Witchcraft

A Christian friend (whom I have no good reason to doubt) recently told me the following stories. Make of them what you will.

1. His wife’s grandfather used to be a witch doctor in a developing nation. One late night he stumbled and fell into a deep ditch. There, in the ditch, he claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus. The grandfather just knew it was Jesus. After he got out of the ditch, he became a Christian. He went on to start a church in their town. Led many to Jesus.

2. His wife’s father was a Christian but passed away early. Another relative used a well-known medium in the area to try to contact the father via a séance. The medium reported the Christian father responded to the medium, but he rebuked the medium, and the medium could go no further. The Christian father told the medium something like it was wrong or forbidden to contact him.

3. His wife has a pair of friends: one is a Christian while the other is not. The non-Christian friend convinced the Christian friend to go along with her to a fortune teller. At first, the Christian friend didn’t want to, but the non-Christian friend kept insisting, and the Christian friend finally gave in and went. The fortune teller was able to read the fortune of the non-Christian friend. However, when the fortune teller tried to read the Christian friend, the fortune teller couldn’t, and eventually gave up, reporting that all the fortune teller could see was a thick and impenetrable cloud around the Christian friend. The Christian friend believes the cloud was the Holy Spirit protecting her.

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Demonic bullying

Eowyn Stoddard (and her husband and family) is a missionary in Germany. She writes about her experiences with the demonic while teaching the Bible and preaching the gospel in Germany.


Demonology 101
By Eowyn Stoddard

Shock

After a few months on “our” mission field-a post-communist, dead, atheistic region-my family and I were reeling from the shock. No, not culture shock, though there was plenty of that. It was the shock of coming face-to-face with demonic forces beyond our comprehension.

Numerous strange events had transpired: liters of urine poured into our stroller, blood splattered on our apartment door, a small hole drilled into our front door indicating a planned break-in (the hole is used to insert a small probe camera), much sickness, poor sleep for us, and even the sense of an evil presence in our bedroom.

At first, we thought we must be imagining things, but the horrid climax was the nightmares that tormented our two-year old son. For many months, he’d wake up screaming bloody murder and we could not settle him back down easily. At two-and-a-half, he was finally able to verbalize what he’d been dreaming about for the past few months. One of his most vivid dreams was about a woman with black hair and red eyes who wore only a bra and black pants and would offer him a basket of rotten fruit and force him to eat. His nightmare was X-rated, not a typical toddler-being-chased-by-a-bear dream. Satan was not playing fair.

Now the shock turned to anger. I scanned the recesses of my brain. What had seminary taught me about demonic activity? I couldn’t recall any class where we had discussed anything remotely similar to what we were experiencing, nor was “Demonology 101” offered when I attended!

But what seminary had taught me was not to panic in the face of theological conundrums. It gave me a lens through which I was taught to see everything from the perspective of God’s sovereignty.

Reality Check

As Christians, we can be sure of the existence of Satan and demons because the Bible plainly depicts them as fallen angels who work in the world to oppose God and his people, to deceive and blind unbelievers to the Truth. We have a very real adversary who roams around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pe 5:8). As Ephesians 6 describes, “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” (Eph 6:12).

The devil is bent on destroying Christians and their testimony, and stopping the progress of the gospel. What we experienced was “normal” for our context, and many other missionaries can testify to similar kinds of things happening to them. I call these sorts of scare tactics “demonic bullying.”

In a place where the number of Christians is under 1% and the rest of the population is consciously or unconsciously worshiping the enemy, this is not surprising at all. Satan does not want people rescued out of darkness and brought into the light. He will use ordinary frustrating events to harass the believer, and occasionally he will employ extraordinary means to bolster his scare tactics, as was the case of my son’s dream.

Satan, demons, and their power are real, but they are not allowed to toy with us, even though that is what it feels like sometimes. The devil is only permitted to do what God has decreed.

I love the story of Job because it is as if the author pulls back the heavenly curtain for us and we see Satan entering the stage of God’s courtroom. God himself brings Job to Satan’s attention.

Satan is allowed to afflict Job within limits, albeit with very severe consequences for him and his family. In Job’s case, Satan is not allowed to take his life. God’s sovereignty has always trumped Satan’s power. From this side of the cross, we know his doom is sure.

Our ultimate victory over Satan is guaranteed because our life is hidden in Christ and he has already conquered all evil through his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit, who indwells believers, is the down payment of our eternal inheritance. Since the coming of the Holy Spirit, the enemy can only harass as he exits the stage, and he certainly cannot possess (believers, that is)!

Action Plan

Because we were so overwhelmed with our situation, we needed help. We called our teammates to come pray with us. While he was asleep, we prayed at my son’s bedroom windows, that God would not allow any evil to enter into his room and that he would sleep peacefully. The next morning, I asked him, “Did you have a nightmare last night?” His toddler answer was flabbergasting: “Yes, but this time the woman was outside my window and she couldn’t come in.” Most often, we aren’t given the privilege of seeing when and how God is acting in the supernatural world. But this time, we saw it!

