I opened the front door. “Yikes! You scared me,” I screamed feigning fright. “Who’s that?” I peered down at the three-foot little person.
He wore a mask framed with wild hair, black and purple. A huge lumpy nose, droopy eyes, and a mouth revealing jagged teeth gave a new meaning to the word ‘ugly’.
A muffled, “Trick or treat” wafted from behind the mask.
“Goodness, you really scared me.” I chuckled as I dropped hard candy into the orange plastic pumpkin.
Those are memories of times my little boys also dressed in strange costumes and dashed from house to house with their daddy trailing behind. I stayed home greeting the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.
But now, years later, Halloween masks resemble those I try to slip on. They come in handy to cover the real me.
When people ask me how I lost my sight, I give the routine answer: “A retinal disease deteriorated my retina and took my sight.”
A simple answer to a simple question.
When asked about how I dealt with the unexpected tragedy, that’s a different story. I’m tempted to pull down the mask over my heart and give a bland answer.
“It was tough at first, but in time, I adjusted.”
But underneath that mask is a whole different script with the real answers: “I wanted to die, I hated my life, I wanted to give up, and wondered if my little boys would survive with a mommy who couldn’t see.”
Then God’s Word nudged me to remove that mask and allow the glow of truth to shine through.
The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth. Proverbs 12:22 NLT
In obedience, I resolved that when asked a question, I would give information reflecting what truly stirred in my heart.
Here are the results:
When my words are strung with honesty without omissions, deletions, or embellishments, I can breathe easier.
When the mask is off, the air is fresher and the view is clearer.
When it comes to sharing my feelings or relating events in my life, I’ve developed a motto: Don’t omit the negative nor squelch the positive.
Not long ago, a good friend called and asked about my writing. I started to blurt out that it was great, moving along fabulously, and my agent is working on my behalf.
Gulp. Masks are stuffy, binding, and often ugly. Instead, I decided to slip the mask off. And with conviction, the truth shines—although my agent is working for me, I’m furiously laboring on the first edit. Writing a novel is grueling. It’s demanding. And at times, the work is so hard it makes me wonder if I’m really supposed to be doing this.
Ah! The feeling of telling the real scenario with honesty is like opening the window to a stuffy room; letting the fresh Spring breeze come in and caress your face.
While our little ones dip into that candy, the sweetest thing we can unwrap for them is the lesson to speak the truth. The trick is to obey God’s Word and the treat is the image reflected in the mirror that sparkles with honesty.
Why Paul Wasn’t a Zombie
by John UpChurch, crosswalk.com
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29
Worn out. Exhausted. Please oh please oh please be Friday. Those words probably describe many of our weeks—often by Monday afternoon. The surge of the weekday tide sucks us under and spins us around and strips away our energy by making us swim to the surface over and over again. Gasp. Bills. Gasp. Long meeting. Gasp. Kids biting each other.
What more can we give than that? What else can God expect from us than just trying to keep from drowning in the mess of life?
Paul says everything and more. Yep, you read that right. We’re supposed to slap down every last ounce of ourselves to the cause of Christ. We’re supposed to surrender every modicum of ourselves to the purpose of “proclaiming Him” with our joy-filled words and our peace-in-the-midst-of-this-hurricane-called-life actions.
Everything. Every single bit. For Him.
Feeling tired yet? I hope you don’t. You see, there’s something in here that we too often overlook. It does take energy—loads of it—to live a life of surrender. We wouldn’t expect anything less from being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). That means using all that we are to make all that He is known to all. But even with all those alls, you won’t be using up your energy.
Look again at what Paul says here: “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” He doesn’t say, “I did it all myself until I burned out and crashed into the dirt and hated my life and decided it was just too hard to do anything and wanted to move to Alaska forever and hide in a cave.” Instead, he tells us that the source of his oomph is Christ.
Christ didn’t save us so that we could barely keep going, dragging our way like zombies down the road of life. Instead, we’re operating with power—His. He jump started our lives with a spirit of power (2 Timothy 1:7), cranking up the juice through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). After all, like Paul, we’re wrestling with the tasks God’s called us to do. We aren’t supposed to do this by tapping into our own reserves. God takes these fragile clay pots that we are and supplies His power so that He gets the glory (2 Corinthians 4:7). He adds the zing, and His zing is potent.
