I was having a tough time. I couldn’t draw a crowd. In fact, I couldn’t draw a thing. That’s why I had photocopied a picture of John Wayne onto a large piece of paper and was coloring it in with paints. I couldn’t figure it out. When my friends used a sketch board while speaking in public, at least a few people gathered. This day, no one bothered to give me a second look. I was planning to color in the picture and speak about how John Wayne lived and died as portrayed by Hollywood, and how he lived and died in real life. Death was no problem to the Duke; it was commonplace in the westerns in which he starred. So when it came to real life, one would think it wouldn’t have bothered him too much. Naturally, it did. He called for Billy Graham to come to his bedside as he lay dying of cancer. The fact is, there’s a Hollywood world, and then there’s a real world. It is one thing to go out in a blaze of glory in a cowboy movie, but it’s another thing to fade away under the merciless hand of a terminal disease. Anyway, there was no point in having a good illustration when there was no one to hear it.
Just as I was about to throw in the brush, a woman in her mid-twenties walked up to me. With an air of confidence she asked what I was doing with the paints and brush. I told her, and found out that her name was Jacqueline. I felt as though I had stepped into a John Wayne movie. She reminded me of the flashy-eyed female with a flower in her mouth and castanets in her hands, who twirls around the bar room, then jumps up and dances on a table amid the drooling of lust-filled, drunken cowboys. Jacqueline had no castanets or flower, but she had those same flashy eyes. As she spoke, I sensed that this sweet little kitten could, at the drop of a hat, turn into a ferocious wildcat. My first impression was an accurate one.
About two months later, I preached for about twenty minutes and was winding down. Thirty people had gathered to listen to the message and to wait for food. It was Friday, and the whole week had been a good one, with orderly lines for the food and quite a number of people making commitments to Christ.
Earlier in the week, my wife, Sue, had bravely come to the park to help me. I felt proud of her. Since she was 4’11”, most of those who took sandwiches from her hands towered above her. She was able to get a firsthand glimpse of what I had been telling her about, seeing all those hungry hands grasping for food.
On this Friday, each person stood quietly behind the line I had drawn in the dirt about ten feet in front of me. As I spoke, I saw Jacqueline heading for me. I told her to stay behind the line. She took no notice, walked right up to me and demanded food. I told her to wait like everyone else, behind the line. She refused, and instead sat on the box I was standing on and hollered, “I feel like sex. I haven’t had it for two days!”
I was annoyed because she had burst in just as I was about to challenge those listening to get right with God. The timing couldn’t have been worse. I was also amazed at how her presence affected the men. Instead of continuing to stand orderly behind the line, they now pressed forward and were yelling and shoving one another. The atmosphere had suddenly changed.
She quickly grew bored and picked up a plastic bottle of water I had brought to bathe Pop’s leg. Like the saloon girl with the proverbial whiskey, she took the lid off and began to guzzle it down. I saw Pop move to another location. As he left, I asked him to take the first-aid kit away so that it wouldn’t be stolen. I told the crowd, which now numbered about fifty, that they wouldn’t be fed if they didn’t line up. No one moved back into a line. Other regulars, trying to be helpful, began to yell. Still no one moved. Even Preacher couldn’t budge them.
The cowboy movie was still rolling. I was the local sheriff. I had the sandwiches under lock and key, and the lynch mob was there to bust them out of jail and gnash on them with their teeth.
A friend of Preacher’s had a stick, and like a riot policeman began using it to push the crowd back. I jumped out of the way as they suddenly rushed the jailhouse. It was hard to see what was going on in the midst of that mass of bodies, but I could see someone lying across the top of the box, trying to stop the mob from busting up the jail. I could hardly believe this was all happening for the sake of a box of sandwiches! As I watched the fight for the food, I heard a bottle that someone had thrown smash behind me. I looked at Jacqueline, who was standing some distance away. She cringed as our eyes met. The little kitten had a twinge of conscience at the trouble she had caused.
A moment later, there she was, transformed into a wildcat, right in the middle of the men, screaming for food. She looked back at me and let out a string of hair-curling four-letter words. I made my way up to the empty box, turned to a guy who was holding on to six sandwiches and told him to give me one. As he did so, I passed it to Jacqueline, who snatched it from my hand and cursed me again.
I picked up the empty box and headed for Pop. As I did so, I saw that Jacqueline still had the bottle of water that I brought to cleanse Pop’s leg. When I asked for it, she simply spat out more curses. I smiled because she reminded me of my regular hecklers back in New Zealand. Then I turned and walked away. As I did so, she called my name and threw the bottle at me.
Pop’s leg was still a mess, but thankfully there was no sign of the gangrene returning. As I bathed the wound and applied a bandage, the little kitten came alongside. I told her to hold the bandage while I taped it up. She was a completely different person from the one who had so viciously poured curses on me a few minutes earlier. Afterward, without my asking, she helped me carry the empty box to my car.
