Wednesday, October 17, 2012

COM Ch 22: In Jesus' Name


Chapter 22: In Jesus’ Name          

            Okay, so how does someone like me - who was (or who, at times, still is) so self-sufficient, self-protected, and proud - end up desperately driven to prayer and God’s Word?  As I read through my near-finished draft of this book, I realized that I was leaving something out; something that really helps explain why I have become so passionate about and committed to prayer and God’s Word, and how I have come to tenaciously cling to Jesus.      

            Now, of course, just dealing with all of the confidence-crushing trials would have been enough to bring me to my knees.  Learning that I wasn’t in control and that I couldn’t handle things on my own drove me to God.  Realizing that I needed God as my Heavenly Father - and not just as “God” - opened my heart to Him and His healing touch. 
            But there was one more Big Stressor during these years of trials that really helped cement my deep need to be completely reliant on, dependent on, and glued to the Lord, through prayer, and His Word.  And I was hoping that I could just skip it.  I really didn’t want to bring it up.  But this book would be incomplete without it.  So here goes nothin’. . .  (And if I don’t get invited to people’s houses anymore, I’ll understand.)
            The “light as a feather, stiff as a board” game that I played as a child wasn’t my only brush with the unseen.  Just a few months after Jackson was born, I found myself facing a five-month stretch of nighttime demonic harassment.  This came at the same time that we were dealing with Ryder’s molars and just beginning to look at houses so we could get out of this moldy rental.  So things were already rough for me.  But this is probably what drove me the most to extreme reliance on the Lord and a desire to live righteously. 
            I’m not sure what started it exactly, but it could have something to do with the fact that I had just begun getting really serious about reaching for righteousness.  I was becoming more concerned about trying to live a godly life than I ever had before.  And we had just started up with a small group Bible study.  So, as my pastor said, it probably “woke up” the forces of evil around me; forces who are pretty content to stay quiet as long as they know that you are not much of a threat. 
            Anyway, we had gone to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Iowa one weekend, and I got the TV to myself one day.  We hadn’t been getting any channels on our TV back home for a long time, and so we all were anxious to watch something . . . anything. 
            There wasn’t much on when it was my turn to use the TV, but I love history and nature programs.  So I watched a show on the National Geographic channel about the Codex Gigas (a.k.a. the Devil’s Bible).  It wasn’t a sensationalistic program or anything.  It was just a scientific look at this book, at how it could have been written, and who might have written it.  It was not much of anything really.  I was hoping to be able to scoff at it, to snicker about how the people presented the book. 
            But that night, I was woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of distant, horrible screaming (as if a mass of people were screaming out in unfathomable pain all at once) and a sense of being “electrocuted,” like all my nerves had electricity pulsing through them.             
            Throughout my adolescence, there were a few times when I was awaken in the middle of the night with the sense that something really heavy and evil was on my chest and that it was squeezing the breath out of me.  I’d also feel paralyzed and like I couldn’t talk; all I could do was sputter.  But I instinctively knew that I had to call on the name of Jesus.  And as soon as I called out His name, the presence went away.  But it hadn’t happened for a long time, until that night in Iowa. 
            [I know that I am not alone in this kind of experience.  In fact, just before my first experience of the “heavy weight on my chest”, a friend had told me about how this very thing happened to him.  I respectfully listened, but I scoffed inside:  Like that would ever happen.  Ha!  Like I said, never comment - even in your head - about other people.  Never think, Tsk-Tsk!  That will never happen to me! 
            This kind of paralysis and heavy-weight-on-your-chest sensation has been found around the world.  And it is often described as being a left-over, residual effect from “nightmares” or a time when your mind has woken up, but your body hasn’t yet.  Google “sleep paralysis” and see what comes up.  But I beg to differ with them about what it really is!  Not that it’s demonic harassment every time, but I think there are times it is.]   
            Anyway, that night in Iowa, as I became conscious enough to know what I had to do, I spoke out into the dark, “Jesus, help me.”  And whatever it was stopped.  I was a little weirded out the next day, but I figured it must have just been one of those rare moments when odd things happen. 
            But, apparently, this would end up being the first day of months of nighttime disturbances.  For the next five months, I was woken up about two to three times a week, on average.  A good week was when it happened just once.  I don’t know if there was a real pattern to it or not, but it did seem to at least always happen on Saturday nights/Sunday mornings.  
            (And I believe that it was a Saturday that I watched that program, and Saturday night/Sunday morning when it first happened.  I still don’t understand how “they” work.  But for a time, I used to joke that maybe demons can only walk, and they got bored out in Iowa teasing cows.  So they hitched a ride with me when I gave them an “open door” by watching that program.  And they must like patterns, so the stuck with Saturday night/Sunday morning.  Or maybe it’s just because they knew I was headed to church in a few hours.  Of course, I only joked to my husband about that because . . . well . . . who else was I gonna tell?) 
            Over the next five months when the disturbances woke me up, I always woke up with a sense that my entire body was electrocuted, sometimes I felt paralyzed, sometimes it felt like something heavy was on my chest, sometimes I felt like my face was being “sucked up” by some strong and invisible force (I don’t know how else to describe it), and a few times I heard screaming.  Sometimes, I would just be coming out of a nightmare.  And sometimes, I would be woken up “electrified” after “seeing” a demonic presence in that half-awake dream-state. 
            I have gotten to the point where I think that some of these times were actually less like dreams, and more like seeing with your spiritual eyes what you can’t see with your physical eyes.  Like getting a glimpse of the spirit realm with your mind’s/spirit’s eyes.  Because sometimes in my “dream,” I would see myself laying there in a certain position when I would feel or see something there.  And then, when it reached out to touch me, I’d wake up in that same position feeling “electrocuted.”  Does that make sense?       
