“Can a Christian today perform an exorcism”



Exorcism (commanding demons to leave other people) was practiced by various people in the Gospels and the Book of Acts—the disciples as part of Christ’s instructions (Matthew 10); others using Christ’s name (Mark 9:38); the children of the Pharisees (Luke 11: 18 – 19); Paul (Acts 16); and certain exorcists (Acts 19:11-16.

It appears that the purpose of Jesus’ disciples performing exorcisms was to show Christ’s dominion over the demons (Luke 10:17) and to verify that the disciples were acting in His name and by His authority. It also revealed their faith or lack of faith (Matthew 17:14-21). It was obvious that this act of casting out demons was important to the ministry of the disciples. However, it is unclear what part casting out demons actually played in the discipleship process.

Interestingly, there seems to be a shift in the latter part of the New Testament regarding demonic warfare. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity, yet do not discuss the actions of casting them out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the armor to stand against them (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are told to resist the devil (James 4:7), be careful of him (1 Peter 5:8), and not give him room in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). However, we are not told how to cast him or his demons out of others, or that we should even consider doing so.

The book of Ephesians gives clear instructions on how we are to have victory in our lives in the battle against the forces of evil. The first step is placing our faith in Christ (2:8-9), which breaks the rule of “the prince of power of the air” (2:2). We are then to choose, again by God’s grace, to put off ungodly habits and to put on godly habits (4:17-24). This does not involve casting out demons, but rather renewing our minds (4:23). After several practical instructions on how to obey God as His children, we are reminded that there is a spiritual battle. It is fought with certain armor that allows us to stand against—not cast out—the trickery of the demonic world (6:10). We stand with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer (6:10-18).

It appears that as the Word of God was completed, the Christians had more weapons with which to battle the spirit world than the early Christians did. The role of casting out demons was replaced, for the most part, with evangelism and discipleship through the Word of God. Since the methods of spiritual warfare in the New Testament do not involve casting out demons, it is difficult to determine instructions on how to do such a thing. If necessary at all, it seems that it is through exposing the individual to the truth of the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

2014 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”


 

 

Whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween   can be a very controversial topic. Some Christians celebrate Halloween simply by dressing up in a costume and having fun, seeing it as innocent and harmless. Other Christians are equally convinced that Halloween is a satanic holiday established to worship evil spirits and promote darkness and wickedness. So, who is right? Is it possible for Christians to celebrate Halloween without compromising their faith?

 

Halloween, no matter how commercialized, has almost completely pagan origins. As innocent as it may seem to some, it is not something to be taken lightly. Christians tend to have various ways to celebrate or not to celebrate Halloween. For some, it means having an “alternative” Harvest Party. For others, it is staying away from the ghosts, witches, goblins, etc., and wearing innocuous costumes, e.g., little princesses, clowns, cowboys, super-heroes, etc. Some choose not to do anything, electing to lock themselves in the house with the lights off. With our freedom as Christians, we are at liberty to decide how to act.

 

Scripture does not speak at all about Halloween, but it does give us some principles on which we can make a decision. In Old Testament Israel, witchcraft was a crime punishable by death (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:31:20:6,27). The New Testament teaching about the occult is clear.Acts 8:9-24, the story of Simon, shows that occultism and Christianity don’t mix. The account of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts 13:6-11reveals that sorcery is violently opposed to Christianity. Paul called Elymas a child of the devil, an enemy of righteousness and a perverter of the ways of God. In Acts 16, at Philippi, a fortune-telling girl lost her demon powers when the evil spirit was cast out by Paul. The interesting matter here is that Paul refused to allow even good statements to come from a demon-influenced person. Acts 19 shows new converts who have abruptly broken with their former occultism by confessing, showing their evil deeds, bringing their magic paraphernalia, and burning it before everyone (Acts 19:19).


So, should a Christian celebrate Halloween? Is there anything evil about a Christian dressing up as a princess or cowboy and going around the block asking for candy? No, there is not. Are there things about Halloween that are anti-Christian and should be avoided? Absolutely! If parents are going to allow their children to participate in Halloween, they should make sure to keep them from getting involved in the darker aspects of the day. If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27). There are many churches that hold “harvest festivals” and incorporate costumes, but in a godly environment. There are many Christians who hand out tracts that share the Gospel along with the Halloween candy. The decision is ultimately ours to make. But as with all things, we are to incorporate the principles of Romans 14 We can’t allow our own convictions about a holiday to cause division in the body of Christ, nor can we use our freedom to cause others to stumble in their faith. We are to do all things as to the Lord.

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“Why did God allow men to have concubines in the Bible?”



A concubine is a female who voluntarily enslaves and sells herself to a man primarily for his sexual pleasure. Concubines in the patriarchal age and beyond did not have equal status with a wife. A concubine could not marry her master because of her slave status, although, for her, the relationship was exclusive and ongoing. Sometimes concubines were used to bear children for men whose wives were barren. Concubines in Israel possessed many of the same rights as legitimate wives, without the same respect.

