First United Methodist Church, Lewistown, PA 17044  ~  717-248-4618   ~  fumc200@outlook.com

"Yes Virginia, there is a devil."

July 18, 2016

Playing off the lines of an editorial, book, and then TV show, I offer this.

In 1897, Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, a coroner's assistant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia O'Hanlon (1889–1971), whether Santa Claus really existed. O'Hanlon suggested she write to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." In so doing, Dr. O'Hanlon had unwittingly given one of the paper's editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question and address the philosophical issues behind it.    (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes,_Virginia,_there_is_a_Santa_Claus)   Whether Santa Claus is or was a real person is left to history and legend. I am here to affirm my belief that God exists and so does Satan, the devil.

    How Satan (the devil) must cackle with glee over the state of our nation, of our world. While humanity churns along, fed by mistrust, anger, frustration, and hate, we defend our right to hurt and maim other human beings. We identify those around us as the enemy and plot our revenge. If someone likes a video game, we find reasons why they shouldn't. If another person is one of deep faith in God, we assail their feebleness and proclaim, "God is dead." When horrors and injustices occur, we quickly condemn those involved and vilify their intentions and actions without having any or all the details. Each of us carry our own agenda into battle ready to defend it and denounce anyone who dares to disagree with us.  Human nature has always suffered from the corrosive nature of sin. "Yes Virginia, there is a devil."

    The frenzied aftermath of theses defenses looks more like a shark attack or perhaps the unfortunate animal that got too close to the school of piranha. When there is blood in the water, absolute chaos isn't far behind.  And there is our world in a nutshell.  And there in a nutshell is exactly what Satan cultivates and hopes to grow out of control. This turmoil isn't new. Our narrative of hate and divisive nature started once upon a time in the Garden of Eden. Satan's deception of Adam and Eve immediately sent the man and woman away from God and against one another (Genesis 3:12-13). It didn't stop there.

    We know too well the story of Abel being killed by his brother over an offering to God. And on humanity went finding new ways to silence and kill our adversaries and enemies. When things don't go the way we want, we use force to wield a club of aggression to get our way. We've been broken for thousands of years and have been targeting the wrong adversary for as long. "Yes Virginia, there is a devil."

    Suspicions, pride, and retribution fuel all that is wrong in our nation and in our world. This situation is largely the result of temptations and darkness propagated by the devil. While I firmly believe the devil 'can't' make me do anything I haven't already decided to do in my heart, I do believe the devil will provide ample opportunity for me and you to consider the 'dark' side.

    STOP! Our anger, hate, and revenge are being directed at the wrong target. We lash out at other people who are created in the image of God instead of the entity that loves to deceive and kill us (Satan). It is easy to see why Jesus called Satan, the deceiver and father of lies (John 8:44).

    When will we stop hating and killing each other over unfortunate, sometimes petty, and tragic circumstances? As long as we continue to identify the wrong targets for our wrath, then the answer is never.  I offer you a new perspective....actually three.

1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul.

2. Love your neighbor the same way you love yourself.

3. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Need tools? Try these.

        Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take

        your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of

        evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand

        firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in

        place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all

        this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take

        the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all

        occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying

        for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will

        fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I

        may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:10-20, NIV)

    Let's begin to storm the gates of hell with our prayers and call upon the power of almighty God to put an end to the carnage that has left this young child and thousands like him fatherless. It's time to silence the devil.                (Officer Montrell Jackson, deceased, and his young son one week ago)

 Let's beat back the devil's schemes so that another young man doesn't die needlessly.

                                                         (Alton Sterling, one week ago, deceased)

 

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