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Seventh-day Adventist Church of Winter Haven
Guarding Our Children
Ephesians 6:12

Guarding Our Children

To the, maybe, 347 people on this earth who don’t know the difference between Harry Potter and Harry Truman, the publication this summer of the last of author J. K. Rowling’s seven books about the young wizard will go by with little notice.

 

For everyone else, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will mark the end of an epoch.

 

You can thank J. K. Rowling for this sermon.  Rowling is the author of the enormously popular Harry Potter series, which centers around an unsuspecting boy who discovers he's a wizard and attends the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.  These books feature a fantasy story complete with mythical creatures, fire-breathing dragons, and a three-headed guard dog.  Rowling's central characters are imperfect kids who aim to do good.  They model self-sacrifice, courage, and kindness, while learning to identify and resist evil.  It becomes clearly evident that the primary premise is “the end justifies the means.”

 

As Harry gets ready for wizard school, he purchases occult textbooks, a wand, a cauldron (for mixing potions), a telescope (to study astrology) and other sorcery-related necessities.  Required classes at Hogwarts include: History of Magic, Divination, Charms, Herbology, Potions, Transfiguration. and Defense Against the Dark Arts.  Within the pages of each mesmerizing tale, Voldemort tries to kill Harry, yet the wizard boy always escapes through techniques learned at Hogwarts-by casting spells, through good luck, or through assistance from his dead parents.

 

At the end of each school year the young sorcerer regretfully returns home to spend the summer months with his non-magical relatives, the Dursley family—an unimaginative and droopy clan symbolizing perfect boredom.  The Dursleys are classified as Muggles, or non-wizards, folks without a drop of magical blood in their veins.  Throughout the Potter books, Muggles typically are represented as an unexciting, stick-in-the-mud group (with few exceptions), whereas witches and wizards who access supernatural powers are cool.  Those things representing evil and the supernatural are glamorized and made appealing to the young readers.

 

In the seventh and last book just released, Harry Potter walks willingly to his own death in order to save the world.  Soon after, in a chapter entitled “King’s Cross,” he finds himself in a place with a “great domed glass roof that glittered high above him in the sunlight” talking to a father figure with “long silver hair and a beard” whose supernatural powers are accompanied by a profound message of love. 

 

Then, in a final parallel, the false Christ-likeness, becomes clear as Harry comes back to life; yes, resurrected from the dead; and leads his friends to victory over evil. 

 

Who need Jesus when we have Harry Potter?

 

Friends, Jesus warned in Matthew 24:24-26, there would come false Christs who are set to deceive the world.   For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  Behold, I have told you before.  Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

 

The centrality of dangerous occult themes, the power of this phenomenon, can be described only in astronomical numbers: thus far more than 350 million copies of the first six books worldwide; the first printing in the U.S. alone for the seventh book, Deathly Hallows, is 14 million, with 11.5 million sold in the first 10 days.  Sales of the soundtracks have exceeded 1 million copies. 

 

After grossing more than US$3 billion worldwide, the first four film adaptations of Rowling’s books are followed up with the release last July 11 of the fifth: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. More than a handful of the faithful are expected to show up for the premiere.

 

This kind of worldwide popularity catches everyone’s attention.

 

What is it about the sinister and spiritualistic world of Harry Potter—and, for that matter, other works of science fiction and fantasy like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings—that so captures the imagination of countless millions?  Are these phenomena nothing more than the “cunningly devised fables” that Peter wrote about in his second epistle? (2 Peter 1:16, KJV).

 

It appears to me that the Harry Potter series has been "insidiously engineered to open our children to the world of witchcraft now so cleverly whitewashed by the media."  I believe that through the books, and through the movies parents are inadvertently exposing their children to a tool of the devil?  What is this tool?  It is the deceptive nature of what is truly evil.

 

For parents, protecting our children's spiritual well being is of utmost importance.  Unfortunately, our culture barrages kids with a myriad of occult influences daily.  Surf the television networks and you'll find family-hour offerings such as Sabrina the Teen-age Witch, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Touched by an Angel, Charmed, and The X-Files. 

