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Bad Thoughts

May 30 – Bad Thoughts

Hearing one or more voices may seem foreign to you, but that does not mean that you are not experiencing a spiritual battle for your mind. Have you ever come to a cliff or stood on a tall building and suddenly had an impulsive thought to jump? Have you ever struggled with negative thoughts like: I’m no good. God doesn’t love me. How can God love me? I’m different from others. It may sound like self-talk, but do you want to talk to yourself that way? If you didn’t consciously choose to think that thought, then where did it come from?

A lady I took through the Steps to Freedom made a little card for herself that she kept with her all the time. On the card it said, “Where did that thought come from? A loving God?” It was her way of reminding herself to not pay attention to anything that is not true. A psychologist friend shared with me that for three of his five years in his doctoral program he struggled with an impulsive thought. Every time that he was talking to another person with a cup of coffee in his hand he had a compulsive thought to throw the coffee in the other person’s face. He never did it of course, but it did cause him some consternation for three years. What kind of a Christian am I if I want to throw coffee in someone’s face? Being a doctoral student in a psychology program only added to his quandary. He can laugh about it now, because now he knows where that thought came from, but he didn’t then. I had an inquirer say to me, after I handed her a cup of coffee, “You wouldn’t give me that cup of coffee if you knew what I was thinking right now!”

The first four years that I went public with this ministry, I would conclude the “Living Free in Christ” conference by leading them through the Steps To Freedom. The first night at I stepped to the podium and a “thought” came to my mind that couldn’t have been any clearer if a person in front of me had said it out loud. There is a gun pointed at your head! If that thought was from God, I should duck. Imagine how that would have been received if the one taking them through the Steps was ducking to avoid imaginary bullets. I must confess that I did slowly look around the first time it happened before I realized where it was coming from. That happened every time I led a group through the Steps for four straight years, and then it stopped.

A theologian of some renown attended my conference. He shared afterwards that since the age of 22 whenever he sees a man he looks at their crotch. He said, “I’m not gay. I have a good sexual relationship with my wife.” He asked a doctor about it and received a prescription!! It had bothered him for years, and he often wondered, What is wrong with me? I asked him, “After attending this conference, what are your conclusions?” He said, “There is nothing wrong with me, and I shouldn’t pay any attention to it, and I won’t from now on.”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Mental Health

May 29 – Mental Health

How should we, as Christians, define a mentally healthy person? I believe it begins with a true knowledge of God, and a true knowledge of who we are as children of God. Suppose you know that God was omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. You believe that your Heavenly Father has forgiven you, and loves you beyond your ability to comprehend. You also know who you are in Christ and your life is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and there is a peace of God which passes all understanding, guarding your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus. If all that were true, would you be mentally healthy? Of course you would be. That potential is there for every child of God!

But let me quickly add that mental illness is a distorted belief in God and a distorted belief about yourself. If you don’t think the latter is true, visit any mental hospital and ask the patients what they believe about themselves and God. With rare exception their beliefs will be totally distorted, and many of them will be very religious. Secular social workers see such religious beliefs as being counter-productive for their clients. So guess what they conclude about religion?

Many reading this blog would not relate to the concept of “hearing voices.” Let me assure you that many people are experiencing that phenomena. Even though I personally haven’t experienced that I started to believe what others were reporting to me. I had to create an environment where they could do that without feeling judged or labeled. If an inquirer thinks that someone won’t believe them, or would judge them to be mentally ill, they won’t share what is happening inside.

