You’ll Never Be the Same

 

Daybreak. The village of Bethsaida. The air is hot and dry and still. And something is astir. Jesus has come to the “house of fishing”.

You hurry down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Your husband and his brother have been fishing long before daybreak. You carry with you a clay jar full of water and a cloth.

Along the shore are baskets of fish. The village women and merchants have come to purchase the salted tilapia. You know that your husband will reserve some for his family and for the widows. And though there over two hundred boats on the water, you spot your husband’s and his brother’s boat.

At the edge of the water you hear “The time is fulfilled! God’s Kingdom is arriving! Turn back and believe the good news!” Jesus, walking along the shore, is coming toward you.

Trying to get your husband’s attention, you wave. He and his brother are busy casting nets. You shout. “Look! Jesus is coming this way!” Your husband finally hears your voice and turns toward you.

Jesus walks up to you. From the same vantage point he calls out to your husband and his brother, “Follow me! I’ll have you fishing for people!”

At once, your husband and his brother let go of their nets and bring the boat to shore. At once, they begin to follow Jesus along the shoreline. You follow them, two steps to their one, with the clay jar of water. You soak the cloth in the water. With it your husband proceeds to wipe his brow and then his beard to remove the crusted salt – sweat from his brow. You hand him the clay jar. Dehydrated, he gulps half the water down and then hands the jar to his brother.

Further down Jesus calls “Follow me!” to two men mending their nets. You know them – James and John, the sons of Zebedee. The brothers leave their boat and their father and the hired servants behind.

At this point, you’ve run out of breath and are not able to keep up. You call to your husband, “I’m going home. My mother is not feeling well.” Your husband acknowledges but goes on, determined to keep his eyes on Jesus.

As you watch him and the fellowship of fishermen continue down the shore, you remember the words of the prophet Isaiah that were read in the synagogue last Shabbat:

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame

Zebedee calls to you. “I will have my hired hands take care of your boat. I will sell the fish you husband caught and bring you fish for you and the widows.” You thank him. Carrying the clay jar and the cloth you head home pondering all that has happened. Every woman in Bethsaida knew what Mary had said about Jesus. Something begins to stir in your heart.

An hour or so later your husband and his brother are at the door. They tell you that they are going to Capernaum with Jesus and are not sure when they will return. You give them some bread to take with. Before your husband takes off, you stop him at the door. “Could he be the one? He’s talking about a kingdom. I don’t want you getting killed. What’s his plan?”

Your husband responds. “Woman, there is only one way to find out.”

Sweat runs down his temples to his beard. The midday sun is blazing. You hand him his mantle, which he throws over his shoulder. He races off with his brother Andrew. He calls to John and James who are already fifty paces ahead of them and Jesus is ten paces ahead of them. He wants them to wait up. Your husband is a big man with a big heart and is impulsive to a fault. He takes strides in all directions. And today, you wonder what will become of him and the fishing business as he takes off in a new direction.

On your way home you stop and give the widows the salted fish and to hear rumors. You learn that many were repenting and were being baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus among them. And that when he came out of the water there was a dove and a large booming voice that said “You are my son! You are the one I love! You make me very glad!” There is so much more for you to ponder.

At home you prepare for Shabbat which begins just before nightfall. You sweep and clean your home from top to bottom. You cover the sales money so it is out of sight. You make sure there is oil in the two lamps.

The night settles in. You eat food prepared earlier. You care for your mother who now has a fever. As you wipe her head with a damp cloth you talk with her about Jesus until you can’t stop yawning. You go to your bed. You are glad that you and your husband sleep in separate rooms, for when your husband sleeps, he snores – a nightly ritual even on Shabbat. Tonight, there will be the moaning of your delirious mother.

As you fall asleep you imagine your husband walking to Capernaum. He would walk two hours in the hot sun. Did he have water? Maybe the journey would take less time with the strides Jesus takes. When will he return …?

 

Your husband and his brother and James and John return the next day. They are all at the door with Jesus. He had been told about your mother and her illness. Jesus goes in, takes your mother by the hand, and raises her up. At once, her fever is gone and she was well enough to feed them. How is this possible, you ask yourself? But there is no time to wonder as you want to feed them all. Your heart is brimming with thanksgiving.

