November 18, 2008

Conditional Futurism in Sum

My eschatology turned upside down after I studied the Bible verses referenced in the F. Furman Kearley article, "The Conditional Nature of Prophecy: A Vital Exegetical and Hermeneutical Principle".1 For example, Hebrew prophets such as Jeremiah (18:5-10) and Ezekiel (33:12-16) clearly teach that the outcome of prophetic judgments are conditional. The word and purposes of the Lord never alter while the outcome of the word of the Lord can vary. When the Lord speaks a prophetic judgment against a nation or individual human, then genuine repentance of the nation or human will alter the outcome of the judgment. And this conditional nature of prophecy applied to all the divinely inspired prophetic judgments written in the canonical books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Kearley also applies the conditional nature of prophecy to end-time prophecies. He says, "If the conditional element were accepted, this would constitute a giant step toward the unity of classical premillennialists, dispensationalists, amillennialists, and postmillennialists."

Before I carefully studied the nature of prophetic judgment according to the Hebrew prophets, I loosely held to premillennialism. I believed in the Millennial Reign after the return of the Lord while I saw a lot of symbolism in Revelation and never insisted that the Reign had to literally last one thousand years. And I strongly believed that 2 Thessalonians 2 clearly teaches about a final human Antichrist who would manifest before the return of the Lord. Likewise, I held to futurism. My futurism also incorporated preterist and postbiblical typologies. For example, I saw Hitler as a postbiblical type of the final Antichrist.

After I carefully studied the nature of prophetic judgment according to the Hebrew prophets, I remained a futurist and embraced the conditional nature of prophetic judgments, which I call "conditional futurism". For example, I still believe that a final human Antichrist will manifest before the return of the Lord. And this Antichrist can read about his pending doom and decide to repent in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm not saying that we can depend on the final Antichrist repenting before the return of the Lord, but we need to understand the nature of prophetic judgments and pray for the salvation of all political leaders according to 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

On one hand, the Bible teaches about a type Antichrist who repented. For example, Revelation refers to the Babylonian Kingdom while describing Antichrist forces. This suggests that Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar was a type Antichrist. And Nebuchadnezzar repented (Daniel 1-4). On the other hand, we cannot depend on the repentance of the final Antichrist before the return of the Lord because Acts 3:19-23 teaches that some people can choose to reject Christ and face destruction. According to Conditional Futurism, the final Antichrist could repent or fulfill his destiny of doom.
1F. Furman Kearley, "The Conditional Nature of Prophecy: A Vital Exegetical and Hermeneutical Principle", (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press, undated),

Copyright © 2008 James Edward Goetz

September 19, 2008

The Evangelical Universalist

Gregory Macdonald pseudonymously wrote (2006) The Evangelical Universalist. And Macdonald started a blog, which spawned a forum board

I like Macdonald's approach to evangelical universalism, for example, (4/30/2008) Responses to evangelical objections to the orthodoxy of universalism:

'So what do the "evangelical" universalists believe? Much the same as any other evangelical. They believe that God is triune and created the world ex nihilo; they believe that humans are created in this God's image; they believe that human rebellion separates us from God and deserves punishment; they accept the final authority of the Scriptures for matters of Christian faith; they believe that the Father sent his one and only Son as a human being (who did not cease to be divine) to live as our representative, to reveal the Father and to atone for our sins through his death on the cross; they believe that through his resurrection eternal life is available to those who trust in Christ; they believe in salvation by grace (not merit), through faith in Christ (not works); they believe in the return of Christ and the coming day of judgment; they even believe in hell!'

Please visit and comment on the forum board The Evangelical Universalist.

June 5, 2008

The Restoration of the City or Locality Church and Apostolic Leadership

This is the seventh post in a chain blog on the restoration of the New Testament model of the city church. Alan Knox kicked off the chain blog with The Assembling of the Church: City Church - A Chain Blog.

I've had a vision for the restoration of city or locality churches and apostolic leadership since 1985. I caught the vision a few months after I was gloriously saved and attending an independent Pentecostal church which taught about the restoration of city churches and apostolic leadership. I heard various pastors and itinerant ministers describe New Testament church government in terms of five-fold ministry. Some of those teachings stuck with me for over twenty years through both encouraging and disillusioning church experiences.

I must admit that at one point I developed an arrogant attitude while I thought that churches which rejected five-fold ministry would quickly fall apart while fellowships that governed themselves according to five-fold ministry would take over the world-wide church. For example, I graduated an Assemblies of God (AG) Bible college in 1989 while I rejected a part-time AG ministry position and thought that God would never again start a revival in an AG church. Then, I spent a few years with a church governed by five-fold ministry while I had some encouragement and also experienced disillusionment. The kickers came in 1995 when the Brownsville Revival started in an AG church and in 1996 when my home town State College Assembly of God in Pennsylvania began to show signs of renewal. God strongly spoke to me about these events. I needed to repent of my view that God wouldn't pour out revival in churches with a less than perfect New Testament model of church government. And I went as far as getting ministry credentials with the AG for a few years.

Now I'll back up and explain what five-fold ministry means to readers who never or barely heard of five-fold ministry. It's based on various passages including Ephesians 4:11-13, "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ."

Many proponents of five-fold ministry say that the above passage teaches about five types of ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. On the other hand, many interpretors say Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches about four types of ministry because "some pastors and teachers" refers to one type of ministry, a pastor-teacher. And three of the four types of ministries are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28. I lean toward seeing four types of ministry in Ephesians 4:11-13 and call it four-fold ministry.

Ephesians 4:11-13 teaches that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers prepare and bring unity to the body of Christ. There's little controversy about the roles of evangelists and pastor-teachers in most evangelical churches, but great controversy surrounds claims of modern day apostles and prophets.

Some evangelicals such as evangelical Methodists attend churches with an episcopal government while episcopal governments assume an unbroken apostolic succession going back to the New Testament church. In this model, episcopal bishops are supposed apostolic leaders.

On the other hand, most evangelicals reject the legitimacy of unbroken apostolic succession. I see this rejection broken down into two categories: one, apostolic government ceased with the New Testament apostles; two, apostolic succession miserably backslid while God is restoring genuine apostolic leadership in the church.

I never saw an argument which opposed the idea that the Early Church unanimously accepted apostolic succession. And the NT apostles included more than Paul and those who witnessed the ministry of Christ. For example, Acts 14:14 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-6 teach that Barnabas was an apostle. And 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6 teaches that Silas and Timothy along with Paul had apostolic authority in Thessalonica. And Titus 1:5 describes Titus carrying out apostolic ministry in Crete. And Romans 16:7 implies that Andronicus and Junias were outstanding apostles or outstanding companions of apostles.

The Early Church eventually developed a three-tier government with bishops, presbyters/elders, and deacons. And the bishops were the supposed successors of the original apostles while the presbyters were the second level of church government. However, the New Testament teaches that elders/presbyters are also bishops/elders per Acts 20:25-28 and Titus 1:5-7. So the distinction between elders/presbyters and bishops/elders is a church tradition apart from the Bible.

Here I'll briefly describe my interpretation of NT church governmental tiers. The NT church described a four-tier government: 1) apostles, 2) elders/bishops, 3) deacons, 4) the congregation. For example, Acts 6:1-6 says that the apostles appointed deacons who were selected by the congregation. And Acts 15:22 says that the apostles and elders with the consent of the whole congregation made a church government decision. Likewise, Acts 6:1-6 teaches that apostles and deacons and the congregation are different levels of government while Acts 15:22 teaches that apostles and elders and the congregation are different levels of government. And this adds up to the four-tier church government listed above.

The four-tier government integrates with the four-fold ministry. For example, a prophet could be an elder or an apostle. In the case of Silas, Acts 15:32 says that Silas was a prophet while 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6 implies that Silas also became an apostle. And I suppose that the four-fold ministries of evangelist and pastor-teacher could be at the level of elder or apostle.

I briefly outlined the NT teachings about four-fold ministry and four-tier government to set a foundation to see basic structures in the city church. And many Christians look forward to the restoration of the city or locality church before the Lord returns.

I see controversy in any attempt apply NT city church government to the contemporary church. For example, I reject unbroken apostolic succession while I understand that many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord believe in unbroken apostolic succession. On the other hand, while I reject that church tradition, I also acknowledge that a bishop selected according to the tradition of unbroken apostolic succession could also be a genuine apostle.

I heard many people say that the apostleship of Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and Titus are merely examples of people called to missions. I don't see that interpretation flowing from the Bible. These apostles were Ephesians 4 apostles while Ephesians 4 apostles didn't cease after the death of Paul and those who witnessed the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Now, we'll answer the following question. Who is a contemporary apostle? First, apostles are called by God to be apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28 and many other verses). Second, apostles meet the Pauline requirements for elders/overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Peter 5:1, 2 John 1, 3 John 1). Third, apostles are leaders of elders (Titus 1:5, 1 Peter 5:1, and many other verses).

Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:12 also wrote that apostles are marked by miracles. And James 5:14-15 says that elders minister healing to the sick. And a modern day restoration of biblical miracles and healings should be part of the restoration of apostolic ministry and the city church.

Some ministerial fellowships recognize apostles (apart from the claim of unbroken apostolic succession) who oversees various pastors and ministry leaders. And this represents a small fraction of the church. But there are many other leaders of pastors and ministry leaders in various denominations using various structures of church government which do not use the title "apostle". Many of these leaders of pastors are apostles regardless of official title.

All of these modern day apostles need to reach across doctrinal and cultural lines while learning to work together in unity. For example, Ephesians 4:11-13 says that apostles and other four-fold ministers equip the saints and bring unity to the body of Christ. Likewise, unity in the body of Christ should be a primary goal of all modern day apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors.

Both Paul and John the Revelator wrote to seven city churches. And modern day congregations in the same city or locality need to work together in unity. The apostles and elders in each locality need to look at the bigger goal of building up the church and reaching the lost in their locality instead only building their congregation with little concern for the growth of the locality church.

Does this mean that one day there will be only one senior apostle or senior elder per locality? God help us if locality churches focus on a senior apostle or elder (Mark 9:45-48, 10:35-45). Apostles in Acts typically ministered in teams. For example, an apostle such as Barnabas may switch back and forth from the roles of senior ministry leader and associate ministry leader. And little if any fanfare went to the ranking of the apostles. And Paul details qualifications for elders/overseers while he never describes the selection of a senior elder/overseer.

The restoration of locality churches will coincide with the rise of apostolic leaders working in unity. And this restoration of unity will prepare the body of Christ and help lead many more people to Christ (John 17:20-21, Ephesians 4:11-13).

I thank the late John Carr for his clear and passionate preaching and writing about the restoration of the city church and apostolic ministry.

Copyright © 2008 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Links and Chain Blog Guidelines

Chain blog rules:

1. If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2. Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of all previous links to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.

1. Alan Knox, The Assembling of the Church: City Church - A Chain Blog
2. Charlie Wallace, City Church: Meeting
3. David Rogers, Roadblocks on the Path to City Church
4. Steve Sensenig, The Major Roadblock to a City Church
5. Paul Grabill, The Resurrection of the City Church: Who Will Move the Stone?
6. Jon Amos, A City Church Thought Experiment
7. James Goetz, The Restoration of the City or Locality Church and Apostolic Leadership
8. Alan Knox, The Assembling of the Church: Unity and the Church in a City

April 18, 2008

Day by Day Renewal and Truth

Day by day, God renews the inner nature of believers (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:16). I learned how to overcome obstacles to my day by day renewal when I experienced and accepted God's loving truth about various memories in my life. God renewed my thinking and set me free when I experienced God’s loving truth.

The great mysteries in Scripture include that in some ways our salvation in Jesus Christ is instant while in other ways our salvation is progressive. For example, Romans 5:1-2 teaches that God instantly justifies new believers while Romans 12:2 teaches about a progressive transformation and renewal. And 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches that every believer is a new creation while 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:16 teaches about a progressive, day by day renewal.

God leads us in a day by day renewal that makes our inner nature more like God's Spirit. We learn from 2 Corinthians 3:18 that God takes us from one degree of glory to another. This means that God is always bringing His people from one level of glory to a higher level of glory. God has unlimited glory, and we will forever grow into higher levels of glory as we become more like God's Spirit. For example, Galatians 5:22-23 says, ... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.... And our inner nature will forever develop more love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus taught in John 8:32, "... you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." And the Greek word for "know" in 8:32 implies more than "cognitive knowledge” while it suggests "personal experience". The ancient eastern concept of personal experience in knowledge implies an experiential knowledge. Likewise, Jesus taught in 8:32 that the experiential knowledge of divine truth makes people free. Believers are made free by experiencing truth from Jesus Christ and God's Spirit.

False beliefs or sinning can hinder a believer's day by day renewal. As stated above, Jesus said that the truth will make believers free. And the opposite can be true. False beliefs can bind believers. And false beliefs that bind believers could have been learned earlier today or many years ago in the childhood of the believer.

