Amanda, a 28-year-old Los Angeles resident, prays nightly and believes in Jesus. She also chants, goes to Kundalini (yoga), meditates with a group and is into crystals. “The energy they hold is this ancient energy,” she said. “It helps your own energy when you work with them; when you’re near them.”
According to a recent Pew Research poll, she’s not alone. Most Americans “mix traditional faith with beliefs in psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy that they say can be found in physical objects such as mountains, trees and crystals.” A staggering 41 percent of Americans believe in psychics. A stunning 42 percent believe spiritual energy can be located in physical objects.
People genuinely didn’t know the difference between authentic spirituality and the world of the occult. They need a proper understanding of the spiritual world, specifically the great spiritual conflict in the heavens and the nature and work of angels and demons.
Here are the three marks of the occult, as opposed to biblical spirituality:
1. The disclosure or communication of unknown information unavailable to humans through normal means. This involves things like horoscopes, fortune-telling, psychic hotlines and tarot cards. That knowledge comes from somewhere—and if it’s not from God through the sources God has ordained, then it is not real or worse, through the evil one and his forces. There is no neutral and impersonal “Power” just floating around out there. Nothing that has a voice or can be tapped into—some kind of cosmic consciousness for secret knowledge about the future of a human life. Everything falls under heaven or hell, good or evil, God or the evil one.
“You have trusted in your wickedness…your wisdom and knowledge mislead you... Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away… keep on, then, with your magic spells and with your many sorceries… let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month…they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves…each of them goes on in his error.” (Isaiah 47:10-15)
“…diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain." (Zechariah 10:2)
“I am the Lord, the Creator of all things. I alone stretched out the heavens… I make fools of fortunetellers and frustrate the predictions of astrologers.” (Isaiah 44:24-25)
“Let no one be found among you who…practices divination or…interprets omens... Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
2. The placing of persons in contact with supernatural powers, paranormal energies or demonic forces. This involves things like spiritual energy in a crystal or any other entity, attempting to summon up a spirit or a deceased relative through a séance, channeling a spirit, or procuring the services of someone claiming to be a medium.
“Let no one be found among you who…is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
“When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?” (Isaiah 8:19)
So what is happening when you get in touch with a ghost? It’s not a ghost. There is no such thing as a ghost. So what happens at a séance when Uncle John suddenly seems to appear or to talk through a medium? You are either being tricked (and many really are just flat out hoaxes) or you are in contact with a demon impersonating who you hoped to connect with. The first scenario makes you out to be a fool; the second is simply nightmarish.
But in both cases, you are receiving knowledge, contact and advice that is not of God—it’s either of human origin or of demonic origin. Look at the words on this from the prophet Jeremiah:
“So do not listen to…your diviners…your mediums… They prophesy lies to you… ‘I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are prophesying lies in my name.’” (Jeremiah 27:9-10, 15)
3. Any attempt to gain and master paranormal power in order to manipulate or influence other people into certain actions. In other words, all forms of witchcraft and the casting of spells. Being clear on this is important because of the rise of modern day witchcraft, which goes by the name of Wicca.
“Let no one be found among you who…practices…sorcery…engages in witchcraft, or casts spells… Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
So there you have it. A map of the supernatural world. On the one side you have God and His faithful angels. On the other side the world of the paranormal, or the occult, which is the world of Satan and his demons. These are the only two worlds. These are the only two forces. These are the only two sets of beings. There isn’t anything else.
One of them is good, the other is evil. There are a lot of ways, sadly, that Satan and his team seduces us to engage the evil side—to open our lives to it and to invite it in without even knowing it. And when we do, whether we are aware of it or not, we are engaging the forces of darkness. We are connecting with Satan and his demons. We are willfully opening up the door of our life to their presence and activity. And they will enter. And nothing could be more dangerous.
Initially it might seem benign, even innocent, for as the Bible says, Satan positions himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). But then the evil engulfs you. And it’s even more than playing with fire. It’s dousing yourself with gasoline and then lighting the match.
It is spiritual suicide.
by Brian Mavis, edited by Bobby Price
Here are ten things (not necessarily in any particular order) that I thought my new Christian friend should sink down deep into his heart as he travels his first year with Jesus:
1. God Loves Us
The one thing that the Bible emphasizes more than us loving God and people is that God loves us. He loves us first and most. God isn’t in heaven plucking a daisy saying, “I love you” when you obey and “I love you not” when you sin. He cannot not love you (Rom. 5:8 and 1 Jn. 4:16).
2. Relationship First!
Your motivation to and the purpose of learning, serving, worshipping, giving, reaching, reading, praying, etc. is to grow relationally more in love with God and people (Mt. 22:36-40).
3. You not only are saved by grace; you grow by it, too.
A common trap for new and growing Christians is trying to clean up their lives without God’s help. This is a false equation: The less you sin = the less you need God’s grace. You can’t sin less and love more without the strength of God’s grace. (2Pet. 3:18)
4. Don’t trample over the Great Commandment trying to obey the Great Commission.
New and enthusiastic Christians often do this. Instead, lead people to Jesus by loving people to Jesus (1 Cor. 13:1-3). If they ask you why you live the way you do, humbly and simply share with them why you put your hope in Jesus.
5. Love your neighbors—your literal neighbors.
Do this because you are a Christian, not just because you want them to be Christians (Mt 22:39).
6. It’s All About Jesus.
Focus on Jesus, His cross, His resurrection and His kingdom. When you confessed Jesus as the living Lord and Messiah, you never said—and will never say—anything more meaningful. Jesus is God with skin. No other “religious leader” (Moses, Buddha, Muhammad) is His equal. They were mere men; Jesus is God who became a man. He is the center and circumference—the hub and rim of all of life and creation. All of the world’s greatest gifts—love, life, truth, grace, etc.—have a name. Jesus. (Jhn. 1:14-18)
7. God cares about your whole life, not just your “spiritual life.”
It is a mistake to think that God is only concerned about a section of your life called “your soul” or “your spirit.” God cares about and is to be Lord of all of your life—personal, emotional, social, familial, financial, physical, vocational, sexual, intellectual and so on.
8. Love other Christians, even when they are different.
Unfortunately, many Christians and churches view their “brand” of Christianity as the only true or most true type of Christianity. They may not think they are the only Christians, but they do think they are the best or most right ones. This is a prideful and sinful attitude that grieves Jesus and dismembers His body. We are to love people, even if they disagree with us--even if they are wrong! (Mar 9:38-41)
9. Pray with your Bible open.
There are many different spiritual exercises (fasting, solitude, serving, etc.), but the two most important ones are communicating and communing with God through prayer and listening to and learning about God through the Scriptures. Prayerfully read about Jesus (in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Prayerfully read about the beginning of the church in a book called Acts. Prayerfully read some letters written by Christians for Christians—some good ones to start with are James, Philippians and Ephesians.
10. Find a Christian mentor.
You will need help and encouragement in this journey with Jesus. Ask an older Christian (of the same gender as you) to mentor you. Look for someone who displays the attitudes and actions that were described above. Be a blessing to them in return. (Php 3:17)
Christianity is not a list, but a life; it’s not a chart, but a charter. But a new Christian will learn new things. Some of those things will be true but not important. Some things will be off by degrees that can lead them astray. Other things will be just plain wrong. Help a new Christian learn to follow Jesus by being their best at what matters most to Him.
by Erick Erickson, edited by Bobby Price
In Scripture, Acts 19 recounts a series of miracles that led to mass conversions of residents of Ephesus. The conversions created an economic problem.
Ephesus was, at the time, world-renowned for a temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, one of the wonders of the ancient world. As people began converting en masse to Christianity with St. Paul’s preaching, temple visits declined, as did the purchase of idols. According too Luke, the writer of Acts, a silversmith named Demetrius who made silver replicas of Artemis began rallying other men of similar trades to fend off the Christians.
“Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship,” Demetrius said. (Acts 19:25-27)
“When they heard this, they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'” (Acts 19:28). A riot broke out, and the Ephesians seized Paul’s companions. The rioters had to be calmed. For two hours, the crowd chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" before being calmed. In spreading the gospel, Paul had wiped out income and mythology, which brewed resentment. Today, the Temple of Artemis is a ruin.
Two thousand years later, as true religion recedes in America and secularism rises, the Ephesians are back now as the wokes. By any measure, the United States has continued to advance and heal the wounds of slavery and racial discord.