Outside your home there is large crowd – people from all over Galilee have followed Jesus. Jesus goes out to them. People with all kinds of diseases are brought to him and he heals them. Inside, the four fishermen sit down on the floor. You place bread and fish and water before them. As you do you ask them for details of what happened in Capernaum. They all begin to talk at the same time, but your husband has the loudest voice and so the rest wait their turn:

“We went into the synagogue and Jesus began teaching from the scrolls….’

“None of us had heard anything like this teaching before. He has his own authority, “John interjected. The other three agreed. Your husband continues.

“We are sitting there looking at each other astonished by what he is saying. You see that crowd out there. There was a large crowd around the synagogue. The people were pressing in from all sides trying to hear him. Anyway, we are sitting there when all of a sudden this guy starts shrieking “What business have you got with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you’re God’s Holy One!”

“He had an unclean spirit living in him,” James tells you. As he says this they hear another shriek outside. And another. Andrew got up to see what was happening. “Jesus is casting out those spirits right outside our door!” Your husband continues.

“You know what he said to that unclean spirit in the synagogue?” Wide-eyed, you ask, “What?”

“He says, ‘Be quiet! And come out of him! The man jerked and writhed like a snake and then screamed and then the unclean spirit came right out of him!”

“We were all shocked, “John continued. “Jesus not only speaks with authority, he even tells unclean spirits what to do, and they do it! The demons talk like they know who he is. He tells them to shut up.”

“We know who the unclean spirits are, where they come from,” Andrew added. “They are from Belial, the kingdom of Belial.”

Noticing two centurions keeping an eye on the crowd, your husband asks, “Do you think that the coming kingdom Jesus talks about will rid us of the tyranny of the Roman dogs?

James is quick to respond, “I hope so. Right now, he appears to be overthrowing the kingdom of Belial.”

“I’m good with that!” John chimes in. “Look around. Those spirits wreak havoc on everyone and everything. The Essenes at Qumran have been battling them for years.”

Nodding in the direction of the two centurions, James wondered out loud, “If Jesus has power over the kingdom of Belial, shouldn’t the Romans be shaking in their caligae?”

Your mother, upon hearing this, went out and offered the two centurions water from the clay jar, which they guardedly accepted. She then offered Jesus some and invited him in for a meal and a place to sleep for the night. He accepted.

Very early – the middle of the night, actually – Jesus got up and went out. You woke your husband and he roused Andrew and James and John. They went looking for Jesus. When they found him praying, they said, “Everyone is looking for you!”

“Let’s go off to the other towns around here,” Jesus replied, “so that I can tell the news to people there too. That’s why I came out.”

 

The next morning you hurry down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Men have been fishing long before daybreak. You carry with you a clay jar full of water and a cloth. You want to do what you can to prepare the way of the Lord.

 

 

 

Adapted from Mark Chapter 1

The Dead Can’t Help (Or Hurt) You Now

Having some time off of work this holiday season, I was able to watch the “ghost” TV programs on the Discovery and Travel channels. In doing so, I wanted to see how the supernatural was being depicted. The fact that there are paranormal themed TV programs with many viewers tells me that the metaphysical is still of great interest to people despite the logical overrides handed down from the Enlightenment. With this post I will present my impressions of these programs and offer my perspective.

Impressions: There are several ghost-hunter programs. The hour-long programs show a group of paranormal investigators using electronic devices to track down ghosts. They assume that the phenomena their clients are experiencing are the dead interacting with the living. They will interview those experiencing paranormal activity and search historical records to make their case and to explain what they capture electronically in terms of the dead. Historical records are used to lend ‘credence’ to their assumption – if dead, then ghosts and the phenomena witnessed.

Another show, The Dead Files, goes a step further than the ghost hunter shows while using the same assumptions. Per the IMDB blurb:

An investigative series that pairs Steve DiSchiavi, a retired Homicide Detective with the New York City Police Department with more than 21 years of active service with psychic communicator Amy Allan who has an established sixth sense and an affinity for channeling the dead. In order to not influence the other, the partners initially explore each case on their own. Steve interviews the residents/employees and investigates the history behind the property (prior ownership, murders or other crimes that occurred at or around the property, etc.) to verify the veracity of the claims, and Amy does a walk-through of the building and expressing any feelings, emotions, or other impressions she feels, with any leading items such as photos, personal items, religious items, etc., having been previously covered or removed, so as not to influence her impressions. She also works with a forensic sketch artist to sketch any entities she claims to witness. They then link up at the end to compare notes with those they are trying to help.[i]

