Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Dear Friends,

I've always loved Advent. My grandmother would give me and my sister an Advent Calendar right after Thanksgiving day. I loved those cardboard calendars with the cutout for each day of December that lead up to the illustration of the Nativity on the 24th. I would look forward every day to the ritual of slowly and carefully opening another cardboard door to reveal what was printed inside. I savored every day’s illustration. The Advent Calendar heightened my anticipation for Christmas and drew me closer each day to the celebration of the birth of Christ. I resisted, of course, the temptation to “peek” at the hidden illustrations under the closed doors that would be opened in the days ahead. But as soon as my sacrilegious seven-year-old sister got her Advent Calendar, she would run into her room and tear open every door. This was back when I was a young, God-fearing lad who was practicing to be a pastor by baptizing my sister’s Barbie dolls in the “creek” that ran through our backyard. So when I discovered her Advent Calendar desecration, I loudly proclaimed to our parents that it was an act of blasphemous rebellion against the church and everything most sacred.

It was the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago, and I was ranting to Rhianna. We had just come from visiting our favorite mission in San Juan Capistrano and were walking from the Mission Gift Store to the car. You don’t find “Christian-cute” merchandise in a Catholic Book and Gift Store. They are filled with seriously religious items such as prayer cards, statues, jewelry, holy water bottles, crucifixes, icons, rosaries and prayer books. We were looking for crosses to hang on the Christmas tree when we both noticed what was on the store’s overhead music system. Michael Jackson was singing, “You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry.. You’d better not pout, I’m telling you why.. Santa Claus is coming to town.” And the next “Christmas” song was “Last Christmas” by WHAM! I won’t bother giving you the lyrics, but trust me – it’s most definitely not a “Christian” Christmas song. 

As I’m wrestling with the dichotomy of listening to the Jackson 5 and WHAM! in this very religious environment, the smiling salesclerk rang up my purchase and then cheerfully wished me, “Happy Holidays!” Seriously? A Catholic employee is wishing me a politically-correct “Happy Holidays!” in a Catholic-owned store on the sacred grounds of this 240 year old church? I’m buying crosses and she doesn’t want to offend me by saying Merry Christmas? I may as well have been at Target. Thus the reason for the rant.

But it reminded me of why even we good church-goin’ Christians so desperately need Advent these days. Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent and comes at the perfect time to interrupt the political hostility that has seized our Nation. We need a timeout from today's cultural hysteria, but instead of a time of peace and joy, our Christmas ritual often starts with an appropriately named Black Friday.. Credit card debt.. Jingle Bells and jangled nerves.. Frantically dashing toward Christmas day in a one horse open sleigh.. Then finally, it’s Christmas! Da Da! It’s showtime!! We did it! And yet in the Christmas rush, the manger is still empty. We got it all done, but we’ve left someOne behind.

That’s why we need Advent. Advent means “coming” and these are the days that we anticipate the coming of Christ. Advent is the spiritual speed-bump that slows us down in our race toward Christmas and allows us to savor the journey. When we are tempted to speed up into the Holly Jolly Christmas pace, Advent takes us into a contemplative place. During this “holiday” season, we can meet Santa at the mall, but Advent reminds us that we’ll meet God in the quiet sacred places.

On the Advent journey, we find our peace and joy not in what we buy, plan, decorate or cook, but in the expectancy of His coming. Find what works best for you that turns down the noise of your fast-paced life and allows you to spend time in silence with Him – just you and God – alone together. Spend some time each day in quiet prayer and contemplation. There are many good Advent devotional books that may be helpful for you. Read Luke 1:5-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-24. Meditate on these scriptures by thinking about what they mean to you. Pray about them and then just rest in His presence. You may hear Him speak to your heart, you may be filled with His peace or you may just find yourself sitting there with God and enjoying His Presence. 

Resting in His peace will bring a joyful attitude. Then when others are stressed, anxious and angry in the weeks ahead, you can bring the joy of God into their lives. Practice graciousness, patience, and kindness with family members and frazzled store clerks alike. Be especially aware of friends and neighbors who struggle this time of year and be compassionate. Be Christ-like. Show them the love of Jesus this Christmas and do what you can to relieve their distress, suffering and loneliness. Let them see, through your love for them, the Child in the manger. Amen?

Wednesday, November 23, 2022


Sometimes the worst dinnertime disaster at Thanksgiving has nothing to do with the turkey – it’s the family. Does your family Thanksgiving look like a Norman Rockwell painting or a Jerry Springer grudge match with flying metal folding chairs? I’ll never forget the year that we were trying to logistically plan things out for Thanksgiving dinner with our own family. 

For a few years, we had it at the home of a person who didn’t cook and he ordered the dinner from a restaurant. Kind of like an upscale Turkey Box Lunch. But that year he had a new girlfriend who wanted Thanksgiving at her house. She lived in a small house with a huge undisciplined dog and her own tradition was to invite eleven of her closest relatives and friends. Even though she was engaged to this member of our immediate family, we still didn’t make the cut and were not invited. Then the family matriarch intervened and her son’s fiancée extended a reluctant, last-minute invitation to us, but we were told that because the house was too small, we’d have to sit outside on a small patch of grass and dirt next to the dog house.

The second-tier guests like us were going to be confined in the tiny back yard with the 120 pound dog and I didn’t want to be wrestling with a Rottweiler over a turkey leg, so I was hoping that maybe we could just park in their driveway and they would serve us a Turkey Box Lunch in the car. At this point in the Thanksgiving planning, the family tension increased and so we rebelliously did something that we had never done before. 

We drove to Carpinteria and bought two turkey Subway Sandwiches. The sun-warmed beach was devoid of people and it was like being on a deserted island. It was Thanksgiving in paradise! We sat in the shade of palm trees, enjoyed the fresh ocean breeze, ate our turkey sandwiches and the pumpkin scones I had made for dessert. It was the most wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving day that we’ve ever had!

(I’m obviously going to encourage you to spend Thanksgiving with your family, but I did get some Subway coupons in my mailbox last week and if we don’t use them this year, just let me know if you’d like to have them.)

Family is important to us and God made us that way. We were created to be in relationship with those who God has given to us and to whom we have been given. We were created to live in a family relationship, but today’s families face a minefield of trigger topics where even the mildest remark about the weather can unleash a diatribe on climate change or a niece’s newborn baby boy can trigger a heated discussion about the child’s right to choose its own gender. And don’t even think about saying the word, “Trump!”

A segment of our culture has called for the elimination of Thanksgiving because of its “environmental impact on climate change” and an MSNBC host described the day as a “problematic food holiday.” The celebrated entrée – a turkey – is now, according to progressive activists, a white supremacist symbol of racist, colonialism. An editorial in today's LA Times reminds us that Thanksgiving "commemorates" the genocide of the indigenous people and is not a day of celebration but a day of mourning. 

Many in our Nation have been indoctrinated to hate any person who does not conform to their political doctrine, but the media’s agenda to sustain our rage does not have to provide the context for our Thanksgiving family dinner. This is a season of thanksgiving! Time for us to thank God for the grace He has so lovingly given to us. Time to let that grace flow through us to others in our circle of family and friends. Time to see other people not through our own eyes but through God’s eyes. Thanksgiving should be a time of warmth, harmony and peace with family and friends, but in a fractious family, how do we do that?

If conversations turn political, simply don’t engage – just listen without replying. But what if we’ve chosen to not engage and another person becomes verbally combative: “So why don’t you hate Trump/Biden/DeSantis/Musk?” The best response may be a mild, “That’s not a conversation to have while we’re enjoying this day together, maybe we can talk about it later.” And if you’ve been mocked or belittled for your Christian beliefs and values, “turn the other cheek” and extend the grace to forgive, remembering that a good definition of forgiveness is “Simply no longer holding against a person what deserves to be held against them.” 

While we cannot control the behavior of others, we can control our own. On Thanksgiving day and everyday, we are responsible for what comes from our own mouth. “The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21 meaning that our words can either speak life, or our words can speak death. As Christians, our words are to strengthen, encourage and comfort others. 1 Corinthians 14:3 NLT The words from our lips, pour out of our heart and form the image of how others see us. A friend once told me about a message she had seen on a church sign: “If the words you spoke were written on your skin, would you still be beautiful?” This Thanksgiving, let’s make sure that our own words are kind and filled with the grace of God. “Kind words are like honey.. sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24-26 NLT   Amen?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

God's Property! Conclusion

Dear Friends,

We read last week that Christians cannot be possessed by the Devil because when we’re a follower of Jesus Christ, we are owned by God. We are God’s Property! So we cannot be “possessed” by the Enemy but we can be harassed, hounded and tormented by demons as they exert outside pressure on us. They’ll use every trick to do that because they want us back, and yes, a Believer can, through their free-will, reject God and lose their salvation. Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT The Blood of His Covenant is what sets us apart and makes us holy. When we turn away from God and reject His Covenant as no longer sacred, then we have disdained and rejected the Spirit of God. Hebrews 10:29 NLT When we reject God, we’ve sacrificed our soul to Satan and opened ourselves to his possession of us.

I used to work with a woman who was an on-fire for God, “Baptized-in-the-Holy Spirit” Believer. She loved to talk about Jesus and witness to her co-workers. She’d come to my office and we'd always talk about our faith. Her entire countenance lit up every time we talked about Jesus. She truly loved the Lord! But there had always been an undercurrent of negativity, resentment and unforgiveness in her heart that she had held onto and had justified as simply who she was as a person. Then one day, two of her co-workers sought me out to tell me that they were worried about her mental health as she was becoming increasingly mean-spirited and viciously cruel to others.

I asked her to meet with me and after asking her how life was going, I was surprised that her negativity had taken on an even darker tone. She began an obscenity-filled rant about how bad her life was. Even her face looked different that day. A few weeks later we saw each other while walking through our city plaza. I smiled and waved. She turned away and avoided me by climbing up a grassy embankment so that she wouldn’t have to pass by me. I emailed her and asked what was going on. Her reply was: “The only thing you and I talk about is God and Jesus and I am so done with that.” This was a woman who had been saved for over 30 years and had been a worship leader and women’s ministry leader for many years. She wrote: “I am over the Jesus phase of my life. You're probably going to want to email me or talk to me about this but don't.” 

I’d been friends with her and her husband for fifteen years and for many of those she considered me to be her pastor. The next day I tried to pray for her and my mind was a blank. I struggled to find words to pray and suddenly God lifted the burden I had to pray for her and I felt a release in my spirit. The spiritual responsibility I’d always felt for her as her pastor was now gone. Did she cross a spiritual line? “..there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it.” 1 John 5:16 NLT

What happened? I believe that through her continued and unrepentant sin, the Devil was given a legitimate foothold in her life. Her strong faith eroded to the point of rejecting God and Jesus tells us that the unforgivable sin is when we speak out against God and reject Him.  Matthew 12:31-32 

We know that God's children do not make a practice of sinning, for God's Son holds them securely, and the evil one cannot touch them. We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:18-19 NLT That scripture, along with others, tells us that by avoiding habitual sins, we remove ourselves from the reach of the Devil. But our continued and unrepentant practice of sin invites the wicked one to attach himself to us and that’s why demons are relentless in their harassment of believers. They want us back! Satan has a plan for your life – to steal your faith, kill your soul and destroy your relationship with his enemy, God. John 10:10 And the Devil does his best work in covert darkness. The Devil loves it when we disbelieve in him and in the demonic realm and then whine about how bad our life is.

Remember what Dr. Charles Stanley said, “Each day, we live in the midst of a real, personal battle that we must fight.”  We need to become warriors!

1. Affirm Your Faith in Jesus Christ. If you are not an authentic, born-again believer, you have no authority over the demonic. Read Acts 19:13-16.

2. Submit to God. Ephesians 6:10 says that when we go into spiritual battle, we need to be strong in the Lord with His power. We can’t fight this battle with our own earthly strength. The power of God is not available if we keep Him on the sidelines and are proudly in control of our own lives.

3. Confess and Repent. Those habitual, continued and unrepentant sins provide an open entry-way for the Devil to worm his way into our lives.

4. Forgive Others. You will continue to struggle without the forgiveness of God. If you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive you. Jesus made this clear in Mark 11:26 and Matthew 6:14-15. There’s no getting around it.