Who’s Pulling the Strings?
The first time I saw the television show “The Muppets,” I couldn’t understand how some of the puppets were manipulated. They were so well done, so realistic, that a small child could be forgiven for thinking that the puppets were real personalities in themselves. Those who are either babes in Christ, or are not yet born into the kingdom of God, could be forgiven for thinking that this day’s happenings at the park were merely personalities enacting the play of daily life. However, those who are adults in the faith know better. Behind the actions of someone like Jacqueline, there is an unseen manipulator. She is just a blind puppet for spiritual powers.
Before I became a Christian, you would have had a hard time convincing me that there was a spiritual realm. If you had said, “Man is a spirit in a natural body,” I would have been very skeptical. However, if you reasoned gently with me, saying that when someone dies the invisible spirit leaves the body, you may have been able to convince me of the fact.
Take for instance the doctor who says that a particular patient has just “passed away.” You ask him, “What do you mean ‘passed away’?” He tells you that the life has left the body. You inquire, “How do you know it left?” To which he replies that he didn’t see it, but the invisible life-force, the spirit, left. What remains is a shell, commonly referred to as a corpse.
Many people find it difficult to believe in an invisible spiritual world, so let me relate it to a few things to make it more understandable. Think of an electrical current running from a battery to a remote-controlled car. We can’t see the current, but we can see the car move as it is motivated by the invisible force. Or think of television waves. At this very moment, there are images of news reporters, cowboys, soap operas, etc., floating around us. We can’t see them because they are invisible; they are in another realm. We need a television receiver to pick up the signal. The same is true with invisible radio waves.
For untold centuries, the hidden worlds of television and radio lay untapped. Two hundred years ago, the most progressive contemporary thinker couldn’t have dreamed of what we have discovered hidden in the mysteries of the universe. Why then should it be so offensive to a reasoning mind to think that there are other invisible realms that haven’t yet been discovered, realms such as the spiritual world?
Think of a man who has been involved in a terrible car accident, where both his arms and his legs have had to be removed. Literally half of his body has been taken from him, but he is still a whole personality. His soul is still complete. If man were merely flesh and not spirit, as some would have us believe, he would now be only half a personality.
Imagine if I were born blind. I’m standing on a street corner. You approach me, not knowing I am blind, and comment, “Nice day. It’s good to see a blue sky.”
I say, “I was born blind; could you tell me what blue looks like?”
You reply, “Sure, it’s…it’s…gree…no, it’s…I’m sorry, blind man, I can’t describe it to you. The only way you will understand the color is to experience it for yourself–you need light.”
The same applies spiritually. According to the Bible, non-Christians have their “understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18, KJV). My earnest prayer is that those who have never experienced the spiritual birth are open-minded enough to receive the light of understanding from God, through these few thoughts.
Perhaps some have more insight than I had before my conversion. They may have looked into the occult and discovered that there is a spiritual realm. Or perhaps they have seen the incredible increase in satanic worship, accompanied by human sacrifices, cannibalism, etc., and know that this is a manifestation of a spiritual realm outside of accepted human behavior. Maybe they have read of people who are said to be “demon-possessed,” or heard of serial murderers who claimed to be motivated by spirits.
I know what it’s like to be Spirit-possessed because One possesses me. Since April 25, 1972, I have been possessed by the Holy Spirit. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). But the Bible also speaks of another “spirit”—the “spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Let’s take a look at this spirit.
Allow me to share a couple of hair-raising experiences with you. Because I know that no liar will enter the kingdom of Heaven, the following incidents, which are only two of a number of similar experiences, don’t have even a tinge of half-truth or exaggeration. They are the “gospel truth,” exactly as they happened.
While I was the speaker at a church youth camp, an eighteen-year-old named John stepped into my cabin late at night and told me he was having problems.
After talking with him for a while, I told him that we would pray about his troubles. As I began to pray, he slumped off the bunk on which he was sitting onto the floor.
Then he groaned, rolled onto his back, arched his body, and began pushing himself backward across the floor. Having the gift of perception, I realized that this wasn’t normal behavior.
In the Book of Mark, Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons,” so I began to use the name of Jesus in what is called “exorcising prayer.” The demons in John screamed, hissed, and manifested with such velocity that saliva from his mouth hit a chest of drawers eight or nine feet from where he lay.
With the help of God, I cast the spirit of rebellion from him, then asked a friend, who had come in to see what the noise was about, to get John a drink of water. When John came back to himself, I asked him what he had been involved in that got him into such a state. It turned out that he had been listening to occult-based heavy metal music and drinking blood. He and his girlfriend, under the influence of marijuana, would get a cup of blood from the local butcher and drink it in a satanic rite.
Excerpt from, Out of the Comfort Zone, by Ray Comfort