The Dead Files would have the viewer believe that Amy Allan has special knowledge and ability. The show opens with her stating “I see dead people. I talk to dead people”. In the Reveal ending of the show, Amy’s findings are ‘corroborated’ by the detective, whose background findings, of dead people and past events, lead the viewer to accept the reality they have laid out. The detective’s findings are always curiously aligned with Amy’s walk-through physic findings, as are their clients. I have never heard her predict the future other than saying to the clients that the dark force she ‘sees’ will kill if them if they stay in the house.

This show, like the others ‘ghost’ shows, attempts to bring resolution to those experiencing paranormal activity. But, again, The Dead Files goes a step further. The detective will turn to Amy for the resolution. Amy will suggest that the clients move or bring in a medium or a shaman or a reiki master psychic to deal with the dark forces.

My perspective: Despite the use of historical records and despite the use of a former homicide detective and investigators, these shows provide no evidence, no causal link, whatsoever that dead people are interacting with the living. These shows deal in assumptions, in circumstantial evidence: if dead then ghosts; if ghosts then the phenomena witnessed (always negative). Evidentiary support is immaterial – literally.

The noises, voices, objects moving, etc. are presumed to be the activities of dead people making themselves known. Paranormal activity on these shows, as I have said, is attributed to the dead and rarely to demonic activity. The premise of these shows is to solve unexplained paranormal phenomena in haunted locations across America … and attribute it to the “familiar spirits”.

That there is no evidentiary support for the dead interacting with the living, a misleading disclaimer is posted during the show. It says, in effect, that nothing depicted in the show constitutes evidence of a crime that would hold up on court. During my viewings I heard no crimes being discussed. The revealing disclaimer tells us that the bad guys, the dead – the shadow figures – provide no material support for their existence (and their maleficent behavior) that would then allow them to be pinned with a crime. I see the disclaimer as manipulation of the viewer, to get him or her to suspend their reason and to accept that there are deeper and specially divined things going on in each episode. What’s more, Amy has studied psychology.[ii] She would understand manipulation using the fear appeal technique[iii].

Manipulation is what is behind The Dead Files. The viewer is led to assume that the dead interact with the living. The viewer is led to assume that Amy Allan has psychic ability to communicate with the dead. The viewer is led to assume that the involvement of a former homicide detective brings credibility to both of the above even though no bit of credible evidence is provided to substantiate the claims made by Amy Allen. As I watch, I am reminded of a shell game that uses psychological tricks to convince potential players of the legitimacy of the game. The three cups set before the viewer are the client’s experiences and the case work of the detective and Allan’s impressions. The ball, the susceptibility of the viewers, is placed under a cup. The cups are shuffled back and forth for almost the whole hour and then, during the Reveal, the ball is found under the Allen’s cup, as the viewer was ‘convinced’ by closely watching the shells. TV entertainment works only if you feel playing the game is rewarded in the end.

As the title of the show predicates, the dead are making themselves known. So, when people contact the show for help, they already assume (and are setup to go along with the scheme) that dead people are doing just that.

Can’t see the forest for the flimflam. During The Dead Files opening the former homicide detective tells us what he knows: “Every home has a secret … every person has a secret”. And the show has a secret. It Is not inconceivable that the detective is wearing a microphone and is recording the interviews he conducts with the spooked clients. This deception would allow the caveat at the show’s opening – that Amy and the detective never speak before the Reveal – to be true while setting up the viewer with a pretense of legitimacy. The two don’t have to communicate when a tape recording, another type of medium which receives ‘impressions’, is recording the phenomenon experienced by their clients. The Amy Allan sketch by a forensic artist could be easily created via the tape-recording impression. The detective details out loud the locations and experiences of their clients during his interviews.

Dead men tell no tales. Why would the dead communicate with Amy or the clients? And what have they been saying? It would appear that the dead are up to no good. In every show I’ve watched, Amy’s repetitive ‘impressions’ from the dead are disturbing and negative – this and that entity wants to unsettle and terrorize the client and may harm them. This show is the New Age version of the Walking Dead.

