I’ve been reading a really neat book about the adventures of a lay missionary who simply goes by the name Paul, although that’s not his real name. Since Halloween is coming up at the end of this month, a holiday where people celebrate ghosts, magic, witches and death, I thought I’d tell you one of the stories in this book.
Some Missionaries go to a village and stay there for many years preaching and healing and raising up a church. Others are itinerant missionaries, they go from town to town preaching for shorter periods of time, that’s the kind of missionary Paul was.
One day Missionary Paul went into a town he’d never been to before. It was a beautiful, busy seaside town; he saw a busy seaport where people from all over the world came to import their goods. He saw huge ships docked at the ports and heard snarly sea captions yelling orders in all sorts of languages to the poor slaves as they bent their backs carrying the heavy loads off the ships. He also noticed that a lot of the townspeople were big-time into witchcraft and sorcery. Witches, wizards and sorcerers scurried around the town with their charms and magic books to cast spells. People would pay them to either hurt their enemies or “help” themselves or their friends. A lot of the time they just did this to impress people or because they liked the powerful feeling it gave.
Missionary Paul wondered where he could start preaching is such a beautiful but wicked town. Finally he found a group of 12 guys who weren’t into all that witchcraft. Somewhere, probably from a Christian sailor who had come through town, they had found out about Jesus and although they didn’t know much about Christianity they were following God to the best of their ability. With all the evil spirits around in this town Missionary Paul asked them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit?”
Why, they’d never even heard of such a thing? They knew that the witches and sorcerers had evil spirits which gave them power but they didn’t know that God wants to give us His Holy Spirit, which is much more powerful than Satan’s spirit. They were excited to hear about this! He sat down with them and began to tell them all about Jesus. They listened to Missionary Paul’s every word with rapt attention. They were so excited about what they’d learned that they asked Missionary Paul to baptize them again, now that they knew the truth about how to follow Jesus and about the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent.
Missionary Paul took them to a shallow spot in the harbor, they were like tiny little toy men compared to the huge ships in the harbor, but that didn’t matter, God noticed them even if no one else did. As Missionary Paul lowered each one under the water and back up again their faces were filled with joy. Then the missionary put his hands on them and prayed that they would receive the Holy Spirit. God responded to that prayer in a BIG way. The Holy Spirit gave then two spiritual gifts, prophecy and the ability to speak in all sorts of languages. As soon as they came up out of the sea they began going from sailor to sailor, captain, to captain, slave to slave telling them the good news about Jesus in that person’s own language!
This certainly did get the people’s attention! The townspeople were eager to hear about this wonderful new religion that gave people the ability to talk in anyone’s native tongue. Missionary Paul found a lecture hall and began giving Bible studies the every day. The people flocked to hear him.
Now, you’ve probably heard about witches and wizards. You’ve probably heard of the book and movie series called Harry Potter. These kinds of books make witchcraft seem fun, exciting and harmless. In these books child wizards go on all sorts of exciting adventures using their special powers. But what they don’t tell you is that wizards are working for satan. And while satan can seem nice and fun in order to catch you, once he’s caught you he does a lot of hurtful things.
Since this town was filled with people who were into witchcraft, Satan was able to do a lot of really bad things. In fact he had gained so much control over many of the people that they became demon possessed. A demon controlled everything they did! If the demon said “go there” they did, if the demon said, “cut yourself” or “burn yourself” they did! Everyone was very afraid of demon possessed people.
Sometimes the demons would use their superhuman strength to hurt people. They may throw the person they possessed into a fire to burn them, just to hear them scream in pain, or they may use the possessed person to attack someone and beat them unmercifully, and since demons are stronger than humans the people had no way to escape.
Many of these demon possessed people were sorry that they had let the demons take control by playing with witchcraft. They didn’t like to be hurt or burned by the demons, they didn’t like to have to do everything the demons told them to, they didn’t like hurting other people, but they couldn’t do anything about it. They were helpless.
When Missionary Paul saw some of these people He said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you, evil spirits, to come out!” and the Holy Spirit, who is more powerful than satan’s spirit, drove the evil spirits out! Now they were free! Sick people also came to the missionary and Jesus healed them through Paul. In fact, so many people needed to be healed or set free that people would just take a handkerchief or another item of clothing that Missionary Paul had touched to the sick or demon possessed people and they would be healed!
The townspeople were amazed, they thought this Missionary and His God were really cool; but they weren’t willing to totally give up on their witchcraft. They would say they were following Jesus, in order to get the benefits but they were still trying to follow their old ways too. That’s called taking the name of the Lord in vain which is against third commandment (see Exodus 20:7)!
Well, one day, seven boys came upon a demon possessed man. Wanting to get in on the action one said, “Hey, let’s cast the demon out using Jesus’ name just like missionary Paul and those 12 Christians do!”
“Yeah! That’s a great idea, that’ll make us powerful!” they all chorused.
So in their most important sounding voice they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, whom Paul preaches about, come out of that man!” But instead of leaving, the demon talked back to them!
“Jesus I know, and I know Paul, but who are you?” then he jumped on all seven of them with superhuman strength and beat them mercilessly. In trying to escape they ripped their clothes off and ran away, leaving their clothes behind.
When word of this got around town all the people were afraid. They realized that they needed to give proper respect to Jesus and not just use him for their own good. They realized that they couldn’t mix Christianity with witchcraft. That night some of the leaders in the town built a big huge bonfire and all the witches and wizards and sorcerers, as well as all the people who just like to “play around” with the devil, brought their magic books and burned them in the fire; to show that they weren’t going to have anything to do with the evil spirits anymore. They wanted Jesus and His Holy Spirit only!
This month, as most of the people around you celebrate Halloween. Please remember that, even though it may look fun and harmless, witchcraft and ghosts never are. You cannot mix God’s things and Satan’s. It’s not safe! And if you already have some Halloween things or any other thing that comes from satan, throw it away! Or ask your parents to help you burn them. Use this time of great evil to pledge total allegiance to Jesus and ask His Holy Spirit to come to you!
(This story is from the Bible book of Acts 19.)