John Bradshaw - Dancing With the Devil
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. If you go to a live performance at your local theater, you'll see a live orchestra, a musician, maybe, a team of gymnasts, or a troupe of Shakespearean actors, something along those lines. But if you were alive in the 1840s and sitting in the audience at a theater, you might have heard something a bit different. You might have heard a mysterious knocking. When the show began, you would have seen two young girls, Maggie and Kate Fox. You'd have heard them speaking to and asking questions of... no one, it seemed. Then you would have felt the silence in the room. You'd have seen members of the audience leaning forward in their seats. Maybe you, too, would have leaned forward, waiting for something to happen.
Then you would have heard what you came to hear: rappings on the floor or the furniture, sounds of knocking that didn't appear to come from anywhere, that frankly seemed otherworldly, that spelled out messages, or sometimes even rapped in the rhythm of well-known tunes of the time. What were these knockings? The Fox sisters claimed they were spirits. The story of the Fox sisters begins in Hydesville, New York, where Maggie and Kate Fox lived as girls in a small home with their parents. The home, they claimed, was haunted, and the girls often heard knockings on the walls. They began to invite people over to the house to demonstrate what was happening. As they did this, the girls began to gain notoriety. Eventually they were invited to another home to see if the knockings would happen in other places. They did! Or at least they seemed to.
Then the girls began to perform in halls and theaters. Their popularity exploded, and Maggie and Kate were then joined by their older sister, Leah. They took to the road, performing in cities all over the United States. Everywhere they stopped their séances drew people from all walks of life. Why were people so enticed by the knocking sounds? Well, that's because what the Fox sisters offered was more than just a mere night's entertainment. It was, they claimed, a glimpse, an open door to the other side. Add to that the fact that the communications the sisters claimed to receive from the spirits of the dead often offered hope about the times.
Surely, the combination of such encouraging messages, the intrigue of the supernatural, and the ability to communicate with those who had died sparked the interest of a generation. And it was the Fox sisters' performances, more than anything else, that galvanized what one historian has called "one of the greatest religious movements of the 19th century": American spiritualism. This movement went beyond spirit rappings and séances, though. Another popular attraction at the time was mesmerism. Mesmerism had been popular in the United States since the 1830s when Charles Poyen, a Frenchman who practiced animal magnetism, or mesmerism, traveled to New England and began to give talks about his ability to heal illnesses by mesmerizing people, a practice initiated by a man named Anton Mesmer.
Poyen could, he claimed, put his patients in a sleep-like state or a trance and then make magnetic passes over the body with his hands. These actions he and others believed would rebalance the magnetic forces that some scientists of the time thought were in the body. Like the Fox sisters did later on, Poyen traveled around the United States giving demonstrations of mesmerism. And other mesmerists rose up to do the same. Beyond the supposed powers of healing that practitioners of mesmerism said their art could bring to people, they also boasted that mesmerism allowed them to access people's minds and could enable individuals to act as mediums for spirits.
The stories of Charles Poyen and the Fox sisters show us that spiritualism had its big introduction and its heyday in the United States in the 19th century. But it's important to note that it's nothing new. In fact, it's been around since Bible times. First Samuel 28 tells the story of King Saul consulting a medium. It happened after he realized that the Philistine army was gathering to attack Israel, and no matter how much he prayed and asked for help from prophets, the Lord God would not give him an answer. In his desperation he went to see a witch in a place called Endor, asking her to raise up the prophet Samuel, who had died, so that Samuel could give Saul advice. The visit did not end up helping Saul, though. He just received the message he'd already received, that God had taken his kingdom from him, and it would be given to David. Shortly after this meeting, Saul died in battle, and everything happened as the Lord said it would.
The long shadow of spiritualism reaches into more modern times as well. It's well known, for example, that former first lady Nancy Reagan sought the advice of an astrologer named Joan Quigley throughout her husband Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s. And today we only need to look to popular television to see the influence of spiritualism on our culture. You can think of numerous television programs which include spells and witchcraft and sorcery, communication with the dead, and so on. In fact, in the 21st century, spiritualism has become even more brazen than ever before, with television programs even discussing Satan as a character, making him sympathetic to his viewers. But what does God say about all of this? About participating in séances, consulting mediums, or being involved with witchcraft in any way? The Bible's very clear about these practices.
In Leviticus 19:31, God says, "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them". Deuteronomy 18:10-12 says, "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord". And in the New Testament, Paul declares in Galatians, chapter 5, that "those who practice idolatry and sorcery will not inherit the kingdom of God". In accordance with what the Bible says, we should avoid séances and witchcraft because we know that if we do these things, we would be dancing with the devil. But did you know there are more subtle forms of spiritualism that are all around us in this day and age? And those things should be avoided, too. We'll talk about those when we come back in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. Going to see a clairvoyant or consulting a Ouija board are obvious, in-your-face forms of spiritualism. But there are plenty of practices today that may seem harmless but are actually spiritualistic in nature. Some of these even Christians practice with the justification that they can bring one closer to God. Among these practices are the use of crystals for healing and yoga for exercise and meditation. I spoke with a young woman raised in the Santería religion. Really, that's voodoo. And I asked her about her experiences and her insights into the occult. So, tell me, in your experience, the occult is very real. You were involved as a younger person in, in Santería, which, it's called voodoo in Haiti, so that's very much witchcraft. What were the sorts of experiences that you had?
