Friday, May 27, 2011

Spiritual Warfare: Introduction

The Bible describes a world that is far more complex than the world we have inherited from modern, empirical science. The biblical world requires that we not only engage our reason and senses, but that our faith-filled imagination also be constantly engaged in order to understand fully the world around us. Indeed, the Bible posits a world that contains beings that elude our ability to identify them 'empirically'. We 'sense' them, we experience their presence or their activity, but not usually in any scientifically quantifiable way. We simply know we have experienced something; pleasant or unpleasant. The Bible calls these beings, 'spiritual' beings', and they inhabit the same world you and I inhabit, yet their existence involves another aspect; one which eludes the modern, mostly 'faithless' world. We experience these beings but they elude our common empirical categories of description. We know them, but we can't explain them with scientific categories. Indeed, the only way these beings make sense to us, is that the Bible gives us a socio-linguistic framework by which to understand their existence.

The Bible tells the reader of the existence not only of God, but of 'angels' (from the Greek a‡ggelo├č meaning, "messenger") and 'demon' (from the Greek, daimo/nion meaning,"demon"). In the scriptural narrative, the angels are messengers from God and serve God with absolute loyalty. We see this in the Old Testament as well as the New, from Genesis to Revelation. They are transcendent beings; beings that elude qualification in our empirical reality. They are ever present to the timeless, spiritual realm which God the Father inhabits, but also have the ability to participate in the earthly reality which human beings inhabit. They have the ability to remain hidden from human eyes, or, they can 'reveal' themselves. Likewise, the demons in the scriptural narrative are present in both the Old and New Testaments. These transcendent beings do not operate in the heavenly realm of God, but according to intratestamental or apocryphal literature - have been relegated to the earthly realm. These beings stand in opposition to the angelic beings and indeed stand in opposition to God's will on the earth. Rather than serve God, the demonic serves the former angel of the presence of God, Lucifer; also called Satan or the Devil. He is the great deceiver, the father of lies and seeks to keep humankind from attaining the eternal destiny God has chosen for them in Christ. This 'fallen' angel, according to non-canonical sources, led a rebellion of angels against God, who then banished these angels to an earthly existence, where they remain with fallen humankind until the final Judgment. While on this earth, they seek to keep humankind from obedience to God's will with the final goal of defrauding humanity of salvation and eternal life.

While demons seek to hamper God's will upon the earth and defraud humankind of salvation, Angels seek the opposite. Angels not only seek to implement God's will on the earth, but they stand ready to aid humankind in their struggle against evil and in their effort to find redemption in Christ. They respond only to the commands of God the Father.

Human beings, blissfully unaware of this battle between Angel and Demon, good and evil, tend to be pawns in this war, until they receive Christ in the process of salvation and the Holy Spirit enters their lives. At this point, everything changes.

For next time: the nature of spiritual warfare.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spiritual Warfare?

In recent days, I've been dealing with what can only be described as "spiritual warfare." Although my worldview has always had a chapter titled 'spiritual warfare' and it is something that I have 'tacitly' affirmed, it, nevertheless, has always taken a 'secondary' status in my theology. I assume this is because I live in world tinged by 'modernity' and its assumptions. A 'modern' worldview assumes that 'unseen' things, related to religious belief, evade empirical evaluation and thus are dubious concerns and best related to the category of 'hocus pocus' and other fictional ideas. On top of that, contemporary media - television and film - have so abused the concept of incarnate evil that most people in modern cultures simply dismiss the idea of spiritual warfare.

I am here to tell you that I have been engaged in the "Gettysburg" of spiritual warfare for the past several weeks. Now in the past most of my spiritual warfare has dealt with my own choices and battles in regards to the flesh - temptation, lust, deceit, etc. Things not uncommon to most human beings. Not this time. I feel as though today, over 3 months of pastoral care and prayer have brought me to the "Pickett's Charge" of this pitched battle. It involves the forces of evil and the forces of Christ in my immediate community. Its not about me personally, but I have been drawn to the fray out of sheer necessity. The good news is that I am the II Corps of the Union Army... and although General Hancock took great casualties in the assault, Pickett was soundly repulsed. "I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me!"

