Saturday, 24 August 2019

I Saw the Light

A week ago I posted a story about how I saw my demon.  Today I wanted to share the lesson that I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn, from that experience and from life in general.

People have their own viewpoints about the spiritual realm, and it is not my intention to make any statements of complete understanding of that which I’m sure is not so easily understood.  Yet it seems apparent to me that the “demon” I saw, which was representative of something real and dangerous, was also caused by what I was letting myself dwell in.

I was continuing on the path of seeing my own sin, and my own inability to escape from it.  I was focusing on my fear of it and my failures.

Mentally, I “knew” the answer.  I put that into quotations because sometimes it’s easy to know something by theory without the experiencing of it.  We all know that water is wet and can quench thirst.  But we know it at a different level when the liquid is on our tongues.

I was hyper-aware of the demon, but what I needed to do is to be hyper-aware of God’s presence.

What comes to mind when I quote the following passage?

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.~ John 7:37-38

Do you “know” that to be true?  For those of you who do, are you thinking, “yes, Jesus is the answer for all of us,” or are you thinking, “woo hoo!  I am blessed by the Saviour and it’s awesome!  Come, everyone, with me to this fountain of living water!”

Knowing that God is present means that we are just as open to hearing his voice speak to us at this present time as we are ready to hear from the person standing across from us.  It’s recognizing that God wants to speak to us, and He longs to spend time with us!

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.~ James 4:8

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?~ James 4:5

I want to point out that this isn’t about “staying positive,” or about having an emotional response.  We are to focus on what is good and pure (Philippians 4:8), but it isn’t about psyching ourselves up.  It’s about recognizing the truth.  Sometimes the truth is painful, especially when we see our own shortcomings.

Let me repeat a verse I quoted earlier, but in context.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.~ James 4:8-10

We need to recognize that although God is forgiving and He loves us, that there’s actually parts of us that He forgave, parts that were offenses against Him and that we should repent from.

Repentance is more than just saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” and recognizing our failures, but actually changing our direction to the right one.

It’s hard to go in the right direction, which is why the lesson I learned is so pertinent.  Believe that God will save you, and actually trust Him to do it.  “That is a life-saver,” means something completely different to someone who is on a boat than to the one being held on the surface of the water by the floatation device.  One actually believes something when they act accordingly.

Here is some truth that helped me, and I pray that it will be truth that I will continue to rest in…

Psalm 63-

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Doesn’t that sound awesome!  God wants to be our source of pleasure, our source of joy, our strength, our very object of focus!

God created us as image-bearers of Him, and the more we look upon His glory, the more we let ourselves see Him revealing Himself to us, the more we will be able to let him work in us and through us.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” ~ 2 Peter 1:3

Saturday, 17 August 2019

I Saw My Demon

August 17, 2019

I looked my demon in the eye during the night.  Kind of literally.

There may people who read this account and believe that there is a scientific explanation for it.  I will not deny that there very well could be, and I have no qualms in believing that the mind of Stephen Selke conjured up the parts that seem supernatural.  However, whether it was all in my head or not should not affect the deeper truth I am trying to convey with this story.

Do you ever experience moments when you are not sure whether you are awake or asleep?  Perhaps you “dream” that you are in bed, waking up.  I’ve had moments where my eyes were kind of open and my mind was awake enough to perceive my surroundings, but not be able to move because the rest of my body was still under the paralysis that comes with sleep.  Fortunately, that isn’t a regular occurrence for me.  But that also makes what happened at approximately 1:30 AM this morning even more (dare I call it) special.

I recall lying in the bed on my stomach (how I like to sleep), having the words “I surrender all,” a song I like, repeat in my head.  I’m not sure if that came before or after the sensation of feeling a breeze on my face – which is kind of disconcerting as I listened intently for the sound of a fan or a source of airflow and be able to tell from the silence coming from the room around me that there was no fan on me.  I always become hyperaware of the spiritual realm when I feel movement of air in times such as that.  Soon I felt something touching me on the sides of my arms and the top back.  It was not painful – as my nightmares about demonic forces can be.  It could easily be compared to the sensation of a person pressing their hands there, not hard, and not like a caress or like a massage, but gently, perhaps to wake a person up without startling them, or to let them know that they are present.  For those of you who aren't aware - I live completely on my own, and I'm quite unaccustomed to anyone touching me while I sleep.

I don’t know why I turned my head from the left to the right.  But when I did, I saw my demon staring back at me.  It was only there for a short moment, and whether it was because it was so close, or because of the blur of darkness, or the blur of my own eyes, I didn’t see it with the distinct clearness as I see the letters on this page as I type.  Yet I saw it distinctly enough, a translucent image staring back at me, behind it was a curled up corner of my blanket and the orange light of the digital numbers on my bedside clock.  In a moment, my blanket and clock was all that I could see, and yet I could not forget what my demon looked like.