False beliefs and sin can go hand in hand. For example, deceit instigated many false beliefs that resulted in sin. And humans face deceit from the devil's forces, the fallen world, and our own fallen heart.

Sin and the devil's deceit form a vicious cycle. The devil deceived the first humans into sin while all other humans apart from Jesus inherited a sinful nature. This resulted in humans facing their own deceitful heart, a world filled with deceit, and ongoing deceitful attacks from the devil. And Ephesians 4:22-27 teaches that sins such as bitter anger makes room for the devil. This implies that the vicious cycle of sin and deceit opens humans to greater deceit from the devil.

Scripture asks believers to renew all of their thinking regardless of their age, culture, social status, or family background. And many believers discovered that thinking patterns learned during childhood or disturbing experiences needed to change. One of the problems is that thinking patterns learned during childhood or disturbing experiences sometimes become second nature. And many believers never question some of their second nature thinking patterns while many of these thinking patterns are based on false beliefs.

Long-term problems by definition have a root cause that originated in the past. And some root causes of long-term spiritual problems involve painful memories. Believers can respond to painful memories in various ways: believers can bottle the painful memories; believers can dwell their thoughts on the painful memories; believers can use their own strength to confront the painful memories; or believers can experience and accept God's loving truth, redemption, and peace for the painful memories.

Scripture never teaches believers to bottle, dwell their thoughts on, or merely use their own strength to confront painful memories. And 1 Peter 5:7 teaches believers to cast their anxiety on God. And Philippians 4:6-7 teaches believers to bring all of their worries to God in prayer. This casting anxiety on God and bringing worries to God in prayer is the opposite of bottling painful memories or dwelling on painful memories. And these passages clearly teach believers to go beyond merely using their own strength to confront painful memories.

I recently experienced God's truth, redemption, and peace for various issues that instigated anxiety in me for several years. Christians prayed with me while I asked God to show me His truth about some painful experiences in my past. And I experienced the presence of God's Spirit while God healed parts of my past memories. I went beyond mere cognitive knowledge of God redeeming all of my past to experiential knowledge of God redeeming specific painful memories from my past. And I soon learned how to accept God's truth and peace for issues that come to my mind during my private devotions. And that healing process greatly helped my day by day renewal.

Day by day, we need to surrender our thoughts and desires to God. We can struggle with temptations from within, the world, and the devil. But 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 teaches that we have divine power to control our thoughts for Christ. We have God's power within us to demolish every thought that opposes God. We cannot always change the spiritual and physical world around us, but we can always maintain godly thoughts and desires regardless of our circumstances. And Philippians 4:11-13 teaches that we can learn to be content in every circumstance.

And per Ephesians 4:22-27, we make no room for the devil's temptations when we repent of all sin. And believers with no room for the devil can proclaim the Lord's resistance against the devil's attacks. (See Luke 10:17-20, James 4:7, and Jude 9.)

We must always remember that loving God is our first priority in day by day renewal. For example, Matthew 22:37-38 says that the most important commandment is to love God.

God sees everything, but by definition we cannot see our own blind spots. And our ignorance of our blind spots can hurt us, so we always need to humble ourselves before God and ask God to lead us out of our blind spots. Occasionally, we should revisit the prayer in Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Regardless of the pain in our hearts and thoughts, each of us needs to ask God to test our heart and thoughts. We need to ask God to reveal to us His loving truth about anything that blinds us. And God will continue to lead us in our path of eternal love, joy, and peace.

1 Peter 5:7, Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

2 Corinthians 3:18, And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:16, So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 5:17, So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5, 3Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; 4for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments 5and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Ephesians 4:22-27, 22You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, ... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patients, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control....

James 4.7, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

John 8:31-32, 31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

John 15:5, [Jesus said,] I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Jude 9, But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

Luke 10:17-20, 17The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Matthew 22:36-38, 36"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" 37He [Jesus] said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38This is the greatest and first commandment.

Philippians 4:6-7, 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:11-13, 11... I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Psalm 139:23-24, 23Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. 24See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Romans 5:1-2, 1Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Romans 5:10, For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God―what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Updated 4/23/2012

Copyright © 2008, 2012 James Edward Goetz

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

February 27, 2008

My Freedom from Witchcraft

adapted from various speeches

This paper describes my former addiction to witchcraft and most importantly my freedom from the powers of witchcraft. And the paper briefly teaches a scriptural perspective of witchcraft, demon possession, and most importantly deliverance from demons in the name of Jesus.