There are racists still because there is sin in the world, and racism is one. But as Americans move beyond the sins of the past, the cry of systemic racism gets louder. It is the new, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” This time, instead of silver idols, it is Ibram X. Kendi’s and Robin DiAngelo’s books. Buy them to repent. Pay a speaker’s fee. Have a critical race theory advocate perform seminars. Hire a “diversity, equity and inclusion” czar for your company or school. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
As Christ commanded his followers to spread his gospel message and preach, teach and baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so the wokes spread their gospel of discord, which is both devoid of hope and deeply anchored in never-ending grievance. Heretics of Christianity added inconsistencies to a consistent Christian orthodoxy. Heretics of wokeism merely point out the consistent inconsistencies of critical race theory. How exactly can a race or gender that is socially constructed also be determinative? It is heretical to ask. Instead, buy a book, virtue-signal with a donation to a woke charity, and attend a class on equity. Whatever you do, do not let the wounds heal and love your neighbor. After all, the silversmiths have idols to sell. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
By Dan Reiland, edited by Bobby Price
Church membership should not consist of rules to keep people out, but ramps to help people grow. Membership in a local church may seem outdated or unnecessary, but if led well, it adds great strength to your church. We need to be aware that there are definite reasons people don’t become church members.
Candidly, nearly all churches have some form of “membership.” Some formal, calling it church membership. Others informal, using words like belonging, discipleship, culture, team, or community, etc. Both are referring to the same idea, but with different words, in a different style, and with differing amounts of emphasis.
These are among the five most often asked questions from people who don’t become church members. 1) What if my spouse is not a believer? 2) What if I’m not sure about being baptized? 3) What if I don’t have time to serve in a ministry? 4) What if I can’t give a full tithe? 5) What if I’m not qualified to be a leader?
These questions are packed with doubt and uncertainty for people who don’t become church members. Those who have asked these questions wonder if they measure up to what they’ve been encouraged to embrace for spiritual growth. In each case I emphasize a grace-filled path for growth rather than an either-or, you are in or out, kind of membership loaded up with a list of do’s and dont's, rules and requirements. Church membership is most effective when you emphasize vision, values, teamwork, and life change. Church growth is essential, but focus on the growth of the person, not the growth of the church.
I’ve wondered at times why questions like the five I mentioned arise in a class taught with so much grace, encouragement, and opportunity. So, I’ve asked those who attend and people who don’t become church members.The most common response for people who don’t become church members includes two things: 1) Their church background. Their previous experience is not always positive. They have often only known a list of do’s and mostly don’ts.
2) Culture is changing – rapidly. Membership is no longer something desired unless there is perceived value. People want to be part of something they value. Membership in current culture does work, from frequent flyer miles on Delta to discounts at Costco. People do join where they perceive value. This might sound like an approach that builds consumer Christians, that’s not at all what I want to communicate.
In fact, it’s the opposite. Let’s not use the word membership for a minute. Maybe you communicate; become part of our church family, or find a place to belong within our community, or discover your place on the team. Use whatever language you would prefer and fits your culture. The concept of belonging to a body of believers, (whether you call it membership, team, community or family, etc., is about spiritual growth, a call to maturity, and giving yourself away to others. The foundational leadership principle that makes this work is: You as the leader(s) give first. Good leaders always give first and invest more. When you model this lifestyle, the people in your congregation discover that you really do want more for them than from them.
by Mark Altrogge
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
I was thinking about this today as I prepared for a parenting class. Here are some ways that you can provoke your children to anger. I’ve done many of these, and for this reason I’m grateful for the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit to change.
16 ways we can provoke our children to anger:
1. By constantly criticizing them and not encouraging them. When they feel they can never please us enough.
2. By having double standards: Do as I say, not as I do. Expecting them to do things we
don’t do, e.g., ask forgiveness, humble themselves, etc.
3. By anger and harshness.
4. By a lack of affection.
5. By telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons (e.g., Do it because I said to do it, or because it’s just wrong).
6. By being offended at their sin because it bothers us, not because it offends God.
7. By comparing them to others (Why can’t you act like your sister?).
8. By hypocrisy: acting like a Christian at church but not at home.
9. By embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in
front of others).
10. By always lecturing them and never listening to them.
11. By disciplining them for childishness or weakness, not for sin.
12. By failing to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them.
13. By pride: failing to receive humble correction from our spouses or our children when we sin.
14. By self-centered reactions to their sin (How could you do this to ME?).
15. By ungracious reactions to their sin (What were you thinking? Why in the world would you do that?).
16. By forgetting that we were (and are) sinners (I would NEVER have done that when I was your age).
Bobby Price was born and raised by Christian parents in Perrin, Texas. Bobby decided early in life to become a preacher of God's word. He attended the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas where he graduated in 2015 with his Bachelors of Biblical Studies with a focus in Congregational Ministry. Afterwards, he interned for a year at the valley view Church of Christ in Jonesboro, AR. He is currently working on his Masters of Biblical Studies, through the Sunset International Bible Institute Graduate School.