Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Seers

This past spring I lectured at a paranormal conference and met a few friends. During a break between speakers we wandered to various tables to meet, greet and buy. After having a book autographed by Stan Gordon, I turned to find my friend Cindy Willoughby the case manager for The Greater Pittsburgh Paranormal Society.

As I scanned the crown, I noticed a family wandering through the chairs in my direction. I felt something was wrong, something out of place as they wandered my way. You could say my spiritual spidey-senses were tingling as the mother, father and young daughter approached. This was not the first time such a feeling came over me, although rare I have experienced this heightened spiritual sense many times. My attention focused on the young girl, it seemed she was enveloped by something. It was if behind the middle aged mother and father there was a large hulkish creature of darkness that was walking in sync with the disheveled homely teen girl.

And then the sense was gone. And I was a bit unnerved.

I then saw Cindy at the other end of the hall and went over to her. I pointed out the family to her and asked her if she felt anything unusual about them. Cindy is a sensitive. She has the gift of second sight, as some would say. She can perceive the unseen and understand the heart of a person without them saying a word. Some call her clairvoyant because she can seemingly read people’s minds. Others call her a medium because she can see spirits. Cindy believes she has been gifted by God to help others. When she looked at the family she told me she she felt an oppressive spirit over the girl. She then turned to me and said, “She’s being abused.” That was the exact feeling I had as I saw the hulking specter attached to her. A confirmation, but sadly in a situation like this the only thing you can do to help is pray. They are after all anonymous strangers who you pass by the way, and even though you can spiritually discern a problem or issue-most of the time the only practical option you can have is prayer.

In historical Biblical language Cindy is a Seer. Most people who have a Judeo-Christian background would have the conception that this giftedness is some New Age though, but the gifts that Cindy has are spoken of throughout Scripture as supernatural gifts from God. In the New Testament book of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul talks about the diversity of supernatural spiritual gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant: 2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

I have highlighted the spiritual gifts, and I will not go into how they all manifest themselves. But I want to investigate two of them; the word of knowledge and discerning of spirits. To many in various denominations the word of knowledge is the supernatural ability to know the unknown. You have a supernatural understanding of a situation or character of a person that could not be gained by the normal six senses. The gift of discernment of spirits manifests itself in various ways. Basically it is the ability to discern good from evil. Some can sense whether a person is worthy of trust or not, and others can also actually perceive spirits either visually or psychically. Many times these two gifts manifest together or with other spiritual gifts. In the Old Testament those who possess such gifts were called Seers.

In early Israel before the time of the kings, the faithful who had questions of faith or spirituality would turn to the seers(1 Samuel 9:9). Seers were prophets, but not all prophets had the gift of supernatural visions. They seem to be a distinct variety of prophet according to many Biblical scholars (Havernick; Introductions to Old Testament, 50 ff, English translation). They knew the unknown and had the ability to discern spirits.

Many people seem to have these paranormal abilities from birth. Others receive them during a spiritual renewal as God’s Spirit fills them. Some in Fundamental religious circles consider that possessing the gifts without a spiritual infilling of the Holy Spirit is possessed with a demonic spirit that mimics the power of God. They also claim this explains the manifestation of psychic abilities outside of the Christian religion. Careful examination would seem to show that like any natural gift, supernatural gifts are inherent in some individuals and while some manifest these abilities at a young age or learn them through time, a spiritual renewal can activate the gift or further empower those who have already manifest the abilities. The spiritual renewal by the infilling of God’s Spirit acts as an anointed consecration of the gift, much like a physical consecration in a religious service of Holy items.

Many confuse the gifts of a Seer with those who practice divination. Divination uses ritual and/or items to gain knowledge. A Seer is supernaturally gifted with any doing of his/her own. Divination is essentially an artificial way to gain what the Seer has been gifted with naturally and supernaturally. There are some people with the gifts of a Seer who rely on techniques of divination. Not only is it unnecessary, it can be dangerous. Divination can attract spiritual entities that can manipulate, harm and harass an individual.

While I myself have had some of the gifts that a Seer has manifest themselves in my spiritual life, I would in no way consider myself a Seer. I remember while ministering in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1980s an urgency to pray for specific individuals in specific circumstances would press upon me. Most times I did not even know the individuals, but I would take a moment to pray. But for the ones whom I prayed for that I knew, it was astounding to see that I was praying for something that was actually happening for which I had no actual knowledge of. This sensitivity went on for many months and then faded. None of the gifts of the Spirit work in me consistently, they seem to ebb and flow when needed. And I did not experience any manifestation of spiritual gifts until after my spiritual renewal with Christ.

There are others who have had experiences since they were children. Many children seem to have the ability to sense spirits or angelic beings. The most common is seeing a person at the end of their bed or lurking in the corner. Some have other gifts of the Seer.

While attending Seminary I had a friend who’s 6 year old daughter who had the same type of prayer gift that I was gifted with, but to a greater degree. At prayer times she would often pray for people the family did not know, and when asked she told her parents that God had told her to pray for them. One time during a blessing before dinner, she blurted out excitedly, “We have to pray for Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey! They are in a car accident!” The Lindsey’s were members of their church and the family remembered them as they blessed the food. A few hours later word came through the telephone prayer chain that the Lindsey’s were in a bad car accident on the thruway while going out to dinner in the city. The accident happened at about the same time as my friend’s daughter interrupted the dinner blessing with her concern.

Whatever your worldview of Spiritual gifts, we are charged to use them to help others. There are those who have used them for fame and selfish gain that have tarnished their credibility and even lost their gifts. Some who have had the gifts removed have even relied on trickery and charlatanism to maintain their feeble grasp of power. Others have been overcome by spirits that are in no way holy or benevolent. And the one time rescuers become those who are in need of rescuing.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope