Friday, November 03, 2006

Recognize the Enemy

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” -Ephesians 6:12

Fuller Theological Seminary use to have a class that dealt with “signs and wonders.” The class was taught by John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner for the School of World Missions. The class was only offered once each year. The class was always full. The class was controversial. The class was designed to prepare folks on the mission field to deal with the spiritual forces that would be encountered. The class also focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit—including the “spooky” gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, heal, etc. It was a powerful class! The class was hated by the faculty in the School of Theology. The class was ultimately discontinued at Fuller because of the faculty in the School of Theology!

Every church and pastor WILL encounter “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The question is whether the pastor or church will recognize the enemy and be prepared to battle the enemy.

Our church lost a family due to our dealings with demonic forces. This family had a “Presbyterian” background. They just could not deal with demons and supernatural spiritual forces. They feared for their children. They left.

It is my belief that most Presbyterians are very uneasy about the topic of demons, Satan and spiritual forces of evil. They don’t want to think about it, talk about it or experience it. They want to feel comfortable at church—and the topic of demons makes them feel uncomfortable. This is a shame!

I was very fortunate in that my first encounter with a demon possessed person was when I was still in high school. I played the guitar for a jail ministry in Ellensburg, Washington. Every Sunday afternoon we had a team down at the jail to minister and care for those who were behind bars. One day we encountered the strangest person I had ever met. One minute he was quoting scripture and the next he was damming God, Christ and us. There were only three of us there that day—two high school students and a leader. The leader immediately recognized that the man was demon possessed. We left the jail because we were not prepared, or equipped, to deal with that type of ministry situation. A few days later a team went down (it did not include either of us high school students) after they had spent time with prayer and fasting. The demons were cast out of Harley—the transformation was immediate and powerful. Harley was a changed man. He pled guilty to selling drugs (he knew there were consequences for his actions) and went to the state penitentiary in Walla Walla. Harley became involved in the prison ministry and started a Christian newsletter. He was later stabbed by another inmate because of his faith.

The next year while at a Presbyterian-related college I met a person who had been demon possessed. The previous year several of the faculty recognized the Greg has demon possessed. There was no college chaplain at that time. The faculty members brought together people from their various churches to pray, fast and deal with the demons. The demons were cast out and Greg was a changed man.

Back to my previous assertion, I believe that most Presbyterians have not been prepared to deal with demons and spiritual forces of evil. The PCUSA has very little to offer in the way to training or resources to prepare pastors and churches for these types of spiritual encounters. Therefore, many turn to other sources—some good, some not so good. We do not need to see a demon behind every rock. Every person who is a little “strange” is not demon possessed. Our lack of training in this area leads to fear. We need to break free from our silence on this important part of the Christian ministry.

Check back on Monday for more on this topic!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

You’re going to think I’m crazy but... DEMONS!

Worship had just finished. Some people were headed to the fellowship hall for coffee and snacks. There were small groups of people still in the sanctuary talking, laughing and enjoying one another’s company. I was just hanging around and talking to random people. As I was getting ready to head to the “goodies” a young couple approached me. The conversation started something like this, “Pastor Lance, you’re going to think we are crazy…” The couple was fairly new to our church but I had known them (and their families) from a previous town and church. They were in a small group Bible study that was sponsored by another church. The leaders of the study were a young couple that had two very small children. This couple had been seeing some very startling “entities” in their house. These demonic presences were manifesting themselves with increasing frequency. The couple went to the pastor of their church. The pastor was leading the church through a major building project and about to retire and did not have time or energy to help them. They were frustrated and didn’t know what to do. They told their Bible study about the situation. The young couple from our church asked if it would be alright for them to tell their pastor (me!) about the situation and see if there was anything that Evergreen could do to help them.

Fast forward a couple of years… After church another young couple came up to me after church and the conversation went something like this, “Pastor Lance, you’re going to think we are crazy…” This couple was seeing demonic presences in their house!

