09 January 2007

Synchroblog: Spiritual Warfare; Does it have to be loud and wacky

So, here I am embarking in a Synchroblog. I'm a novice so bear with me.
After pondering, pontificating, and praying about this, a couple things come to mind. One, keep it short and sweet, and two, keep it sweet and short.

I'm very curious to see what my other Synchrobloggers say on the subject and I'm sure you are too, so check the links below! As for me I'd like to share a couple short stories of my direct experience with spiritual warfare (the name of which I'd like to change, but can't think of anything else at the moment). So this isn't going be theologically deep, but I hope practical and most of all entertaining! :-)

Story 1 - maybe what not to do?
It was Christmas time and the church I was attending was holding a dinner, entertainment, auction-fund raiser, etc, party. It was quite enjoyable but toward the end, a friend of mine began to feel sick and worn-down. Someone had discerned that she was under demonic oppression so before I knew it, she was in the back room of a hotel with several people praying in tongues over her and casting out demons.

It wasn't the success that these well meaning people had intended. Several hours later, with no apparent breakthrough, she was fatigued, frightened, and just about delusional. Another friend came and took her home.

Somehow, I thought, this could have been handled better. I spoke with a man I respect dearly and asked him about what should have been done in the situation. He laid out some simple guidelines (At this point I'm pretty much jumping into the theology that spiritual warfare does in fact occur, so to me it's a matter of strategy and not theology).

1. After a dinner party is not the place to wage warfare on an unsuspecting guest.
2. Seven people screaming in tongues in a small hot room doesn't calm the situation, it makes it more chaotic, which gives more power to the enemy.
3. Before one starts wailing and casting, maybe there's an approach that centers on council, prayer, and a good nights sleep.

Fortunately, this situation is still discussed about what not to do, as we all learned from our mistakes, and our 'victim' recovered nicely and doesn't hate us all. Although her and the friend who took her home will probably never attend church there.

Story numbers 2 and 3, examples of what to do.

On the way back from a missions trip one of our 'host' missionaries had a child that suddenly felt very ill. It was so instantaneous that it didn't take much discernment to realize it was an attack.

The first approach was very much like story number 1. Fortunately, this child was not a stranger, was in a comfortable place, was around family, and understood to a certain extent what was happening...and it was not after a dinner party. However the more we yelled, the less it worked. Then, it was impressed on my heart to just start worshiping. Pretty soon everyone joined in worship and after the first chorus about the Holiness of God, it was gone; like it never happened.

This next story is not a first hand account but it must be true cause it came from a pastor I knew once! hehe. The story goes that a couple missionaries were in a foreign land back years ago. Neither believed in demons or in the gifts of the spirit, but one missionary contracted Malaria. In spite all earthly attempts, he ended up on his death bed with his friend and co-laborer at his side. His friend, had the thought of Jesus casting out demons in the gospels, so with nothing to loose, very quietly leaned in and whispered in this dying mans ear, "Satan, let him go." There was an immediate change and before long they were working together once again.

Some things I can gather from these stories.

1. Worship puts the focus on Jesus and Jesus does the work. We have been given authority, but it's done in His name. "Name" doesn't mean we just throw out "Jesus" left and right and hope it sticks, it means we trust in His power, His character, and His very nature. We have the authority because we are vessels of His authority. If our focus is on the warfare and not the one who won already, chances are, we're fighting a loosing battle.

2. Authority doesn't mean yelling and screaming and speaking in other tongues. First, I'm not against tongues, but Jesus never cast out a demon by speaking in tongues and as far as I can tell neither did anyone in Acts. Also, Jesus and his followers used His authority, not the volume of their voices. When a judge pronounces a judgment, or makes a statement, or even brings order in the court, I have never witnessed red faced, vein bulging yelling (Although I admit I haven't been in too many courtroom situations in case you're wondering - but I do have stories to share...another time!) A judge doesn't need to yell, because he has authority already. He or she is trained to bring order and calm, not cause chaos. We can speak with authority, and still whisper.

Maybe whispering and worship sums it up.

Lastly, in reading through the Gospels and Acts about this issue, I never saw it as a bigger issue over other things. Jesus taught, healed, performed miracles, and cast out demons. Our attention on spiritual warfare should not be placed above or below any of these things. Jesus ministered to and loved people, in whatever form that might have taken. We don't look for demons under rocks, and we don't pray against the video game demon to save our youth from the evils of the day.

That's the beautiful thing about God. There's no formula. It's all about relationship with him, loving him, and loving those around us. Then we just enjoy the ride, enjoy our dinner parties, and whisper and worship along the way.

Phil Wyman - Pagans, Witches, and Spiritual Warfare
John Smulo - Portraits of Spiritual Warfare
Mike Crockett - Sufism: How the Inner Jihad relates to Christian Spiritual Warfare
Steve Hayes - Thoughts on Spiritual Warfare
Marieke Schwartz - Grace in War
Cindy Harvey - Spiritual Warfare.(?)
Jenelle D'Allesandro - The Militancy of Worship
Mike Bursell - Spiritual Warfare: a liberal looking inwards
David Fisher - Spiritual Warfare: Does it have to be loud and wacky?
Brian Heasley - Something from Ibiza via Ireland
Webb Kline - Webb Kline
Sally Coleman - Sally Coleman
Mike Murrow - Mike Murrow

14 comments:

Pastor Phil said...

