Jun 19, 2012

The Trials of Friendship

I had a dream almost two months ago that’s been on my mind since the night it arrived. In the dream, I moved my family to Oregon and I’ll admit, the dream has had me a bit confused.

Less than a year ago, I moved away from the Pacific Northwest, to the desert Southwest, primarily because my wife and I wanted to live in a warmer climate. I didn’t receive much revelation from God prior to the move, so when I had the dream about moving back to the northwest, I wondered if I’d made a mistake.

In thinking about the dream, I knew that if God wanted us to remain in the northwest, He probably would have made it clear prior to moving. His ways are a bit mysterious, but He’s been a perfect gentleman in leading us in these kinds of things and it seems unlike Him to tell us after we’ve moved that we’d messed things up.

Although many of my dreams are literal, most of the moving dreams I’ve had were symbolic.

I’ve been feeling for a while that I’d entered a new season in my life and if I’m in a new season then a moving dream might be appropriate. Dreams of moving tend to describe (symbolically) the things we can expect in a new season. I believe it’s the city we moved to in the dream that holds the key to the right interpretation. And the city we moved to was Salem, Oregon

Now in thinking about why the city of Salem was chosen, I considered the things that the name Salem is associated with. The most obvious being the famed witch trials of 1692, in Salem Massachusetts, where dozens of people were tried and executed for the crime of witchcraft. Many of those killed were members in good standing of a church congregation.

It seems as though God is warning me to watch out for some things that might resemble the witch trials of Salem in this new season.

It’s hard to receive this as “good news” I certainly don’t have any warm, fuzzy feelings about it. And yet, God always has a purpose for the things He reveals and His purpose is always for our benefit. The things He warns us about may not be comfortable, but the advanced notice may bring comfort, reassurance and instruction on how to navigate the storm when it arrives.

So the question is – have I encountered anything yet resembling a witch trial?

Strangely enough – shortly after I had this dream, I began receiving private messages from Facebook friends, who warned me about my association with a close friend, who had become the suspect in a string of bizarre spiritual events.

This friend is very inclined to the supernatural. He writes often on supernatural topics to spur discussions about things we don’t fully understand yet. Some of his views are pretty radical and they’ve generated a lot of controversy. As is always the case with radicals -some of the people who once supported him have begun to accuse him of going off the deep end. The story took a strange turn when this group of former friends began to experience demonic attacks and as a group, they “discerned” that my friend was the one responsible for them.

This group of former friends, without any direct evidence of wrongdoing, relying solely on their own personal discernment, tried and convicted my friend of the crime of witchcraft. They have as a group, blocked him from their lives.

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. It’s not enough to discern a source of evil and remove it from your sphere of influence. You must find out how far the evil influence has spread and remove yourself from anyone who has been infected by it. Isolation from any potential source of evil is the name of the game.

So the group approached me through private messages and laid out their accusations against him. Knowing that I was his friend – they hoped I would either straighten him out spiritually or sever all ties with him. After all – what man of God would knowingly associate with a convicted witch?

(And if he was a witch and I was his friend, maybe I was a witch, too)

When I didn’t respond as they expected, most of these people unfriended me.

The accusations against my friend are growing almost daily. He’s become the official cause of demonic attacks and bizarre spiritual occurrences that happen to anyone who knows him. Forget about Murphy’s law – you can now blame my friend for all of your bad luck.

The witch trials of 1692 stand as an example of how mass hysteria operates. They’re a poignant reminder of the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusation and disregard for due process. My friend has suffered the same type of holy violence the early pilgrims endured at the hands of their brothers.

When I approached my friend about the accusations, I was shocked to learn that not one person had bothered to confront him personally. In complete disregard for the instruction of Jesus to confront a brother in person and alone when you have a problem (See Matt 18:15-18) they chose to slander and gossip about him behind his back.

Of course, they claimed that “God told them” to talk to someone else about the problem instead of confronting him personally. I suppose you can do whatever you want as long as you make it clear that “God told you” and apparently, God now endorses gossip, slander and false accusation.

I’ve taken a break from Facebook for a number of reasons and this is just one of them. The way these people behaved reminds me of how adolescents resolve conflicts in a sandbox. I expected more maturity and compassion from people who are old enough in the Lord to know better.

I want to be perfectly transparent in all of this. My friend has received a few warning dreams from God lately. A mutual friend also had a warning dream about him being in some type of danger. The three of us have solicited the counsel of several older, trusted leaders to help us navigate through these times of uncertainty. That’s what true friendship is about.

Friendship is about helping others when they’re in danger – not departing from them for the sake of self-preservation. Isolationism is not the answer. True friends see the good in others and encourage its development. They don’t overlook the bad, but they don’t make it the focus of every discussion. They nurture others and suffer along with them, bearing each other's burdens.

I may have ten thousand friends when the good things in my life are on display. But only my true friends will be at my side when my flaws and failures are in the spotlight. And it’s the prayers and encouragement of true friends during hard times that I need more than the hollow praise of fair weather friends.

If I'm the kind of friend who can be pressured to leaving your side when the adversary is having a good time at your expense, then I'm not really a friend at all.

I'm learning a lot about friendship and loyalty in this new season. And when I return to Facebook, things are going to be a lot different.


  1. PM - I've been on the receiving end of that very same witch hunt. Same approach, same everything. It was devastating. I lost my church family as well as my immediate family. By the half-way point - only my two sisters stood with me. As someone who knows the deal - Thank you SO much for taking a different stance. It will prove a testimony of life for all involved. love, t

  2. Thanks for dropping by IHOP. Sorry to hear about your trials, but its comforting to know that others are going through it too and that God sees it for what it is.

    Bless you!


  3. man, this is so moving. and so sad. it's internet people. and there is more to this life than we can possibly imagine. i am glad you wrote about it.
    sometimes God works from the "fringe" in towards the middle, 'cuz the fringe is listening.. bless you tons PM

    1. Thanks Elizabeth, "from the fringe to the middle..." I'll try to remember that.


  4. I was really touched by this post... and reminded that we're not meant to fight battles on our own. We need help and companionship, and it's ok to be in a place of need. During a difficult time several years ago, I remember a friend noticed I had withdrawn a lot from everyone and approached me about it. I had been keeping a lot to myself and for whatever reason, I was ashamed to share the burden. After I told her what was going on she told me there was no shame in needing protection or help. That was what friends were for - to take up their shield of faith along side each other and help one another in carrying our loads.

    It reminds me of the relationship between Frodo and Sam in the Lord Of The Rings. When all hope had abandoned Frodo, Sam remained - and he did even more than remained, he carried some of Frodo's burden himself when Frodo couldn't any longer. Steadfast friends are a gift and a blessing from the Lord.

    P.S. Glad to see your posts again on Facebook :)

    1. Long time, no see Ashley! Thanks for stopping by and adding your always wonderful words of wisdom. Friendships are more important than I realized.

      I'm back on Google+ by the way....in case you ever get back on.

      Thanks again my loyal friend,