 

I know you will find it hard to believe, but even the beloved “I dream of Jeannie,” and “BeWitched” of yesteryear’s TV were deceptive tools of the devil exposing us, and making us comfortable with witchcraft.  That lovable Jeannie would, with a nod of her head and a blink of her eyes, whisk you into her magical world!   This mischievously enchanting genie felt only unabashed exuberance for using her magical powers to grant her master's every wish -- even when he didn't wish it.

 

Today, kids openly tell tales of playing with Ouija boards, "levitating" someone at slumber parties, or making contact with "spirit guides."  Beads, charms, or crystals that promise to bring the wearer peace, happiness, and prosperity are the height of fashion. 

 

So, What's a Christian parent to do? 

  • Ignore occult influences entirely?  It didn’t work for the ostrich, and probably won’t protect your children from the deceptions of Satan.

 

  • Separate our kids from them as best we can?  Isolation will work successfully as long, and as completely as is the success of isolating your children from the library, the TV, the news, the movies, and from any and all the other children in the rest of the world.  I’m not too sure about that option, either?

 

  • Help our children to translate what comes through popular culture into Biblical terms?  Parenting, the art of teaching and as stated in Biblical terms, raising them to be “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” takes time and effort.  Even though both time and effort are at a premium for most of us, this still appears to be the most appropriate course for Christian parents.

 

Since, as your pastor, I take my job of safeguarding our children seriously, I want them to grow in their ability to discern good from evil.  They will then, as teens and young adult Christians, be able to tackle the falsehood, stopping it in it’s tracks, and challenge misleading culture head-on.

 

 

Here are Ten Suggestions to Challenge Evil Influence:

 

1. Start with the truth.  Teach your kids basic Bible truths:

 

  • There's an intelligent force of evil called Satan, or "the evil one," who leads rebellious spirits called demons (Revelation 12:9).

 

  • These spiritual forces aim to deceive, trap, and destroy humans (1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 5:8).  “Seeking whom he may devour” Revelation

 

  • Jesus fought against these "spiritual forces of darkness," and so must his followers (Mark 1:34; Mark 3:15; Mark 16:17; Luke 13:32).

 

God is greater than Satan's forces. Therefore, Christians are guided and protected by using God's Word and prayer in Jesus' name (Ephesians 6:11-16).

 

Connie Neal, the author of several books, including Dancing in the Arms of God tells how as a new Christian and a teen, she attended a Renaissance Faire with some other Christians. They sat in a field to eat lunch, about a stone's throw behind a row of tents used by fortunetellers. Before eating, they rather routinely prayed God would interrupt any forces of evil at work in the tents nearby.  Before they could take their first bite, a brightly clad woman burst through the tent panels, bellowing, "Who disturbed my aura?" 

 

Neal says, “We were stunned to realize our prayer in Jesus' name had had an immediate effect in the unseen spirit world.  The fortuneteller shooed us away, but the lesson I learned that day has remained. I use it to illustrate spiritual truth to my kids.”

 

  • We must check the source of any supernatural power.  If it doesn't agree with the Bible, it's not from God (Galatians 1:8, 9; 1 John 4:1). “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

 

Witchcraft is on a worldwide march. Children, teenagers, and adults around the world are fascinated by mysterious energies flowing through witches. In increasing numbers, young and old are visiting popular witchcraft web sites, buying spell books, joining covens, mixing potions, and practicing magic. Wicca Witchcraft-also called the Craft-seems unstoppably on the move.

 

In the United States, so many teenagers are embracing the Wiccan Way that National Public Radio's All Things Considered recently aired a story called, "Teens and Wicca." The report drew attention to the growing number of teenagers secretly setting up witchcraft altars in their bedrooms, offering prayers to the goddess, and invoking the aid of spirits.  A similar trend is sweeping Canada, England, Europe, Australia, Russia, and other countries.

 

Why this exploding interest-especially among teenagers-in witchcraft? One reason is clear: Both children and adults are now being exposed to a vast array of pleasantly designed books and magical movies that increasingly portray witchcraft as a safe, exciting, and spiritually empowering religion-especially for young women.  Some of the most popular fiction books include:

 

The W.I.T.C.H. series (novels for kids). An internationally popular series that follows the journeys of “five ordinary girls just going into their teens” who have “super powers over the Elements.”