It was as if God were pulling back the heavenly curtain for us, just for a moment. God, in his sovereignty, was ministering to my little boy, protecting and comforting him in ways I could not. We were given a sneak peek into how God uses the prayers of his people to accomplish his will. How that ministered to our souls during that dark season!

This also spurred us on to pray more fervently. We started teaching our children to wield the weapons given to us and described in Ephesians 6, especially prayer and God’s Word. We came to expect attacks and be alert but also not become paralyzed by them. When we started evangelistic meetings in our home, one of our five children inevitably became sick, every week without fail. Satan’s attacks became so predictable, it was almost laughable.

Instead of canceling the meeting, we would call one of our dear teammates to come babysit and pray on the top floor while we held the meeting downstairs. We learned not to be intimidated and to pursue our calling anyway. We have never experienced an attack of that order again, but have taken advantage of the gift of prayer on behalf of new teammates who have faced similar onslaughts. It is an honor to be able to speak from experience and comfort them with the truths of God’s sovereignty.

We labor in the land of Martin Luther (e.g. Germany) who summed it all up quite well when he penned the words to the famous hymn A Mighty Fortress:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

A dream of my father

The following is from Song of a Wanderer: Beckoned by Eternity by Li Cheng (p 18):

A friend was calling from out of state to wish my family and me a Merry Christmas. As we talked about God, she said she was a believer and shared a recent experience. Several months before, her father was on his deathbed. She was terribly upset because her job prevented her from returning to Mainland China to see him, so she prayed earnestly, begging God to allow her to see him for one last time. One night, she dreamed that her father came to see her and touched her. Several days later, she received a long distance phone call from her home in Mainland China saying that her father had died. During the call, she described in detail the clothes her father was wearing in her dream. Her relatives were astonished, for what she saw in her dream matched his appearance when he died several thousand miles away. God had answered her prayer.

A crazed woman

The following story is taken from Li Cheng’s book Song of a Wanderer: Beckoned by Eternity (pp 13-14). The incident took place when Li Cheng was an atheist communist living in Mainland China.


In 1975 I joined an agricultural commune. One morning an officer from another village hurried to my residence to ask for our team’s help.

“There are ghosts affecting our team!” he exclaimed.

“How can there be ghosts during the day?” I asked.

“Someone has been possessed by a spirit!” he answered. He hoped that I would be able to go with him to take care of the situation.

Although I was not the supervisor of that work unit, I could not shirk my responsibility, for our team leader had left for the city. Even though I felt foolish, my heart was troubled. So I went to the place of the incident and found a crowd of onlookers who moved aside to let me pass through.

When I entered the inner circle, I encountered a woman with unkempt hair who was dancing, waving her hands, crying, and yelling. I quickly asked the work unit leader for details of the occurrence and was told that this team was impoverished with no other source of income besides their current assignment for which the labor of a strong man for a full day was worth only ten cents. Some time before, someone had discovered that sand was under the topsoil, so people were able to dig up the sand and sell it to the molding factory. Even though the price of sand was low, people could still earn some money to buy oil and salt. A middle-aged man in that team was so enthusiastic about digging up sand that he dug the pit deeper and deeper. However, since there were no safety precautions, the pit suddenly caved in, and he was buried at the bottom. When rescuers dug him out, he was already dead. His family could not afford a funeral to bury him, so they bought a mat, rolled him up in it, and buried him.

This crazed woman was a neighbor of the deceased man. Suddenly, on that particular morning, she had gone out of her mind, speaking as if she were possessed by the dead man. After the team leader finished telling the story, I gasped when I heard the woman say, “I died pitifully. No coffin! They did not even change my clothes. They buried me that way! Nobody has sympathy for me.” Her voice was his voice; her intonation was his intonation.

Since people were supposed to be working in the field at that time of day, I asked several men to take the woman home so that the crowd could disperse and get back to work. However, the feet of this thin, sickly woman appeared to be nailed to the ground. No matter how hard the young men tried to push or drag her, she did not move an inch. I did not know what to do next. Several older people said that the only way was to ask the dead man’s family to talk to her, so I asked for the dead man’s wife. When she came, she spoke to the possessed woman as though she were talking to her husband.

“You left us and have gone your own way. You have caused us to suffer enough! Why are you still bothering us? In a few days, we will send some clothes to you,” she said.

Those words were enough to calm the possessed woman.

“Okay! I will leave. But before going, I would like to drink some water from home,” she said, still speaking with the dead man’s voice.

I immediately asked people to bring a big bowl of cool water. She drank the entire bowl quickly and then fainted on the ground. After she woke up, I asked her what had happened. She said she did not know, but she felt very exhausted and had no energy.