WITCH HUNT!

 

I am going on one.

Really? To come against them?

No, to invite them into the love of God.

 

Witches are open to the supernatural. That predisposes them to a life in God. Unfortunately, they were picked off by the powers of darkness. Witches sometimes attempt to deceive, saying that their power comes from God, which it doesn’t. But many believe that it does and are themselves deceived.

 

Some have a special love for people and were led into witchcraft to help people. They are likely broken, and their wounding opened them up to illegitimate power. (I said “some”).

 

So what if a witch moves in down the street? Boycott the place? No, bring cookies. Find out what kind of supernatural experiences she has had, then tell her some of yours. Ask her if she would be open to prayer. (Dear friend, it is not a fair fight. Light always wins. If you open a closet door, the light in the bedroom assaults the dark closet, rather than the reverse).

 

I met with a young man in the occult this week. He was kind, respectful, and humble. I told him that I feel the love of God and experience His pleasure. He said that he gets the same feeling from connecting with his gods that he calls immortals. He tried Christianity as a boy, and it didn’t work. He said that God created immortals for us to connect with him. So I asked, “If you could connect with God, would you?” He responded, “Yes.” He said he has worked with demons but does not enjoy them, because their energies are evil. He said he wanted to work for good through the occult: “Healing is what I want to do.”

 

That blessed me. I invited him to our house church, and he might come. When the late John Paul Jackson went to Salem a few years ago, he built bridges rather than burning them. And four hundred witches came to faith in Jesus. Witches are people, and some of them have not experienced authentic love, a far greater power than evil.

 

That’s the positive side. In the last half-century Satan has used movies and literature to present all forms of witchcraft and sorcery as harmless, fun, and entertaining. Think “Bewitched” and Harry Potter. Going to school to become a wizard and casting spells are promoted as a valid solution to problems at home. And young people raised on Saturday morning cartoons and discipled by J. K. Rowling have bought in by the truckloads. Over 400 million books sold make “Jo” the number one author of a book series ever. Not a good thing. The supernatural world of darkness is a terrible place to hang out, and we have power to bring them light.

 

If the person next to you on the plane was a witch, how would you respond? Here’s what I’d recommend: “Really. I have wanted to meet a witch. I would like to hear about your experiences, and I would like to tell you mine.” Find out how she influences people, then tell her how you do it, through love, affirmation, believing in people, and prophetic words. Tell her you have a way of hearing from God and would like to share it. If you are open to it and pray for it, God may make it happen.

ARE YOU HARD TO OFFEND?

 

I wasn’t as a young husband. Now I am—as an old man. Wish I started earlier. I am sad that I selfishly took offenses personally. That means the law—“an eye for an eye,” an offense for an offense.

 

When Karen as a young mother was surrounded by crying infants and noisy toddlers, with dinner to prepare and people sharing our home, her stress level sometimes went quickly from a 2 to a 10. Do you blame her? She once went to the doctor, who asked if she lived with stress. She answered naively, “I don’t think so.” He asked her to describe her life. She said, “I have four young children, three people living in our home, meals to prepare, and a pastor husband who is often gone.” The doctor responded, “That spells “STRESS!”

 

So what would a mature husband do? He would become the release valve for an over-the-top mother. That’s what Solomon recommends in Proverbs 17:9: “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” I could have promoted our ongoing love affair by covering the real offense. Yom kippur, Hebrew for “day of atonement,” literally means “day of covering.” The blood of Jesus cleanses because it covers. Sin exposes us—blood covers and cleanses us. I could have covered for my wife.

 

Solomon suggests option A for building healthy relationships. Mature people are promoters of love by not letting a potential offense stick. Immature people choose to become evangelists of offense. We proclaim what has been unjustly done, and not surprisingly, it creates separation. I say to my shame that I chose option B too often. Karen has kindly forgiven me and now tells our children that Dad lives above offense.

 

The next chapter describes what happens to those who choose option B: “An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (18:19). He’s locked up, and you can’t get in. Apologies won’t get you in, nor will reason or even love. Does that describe you? Are you so easily wounded, so quick to personalize a wrong, that you pick up offenses like a scavenger? Don’t plan on a healthy marriage or a healthy life—you’re in prison.

 

Solomon looks again at option A in the next chapter: “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (19:11). We are not responsible for what people do to us. We are responsible for our responses. A bad response to a bad offense will do fine for an irresponsible comeback. Like my kids used to drone,” He hit me first,” legitimizing revenge. Wisdom chooses patience rather than a quick retort. Glory is the manifestation of character. Overlooking an offense is glorious!

A friend once told me, “Just so you know, Paul, it is almost impossible to offend me.” Hey, I’d like to live that way! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. He can make it happen!

