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October 2011 entries

My First Encounter With Evil

I have just returned from Lifetree Cafe where the subject was "Is the Devil Real?" It was interesting to hear the stories of people who believe they have encountered evil. I thought this week leading to Halloween I would share my first experience of confronting what I believe was demonic.

I was just in my late teens and had only been a follower of Christ for a short time. I was asked to visit an elderly saint who was in pretty bad shape. I was going with my girlfriend's father who often took me to places to give me exposure to spiritual things. This night we both got more than we bargained for. As we entered the semi-private hospital room I could see Bro. Greer sitting at the edge of his bed as if he was awaiting our arrival. This spirit filled man had been saved from a life of alcoholism. He had always worshipped more expressively than anyone else in our church. He would often take out an old and worn handkerchief and wave it above his head as he praised the Lord who had delivered him from the spirit of alcohol.

In the bed just inside my companion and I noticed a much younger man laying there with who we later learned to be his wife sitting near him. We acknowledged his presence and continued to speak with Bro. Greer. In the course of any conversation with Bro. Greer you would be asked to pray. As we bowed our head and prayed there was a stirring in the room. The young man in the bed next to the man for which we prayed became very uncomfortable and restless. When the prayer had finished he began to return to normal. We struck up a conversation and asked the man's wife why he was in the hospital. This was back in the day when it was still politically correct to ask. She said the hospital had attempted all sorts of tests to determine the reason for her husbands "fits" of rage and erratic behavior. They could find no chemical imbalance or issues with his nervous system. They had found it necessary to restrain him while in hospital because his strength was more than the nurses could control. I do not remember the man ever saying a word while we talked.

My girlfriend's father and I turned our attention back to the man we had come to see. We had brought cassette tapes of recent services at our home church. He asked to listen to a part of those services while we were still with him beside his bed. When the Word of God began to be proclaimed the man in the bed next to our friend once again became irritated. He began to thrash in his bed and make guttural sounds. We turned the tape player off and soon we were leaving Bro. Greer to a breathing treatment.

As my girlfriend's father and I were leaving the room we both looked at each other and did not say a word. It was not until we were in the parking lot that I spoke up, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" We both agreed we had been in the presence of a man, who in one form or another, was being tormented by forces we could not see. I wish I could say that we entered the room again and prayed the Lord deliver this man from his demons. We did not. I think deep inside, neither of us were spiritually prepared for the battle. At this time of year my mind often returns to that night and wonder if I am better able today to fight such spiritual battles.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NKJV)
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 


Is there a new Casualty this Christmas?

I am both a teacher and a student. And as with any teacher I learn more than I ever have an opportunity to teach others. Such is true on Sunday morning. There is always more to say than I have time to say. I rarely, probably never, finish the notes I have prepared. That leaves more to teach later and information builds upon information. I read an audience as well. There are times the Spirit restricts what i was going to say. Other times it is as simple as seeing in the faces of the hearers that they are really not all that interested in what I am saying and I just move on. Still I am always learning. I am always reading. I read everything I get my hands on.

Recently I was in search of reading material at home. I had a few quiet moments before Marilyn was to return and we had a couple of TV reality shows recorded for our viewing pleasure. So as to not start without her I looked for something to read. There in a stack on the ottoman was a Christmas magazine. It was all about 245 ways to decorate your home for the holidays. I was elated to see the word Christmas was actually in the title. So I began to peruse the pages and read a few articles. I told you I read anything and everything.

Several minutes into reading and looking at the pictures I observed a glaring omission. You may guess there were no sacred references to Christmas at all. You would be right. No nativity or Christ child. There were no angels either. There were no stars on any of the trees. There were no camels, no shepherds, no wise men or donkeys. It became a quest to find some obscure reference to Bethlehem or even the holiness of the night in the pages of the magazine. The best I could find were a couple of pillows with Silent Night, Holy Night embroidered on them. I smiled when I found them. It was as if some assistant some how hid these vague references to the birth of our Savior in the magazine without management catching the politically inappropriate message. But there was something even more surprising about the magazine. There was no mention of Santa Claus or his reindeer.