Ouija Boards, Warfare, Exorcism, and the Bible’s Undeniable Stance on Playing with Fire
Ouija boards. Psychics. Tarot card readings. Necromancy (attempts to communicate with the dead). The list of spiritual antics and so-called parlor games share a common thread: encouraging people to place hope and find solace in people, spirits, and sources other than God.
Most people traditionally dive into these activities for entertainment’s sake. But while many assume these actions are benign or comical, a brief look at Scripture offers a convicting and stirring reality: these practices are anything but games and can actually put us in profound spiritual danger.
Many Christians don’t realize that the Bible explicitly prohibits believers from engaging in necromancy, divination (seeking the future), psychic readings, and other related activities. We are advised not to “practice divination or seek omens” (Leviticus 19:26), not to “turn to mediums or seek out spiritists” (Leviticus 19:31), and not to consult the dead.
And those cautionary verses are overtly stern, warning that humans will be defiled by such practices. Despite these biblical claims, culture encourages, facilitates, and praises these attempts to communicate with the dead, using the Ouija board — a “game” people often play at slumber parties and other gatherings. The Ouija board is a pop culture staple.
For many, the idea of a legitimate psychic reading might seem ridiculous or impractical, a grand scheme to sucker people out of their money — and that’s understandable. Surely, some of those who purport to have these powers are swindling and tricking the masses, though a thorough look at Scripture delivers some important realities and warnings worth considering.
The Bible affirms that these individuals exist, as the text explicitly implores people not to practice or seek out psychics’ services. The Old Testament does anything but shy away from these topics, with Leviticus 19:31 offering the strong admonition:
Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
The verses cited, along with other content in Leviticus, were written by Moses specifically for the Israelites, but there seem to be some timeless elements worth noting. Not only do these scriptures indicate that there were people who practiced divination (seeking supernatural information about the future), but the Israelites were also urged to steer clear of anyone who sought out communication with the dead.
When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices, the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God.
When one continues to read through Scripture (I detail these stories in Playing with Fire), these elements emerge again and again, with Isaiah questioning why a person would consult mediums and spiritualists. In discussing this issue, the prophet pondered why people wouldn’t simply turn to God: “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”
And to showcase just how seriously this was all taken, Leviticus 20:27 prescribed a serious penalty for such activities: “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.”
These issues are also presented to us in a variety of forms in the New Testament. For instance, we meet a slave woman in Acts 16 who is described as having “a spirit by which she predicted the future.” This particular woman followed Paul around for days until he finally turned around and proclaimed, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’”
We’re told that the spirit complied, and the woman no longer held her ability to foretell the future. Again, it’s clear this fortune-telling ability isn’t something to be heralded.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez was among those who addressed these issues in Playing with Fire, warning people against “provoking darkness” and to embrace Jesus. He said, “If you don’t have a firewall of righteousness, if you’re not covered by the vicarious atoning work of Jesus, then possession is really a possibility, especially those that dabble with darkness and dabble into satanic witchcraft, convocations, calling upon spirits and so forth, engage in activity that is really outside the norms of what we would call appropriate, literally provoking darkness to invade their lives.”
So, in addition to steering clear of the aforementioned activities, how do we protect ourselves against the flames of spiritual fires? Paul provided the answer when he reminded believers to “put on the full armor of God” so that each person can “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NIV).
But what does this mean exactly? It involves our approach to the world around us and our response to some core questions:
In a relativistic culture that tells us we need no such armor and that anything goes, are we truly able to steadily stand?
If we’re told that “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,” are we taking that warning seriously if we apathetically sit idle?
Paul affirmed that
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. — 2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV
If our culture is blind, perhaps theologians and pastors are right to conclude that there is a slippery cultural slope that has helped catapult our society into confusion. But we have the power to fight back on an individual level with the armor of God, and that translates into some simple, yet powerful, steps:
Make a commitment to read Scripture daily
Live out our faith in a relational way, embracing Jesus’ call to love God and love others
Let’s avoid the occult but, most importantly, let’s live our lives daily for Jesus and take up the shield that only faith can provide.