 

The Daughters of the Moon series by Lynne Ewing (novels for kids). Titles include: Goddess of the Night, The Sacrifice, and Possession.

 

The Sweep series by Cate Tiernan (novels for kids). Titles include: Blood Witch, Dark Magick, and Spellbound.

 

2. Pray!   When our kids tell us about other children having an intense fascination with anything dark, don't just tell them what's wrong with their friend's behavior.  Take time to pray with your children and pray, "God, this child seems to be under the influence of the evil one.  In Jesus' name, we ask you to break through any such forces.  Protect him from the powerful grip of any evil spiritual forces that hold sway in his life." After you pray, let your kids take turns praying.  This way, they learn while practicing spiritual warfare.

 

3. Preview anything questionable.   Your kids should know anything with occult references has to be previewed and okayed by you—whether it's a video game, cartoon, book, or movie. 

 

If you were given a bottle of super special cough syrup that was guaranteed to stop your child’s cough, wouldn’t you check it out before giving it to your child?  You would read the ingredients, do research on the ones you don’t recognize, and be sure the company making the tonic is legitimate.  You might even taste it yourself to see if it is safe for your child to ingest.  Why not give what your children take into their minds the same careful evaluation.

 

Tell your children they should come and ask you for guidance, and assure them you will never be too busy to listen to their plea for help.  And, when you tell them they can’t see, watch, or read something, take time to explain why.  No parental cope-out, “because I said so!”

 

4. Cultivate their conscience. Although the Bible says participating in occult practices is clearly forbidden, it can be difficult to explain why it's wrong to read literature in which magic is used as a literary device. 

 

In New Testament times, Christians didn't entertain themselves with movies or television. They'd never heard of Pokemon or Harry Potter. Their questionable entertainment involved having dinner with non-Christians who'd had their meat prepared at the temple of their local idol.  Biblical guidance on these issues comes in the form of guidelines rather than regulations.  (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).  Help your children to ask for, and to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks to their conscience about questionable areas.  Apply the Biblical principles of what is fit for their minds as clearly as you would what is fit for their lips.

 

5. Teach your children the relationship between "magic" in the fantasy genre of books, movies and TV separating it from real-life settings involving the super-natural, angels sent from a God who never misleads.

 

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”   Parents, you may not be worried that your children will imitate Harry Potter's magic, however, they need to be taught the difference between real and imaginary.  When we focus on the literary and fictional stories as part of the entertainment world and stories in which witchcraft is used in real-life settings our children readily associate one with the other.  Imitation here is not a compliment, it is life threatening—threatens their eternal destiny.

 

Who of us can’t remember watching the black and white TV Westerns of our youth and how we couldn’t wait to go to the local five and dime to buy our own cap guns and holsters to strap on our side like a real amigo.  We imitated what we saw then, and our children will imitate what they see today.

 

Kids should not be allowed to play "fantasy" games in which they participate in reenactments of anything of the occult.  Example: Dungeons and Dragons.  When the setting's real and supernatural powers are seemingly used in everyday situations, children are more likely to try what they've seen.  I read of two junior-high girls who tried spells to get rid of acne.  The slippery slope starts with children copying characters from entertainment, such as “The Transformers”, and books of fantasy. 

 

6. Weigh the usefulness of the material. Some people object to anything evil in a story, but the fight between good and evil is what makes a story useful.  Make sure those on the side of good practice virtues such as courage, perseverance, compassion, honesty, loyalty, friendship, self-sacrifice, faith, generosity, and love.  Characters don't have to get it right from the start, but they must realize their errors and the need to repent to the Lord.  The end NEVER justifies the means.

 

Look for evil that isn't obvious. The Bible says Satan masquerades as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14 “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The most effective evil characters are those who act friendly but use deception to destroy the good guys. 

