|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:
Today, the story of Simon caught my attention. Simon was a "Christianized" sorcerer. Having just written a book about Christianized witchcraft, there were several elements in the story which reminded me that there's nothing new under the sun. And I thought it appropriate to point a few key points, many of which are excerpted from my newest book Escaping from the Dragon's Jaws:
Writing this story is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is a story I never intended to fully tell. My plan to keep it to myself was defensive. I was protecting myself from having to “rehash” powerful or painful memories. I was also guarding the reputations of those involved. And honestly, my silence was even accommodating the sensitivities of my fellow Christians, most of whom refuse to believe that committed followers of Messiah can be demonized, attacked, or deceived, to the degree which I was.
This belief is often voiced in a question, “Can the devil really get someone who prays, loves the Heavenly Father, and desires to serve Him wholeheartedly?” The very idea breeds deep fear in even the most stalwart of souls. For it leads us to worry that if the devil can get the truly committed Christians, no one is safe!
Now let me say up front that, of course, our Heavenly King is stronger than the devil! And there is no question that He can set the captives free (Isaiah 49:24-25). The truth of this promise is amply demonstrated in this book. But because many Christians have serious misconceptions about witchcraft, it is very possible, even commonplace for them to become the deceived “prey of the terrible.”
In order to keep Christians vulnerable to “Christianized” witchcraft, the enemy has fed God’s people a deep lie: “the devil can’t ‘get’ fully committed Christians. Only people who are hypocrites can be spiritually taken down by his deceptions.” But, this belief goes against Scripture, thus exposing it as a demonic deception. Consider the Saviour’s warning about how overmastering would be the devil’s deception—Matthew 24:24. Deception of this magnitude did overtake me, and it wasn’t due to a lack of commitment to God. I became deceived because I was expecting witchcraft to look like chicken bones, tarot cards and Ouija boards—but it came to me in deceptive ways which appeared “righteous” at the time.
Where would you most expect to encounter the devil? If someone were to ask you to pinpoint the most likely location for a spiritual warfare confrontation with the forces of Hell, where would it be? Of all the dark and seedy dives most likely coming to your mind just now, does a Christian church or fellowship group even make the list? Yet the enemy of souls does come after the spiritual “flock” of believers from within.
Simon was inside the Early Christian church, having been baptized. Yet, he was moving under the unction of the spirits of darkness. This is why the apostle Peter warned us to be sober and vigilant, because our adversary the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us:
1 Peter 5:8 "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
Whether we like it or not - are aware of it or not - we are at war. The devil is at war with every child of God.
Revelation 12:17 "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the Commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ."
One of the first keys to effective spiritual warfare is discernment. Our Saviour warned us that the wolves of darkness would creep into the Fold masquerading as converted sheep. But the nature and intent of the wolf is not less threatening because it appears sheep-like. Rather it is made all the more dangerous by its effective deception.
What about you? Are you prepared to recognize and rightly identify wolves in sheep's clothing? Can you discern witchcraft after its been repackaged and covered over with "Christianized" wrapping paper? Discerning witchcraft is possible and rightly identifying wolves is important. God tells us to do this with two key aids to help us:
1) We are to seek His Heavenly eyesalve in order to have spiritual discernment - Revelation 3:18
2) We are to discern the spirits at work by the fruits they manifest - Matthew 7:15-20
So what are fruits of witchcraft, which identify it and make it discernible, no matter what packaging surrounds it? At its essence, witchcraft is based on trust in the “gods” and in their direct guidance. The basis for this trust is not some over-arching book of truth, nor anyone else’s say-so, rather it is based upon one’s own past experiences, gained through supernatural sensory confirmation, as witch Patti Wigginton explains in the quote below:
A key part of many NeoWiccan paths today is the concept of… perfect trust… It not only means trust in those around us, but also in our gods and in ourselves. Trust is not blind, but it does involve faith. For example, we may know that the gods walk with us and guide us; we trust them to do so because of past experience, not because someone has told us to believe this. Trust is being willing to close your eyes and fall, knowing that the person waiting to catch you will do so. (www.About.com)
Demons know better than to come to Christians as “gods”. Christians are savvy enough to recognize that they should not honor any “god,” but the Almighty. So, Christianized witch-craft repackages the pagan spirit guides as Heavenly angels. These “Heaven-sent” “angels” appear, or speak to, Christians, especially those in leadership, giving counsel and guidance, seemingly from God Himself.
