Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

Being a theology student in Africa, spiritual warfare is something I have often come across since I have been here. It was actually partly my interest in this topic that first brought me to Africa. In my undergraduate studies, I had studied various aspects of healing ministries which address demonic oppression. I wanted to learn more about this topic in a setting where people, as a whole, still attribute many things to spiritual causes (which is not often the case in America).

One of my friends from Burkina-Faso told the story of how his dad went to a witchdoctor. His dad wasn’t a Christian, and he wanted to curse my friend and remove his Christian beliefs. My friend was in another country going to college at the time, and the witchdoctor told his dad that he approached my friend in the spirit, but that there was someone very tall guarding him holding a long sword, and he could not get any closer.

One of the debates I settled pretty early on in my study of spiritual warfare is whether Christians can be affected or influenced by demons. They most certainly can, and I believe that almost all are, to some degree. I have experienced it myself. Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Spiritual warfare is first and foremost a battle of the mind. Demons operate by feeding you lies and manipulating your emotions. Satan is the father of lies, and this is by far his most effective weapon. We live in a messed up world, and there are so many opportunities to confuse people and destroy their image of God, of themselves, and of others.

I took a class called Power Encounter during my first year studying in Nairobi, and the main thing I learned is that it isn’t really as important to have a “power encounter” as it is to have a “truth encounter.” If someone is demonized, then it may be possible to talk to the demon, have a big confrontation, and cast it out, but this can be dangerous and violent and is often fruitless. More effective ministry is much more mundane. Demonic presence is merely a symptom of a deeper spiritual or emotional problem, as illustrated by the metaphor of flies around garbage. If we only kill the flies, more will come, but if we remove the garbage of the emotional and spiritual baggage from our past, then the flies will no longer find the situation so appealing. They will have nothing to feed on, and will move elsewhere.

Knowing one’s identity in Christ and prayer are essential components to successful spiritual warfare. The most important key to spiritual victory is truly believing the Gospel: that God made you, that He loves you, and that through Christ your sins have been forgiven. They really have been forgiven. For many of us, we don’t really believe that, and we continually relive the failures of our past – and demons love nothing more.

Though I still haven’t completely figured out all there is to discover about spiritual warfare, since coming to Africa, I have realized that the warfare described in Ephesians 6 is literal. I have also realized that the rest of Ephesians 6 is just as literal and applicable to all of us. There is warfare with demonic rulers, but we have all the weapons we need in Christ to overcome. We should be aware of the fight, engaging in spiritual warfare by standing firm against the enemy’s schemes. But we should also realize that the power to stand is not found in dramatic exorcism scenes, but in a diligent trust in God’s word and character.
(I contributed this post to my friend's blog, so I figured why not mine)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mounting Opposition To New York Islamic Center

Claiming the neighborhood where the Twin Towers once stood is sacred ground, radical conservative groups are spearheading opposition to the construction of a nearby Muslim community center, a facility that would include a swimming pool and a 9/11 memorial and be located more than two blocks from the attack site. Here are some other projects currently facing controversy:

New York — New Citibank ATM vestibule just two blocks from site of devastating financial collapse
Elizabeth, NJ — Bed, Bath, and Beyond on sacred IKEA grounds
Pearl Harbor, HI — P.F. Chang's location a reasonable cab ride away from the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
Philadelphia — British consulate on hard-won U.S. soil
Terre Haute, IN — Frito-Lay display planned for Baesler's Market is an affront to the fact that Terre Haute was the original U.S. test market for Pringles
Culver City, CA — Comedy club built next to the site where that disaster Grown Ups was filmed
Provincetown, MA — Organic artisan cheese stand set up next to raw cashew cheese booth at farmer's market
Lakehurst, NJ — Balloon store only three miles from site of Hindenburg crash
Olathe, KS — Barnes & Noble

From the Onion:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Motorbike to Mombasa