Tammy: So, I was baptized into it. The, the way that it was practiced, um, in my family was considered white magic. Um, and so it was for protection or for, uh, trying to gain things. Um, I had a lot of demonic presence around me. At the time I didn't know they were demonic presence, most of the time. But I saw a lot of shadows. I had encounters with Satan. I had encounters with, um, uh, just, just general tormenting.
John Bradshaw: If I understand your story correctly, there was somebody who for years stood at the end of your bed while you slept.
Tammy: Very faithfully.
John Bradshaw: When I say "somebody," this wasn't a somebody; this was a... well, it was a demon.
Tammy: Yes, it was.
John Bradshaw: And, and did you feel protected while the, while the, this demonic presence was there?
Tammy: I was told that he was there to protect me, but never have I ever felt protected. As a matter of fact, I slept with the sheets over my head. Because I was so scared of him.
John Bradshaw: Is there such a thing as white magic?
Tammy: I don't believe so. I think all magic is tied in with Satan. Um, the devil has his hand in all of those things when you read the Bible. There's no way that you can make something that's evil good.
John Bradshaw: So as somebody who was deeply involved in the occult, do you see evidence of it around you in society today?
Tammy: Everywhere. I see it in music; I see it in movies...
John Bradshaw: See it in movies.
John Bradshaw: Cartoons.
Tammy: I see it in, in toys. I see it in, uh, books. It's everywhere now.
John Bradshaw: Does it matter that it's everywhere? I mean, can't somebody just read a book about something or watch a movie about something and it's just entertainment? Can't you just pass it off as that?
Tammy: Can you play with a porcupine without getting stung? I don't think that anything that involves Satan and that has nothing to do with God can be good for you.
John Bradshaw: I think it's important to remember that even if the person playing with the toy or watching the movie doesn't have an agenda, the devil does.
Tammy: He does. And he'll paint it in this glittery picture. He'll paint it in so colorful. He'll paint it in princesses and flowers and toys and, and things that seem good, but there is, uh, an agenda, and the agenda is the mind.
John Bradshaw: What do you think is the effect on people when they see musicians and music videos very openly glorifying the devil, or actors in television programs or cartoons, what do you think the effect is on people, and particularly young people, when they see this being normalized?
Tammy: Well, if you look now at teens, there's a lot of behavioral issues. There's a lot of depression and a lot of suicide. I know that it has a direct correlation, especially when the lyrics are talking about suicide, are talking about being an addict and glorifying living in a lifestyle that does not produce happiness or joy or peace at all.
John Bradshaw: You came to the place where you wanted to be out of there. Were you able just to walk out the door, shut the door, and walk away? Or was it a little more complicated than that?
Tammy: It was extremely complicated. Um, Satan never wants to let go of anyone that he has. He doesn't want to give or allow people to experience what he has lost. So, once I decided to become a Christian or started to even just look at it, I was tormented at night. I was torment, I couldn't sleep at night. There were days where I'd be driving, and I would experience out-of-body experiences where I would see myself, you know, either going off a bridge or having a car accident, uh, almost dying or dying. I knew Satan was out to get me, um, after I left the occult.
John Bradshaw: And when you're going through that, did you ever think to yourself, "Well, wait a minute, maybe I ought to stay back on that side"?
Tammy: No, 'cause when you compare Satan to Jesus, it, it's incomparable. I don't know how I knew that Jesus was the One that could save. I just knew that He was what I wanted. He had the answer for me. And if I could just reach it, like the woman with the issue of blood, you could just touch the hem of the garment, you can experience that freedom. And I did.
John Bradshaw: And you're free.
Tammy: I'm free.
John Bradshaw: Does thinking back on that life... is it traumatic? Does it leave you feeling icky, or, or can you just go forward now and say, "Hey, I'm free, and it's okay"?
Tammy: When I look back, um, it does get a little hard. Um, Satan will, he likes to bring up memories, and it, it does, it does feel uncomfortable, but the Bible says that, uh, if we invite in Christ, that He will abide in us. And as long as I'm staying connected with Him, with Jesus... as long as I'm reading my Bible, as long as I'm surrendering my will to Him, as long as I am letting go of sins, I have peace. I have joy. I have freedom. When I was first coming out, I didn't have the answers. All I had was the name of Jesus. And just in His name alone, there's power. So even if you, you don't have a knowledge, you don't have the resources, you don't have anything else, just call on the name of Jesus, and He will show up, and He will lead you, He will guide you, and that's what He did for me.
John Bradshaw: Isaiah 8:19 asks us, "When they say to you, 'Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living"? The Bible, in classic fashion, answers its own question pretty directly: "To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them". That's Isaiah 8 and verse 20. God's Word is a litmus test of light and darkness, truth and error, good and evil. In just a moment we're going to turn to the Bible to look at a story about a people who were trying to follow the God who had saved them from bondage, but who in their fear and doubt lost their way by making and worshiping a god of gold, a god which ultimately had zero power to heal or save them. I'll be right back.
