Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering 9/11: Heeding God's Word about spiritual warfare

Yesterday was another anniversary of 9/11. Where were you when the planes struck the Twin Towers? I recall very clearly that I was on the way to work and had just tuned in to BBC at 8:00 am to listen to the news. When I heard about the first plane it seems a bit unusual, but I had no inclination of what was about to happen next. So when the second plane burst into flames and the reporter and by then the entire world understood that something had gone wrong, horribly wrong, I called my wife, who was still at home, and told her to turn on the television. On the way to work, I tried calling my children who were both in the USA studying, but of course by then, all communications had been shut down. But the time I got to work, everybody was in one state, and for the first time, we all huddled together and prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Tears flowed freely and panic set in, as many of us had relatives in America, and more specifically in New York City.
This was our first experience with " war" so close to home, and the effects of that dastardly act still continue to reverberate across the world, in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan and how we are allowed to travel. I cannot begin to imagine what must have felt like during World War Two, with the constant bombings of cities in the UK and in Europe. In in our part of the world, the constant terror or " war" that we have to contend with, is the fight against gunmen who have been consitently murdering over 1000 of our people year after year for over ten years.

All of this week, however, I have reading meditations on " spiritual warfare", which is the
" mother of all wars", and from which "war" for the human heart and soul, is the cause of all other wars - from Adam and Satan until this very day. The problem is that, unlike the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, this is not only an " invisible" war, but one which does not attract the attention of unbelievers, and even some believers are skeptical about its importance, despite the devastating effects that such a war is having on all of us. A war which led me to send out a text message to many folks who I thought needed to see such a message.

" Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.' Psalm 142:6. We live in the middle of a war whether we believe it or not. A loving God in Christ is awaiting your cry for help. The Devil is trying to destroy you."

That's the essence of the struggle for your soul. Cry out to God, in and through the Blood of Jesus for your soul, or face the temptations and destructive powers - allowed by God for the time being - of he who is intent on banishing you to hell. That's why married people need the Lord, as the devil does not like Godly relationships. So it is not just a "male hormone thing" that is affecting so many marriages, but the devil intent on doing his evil work. For the same reason children disobey and even attack their parents, far too many politicians and lawyers and other professionals, are economical with the truth in pursuit of fame and power and wealth. For that same reason some journalists, and media managers ignore their code of ethics and responsibility to be fair and balanced and set the highest standards in their duty to inform the public. We have one such case now in my country where a talk show host, vilified and fired from one station for behaviour unbecoming of a public broadcaster and bringing the profession into disrepute, has been " hailed by another station", and given another opportunity to pour out his diatribe on an all too willing public. For that same reason even in the church " famous" evangelists, too caught up with their own strength, fall prey to Satan and give ammunition to the detractors of the gospel. One such person, who hails from the USA, is to face the courts here in Jamaica, on a charge of carnal abuse.
Just last week, and during the discussions on radio, primarily, this week, the nation was alerted to the diary of a " contract killer", whose writings suggested that he was in a great struggle with his 'badness' until he was gunned down by the police recently. And there have been many others of similar notoriety, or less, who suffered the same fate. And as in murder, so in robbery, corruption in high places, adultery, sexual deviants - pedophiles, lying, cheating, and general wickedness. There are long lists that we can all compile which validate the revelation in the Bible that " out of the heart of mankind comes all kinds of wickedness".
And until we can deal with the reality what the Psalmist David declares, " surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me", then we, as individuals, as nations, and as a world, will always be at " war" one way or another.
This is the reason why, after the great world wars, when men vowed never to allow such atrocities to happen again, we have had " the killing fields in Cambodia"; the war in Vietnam; the many wars in Africa including the struggle against Apartheid in SA, and the Holocaust in Rwanda; the many wars in South America in including the disappearance of many in Pinochet's Chile; the never ending religious wars in the Middle East, and now the portents if not the actuality of war between Muslims and the Christian West. Is there no end to this madness?
Not any time soon, says the Bible. Until Jesus comes to claim the world as His own. So what are we to do? One meditation I read last week offers some sound advice for believers, but those who do not know the Lord should take heed also, as they too are in the middle of the war - and worse without much if any protection, even though they take comfort in their weapons of intellect, power and positive thinking. And the solution begins with our mental attitude.


Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10

In Word

The truth we discover soon after becoming Christians is that we are in the middle of a war. if the restoration of all things had come instantly after the Resurrection, there would be no conflict. The whole world would have been been made new, the evil serpent would have been bound and cast into hell, and believers would be living in a perfect environment. But all of those future realities were secured by the Cross and empty tomb, not enforced by them. Not yet. We've set our faith on those promises, but for now, life is a struggle. it is a struggle because we were born into the middle of a war.
We have two options: fight or flee. The option to flee is an illusion -- the war exists whether we want to acknowledge it or not. if we ignore it, we've lost already. But the option is to fight -- that's where we get confused. We charge into battle and then quickly wind up defeated. We forget rule of engagement number one in the spiritual war: be strong in His might power.
That's easy to say, but hard to live out. It isn't complicated, just unnatural. We pray for God's strength and live by faith for a while, and then any success puts us in our default mode: self -reliance. Only after failing in our self-reliance do we learn to relay again on His strength.

In Deed

A battle mentality is essential for the Christian life. We cannot bear spiritual fruit, internally or externally, if we are not alert and equipped for the conflict that inevitably comes. But our alertness is not to lead us into our own strategies and resources; it must lead us to dependence. Faith means casting ourselves unreservedly into the hands of God. We, like Jesus and the apostles, will pray God's authority against evil and live for God's Kingdom, but the power behind the prayers and the life is not ours. It belongs to the Spirit within us. if we aren't vitally related to Him, we will lose. The only way to win -- the only way even to survive --is to be strong in His mighty power.

So let us draw on the experiences of Daniel on the lion's den who was protected because he trusted God - and not himself. Gideon, from whom the Lord removed most of his warriors so that no one could boast that their power had defeated the enemies. And Joshua who was told by God, to be of good courage and not to be afraid because " wither-soever thou goest I am with you".
Let us go forth in the mighty strength of God into the battle, wherever it is: in the home in relationships; in the community; at the workplace; in the inner cities; in the prisons; in the media and throughout the entire world. And be obedient to the words of the prophets of old and " care for the dying and rescue the perishing", "bind up the wounded, strengthen the weak, search for the lost and bring back the strays". This is our job in a dying world, where the god of this age has prevented people from understanding the gospel, and finding freedom from sin and death in Christ Jesus. And so poverty and ignorance prevails, strife and wars ensue, and immorality and wickedness entrap and devour. Let then us never tire of doing good and let us understand that the battle is never ending and pay careful attention to the words of the hymn-writer who no doubt inspired by the sufferings of Christ penned these words which touched my heart this week and made Holy Communion very special this morning:

Oft in danger, oft in woe
Onward, Christians, onward go;
Bear the toil, maintain the strife,
Strengthened with the Bread of Life.

Onward, Christian, onward go,
Join the war, and face the foe
Will ye flee in danger's hour?
Know ye not your Captain's power.

Let not sorrow dim your eye;
Soon shall every tear be dry;
Let not fears your course impede;
Great your strength if great your need.

Let your drooping hearts be glad;
march in heavenly armour clad;
Fight, not think the battle long:
Soon shall victory wake your song.

Onward then in battle move
More than conquerors ye shall prove:
Though opposed by many a foe,
Christian soldiers, onward go

So pray without ceasing, calling on the name of Jesus often, as ye know not when the Devil will strike. Strike others or ourselves. In broad daylight at the World Trade Center or in the middle of the night in the privacy of your home. And God is our only protection. Not our own puny strength or wisdom.

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