Ok so this blog really needs some action: we’ll see if this helps. For now I’m going to skip all the other updates I could give and settle for this one story. One Saturday afternoon at the end of May, Anson and I were sitting in my room trying to figure out what we should do. We both were kind of sick of school and wanted to get away (and I didn’t have any major deadlines for like 3 or 4 days, so it seemed like such freedom), so we ran through possible options: Westlands, Junction, something like that. He really wanted to go swimming, which I said was ridiculous, like it was way too cold. I said I would go to the pool but refused point blank to go swimming. We talked for awhile, and then he was like man let’s go to Mombasa. Now for those of you who don’t know, Mombasa is like across the country, 500 kilometers away, like 6 or 7 hours by car. I was like that is crazy, and paced up and down the house ranting for like 20 minutes going through all that could go wrong, how small 125 cc are, and what a crazy idea this was, until after I had worked it all out in my mind, and canceled my lunch appointment for the next day, I was like, ok yeah let’s do this.

We packed up and heading out on the motorbike. We stopped for dinner, and by the time we left it was dark, 8 pm. Now I didn’t even know the way for sure, but I assumed Mombasa road was a pretty straight shot there, and lo and behold it worked. At each gas station when we filled up, we would ask how many kilometers to Mombasa, but everyone was like, um you know that you can’t make it on that size motorbike. We were like, yeah we will, and we’ll stop by on our way back to tell you how it was. We had estimated our arrival time at like 4 am, but as we pressed through the night that looked increasingly less likely. We both became quite tired, and had to rest the engine a lot to prevent overheating. It had never been driven for longer than one hour before, poor thing. We were also getting tired, so fairly close to Tsavo national park we pulled off the side of the road to rest. Now I have seen The Ghost and the Darkness, and was aware of the location, so I’ll use standard Kenyan terminology and chalk it up to strong faith… We had a tarp and blanket with us, parked the motorbike right by us, and used our backpacks as pillows. It was awesome, and I slept so well…until I woke up to 4 police officers surrounding us yelling at the top of their lungs to wake us up. It was somewhat disorienting…but they were going on about danger, animals around, but I was really tired, so I persuaded them we would be fine and they finally left. We went back to sleep, and slept for another hour, until we were woken up again by another female police officer and her partner, and then I was like ok, lets go.

We finally arrived in Mombasa around 11 am, at which point I sent some text messages informing people where we were. After eating some Indian food at a restaurant I had gone to with Vincent, we went up to the public beach on the north shore to go swimming. It was pretty sweet, but after swimming for a bit I decided that I should sleep, so I slept on the beach for a few hours. Anson swam the whole time.

When it got dark, we left for Nairobi, stopping a few times for dinner and to rest. Now Mombasa is at sea-level, yeah, and Nairobi is really high up…so I was concerned about the journey back. Anson was really tired, so I did most of the driving at this point. About 1 am, we were probably 200 kilometers from Mombasa, with another 300 to go, and were in the middle of nowhere. Nothing around. I pulled off the road to rest the engine, and what do you know, the front tire is flat. I didn’t see anything I had hit or gone over, and we didn’t find any nail or anything in the tire. I think it just overheated. Now I had been going 90 kilometers an hour seconds before I stopped, and if the tire had gone at that instant…let’s just say it would not have been good. But here we are without a tire, so now what to do. This is pretty incredible to me…but I stopped right by a police check-point, and the policeman came over and kept asking me, so what are you going to do? I had no idea. Fortunately, he didn’t rely on my resourcefulness, but started asking all the buses he was pulling over if they had room to take us to Nairobi. My opinion of police-checks underwent a radical transformation…and I looked at all the buses flying through without stopping with a rather different perspective. However, after about 15 stopped, one agreed, so we threw the motorbike in an empty compartment on the bottom and we bought two tickets. At 5:30 am, we arrived in Nairobi, and it took 4 hours and lots of emotional negotiation before we finally found someone to fix the tire (which costs like $5, I can’t get over how cheap motorcycle repairs are here). So I missed the first two hours of systematic theology…but we rolled into campus only 10 minutes late for field ministry. And I’m pretty sure this story will be remembered at NEGST for some time…

*NOTE* Think of this as belonging to the genre of narrative, true not fiction, but is not intended to offer any propositional truths providing moral lessons leading one to infer the activities related herein are recommended or encouraged.