Friday, September 23, 2005

Deliverance from evil spirits

TJ was one of the first guys to approach me yesterday. He was a young man with a pleasant smile.

"Before I was saved, I was involved with Santeria. (Santeria is an occult religion.) I would call upon spirits to go and do things for me. Different spirits would help me get money or women.

"After I became a Christian, there was one demon that kept coming around. I saw it here." (He pointed to a location in the jail.) "It was smaller than it was before I was saved, but I still recognized it. I told it to go away, but it came back with seven others."

"You mean, you counted how many there were?" I asked.

"Yes, I did," he replied. "Sometimes they grab me and choke me at night. They release their hold when I say the name 'Jesus.' I'm going upstate soon and I don't want to take these demons with me. There are enough of them in prison!"

At this point, I recalled Jesus' words: "'When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, "I will return to the house I left." When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation'" (Matthew 12:43-45).

I asked TJ to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord of his life. He did so, readily. "TJ, I want you to repent of involvement with these particular spirits and repent of the sins that gave them access into your life." He did that.

"How do you feel now?" I asked him.

He said he didn't feel any different, so I put my hand on his shoulder and asked the Lord to reveal to him if there were any hindrances to his being set free. After I prayed I asked him, "Did anything come to your mind as I was praying?" "No, but as you were praying, I felt something go down my arm and out of my fingers. It left me!"

I encouraged him to give praise and thanks to the Lord for what He did. We both prayed together. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill him and take back the ground that the enemy had in his life.

Personally, I love seeing people set free from demonic oppression. Pray that TJ will remain free, develop a habit of meditating on the Word of God and continue to seek the Lord Jesus with all his heart.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Toward reaching fellow inmates...and beyond

There are two facilities in Monroe County where inmates are held. One is Monroe County Jail (MCJ) located in downtown Rochester. It's a four-minute walk over an expressway from my office at the church. MCJ is a pre-trial detention facility that houses over 1000 men, women and minor youth. This is where I typically go to minister to inmates. The other facility, Monroe Correctional Facility (MCF) located in the suburb of Brighton, houses about 500 sentenced inmates. This is where my friend Dave goes. (The Jail Bureau also operates a regional forensic unit at the Rochester Psychiatric Center. Neither of us currently goes there.)

Dave was at MCF yesterday talking and praying with "Marco" and "William." (I had previously met Marco in MCJ.) The three of them were discussing how they all could be more effective witnesses for Christ among the other inmates. Other inmates began to "eavesdrop" on their conversations about the Lord--which is exactly what they hoped would happen.

Out of their prayer and discussion, some specific ideas came up for how Marco and William could spread the gospel to their fellow inmates. Marco has been entrusted with some responsibilities at the jail. That in itself is a great privilege. The plan is for Dave and I to, at some point, meet with Marco, William and other inmates at MCF to talk about their outreach ideas.

Praise God for these inmates that want to be used by the Lord while they're in jail! Pray that the Lord would guide and direct us as we discuss outreach plans. Pray for open hearts among the inmates.

When I was at MCJ the other day, I seemed to sense the Lord saying, "Empty this place." What I got out of that "impression" was that God wanted all these men and women saved and their lives so transformed that the jail would be empty. Wouldn't it be great if there was no longer a need for a jail? Wouldn't it be awesome if the Holy Spirit fell upon the jail and revival broke out? My Bible reads that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

"Let it come, Lord! Send a great revival among the inmates in Rochester. Let them all turn to You. And send them out onto the streets of Rochester--not as repeat offenders, but as transformed people, empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the gospel to the city!"

Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Divine Wrong Turn

I was on my way to visit a "youth" section of the jail--that is, 16 to 19-year-olds. I somehow made a wrong turn and ended up in an adult section. Before I could turn around and leave, a number of guys asked for Bibles, devotionals, magazines and other materials.

When that sort of died down, I again turned to leave when I saw a young man walk toward me. I thought he looked familiar, so I decided to stay and talk to him. I hadn't met him before, but I soon discovered that this was another divine appointment.

"Bill" was a brand new believer. He had just gotten saved a week ago, and was starting to read the Bible for the first time in his life. Like the majority of men in the jail, he was in for a drug-related crime. "My dad died just two years ago. He was heavy into all kinds of drugs. I don't want to end up like him," he told me. "I need prayer to stay off drugs."

We talked for a while and I asked him about his experiences since being in jail. "I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. All they talked about was doing drugs when they got out of jail. Once, I was sitting in a circle of guys. As they were talking about using drugs and other bad stuff, their faces began to contort right in front of my eyes! It scared the **** out of me. I couldn't sleep that night. In my cell, I tried to read the Bible, but the words were blurry; I couldn't focus. But I could read other books without any problems. One other time, I was sitting in my cell with a pen in my hand. All of a sudden, my hand began to write, 'You're only fooling yourself.' It wasn't even my handwriting! Do you think I'm crazy? Am I losing it?"

