Thursday, May 4, 2017


Sceva had seven sons, who were itinerant Jewish exorcists. They apparently had been very impressed by the techniques Paul had used to cast out demons and attempted to use them in their own exorcisms. However, things went bad:

·       Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16; ESV)

Techniques are not enough. I trust that these exorcists had been trying to implement the exact technique of Paul, but to no avail. Why not? The demon gave them the best explanation: “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”

They lacked a saving relationship with Jesus, and this made all the difference.

When religion becomes a matter of technique and methodology – visualizations, imaginations, meditations, or repetitions of words – there is an expectation that, if done correctly, the practitioner will mechanically tap into the blessings of God. The assumption is that God is passively and mindlessly offering his blessings to all. We just have to hit the bull’s eye in order to win the stuffed doll.

I was reminded of the distinction between technique and relationship when listening to Marianne Williamson, the leading advocate for a Course in Miracles. She opened the session by instructing her audience to imagine a golden light, a temple, a garden, and a stream flowing through it. She then invoked the crucifixion and the resurrection, admitting that she uses Christian terms in non-traditional ways.

For her, the crucifixion is no more than a concept, which represents a victim mentality, a place where you don’t want to be. Meanwhile, the resurrection represents freedom from the victimization prison into the reality of God, where all is love - no blame, guilt, or unforgiveness.

How do we get there? Not by believing in Jesus, confessing our sins, and repenting, since these things aren’t real, at least not in God’s world. Instead, it’s just a matter of making a decision and practicing a new mentality – the realization that God (love) is in you.

Consequently, it is all up to you and your practice of a set of techniques. It appeared to me that her god does not need to be satisfied, since there is no sin and no necessary payment for sin. Her god seems to be devoid of personally and moral character, an impersonal force, which anyone can access with practice and patience.
Her god is love, but what does this love look like? Can we understand love from our own relationships? Since we are created in the likeness of God, I think that we can. In fact, Scripture assures us that our marriages (among other relationships) serve as a shadow of our relationship with God:

·       “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)

What is love, and how do we love our wives? There is a right way and a wrong way. I cannot love my wife by abusing her or by forcing her to do exactly what I want her to do. Nor do I love her by allowing her to have relationships with other men. If she countered that love should just be a glowing feeling for her in my heart, I would respond that love is more than a feeling and passivity. Love can also be indignant, morally vigilant, protective, and even possessive when the object of love is threatened.

What does it mean for God to love us? It is more than just a warm feeling. It is a total engagement with His children, so total that He is working everything for our good. We can therefore find rest in him.

Have you ever watched a hen around her chicks? She is fearless. This once timid feathery creature will attack anything that threatens her chicks. She will attack anything that threatens her chicks. I saw one ascend into the air to intercept a hawk, talons poised to grab her chick. This is the power of relationship.

This is the way my God is. I know that no one can hurt me unless He allows this, but if He does, it is to teach me a valuable lesson.

What does it mean to love God? There is also a right way and a wrong way. Since He is a righteous God who can be grieved, I must love Him by acting in a way that pleases Him. In order to do this, He requires that we obey His words.

In this manner, He calls us to stay close to him. When there is danger lurking, the hen calls to her chicks who know well enough to flee to safety under her wings. There, she makes room for all of them.

However, Williamson’s god seems to have no personality or character. It is amorphous, distant, and uncaring about the moral realm and the suffering, since it dwells in the steady glow of love.

Nevertheless, Williamson talks a lot about forgiveness. Why? Not because her god requires this or anything else, but because we need to forgive in order to escape the captivity of the crucifixion, the mentality of victimization. It is merely a mental exercise unconnected to the concerns of her god, who is just love and who lacks any connection to this world of pain.

In contrast, our God cares about every detail of our lives. Therefore, Jesus encouraged us to not worry:

·       “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

Does Williamson’s god suffer as we suffer (Hebrews 4:15-16; Romans 8:26)? Apparently not! Suffering doesn’t exist for it. Instead, her god seems to be little more than gravity, which can be harnessed for our own purposes.

How do we harness this god? Through our thought life! Apparently, this is what the Course of Miracles is all about.

My wife loves me and cares about all aspects of my life, not only my thought life. She cares about my sleep, my diet, my joys, and my pains – everything. Although I tease her about being a force-of-nature, she is even more than that.

We have a relationship. If I hurt her, I must make up for it. I must respect her and honor her, and she deserves it. Relationship is more than just getting out of her what I want. It is also about giving and adoring.

Techniques are not enough. It is not enough to bring her flowers and take her out for the evening because I want something from her. I must also put her before all other women. My God also cares about this, as my God should.

Relationship is as fundamental to love, as my eyes are to sight. Without relationship, love is unthinkable. If I treat my wife wrongly, God will turn His back on my prayers:

·       Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7)

Relationship is wholistic. It involves every aspect of our lives, as it should. In comparison, techniques are superficial manipulations. These have their place in chiropractic but fall short of what is necessary between husband and wife, parent and child, and even God and His people.

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