The demon had a singular eye: a glowing robotic blue one.  It appeared more like some futuristic robot or an arcane golem than a creature out of Hell from the comics.  Do not worry about the description, how spiritual beings – or the mind’s construct of them – appear is a topic to itself.  Suffice it to say that it represented to me the face of something evil, even though it appeared very non-threatening.

Non-threatening, so I wasn’t afraid after the image of it faded away.  The reason I wasn’t afraid perhaps had three aspects to it:
1.       I’m a Christian, and the Holy Spirit in me is far bigger than any army of demons
2.       I didn’t believe it was the kind of demon that aimed to physically harm, which is connected to the next point…
3.       …the reason I labeled it as “my” demon in this post...

While I may resent the demon itself, I did not resent the seeing of it.  In fact, it seemed rather fitting – a just punishment as well as a reminder of certain truths.  I recognized what it represented (you may not see the connection, but there’s this thing about dreams where the dreamer has an understanding of a thing in it even without sensory cues).

I wish I could say that I read the Bible every night before going to bed – which is a goal that I have:  memorizing verses in order to renew my mind and draw near to God.  Last night, however, the minutes leading up to my going to bed were filled with me entertaining and numbing my mind with pointless games and passions.  So, when the words, “I surrender all” swam through my head, it was more of a deep desire than a record of past behaviour.  To me, demons can be described as the personification of lies (not that any of us could describe a being in the spiritual realm with that kind of finality).  I welcomed that lie to bed to me.  The lie that said that satisfaction could come from the superficial, that it was at all okay to turn my back on the commands that God gave me.  It was “my” demon because I recognized its presence in a sense even as I tapped on my iPad.

I wish I could say that I have since slew that demon for good.  The way to combat lies is with the truth, and so when I woke myself more fully, I spoke truth from the Bible (thinking it as the sword of the Spirit), “thy shall have no gods before God.”  I had been putting my own pleasure above seeking to do the will of God.  By doing so, I was not only focusing on essentially an idol, but I was robbing myself of the pleasure of taking my rest in God.

Alas, those words that I spoke with my arms swinging down on my bed were not enough to keep the demon away for long.

Today, I found myself yet again in the grasp of the demon once more.  That is why I am not so quick to criticize others in their failings:  I know very well the stakes and the enemy, and yet I still fail to do something about it.  This time my failure took the form of playing a game on my computer.

My demon wasn’t about hurting me as much as it was about protecting its own side from me.  It was about pacifying me so that I wouldn’t pray.

I can’t help but have two illustrations come to mind when I think of this particular demon to.  Don’t worry if you don’t get the references – the fact that I am able to allude to the two pieces of fiction at all is in itself proof that I spent too much time being pacified by my demon.

On the animated show “RWBY,” there are creatures that could be compared to demons.  They are called “Grimm.”  There is a particular kind of Grimm that seem unique among the Grimm.  Its name is “Apathy,” and they lure the people near them to complacency and sleep by draining their will.  Those who fell asleep would inevitably die, robbed of strength to do anything whatsoever.

In a completely different realm of fiction, in the ninja world of “Naruto,” there is an ability called “genjutsu.” (I need to put an aside here and acknowledge how the lore of Naruto is based on a belief system filled with their own kind of dangerous lies).  Genjutsu is an illusionary technique meant to fool the senses of the target.  I can’t help but recall how early in the narrative, most of the spectators in a stadium are put to sleep by a genjutsu, and only those who are alert or trained stay awake.  The truth was the village was under attack, and only a select group was awake to do anything about it.

It’s so easy to get trapped in the enemy’s own genjutsu on us.  We set our priorities according to what we feel like doing, often influenced by our current purely physical mood and senses.  Yet, something more is revealed to us when we break into reality.  We are in a war.

“For 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.” ~ Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

Perhaps what gave me the final bit of motivation I needed to break free from my game and record this account tonight was listening to accounts from real historic physical warfare.  The storyteller was mentioning how there was multiple accounts of alcohol being used to disable potential threats.

I think of how we often behave as Christians.  We may not get drunk on alcohol, but we can be just as disabled by our own poisons.

“Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from, diminishing or destroying your final goal in life is a legitimate pleasure.” ~ Ravi Zacharias

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~ James 4:17 (ESV)

I prayed for help to fight my demon, many, many times in the past.  I believe that God let me see an image of it in order to help me more clearly see what I was up against, and to motivate me to sound the alarm of opposing forces to anyone who would care to listen.

I just about ended the post there, but I felt the need to say just a bit more.  It's dangerous to focus too much on the demonic.  Yes, they are a threat, but it's much more helpful to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus.  He loves us, and he wants to do great things through us!  Let us not think of this war we are in as oppression, but as opportunity!  If you call Jesus your God and Saviour, then you are on the winning side!

*Update:  please read my follow-up post that I wrote a week later:  I Saw the Light