Gradually however, the Christian is weaned away from his Scriptural foundation, growing more and more accustomed to “God” communicating more dramatically through supernatural visions or angelic encounters. In spite of the obvious supernatural element in these angelic manifestations, the Christian is lulled into a false sense of security, trusting the messages to be divinely inspired.
The basis for this trust is twofold. First, being deemed “important” enough in the spirit realm to warrant angels’ visits is very flattering to our human pride. It’s exciting and a major ego boost to be able to tell our church flock of our latest vision or angelic visit. Perhaps this is why the Bible warns us against pride and self-exaltation.
The second reason Christians can be led to blindly trust in the guidance of supernatural beings is because, while they begin with Scriptural backing, they gradually leave this foundation. At first, every concept given by the demonic guides appears totally Scriptural.
How powerful is the deception? It is so overmastering, that Scripture warns, "if possible" it would threaten to deceive even the most "elect" of God's followers!
Matthew 24:24 "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
So we mustn't think that we're safe from the threat of deception by our sincerity in wholeheartedly belonging to God! Rather, we need to soberly and seriously understand how vitally important it is to have spiritual discernment to perceive the fruits of the wolves even beneath the most "holy" of sheepskin coverings.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
To demonstrate how deceptive Christianized witchcraft really is, consider the sad case of Sharon Lee Halstead, which took place right here in Oregon, in the late 1990's:
Sharon was a 4th generation Seventh-day Adventist Christian. She loved the Word of God and was a committed Christian. But Sharon was taken out by Christianized Witchcraft. She gradually left worshiping God and traded Him in for New Age demon spirit-guides, which she thought were holy angels at the time. She was so deeply deceived that Sharon believed she was doing God's Will when she ultimately committed murder!
In the end, Sharon was sentenced to up to life in prison for killing a ranchman during a shooting spree in which victims were selected by a 9-year-old boy who said they were possessed by demons.
Sharon Lee Halstead, 36, received a mandatory life term with a minimum of 30 years after pleading guilty to aggravated murder in the Nov. 2, 1988, shooting death of Marston Lemke, a 59-year-old wrangler on a Newberg ranch. She is awaiting sentencing in a second killing.
According to court documents, Halstead was acting on the instructions of her 9-year-old son, Leo Shively, when she killed Lemke and Lynnann Green.
Green was killed and her husband and 2-year-old son were wounded in a shooting in Grants Pass three days after the Lemke killing. The boy was shot as he sat in his high chair and is paralyzed from the chest down.
How could a committed Christian person do such a thing? The devil had taken her down a bread-crumb strewn pathway of deception, which took her into darkness - all while believing she was still a child of the Light. Court documents showed Halstead believed Leo spoke for God. The killer believed her victims were ''totaled,'' a term used to describe someone whose body was occupied by evil spirits or demons.
Halstead feared she, her sons and her sister would be ''totaled'' if she failed to carry out the killings. At her sentencing hearing, Halstead told Circuit Judge Donald Blensly she had nothing to say.
In his book, beware of angels, author Roger Morneau quoted Halstead and gave the details in her sad story. The following is a quote from Sharon, recorded by Morneau:
“For a period of five years, I was affiliated with a small group of people… They believed that they had evolved into a higher degree of standing with God and hadreceived the ability to see and hear angels. During that time we had heard that the time would come when God would require that we do many difficult things for Him. I told God that I would do anything for Him, anything He wanted. But I never thought that the day would come when He would send an angel to tell me to destroy six individuals who had become possessed with demons.”
Roger went on to explain:
As we talked in a relaxed way about those years that had molded her and prepared her to kill for God, it deeply impressed me how Satan’s angels had cleverly impersonated God’s angels, convincing Lynn Greene and the others that they brought special messages from God Himself to that little group. And the day came when by that very same means the demons were able to decree murder. Murder of someone who had been their own spokesperson.
Many individuals had come to consider Lynn Greene as some kind of prophet, because for a number of years she had claimed to see and hear angels. She supposedly had had numerous conversations with Jesus, Who declared the little group to be His very special people on earth, and told them that He would use them to accomplish wonders on behalf of His commandment-keeping people during the closing period of earth’s history.During one prayer meeting, Lynn received, from what she believed was God’s angel, a message that was supposedly designed to encourage some of her followers. “You are saddened because you wish not to remain here for so long a time,” she said the being had told her. “I will brighten your time here with these thoughts of the future. You, Joseph, with your bare hands will hold back the greatest wave from the sea for many to pass under. And Rachel will not burn as the flames rise above… and when the fire goes out all will be amazed in that not a hair from her head will be scorched… And you, Sharon (Halstead), the shout of your voice will cause the greatest mountain to crumble on your enemies to protect Yahweh’s people. I see you in the future doing miraculous deeds by yourself. But yes, He that waits for you will draw near when you have been made new. Your angel that stands by you will faithfully give you the strength, knowledge, and wisdom for these things.”
Then the angel closed his visit by appealing to the group’s pride: “You here in this room know more of the future than any man, woman, or child in this world.”
As I listened to Sharon Halstead recount her bizarre tale, I realized that the whole experience of bright and beautiful angels telling them they were God’s elite on the face of the earth had been intended to have an intoxicating effect upon their minds. It blinded them to the errors Satan gradually used to lead them to disregard or totally reject such fundamental truths of the Bible as the state of human beings in death… or that we can leave the body while we live on this planet and then travel to other worlds.
These men and women were Seventh-day Adventists, but a fascination with angels had caused them to abandon much of their faith. Angels tricked them into accepting such fantastic accounts as this one Sharon told me:
“Dave Green Jr., went to his own planet that God gave him… it had miniature people and his favorite bonsai trees. The people on the planet were smaller than the bonsai trees. Dave told us that he talked and visited with these little people, and they were taking care of his bonsai trees for him… We were told that after Jesus took us to Heaven and we had the chance to visit our own planets and other worlds … we were informed that each of us could have whatever plants, trees, or animals we wanted on our planet.”On my birthday, November 4, 1984,” Sharon said, “we went to the home of some friends to pray and ask the angels questions. After lunch we all went into the living room, and most of us sat on the floor around Lynn. Then we talked to the angels one at a time as they showed up. The week before, an angel had told Lynn that we were to meet here , and that I would receive my birthday gifts from heaven, something that some in the group had prayed that I would get. A girl named Cheryl had received a large cat that when you looked at it one way it appeared to have stripes, but when it moved and you saw it from another angle, it looked like it had shimmering spots…
One person received a gift that turned out to be too much for him. In 1984, Sharon said, a member of the group named Charles was given the gift of reading minds. One time he sensed what someone was thinking about him, and he didn’t like it. Upset, he asked God to remove the ability.”
During the winter of 1984, the Greenes went skiing at Bend, Oregon. “They told me,” Sharon said, “that while skiing down the slopes, a young boy angel went skiing with them. He was the youngest angel Lynn said she had ever seen or talked to.”
Who could resist wanting to know such unusual things? Surely to have God reveal them to you meant that you were someone special. Sharon Halstead told me how in 1984 “the angel of truth” had supposedly come to Lynn during a prayer and question session. Lynn started smiling and said to the being, “Truth, what do you have on your head?” He said he had just returned from a youth rally in Mexico in which he had taken human form and had been a guest speaker. The people had given him a Mexican sombrero. He had it on so that Lynn could see his gift from the people of Mexico.During my research for this book I read the 175 page black notebook David and Lynn Green had kept about their experiences. The police had removed it from their home after Lynn’s murder. It stated that during a period of about four years, the Greenes entertained in their home what they believed to be many angels. Angels that flattered and impressed – and deceived. Satan led them step-by-step to accept the most bizarre things – thing contrary to everything they had been taught from the Bible. Here are David’s own words:
“We have met and talked to many (angels) and have made many friends whom we love very much – to date, 160.”