            One such time, I was “dreaming” that there was a demonic being – in the form of a thick, black smoke - hovering a foot or two over me as I slept.  I could tell that it was full of intense hatred, violence, and anger and that it wanted to seriously hurt me.  Yet something was preventing it from unleashing its full power.  I could tell that the little bit of terror that I felt was nothing compared to what it would be like if it was allowed unrestricted access to me.  And then, these long, black arms reached out to violently shake me.  But just as it grabbed hold of my shoulders, I woke up feeling electrified. 
            Others may disagree and I don’t totally understand it myself, but I believe that I was seeing for a moment what was going on in the spirit realm, even while asleep and with my eyes closed.  And I’m guessing it’s because our spirits don’t sleep, even when our bodies do.  And they are not limited to our physical senses.  Biblically, angels did deliver messages at times while people were “dreaming,” so this isn’t too far-fetched.
            Many times, it seemed that in my dreams - or visions or whatever they were - I would just begin to recognize that there was a demonic presence in the room or I would just be getting ready to call on Jesus’ name when it would “attack” and I would wake up, of course, electrified.  Once, instead of being black smoke, it was a snake-like thing wrapping itself around my leg in my “dream.”  And just as I recognized that it was something evil and that I had to call on Jesus’ name, it filled me with a sense of being paralyzed and electrocuted.  And I woke up struggling to call on Jesus’ name so that it would leave. 
            I think that those were the only times that I “saw” anything in my dreams.  Usually, it was just a bristles-on-the-back-of-the-neck sense that it was there.
            Anyway, all of these times were disturbing (and exhausting, because it really ruined many good nights of sleep.  Not to mention that I began to be afraid of going to bed, so my nights were rather uncomfortable.).  But the most disturbing times were the ones that happened when I was fully awake.  If I wanted to, I could write off the ones that woke me up from sleep as “residual bad dreams.”  (Although, I really couldn’t.  I knew what they were.)  But the ones that happened when I was fully awake crossed a boundary for me.  Now, not only were my nights/dreams vulnerable, but so were my days.
            And actually, before it sounds more dramatic than it was, there were only a couple of these.  And it’s not like I saw things flying around the room or anything.  But it was still enough to frighten me.  One time, I was fully awake, still lying in bed after being awake for a few minutes.  Now, a few days before, I had been wondering what actually happens when the “electricity” starts.  Does it start in one spot, like my knee, and then spread over my body?  Does it start out mild and increase in intensity, until I finally wake up?  Because sometimes I would only feel parts of my body electrified, and other times it would be my whole body.  Sometimes it was mild, and other times I felt like I was being electrocuted by those two large freezers.
            Anyway, this morning as I laid there, it was peaceful and quiet and then . . . BAM!  It felt as though a lightning bolt hit.  It was fast and intense and all over my whole body.  I had never had it start before when I was fully awake.  So, I was now convinced that it couldn’t just be a lingering after-effect from a nightmare.
            And then, the weirdest one happened when I was waking up on a Sunday morning.  I was lying in bed with baby Jackson next to me, and Jason was up getting ready for church in the bathroom.  As I laid there fully awake, I felt something creeping up the foot of the bed toward me.
            Kody loves to sneak up on us whenever he can, and it felt exactly as if he was trying to creep up our bed on his hands and knees.  I could feel the mattress go down with each hand or knee, and I could feel the edge of my blanket getting pulled under his weight.  I popped my head up to catch him in the act, but . . . there was nothing there.  Hmmm, that’s odd!  I’m absolutely sure that I felt something. 
            I laid back down.  And a few seconds later, it happened again.  This time, I sat up quickly, and still I saw no one.  How could he duck and hide so fast?  I looked on the floor and around the bed to see if Kody was there and if he was just really good at hiding.  But, of course, he wasn’t there.  (And because we never could get our box-spring up the tiny staircase, our mattress was on the floor.  So there was nowhere to hide.)   
            I was baffled by this point.  And then my husband came into the room to get his clothes.  And through gritted teeth I told him, “Something invisible is . . . creeping . . . up . . . the . . . bed!  I can feel it walking up the bed toward me.”  And, not surprisingly, he cocked his eyebrows and looked at me with a skeptical, disturbed, you-must-be-crazy look (meant in the most loving way possible, I’m sure).  And he turned around and went back to the bathroom. 
            Now, why I didn’t get out of bed at this point or call out Jesus’ name is a mystery to me.  I guess I didn’t want to wake Jackson yet, and I was still trying to figure out what was going on.  So I laid there a little longer.  And it started again.  But this time, I had heard the door creak open first and then felt the mattress move.  This time, it’s Kody for sure, I thought.  And he can’t hide now!  
            I waited until I felt the creeping get up to my knees so that he couldn’t easily jump off the bed, and then I flung my arms and legs around so that I could catch him in the act.  And, yep, that’s right - nothing was there.  It happened one or two more times before I fully believed that it wasn’t just a brilliant trick by one of my kids.  (I think I just didn’t want to believe that things like this would happen in the day when I was fully awake.  Oh, and Jason did tell me that he opened the door just a few moments before . . . when I heard the door creak.  So there was an actual reason for the creaking door.  Thank God!) 
            I didn’t feel it again after that, but I certainly wasn’t about to leave my baby up in the bed alone.  So I woke him up and took him with me to get ready for church.  And the rest of the day, I found myself singing the Ghostbusters theme song.  I tried to stop myself, I really did.  But I couldn’t, you know - with an invisible thing sneakin’ in my bed and all. 
