For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
I recently listened to a podcast where the speaker Nick (www.lifewithoutlimbs.org) was discussing the spiritual warfare he see around the world. One of the questions he enjoys answering is “why is spiritual warfare more visible abroad?” Simply answered, overseas people visibly, physically worship false or demon gods by drinking blood, making sacrifices to gods, casting curses and blessing through witch doctors, etc. In the states, we worship our gods by investing time and resources into them, such as cars, phones, girls, jobs, etc. Therefore, spiritual warfare is more subtle. Overseas the question is “OK, you worship Jesus, what can your god do?” Stateside, the thought is “OK, you worship Jesus, I’ll add Him to my list of ideas I use to feel good.” (This is personal opinion) I filter spiritual and practical topics through a theologically conservative perspective with one of my primary questions always being “Does this topic, questions, conversation, or perspective draw glory or power from God?”
I’m cautious feeling that all to often people give the credit from struggles which develop character (Rom 5:3-4) to Satan instead of God. We should not default to “Satan is out to get me” but should personally ask “What lesson is God trying to teach me?” The difference between these questions shifts both our perspective and how we seek to resolve the challenge. Giving satan the credit blame shifts to evil demons and allows us to spiritual sulk thus abdicate our responsibility and role in the situation’s resolution. Giving God the credit allows us to draw on the power of God, look for areas requiring personal growth or persevere through the season, and confidently rely on God to help carry us through. Faith isn’t a bump free journey. The road of faith in Christ can be more arduous than a life of carnality in which decisions are based on what feels better in the moment over what honors God’s in the long run. Each step of our walk with Christ requires constantly crying out to God for help and guidance. Each bump allows us to acquire skills to withstand the next challenge, a great God story, and unwavering faith which we can use to praise God for how He is working in and through our life!
That being said, I disagree with the base question “Why is spiritual warfare more visible abroad?” Spiritual warfare is alive and well when I’m standing behind the counters in the cafe. Last year I met a young dad whose daughter was taken due to a reoccurring problem with meth. I challenged him to evaluate his life and take steps NOW to make changes which would allow him to spend time with his daughter and help him be a person worthy of his daughter’s admiration. The last time I saw him he was visibly distraught. I asked him what was going on. He was driving into KC because his ex-girlfriend, whom he still had feelings for, was currently on life support but was going to have care withdrawn.
Can I Pray for You?
My next questions drew an unexpected response. “Can I Pray for You?” Have you ever walked into a room and started looking for a giant white elephant or into an elevator which smelled like someone had an unfortunate encounter with a bean burrito full of people concentrating on their eyelashes? I think punching this guy in the face would have had less of an impact. After a period of violent silence, I said “Ok, well please know I will be praying for you today.”
A year later this gentleman came back in. I asked how it was going with this daughter. Defeated, he said he had regained custody to lose it again a short time later due to a bad decision. He didn’t state it, but I perceived a part of his story most likely involved addiction. My pastor talked about King Saul’s demon several months ago. I was challenged by the idea of God’s involvement in sending an tormenting spirits to Saul. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness, Correct?. My pastor helped me work through this question distinguishing demon possession from oppression. I think demon possession is more common overseas. However, I believe demonic oppression answers some of the systemic challenges we face everyday in the cafe. When people consistently live in willful opposition to morality thus Christ, the natural consequent of this rebellion is spiritual warfare, spiritual oppression. Everyday, students walk in struggling with depression and addiction. My heart breaks for my friend who I believe may be oppressed, ensnared by his decisions. That facts doesn’t make the disappointment of his situation less tragic. His dealers job is to produce addiction to ensure repeat business. It is why Cafe Barnabas exists. We occupy prime spiritual real estate at the corner of spiritual freedom and oppression.
Years ago we met a girl struggling with self esteem and depression who consistently went to her psychic for counseling and answers. It was never stated, but I believe her journey started with the bad decisions of a destructive “pastor”. We still see her and consistency seek to speak Christ into her life.
Occasionally, I meet with a young man who seeks relationship and professional advice from a psychic card reader. My very firm advice to him is simple. Part of a psychic’s job is to produce repeat business so 50% of “your future” is focused on building the psychic’s future. The danger of a psychic is their potential ability to not tell the future but project it. In telling this student that he would meet someone special and enter into a relationship with them, that advice is both speaking to his itching ears and causing him to actively look for “the girl.” This could lead to unwise relationship decisions based on a foundation-less fortune telling. God seeks to give life in His time. Artificial relationship timelines do not set up a buddy relationship built around Christ but a rushed relationship build on lust and urgancy. Satan’s end game is death. Oversea that can look like demon possession resulting is dark methods of death. In the states, it can look like the whittling away of a student’s confidence, a father’s self control, or a girl-obsessed alpha quest. All these paths ultimately lead to the same place; death.
I believe when I asked my friend struggling with a meth addiction if I could pray for him, I exposed the spiritual realm and saw his oppression. My heart breaks when students tell me about one terrible decision after another. Why do we see these spirals of crazy in student’s lives. I attribute some of these individual tragedies to spiritual oppression in the states. I don’t want to dismiss the reality of mental disorders and the important role played by councilors, phycologist, and social workers. I don’t want to discount the importance that medication can make on a student’s life. Modern medicine can help chemically provide students with emotional and mental stability. I also don’t want to discount that the root cause is likely reoccurring sin which rewires our minds. I don’t want to discount that in our fatherless society that the sins of our fathers could play out in lots of different ways in the students that we work with. (John Piper writes an interesting article on the topic). I’m humbled that God has allowed us to be on the front lines of spiritual warfare in our culture. Thanks for allowing us to serve the Lord in this challenging ministry.
We Need you Help!!!!!
Please pray for our fatherless students struggling with oppressions.
Please pray for our missionary team,
- That they may have the required wisdom to expose the lies of satan
- Give credit to God for the spiritual growth opportunities He provides to all people.
- They would be a light in the darkness, at the corner of freedom and oppression.
- They they would be protected from the same snares which entangle the student we passionately serve.
Spiritual warfare is for real. It isn’t a topic to dismiss or be looking for around every corner. We should be aware of it while not giving it the credit that only belongs to our ALL POWERFUL GOD, JESUS CHRIST.