To learn more about how God sees the use of inanimate objects for the purpose of healing or salvation, we're going to look at the story of the golden calf. The story takes place when the children of Israel are at the foot of Mount Sinai waiting for Moses to return from talking with God and receiving His law. But its true beginning is in Egypt before the Israelites were set free, before they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, before they journeyed into the wilderness. Having lived for generations among the Egyptians, the Israelites had become accustomed to Egyptian traditions. They'd witnessed Egyptian rituals and become familiar with the gods whom the Egyptians worshiped. On the day they marched out of Egypt, they not only carried with them their belongings and the golden spoils handed over to them by their captors, but also the mental and emotional baggage of 400 years of living in a pagan nation.
As time in the wilderness would show, it was that baggage that was the heaviest of everything they were carrying, and the most challenging to free themselves from. It's a well-known story. As they journeyed deeper into the desert, they gave way to doubt, allowing their circumstances to dictate their attitudes towards Moses and ultimately God Himself. They complained at every turn. They didn't have water. God gave it to them from a rock. They didn't have food. God rained manna from heaven to feed them. They got tired of the manna. God gave them quail. They became sick from eating it. Really, their lack wasn't food and water; it was trust in God to lead them, to save them. And this became all too apparent when God called Moses to speak with Him on Mount Sinai.
Despite the fact they'd already witnessed God's presence in their midst through the pillar of cloud and fire that traveled with them out of Egypt, Exodus 20, verse 18 relates, "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when they saw it, they trembled and stood afar off," even though barriers had already been put between them and the mountain. While Moses was talking with God and receiving the Ten Commandments and instructions on how to build the tabernacle, the people down below were terrified. And the longer Moses was away, the more anxious they became.
Exodus 32, verse 1: "Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'" Incredibly, Aaron did as they requested. He instructed them to bring the gold they brought out of Egypt. When they did, the Bible tells us that Aaron "received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf". The next day the people gathered to worship the calf and make sacrifices to it. Seeing their sin, God said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it.... I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them".
God could have wiped the Israelites out then and there. But Moses pleaded with the Lord, and God relented. Yet Moses was angry, too. And when he descended the mountain, he broke the tablets of stone God had given him. The next thing he did was to call his brother to account, asking Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them"? So Aaron proceeded to explain what had happened. And he ended with the worst excuse in the Bible, telling Moses, "I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out". Wait a minute. What did he say? That all he'd done was throw jewelry and pieces of gold into the fire and, voila! out came an idol? Would anyone have believed a story like that? It was an outright lie and a very poor excuse for a lie. The Bible clearly states that Aaron "fashioned it with a tool".
That calf took a lot of work, purposeful work that Aaron had done himself. It was not random. It was intentional on his part, and on the part of the people. By suggesting the calf happened by itself or made itself spontaneously, Aaron was not only lying; he was assigning power to the gold that the gold didn't possess. He was assigning power to the idol, that it could somehow self-generate. As they worshiped it, the Israelites were doing the same thing. They ascribed all the power, might, and strength they'd already seen with their own eyes from the God of heaven to a precious stone carved into an idol. Unlike the living God, the golden calf was lifeless and could do nothing for them. But instead of trusting the true God, the One who had actually freed them, the One who'd actually given them bread and water, the One who had protected them with His mighty hand, they were willing to put their trust in inanimate objects, in stone instead of the Creator.
The same is true today when people put their trust in crystals, precious stones, amulets, and charms. These things have no power to heal or help or save. The only one who can save is the Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ. In times of fear or doubt or uncertainty, you can turn to Him. Don't let subtle forms of darkness to even enter your home, certainly not your heart. Because over time they may eventually overwhelm you, might even take your life. Make no mistake, this is no game; it's spiritual warfare. Your only hope of victory is in Jesus. He promises you that victory. You need only come to Him and claim His promises for true healing, for redemption, and for conquering the devil. The devil is powerful. But "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world". God's promise to you and to me is to cleanse us and purify us from sin and from the darkness of this world. All you need to do is to willingly put off and reject those things that are right now weighing you down.
Jesus Himself offers us a brand new beginning, no matter how far we've gone from Him. You just need to remember that nothing the devil offers as a way to somehow access power or miraculous healing can even come close to what God has already done and freely offers you and me today. Here's what God promises in the last book of the Bible: "I counsel you to buy of me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see". "To him that overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne". Now, this is the gold we want.
Our Father in heaven, in Jesus' name we come to You, thankful for the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We recognize that we are caught up in a great spiritual battle with deception at every side. I'm asking that You would guide us in the way of light and life. Right now there's one who is seeking a better way, a new start, a new life in Jesus, and I'm praying for that person as he or she brings to You a heart to be made new, a mind to be transformed. We thank You for the truth of Your Word and that one day soon we will leave this sin-darkened world for an eternity in Your Presence. Keep us. Fill us with Your Presence. Save us now and always. We pray and thank You in Jesus' name, amen.