"Can I pray for you?" I asked. "Yeah, go ahead." As I did, he said he felt as if there was something in him that didn't want to let go. "The enemy has a foothold in your life," I told him. "The only way that the devil can have an influence on us is if we allow him to through our sin. All we have to do to close the door on the devil is confess our sin to God. He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Is there sin you need to confess?" He shared a list of things that came to his mind. "Are you sorry for those things?"

"Yes, I am."

"Great, just confess each one to God and ask for His forgiveness."

Bill did so--sincerely, from his heart. I assured him that he was forgiven (1 John 1:9) and prayed for him again. Afterward, he said, "I felt like crying when you were praying and I don't know why. All I know is I felt peace." "I believe you were sensing God's presence upon you, Bill," I told him. "That happens to me sometimes when I'm at church. Have you ever been to church?" "No, I haven't," he said. "You're going to love it!" I invited him to the church I'm a part of.

Pray that Bill gets grounded in the Word, and that he finds a good church to get connected to when he gets out of jail soon. Pray that he stays off drugs and finds true freedom, hope, joy and life in Jesus.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Let's get this party started!

Dante has a Catholic background but had fallen hard away from the Lord. Since he walked away from his faith, he has been alienated from his Catholic family.

Last night, the Lord made a breakthrough in Dante's life and he wanted to now have Jesus be in control of his life. He told my friend Dave: "I have walked away (from the Lord) and it has not worked. It is time now for me at this already age of 35 to get right with the Lord and let him control my life." Praise the Lord! Dante rededicated his life to the Lord.

Were you wondering what all the hoopla in heaven was about last night? It was about Dante! What do I mean? Jesus was talking to a mixed group of religious hypocrites and seeking sinners one day. He told them, "There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10) and furthermore, "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Luke 15:7, emphasis mine).

There's a party, a celebration, music, dancing, rejoicing in heaven because one person turns from his sin and turns to Christ! Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I think it's all about the numbers--the masses--getting saved. Don't get me wrong: I want the masses saved. I pray for the salvation of every person who visits Rochester Vineyard Christian Church, of every person who lives in the Corn Hill neighborhood (where the church meets), and of every person in the city of Rochester. Jesus came so that the whole world might be saved.

But God is also interested in the individual. Yes, even you who are reading this right now because a friend told you to check it out! God throws a party for the sake of one person. Have you fallen away from God? Have you lost your way? Did you turn left when you should have turned right? Is your faith shipwrecked? Run out of gas? Lost the desire? God is right where you are, calling your name, beckoning you to repent of your sin and turn to Him. He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.

A couple of days ago, I lost my wallet. I was sitting at my computer and suddenly realized my wallet was not in my back pocket. Let me tell you, I absolutely flipped out! I tried retracing my steps in my mind, thinking of all the places I had been that morning. I searched every corner of my car three times. I went through my jacket pockets several times. I turned my desk upside down. I called Starbucks and asked if anybody had turned in a wallet. I went down there, myself, to see if it was lying somewhere. I made a thorough search of my wife's car since I had driven that earlier.

I wasn't having a stellar day in the first place, and this event sent me reeling. I screamed out to God, "You have to tell me where my wallet is! I cannot deal with this, Lord! I don't have the energy to replace all the things that were in there and make all the phone calls to cancel this and that credit card!" I wasn't going to let God go on this one.

When I got home, I didn't want to talk to anyone about any subject except my wallet. I can't remember when I've been so focused about anything. I was mildly--OK, maybe not so mild--rude to my family. "Isaiah (my 2 1/2-year-old), have you seen Daddy's wallet!" "Your wawwet?" "Yes, my wawwet; have you seen it?" "It's over there," he said pointing to his room. Well, I didn't really believe him, but I figured, what can it hurt to look? Meanwhile, Hayley my 5-year-old has somewhat joined the search.

After a few minutes of searching the floor of my son's room, I found it under his pajamas! I let out a loud "Thank You, Jesus!" Hayley says, "Daddy, we have to give God the glory!" So we started dancing around and singing.

Following this incident, I was reminded of all of Jesus' parables about something (or someone) lost being found. I think God was giving me a picture of how He feels about lost people. He is focused. He is on a mission. He is determined to bring His lost ones back to Himself. And He celebrates when they return.

Are you lost? Come (back) to Jesus! Are you found? Get out there and join God's mission to seek and save that which was lost! Let's instigate heavenly parties!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

10-year-old Jailbird for Jesus

I found this blog post about the boy who was arrested for attempting to give Terri Shiavo some water. On the post there's a link to the letter of apology he had to write. I was really impressed and inspired by the simple faith and clarity of this child, demonstrated by what he wrote.