Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deliver Us From Evil

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13)

These are the words Jesus used to teach the disciples how to pray. Who is this evil one?

Evil, the devil, the Prince of Darkness…I didn’t used to give it much thought. In fact, there was a long period when I assumed that “evil” was not so much a spiritual force but rather the “hell” we create here on earth with our selfishness and sinful choices.

I’ve never heard a pastor pray against evil. In a generic sense, yes, but not boldly recognizing a force that is trying to wreck havoc with the church, “prowling like a lion seeking whom it can devour” (1Peter 5:8). Yet Jesus mentioned the devil often , as did the New Testament letter writers. (Matthew 4, John 17:15, John 14:30, 1 John 5:18-19, James 4:7, 1Thess 5: 22, 2Thess 3;3 are just a few of the many references).

One of the young believers at our church, I’ll call him Paul, comes to my gate about 7:15 AM to ride with me in the van to pick up people. Paul is 15. He gave his heart to the Lord when Ian was here last month. Last week an older deaf boy met Paul at his house at 7 AM and took him out to eat breakfast. This older boy is a JW leader. He told Paul not to go to church, that the Christian Church is wrong, that Paul should come with him to the JW worship. Paul, who is generally hungry and does not have food at home, was delighted for the attention of the older popular deaf boy and the free food. Yet, after breakfast, he came to Jesus Deaf Church. The older boy says he will come get Paul next Sunday and take him to eat again.

On Saturday another older deaf boy went to Paul’s house and tried to convince him to not go to church. He said Paul could work with him. Paul would love to earn some money. The only day that the older deaf boy wanted Paul to work was Sunday morning. Paul came to church instead. Score: Jesus 2, Evil One 0
But oh my… I wonder how long Paul can resist.

Our School is Anglican (Episcopal). The diocese decided that they would renew the tradition of years past where every child and every teacher is “required” to attend church at the school on Sundays. I haven’t been going. I’m leading Jesus Deaf Church on Sunday mornings. Two weeks ago I got a letter from my principal saying that I’m under contractual obligation to attend the worship at the school church. I was “EXPECTED” to be there the next Sunday (which was the following day) Hmmm. What to do? Do I fight this battle now or do I concede this battle in hopes of winning the war for our church? I drove around that night to tell many deaf people that church is canceled for this Sunday. I made a mental note that I would need to see her superior to get permission to have church at my house for deaf, instead of attending the school church which none to the deaf kids would understand.

She told me I could discuss the matter with her boss on Wednesday. I prepared a letter for the boss. I prayerfully tried to communicate how our church began, how God started it, how God is maintaining it, how deaf people who come are not just school children, how deaf people are bored in a hearing worship service that they cannot understand. Then I prayed and fasted hoping the boss would be open to at least reading my letter.

When the boss (the “superintendent”) came on Wednesday she handed me her own letter expressing her disappointment in my not attending the school’s church, and I gave her mine. She read it right in my room, right then. She closed the letter, patted me on the back and said, "Your mission is doing a good work.” (Ahhhh...Praise the Lord for prayer answered.) She says she will write me another letter (I’m hoping it says that in lieu of my leading Jesus’ Deaf Church, I don’t have to attend the Anglican worship regularly.) I haven’t received it yet but if you’re counting I going to score that as Jesus 3, Evil One 0.
Note: I am not saying my principal or this woman are “evil" (by any means) but that the forces of the devil are working against our church.

Then there is the deaf boy from the family in San Jose. It’s fair to say they are “always” drunk. He fell in love with one of the girls who attend Girl’s Night. He gave her a promise ring and wants to marry next summer. She told him he had to stay sober. He did for a few months, but now he comes to visit her drunk and was drunk when he came to worship two weeks ago. He was drunk for their date last Saturday. She struggles because she is in love and wants to live with him (now) and marry him this summer. We've talked, and prayed and talked some more and she's staying with her mom and giving him some space, praying he will change.
Score: Jesus 4, Evil One 1.

There’s so much more. It’s like the deaf people and our church are caught in a huge elastic band. They’re pulled to church and then pulled away by some enticement. Then they come back to the Lord because the Holy Spirit convicts them or I talk to them, then they are pulled away again by something else. One of the boys said he is so tired of the pulling. He thinks staying home and not attending church will help him sort things out. I’ve visited him and others have visited him. I’ve prayed for him and with him. He’s come to school to talk but refuses to come to church. He says he’s tired of the spiritual battle. Sigh.
Score: Jesus 4, Evil One 2

It’s tough. The spiritual battle is exhausting. I know that the Holy Spirit empowers us believers and we have won the battle… the ultimate battle… but I hate fighting in the mean time. You know? It wears me down. But the Evil One will not win this battle. The Lord has been supporting me. Mom sent me a package. I have received email letters of support from people I haven't heard from in months. The Holy Spirit is strengthening my prayer life and showing me how the early church fought the same battles.

When I was younger, we didn’t talk about the Devil. The thinking was, don’t mention the forces of Evil. Doing so gives them power so just ignore them. But I don’t agree anymore. They’re there. They are prowling around like a hungry lion seeking whom they can devour. I need to pray against them. I need to pray for protection around all of our church members and courage for all to resist temptation. Can you join me?