Wednesday, June 06, 2007

World Views – Do They Need to be Adjusted?

“A world view is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic makeup of our world.” (James W. Sire, The World Next Door, p. 17) [Note: the parenthetical phrases are Sire’s and in the book]

There are competing world views within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – and, in many denominations for that matter. A person’s world view is the filter through which he/she filters all of the information and experiences of this life. Just because a person holds a certain world view DOES NOT necessarily mean that their world view is correct. (For ages and ages people held the world view that the world was flat.) As followers of Christ we are to be continually having our world view transformed to his.

One area where there are differing world views concerns the supernatural. Today I am going to try, in a very simplistic way, to identify some of those competing world views.

World View #1—Demons do not exist today:

Many church goers in our enlightened society do not believe that demons exist and are fairly powerful supernatural entities. When confronted with biblical texts concerning demons they use a multitude of explanations for what was causing the problem in the person’s life (a psychological problem, a heath ailment such as epilepsy, etc.). Some would say that myth and superstition caused the unenlightened folks of ages-gone-by to attribute unexplainable ailments to a demonic cause. Folks in this “camp” can be from all across the theological spectrum.

World View #2—Demons may exist but I don’t want to talk about it in my church:

Those in this camp are willing to acknowledge the existence of demons. They would say that some, or all, of the demonic confrontations of Jesus actually happened. They recognize that scripture says that Christ’s followers can cast out demons. Yet, they are VERY uncomfortable talking about demons and don’t want the subject to come up in their church. I think of this position as the head-in-the-sand approach toward that which is demonic.

World View #3—Demons do exist today:

Many Christians recognize that demons DO exist—however; many of these Christians have not had an experience with demons or did not recognize their experience with demons. Too many folks in this category have had very little teaching and training in this area.

“Pastor, you are going to think that we are crazy but…”

I know that a person is about to bring up the uncomfortable topic of demons whenever I hear the above phrase. The first time I heard that phrase at Evergreen was following a worship service many years ago. The young couple had waited until most people had left the sanctuary before approaching me. They were fairly new to our church and were involved in a small group Bible study with other young couples from another church. The leaders of the Bible study group had shared with the group that there were some really frightening things happening in their house. They would regularly see very frightening spiritual entities in their house. They were frightened for their two very young children. The group suggested that they go to the pastor of their church and see what their church could/would do. They went to their pastor and their pastor didn’t have the time or the energy to deal with it—the church was in the middle of a huge building project (not a Presbyterian church). Disappointed, they went to their group not knowing what to do. “Brian” and “Nancy” asked if they would mind if they talked to their pastor (me) about the situation. Following the biblical instructions of prayer and fasting I took our elders down to the affected house. They never saw those demonic entities ever again. Several weeks later while this same couple was at their Bible study a “crazy” man tried to break into their house. The neighbors saw the man drive up to the house and try to get in the front door. He turned the door knob and shook the door. The neighbors immediately called the police. The neighbors then watched as this deranged man jumped over the fence and tried to get into the house through the sliding glass door at the rear of the house. Once again, the door would not budge. The police came and took the man into custody. His car was contained numerous firearms. When the couple returned from their Bible study the neighbors ran to meet them and tell them what had happened at their house. They told the couple how lucky they were that they had locked up the house before heading to their Bible study. The “crazy” thing is that both the front door and sliding door were not locked!! God had made it impossible for the person to open either door. A result of our prayers!?!

Demons either exist or they don’t. I could go on and give several other examples of demonic activity in an effort to convince you that demons exist. The problem is that I cannot change the mind of someone whose world view does not allow the existence of demons. There is good news though—God can change a person’s world view!

Satan’s biggest victory of the past 200 years is in convincing so many of Christ’s followers (particularly Presbyterians) that he and other demons do not exist. It is hard to fight a battle when we don’t even know who the enemy really is!

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Change in Plans… Spiritual Warfare

I had intended to have a series of posts on the re-write of the “Form of Government” section of the Book of Order. I still plan on doing that series. However, the best laid plans… Something new was added to my plate—teaching a class on spiritual warfare.

A not-so-funny thing happened several Sundays ago. A couple that has been attending Evergreen for about a year brought a visitor to church. The visitor was a high school age young man. This young man wanted to come to church. They sat back by our sound booth so not too many people were right around them. Whenever we prayed or sang worship songs the young man would jump up and begin walking around—he couldn’t sit still. Hisses and growls came from the young man’s mouth while I was preaching. At one point his eyes rolled back into his head.

I noticed right away how the young man reacted whenever we praised God or prayed. I found out about all of the other “stuff” the next day when a received a phone call from the couple who had brought him to church. They had never experienced anything like that before. They did not know what to do. They were fairly sure that there was a demon in the young man—this from a couple that would never have expected something like that to happen.

Well, one thing led to another and last night was our first class on spiritual warfare.

There are a lot of topics that cause Presbyterians to squirm: homosexual ordination, the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, tithing, the doctrine of hell—to name a few. But if you really want to see Presbyterians squirm then all you have to do is to start talking about demons, Satan and the like.

My introduction to the idea of demons was back in my senior year of high school. I played the guitar for a jail ministry and encountered my first demon possessed person. Several days later a team went back to the jail and the demons were removed from Harley. The transformation in Harley was UNBELIEVABLE! He pled guilty to selling heroin and went to the state pen to do the time for his crime. While in jail he started a Christian newsletter and had a fabulous ministry until he was knifed by a fellow inmate.

My second encounter with a demon possessed person was the very next year. While attending a Presbyterian related college I met Greg. The previous year he had been possessed by several demons. A group of faculty, staff and local church leaders were used by God to remove the demons from Greg. Greg had a very powerful testimony about the power of God over demonic forces.

Since arriving at Evergreen almost eleven years ago I have had to deal with demonic forces several times.

Here is the problem—Presbyterians never talk about demonic forces and spiritual warfare. That ends today. My next several postings will be on this very topic!