Although it’s true the Bible nowhere explicitly condemns concubinage, a condemnation can be foundimplicitlyfrom the beginning of time. According to Genesis 2:21-24, God’s original intent was for marriage to be between one man and one woman, and that has never changed (Genesis 1:27). As a matter of fact, a study of the lives of men like King David and King Solomon (who had 300 concubines; 1 Kings 11:3) reveals that many of their problems stemmed from polygamous relationships (2 Samuel 11;2-4).

The Bible never explains why God allowed men to have concubines. He allowed divorce and polygamy, too, although neither was part of His original plan for marriage. Jesus said God allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matthew 19:8). We can assume the same hardness of heart led to polygamy and concubinage.

We can also surmise a reason based on the culture of the day. Unmarried women in ancient times were completely dependent on their family members, such as their fathers, brothers, etc. If for some reason a woman had no family members or her husband had died or divorced her, she would be left with few options for survival. Most women in ancient times were uneducated and unskilled in a trade. Providing for themselves was very difficult, and they were vulnerable to those who would prey upon them. For many women in dire situations, becoming a concubine was a much more suitable option than prostitution, homelessness, or death. At least a concubine would be provided a home and afforded a certain amount of care.

It appears God allowed the sin of concubinage, in part, to provide for women in need, although it was certainly not an ideal situation. Sin is never ideal. Christians should be reminded that, just because Godallowsa sin for a time, it does not mean God is pleased with it. Many Bible narratives teach that God can take what some people mean for evil and use it for good (e.g.,Genesis 50:20).

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“Is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?”


Is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?

Depression is somewhat of a charged issue among Christians. Some flatly declare it to be a sin. The thinking is that depression reveals a lack of faith in God’s promises, God’s judgment on sinful behavior, or just laziness. We know that God is good and loving and that we are secure in Him, so what is there to be depressed about? Others flatly declare depression to be a medical issue. The thinking is that all depression is a result of chemical imbalances in the brain, so depression is no more wrong than having the flu. And then there are those in the middle who aren’t really sure what the ugly beast of depression is. Faith seems somewhat related, but so do brain chemicals. Of course, there are also the depressed Christians, left to feel guilty, defensive, confused, lost, or simply too depressed to even care what the church thinks. So is it wrong for a Christian to be depressed?

The term depressed is a fairly loose one. It can refer to a diagnosable medical condition (clinical depression), but it can also refer to a temporary feeling of sadness or apathy or to a nebulous, lingering malaise. This article will attempt to briefly consider several of these meanings of depression.

For some people a chemical or hormonal imbalance triggers a depressed state. This is most typical for women experiencing post-partum depression or people on certain medications. Other times, depression is situational, caused by adverse circumstances, life changes, a spiritual crisis, etc. Our emotional response to those crises can in turn trigger a chemical imbalance. Truly, humans are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and it should come as no surprise that our biology interacts with our emotions and vice-versa. Once a person is depressed, the cycle of hormonal imbalance and negative emotions can be difficult to break. Whether the emotions cause the biology to change or the biology causes the emotions to change, the resulting symptoms are the same.

Having a medical condition is not a sin. However, what brings a person to that condition could be rooted in sin. For instance, it is not wrong to have diabetes, but it is wrong to be a glutton (and the two are sometimes related). Also, how a person responds to a genuine medical condition could also be sinful. For example, it would be sinful for a person with diabetes to use his disease to manipulate others or to adopt a “victim” mentality or an attitude of entitlement.

Yet, often, we hold those with diabetes or other medical conditions less culpable than we do people with depression. For some reason, mental illnesses—especially depression—are associated more often with sinful causes than are physical ailments. Depression is notexclusively a medical issue, and it is not exclusively an emotional or spiritual issue.

Depression is often viewed as a persistent feeling of sadness. Of course, it is okay to be sad. We live in a world of pain (Genesis 3:14-19; Romans 8:20-22), and Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). There is no need to always put on a happy face and pretend that things are okay when they are not.

There are many biblical examples of men of God struggling with sadness, even to the point of depression. David wrote, “Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in your record?” (Psalm 56:8). David, a “man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22), did not gloss over his sadness; he expressed it to God. Both Moses (Numbers 11:15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-5), two heroes of the faith, confessed to God that they preferred to die than live in their current reality. Neither was rebuked by God for his feelings; rather, both were met with God’s love and provision. The Bible is not shy about admitting the realities of human emotion. Sadness is part of life, and it is not condemned.

