Hallucination or demon? Time to go to war

The man would not go away. His presence made my skin crawl. I lay flat on my back with tubes in my body as the machines continued to provide life in the intensive care unit in the days following my accident. I couldn’t get a look at the man’s face because he was standing behind my hospital bed but he seemed to be wearing a black trench coat. In a panicked state, I would alert a family member and ask who this was. I was told not to worry, that no one else was in the room. I sensed people were writing it off as yet another hallucination brought on by the morphine and other drugs being pumped into my system. It felt different than that but I reluctantly agreed, attempting to ignore the fear that gripped me.

trench coat

A few years later as I was reading through the Bible, I flashed back to my time in the ICU. I was convinced that what I saw was not a hallucination. In fact, the more I read about the schemes and tactics of Satan and his army of demons, the more I was convinced that what I experienced in the ICU was an exposure of God’s enemy when my body was in the weakest and most compromised position it has ever been.

Not quite this guy
Not quite this guy

It’s a taboo subject. Talking demons, angels, or supernatural in our science and reason based culture will cause people to look at you with a questionable glance. However, Satan and demons are unmistakably, absolutely, and unequivocally real. In fact, the Bible tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against a spiritual enemy (Ephesians 6:12), a thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and a roaring lion roaming around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This sure doesn’t sound like somebody with a pitchfork or the smiling red demon that sits on your shoulder.

What does this look like practically? It’s the series of lies that echoes in my mind in the middle of night, telling me that I don’t have what it takes to succeed, that this trial is too big for me, that my best is behind me, and that it would be easiest to just throw in the towel and give up.

I was overlooking the staircase on the two-story deck in my backyard one day when I first noticed what seemed like foreign thought: “Just roll down the steps and end it now, it sure would make everything easier.” The thought surprised me, as I have never actually felt the desire to do something like this. (I do, however, enjoy rolling my wheelchair close to the edge to freak people out for my own amusement.)

Jesus tempted

I hesitated sharing this with anyone until I started hearing from a few others that my thoughts were not that foreign. One friend shared of constantly getting a notion to crash his car intentionally off the side of the road, another frequently finds himself thinking of ideas on how to end his life. These are not depressed individuals with obvious struggles looking for an easy way out. In each case the person is completely mentally healthy and has an excellent outlook on life. Are we crazy? I don’t think so. In fact, Satan tried to get Jesus to commit suicide by jumping off the top of a building (click here for that crazy exchange ).

The enemy’s plan is not only to try to get us to harm ourselves but to harm others as well. Seeing the massive ramifications for all parties involved in marital affairs, sexual abuse, and various acts of violence has made me understand more than ever how the enemy carries out his mission to steal, kill, and destroy marriages, families, and lives by getting people to agree with subtle lies or temptations.

So is all hope lost? Absolutely not.

Satan is not an all-powerful being like God. It can be tempting to attribute too much power and importance to Satan, but there frankly is nothing to be afraid of. The Bible says clearly that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Jesus conquered Satan, death, and sin when he busted out of the grave with the keys to hell in hand. He also promises that He is faithful to strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

How should I respond to all of this?

I will fight, knowing full well that anything in my life that the enemy intended for bad, God has and will continue to use for good. I will rely fully on the heavy artillery that the Bible speaks of:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world…

gun

…On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The YouTube video below elicits goosebumps every time I hear it. It’s a fiery battle cry I like to go back to often as a reminder of the fact that deciding to follow Jesus ushered me into the battle of epic proportions. “I’ll never turn back. I’ll never give up. I’ll never settle. I’ll never stop short. I will press towards the mark for the prize that is already mine… I will fight.” Time to load up my weaponry and go to war.

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page

My #1 New Years resolution

I sat in my wheelchair behind the back pew at church. I was desperate. Nearly a year had gone by since the accident and the physical progress I was sure I would have gained by now was nowhere to be seen. I was still paralyzed and the idea that I would not be working my way out of my chair on my own was beginning to creep into my head.

The pastor’s message that day was infiltrated with somewhat familiar healing stories from the Bible; a book I held in no more esteem than a textbook. It sounded nice, especially considering my current condition, but a connection seemed to be missing. I had not fully bought in. A pastor telling me what “God said in the Bible” wasn’t going to cut it anymore. It was time I looked into it for myself.

My voice software assisted the start of my investigation
My voice software assisted the start of my investigation

It started out of desperation. As I began to grasp the fact that I could not heal myself, I figured my best bet would be investigating the biography of the one person I knew of who made a habit of healing the paralyzed: Jesus. Pulling on my inner archaeologist, I would dig into the Bible a bit deeper each day before I would find something else pushing back at me that I either didn’t like, was confused by, or was flat out frustrating. I would wrestle with elements Jesus addresses such as the supernatural realm, the standard for sexuality, the questions of suffering, and the startling realities of heaven and hell.