FACING THE GIANT OF FEAR

Public speaking, terminal illness, flying, growing old, failing a test. Someone just got afraid reading this list. As a boy I didn’t go to bed—I flew. That way I avoided the bad guy under the bed. I overcame that fear by the time I married Karen. Some fears hang around our whole life. The story of David and Goliath gives us some lessons on fear.

 

WHAT’S THIS GIANT LIKE?

Goliath measured in at nine feet. That means slam-dunking without leaving the ground. He wasn’t the friendly kind of giant: “He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel… Choose a man for yourselves…If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail…they you shall be our servants” (I Samuel 17:8,9). Response: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words…they were dismayed and greatly afraid (11).

 

Ignoring him didn’t work: “For forty days the Philistine came forward” (16). Fear unchallenged grows. Saul, the biggest in Israel, should have taken the challenge, but walking in disobedience brings fear, not faith.

 

WHAT EFFECT DOES THIS GIANT HAVE ON ME?

Fear attacks at our most vulnerable point. The Philistines were perennial weeds in Israel’s garden patch. Fear reduces us to subjection, making us afraid to act, to fly, to talk, to lead.

 

Fear makes us flee. “All the men of Israel…fled from him and were much afraid” (24). God allows fear to grow faith. Fear is faith in reverse, believing the worst rather than the best. Fear produces a sinister imagination. These soldiers chose flight over fight.

 

Fear makes us fight—the wrong people. When David showed up at camp and expressed interest in taking on Goliath, his brother argued, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness?” (28). Anger is a more respectable response than fear. When we feel like failures, we might go after those wanting to make a difference.

 

HOW DO WE STOP THE GIANT?

We face him. The longer we ignore fear, the deeper the roots grow. David didn’t give it a chance to take root. Some prefer living with fears to accepting the painful challenge of confronting them.

 

We trust in the Lord. The soldiers compared themselves to the giant. David compared the giant to the Almighty: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine” (37). Past defeats can paralyze us, but past victories turn tests into testimonies. Affirmations of faith help trust to grow: “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head” (46). Face it, fight it, faith it!

 

During seminary I developed some fears that immobilized me. Normal things like answering the phone or raising my hand in class became difficult. I looked up Scripture references on fear and quoted them out loud when the giant showed up. It took months of declarations, but the fears did subside. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Fear comes by hearing the word of Satan.

 

David didn’t go against Goliath because he thought he was a better fighter but because he learned with tests to upgrade his confidence in the sovereignty of God. Worked for him. Trust leads to courage. “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). (Computer crashed. Lost all files. Praying to recover them.)

SHORT-TERM PAIN—LONG-TERM GAIN!

“Are you a masochist?”

“No, a realist—like Jesus: “In the world you will have tribulation.” Or like Paul: “Suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” We’re in a war, not on a picnic. Or like Peter: “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Hard—yes; strange—no.

 

When Jesus left heaven, He wasn’t thinking, “Going to be fun.” He didn’t enjoy the cross—He endured it! “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

 

Hebrews says, “He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). “He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be pleased.” Choose holiness, and happiness gets thrown in (Heb. 1:9). Choose happiness—and lose it.

 

Moses “chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb. 11:26,27). Sounds like short-term pain and long-term gain.

 

He was a prince. He could have picked any princess. Is sin pleasurable? Yes—“for a short time.” But then it morphs into guilt and shame. Did Moses choose right? He put out a rod and the sea backed up like a mountain. He turned a rock into a river—in the desert.

 

Ask the apostle Paul. He said, “Our light, momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). Light pain—long gain. It’s called eternity. And “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul” (Acts19:11). You just said “extraordinary” twice!

 

Ask Peter, who said, “In this you greatly rejoice [future salvation], though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials… “ (I Peter 1:7). Pain now—pleasure later! He didn’t get it at first (Matt. 16), but once he got it, he really got it.

 

Ask any champion. Cassius Clay, an Olympic boxing champion who later became Muhammed Ali, said, “I hated every minute of training. But I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now, and enjoy the rest of your life as a champion.’” Works for athletes and artists, for investors who pinch pennies, and for Christ-followers. Say it: short-term pain—long-term gain!

 

People who choose short-term gain…

  • struggle in their marriage and don’t know why
  • act like victims who deserve a better life
  • choose to be happy—and it eludes them
  • spend their life regretting what went wrong

 

People who choose short-term pain…

  • bring you joy, because it is not about them
  • are willing to serve others at their own expense
  • live with hope, because the best is yet to come
  • look to the future with joy rather than to the past with regret

 

Let’s reform the pizza-at-your-door “NOW” generation and call them the “NOT NOW” generation! King David, in a moment of “now” weakness, surrendered to short-term gain. Shattered his family. Horrendous long-term pain. Joseph chose short-term pain—slavery, loss of job, jail term. It meant rising to the top as the second most powerful man on earth. Way to go, Joe?