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Every year around Halloween I tend to notice massive spider webs covering people’s bushes, pumpkins, candy, and people telling ghost stories. Actually, I have heard some great stories told by very credible witnesses (people who fit the court’s criteria of being credible) that speak of the strangeness and scariness of the unseen world. I am thinking of 3 short examples: 1) A missionary to an Indian reservation had a witch doctor spin around in his front yard performing a ritualistic dance and chanting. He then suddenly turned into a deer and ran away. 2) A theology professor and a church member went to a house to cast out demons that were attacking a family who had recently began playing with an Ouija board. While everything was calm the Dad suddenly bent over backwards (as one would bend forwards) and began screaming that they were attacking him. He popped up and the professor put his hand on the man to pray and as he touched the Dad, the professor could not speak and complete darkness came on his eyes. His voice was shut down until he thought the phrase “In Jesus Christ name be gone.” Immediately the chaos ceased and the demons never came back. 3) A village in Africa had revival stirring as many were coming to believe in Jesus. One night several demons manifested in the form of fireballs and destroyed several homes with their fire…..Strange. Weird. Unknown.
When I consider these stories, I need to take a step back to realize how important are these stories and what do we do with them? Out of the many voids in the church today, or better, opportunities in the church today, I see the gaping ones being the a) The lack of emphasis on thinking, b) the lack of training and practice of evangelism, and c) the lack of engaging with the unknown. The most troubling of these 3 is the latter. The unknowns I am thinking of here are the Holy Spirit, the supernatural/spiritual reality, spiritual warfare, and the demonic or occult – all that the western mind and culture have not bothered to engage with much.
Here we have a few relatively unknown phenomena when considering the sum of church knowledge and practice over say the last several decades in the western church. These unknowns are those that most, if not all, evangelical churches seem to at best mention here and there in a sermon or teach about in a Sunday school class. Now, granted, I understand that some churches may be engaged with these unknowns more than others. But why is it that most of the church, a regenerating entity consisting of regenerate spirit souls seems to week after week, year after year, shield, ignore, or forget these “unknowns?”
I remember visiting many types, styles, and brands of church services over the past 10 years from Australia to Africa to Italy. The most striking feature I noticed was that in western, secular and church, communities alike there is a consistency in missing the non-physical, non-practical supernatural realms of existence. The result of which is a church that lacks belief in the power of the Holy Spirit and spiritual warfare with angels battling demons to help us poor human souls. In actuality these beliefs are dormant in the church and secular communities, which in this sense consistently merge into the day to day, here and now, and practical living.
But occasionally a Halloween springs upon us and we see costumes or we rent a scary movie and are quickly reminded of the unknown realm of something or another that has “badness” written all over it. Our “bad” shields go up and we stop engaging with the “bad” because the “bad” is unknown and foreign to us.
I liken this unknown bad realm to me swimming in the ocean here in southern California. From time to time I enjoy myself being moved about by the waves up and down here and there. Obviously, I expect a certain level of movement and momentum in an unknown direction. So I float about. Until all of the sudden a flock of big black monster demon dolphins swim by in the waves and scare me to death. It’s scary how fast they move. Thoughts of them pulling me down, drowning me, or eating me alive come to mind instantly. I immediately flounder hastily off to the shore to avoid any contact. There I was engaged with the bigness and power of the great Pacific Ocean (at least in standing water) until the “Homeland Security Unknown Level” quickly increased to the yellow “scared of the unknown” and then the red “beyond my control.”
However, the bad dolphins…ok let’s say good dolphins, and let’s say bad demons…the bad demons are not to remain in the “I’m scared of the unknown” category far too long. Why? Because that presupposition is unfounded on Scripture. Paul prepares us troops for battle in fighting the principalities and powers (Ephesians 6:10-12). Peter and James also talk about resisting the devil (1 Peter 5:8; James 4:7). Just like we are called to be knowledgeable and engage with the ministry of the Holy Spirit (praying for the sick to be healed, miraculous intervention in impossible circumstances, the conviction of hearts of the lost, the prophetic, speaking guided words of wisdom, tongues – depending on your Pentecostalism, etc.) so are we called to be knowledgeable and engaged with the bad (praying against the attacks and temptations of Satan, exorcising demons, speaking the name of Jesus Christ in the midst of darkness and depression, etc.) as regenerate souls combating the evil forces of the demonic kingdom with the light from the kingdom of heaven.
Perhaps it is not that we are “scared of the unknown” but it is that it is “beyond our control” because we lack knowledge of it…….Here we would agree with Sir Francis Bacon when he said that “knowledge is power.” Conversely, what we do not have knowledge of we cannot have power over. This is the point. Unknown things do not become known unless there is learning. Without learning about the unknown demonic realms we will have no power to resist it in temptation, no power to attack it and rescue people from it, and where the attacks are coming from will remain unknown.
Furthermore, we don’t want to engage with that which we cannot control. The unknown cannot be controlled. The Holy Spirit cannot be controlled. Thus, the Holy Spirit and His power usually moves about only in church services and lives where control is given up to him. I guess there is more to say on that some other time. Overall, when considering the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of demons and Satan, we seem powerless…
Now…This is the first step towards freedom and healing in recovery programs. My admission of powerlessness.
So where do I begin to even consider having power in this unknown realm? How can I start praying against the demons that continue to attack us and fight our angels? Well, there is much to say here, but more importantly one needs to learn for oneself how to fight by praying, seeking scripture, and seeking out believers (I recommend believers in other countries) who have had experiences fighting back. But I will say this, perspective in learning about spiritual realms is priority. Indisputably, the “bad” is not to be engaged with on an entertainment fun Ouija board level. C.S. Lewis advised, “There are 2 equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” (Screwtape Letters) For starters, I recommend Lewis’ Screwtape Letters – a book of fictitious letters written by a head demon to a lower demon in the ranks on how to oppress a particular human he is been assigned to.
While Halloween may seem silly, most just dress up pretending to be the Hamburgler, or an Amish Jew, or Arnold, further diluting the great traditions and real meaning behind our beloved Halloween holiday. Seriously, at its core Halloween represents the very dark “badness” that wants to destroy the church. This Halloween, as the demonic covers itself in cuteness, the church can easily forget the spiritual warfare that exists. We can forget how we can have dominion over it if we just learn how to. If we just have the courage to learn how to…
Didn’t FDR say it so well when he spoke of the unknown, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I guess it’s time that I learn about dolphins