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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out with the Demon and In with the Spirit

Today in my Bible reading, one verse flashed neon lights at me while I was reading. I’m not really sure why, because it really doesn’t have anything to do with my life at the moment, but I thought that it would make a good blog post.
      Today’s post deals with a topic that many of my readers may be uncomfortable with— exorcism. From what I can gather, a majority of Western Christians prefer not to think about demons. We want to believe that demons do not inhabit people in this part of the world, or at this modern time in history. We want to say that belief in demon activity is antiquated and unscientific. We want to tip-toe around the issue, close our ears and our eyes to anything but the material world, and we want to label Christians who regard demons as a very real threat as “weird,” “ungodly,” “fanatical,” etc. This can be expected in a society like ours. America is extremely materialistic, as is most of the Westernized world. We like to consider ourselves extremely scientific and above such “superstitions.”  We don’t like it when Christians talk too much about supernatural events like miracle healings and the casting out of demons (which, by the way, go hand in hand—physical problems are often really demonic presences; check out Luke 13:11). However, the reality is that demons are very real and very present. If you don’t like what I’m saying, too bad. I’ve never been one to apologize for what I believe or cater to the watered-down worldview of modern Christendom. I don’t plan on doing so now. If you have a problem with this, don’t complain to me, go open your Bible.
     That being said, let us get to the point of this post.
Luke 11:24-26 reads (NASB): “When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, and the state of the man becomes worse than the first.”
     An unclean spirit is, of course a demon. To paraphrase: When a demon leaves a person, it looks for a place to settle. When it doesn’t find one, it returns to the person it left. It finds the person empty and clean. So, it moves back in with some of its fellow demons.
     The point of the parable is that when a demon is cast out of a person, the person should not be left empty. The void left by the demon must be filled. Filled by what? The Holy Spirit. If the demon tried to return, it will find that the person is totally occupied. God is in the house; there’s no room for the evil. So, if you perform an exorcism, don’t just cast out the demon. Save the soul as well. Remove the evil and share the word of Christ. Chances are, if you just cast out a troublesome spirit in Christ’s name, the person will be very likely to embrace Christ. They have seen His power.
     You might be wondering where I am going with this. Chances are, you have never performed and exorcism, and you never will. That is not to say that you can’t, that you won’t have an opportunity, but that it in this part of the world Christians generally do not. I never have. If I were writing to an audience of Christians in India, China, Bengal, or another such country, it would be different. But most of my readers are American, and for us this just doesn’t really apply to us.
Or does it?
Let us replace the words “unclean spirit” with “bad habit.” If you are a recovering Facebook, alcohol, porn, cigarette or drug addict, you can’t just quit the habit and leave the time and energy you spent on your habit empty. You have to fill it with something. You can read, paint, or play golf when you used to get on Facebook. You can chew gum when you used to smoke. You get the idea. A lot of prayer, a lot of effort, and a lot of replacement. It will help the habit from returning.  Or suppose you have a friend who is accustomed to hanging around with a bad crowd. If you help him or her to get away from the bad influences, but do not teach him or her how to live for God, he or she will eventually go back to the bad friends to find acceptance and fulfillment. To sum it up: out with the bad, and in with the good.
     Hopefully, you have gathered a few things from this post. First off, the principle “out with the bad, in with the good.” Secondly, that Westerners do not often experience heavy and obvious spiritual occurrences simply because we are in Western society. Perhaps I will write more about this later.  Thirdly, don’t take for granted what culture, society, and even churches teach or imply. Always search your scriptures with prayer before coming up with conclusions about the truth.

Acts 17:11
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Books to Ashes

     Sometimes I wonder, what is the point of reading fiction? I enjoy it, but is there a purpose beyond entertainment? I’ve come to the conclusion that novels have their place in one’s life. A well-written piece of work gives you a window into the world beyond your own life. You gain a new understanding of the world according to someone else, and a new appreciation of other times and places. You can travel to France or Vietnam with your library card as your passport. The cover of a book is an instant time machine or teleporter. Sail the seas with Ishmael and come away with a rudimentary knowledge of ships and whaling. You may never have been on a boat, but as soon as you step aboard the Hispaniola en route to Treasure Island, you almost believe that you have watched the sun rise from the top of a mast, scoured a deck, and braved a tempest. You’ve drifted down an African river into the heart of darkness. You’ve journeyed to the center of the earth. You’ve been to Boston, London, Uganda, and Berlin. You can tell all about the palace of Cleopatra, you can describe the Crystal Palace, you are familiar with the untainted plains full of American Buffalo. You can give report on the sewers of Paris, describe the slaughterhouses of early 20th Century Chicago, detail of barracks of Auswitch.