We begin by quoting the Gospel of Matthew 8:16-17:

That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:16-17 NRSV)

Here we see a mini revival. Jesus ministered deliverance and healing to many people with sicknesses including afflictions from demons. “... he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick” In some cases, demon affliction causes various types of sicknesses. And Jesus cured all demonic sicknesses. And Matthew 8:17 quotes a prophetic reference to the ministry and death of Jesus, a prophecy that Isaiah wrote centuries before the birth of Jesus.

God’s healing starts with eternal salvation. And the reading in Matthew teaches that this healing also includes physical healing and deliverance from demons. In sum, God’s healing includes our body, mind, and spirit.

Now that I briefly outlined a scriptural view of healing, I will share about my experience with witchcraft, psychotic delusions with audio and visual hallucination, and deliverance in the name of Jesus. My family background included struggles related to my father dying a few months before my birth. I believe that these struggles helped to instigate my search for happiness in the wrong places.

I grew up going to the Roman Catholic Church, but sometimes I found witchcraft more interesting than God. My earliest memory of experimenting with witchcraft was in the summer of 1971 when I was nearly eight years old. I watched television commercials for the movie The Exorcist. And by the way, the movie The Exorcist is a pathetic portrayal of deliverance ministry. Not only that, the brief television commercials for the movie inspired me to pray to Satan when I was a couple months shy of my eighth birthday.

I saw the demon possessed girl in the television commercials for the movie make several objects float near her. I wanted her power. One night that summer, I ignored the laws taught to me by the Roman Catholic Church, knelt before my bed, clasped my hands, closed my eyes, and I asked Satan to come inside me and give me power like that girl on television.

According to the best of my childhood memory, after I laid myself in bed, I felt as if my bed shook and spun in the room while I couldn’t move my body. My heart raced. My head flushed. I tried to stop it by both closing and opening my eyes, but the jolting persisted. I screamed, “Help me.”

Sometimes that night my mother and a brother of mine would recline beside me in bed while I felt myself shaking and spinning around the room. They felt no movement except my fear.

At one point, I started to feel peaceful and then felt a warm body recline beside me. Thinking that it was my mother, I put my arm around it. To my surprise, I saw a middle‑aged mannish figure with a black tuxedo, black hair, black eyes, and a pastel white face. I tried closing my eyes, but I saw him whether my eyes were open or shut. I trembled with fear, but he gained my confidence while he offered me supernatural powers.

I recall that I eventually feared damnation according to my Roman Catholic school teachings. And I called out to God for help. My terrifying experience stopped, but I did not yet start a personal relationship with God.

Later as a child, I heard about tribal cultures and ancient mythologies from children’s literature and television documentaries. I discovered that many tribes throughout history in various regions of the world had healers that consulted spirits, a form of witchcraft. I developed a belief in witchcraft by studying such tribal religions in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and various islands. I often tried casting spells, a primary activity in either Satanism or white witchcraft.

In the summer of 1978 when I was fourteen, I meditated about the spiritual world and considered the role of Satan. I had read that some tribal religions still try to appease evil spirits by worshiping them. They believe that the primary God rarely bothers with the earth. And they say God is beyond human reach, and God’s meager interventions only bring good blessings. Since they think God never causes harm and no one can invoke God, they only attempt to gain the favor of demons because demons have an active role in human events. They encourage the evil forces not to destroy, but to protect them.

I was already a skeptic, and didn’t believe the traditional Christian doctrine that says fallen spirits are bent on evil. I thought everyone had the potential to be good, including all spirits. And I liked how dozens of tribal religions sought the good side of demons, but I differed with their belief that no one could seek the primary God.

I came to an inclusive belief. I thought that all religions might have some grain of truth. I sought the favor of all potential spiritual forces. Sometimes in prayer, I called to a pantheon of names, Buddha, Vishnu, Allah, Zeus, Jupiter, Poseidon, Neptune, Thor, spirits of nature, Great Spirit, Christ, and Satan.

My spiritual search also led me to chemical highs. In fifth grade, I had my first alcohol binge. I chugged a large glass of port wine that I found in my mother’s liquor closet while my Mom was out for the night. In seventh grade, I started smoking tobacco. And in eighth grade, I started to smoke marijuana. By the end of ninth grade, I started to smoke marijuana daily. I estimated that during a seven-year period, I smoked about seven thousand joints.

