Wednesday, October 27, 2010


What is a witch? Are we to accept the idea of an old crone with a broomstick and a black cat familiar? Or should we look at a follower of the modern practice of Wicca? What does the Bible mean by a witch?

There are various things addressed in Scripture that fall into this category. There is the practice of divination, attempting to determine the future by various means (Acts 16:16-19; Ezekiel 21:21-23), of casting spells (Acts 19:19; Isaiah 47:8-15), of performing wonders by one's own power (Exodus 7:11; Acts 8:9-11), or of being involved in communicating with the dead (1 Samuel 28:3-25; Isaiah 8:19). The underlying principle is the serious practice of magic (as opposed to the stage magician).

Scripturally, God is the only legitimate source of supernatural help. And He cannot be manipulated, only asked. From the Christian viewpoint the main issue is not good intentions versus bad intentions (white versus black magic), but taking to ourselves a power that belongs solely to God. Nor is the issue explicitly worshiping Satan. While I am sure Satan is flattered to be directly worshiped, in the final analysis he does not care who you worship so long as it is not God. While much of it is charlatanism, I do believe Satan and his minions can supply the supernatural power behind serious magic. (Acts 16:16-19 suggests this.) But this is not dependent on the practitioner's consciously following Satan. I know in my youth I dabbled in such things, and it at least seemed to work for me, though only on a small scale. But whether or not it works, it is wrong.

How, then, is the Christian respond to such things? First, we should avoid the use of all such things. I have known Christians to make excuses for such practices. It is also possible to approach spiritual gifts from an attitude of witchcraft, where we start to see them as our personal power rather then depending on God. But we can also become unnecessarily paranoid of witchcraft and everything associated with it. We need to remember that God is victorious over Satan and can protect us (1 John 4:4; Colossians 2:15). Therefore, we should avoid panicking at every mention of witchcraft or reading it in when it is not there. Witchcraft is wrong, but it is no more wrong than many other things our society takes for granted. We should not condone it, but we should face it boldly through faith in Christ.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Using the Right Bait

Does whether or not people come to Christ depend entirely on our methods? And if we could just get it right, would nearly everyone believe? I think most Christians would find these statements extreme. Yet it is easy to fall into this mindset. We can think if we just approach things the right way, it would open the floodgates to people becoming Christians. But the Scripture says no one comes to God unless God draws them (John 6:44) and God chooses who will come to Him (Ephesians 1:4). Now I am not saying we must not use diligence in our approach to reaching people for Christ (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Colossians 4:4-6; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Much less am I denying the obligation to proclaim the truth of the gospel (1 Peter 3:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 10:14,15). But there can often be a thin line between persuasion and manipulation (1 Thessalonians 2:3-5). This is important because if only the way a person can truly come to Christ is through the power of God, then manipulation can only produce false converts (Matthew 7:21-23). So when we start to trust in our methods rather than the power of God, we end up sabotaging our efforts to genuinely bring people to Christ (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Victory Parade

Scripture speaks of our being always led in the triumph in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:14). There is an aspect of this that it is easy to miss, given just the English translation. The word "triumph" is a reference to a specific Roman custom. When a Roman general won a great victory he was awarded a triumph. This was a procession through Rome followed by his soldiers. With him would be the best of the spoil and the most illustrious of his prisoners. He and his soldiers, who would be amply rewarded from the spoil, would be admired and cheered by the crowd as they marched through the city. In the same way, Christ has already conquered sin and death (John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57), and we who have faith in Christ are victorious with Him (1 John 5:4). He has overcome and disarmed His enemies, leading them in the triumph (Colossians 2:15), and provides gifts to His followers (Ephesians 4:7,8). Therefore, we are already in the victory parade.

Why, then, does it sometimes not feel and look like this to us? I would submit that while we are overwhelming conquerors (Romans 8:35-37), this is from God's perspective and is in spite of the various trials mentioned in the passage. God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28), but we often do not see them doing so at the present time. Nonetheless, we can trust God that, though we may not see it, we are victorious. And we should live our lives in view of the fact we have already won and are in the victory parade.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Smoke and Mirrors

Scripture calls Christians to live in unity (Philippians 2:1,2) and to love one another (John 13:34,35). Yet it is not uncommon to have disagreements within congregations that lead to splits or individuals leaving or just constant struggles. Now there are cases where the issues involved are real issues of doctrinal teaching or of violations of Christian moral standards. We need to deal with these. But the majority of the time we are not faced with such a clear-cut issues.

Based on my experience I would like to make a few observations about these types of situations. There is a method that Satan and his minions use which I will call "smoke and mirrors." While I have seen this at work a number of times, I need to limit my examples to protect privacy. When I was going to seminary, my wife and I had a series of problems. As we worked it through, we found that while we did have some disagreements of substance, much of the problem was really over the meaning of words. For example, I would say something and she would take it in a different way and we would end up disagreeing over it. Also, I once had to resign from the worship team over being "too charismatic." There may have been some real issues involved, but I suspect that much of the issue was over the connotations of the phrase "too charismatic." And the ironic thing is I doubt if anyone involved could have given a clear definition of what that meant.

How then do we avoid this type of thing? It helps to realize that such problems exist, that we are sinful people (1 John 1:8-10) in an imperfect world and it effects our judgment. It also helps to remember that other Christians are imperfect and won't always meet our expectations. And ultimately, we must not be concerned just with our own interests but consider the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-11). This is complicated by the fact we can sometimes confuse our interests with something that looks noble (my ministry, the fate of my church) and act on them under this disguise. Now I am not here trying to excuse clear-cut doctrinal or moral error. But I am suggesting that on the margins there is considerable room for misunderstanding.

It does not help that the present divided state of the church aids this. I can say, "If this church does not do what I want, I will look for another one." And churches can take the attitude, "If someone does not like it here, they can go somewhere else." Now sometimes there are difficult choices that have to be made. But I cannot help thinking things would be better if people had the commitment to at least try to work things out. And they would be less likely to be taken in by smoke and mirrors.