Demonic Activity, Chthonic Events


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
—John 10:10 ESV

San Bernardino, California, shootingIn San Bernardino, California, gun-toting, young parents of a 6-month-old daughter burst into a holiday party and shot and killed 14 people.

You live long enough and, sadly, you see just about everything, yet even this was unexpected to me. As a writer by trade, I’m always running little fictions through my head in the hopes of capturing a compelling story, yet never would I imagine a new mom plotting to kill a room full of people.

Craziness. Nonsense. Anarchy.

A friend suggested an answer, but it’s one we don’t usually consider. Now that I’ve pondered it, I think he may be right.

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.
—Matthew 17:14-18 ESV

A man comes to Jesus with a son who suffers from what the father deems a medical condition. But this seizure doesn’t randomly attack in a way that a normal medical condition would. This “epilepsy” directs the boy toward self-immolation and self-drowning. It seeks to kill and destroy. It has an anarchic, irrational purpose.

Jesus saw beyond the veil and into the eyes of pure evil. A thief had entered the “house” that was that poor boy, and it sought to steal a childhood, kill a young “homeowner,” and destroy a family.

And Jesus dealt with it the right way.

Nothing grinds our gears more than putting our trust in a medical system that gives us the wrong answer for what ails us. Too much is at stake to waste time trying to cure a misdiagnosed disease while the correct one goes untreated.

I’m sure the father in the scene above had seen doctors. They all gave him a bogus diagnosis. Even Jesus’ disciples approached the situation traditionally. Jesus, though, got it right.

I want to offer something we “scientific” Westerners don’t typically ponder.

What if the cause for all the craziness of recent days can’t be traced to a medical condition? What if it’s not mental illness? What if it’s not social isolation? What if it’s not religious beliefs gone awry?

What if it’s not any of the rational answers we grasp for in times like this?

What if, at the core of all this deranged activity we’re seeing on our nightly newscasts, it’s demons?

I don’t offer this lightly.

We don’t talk about demons in the West. That’s old-school stuff. We have better explanations, right?

I’ve shared before that I’ve encountered a few people who were genuinely possessed by or afflicted by demons. Not many, but enough to make a lasting impression.

What struck me in those cases was the sense that something was horribly, horribly wrong with that person. Not just an off-ness, but the feeling that an abominable crime against nature was occurring right before my eyes. Anarchy in skin. Torment personified.

The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. It often comes stealthily, violently lashing out unpredictably, randomly. One moment calm, the next, a snarling beast.

What causes a young mom and dad to kill a room full of people? What causes the quiet loner to go off and murder strangers? What causes a young man to shoot up a school?

I don’t know where you are in your worldview. I don’t know if you have a place in your typical explanation to suggest demons as a possibility.

But I think we can’t be blind about what we’re seeing.

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. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I end with this:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
—John 10:10 ESV

There is a Kingdom that is here now that dwarfs all other kingdoms, both of the earth and of the fallen. And the King of that Kingdom had a mission:

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
—1 John 3:8b ESV

Jesus gives abundant life. Jesus destroys the works of the demonic. Jesus is Lord over all.

Remember this, and never give up hope.

No More Touchdown Jesus


Touchdown Jesus, Big Butter JesusIf you’ve not yet heard (despite the fact that it was the #1 Googled phrase on the Web so far today), the massive Jesus sculpture on I-75 north of Cincinnati burned to the ground last night after being hit by lightning.

Some have called this “Touchdown Jesus” for the pose. Others labeled it “Big Butter Jesus” for its odd, buttery color.

Now it’s just a pile of ashes.

As I live in the area, I’ve driven by the statue many times. Like many people I’ve talked with, I feel strange about it. While I know other Christians who find it a source of inspiration, I was always uncomfortable when I saw it. To me, it depicted not the Savior of the World but the worst of Evangelical excess and misdirection.

At the risk of sounding like Judas, I’ve always been struck by the question, “Couldn’t this money have been used in a better way?”

I mean, I live in Ohio. noted recently that most of the major cities in Ohio made their Top 20 Most Miserable Cities list (including all the major cities in northern Ohio). With all that misery here in one state, you’d think Christians would have something to say—and do—about it.

Instead, we got a fiberglass and steel sculpture.

I dunno. Maybe I’m just a soulless crank. Still, I’ve got to pose that Judas question again.

Because, to me at least, nothing speaks faith more than Christians investing their time and money in the imperishable Kingdom, sowing into people’s lives in an unforgettable way.

The statue cost Solid Rock Church a quarter million dollars to build. Recently, it was repainted and repaired—more money.

Consider just these few ways the church could have used that money:

1. To help members adopt children currently living in orphanages or extended foster care.

2. To start an outreach to the many Ohio unemployed.

3. To plant churches in countries where no church previously existed.

4. To work toward racial reconciliation in downtown Cincinnati.

5. To provide loans to local people in poorer areas so they could start their own companies and break the grinding cycle of poverty.

Those are just five ways. Millions more exist.

The name “Touchdown Jesus” pokes fun at the depiction of our Lord with outstretched arms. But whenever I saw the 6-story sculpture, only one not-so-funny verse spoke to me:

I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices…
—Isaiah 65:2

Right now, the loss of this statue seems to me to be a metaphor. A few years ago, Evangelicals were crowing about their newfound power and prestige. Now we seem to be on the ropes. And it is mostly our own doing, as we have forgotten what we’re truly to be about. We got enamored of earthly kingdoms, and the only true Kingdom was left to fend for itself.

Perhaps, yesterday, that Kingdom fended for itself in an unusual way. And perhaps that message needs to sink into our hearts just a little bit deeper.

Revival Then and Now


I wrote about systems the other day, and this systemic difference between a hundred years ago and now came to mind:

Then, when revival came after times of diligently seeking the Lord, everyone dropped whatever he was doing and local churches were filled to capacity 24/7 for weeks and sometimes even months.

Now, after many years of prayer by intercessors, the first hints of revival break out in your church one Sunday night, with massive repentance, people weeping before the altar, and the Holy Spirit thick upon each person. Meanwhile, you’ve got a sales conference call early Monday with Spacely Space Sprockets,  a dinner meeting with the boss, and you fly out on Tuesday morning for your presentation to the folks at J. Peterman later that afternoon. And on Wednesday…

If you want to know why revival does not come to this country, this then and now difference is a good place to start. And the problem is systemic.

If this country is ever to experience a Third Great Awakening, smart Christians better start speaking to systemic issues.