            Even though this was a pretty significant thing that I was going through, I hesitated to share this story with anyone.  I mean, how does something like this come up in a conversation? 
            “Oh, hi!  Yeah, I’m doing pretty good . . . other than the demonic harassment that I’ve been going through!  You ever been electrocuted by unseen forces or had an invisible being creeping up your bed?  No?  Well, I have!”
            Seriously!  That’s not a way to make or keep friends.  But as I became more and more disturbed by it, I realized that I needed prayer support.  And I didn’t want to wait until things got worse.  
            So I gathered up my courage and asked my Bible study for prayer about it, rather sheepishly.  After all, I’m a licensed counselor . . . I know how we diagnose people who see and hear things that “aren’t there.”  But it’s what happened and I couldn’t deny it or ignore it.  And I really did want the prayer. 
            And I did end up talking to my pastor, Pastor Bob, about it.  I had wanted to talk to him, but at the same time I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.  I mean, once this information is out there, there’s no controlling who knows about it and what they think about me.  It was enough that my husband didn’t believe me and thought I was losing it.  On top of that, I didn’t need to feel that everyone else was looking at me out of the corner of their eyes and keeping their distance.  But, in the end, I’m glad it came up.  Here’s how it happened: 
            After the first few weeks of this harassment, I began to think that my boys should get dedicated at church.  I had thought about getting them dedicated when they were babies, but I didn’t really see too much point to it.  It was like making a show of saying that we would raise them according to godly standards, which we were already committed to doing anyway.  So I didn’t push it . . . until now.
            As I laid in bed one night next to Jason, I was thinking about how standing up in front of your church family and having your children dedicated to God is really a kind of a show.  It’s making a statement to fellow humans and to the invisible spirit realm around us that “I am choosing God’s team!  I am on His side!  And I am raising my children that way, too!”  And making that statement in front of everyone - seen and unseen - suddenly seemed really wise and important. 
            As we laid there and these thoughts were going through my head, I decided to bring it up with Jason.  “Jason, I think the boys should be dedicated.”  Jason knew what I was dealing with at night, but he didn’t really believe me.  But just as I said the word “dedicated,” an awful, metallic “scream” came from right outside our bedroom window.
            What’s that!?!” Jason hissed, jumping up to go outside and check.  Thank God!   I was afraid that I was the only one who heard it!
            “I’ll tell you what it is!” I said, more than content to let Jason be the one to check, and oddly pleased that it happened. 
            After finding nothing, he got back into bed, and we laid there a little while contemplating what it was.  When all of a sudden . . . we heard the neighbor start his car.  Oh, Thank You, Lord!  It was just the neighbor’s rusty car door opening.  We got a good, nervous laugh out of that.  And Jason agreed that the boys should be dedicated. 
            So we went to meet with Pastor Bob.  I tried to play it cool, not bringing up what was going on, until he asked, “So, why do you want to do this now that your children are older?  Obviously, you’ve seen others dedicate their children as babies before.  How come you haven’t felt the need to do it until now?” 
            Well, I inhaled deeply and Here goes . . . I gave the honest answer.  I told him all that was going on and that I now saw the importance of standing before others and claiming that you are on God’s side.  And I was so grateful that I did bring it up, because he went on to tell me about his experiences helping people who have gone through this kind of thing.  He never raised his eyebrows at me, he never smirked, he never doubted what I said for one second.  He just gave me some encouragement and advice about how to deal with this.  (Because of his advice, I didn’t just call on “Jesus” anymore, I called on the name “Jesus Christ.”  As he says, Jesus is a common name and there are even demons who will answer to that name.  Good advice, thank you!)
            And I was sooooo thankful that Jason was there to hear what Pastor Bob had to say.  Up until then, he totally doubted that all of this stuff was really happening.  (Now, he just kind of doubts it.)  I think he believed that my imagination was really getting the best of me, and that I couldn’t decipher reality from nightmares.  Although I think that you really have to go through it yourself to put to rest all doubts, it was still good to have Pastor Bob back me up and to help Jason understand that this stuff does happen to people.  And sometimes it happens because they are seeking God more, not because they have done anything wrong.
            Eventually, these attacks became fewer and fewer, until they just “ended” all together.  (But they can always start again.  We will never be free from the enemy’s attacks until eternity.)  And I have to say, I am so thankful that God allowed this time of demonic disturbance.  Because this, out of all that I was going through, is probably what most strengthened my faith in Him, my dependence on Him, and my resolve to stay close to Him.  And that’s why I couldn’t leave this story out of the book.
            And oddly enough, having to go through it “alone” actually turned out to be for the best.  For the first few months, I was quite upset and frightened by these experiences.  I feared going to bed, and I feared what demons might be capable of during the day.  Could they push me down the stairs?  Could they hurt my children?  Could they suffocate me while I slept?
            In fact, as the attacks went on, they got more and more “physical.”  Sometimes, I would feel like something was covering my mouth and holding it shut so that I couldn’t call on Jesus’ name.  And one time, I woke up feeling like something was choking me.  I actually was fully conscious, laying there and thinking, Could I be choking myself?  There’s one hand of mine, but where’s the other?  Is it my own hand choking me?  But it wasn’t; both of my hands were under my pillow.  And as I continued to nod off again, I would feel the grip getting tighter and tighter.  And then as I woke up again, it would loosen.  That only continued for a minute or so, until I was awake enough to call out Jesus’ name.  But it really bothered me to see how “physical” it was getting.                                
            And so, I began to read everything I could find on demonic harassment and spiritual warfare.  And let me say, there is so much stuff out there that is just too “over the top” for me.  But occasionally, I would find a well-grounded one that gave me some encouragement and understanding.  And there was one such book that I really wanted Jason to read.
