missed a few steps. First, we had to confess our sins before God.  And second, we had to accept the healing power of Jesus’s resurrection into out lives.

I have no trouble confessing my sins. I’ve been doing it in the Twelve Step program for years. But what’s all this about the healing power of Jesus’s resurrection? I still could not believe that my sins could somehow be transferred to another person, especially one who’s been dead for 2,000 years.

But I was desperate. I had begun feeling like the darkness was winning.  My prayer had become, “God, if I am not of the darkness, cleanse me; if I am of the darkness but can be saved, save me; if I am of the darkness and cannot be saved, remove me before I do more damage.”

Here was a man who claimed he could cleanse me. You bet I was listening!

The application process was fifteen pages long.  It covered ancestral sins, false beliefs, sins I committed, mental and physical frailties, and more. I filled it out completely.

The day of my deliverance, I was terrified. What if I was unable to believe enough for this to work? I mean, he warned me that we had to live differently, which I was fine with. But he also warned me that I would have to believe differently. I’ve never had much luck believing what people told me to believe!

I’ll describe the deliverance process itself another time. But I will say that when the time came, I was granted sufficient understanding of the forgiveness of Jesus for the process to work. I watched an amazing number of demons come out of me.  That was two weeks ago, and they haven’t returned.