5. Renounce Occult Involvement and All False Religion. Go to Steps to Freedom In Christ or contact me for a handout.

6. Renounce the Enemy! Take a firm stance. Take up the battle. God is already on your side. James 4:7 tells us to “resist the Devil and he will flee from you.”  Amen?

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

God's Property ~ Part 2

Dear Friends,

Fifteen year old Ethan Boldizsar* was possessed by demons. His mother Eva had been fired after exhibiting some very troubling behavior and her co-workers had become concerned about her. They suspected that there was something strange happening in her home and they were afraid for her. I was asked, as a pastor, to go to the house and talk with the mother and son. I agreed and took along one of Eva’s former co-workers - a Christian woman. (*names have been changed)

I knew we were going to be dealing with something spiritual. We had prepared by praying and fasting. I was filled with confidence that we were going to help this woman. And then... Walking up the steps to this house was like walking into a cloud of darkness. I started to feel dizzy and stepping onto the porch became an effort. It felt like I was walking up against a force that was trying to push me back. My confidence was immediately replaced with a feeling of apprehension. I started praying. Eva opened the door before we could knock on it.

The living room was dark. Filled with photographs, dried plants, scarves draped over large overstuffed furniture. Crystal balls. Strange little boxes with indecipherable writing. Small brass statues. Oddly shaped silver objects. The air was heavy. Oppressive. It was hard to breathe in there. Eva brought in her son, Ethan and when he walked into the room, I could feel an intense dark force enter with him. I asked him how he was doing. He didn’t answer and just stared at me. His body tense. His face expressionless. His eyes glazed over and lifeless. Eva became flustered and told him to go play in the garage. 

When he left, she told me he often gets like that. I asked her about the dozens of old black and white framed pictures of her ancestors and I learned that she was descended from a long line of fortune-telling, spiritist Hungarian gypsies. The scarves, silver statues and other objects in the room had been used by her parents and her to contact dead spirits. That explained the suffocating darkness. This place was a stronghold for the demonic.

I felt a powerful evil force coming from behind a closed door and was told that was Ethan’s bedroom. Eva’s mother and father had owned this house and that had been their bedroom. While lying in bed, her mother put a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. A month later, Eva’s father lay in bed and used the same gun. The day her father shot himself, Eva was at work and Ethan was home. She came home to find Ethan in bed cuddling the body of his dead grandfather and talking to him.

The day after his grandfather’s suicide, Ethan changed rooms so that he could sleep in his grandparent’s bed. Ethan insisted on keeping the door shut at all times and didn’t allow his mother in that room. Ethan wanted to keep the room exactly like it was when they died so that their spirits wouldn’t leave and he could still talk with them. I looked in. The grandfather’s dried blood and brain fragments had been left splattered on the wall behind the bed.

There was nothing I could do. The demons had a generational license to be there. The evil one had owned that gypsy family for generations and their occult beliefs and activities had given permission to the demons to possess that house. Those of us who are Christians invite Jesus to come into and “possess” our lives and our homes. We give our Lord God “ownership” over ourselves. It works the same way when a person, gives their “lord” Satan possession and ownership over their life and home. You can’t “exorcise” or cast out demons that have a “legal” right to be there.

I was very happy to finally leave that day, but much to my dismay, God wanted me to go back. You can understand why the last thing I wanted to do was to return, but God persisted and after more prayer and fasting I knew what He wanted me to do. This time I went alone. (Eva’s former co-worker understandably refused to go with me!) Eva and I sat outside in her front yard because I knew that the demonic stronghold had only the right to possess the house itself and I wanted to talk to her about something without the demonic interference. Away from the demons, I spoke to her about Jesus. I told her about the generational curse, how Satan operates and that a demon spirit of suicide was in her family. I told her that only Jesus could break the curse. We talked for a long time and she did pray to accept Jesus as Lord and Savor that afternoon. Hope was now invading the darkness. God had accomplished through me what He had sent me there to do.

I tell you this because we need to understand what demon possession actually looks like. I’ve been asked by too many Christians if they are “possessed” by demons. Absolutely not! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are owned by God. That means you are possessed by God. God has legal right to your spirit. You belong to Him. You are God’s Property! When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in your spirit. Christians cannot be possessed but we can be oppressed. We can be harassed, hounded and tormented by demons as they exert outside pressure on us.     To Be Continued...