Fast forward several years (last night)… I had an interesting phone call from my daughter. She had just received the care package I sent (muffins, scones, bagels, Starbucks gift card, Safeway gift card, her absentee ballot and a note) and wanted to say thanks. She did not start the conversation with the “crazy” line. She knew I wouldn’t think she was crazy. She had been a part of mission trip where we had to deal with a demonic presence. It appears that a gal that goes to the ministry she is involved in has a demonic presence in her. The staff person who leads the ministry has been made aware of the situation and has not done anything. He is overwhelmed with staff out of town, a wife who is expecting and with keeping the ministry going. My daughter does not believe that doing nothing is an option. She is frustrated.

Our church has had to deal with demons on several occasions. My daughter thought that most Christian ministries would have had to deal with them and would know what to do. I told her that I thought most pastors and churches intellectually believe that demons exist but have not had to actually deal with them.

Here’s my question for all of you blog readers… Have you had to deal with demons? Please post your responses!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New Look and Prayer Updates

Here is the long-awaited new look of Full Court Presby! Over the next few weeks there may be other attempts to update the look of this blog. I love the “ajax” programming templates but have yet to find one in a color and style that I like. So remember… the “look” of this blog may change but the mission of this blog will ALWAYS be the same.

My pastoral calling always will take precedence over blogging. Many of you have prayed for people I have mentioned on the blog so here is an update on how people are doing.

Kate – pancreatic cancer: Kate is doing remarkably well. She is still visiting her son in another part of the state. When she returns our deacons are set to assist in any way possible. Hospice will be called in when she returns home. Her faith is strong.

Mylene – brain tumor: Mylene had brain surgery last week. The surgery went very well and they were able to remove most of the tumor. The tumor had started growing up through the skull, down into the brain and across the top of the brain and impacting the main blood supply vessel. Things went so well that she went home from the hospital the next day. She is confident that it was due to all of the prayers for her. It appears as though Mylene has two different kinds of cancer. She has cervical cancer and it appears as though the brain cancer is a different kind of cancer. So, radiation for the brain tumor and she will continue chemo for the cervical cancer.

Betty – colon cancer and lung cancer: Betty was in the hospital last week due to a severe reaction to chemo. It was her last chemo. She is now out of the hospital and doing well. In a few weeks there will probably be some tests to see if all of the cancer is gone.

Kent (my brother) – Kent was in a diabetic coma for 24 hours last week and almost didn’t make it. A combination of an infection, a reaction to medication and some other factors led to a blood sugar of over 800. They had never seen a person have a potassium level so low and still live. He is doing much better and could be going home from the hospital today.

The PCUSA may have its troubles—they are MANY. However, we cannot let the PCUSA’s struggles distract us from our calling a Christians and church leaders. We MUST share the good news of Jesus Christ. We need to worship the living God. We need to minister to those who are sick and hurting. We need to help those who cannot help themselves. We need to be the light of Christ to the world around us.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Gulf Coast Good Work

More than a year has passed and there is still MUCH work that needs to be done to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. An elder from our church just returned from a week in New Orleans—he was a part of a group from our presbytery that went to help with the rebuilding effort. Churches and groups like Habitat for Humanity have been a blessing in the rebuilding effort. The task is just too large for the local skilled labor force. A big THANK YOU goes out to all who have gone to the Gulf Coast to lend a helping hand.

This is an instance where something good has happened through the denomination. Church groups from across the nation can join forces to accomplish something that our individual churches could never accomplish.

I’ve got an idea. Let’s cancel the next General Assembly meeting and donate all of the money that would have been spent on it to the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort. Why do we need to argue about changing the Book of Order while thousands and thousands of people still have not had their homes rebuilt? We could commit to fully staffing the Presbyterian work camps that whole spring and summer. By planning far enough in advance we could get our skilled contractors and workers from our congregations to be a part of that major push. Imagine that message that would send throughout the nation—it would show that Presbyterians really care.