Suppose a mother comes home from the hospital with her third child. She is exhausted, the kids are crying and she suddenly has the thought, “Kill your babies.” When her husband comes home that evening, do you think she is going to say, “Hi honey, I have had thoughts about killing the kids!” That is not going to happen, and the vast majority won’t kill their kids, but she will be deeply troubled by such thoughts, unless she knows where they are coming from. Tragically, in some extreme cases they do kill their kids. A few years back a Christian mother drowned five of her children in Texas. She told others the thoughts she was struggling with and believed herself that it was demonic, but nobody believed her. Society judged her to be mentally ill, and she ended up in a psychiatric prison. The church failed that family.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Mental Illness

May 28 – Mental Illness

The mental health industry would say that you are mentally healthy if you are in touch with reality and relatively free of anxiety. Such standards are based on western rationalism. What is reality? The real question is: Who is reality? God is the ultimate reality. Everything else is created. Reality to the westerner is only that which can be verified through the five natural senses. It is very difficult to wrap our minds around what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 4:18, “As we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Anybody caught in a spiritual battle for their mind would be diagnosed as mentally ill by a western rationalist. If clients are seeing or hearing something that the secular counselor isn’t seeing or hearing, what would the therapist conclude? Either they are mentally ill, or out of touch with reality. The one who is actually out of touch with reality may be the secular counselor, who knows nothing of the spiritual world. What their clients are experiencing is real. In addition, fear is almost always a component of spiritual conflicts. If a client is struggling with fear and hearing voices, the diagnosis will likely be paranoid schizophrenia. To illustrate, read the following testimony I received by email:

For years I had these “voices” in my head. There were four in particular and sometimes what seemed like loud choruses of them. When the subject of schizophrenia would come up on TV, or in a magazine, I would think to myself, “I know I am not schizophrenic, but what is this in my head?” I was tortured, mocked, and jeered. Every single thought I had was second guessed, consequently I had zero self-esteem. I wished the voices would be quiet, and I always wondered if other people had this as well, and if it was common.

When I started to learn from you about taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and read about people’s experiences with these “voices,” I came to recognize them for what they were, and I was able to make them leave. That was an amazing and beautiful thing. To be fully quiet in my mind, after all those years of torment.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

He has a Demon

May 27 – He Has A Demon

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say He has a demon” (Lu. 7:33). The same was said of Jesus. When Jesus revealed their plans to kill Him, He asked, “Why do you seek to kill me. The crowd answered, You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill You” (Jn. 7:19,29). They were seeking to kill Him and lied about it, but how did Jesus know that? God is omniscient. He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Heb. 4:12), but humanity has no such ability. That kind of knowledge is supernatural, and when secret things are revealed the people of that day assumed the information came from demons. What was true then is still true today, and demonic infestation is evident in three categories.

First, there is an assault on the Church. Satan blinds the mind of the unbelieving (2 Cor. 4:4) so they don’t come to Christ, and then He tempts, accuses, and deceives those who do. Satan is not omnipresent, so he carries on his work through a hierarchy of demons. The Church is instructed to submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7), and individually we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. If it is not true, don’t believe it. You are saved and sanctified by faith.

Second, Satan has deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9), and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19). Spiritism is the most prominent religious orientation of the world. In other words, there are more practicing spiritists than there are practicing Christians, or Muslims. Where do psychics and mediums get their information from? New Age proponents have spirit guides and seek to channel their esoteric knowledge. Such “knowledge” is not acquired through the natural means of disciplined study. Just change the names from demon and medium to spirit guide and channeler and a gullible public accepts it. Metaphysics and parapsychology are listed courses in almost every college and university, but historical Christianity is prohibited in most secular institutions.

Third, “There was a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to Him? Others said, These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind” (Jn. 10:19-21). Such divisions exist in the Church today, and this passage raises a critical question. Are such people mentally ill, or is there a spiritual battle for their minds? Only the Church has the potential to shed light on schemes of the devil that is paralyzing the Church, deceiving the whole world, and confusing the mental health industry.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Hearing and Seeing

May 25 – Hearing and Seeing

I was leading a lady through the Steps to Freedom when she suddenly reacted in fear. I asked her what she was hearing or seeing in her mind. She said, “You mean you don’t see him there.” “Who,” I asked. She said, “My father, standing right there!” I didn’t bother to look where she was pointing, because I know I wouldn’t see anything. There are people seeing and hearing things that another person, who is present at the same time, doesn’t see or hear anything. How do we explain that?