As believers, we are exhorted to see the greater reality of God’s plan even in the midst of our sadness and depression. Yes, this world is fallen and often painful. It can be depressing. But God is far greater. He is at work, victoriously. Moses and Elijah received God’s provision and experienced His refreshing. Shortly after pouring out his sadness, David praised God. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Christians are permitted to call trouble for what it is. At the same time, we take heart in God’s care. Taking heart does not mean pasting on a smile or ignoring the feeling of emptiness that depression brings. It does not mean neglecting to treat depression through counseling or medication. It does not mean ignoring the relational hurts or the misperceptions that have led to depression (Satan’s lies, if we believe them, will lead us to despair). It does not mean denying the fact that depression could be a lifelong struggle.

What taking heart does mean is bringing all our pain to God. It does mean continuing to trust in Him. It does mean believing that what He says about Himself and about us is true, even when we don’t feel like it is. It does mean getting the help we need, battling depression rather than giving in to it. We acknowledge the depravity of the world, but we also acknowledge the sufficiency of God.

It is not wrong to be depressed. But it is wrong—and not especially helpful in overcoming a depressed state—to give up on God when we are depressed. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

 

 

Posted in Apologetics, Guest Contributors

“How old was Mary when Jesus was born?”



While the Bible does not specifically state how old Mary was when Jesus was born, most Christian historians speculate that she was around 15—16 years of age at the time of Jesus’ birth. According to Jewish customs at the time, a young woman might become betrothed to a young man as early as 12 years of age, though the consummation of their marriage through ceremony and physical intimacy would not happen until they were legally married, many months or even years later.

In Luke 1:39-56, we learn that Mary traveled from Galilee to Judah to visit her relative Elizabeth. She would have had to cross a great distance though the territory of Samaria. We do not know if she traveled alone, with servants, or in the company of other family members. However, there is a great likelihood that, even with adult escorts, Mary would have needed to be both physically and emotionally mature enough to handle such a journey.

No matter what Mary’s age when Jesus was born, her spiritual maturity is indeed evident. The mother of Jesus is described by God as “highly favored” (Luke 1:28). When presented with the news that she would conceive the holy Son of God, Mary responds with pure faith and obedience by saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:35-38). Her song (Luke 1:46-55) is full of Scripture—by some counts, there are 10 quotations of and allusions to the Old Testament in the Magnificat—another strong proof of Mary’s learning and spiritual maturity.

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“What is holy magic hair?”



The holy magic hair (HMH) doctrine is the rather sarcastic name given to the teaching that long, uncut hair on a woman provides her with supernatural power, protection, and authority. This aberrant teaching has gained momentum in the Apostolic, Holiness, and Oneness groups within Pentecostalism. The holy magic hair doctrine is based largely on 1 Corinthians 11, which discusses head coverings for women, and especially verse 10, which says, “It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.”

It is best that 1 Corinthians 11 be interpreted within the context of the culture at that time. However, some Pentecostals firmly believe that Christian women should not cut their hair. Usually, the hair is kept up in a bun or braided. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a woman not cutting her hair, and we would never advocate a teaching that a woman must cut her hair; however, Paul’s words to the Corinthians should not be used as a mandate for all women. In fact, the wordhairis not even found in 1 Corinthians 11:10.

According to the holy magic hair doctrine, a woman with long hair is being “watched by angels” because of the “glory” of her long hair (see 1 Corinthians 11:15). And, when she lets down her hair, her glory increases, as does her supposed spiritual power. Believers in holy magic hair say that a woman can unravel her hair for greater miracles. If she lays it over an altar or over written prayer requests as she prays, her prayers are more likely to be answered. If she spreads her hair over a person, that person can receive the Holy Spirit more readily—the “laying on of hair,” as it’s called. A woman “shaking her hair in the wind” can guarantee all kinds of miraculous results, from the salvation of lost loved ones to the healing of diseases to the winning back of lost romantic affections. Holy magic hair even has power over evil spirits, and the devil fears the power of uncut hair.

According to the holy magic hair doctrine, if a woman cuts her hair, she loses her identity as an “apostolic woman,” loses authority in the spiritual realm, and puts herself and her family at risk. Women are warned that to cut their hair is to bring themselves to misery and regret. After the hair is cut, there is no way to get the original “anointing” back.

It should go without saying that the holy magic hair doctrine is unbiblical. The problem is there are sincere and well-meaning people who believe it. The practice of letting down one’s hair in order to receive more spiritual power has absolutely no scriptural authority and has more in common with Wicca and occultism than Christianity. External conditions do not automatically correspond with the internal. A woman with long hair can be eaten up with lust, hate, or envy on the inside. A woman with short hair can be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

Power belongs to God (Pslam 68). Any power that we possess comes through the agency of the Holy Spirit in our lives. To trust in hair length, circumcision, or any other physical characteristic is to take away from our reliance upon God and our faith in Jesus Christ. Even in Samson’s case, the power was not from his hair but from the fact that “the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him” (Judgest 15:14). There is always a tendency to lean on our own understanding and rely on ourselves. No matter how much anecdotal evidence is presented in its favor, holy magic hair is a deviant teaching that has no basis in Scripture. Let us be careful not to be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:4).

 

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