Back to around the age of twelve, I felt sad to the point that I wanted to kill myself. I recalling writing a note that I would kill myself after everybody in my family was yelling mad at me. Somehow, by God’s grace, I changed my mind and wanted to live.

And again as a teen, I tried to kill myself. One night, I felt sad and smoked a lot of marijuana. I went to the local railroad tracks and laid my body across the tracks. I fell asleep. I woke up to loud honking and saw bright lights and dust swirling all around me. And a man kept yelling at me. By the grace of God, the train conductor saw me laying on the tracks and had enough time to stop for me. The train with its bright lights and loud horn stopped a few feet before me. The conductor kept yelling at me, but I recall that I felt glad that he cared about me.

These stories indicate that my life was a mess. Now I describe more of my problems with witchcraft. As a teenager, I totally rejected the Catholic Church. Some of my relatives also left Catholicism, and some converted to born-again Christianity. For example, one of my cousins was a former acid-dropping rock-and-roll drummer who converted and became a minister. He told me, “Those spirits that you call neutral are really deceptive demons. They temporarily have great power in this world, but their end is destruction.”

I heard the same from other people. However, I still wanted to keep certain aspects of my lifestyle that conflicted with Christianity. I kept my direction. And I thought that if Satan is the source of all spells, he could not be as evil as Christianity teaches. He had a few character flaws, but Christians gave him a bum rap.

At times, I cast spells to make my career goals come true. The ambition of my youth was to be a producer and director and writer of music, videos, and movies. My first inspiration was Disney and Warner Brothers, then, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd. Spielberg and Lucas movies began to fascinate me too. I loved the special effects. Even more, I too wanted to make tens of millions of dollars per movie. I started at a community college in the fall of 1981 and studied math, but for my second semester I changed my major to communications to fulfill my longtime desire of making music and movies. Around that time, I began to pray, “Oh Satan, I’ll give you my soul if you make me a famous movie maker.” I also prayed for things such as seducing women.

The New York University School of Film accepted me for the fall semester of 1983. Meanwhile, I became more of a wretch.

The August before I would start at New York University, I ended up in a mental hospital. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with substance abuse and psychotic delusions with audio and visual hallucinations. I believed that I was an incarnation of God because many voices and visions told this to me. For example, several times I saw and heard a man in a vision tell me that he was my half brother and the reincarnation of Satan. And this vision of Satan told me that he was trying to help me get back my former divine powers. So I was saying prayers to this vision of Satan, thinking that Satan was trying to help me.

The doctors at the hospital asked me to stay for a few weeks, and they prescribed me antipsychotic medications such as Thorazine. I reluctantly agreed.

After a few months, the psychotic symptoms disappeared. But by August of 1984, I again started to hear voices. The voices and thoughts in my mind tried to convince me that I was God and that I would soon regain my supposed former almighty divine powers. After a couple of weeks of debating with myself about my thoughts and voices, I agreed with them.

I also thought that demons ruled the universe. And I decided to pray for all demons to come inside me, thinking that if they were inside me, I could once again control the universe as I believe that I did in past existences. I saw this as the only possible way to get the world out of its big mess: rampant poverty, disease, and violence.

I tried going to a county college that fall. After one week of classes, I twice left my car on campus and walked twelve miles to my home. And my head hurt as if I had a clamp on my head. And I would strike my head with the palm of my hand, which would temporarily take the pain away from my head. And I did not sleep for two days. My family had deep concern about my lack of sleep, the way I would repetitively strike my head, and that I couldn’t remember that I drove my car to classes. They encouraged me to go to another hospital, and I went to a hospital in September of 1984. Again, the doctors diagnosed me with substance abuse and psychotic delusions with audio and visual hallucinations

I want to summarize that both times when I went to a hospital, I heard voices and had strong mental ideas that encouraged me to pray to demon spirits. And this praying to demon spirits is a form of witchcraft. And around the time of my mental hospitalizations, I was convinced that I needed to pray to demons for help.

On the other hand, during my second hospitalization, I tried to read the Bible, which I had tried for about six months. Sometimes I read the Bible to see what I supposedly wrote in past existences. Other times I thought Bible reading might help me. About a week into this hospital stay, I read a verse an aunt of mine highlighted for me in a King James Bible, 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given you a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. I typically prefer modern translations of the Bible, but that passage worked for me in the King James. From then on, I developed a growing conviction that God would deliver me from my fears and anxieties, and that he would give me strength, the ability to love, and sanity.

