Afraid of the Devil?

This week, lots of people will be watching television repeats of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, SAW and Scream. These celebrations of blood and gore have replaced the bloodless movie monsters like Lon Chaney’s Wolfman, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein. But like those old movie monsters, the modern incarnations of our greatest fears on cinema are highly popular.

We usually outgrow our fear of movie monsters. But the New Testament talks about a real evil, a monster that opposes God and has great power in this world. This monster is called the Enemy or Satan. Tradition says that Satan started out as an angel of God, but he rebelled out of pride.

One of the great victories of Satan is to convince people that they should be afraid of him. Sometimes he does this through those scary movies we watch at Halloween. But the New Testament has one thing to say about being afraid of Satan. Don’t.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur…” (Revelation 20:10).

This monster is real, but he has no power over people who belong to Jesus. Faith in Jesus overcomes fear of Satan.

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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Pain and Denial

Pain. Usually it’s not something that we want to face. When we are not hurting, it’s easy to talk about pain as a valuable signal that something is wrong. When we feel the flame on our skin from a fire, we know we should avoid it. In that sense, pain is a gift.

But when we hurt, it’s not so easy to remember that.

Everyone feels pain at some point. Pain can be physical but it can also be emotional. That is a signal that something is wrong too. And emotional pain can be even more difficult to face.

Some Christians believe that trusting in Jesus is all that is necessary to keep us from emotional pain. But even the most faithful Christians can drown in emotional pain. The human mind and spirit can get overwhelmed by life. Being a Christian is no guarantee that we won’t be overwhelmed.

We need to be honest about this. God is a help to the suffering, but human life is fragile. If we truly want to help or to receive help, we have to honest about the struggle. When a Christian sinks deeper into depression because they have been told that admitting depression is a sin or an intolerable weakness, then we bear the responsibility.

There are no simple answers to the struggle of emotional pain. But admitting that we struggle is the most important first step.
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Spreading Joy

Gratitude! I read a pithy saying recently on Facebook or Twitter, I can’t remember which, that said, joy comes from a heart full of gratitude. When we really feel grateful, we understand the truth of such a statement. We feel joy when we truly feel thankful.

This past week our community came together to help a neighbor in need. This young woman has been diagnosed with cancer. She has a loving husband and two small children. She has to travel out of state for the special treatments that she needs. She had to take a leave from her job. Her needs and concerns are great.

Under the very dedicated leadership of another young woman in our church family, each year we raise money for our building fund through a chicken tender meal and auction. This young woman, along with many others in the community, decided to organize a fundraising event to help pay expenses for this family.

As soon as the fundraiser was announced the whole community started coming together to help. The outpouring of love, the many hours and donations and sacrifices, reached farther than we could have imagined. Countless people rushed to help and participate and spend their money in support. An amazing amount of money was raised.

I know this family is grateful. In the midst of a terrible diagnosis and ongoing painful treatment, this community has given them some joy. This joy comes from the gratitude of seeing how much others care.

And it serves as a reminder that we have the privilege of spreading joy ourselves. When we offer real help and time and sympathy, we foster thankfulness. We spread joy. I saw another Facebook post that said something like: What if we replace the phrase, ‘Call me if I can do anything?’ with the phrase, ‘What time can I come over and do your laundry?’ Maybe you’re not quite ready to go there, but that kind of concrete help is what people need in times of crisis.

And when we do that, we spread joy. And I suspect, we find some gratitude and joy for ourselves too.
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Husbands Love Your Wives

Read Ephesians 5:25-33.

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, a time set aside to bring awareness to the problem of violence committed by one partner against another. The violence might be physical but it always includes emotionally controlling behaviors. Sometimes the violent partner does not resort to physical violence because he can control his partner through emotional manipulation and violence. The relationship can be a marriage or just dating. The dynamics are the same.

Churches should create an environment where domestic violence victims can find help, safety and support. But some common ideas create an environment that encourages abuse.

Sometimes people do not want to acknowledge that someone they have known for so long, who is in their family or community, could do that. Chaplain Al Miles shares a story about a pastor who told a wife who had come to him for help that she must be exaggerating the abuse. The pastor’s response was “I can’t believe it. He wouldn’t hurt a flea. He’s such a great guy.” Domestic violence is not limited to alcoholics or any particular race or class. We must not dismiss the stories of women who report abuse.

In some churches, the Bible is interpreted in such a way that male abusers use its words to support their abuse. Some people seem to think that the Bible gives husbands the right to treat their wives any way they want to. This is not biblical. Even the most conservative readings of these passages emphasize the husband’s responsibility to care for his wife in a loving way.

We also refuse to acknowledge the reality of abuse when we suggest that it is a personal family issue and we don’t want to interfere. The sacredness of family and the right to privacy within families is important, but it does not extend to ignoring abuse. No husband has the right to beat, restrain or rape his wife. No husband has the right to verbally abuse his wife, shame her through hateful name-calling or belittle her. No husband has the right to control his wife’s friends, her movements or her access to other family members. Such actions do not show the love the Christ.

Unfortunately, women are often told either explicitly or by innuendo that they are responsible for their husband’s abusive behavior. In some cases, pastors or Christian counselors have told women that if they will just pray and be a better wife, then their husband will not hit them anymore. That is wrong! The abuser must take responsibility for his behavior. Whether a wife is a “good wife” or not is no excuse.

It’s not surprising that we are uncomfortable dealing with domestic violence and abuse. It’s a scary and discomforting problem. But we must not walk away. Jesus’ church needs to be a place where hurting people can find support and help.
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC