Essentials – Workbook

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Essentials Workbook

Chilling Adventures in the Occult

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In the introduction to his 1942 masterpiece The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are two 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.”

76 years later, these words ring somehow truer than ever.  Every stroll by a Redbox kiosk reveals yet another straight-to-cable (kiosk?) movie featuring demonization.  Research indicates that witchcraft and paganism are on the rise among millennials.  The new Netflix show The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (rated TV-14) features a pentagram in the show’s moniker, is “steeped in the occult“, and is described in a recent article as a “satanic coming of age story.”

My teenage years were filled with fear-mongering, guilt-associating, and all manner of poor interpretations of Philippians 4:8.  There is nothing down those roads.  I do not mean to travel them myself and have not encouraged either my children or students to go there.  But I have encouraged, and will continue to encourage them to avoid trifling with things that are spiritually dangerous.

Several members of the clergy who I consider friends have had personal encounters with demonized people.  Hearing their stories is sobering and terrifying.  Early in the ministry of Jesus He has repeated and dramatic encounters with “unclean spirits” (Mk. 1:23,32,39).  In the ninth chapter of the Gospel According to Mark, an agonized father recounts the terrible plight of his demonized son:

“he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid… it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him.” (Mk. 9:17,18,22)

Here and elsewhere it becomes clear that the objective of these demons is not merely to frustrate or confuse the people they have possessed, but to seek their destruction.

Particularly disturbing in the Gospels are accounts like the one above in which the demonized person is a child.  Jesus entered into a world that was spiritually dangerous, and almost immediately began pushing back at that spiritual darkness.  The evil, demonic forces He encountered had isolated (as in Mark 5), tortured and tormented those around Him.  

In the account of the “legion of demons” in Mark chapter 5, we encounter a man who was living among the tombs.  He was an outcast from his community, was coerced into harming himself physically, and cried out in terror both night and day.  From just the first quarter of Mark’s Gospel, we have a clear and disturbing picture of the intent of these unclean spirits on humanity.  They are a powerful and dangerous, but defeated foe.  

Any attempt to entertain ourselves with spiritual forces intent on the destruction of our brothers and sisters should be forsaken.  DIscernment, not fear and guilt, should guide our seemingly infinite choices in media consumption.  Shows like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina run the risk of normalizing and even celebrating what Christians are commanded to take no part in:

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” (Ephesians 5:10,11 – NLT).

The picture that emerges from the earliest and most reliable accounts of the life of Jesus make clear that evil spiritual forces are real and diabolical.  Their intent is likewise clear – the torture and torment of those for whom Christ came to give His life.  

The ending of the story of the man who WAS possessed by the legion of demons is instructive.  In Mark’s account, the man, now freed from his torment, begs to go with Jesus.  Instead, Jesus commissions him to go bear witness to his community (the same community from whom he had been cut off) of the Lord’s mercy.  He does so, prompting amazement from those who heard his story.  

Those who have experienced the grace and mercy of God should be quick to bear witness to the greatness of God’s goodness toward them.  Having nothing to do with the “worthless deeds of evil” should extend to our media consumption as well.  There is much to be celebrated in this era of storytelling.  Christians should lead the way in celebrating whatever signs of light and life there are to be found in film, music, and shows created for online and television platforms.  They should also know and recognize the dangers of what C.S. Lewis warned of some 76 years ago.  

C.S. Lewis – On Forgiveness

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C. S. Lewis writes about the problem of forgiveness:

. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.

As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.

But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: Harper Collins, 2001; Originally published 1949), 181-183 (paragraphing mine).

God of Justice – Tim Hughes

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God of justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken, we must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action, we must go

To act justly every day
Loving mercy in every way
Walking humbly before You, God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out, Lord

Apologetics – A Million Suns

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[A Million Suns]

You stand eternal

The uncreated One

Who knows no end

The starry wonders

The vast expanses

Bound to Your command

You shine like a million suns ablaze

Wrapped in eternal light and praise

Jesus the First, the Last

The Bright, the Morning Star

You spoke creation

Into existence

Life and all we are

Beyond all measure

The universe

An echo of Your power

You shine like a million suns ablaze

Wrapped in eternal light and praise

Jesus the First, the Last

The Bright, the Morning Star

[x2]

Everlasting

Never ending

You will reign forevermore

You are holy

You are worthy

Lord of all

[x3]

[chorus]

  • Hillsong United