David Greene Jr received the gift of space travel, better known to most people as out-of-body-experiences, and he referred to it as ‘spiritual travel.’ One evening we were all sitting on the floor. David stretched out and went to sleep. After a while Lynn asked him, ‘Where have you been, Dave?’ His reply was ‘Oh, I went through the roof and was taken to another planet, where I saw many beautiful things.”
The Halstead family observed that at times when David was having one of his spiritual exercises, he would sit in the middle of the living room floor and talk in tongues.
For about five years those visiting angels charmed the people in Oregon with promises of wonderful things to come, winning their confidence and love. Then they began to lead them into activities forbidden by the Word of God.
This is how an unwary Christian can be lured away from God’s Word and Will, into the dangerous realm of a sensual religion. As time progresses, this supernatural guidance increasingly deviates from the sure foundation of Scripture. Yet, the Christian follows along, often unaware that his changing doctrines are growing more decidedly contrary to the Word of God with each “breadcrumb” step. His basis for belief in the continued visions and supernatural guidance is the “blessings” of his past experiences from following the angelic counsel. This is a sensual religion, at its best. And sensuality and faith are polar opposites.
In fact, faith has absolutely nothing to do with our senses at all. The Bible is clear that our senses are not the basis upon which to determine truth.
For we walk by faith, not by sight, 2 Corinthians 5:7.
Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. [Prompted] by faith Noah, being forewarned by God concerning events of which as yet there was no visible sign, took heed and diligently and reverently constructed and prepared an ark for the deliverance of his own family... [Urged on] by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went, although he did not know… where he was to go, Hebrews 11:1 & 7-8 (AMP).
Like I was, many Christians today are led down a “rose-lined” path to Hell because they want instant gratification and desire to experience God in a more “real” way, through their senses. They aren’t content to know God through real faith. They want something more physically tangible.
Deception creeps in when we use our own private interpretation to understand the meaning of a verse. Through the Holy Spirit, Scripture is to be used to interpret Scripture. This is why a minimum of two witnesses is always required to have true Biblical backing for any doctrine or belief.
Revivalist, Henry Blackaby, states this concept very clearly in his workbook, Experiencing God:
- …Throughout your life, you will have times when you want to respond to situations based on your own experiences or your own wisdom. Such an approach will get you in trouble. This should be your guideline: always go to the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of your situation to you. Look to see what God says and how He works in the Scriptures. Make your decisions and evaluate your experiences based on biblical truths.
…When you study the Scriptures, do not base your decision on one isolated verse or story. Look to see how God generally works throughout the Scriptures. When you learn how God has consistently related to people throughout history, you can expect Him to work in a similar way with you. Your experience is valid only as it is confirmed in the Scriptures. I never deny anyone’s personal experience. I always reserve the right, however, to interpret it according to what I understand from Scripture. At times individuals get upset with me and say, “I don’t care what you say. I’ve experienced this.” I kindly respond, “I do not deny your experience, but I question your interpretation of what happened because it is contrary to what I see in God’s Word. Our experiences cannot be our guide. Every event in your life must be understood and interpreted by the Scriptures, for the God revealed in Scripture does not change,” (p 14).
Allowing our senses and good feelings to determine what is "good" and what is "of God" is the very essence of witchcraft. Truth is found in the Word of God. And whatever is stated in the Word is True, no matter what our senses or feelings tell us at the time. Remember, the devil is a master magician. And in a magic show, the closer you look, the less you see - with you natural eyes.
Let's pray today for Heavenly eye-salve and stand firmly upon the foundation of the sure Word of Scripture. Then and only then are we protected from the dangerous deceptions of Christianized witchcraft, and from the infiltration of Satan's agents, who come to us as wolves in sheep's clothing.
For much more on this vital subject, check out my newest book, Escaping from the Dragon's Jaws, available now on Amazon.com