The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something
The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something

While my initial posture was, “What can you do for me?” Jesus met me right where I was. God used my paralysis and the story of healing the paralytic (click here for the story) to draw me in to his Word. Before long, the Bible was no longer a recipe book to cook up my healing formula. It had become a source of life I could not get enough of, rather than a dusty book on the shelf. The healing itself took a back seat on my priority list and I was now on a journey to encounter the author Himself.

Here are three main themes that got me hooked:

Authoritative: It claims to be written by God (2 Timothy 3:16.) This statement alone did not convince me of its authority, but it sure made me take a closer look. It was either ludicrous or the most powerful piece of literature on the planet. There could be no in-between.

Controversial: In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Statements of boldness such as this do not fly in our politically correct crazed culture. Could there ever have been a more offensive claim? As I was reading, I was drawn to how Jesus would not mince words. He did not leave open the opportunity for me to sit on the fence.

Comforting: Psalm 119:92: “If you Word had not been my delight, I would’ve perished in my affliction.” Each time anxiety builds and I start to worry about what’s ahead, I can sift through the pages of Scripture and just the right words speak to me nearly every time, rooting me back into God’s truth.

piers-morgan

I saw an interview on CNN recently in which Piers Morgan suggested we bring the Bible “kicking and screaming” into the 21st century to be up with the times in our culture. Some may agree with his stance while others classify the book as sheer fairytale. Then there are those who take it as rock solid truth. I have come to find myself in the last camp over time, but what about you?

With each new year I set out certain reading goals. One discipline I have taken up has been reading through the New Testament each year. With an email sent containing just a few minutes a day of reading, I get one more way to hear directly from the living God every day. You can join me on this adventure this coming year: Click here to sign up

I’m no Bible scholar. I’m just a messed up guy who has discovered purpose and meaning unlike anything I’ve ever known while sifting through the words that God has put into text. While I initially took a disciplined approach with a trace of skepticism to examine its validity, now I can’t fathom a day without soaking up even just a few words. Everything begins to slow down. Problems seem to get smaller. Worries dissipate. Peace sets in. Passion for the day ahead reignites. I regain clarity for my vision for the future. I firmly believe you can have a similar experience. God promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Join me today on this journey for the new year.

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page

What’s on your throne?

One morning after pumping iron, I made a pit stop in front of the mirror on my way to the shower. I couldn’t help but turn to the side and flex my arm to see how big I could get my bicep to bulge. I was Hulk Hogan, at least in my own eyes. I fantasized about taking the world by storm in the upcoming basketball game. There’s nothing more delusional than the ego of a 16-year-old guy.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, guarding future NBA star O.J. Mayo would not be the pinnacle of my life
Unbeknownst to me at the time, guarding future NBA star O.J. Mayo would not be the pinnacle of my life

Kicking off in stride in college allowed me to see what else I could set my sights on: the business world. Through a great internship, “saving every dollar for a future of success” became my mantra. I meticulously kept tabs on my bank account each time something entered in. I was putting my hope in my mind and determination to maximize my ability to make money. My professional career was just around the corner.

Until both rugs were simultaneously ripped right out from underneath me.

With a suit and a nametag, I thought I had all I needed
With a suit and a nametag, I thought I had all I needed

Paralysis gave me the ultimate wake-up call. No longer could I rely on my own independence to accomplish the tangible success I had already experienced. Having no control over my limbs, embracing my inner athlete was no longer feasible. Every dollar I had ever earned disappeared in an instant when I was airlifted by helicopter from the side of the highway.

Something was missing and I could not pinpoint it. I knew it went well beyond my physical inability to move. I continued to look elsewhere, holding material things supreme to everything else in my life.

No matter where I looked, nothing seemed to fully satisfy. There was never any peace around decisions I made or how I spent my time and energy. I was bowing down at the altar of sports and money, among other things, and I was forced to realize I was not going to find ultimate worth in any of those places. It was time to look elsewhere.

I’ve noticed that as hard as I try, I cannot find the satisfaction I was looking for anywhere other than in the person of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that He came to give abundant life (John 10:10) and that the peace He offers is not in the form that the world offers (John 14:27). Sports, alcohol, or Internet perusing may provide a momentary buzz or distraction from the reality I am facing but will ultimately leave me disappointed in the end. Whether it’s food, money, drugs, sex, fashion, etc., the world has a way of offering us goods that we often believe will bring ultimate satisfaction or ease the pain when, in actuality, they are so fleeting and temporary. Tim Keller refers to these empty outlets as “counterfeit gods.” In his book by the same title, he states, “Counterfeit gods if you fail them will never forgive you, and if you get them will never satisfy you…This is the only God that will: Jesus and His resurrection.”

Any time I attempt to run towards something else, I want to be reminded of this truth. In this raw, thought-provoking video, Jefferson Bethke puts it this way: “When was the last time the world promised satisfaction and actually came through?”

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page