Thursday, June 14, 2007

Recognizing Jesus!

The disciples were not the first to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 14:32-33). The church leaders were not the first to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God. Then who was the first to recognize who Jesus was? The demons! Time and time again the demons recognize that Jesus was the Son of God.

They recognized who Jesus was and that he had the power and authority to destroy them! They feared him. They obeyed him.

That’s more than can be said for a lot of people within the church.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Demons Among Us!

Sunday night we looked at the gospel of Mark and Jesus’ encounters with demons. Jesus’ first encounter with demons is in Mark 1:21-28.

“They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

"Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”

-Mark 1:21-28 (NIV)

The man who had the demon in him was in the “synagogue.” He was there in their midst! Notice, the people of the synagogue are not surprised by his being there. Read the gospels. It appears as though it was fairly common to encounter a person who was under the influence of a demon—or demons. What surprised the people of the synagogue was that Jesus had authority to give the demons orders that had to obey.

Now comes the troubling question, “Are there demons in our midst?” Why would be so bold as to think that it couldn’t, or wouldn’t, happen in our churches? From experience I can tell you that people who are possessed (oppressed, demonized, or what ever you want to call it) by demons can be, and are, in our churches. On the positive side, so are angels!

Recently, a wise person (my wife) said, “If you go to the doctor and get treated for a sore throat, when what's really wrong is brain cancer, it's not such a good thing.” We can pretend that demons are not around—but its not a good thing.

A few years ago our youth group went to Canada to assist a church with a VBS. Most of the people from that church were from Central America. The evening would be our team’s time for worship, study and discipleship—taking from two to three hours. We opened our time up to the youth from that church. The last component of our time was “triads” – a time when three of our students (and one or two from the Canadian church) would gather with a leader for talking about what was going on in each other’s lives, where they were growing or struggling and for prayer. I normally do not have a group so that I can be of assistance if any group should need it. It was after the second or third night, at our leaders meeting, that one of the leaders asked me to come to her group. She said that there was some stuff that was going on that was way over her head—she thought that there might be some demon activity in a girl’s life (the girl was from the Canadian church). That next day I called to our prayer team back at home to pray and fast so that we would know what Christ wanted us to do and to give us the power to do it. To make a long story short, God used that small group and me to remove the demon from the girl. The “topper” to this story happened early the following morning. One of the ladies in our group was an early riser. When she woke up she noticed “someone” standing in the middle of the fellowship hall where our group was sleeping. I use the term “standing’ quite loosely as the angle was not touching the ground. He was watching over our group! He looked at this lady, smiled and then started to leave the fellowship hall—again, as he walked his feet never touched the floor. As he would go over a sleeping student the student would stir a bit. He proceeded out of the fellowship hall and disappeared.

The girl from that Canadian church was a regular attendee of church (every Sunday) and youth group. She was always in their midst!

We need to be open to the possibility of there being demons in our midst.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Two Mistakes

Christians tend to make two mistakes concerning the spiritual forces of evil. Today I am going to “briefly” touch on these two mistakes.

Mistake #1—Ignoring Satan, demons and other spiritual forces of evil.

Have you ever heard of a sports team ignoring the opposition? The quarterback of the Seahawks has to recognize the defense’s formation and change plays accordingly. A baseball player will recognize the third baseman playing too deep and will lay down a bunt for a base hit. A basketball guard with the ball will recognize a “sagging” zone defense and hit the long jumper. The distance runner will add a burst of speed has he/she passes an opposing runner to mentally defeat the opposition. The skipper of an America’s Cup yacht will watch every move of the opposition and try to take advantage of a wind shift, a slow tack or jibe or spectator boat “chop.” You always keep an eye on the opposition--unless you are in certain corners of the Presbyterian Church (or any denomination for that matter).

When was the last time that something came out of the national office concerning Satan, demons or spiritual warfare? The PCUSA writes fights the battle for tomato workers and rebuilds homes in the Gulf region—both of which are noteworthy and good. We rewrite the Book of Order and develop new confessions. Yet, we ignore Satan and his followers.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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 6:10-12

Our main battle is against that which is not of flesh and blood! By ignoring our enemy we either fight the wrong battle, fight on the wrong battle front or fight without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mistake #2—Spending too much time dwelling on Satan, demons and other spiritual forces of evil.

Some Christians are too enthralled by Satan, demons and other forces of evil. These Christians spend too more time thinking of the enemy than they do on their own spiritual growth and development. The above passage from Ephesians tells us to “be strong in the Lord…” Being strong in the Lord should be first and foremost on our minds and agenda. Guy Chevreau wrote a book on spiritual warfare called Spiritual Warfare Sideways—Keeping the Focus on Jesus.

The second phrase of the title, “a sideways look at spiritual warfare,” is a recognition that we should give only peripheral consideration to Satan and spiritual warfare. The prince of darkness and his works must never have our front-and-center attention. As men and women of faith, it is never ours to show more concern, interest or effort fighting the devil than worshiping and serving our risen Lord.” (page 19)

I have known a few Christians who had an unhealthy fascination with Satan, demons and spiritual warfare. That focus stunted their spiritual growth and maturity.

We need to make sure that we do not make these two mistakes.