Has Santa also become taboo? Does his good nature and gift giving habits remind people too much of his Christian origin as a saint? I don't know for sure, but I searched the pages for his image or reference to his name in vain. Could Santa become an unintended casualty of political correctness? Poor Santa! The magazine was full of snowflakes, candy, evergreens and candles, but no jolly old elf. No reindeer with a bright red nose or elf making toys.

I found the decorations to be bland and uninspiring. It seems to be a metaphor for life without Christ. Remove Christ and life is uninspiring. Now by removing Santa it is downright boring!


An Apology and Retraction

I am deeply sorry for being harsh toward a fellow minister in my last blog entry. It has been a tough road recently with illness in the family and I did need to "vent" but not at the expense of a brother in Christ. So my friend, you know who you are, I'm sorry if I offended you. I did not express anything I do not believe, but a public forum was not the appropriate place. It has been done to me and I know how much it hurts. Pastor Ken

I've Got To Vent

OK, so I've kept my thoughts to myself as long as I can. But I have to speak up for the church. After all, I've given most of my waking hours for the last 21 years thinking about, working at, preparing or praying for the church. Why do I feel compelled to finally speak up? One more article in the local newspaper. It is about another church in our community that is supposed to appeal to those who do not like church. Supposedly, at this place (I'm trying not to use the C word), you can be of any religion and attend. In this place, that is more theatre than sanctuary, there will be no offering taken. All the trademarks of that outdated institution called the local church are not present at this establishment. Well praise the Lord! What a concept! (I hope you get the sarcasm in those statements.) It seems every other new..uh..uh..letmesee... non-religious place where non-religious people gather to practice religion is begun for the poor lost soul who doesn't like church. Well cry me a river. I don't like doctors or hospitals either, but I will go because I know that is where I can get quality medical care. You can call the waiting room an arcade and the operating room a theatre for all I care. It still doesn't make me want to go for the fun of it. I don't go until I know I need help.

(Take a deep breath Ken. Don't lose your witness over this.) [Words in quotes are the calming words of my wife that I hear in my head when she's not here to advise me.] I don't suspect the honest and genuine intentions of my brothers and sisters in Christ who begin these non-church churches. This latest attempt is being undertaken by a fellow I love dearly in the faith. He may have even taken some of his clues from me. No, I don't wear a suit to preach. I believe ties cut off circulation to the brain, and I need all the brainpower I can muster. I have no problem making the church building comfortable. The most uncomfortable seating in the world, besides the backseat of a Yugo, is a pew. I have the same philosophy with pews as I do snakes, "Never had them, never will!" But I hope I never gave the impression that I don't believe in the church.

In the article my friend made the statement that people of all races and colors will be welcomed at his place. Implied in that is they are not welcome in other churches. Except for a very few, and there are plenty reasons not to attend those besides prejudice, churches I know love and welcome people from every race and color. We are all God's creation.

The reason people are turned off from church is not the word "church" nor the physical environment. They are not cold toward the church because we take an offering. I am convinced it is not even the style of worship. They are turned off by the way they see Christians act when they are not at church. They see our judgmental and hypocritical lives. We want to remove the speck in their eye while we disregard the 2 x 4 in our own. They don't believe church can help them, because they don't see an improvement in us. If we would allow God to transform us we would not have to transform the church!

And about the offering. If we eliminate giving of of our finances we fail to teach people to put God first in every area of our lives. Besides, I have never seen the offering taken at gunpoint. People have the right to refuse to give just as they have the right to give abundantly. God doesn't want our money, just our heart. Christ established the church. He called it "My church." People will go to church for the very same reason I go to the hospital. That's where I know I can find help. In the hospital I find physical help. At church, I expect to find help for my spirit. If there's no help there, I won't go. I don't care if you offer diet Coke and Raisinettes! There, I feel better.