 

The Harry Potter books are filled with descriptions of real occult tools like wands, cauldrons, crystal balls, and tea leaves.  The books, one title after the other, overflow with references to real practices like spell casting, numerology, fortune telling, divination, astrology, palmistry, charms, crystal gazing, out-of-body travel and spirit-channeling.  However, here's the catch: Rowling consistently mingles these references with silly, absurd, and obviously imaginary elements so as to make the entire brew appear harmless (that's how the books sneak under the radar screen); yet this sober fact remains: All of these practices are real and are practiced by real witches everywhere.  For proof, a simple browsing of the occult section of any major secular bookstore will bear out these claims.

 

The serpent that tempted Eve looked beautiful and harmless to her, but his words were full of deception and lies.  Our children must be taught to understand the difference between right and wrong, even in disguised form, so they can identify a clear picture of how evil works!  The villains in Harry Potter are a great example of this.  Whenever evil is shown as scheming, deceptive, selfish, and ultimately destructive, use it as an opportunity to teach, making it a lesson for their impressionable minds.

 

7. Ask God for wisdom and guidance to watch, read, or play with your children.  Children have no way to put the occult elements into a spiritual context.  They need you to sit down with them and explain it in light of the Bible.  2 Timothy 3:13-15  “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.  But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

 

Good parenting never paints a double standard for right and wrong: one for the children and another for the parents.  If you do not intend for them to practice witchcraft, tell untruths, consume alcoholic beverages or any other practice defined by God as objectionable, then you as a parent must refrain as well.

 

8. Let your kids practice discernment.  Welcome their observations as they face difficult moral dilemmas in life, and in the stories they hear or see.  How are we to relate to our enemies and our friends?  Do we try to gain power over them, or do we treat them with respect? "Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" (Matthew 5:44). 

 

Should our children be taught to choose revenge or to offer grace?  In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, school bullies who have immersed themselves in the dark arts accost Harry and two friends.  They make cruel remarks to Harry and his friends.  In response, Harry and friends simultaneously cast hexes on them, rendering them unconscious. "Ron, Harry, and George kicked, rolled, and pushed the unconscious Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle-each of whom looked distinctly the worse for the jumble of jinxes with which they had been hit-out into the corridor, then came back into the compartment and rolled the door shut."  Then Harry and his friends sit down and play games.

 

This spirit of revenge is diametrically opposed to Jesus' command to turn the other cheek. Should children take revenge simply because they have the power to do so? Jesus said, "But I say, don't resist an evil person!  If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too" (Matthew 5:39).

 

We must search for ways to develop our kids' moral reasoning skills.  If they site God's Word to back up their reasoning, all the better!  Reinforce their discernment with praise and thanksgiving.  Use every experience to point their fragile minds to Jesus.

 

9. Build bridges to the Bible.   Look for ways to link whatever's captured your kids' attention to the Bible.  If you can connect something already on kids' minds to God's Word, they'll better understand and remember Biblical truth.  That's why Jesus taught in parables!    Men abuse power with intimidation and revenge.

 

Contrast this approach with what Scripture says regarding enemies and our treatment of them:

 

  • Thou shalt not avenge. . . . Love thy neighbor as thyself. (Leviticus 19:18)

 

  • Recompense to no man evil for evil. . . . If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. . . . Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-18, 21)

 

  • Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)

 

10. Pay attention to what your children tell you and what they want to talk to you about.   Ask your children how they think the occult might be influencing their friends.  Ask about new fads, what kids are saying, what they believe—and listen.  Keep asking questions that lead your kids to figure out good and evil for themselves.  When you listen to your kids, you'll be able to lovingly correct their misconceptions.

 

Help them to understand the concept of “playing with fire.”  Witchcraft is usually associated with the use of drugs, incantations, spells, potions, charms, and amulets to experience something supernatural or to ward off evil spirits. Known as Wicca, modern-day witchcraft is a pagan religion in which nature and goddesses are worshiped.   There is to be no exception, no engaging in witchcraft (appealing to any supernatural power or spirit other than God). 

 

Christians today have more in common with those in our culture who believe in the supernatural than with those who don’t.  Scripture says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood;” writes the apostle Paul, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness” (Eph. 6:12, KJV).