            I knew that he didn’t really believe me and that he scoffed at these experiences on the inside.  I mean, I could understand - because it isn’t until it happens to you that you can really believe it.  But I still really wanted his support.  I felt vulnerable and alone and frightened.  And I wanted to know that I could turn to him, that he would be there to protect me and help me through it.  I wanted him to be my safe place.
            And so, I asked him to read this particular book about one family’s experiences with this kind of thing.  But he wasn’t interested in it.  I asked several times, and I even left the book out on the table when he would come home so that he could see it, right next to his books on yard care.  And when he came home, he’d reach down and move the book that I wanted him to read, and he’d pick up the book on yard care.  I was crushed.  I really was.   
            And I felt more alone.  I had really, really wanted - no, I needed - his support.  And I needed him to believe me.  I thought maybe having him read about other sane people’s experience would help with both.  But he never made a move to read it.  And so I realized that it was up to me now.  I couldn’t rely on him, so it was all up to me.  And I took the book back to the church library. 
            And on top of that, a person from church offered to come and pray over my house with one of the pastors.  “Yes, please,” I said.  “Come over some time.  I would really like that.”  And he said he’d talk to the pastor and get ahold of me.  He never did.  They never did come and pray with me.  And I realized that I was really alone in this.  I had a husband who didn’t believe me, and I had no one else to really help me (except for the brief conversations with the head pastor.  Thank you, Pastor Bob!). 
            And while I felt sorry for myself for a little while, I came to eventually realize that it was the best thing that could have happened.  Because having to face this trial on my own forced me to strengthen myself in the one person whose help I needed most: Jesus.  It forced me to dig deep into myself and to find a strength and courage that I didn’t know I had.  And I found this when I turned fully to Jesus, in prayer and in His Word.  He would be there to protect me and to help me through it.  He was my safe place.
            Had I learned to rely on Jason and if I made him or others fight my battle for me, I would have never found the strength and boldness that comes with fully relying on God.  I would have learned to shrink back during the battle in fear, instead of learning to bolster myself in Christ and walk bravely forward.             
            I remember the exact moments that I found this strength and boldness.  One was when I had to return that book to the library.  Knowing that I was really on my own made me go, Okay, Lord, it’s You and me now!  And I realized that if all I had was Jesus, well, then I had all that I needed. 
            And the other moment was when I was lying in bed one morning imagining what the spirit world was like.  I was daydreaming about what it would be like to actually see a demon with my physical eyes.  I didn’t want to see one, I was just thinking about what it would be like.  Like what would happen if I looked over by my bedroom door and saw one standing right there? 
            In my imaginary scenario, I imagined myself saying something like this to the demon, “Okay, you just stay over there and I’ll stay over here, and it’ll be fine that way.”  And it was then that it dawned on me that the spiritual world is really all around us, all the time.  Yes, I knew that, I just never really lived like it.  These demons and angels have always been there.  And just because I was physically experiencing their presence didn’t mean that anything was really all that different.  And if I didn’t have to be scared before this, then I really didn’t have to be scared now, just because I was “sensing” them in a new way.
            At that moment, I honestly felt all the fear and anxiety drain out of me.  I wasn’t experiencing anything “new.”  It’s a battle that we have always been in the midst of.  And it’s a battle we’ve always been a part of, I just didn’t take it seriously until now.  And this is when I realized the seriousness of the spiritual battle that we are supposed to be fighting.  And I was convicted about how lax I had been in that area.
            And suddenly, it wasn’t about running away or cowering in fear anymore; it was about training for battle.  It was about putting on my spiritual armor and living more righteously so that I could be effective in that battle.  It was about seeking to live a more holy and God-glorifying life so that I didn’t give any “open doors” or “welcome mats” to fallen angels, such as watching shows about the “Devil’s Bible”.  It was about the power of the Holy Spirit living in me and about making sure that I lived in such a way to be in line with the Spirit.  It was about immersing myself in the Word and in prayer so that I was as close to God as I could be.  And it was about Jesus and the protection that He gives and the power of His name.  (In fact, I half wanted to yell out to the demons in the darkness, “See what you’ve done!  You’ve actually driven me closer to God and made me try to live more righteously.  Are you happy with yourselves?”)
            During this time, I had to train myself to always have the name of Jesus on my tongue the moment that I woke up.  I would go to bed in prayer, asking for protection and for strength, and rehearsing this one line over and over:  “In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave!  In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave!”  I came to learn that Jesus’ name was my strongest weapon against evil. 
            And I practiced keeping it in that order, too, instead of “I command you to leave, in Jesus’ name.”  Because I was afraid that I might be too sleepy to say it all right away, and I might accidentally end up just saying, “I command you to leave . . . zzzzzzzzzz.”  So I made sure to at least get Jesus’ name out first.  Because I have no power in myself to command any demon to leave.  It’s all because of Jesus’ name and power and authority.  (Which is why I don’t know if unbelievers have any ability to use Jesus’ name against evil.  Because they don’t have the right to Jesus’ name if they are not under His authority.)
            I have read other people’s ideas of how to “battle” demonic harassment.  And some are amusing and some are disturbing, and many are way too dramatic and complicated.  I have read that we should get forceful and yell at them, that there are all kinds of rituals that we need to go through to get rid of them, and that we have the power to “order” Heavenly angels around and give them commands.
            In my experience, I don’t think this is the way it is.  The only power and authority and protection that we have is because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in us.  We were made a little lower than the angels, so I highly doubt that they are going to be threatened by any big show of our anger or aggression.  What can we possible do to them?  And rituals are just “extras,” they are ways to make us feel like we have some control or authority by what we do.  And thinking that we can control or command angels . . . well, that’s witchcraft. 
            (I just want to insert something here, with all the books on and interest in witchcraft, ESP, mind power, etc.  For anyone who may think that it is harmless or desirable to try to tap into the power of the spirit world . . . Don’t!  Do not tinker around with the spirit world.  Yes, I do believe that we need to be aware of it and to battle in it through prayer, righteous living, Jesus’ name, etc.  But it is not Biblical to try to use, control, or mess around with spirits.  God calls this kind of stuff witchcraft and sorcery.  And in the Bible you can see just how severely He deals with those who practice it.)      
            The Bible, I believe, tells us all that we really need to know about how to battle demonic harassment.  Calling on Jesus’ name causes most to leave immediately.  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: prayer, along with Jesus’ name!  Jesus refers to a kind of demon that can only be driven out by prayer in Mark 9:29.  That’s all I’ve seen in the Bible:  Jesus’ name and prayer!
            (Well, of course, there is also a whole set of spiritual armor to put on in general, according to Ephesians 6: 10-18:  the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, a readiness to share the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit - which is the Word of God - and prayer.  But all of this needs to be in place all of the time anyway.  And, as Jesus tells us in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:13,  we need to be praying that God “delivers us from the evil one.”  We need to pray that He protects us from Satan and his schemes . . . because prayer like this matter!  It’s not just wishful thinking.) 
            I never needed to make a big, dramatic show.  All I ever had to do was calmly say, sometimes even just whispering (when Jason was sleeping next to me and I didn’t want him to know that it happened again), “In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”  And they usually did immediately.  Sometimes, the electricity wouldn’t leave right away, and so I would pray in my mind, calling out for Jesus’ help in getting rid of it.  And then after repeating that command several times, it would subside.  But the point is, it always went away, never lasting longer than a minute or so, when I called on Jesus’ name. 
            Now, I could be wrong.  There could be cases of demonic activity that require much more than that.  But I pray that I never find out!  I mean, I am not a demon expert or anything.  (And I don’t want to be.)  But for now, prayer and Jesus’ name are all that I believe I need!  Just want you to know, though, that I don’t understand it all.  I’m just telling you what my experience has been.      
            [Of course, I am not talking about demonic possession here, just about demonic harassment.  And I am talking about a solid believer in Christ who isn’t knowingly engaging in sin, not about someone who has “shaken hands with the devil” and drifted far from God’s ways. 
            The thing is, some people might be being harassed by evil because they have allowed evil to come too close.  When we put out “welcome mats” for them, we give demons the right to visit us.  Any time we turn away from God and toward Satan in any way, we remove ourselves from God’s full protection.  And demons will push open any door we willingly crack open for them.  And then a simple “I command you to leave in Jesus’ name” might not work.
            If you are being harassed and “I command you to leave in Jesus’ name” isn’t working, pray and ask God if you have given demons any “legal right” to be in your life, any “welcome mat” that invited them in.  Such things might be bringing “false god” things into your home, willingly engaging in sin, being unforgiving toward anyone, becoming overly prideful (the sin that caused Satan’s fall), having outbursts of anger, tinkering with temptation, drifting from God, listening to Satan’s lies instead of God’s truth, trying to live self-sufficiently instead of being dependent on God, engaging in “witch-crafty” kinds of things like palm-reading, fortune-telling, Ouija Boards, etc. 
            You need to get rid of the “welcome mats” first: confess known sin and ask for forgiveness, break any ties you’ve made with evil, renounce any lies you’ve allowed yourself to believe, clean out any “false god” things from your home, renounce and ask forgiveness for any times you have engaged in “witch-crafty” kinds of things, root out unforgiveness from your heart and fully forgive those who have hurt you, fall at the feet of Christ in humility, etc.  If demons no longer have a right to be there, they have to leave when you command them to leave in Jesus’ name.] 
 

            I had learned to lean on and rely on Jesus in a way I never did before.  And once I found this strength in Jesus, these experiences seemed less like harassment and disturbances, and more like . . . well, disruptions.  Disruptions to a good night’s sleep. 
            And one thing that I had to accept was that they 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 to be done with all of these trials and to just be able to 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 one, 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 it as it came, knowing that I wasn’t fighting on my own.  I had the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit on my side. 
            “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4) 
            For a while, I had to repeat this to myself every time I went to bed.  I would being lying in bed, nervously scanning the room and the corners for any weird lights or shadows, listening for any odd creaking, and just repeating the phrase, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  It really does help to fill your mind with Scripture.  Because that is the weapon that we have been given to battle the enemy.  The sword of the Spirit.  Jesus Himself gave us the example of using Scripture to battle Satan while He was being tempted in the desert.  Do we think we can do any better without a solid grounding in Scripture?  
            Through this battle, I have learned the importance of living righteously, seeking holiness, and maintaining contact with God all throughout my day and night, in order that I could stand a fighting chance.  And I have learned to take the spirit world seriously and to remember that there is an eternity out there waiting for us.  And what we do on this earth is not nearly as important as what we do in the spirit realm, for God’s kingdom.
            Because of these five months, I am always conscious of the fact that there is an unseen world working right alongside the physical world.  And how we live and what we do and if we pray really does matter.  Because it really does have an impact on the spirit world.  And I became very concerned with how much my life reflected Christ, and if it glorified Him and honored Him. 
            I believe that we can give demons access to us by how we live and act.  We invite them to come closer and influence us more when we give in to temptations, when we say things we shouldn’t, and when we fill our lives, homes, ears, eyes, and minds with things that are not God-glorifying.  And we have more power to keep them back when we live more righteously, and are more aligned with the Holy Spirit, and are relying on the power of Jesus’ name.
            (I also think that the command to praise God and be thankful, even when we are in pain, is partly meant for our protection from evil.  Demons are attracted to, thrive on, and fuel anger, jealousy, fear, etc.  But I think that it will drive them back when they see us praising God and being thankful, no matter our circumstances.)      
            Because of all this, I began to think about my life and about what was not pleasing to Him.  And I immediately thought about a movie that I own about witches.  It was a movie that I really enjoyed, even though I knew that it could not possibly be glorifying to Him.  And yet for so long, I excused it by saying, “Oh, it won’t affect me.  I’m strong enough to not be swayed by it.  It’s really more about the sisters’ relationship than it is about witches.” 
            But now, it wasn’t about if it was going to sway me or not; it was about if God was glorified by it.  I became far more concerned with glorifying Him than I did with feeding my own happiness and desires.  And so I dumped it in the trash. 
            And I am very cautious now about what we allow into our house and what we allow on our TV and on the radio.  I try to be very careful about not tinkering with things that are inappropriate for a child of God.  No books, shows or movies on witchcraft, vampires, mysticism or the like.  No books, movies, shows or trinkets that celebrate false gods.  No yoga.  (I never did it anyway - never had that much self-discipline to exercise).  No decorations that honor false religions.  And as much as I can, I try to be cautious and discerning about “entertainment” that celebrates and encourages things that God opposes: immorality, murder, adultery, God-mocking, rough language, etc.  It doesn’t mean that I completely avoid anything that is “un-Christian,” but I do have a low tolerance level for too much of this stuff in any movie or show.     
            Which means that we watch very few television shows.  Even the commercials are so disturbing!  And my radio is nearly always set to K-Love!  (Once again, thank you, K-Love!  I kept the radio on your station all day long for five months to get me through this time.  I would even leave it on quietly at night just so we could fill our house with the sound of God-glorifying music, which disgusts demons.  And now, I listen nearly every day.  There are so many blatantly immoral songs out there on the regular stations.  It’s disgusting.  But you fill my mind with God-glorifying songs, and you strengthen my spirit during all my days now.  And I’d much rather support a station like yours than any other.  You are an encouragement and a blessing!  Thank you!)
            Okay, now, I do have to admit that it gets a little difficult when it comes to kids’ shows and cartoons.  There are an amazing amount with mystical or New Age elements in it.  So short of banning all TV, I try to be selective and to use them as teaching opportunities.  Yep, my kids are going to remember me as that kind of mom - the kind that goes, “You know, what they’re doing right there is witchcraft or New Age mysticism.  And God says that’s something we are not supposed to do, because it is actually like calling on Satan and his forces for their help.”  I’m trying to give my children a solid, Biblical foundation from which they can evaluate the world and the things that they will encounter, instead of just shutting them away from it all. 
            And yet, there is a lot that I simply do keep from them, because the negative far outweighs any positive.  And it takes a backbone to do this - because so many people out there will look at you like you’re a far-out-there loony for standing against things you don’t want your kids around.  Even other believers will.  Because, as they see it, their kids are doing it or watching it or using it, and they are turning out just fine. 
            But you know what?  I’m not responsible for their kids and they’re not responsible for mine.  I need to do what I believe is best for the children God has given me.  And if that means going against “what everyone else is doing,” then so be it. 
            And, no offense to those who do, but we do not partake in Halloween anymore.  My boys go out to the movies with their dad on that night, if there is a good movie to see.  And they love it!  And if there isn’t a good movie, we buy one that we have always wanted, and we pop popcorn and pile in the bed and have a “family movie night.”  I just can’t bring myself to celebrate a “holiday” that celebrates evil, not when I am asking God for His protection from evil.  I do, however, pass out candy.  But I try to make it an opportunity to have a positive impact by either saying a silent prayer for each person that comes to the door or attaching a small “God Bless You” note to each piece of candy.  I’m doing my small part to be a light on that dark night!         
            I feel so strongly about cleaning up how we live that I am teaching my children to not even say things like “holy cow.”  Isn’t a cow holy in the Hindu religion?  The way that I see it, only God and Heavenly things are really holy.  So I don’t care if they say “unholy cow,” but not “holy cow.”  I cannot imagine that God likes sharing His holiness with cows, smokes, moley (whatever that is?), guacamole, mackerel, and crap (or its older, more vulgar cousin whose name sounds like “ship”)!
            And speaking of “ship” . . . Isn’t it funny how ruffled we can get when people use the “s” word, but how careless we have become about using the name of our holy God in vain?  I cringe inside whenever I hear someone say “Oh my God” or “For Christ’s sake” or something worse.  I personally would rather hear the “s” word being used than hear the name of my God being carelessly and thoughtlessly tossed around, as though it was a curse word or meaningless.     
            And speaking of Hinduism . . . Did you know that yoga is actually a form of Hindu worship?  Those poses are meant to join you with the gods and the “universe,” where “all are one”.  (Look it up on the internet and see what you think.)  Now, I know that there are Christians who would call yoga “morally-neutral, harmless, and even beneficial”.  But I would have to respectfully disagree.  (I said respectfully.  So, please don’t send angry letters defending it.  You can practice yoga if you want to.  I will tolerate it because I have to; but I will still disagree with it and take a stand against it.) 
            I don’t think that yoga can be considered God-glorifying in any sense, considering the whole “spiritual” purpose behind the practice of yoga.  And I don’t think you can just go, “Oh, I don’t think about the ‘spiritual’ side of it.  It’s just good exercise,” and change the very nature of what it is.  It is a form of Hindu prayer.  That’s just what it is.  And if this is the case, wouldn’t it be erring on the side of spiritual caution to avoid it entirely, when its very essence is Hindu spiritualism?  Aren’t there other good, non-controversial forms of exercise out there?     
            Now, for those who think I’m being an old fuddy-duddy to suggest that Christians make a break from a questionable practice like yoga, read the Old Testament and see how thoroughly God instructed the Israelites to make a break from the religious practices of the people around them.  Deuteronomy 12, for example.  Where is our zeal for living God-glorifying lives nowadays?  For taking a stand for Him?  You just don’t see it that often anymore.
            I think it’s actually quite alarming to see how commonplace yoga is.  There’s studios all over the place.  There’s videos on shelves at every store.  It’s portrayed in many, many commercials, movies, magazines, etc.  And it’s always associated with peace and health and inner light and goodness.  What a subtle, sneaky, insidious infiltration.  And it’s not just yoga, of course, but any idolatry.   
            Look at the extent to which the Israelites were to go to rid their land of idol worship.  Deuteronomy 7:5-6:  “This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire.  For you are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”  And here we are, imitating Hindu worship in the name of health and physical fitness.        
            You know, I used to wonder How in the world can the people of the Bible go from being wholly devoted to God to following false gods and their own desires . . . in one generation?  But when I look at the world around us today, I think I can understand.  It’s not that the older generation didn’t teach the new generation God’s truth.  And it’s not that the new generation flat-out rejected God and His truth. 
            It’s probably that the new generation slowly nibbled their way lost by tinkering with things that do not glorify God, by allowing bits and pieces of the world to enter their lives without really batting an eye.  Like a slow dripping poison that you can’t feel at first.  A little bit here, a little bit there.  Question God in this thing.  Get indignant about that restriction.  “Morality is not really black and white, is it?  This isn’t really that bad?  Could it really be wrong?  When no one’s getting hurt?  Did God really say in His Word, ‘You must not . . .?’”
            Meanwhile, there’s the older generation.  They don’t like what they are seeing, but, “Those crazy kids.  I guess that’s just how they do things nowadays.”  Or maybe they are grieved by what they are seeing, but, “It’s really not my place to say anything.  I don’t want to make anyone feel bad.  I don’t want to look holier-than-thou or like an old fuddy-duddy.  And I don’t want to offend anyone.  So I can’t really take a stand against anything . . . because it might upset someone.”  And they basically condone and encourage society’s slow drift from God by their passivity, by refusing to speak the truth in love or to stand by their convictions that there is “right” and there is “wrong.”  And Satan laughs and slips farther in! 
            Yes, I am guilty of not taking a stand for so long, for fear of making others feel bad or of standing out as different.  And I am guilty of allowing things into my life and home and mind that are not God-glorifying.  But God is working on me.  And I am getting more and more sensitive to what doesn’t bring God glory (there is so little out there - especially when it comes to entertainment - that is neutral middle-ground).  And I have become convicted about and more uncomfortable with the ways that I encourage those things: buying the movies, watching the program, listening to the music, saying the wrong things, ruminating on the thoughts, winking at sin, shying away when I should be speaking up, etc.
            But God is working on me.  And my desire has become to call people up to a higher level of righteousness.  And to strive for it myself.  I would love to challenge a generation of believers to NOT compromise God’s truth.  To seek Him and follow Him whole-heartedly.  And to see what He can accomplish through a generation of people who are wholly devoted to Him. 
            This doesn’t mean that we have to blast other people or bash them over the head with the Bible.  In fact, I believe that we have different responsibilities when it comes to how we treat unbelievers and fellow believers.  We cannot demand that unbelievers be like us, and we cannot hold them to and judge them by the same standards that we hold believers to.  Because they do not follow our God and the Bible as the authority in their lives.  They are just doing what comes naturally for someone who is not on God’s side.  And we should not be condemning them for the way they live.  It is the Spirit’s job to convict; it’s our job to love them into the kingdom of Christ. 
            We need to stand strongly by our convictions of what is right and what is wrong.  We should not slink away or hide our convictions.  We should not look like we buy into the “morality is relative” notion.  We should not compromise on God’s truth.  But we should be bold in our convictions without shaming and judging our unbelieving neighbors, family, and friends for doing things that Christians shouldn’t be doing.  Because they are not Christians . . . yet. 
            Our job is to witness to unbelievers by our love for them, by our different lifestyles, and by sharing the truth in a loving, respectful way when the opportunity comes.  But when we look so much like them, engaging in questionable practices that are “okay” for them and talking like them, they have no reason to be uncomfortable with their choices, no reason to be concerned with the state of their eternal souls, and no reason to desire anything that we are offering.   
            But when it comes to believers, well, that’s a slightly different story.  Believers have chosen to be on the same side - on God’s side.  We have chosen to live according to God’s Word as the authority in our lives.  And God sees us as a team.  So when a believer does something that is out of line with God’s Word, it is the responsibility of another believer to point it out, in gentleness and love.  We are called to hold each other up, to be accountable to each other, and to help keep each other on the straight and narrow.
            But how many of us do that nowadays?  Sadly, in our society, it has become the norm to live and let others live.  We don’t say the hard things.  We don’t let others know of our struggles or seek godly counsel.  We don’t question what other believers do.  We don’t remind them of what the Bible says about things.  Isn’t that the church’s job?  But here’s a little of what the Bible says about our responsibility as believers:   
            1 Corinthians 16:13-14:  “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.  Do everything in love.”
            James 5:16:  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
            Galatians 6:1:  “Brothers, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”
            Ephesians 4: 25:  “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
            Ephesians 5:8-11:  “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
            This does not mean that we should cause division over the extra-Biblical, “gray areas” that God does not expressly address in His Word - those areas that might be sin for some believers but not for others.  And it does not mean that we use the Word as a sword to hack others to pieces.  But we should be holding the Word up as a lamp to shine the light of truth, so others can find the path that brings them closer to God.  We should be striving to help others along on the path to righteousness, calling them to higher levels of holiness. 
            And we need friends who will not coddle us or wink at our sins.  Friends who hold us up, who walk with us through the trials, but who keep us striving for righteousness.  Seek out people like this in your life.  And try to be this kind of person to other believers.  We have a responsibility to reflect the light of God’s love and God’s truth to those around us, living it as well as speaking it. 
            And this is why, as a believer, I feel a responsibility to point out the questionability of yoga and to encourage other believers to reconsider the “harmlessness” of it (and other things like it).  But don’t just listen to me.  Research it for yourselves and see if you can practice it with a clean conscience anymore.  Or if you can watch certain movies anymore or listen to certain music.  Are the angels celebrating as you do the things you do?      
            Well, moving on now!  There’s another effect that these five months have had on me.  I am always aware now of something I never gave much thought to before . . . other people.  I had been so focused on myself for so long that I failed to really see people!  But the people that we come into contact with all day long - and the ones that we don’t - are people with eternal souls.  People who are headed to one of two destinations when we die or when Christ comes back again.  And we need to be concerned about where they are going.  We need to be fighting for their souls in prayer, by living righteously to reflect Christ, and by telling them about the hope that we have in Christ whenever they ask or provide us an opportunity.  (While still respecting their right to agree or disagree or to not want to hear about it.)
            (And here’s a thought . . . When your children are born, begin praying that they come to know God at an early age.  And pray this for their future spouses, too.  We should be praying that their hearts are receptive at a young age and that we do our best to reflect God and to teach them about Christ.  They are at such an impressionable, willing-to-believe age for such a short time, and we need to be serious about praying that they have “eyes to see and ears to hear” the Lord’s call at this young age.)      
            Once I realized that prayer matters, it was eye-opening to see how many opportunities for prayer I missed daily and how many people there are that I didn’t really think of as “people” -  people in need of prayer.  Instead of just thinking about the president, I could say a prayer for him and his family.  Instead of smirking at the celebrities who got themselves into trouble, I could pray that God would touch their lives and help them to find Him.  Instead of just feeling sad about a tragedy I heard on the news, or a trial someone is going through, or just watching an ambulance go by, I could pray for the people who need help. 
            Prayer matters.  We all need prayer!  The people we love and see often need prayer, and the people “out there” - outside of our little worlds - need prayer, too.  I am learning that I could be praying a lot more than I do.  If I have time to criticize someone or feel sad for them, I have time to pray.  If I’m waiting in line somewhere, I have an opportunity to pray.  If someone springs to my mind - a relative, a neighbor, a leader, a troubled person, or a celebrity - I could take a moment to pray for them. 
            Who knows which prayer will make a difference?  Our prayers matter to God, and they have an effect on the spirit world, on eternity, and on this world.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have to drop to my knees every time, but I try to remember to say a quick prayer as soon as something, someone, or some concern comes to my attention.     
            And yet, sadly and honestly, it’s amazing sometimes how long it takes for me to remember to pray sometimes.  I’m not kidding, I will be washing the dishes for thirty minutes and daydreaming about some silly self-glorifying scenario.  Usually, it’s one where I am so brilliant and godly that I inspire those around me - while being soooo humble, like, “Oh, no!  Really, it wasn’t me; it was all God!” 
            Or it’s one where some celebrity lives next store, and we become good friends because they are impressed with what a reliable, trustworthy person I am.  Because I can’t stand it when “friends” sell out friends or share their secrets for a story, like Hollywood loves to do.  (Is this too much honesty?  Am I embarrassing myself sharing these silly daydreams?  Oh, well!  I think I’m beyond that point by now.)
            Anyway, I will daydream for a half-hour before it dawns on me that I could have been praying all that time.  All that time wasted.  Or I will anxiously ruminate about some concern, picking it apart from every angle for weeks, before I realize that I could’ve brought it right to God.  I could’ve handed it over to Him immediately, yet I chose to hold onto it myself for weeks, trying to see what I could do with it first.  All the anxiety and stress that I caused myself!  But I’m learning and I’m trying.  It really is a discipline that needs to be practiced.  (And I don’t practice enough.) 
            Well, while it was a very scary and uncomfortable time in my life, I thank God so much for these five months of attacks.  I know that I wouldn’t be at the place I am today without them.  Through this, Jesus became my main source of comfort and strength and power, and prayer became a life-line.  And I learned that I needed to get into the battle, instead of running from it or hunkering down in my own little, comfortable world.  And those are lessons I never would have learned on my own.  So thank You, God!  (And yet, I am very thankful that the night-time disruptions have stopped . . . for now, at least.) 

(Author’s Note:  In the few years that followed this five month period, there have been several times that this has happened again.  Generally, about once every several months or so.  The funny thing is that it seems to happen on the nights after I have spent a lot of time in heart-felt, humble prayer or when I have desperately sought God or when I have shared my five-month experience with other people.  I can tell that I have made “them” mad on these days because it’s those nights that they come out of hiding to harass me once again.  But it doesn’t surprise me at all anymore to have these kinds of experiences.  In fact, I’m coming to realize that if these times follow days that have been particularly glorifying to God then I shouldn’t necessarily be bothered when it happens.  I should consider it a joy that I was able to upset “them.”  We should all be living in such a way that we end up with a great, big bulls-eye on our backs.  And we should daily throw ourselves on God’s grace and mercy and protection, calling on the name of Jesus and drawing ever nearer to the Father.)    

 

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