Later one Sunday, a sister of mine took me from the hospital to visit an independent Pentecostal church. Because of my medication, I walked as if I wore an invisible straight jacket and my eyes were glossy and half shut. The pastor, a Marine vet, prayed for me. He looked into my eyes and placed his hand on my shoulder. He said, “Lord Jesus, deliver Jim from demonic spirits, generational curses, and drugs.” After a few minutes of praying, I felt something inside my neck break off, drop to my feet, and go outside of me. I felt freedom as I never had before, but I soon feared that whatever left me was an important part of me. I asked all the spirits to come back inside me. Fortunately, dozens of people at the church began to pray for my healing.

I went back to the hospital and experienced a vision while lying in my bed. In my vision, I sat as the skipper of a sailboat during a race while I controlled the rudder and mainsail. This was a familiar setting for me. I sailed in over a hundred races and was the skipper for a couple. The first leg of every race points directly into the wind. Buoys, called marks, determined the course of the race. The sailboats zigzag upwind at roughly forty-five degree angles toward the first mark.

This race in my vision had a strong wind, about thirty to forty miles per hour. Sometimes during a race with strong winds, inexperienced sailors gain little ground upwind. It once happened to me when I crewed in a race, and I felt both frustrated and humiliated. In my vision, other sailboats surrounded me. I periodically changed my tack from the right side of the boat facing the wind to the left side of the boat facing the wind, while trying to zigzag toward the upwind mark. Other racing boats always surrounded me, and I noticed that I never got closer to the mark. I kept misinterpreting the wind shifts, failing to gain ground. After a while, I felt so frustrated that I gave up and yelled, “God, I missed the mark.”

Immediately after my yell, the boat transported passed the first mark. Instead of holding the mainsail and the rudder, I sat as a crew. I looked at the mainsail and rudder and sensed an invisible being--God--took control. I don’t know how I knew that he was God, but I just knew. Soothing warmth traveled through my body, and I knew that everything would be okay. The sails looked perfectly trimmed, and the boat balanced at a perfect keel. I thought: oh great, all I have to do is keep the boat in balance. However, I floundered and tripped all over the place while the boat kept its perfect keel. Finally, I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. After the trance-like vision, I knew that God would eventually heal me.

A couple of years later, I learned more about the vision while studying theology. I was reading my class assignment about the doctrine of sin. One New Testament Greek word for sin is hamartia, which compares the idea of sin to an archer that misses the mark. While reading my textbook, I felt ecstatic as I remembered the vision from a couple of years earlier. Before I knew anything about Greek, I confessed to God with a yell in a vision that I sinned by missing the mark. I did not hit the purpose of my life. After I acknowledged my failure to God, he put my life back together better than I could imagine.

Meanwhile, back at the hospital I felt inspired by my Bible reading. I said to some of my fellow patients, “This is not the way I am going to live. No, I’m not going to have one breakdown after another. God will heal me, take away my fears, and give me a sound mind according to the verse in the Bible. I just have to figure out how to get his Spirit. I know it has something to do with faith in Jesus and him dying on the cross, but I’m not sure.”

Sometime in early October, my psychiatrist thought I was well enough to go home from the hospital. I sensed that I would soon convert to Christianity, but a couple of days after I left the hospital I wanted one more night of heavy drinking while carousing New Jersey go-go bars where I had a few dancing girlfriends that purchased me drinks.

The following Sunday, I went back to church. The pastor prayed for me again, and in a one-on-one conversation he talked to me about my condition. He said to me, “Jim, Jesus died to give you spiritual and physical healing. However, your rebellion is separating you from God and his healing. You need to acknowledge your sins, commit yourself to obeying him, and trust that God will forgive you, give you his Spirit, restore your life, and bring you to heaven when you die.”

I thought about what he said for a couple of days. Later that week I read my Bible in the basement of my house. A strong impression came to my mind. The strong impression said that if I didn’t turn from my rebellion and ask Jesus to forgive me, I would have another breakdown every year for the rest of life, then die, and go to hell. However, if I would turn to Jesus and ask him to forgive me and be my God, he would heal me.

I prayed from the depths of my heart. I said, “Jesus, I know you are God and became a human to die, taking the punishment for my sins. You rose from the dead to show your power over death. Please pardon me of my sins: spiritism, drugs, self-centeredness, manipulation, premarital sex…. Deliver me from the evil spirits that came inside me. Thank you that I’m beginning a father-child relationship with God, and I’ll live in heaven forever.”