 

 

The Bible and witchcraft—

 

Is there a real devil?  Wiccans don't believe so. Silver Ravenwolf and other Wiccan authors think Satan is a figment of misguided Christian imagination. Yet, the Bible plainly says, "The great dragon was cast out...called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him," (Revelation 12:9 NKJV). 

 

Satan not only exists, but he "deceives the whole world."

 

In Scripture, sorcery isn't imaginary.  Moses warned that anyone "who practices witchcraft...or a sorcerer...or one who conjures spells” is "an abomination to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NKJV).

 

Paul pinpointed "sorcery" as one of the "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19, 29), and John clearly predicted that "sorcerers" will meet their final destiny in "the lake which burns with fire and brimstone; which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8, NKJV). This is serious stuff.

 

Because Satan exists, and because real witchcraft and sorcery come from him, here's a key question:

 

How likely is it that Lucifer himself has nothing to do with the most popular series of books ever written, which portray witchcraft, sorcery, potions, and spells as fun and cool for kids?

 

Paul wrote, "We are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11, NKJV). Don't be fooled. By portraying witchcraft and casting spells as fun and exciting, Harry Potter desensitizes youngsters to the dangers of the occult.  This is the devil's plan; to make evil things seem innocent and harmless, thus deceiving our children by taking them away from the things of God

 

John wrote, "By your sorcery all the nations were deceived" (Revelation 18:23, NKJV).  This non-fiction passage warns that real sorcery coming from a real devil will really deceive real nations in the end-times. 

 

  • Should we not take seriously the Lord's warning? 
  • Should we not flee from witchcraft in any form, including the most modern version of so called harmless entertainment?
  • Should we not lead our children to sit at the feet of Jesus as He calls to them in scripture?

 

Deuteronomy 18:9-13 says we shouldn't even "learn" about wicked occult practices.

 

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.   There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,   Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.  For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.  Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.  Deuteronomy 18:9-13

 

What is a necromancer?  One who communicates with the dead.  In book one, Harry Potter discovers a mirror that can show people what they want most.  Harry misses his parents very much (they were murdered when he was a baby) and wants to know them, so he can hardly resist spending time with the mirror where he can see them moving around.  In book one, they smile at him.  In the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, young Potter spends time before the mirror in which he sees and communicates with his dead parents. 

 

Friends, these are not my words, God calls that an ABOMINATION!  Who do you trust, the word of God or the words of Satan through the mind of Potter?

 

As a wholesome alternative, Jesus says, "Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls"' (Matthew 11:29, NKJV). He is the alternative to witchcraft!  The one who brings true peace and comfort.

 

Remembering that the conflict between good and evil is largely a battle for the mind, consider how these books (and various other media) influence your thinking. Does violence and wizardry desensitize one's mind? Is Satan real or imaginary? If a book is fun, is it OK? Is there an evil side to good? Is there a good side to evil? This series indicates that there is a good side to wizardry.

 

Then, we must ask ourselves: Does imaginary witchcraft or wizardry and other types of behavior by literary characters influence the reader's mind?  "It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell" (Ellen White, Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 331)

 

But above the debate are two broader issues for parents and teachers: Is it their role to control others' choices? And what responsibility do parents and educators have to protect children? To the first I say: Teach children how to make principled decisions.

 

And to the second: Make principle-based decisions yourself in order to help children learn to think for themselves.

 

But whether Harry Potter comes to your home is a decision that I'll leave to you.

 

When something goes contrary to the word of God, there is no real choice!  One must walk in the light of the truth of God’s word.  We must strive to become more like Jesus every day, more like Him than we were the day before.

 

No one should think they can walk the line separating evil and righteousness without eventually falling prey to the wiles of the Devil whose work is to devour as a roaring lion devours it’s prey.

 

Whether or not Christian parents engage in the Harry Potter phenomenon that pervades the popular culture of the moment is a choice only you, the parent can make.  I appeal to you to walk carefully in the influence you have with your children. 

 

Just as Jesus continually pointed His followers to Heaven, and He focused their hearts on His Second Coming, we must ever have HOPE in our hearts.  Let’s keep pointing our families to Jesus.  After all . . .

 

You may be the only Jesus they will ever see!

 


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