In the natural realm, we have five senses. To hear something there must be a source for the sound, such as a shout from another person or a door closing. The sound is a compression and rarefaction of air molecules. It travels through the medium of air at the speed of sound from the sound source to our ear drums. A signal is sent from the ear drum to the brain. Astronauts cannot speak to one another in outer space, since sound needs the medium of air in order to travel.

In order for us to see anything, there must be a light source, such as the sun or a light bulb. Traveling at the speed of light, light rays reflect off a material object back to our optic nerve, which sends a signal to our brains. Light rays can only be reflected off of material objects. So what are these people seeing and hearing? The apostle Paul would answer, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood [material], but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil [non-material] in heavenly places” (Eph. 12). This is not a physical battle discernible by our five senses, it is a spiritual battle for our minds. The battle is not external, it is internal. You don’t win this battle with anti-psychotic medications. The answer is the armor of God. The purpose for armor is to stop penetration.

A frightened child comes into your room and says, “Mommy, there is something in my room!” Most parents would go back to the room and say, “Honey, I looked under your bed and in the closet. There is nothing here, go back to sleep.” You’re an adult, and if you saw something in your room, would you go back to sleep? What that child saw or heard was real, even though you couldn’t verify it through your natural senses. The skeptic might respond, “It was just a nightmare.” I’ll say more about that next week.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Chemical Imbalance?

May 24 – Chemical Imbalance?

I am not the only one dealing with people who are hearing “voices” or struggling with condemning, and blasphemous thoughts. Every psychiatrist and professional counselor is treating patients with such symptoms. They are experiencing a chemical imbalance is their likely explanation. When they don’t have a biblical worldview, or no understanding of the spiritual world, that is about the only explanation they can offer. When an anti-psychotic medication is administered and the voices are stopped or muted, it may seem to verify their diagnosis. But is that really true? Honest questions need to be asked.

How can a chemical imbalance create a personality or a thought? How can neurotransmitters randomly produce a thought that one is opposed to thinking? Is there a natural explanation for that? Did the anti-psychotic medication cure the problem, or did it mask the symptom? If the person stopped taking the medication would the voices still be there? Was the medication just a narcotizing agent, which is why many people take drugs and alcohol? They have no mental peace so they numb the mental confusion with chemicals, only to wake up the next morning a little worse than the day before.

Attend a secular recovery group in a chemical dependency unit and you will hear statements like, Don’t pay attention to that committee in your head, or You have to get rid of that stinking thinking. Is that describing mental illness, or a spiritual battle for the mind? Ask prisoners who are incarcerated for committing a crime what their thought life is like. They will probably tell you, but most people in our churches won’t disclose that. This is Satan’s greatest “scheme.” Since we can’t read each other’s minds, we don’t have a clue what other people are struggling with in their minds.

When I explain this in a church I am usually inundated with questions and requests for help. I had a crowd around me one night when an usher broke through and said they needed me to help a young lady who was desperate. She wouldn’t talk to anyone else. As I approached her she kept repeating, He understands. He understands. She has had two voices in her head that she referred to as guardians since she was three years old. She had attempted to deal with her voices by being a super-disciplined marine, but that only added to her driven lifestyle. Staying busy was her only means of staying sane, but one can’t do that forever. I met with her the next week, and helped her “submit to God and resist the devil” (James 4:7), and she was free.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Deadly Deception

May 23 – Deadly Deception

Eve was deceived by Satan and so was David in the Old Testament. Judas and Peter, two disciples chosen by Jesus, were also deceived by Satan. All thought they were doing the right thing. Eve was probably the only one who knew those thoughts weren’t hers.

After Pentecost the church was gaining momentum, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:42.43). They were all filled with the Spirit and speaking the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31), and had everything in common (4:32f). You can be sure that everything good that God does, is countered by Satan. “But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostle’s feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God. When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it” (Acts 5:1-6).

Ananias could have kept all the property, but he lied and let people think that he had shared all that he owned. That would not normally be considered a capital offense! The discipline seemed to outweigh the crime. Since Sapphira was part of the lie, she died also. Why did God deal so harshly for such an offense? Because God knows what the real battle is, and He had to send a clear message to the early church. If Satan can get God’s children to believe a lie undetected, he can exert some control over them. The apostle revealed the true nature of the sin when he said, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.” The origin of the lie was demonic, and such lies will control you. To be filled implies to be controlled. It is the same word used by the apostle Paul when he wrote, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). To whatever we yield ourselves, to that we will be filled (controlled).

Suppose I told you something about yourself or God that was not true and you believed it. Would that have some negative effect on your life? Of course it would. What would the impact be on your life if you believed a lot of lies? Let’s believe the truth that will set us free. It is our choice.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Peter’s Deception

May 22 – Peter’s Deception

In my last blog I shared that Satan deceived David in the Old Testament. Like Eve, David believed a lie and the consequences were devastating. Could that also happen to one of Christ’s apostles? It did! Luke records, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve” (22:3). In John’s gospel it is recorded that, “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him” (Jn. 13:2). Judas was called by God, witnessed the miraculous ministry of Jesus, and yet betrayed Him. How could that happen?

Some may conclude that Judas was just a bad character, and therefore acting out his depraved nature. That may explain why he had stolen from the treasury, but that is not what Scripture teaches. The thought of betraying Christ was put into the heart of Judas by Satan. Having stolen the money is what made him vulnerable to Satan’s schemes (thoughts). When Judas realized what he had done, he hung himself.

Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Peter said to Him, Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death. Jesus said, I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Lu. 22:31-34), and that happened. I believe that Peter had a good heart, as opposed to Judas, which is why Jesus said “when you have turned again.” Jesus knew that Peter would be repentant. It is noteworthy that Jesus didn’t rebuke Satan and prevent him from controlling Peter. The context reveals what right Satan had to sift Peter like wheat. “A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest” (Lu. 22:24). Pride comes before a fall.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

David’s Deception

May 21 – David’s Deception

There are many divergent views about the second coming of Christ, but most agree that in the latter days there will be false prophets, false teachers, and false Messiahs. Jesus said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time” (Matt. 24:24,25). That passage raises an important question. Can the elect (saved) be deceived? There is some ambiguity in that passage, but the apostle Paul was saying yes they can when he wrote 1 Tim. 4:1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). That is presently happening to believers all over the world. All the testimonies I have shared in my books have come from believers. Can Satan put a thought in our heads is the bigger question? What does Scripture say?

“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited (moved NASB) David to number Israel” (1 Chron. 21:1). How did Satan do that? Did he take on a human form and talk to David through the natural senses? No, those were David’s thoughts, or at least he thought they were. There is the deception. David had a whole heart for God. If he knew those thoughts were coming from Satan, he never would have obeyed them. Satan is not going to tempt a mature believer to sacrifice their babies, or do any other obvious satanic rituals. They would know where is it coming from and dismiss it.

So how would Satan deceive a mature believer like David? He would tempt him to take his eyes off of God’s resources and focus on his own. David had slain Goliath and wrote in Psalm 33 that “The horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue” (17). David knew that he couldn’t serve God and live a righteous life by his own strength and resources, and neither can we. But Satan incited David to do just that even though Joab asked him not to do so. As a result, judgment came upon Israel and 70,000 died of a pestilence (21:14). It is interesting to note that David’s lapse in judgment came after some major victories (Chapter 20), which is similar to Elijah’s fall after slaying 450 prophets of Baal. Good people can be deceived.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish see http://www.ficmm.org/blog