Before this prayer, I felt as if a clamp pressed on my brain. Afterwards, I felt as if the clamp fell off and warm oil soothed the wounds of my heart and mind.

Then I went to church every Sunday, every Wednesday night for a prayer meeting, and every Saturday night for a young adult fellowship. My friends at church spent much time with me going to restaurants, the beach, and just shooting the breeze. They loved and accepted me with all of my problems while continuously prayed for my recovery.

Every day after my conversion, my family, friends, and doctors said I looked better than ever. I was free from witchcraft, drugs, drunkenness, sleeping around, and psychosis. I even quit tobacco after three months. After six months, my psychiatrist said I no longer needed therapy or medication--I never relapsed.

The next fall, I went back to college. Two weeks after my graduation, I married the beautiful Laurie Craig. My family’s Doctor who referred me to the various mental hospitals gave me a premarital exam. He said to me, “Jim, you’re one in a million.”

Since then I learned that several other people who practiced witchcraft had developed mental illness. For example, Cynthia Ramirez was the director of Manatee Palms in Bradenton, Florida. Manatee Palms was a Christian psychiatric hospital. And it had a wing specializing in treating psychotic teenage Satanists. Ramirez spoke at a nursing conference and said, “Seventy percent of the Satanists in Manatee Palms say they have heard or seen some form of demonic spirit.”

I also read Telling the Truth to Troubled People by William Backus, a clinical psychologist and Lutheran minister. He says, “Occasionally, demonic possession will mimic psychosis, and where this is the case, deliverance in the name of Jesus will result in the freedom from all symptoms.”

I found both how demons can mimic psychosis and the freedom from them through Jesus Christ. Consequences of activities that take place while influenced by demons may take time to heal. God, however, can heal anything in body, mind, and spirit.

God was gracious with me. But many who practice witchcraft do not accept God's gift to escape the consequences of witchcraft. One famous example is Adolfo Constanzo. Constanzo was a drug gang leader in the late 1980’s in Mexico. Constanzo was also a master practitioner of an African voodoo magic. And the Constanzo gang murdered dozens of people with rituals that included magical spells.

These magical ritualistic murders were supposed to invoke demons to protect the drug dealers from legal authorities. Despite the magical rituals, Constanzo could not escape the Mexican police on May 6, 1989.

In the last few weeks of his life, Constanzo had so much fear that he could not sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. On May 6, 1989, the police searched his neighborhood for a missing child that had nothing to do with Constanzo. But the police spooked Constanzo, and Constanzo started to fire his Uzi submachine gun at the police. Soon, one hundred eighty police surrounded Constanzo’s apartment. Constanzo said that the police would never take him alive so he gave his Uzi to his associate called El Duby. Then, Constanzo ordered his own execution so that the police could not take him alive. El Duby followed Constanzo’s orders by shooting Constanzo with the Uzi.

Constanzo believed that his ritualistic murders would magically protect him from the police. But Constanzo believed a lie. He could not escape the police. Constanzo trusted demons that were supposed to protect him, but these demons actually led Constanzo to his destruction.

Several people died or developed mental illness from witchcraft. And Scripture forbids casting spells and consulting spirits, for examples, see Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and Galatians 6:16-21. And everybody who experimented with witchcraft needs a touch from God.

A summary of three scriptural points,

1) Demons are deceptive; for example, 2 Corinthians 11:14 teaches that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” NRSV
2) Demons can cause destructive illnesses and habits; for example, at the beginning of this paper, we saw Matthew 8:16-17 describe that many sicknesses are caused by demons
3) We can stand up to the devil and his demons by God’s grace; for example, James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” NRSV

By God’s grace, we can overcome the work of the devil in our lives when we submit to God. God can help everybody addicted to witchcraft or addicted to anything else. Here are four steps that I followed, and I recommend these four steps to everybody,

I) I asked Jesus into my life and repented of my sins: and I continue to repent of my sins
II) I started to regularly pray to God and read the Bible; and I meditate on Bible verses throughout the day
III) I got help from a good Bible believing church; people in the church prayed for me, became my friend, and taught me the Bible
IV) I continually ask God to fill me with His Spirit

Please visit my devotional website “Divine Reading” to learn about Bible reading and meditation. Please click "here".

Copyright © 2008 James Edward Goetz

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.