In the next few weeks, I hope to detail the framework of a theology of spiritual warfare. Maybe it will be a help to some of you engaged in the same areas that I am. Until then, I appreciate your prayers!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sunrise Over the Bridgers

I slept almost 8 full hours last night. Sounds relatively mundane, doesn't it? Not for me though. Lately, I've been turning into a 5 or 6 hour a night person. Restless, I would get up two to four times every night. I could never seem to find the gear for REM sleep. I think I'm changing though. The stress of flying every other week, switching mental gears constantly and generally living in crisis mode from day to day had taken its toll on me. I was always tired, frustrated and generally not healthy. That is changing! So, I've come to the conclusion that I'm becoming human again. I'm getting good sleep. I'm focusing on fewer things and becoming more productive. I look forward to the new day.

My coffee is almost done now. Time to watch the sunrise over the Bridger Mountains!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Clarification: Abandoned by Those Whom You Love the Most

I mentioned in the earlier post that I had been "abandoned" by several whom I at one time considered "good" friends. I am a person, I feel. I invest in everyone around me. My assumption is that those whom I call "friend" will indeed be a "friend" in return. Thus, it is a shock to me when those whom I expect to support and encourage me, even in the most difficult of times, simply push away. With very few exceptions, I was alone my last week in Brownwood. One of my friends even told me that I should "expect" this treatment. Wow! I was stunned. This seemed to be a justification that allowed this person to behave in this fashion, even though he knew, deep inside, it was wrong, even petty. Now before I dig myself into a 'hole' here, I need to make a clarification; not a retraction mind you, but a clarification.

When you leave people you love, they react in different ways. I get it. Some are hurt that you are leaving and can't face it. Some are glad to see you gone and finally are able to revel in your departure. They just don't do it in front of you. Some are jealous of your departure, because deep inside they want to leave as badly as you, they just don't know how to leave or don't have the opportunity. That sadness in all of this is that it reflects a base selfishness. Selfishness on my part because I want my friends to support me. Selfishness on their part because, well, they are unwilling to stand with me for their own reasons.

I hurt right now, but I'll get over it. Too much to do here. My friends will eventually get over their hurt or anger. Maybe they will even keep in touch with me. I hope so. They will eventually get their chance to leave as well. And that is where their character will reveal itself. As I look carefully in the last analysis on all that has transpired, I realize that I have not suffered abandonment like our Lord, or like so many others in our world. I am good. I pray that the sun shines upon the faces of those whom I left behind in Texas and that our Lord gives them peace.

I'm Home.

For the last five years I have been living in Brownwood, Texas. It is a special place to me. Home of Howard Payne University, where I earned a bachelors degree, where I taught theology and bible and now where my oldest daughter is in college, it will always be a special place to me. But it is no longer home. Indeed, though it is a special place, I'm not sure if it was ever truly home. I never felt completely settled. I never felt completely accepted, nor did I ever develop roots. There are lots of reasons for this, but deep inside maybe I knew there was something else, someplace else. Brownwood would be a 'layover' in life and I would need to take from it "life's lessons" make friendships and go where I needed to go next for ministry and mission.

Sadly, when I made the decision to leave, several people I considered 'good' friends simply abandoned me. Although I made some great friendships - Pastor Tim, Sam, Don, my SCS colleagues, many students - some people to whom I thought I was closest just shut me out. I continue to wonder and reflect how you can call someone friend and then just shut them out. They didn't even say goodbye. All I can do is reflect on my own actions and examine what I may have been to sow injury or hurt. C'est la vie? Oui?

Well. Bozeman, Montana is home. The challenge awaits. It has already proven to be a place of promise and hope; a place of challenge and tears. That's OK, because deep in my heart, I know it is home.

Thank you Father for leading me home;
for giving me the wisdom to hear your voice;
for giving me the courage to follow your call;
for allowing me to be in Brownwood - even for a short time
so I could love, learn and live -
love others
learn from my mistakes
and live life as courageously as possible.
Thank you.

Amen.