     Reading a novel is wasted time if you get nothing out of it. At the very least, you ought to be able to learn something about the world, past or present. But is should be more than that. Novel reading should color your world, should make it brighter and more vivid. You ought to be able to leave the black and white of the pages and perceive the real world colored in shades of scarlet, gold, vermillion, magenta, ultramarine. The words on the pages should paint your world and teach you to FEEL, to laugh brighter, grieve deeper, love sweeter. To cry poignantly, care passionately.  A novel should steal your shoes and place you in someone else’s. And when you close your book, the characters in its pages should stay in front of your eyes. In the faces of orphans, you will see Oliver Twist and Sarah Crew. In the eyes of young woman who has ruined her life, you see the eyes of Fantine. The bitter woman whose love has been frozen begins to look like Miss Havasham, and the tears of the man who lost everything are the tears of Jurgis Rudkis. You wept for Robert Jordan’s Maria, for Phineas, for Ona. Your heart went out to Heidi and Mary Lennox’s Colin. So be Dicken. Be Jean Valjean Robin Hood and Percy Blakeney. Let your heart be awakened. Care more deeply than you dare, and do something. The whole world is a nonfiction novel. Be the hero; help the helpless. You always wished that someone had saved Piggy or helped the Joads. Your heart cried, “Why? Why didn’t anyone pay attention and make it right?” But these stories are only imagination. They go away when you put the book on the shelf. The cries of pain that sound all around you are real. So find yourself caring. Find yourself seeing and understanding. Otherwise, the time spent reading is wasted; the pages of your books are ash in the wind.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wish You Could Go Back and Tell Yourself What You Know Now

I want to cry every time I hear Taylor Swift’s song “Fifteen.” The first time I heard this song, I was babysitting an eleven-year-old and her six-year-old sister who only likes to listen to Taylor Swift songs. I took the opportunity as a teaching tool.

     “Fifteen” really is a very good song, as far as secular songs go. Unfortunately, the only words that my six-year-old friend really picked out and understood were the words to the chorus- “When you’re fifteen and someone tells you he loves you, you’re gonna believe it.” I brought her attention to the other lyrics, and explained them in a child-friendly way. She was surprised. After about a thousand episodes of Disney channel shows about teen love, her idea of the world was that it’s all about dating boys and kissing them, and that such things make life happy and rosy. How sad. How absolutely sad that the world of children’s entertainment pounds the chain-dating lie into young kids’ brains. The truth is, fifteen-year-old couples rarely stay together. It happens, but it’s rare. Relationships built solely on physical attraction are doomed. Giving everything you have will make him like you less, not more.  I wish more wildly popular singers would write songs like “Fifteen.” I wish more people would turn off the TV. It takes a lot to undo the damage done by the media.
Take every opportunity to undo.

You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors
It's the morning of your very first day
And you say hi to your friends you ain't seen in a while
Try and stay out of everybody's way

It's your freshman year and you're gonna be here
For the next four years in this town
Hoping one of those senior boys will wink at you and say
"You know, I haven't seen you around before"

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen feeling like there's nothing to figure out
Well, count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you're gonna be

You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail
And soon enough you're best friends
Laughing at the other girls who think they're so cool
We'll be outta here as soon as we can

And then you're on your very first date and he's got a car
And you're feeling like flying
And you're momma's waiting up and you're thinking he's the one
And you're dancing 'round your room when the night ends
When the night ends

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
When you're fifteen and your first kiss
Makes your head spin 'round
But in your life you'll do things greater than
Dating the boy on the football team
But I didn't know it at fifteen

When all you wanted was to be wanted
Wish you could go back and tell yourself what you know now

Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday
But I realized some bigger dreams of mine
And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy
Who changed his mind and we both cried

'Cause when you're fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them
And when you're fifteen, don't forget to look before you fall
I've found time can heal most anything
And you just might find who you're supposed to be
I didn't know who I was supposed to be at fifteen

Your very first day
Take a deep breath girl
Take a deep breath as you walk through the doors