Based on the words of Jesus, in his story of the rich man and Lazarus[iv], the dead want the living in the heavenly realm to interact with the living in the earthily realm. But that is not going to happen.

In this account, the poor and afflicted man Lazarus died and “was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom”. The rich man also died, was buried and was now being tormented in hell. The rich man wanted Abraham to have pity on him. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to “dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue! I’m in agony in this fire!”

Abraham makes clear that their situations are now reversed: the poor once-suffering man who was aware of his great need during his earthly life is now being comforted. The rich man who knew all the comforts of the world and was not aware of any need during his earthly existence was now suffering and in great need of relief. The balance sheet of good and evil received by these men had been has reversed. And there was no way the rich man could reconcile the books in his favor, as Abraham tells him:

“Besides that, there is a great chasm standing between us. People who want to cross over from here to you can’t do so, nor can anyone get across from the far side to us.”

The rich man, no longer trying to ply Abraham for mercy for himself, wants his five brothers to be warned so that they will repent and stay away the torture-chamber he is experiencing. Abraham tells the rich man that they have Moses and the prophets. “Let them listen to them.”

Apparently, the rich man, though a Jew and a believer in the God of Abraham, had avoided taking to heart the words of Moses and the prophets during his earthly existence and ended up in torment. So, knowing what he now knows, he thinks a supernatural visitation would do the trick.

“No, Father Abraham” he replied, “but if someone went to them from the dead, they would repent.”

Abraham, again, sets the record straight:

“If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets neither would they convinced, even if someone rose from the dead.”

Even if the dead were raised and went about issuing warnings nothing would change in the brother’s attitude or with their sense of need. They would only be entertained, like the viewers of ghost hunter shows.

(Let the reader understand: The story of the rich man and and Lazarus is not about God favoring the poor and condemning the rich. It is not about materialism or lack of charity or about assigning the poor to heaven and the rich to hell based on their life situation. Rather, it is about each one, whether rich or poor, understanding what they truly need and what is the fulfillment of that need. A great chasm is created when one chooses the righteousness of God, as revealed in Moses and the prophets and ultimately in Jesus and when another presumes a form of righteousness based on a blessed life. Both the rich and the poor have the same challenges as posed by Jesus: “What use is it to win the whole world and lose your life?”[v] and “Blessings on the poor in spirit! The kingdom of heaven is yours”.[vi])

The dead will have their day to speak before the throne of God. They won’t be speaking on TV.

I don’t doubt that what the client’s experience as related in these ghost shows is real. What is not real and has no supporting evidence is the assumption that the dead interact with living. There is a sense of sentimentality and humanism in assigning the poltergeist phenomena to the dead. And, a sense of dealing with someone your own ‘size’.

If the dead do not communicate with the living, then what does?

Unclean spirits, the Sons of Deceit, have been around since after God called creation good. They know what we know and they have been around to know about the dead. With that knowledge they can play all kinds of mind games with humans. The show’s correct title should be The Demon Files.

The dead are not poltergeists – lost souls caught between this life and the next. The dead do not produce phenomena. Poltergeists are the things that produce the phenomena witnessed by the clients. Poltergeists are the unclean spirits that have existed all around us since the beginning of mankind. They interact with humans, as witnessed by the clients in the shows mentioned above. The Kingdom of the Occult by Dr. Walter Martin provides incite into these unclean spirits:

Poltergeists (demons masquerading as humans) are usually imaginative in creating their manifestations: they slam doors, walk up steps, throw objects around a room, moan, cry, touch people, and materialize as dark clouds, red eyes, figures, or colorful moving orbs of light. If they succeed in catching someone’s attention, they often speak to the targeted individual audibly or through digital recorders, Ouija boards, or automatic writing, crafting tales of tragedy and woe designed to foster sympathy in the hearts of listeners. In some cases, foul smells or ice-cold temperatures manifest along with other phenomena.[vii]

Amy Allan’s impressions and ‘ghost’ phenomena are not from the dead but from demonic spirits. So, Amy Allen’s (and the ghost hunter’s) attribution of poltergeist phenomena to the dead is not helpful. In fact, it is incredibly harmful to the clients and to the viewers as are Allen’s ‘remedies’ to resolve the paranormal activity, discussed at the end of the show.