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

God's Property ~ Part 1

Dear Friends,

From the very beginnings of the AMEN Corner ten years ago, I’ve been writing every October about the spiritual dangers of “fellowshipping with the demons” on Halloween and have been asked many times if I actually did believe in demons and the demonic world. According to a YouGov survey, 57% of all Americans and 86% of born-again Christians believe in the existence of the devil and 51% of Americans and 72% of born-again Christians believe that a person can be possessed by demonic spirits. I believe because the Bible tells me that Satan and his demonic spirits exist and I have personally encountered evil spirits and demonic possession too many times to disbelieve. 

Long ago I gave up trying to be young and handsome but there was a time in my life about 30 years ago when I went to a gym on a regular basis. This was a popular health club for both men and women and that afternoon I was in a large room of workout machines. It was a light day and I'm the only one working my way around the room on the various machines. I'm about half-way through when a beautiful woman enters and starts her workout on the machine by the door. She's about my age - early 40's - or a little younger and has one of those perfect, gym-toned bodies. As a good Christian husband, I just noticed her and looked away. She was wearing a very small tank top and she had fresh, brightly-colored tattoos on the arm that was nearest to me. There was one tattoo that looked like the face of a woman with long-flowing blonde hair.

Like I say, I'm being good so I ignore her and focus on my workout. But the workout machines are arranged in a circle, so that as we are going around the room, she is constantly in my line of vision. I notice that every time I look up, she is staring at me. When our glances meet she smiles but it's more than a smile and the problem is this: I'm trying to be a good Christian. I'm a committed married man. I'm a pastor. But the honest truth is that it’s difficult for any man under the age of 100 to completely ignore a gorgeous woman starring at him in an enticing manner. So I'm getting these uncomfortable guy-type thoughts in my head and I'm thinking it sure is getting hot in this room and I need to leave.

It was at that point that she stands up. But instead of moving to the next machine, she starts walking toward me. I'm on a weight machine bench where I'm half sitting and half laying on my back. My legs are moving weights up and down and my arms are pulling down a bar with weights. As she gets closer, the smile on her face is getting bigger and it feels like her eyes are boring right into mine.

I’m having an increasingly strong feeling of discernment that something is not spiritually right with her. The closer she's getting, the more I'm feeling as if the Holy Spirit is putting me on full alert. She moves to take the machine next to me. She's now standing directly over me. She looks down at me as she opens her mouth to speak. Instantly, her smile disappears. 

Her eyes blaze with hatred and her beautiful features contort into a horrible and ugly sneer. What comes out of her deformed mouth sounds like a guttural snarl. She spins around to stomp out of the room and that was when I saw the tattoos across her shoulders - symbols that I later found out were Wiccan and on her back a large tattoo of a pentagram in a circle. I also later found out the tattoo of the blonde woman was a goddess. This woman is a Wiccan or a Satanist and she makes a low growling sound as she runs from the room.

It wasn’t until she was close enough to stand over me that she was able to see the tee shirt I was wearing. (see photo) And by her instant, uncontrolled reaction it was apparent that one of the demons that possessed her had manifested itself. I later realized that her enticing behavior was from what our Bible calls a “Jezebel spirit.”

I'm thankful that God has allowed experiences like this because it's hard to ignore the reality of the powers of darkness when you're confronted by a snarling demon at the health club. And what God clearly showed me that day was that when you are God's property, you are Satan's enemy.

Dr. Charles Stanley is not your typical impassioned deliverance minister. He's a theologian and Bible scholar who wears a bow tie. Dr. Stanley has said: 

“Every morning when you and I wake up, we are at war. Many believers simply fail to take this reality seriously. When we talk about spiritual warfare, however, we must remember that each day, we live in the midst of a real, personal battle that we must fight. Failure to recognize this vital truth results in painful defeat time and time again. Dedicated Christians feel confused and downtrodden because they don't understand why they continue to experience failures in their spiritual lives. Just when they think they have something conquered, it rises back up to defeat them.”

In next week’s AMEN Corner:
A House Possessed By Demons.