David,

Thanks for some cool stories, and some nice practical application to them.

jenelle said...

Whisper and worship! I love it. I've had similar personal experiences to your story number two. Not as drastic, but still significant. Appreciate your light-heartedness on an overly serious subject.

Sally said...

excellent stories- I particularly like your thought that authority does not require shouting and yelling!

Story one was sobering and I wish it were more unusual!

Story two made me smile.

Thanks from a fellow syncro blogger!

mikeofearthsea said...

The hardest battles for me in spiritual warefare are:

-loving someone who is not particularly loveable at the moment.

-saying no to temptation.

-embarking on an adventure into a wonderful and expansive "coutry" of devotions.

Not a whole lot of noise in these battles. Good stuff.

-moes

Marieke said...

Great post! I like your practical approach.

"If our focus is on the warfare and not the one who won already, chances are, we're fighting a loosing battle."

"We can speak with authority, and still whisper."

These are my favorite quotes from today.

Steve Hayes said...

Your first story reminds me of something I witnessed some years ago. We were having an evangelistic meeting in a place in South Africa where many people had been forced to move because they were the "werong" race for where they had been living before. It was in support of an Anglican evangelist who had begun working in the area, and people from various Anglican poarishes had come along to support the effort, including a rather reserved and straitlaced engineer from an upper-middle class white suburb in Pretoria. He suffered a bit of culture shock when he walked into a dark room and there were four nuns, kneeling on the floor, bottoms in the air, exorcising the local witchdoctor's daughter, and all praying at the top of their voices. It wasn't quite what he was used to.

On another occasion we had an American visitor, and went to a small country church for an evening service. It was a small church with a thatched roof, and there was a small congregation. It was getting dark, and at the end there was only the light of the two candles on the altar. At the end of the service we prayed for someone who was troubled by evil spirits, and exorcised him, and as we were praying, Zionist drums started beating in the distance, and the American visitor was most impressed. That was "Africa" as he had always imagined it.

A third occasion was a catechism class, for people preparing for baptism. A woman suddenly started shouting out numbers, like a random number generator, "Forty-three, thirteen, fifty-six". I said to everyone, quietly, "Make the sign of the cross". We did so, and she shut up at once.

Sometimes quiet, sometimes noisy, sometimes at night, sometimes in the day, sometimes at sunset. It can vary trwemendously, but it doesn't matter much, as long as people are delivered from evil spirits.

Of course in your first story I think the problem was not just the noise or the circumstances, but also a failure of discernment. That demons can cause illness I do not doubt, but that exorcism is the correct treatment for every illness I doubt very much.

Danimal said...

From the profound mouth of Kevin Spacey, "The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he never existed." Granted I think this works better in our rational and physical natralist west. I am a big skeptic in alot of things, but I have also seen alot of evil in my experience as a therapist. And i know on a few occasions that this was a spiritual evil, and within that counseling there was a definate tension in the air, but I am not sure about our 20th centruary charismatic show-man ship of casting out of demons, and don't really see much of it in the gospels. However, the aim of the gospels must be taken in clarity to view the stories within them. All of those things that were recorded in the gospels were to demonstrate God's power and his Christ-ness. Now that isn't to say that he didn't do it for other reasons but those were the purpose of the writers.
I think now the process of being humble and careful in our application of these is paramount to loudly flexing our holy spirit muscle. Also, who is to say that God did not bless us with a mircle in medication, or therapy or other things to deal with the effects of spiritual warefare. To ignore this is to seperate your spiritual life into a particular realm and not realize its thread through all things.
Finally, one of the most interesting books about Demon Possesion is "Hostage to the Devil" by Father Malichi Martin. Really fair, and well written book about how the catholic church views spiritual warefare and demon possession. Interestingly enough, he recognizes the interaction between free will and possession by evil.

Mark said...

Someone who 'gets it' :)
wonderful post.

Cindy Harvey said...

Whew! thanks for saying out loud (yet quietly) so much of what I feel about spiritual battles.

Loved the stories, although #1 hit a little too close to home. In my case, I was 'demonized' by some spirit or other who wouldn't let me use my gifting. (In actuality, I didn't feel particularly gifted in the area the pray-ers were sure about). So I was pounced on, yelled at, rolled over, and basically humiliated. That was long ago now. Today, I'd just say "Sorry, I don't want to play."

MikeCamel said...

I like Cindy's point, and I think that the issue of consent is really important here. Interesting post, thanks.

Michael said...

Oh the stories I SHALL tell you my friend! Yah it's amazing the authority Christ has given us. The authority is like when you were younger and in the store doing something ridiculous and your Mom just gives you that "Look" and you immediately stop what you are doing. That's How I look at it..

paul said...

good thoughts bro, and the profound one left resonating in my mind is that God doesn't play golf with one club...

aBhantiarna Solas said...

Love those stories. The other thing I noticed that #'s 2 and 3 had in common were that the "victims" were well-known to their helpers. And in story #1 the victim was not well-known to the helpers. I wonder if there needs to be some relationship, some loving and trust between the people who are involved. I love your whisper and worship. That is beautiful.

David said...

Great point on the relationship thing. I know it's not always perfect but maybe that's what our intention should be.
Yeah, that sounds like Jesus!