As mentioned above, Amy’s recommends that members of the psychic community – shamans and reiki masters and the like – be summoned to clear the house of the dark forces. Per Amy, emancipation comes through gnosis – the gnosis of the psychic. Yet, no one should ever invoke those who are in touch with unclean spirits to clear their house. Why would the satan destroy his own work?

Jesus, after casting out a demon from a man, was accused by some in the crowd that day of doing so with the aid of Beelzbul, the prince of demons.[viii] Jesus made it clear that if this was so, if the satan drives out the satan, then the satan’s kingdom would be split down the middle and come to ruin. “But,” Jesus told them, “if I’m casting out demons because I am in league with God’s spirit – well, then, God’s kingdom has arrived on your doorstep!”[ix]

Jesus knew their thoughts. Those who had accused Jesus of working with the satan wanted to rid the house of Israel of him. In this context, Jesus told a parable about the “strong man” – the satan – and the stronger man – Jesus – coming to plunder his kingdom on earth:

“Look at it like this. Suppose you want to break into a strong man’s house and steal his belongings. How are you going to do it unless you first tie up the strong man? Then you can plunder his house to your heart’s content If you’re not with me you are against me. Unless you’re gathering the flock with me, you’re scattering it.”

Why would Satan destroy his own work especially when he can use psychic mediums, shamans and the those who communicate with the ‘dead’ to increase exposure to his kingdom and scatter the flock? And, why use those involved with unclean spirits to clear the house of …unclean spirits? Jesus, in the same Matthew passage above, warns those listening that cleaning their house (the house of Israel) of unclean things and not filling it with God’s spirit will cause them to be worse off.

“When the unclean spirit goes out of a person,” Jesus continued, “it goes wandering through waterless places looking for somewhere to rest, and doesn’t find anywhere. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house, the one I left.’ When it gets there it finds it standing empty, clean and tidy. Then it goes out and collects seven other spirits to join it, spirits worse than itself. They go in and take up residence there. The poor person ends up worse off they were to start with! And that’s what will happen to this wicked generation.”[x]

Satan’s forces may retreat for a time because of some newly found resistance of the owners but repossession comes if the space it left is not filled with Gods’ spirit. What the satan loses one way he may gain another way if we do not react to the situation in the correct way. All hell may break loose.

From a previous post:

“…these spirits are restless and never sleep. These disembodied spirits are able to dwell in humans and animals. We learn that they cause havoc: “the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble”. They are the ones Jesus casts out (again and again) as he begins His kingdom on earth.[xi]

The unclean spirits – the Sons of Deceit – play tricks. They can appear as angels of the light, making icons weep and troubling the waters. They seek to scatter the flock. They will do anything to keep one’s eyes off of Jesus, the King of the Universe.

Unclean spirits are the demons in democracy, motivating people into wild excesses and having them demand that others be controlled. They revel in taking what is good and perverting it as in the constant and pervasive noise (so-called music) in so many venues today. Read C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters to get a sense of how the demonic spirits work.

From my reading of The Revelation of John, I see demonic activity increasing just before the Lord returns, just as it did in the years before he was incarnated. Anti-Christ forces will increase as they see their day of reckoning coming on. All of the forces of evil, those dark forces in the spiritual world and those who have embraced evil and want nothing to do with God, will do battle against the Lord.

If you are experiencing poltergeists and demonic activity then do not seek paranormal investigators. Don’t play the demonic spirits game. You will only make matters worse. Instead, get a priest and holy water involved. Surround yourself with prayer. And make sure to get rid of Ouija boards, tarot cards and the like that invite in the darkness. The strong man’s armor can be removed but you will have to put on the armor[xii] of the stronger man and be filled with God’s spirit. The dead can’t help you now.

 

[i] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2012511/?ref_=ttep_ql

[ii] https://puzzups.com/amy-allan-bio-career-childhood-net-worth-body-measurements-boyfriend-marriage-divorce-children/

[iii] https://www.psychologium.com/7-ways-to-manipulate-someone-to-do-anything-you-want/

[iv] Luke 16: 19-31

[v] Mark 8: 34-38

[vi] Matthew 5:3

[vii] Dr. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Occult, Psychic Phenomena, (Thomas Nelson), 244.

[viii] Luke 11: 14-15

[ix] Matthew 25-28

[x] Matthew 12: 43-45

[xi] The Serpent’s Apprentice(s)

[xii] Ephesians 6: 10-18