Demonic oppression? Mental illness? What would it look like if deliverance ministers, psychologists, pastors, biblical scholars, missiologists, anthropologists, and people who have experienced deliverance and healing were to compare notes, tell their stories, and try to learn from one another? This book aims to reflect that conversation and promote further conversation.This book aims to reflect that conversation and promote further conversation.
Institute of Mennonite Studies ISBN 0-936273-40-2
To Dean Hochstetler
The seventy returned with joy, saying,
Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!
He said to them,
I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.
See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. ~Luke 10:17-20
Before we begin reading the Bible, we bind the spirits, Bob Ekblad told us. It was a most unlikely setting for an exorcism. I was sitting in a posh hotel meeting room in Philadelphia sur-
rounded by professors and graduate students at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. I had been drawn to this work-
shop by the author of 1 because I had read a powerful article he had written about teaching the Bible in a prison in Washington State.2 I had expected to hear him talk about doing Bible study. Instead, he told us we would be reading the Bible together. He would do with us a study that he had done earlier that week with the prisoners. He would use with us the same teaching strategies that he used with the inmates of Skagit County jail. So, before we started, we would ask Jesus to bind the spirits. We needed to name them, and then we would pray.
This roomful of proper academics began tentatively, a little ner-vously. But with Ekblads gentle direction, we were soon moving into authentic naming of the demons dogging us in this particular settingspirits of competition, envy, insecurity, pride, doubt. Then in a simple, almost matter-of-fact prayer of deliverance, our teacher asked Jesus to bind those spirits and to free our minds and hearts for this reading of the text. What followed was remarkable, remarkable in any setting, but near miraculous in the somewhat sterile atmosphere of a major academic convention. It was holy ground. In those simple exercises of listening hard to the word of God in scripture and in one another, healing happened. We became what we in fact were but had been keeping hidden: weary and needy pilgrims taking refreshment at this unlikely way station. There was grace.
1. Bob Ekblad, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005).
2. Jesus Surprising Offer of Living Cocaine, in Th
ed. Hans de Wit et al. (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite
Studies, 2004), 13141.
For me, Bob Ekblads simple act of asking Jesus to bind the spirits resonated strongly with the conference several years earlier that generated the essays in this volume. At that conference, as in the Philadelphia hotel, people with widely divergent ways of thinking gathered to learn how God is at work resisting evil. The Institute of Mennonite Studies consultation, Hard Cases: Confronting the Spirit World, held at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in April 2004, brought together pastors, scholars, people engaged in deliverance ministries, and not a few people who had experienced deliverance. There were two powerful impulses behind that conference. One was the integrity and charism of Dean Hochstetler, a pastor ordained for deliverance ministry by Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference, and the clear testimonies of the many people he has helped find their way back to God. The other was a profound sense of need on the part of some area pastors of congregations providing care for families overwhelmed by chaotic and demonic factors. These are the pastors and these are the congregations dealingwith great courage, deep compassion, and too few resourceswith what Duane Beck describes as hard cases, situations in which a variety of illnesses, addictions, sins, and poverties ravage people at an accelerating pace over several generations. The goal of the conference was to provide a setting for conversation about what deliverance ministries have to contribute to these congregational situations and, just as important, what con-gregations have to contribute to the ministry of deliverance.
The night we heard Gwens story3 was the moment when I finally understood, heart and head, that exorcism in the context of congre-gational compassion and accountability is one way God overcomes evil. One refrain in the story that Gwen told, with her pastor, Duane Beck, was Nothing worked; everything helped. The healing that was in process in Gwens life and in her family had many facets. Help had come from many directionsthe childrens schools, the local police force, social workers, the church, her pastors, and Dean Hochstetler. In that mix, there had been no single answer. There had been no easy answer. Healing continued to be a process, and much was still chaotic in her household. But in that mix, and in that still-messy process of coming back to God, Deans ministry and the congregational support and follow-up to that ministry had played a vital role. Confronting the spirits and binding them marked a significant turning point.
3. See chapter 9 in this volume and Duane Becks reflections in chapter 10.
Her teenagers, she told us, still said every night a prayer that Dean taught them.
As with all conferences, many words were spoken in the course of several days. But when Gwen and Duane finished speaking, words failed us. There was a silence and then, as one, the attending body rose in ovation. Smiles and tears and clapping hands said Thanks be to God, in ways that we could not then put into words. We finished the evening by walking in silence to the chapel to sing the hymns of our tradition that speak explicitly about the demonic. Singing, we were reminded that if evil gathers force over the generations, so also does the power of God to resist that evil. We are not alone in the fight. Others have gone before, and others will come after us. We are the temporary stewards of these ministries.
Just as hard cases are complicated and messy, just as finding our way back to God is complicated and messy, so conversation about these matters is also complicated and messy. This book reflects that reality. Here you will find different pieces of the puzzlenot only different perspectives and points of view but also different kinds of material. Some essays are articulated with scholarly care. Others are reflections from a pastoral heart. There are stories and case studies. Some of what you will read here is intensely personal. Some of what you will read steps back to offer a larger perspective on the matter. Some of what you will read here is painful, and some of it is joyful. Our aim for the book is to reflect conversation and to promote con-versation.
The diversity of the book is an attempt to honor the complexity of the issue. If you are looking for a simple how-to manual, this book is not for you. If you are looking for a single, easy answer, this book is not for you. But if you want to participate in conversation about the hard and holy work of partnering with God in the battle against evil, you will find much to ponder in this book. If you want to reflect on and care for the people around you who are struggling with hard cases, this book is for you. It is our hope that the varied voices rep-resented in these pages will contribute to the churchs discernment and faithful practice in this arena.
The editors and publishers extend our thanks to Dean Hochstetler, without whom the Hard Cases consultation and this book would never have happened. We also thank Harold Bauman and Duane Beck, who served with the Institute of Mennonite Studies staff and the editors to plan the consultation. And we thank all the presenters and writers who contributed to this volume, as well as Nelson Kraybill and Associ-ated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, who have generously supported this project and the ongoing work of the IMS.
Much gratitude also goes to Barbara Nelson Gingerich, who man-aged the book project and edited it with her customary wise counsel and attention to detail. We are grateful, too, to Willard Swartley for his extraordinary effort in compiling a most useful bibliography, to Mary Klassen, whose sensitivity to good design is reflected in the appearance of the book, to Karen Ritchie for her fine copy-editing services, and to James Nelson Gingerich, who contributed late night and early morning hours to format its pages.
Dealing with our Inner Demons – 7/03/11 – Beech Mennonite Church
Scriptures: Psalm 145:8-14 Romans 7:15-25
Hearing this scripture from Romans reminds me of a book I used to read to my two boys
when they were little. The Poky Little Puppy is the story of some cute little puppies and
their mother. It begins with just one rule, “Don’t go under the fence.” They find a loophole,
going over the fence. That evening they respond to their mother’s reprimand this way, “But
you didn’t say we couldn’t go over.” So there are now two rules: No going under or over.
But the next day, they think of yet another loophole, “She didn’t say we couldn’t go around
the fence.” And so the story builds to its expected climax with a lesson for children (and
adults) about obeying the rules. I discovered this week that this classic, first printed in 1945,
was the all-time best seller for hardcover children’s books up to the year 2001. The story
obviously strikes a chord in all of us about our struggles to follow the rules.
Now I know full well that some of my sermons don’t speak to everyone, coming as we do
from such a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. But not today! This is a message
for everyone! I am certain that each of you can identify with Paul’s dilemma! He wants so
desperately to be a good person. He tries so hard to do what’s right. But he keeps on
Something connects deep inside us as we hear Paul’s bare-bones honesty about his internal
struggle. “I want so much to do what is right but can’t seem to follow through.” Twice (v.17
& 20) he says, “so it’s not really me that’s doing bad; it’s sin living in me.” Which sounds
like the common phrase today, “The devil made me do it.” Trying to dodge responsibility
for our poor choices. A closer look, however, shows that Paul is not trying to pass the buck.
If he was really able to pass the blame on to the devil, he wouldn’t be having this internal
struggle. V.18 – “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” Some
translations here use the word “flesh” but that word can be misleading. Unlike certain
ancient philosophies that said our physical bodies are bad, we affirm that our bodies were
created good, in God’s own image. Instead, the “flesh”, or “sinful nature” as the NIV
translates it, is that tendency in all of us to give in to temptation. Paul sums up his struggle
in v. 22-23: I delight in God’s law in my inner being, but there’s another force at work
inside “waging war against my mind”. He then cries out for help in v. 24, “What a
wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this horrible struggle?”
So is Paul talking about his life before becoming a Christian or after? This question, by
the way, has been debated by scholars for centuries. It would be comforting to know that
he’s describing his life before he accepted Jesus. And once he got “saved” his struggles were
over. To hear some people talk, that’s the way it is supposed to work. And although I wish
it were that way, my own experience tells me that Paul is describing his life after conversion.
We hear his honest confession that following Jesus can be a struggle, even though we have
the Holy Spirit living in us. Problems don’t just go away when we decide to follow Jesus.
In fact, things may get worse in some ways. Our Enemy is very unhappy whenever he loses
one of his subjects. And he has many assistants, demons with a small “d”, who try to lure us
back to our old ways. You might remember the time in Mark 5 when Jesus encountered a
demon-possessed man living in caves along the lake. In seeking to heal the man, he asked
his name. “My name is Legion,” the man replied, “for we are many.” Legion being the name
for a regiment of 6,000 Roman soldiers.
So what are these inner demons that create such havoc in our lives? Some of them are
things we may not think are all that bad: Anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, anxiety,
unforgiveness, greed…to name a few. And the million dollar question: just how do we
find freedom from these demons? When Paul cries out for help, he has only one answer,
v.25 – “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is Jesus who can rescue us.
“Yes”, you might say, “I believe that. But can you be a bit more specific?” OK, I’ll try,
even though I can only begin to scratch the surface in the next 10 minutes! After all,
hundreds of books have been written on this topic! First and foremost is to invite the Spirit
of Jesus to take control of your life. He may already have taken up residence in you. But if
there are things you have not yet surrendered, you are inhibiting his ability to work. Paul
spends all of the next chapter, Romans 8, explaining how to walk in the freedom of the Holy
Spirit. I encourage you to read that chapter carefully on your own.
We know that Jesus has authority over all powers, so it is very fitting, when one of those
nasty little demons begins whispering lies in your head, to say, “In the name of Jesus, get
lost.” And then to quote a scripture that comes to mind. The Enemy cannot stand up to
God’s Word. A time of fasting may be effective. You remember one time the disciples
couldn’t cast out a demon and Jesus said that particular kind required fasting. (Mark 9:29)
In some cases, it may be fitting to ask for an exorcism at the hands of someone who has that
gift. In this post-modern world, with a greater openness to spiritual realities, I think we are
going to see more of this kind of ministry in the future.
Another way Jesus sets us free from inner demons is by giving special insight to people
like David Seamands, missionary, pastor, professor. In his book Healing for Damaged
Emotions, he describes another lesser-known demon that can disguise itself as humility. He
says, “Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut-level feeling of inferiority,
inadequacy, and low self-worth.” He quotes a survey James Dobson once did with a large
number of Christian women. He asked them to rate 10 factors that contribute to depression.
By far and away the top culprit was low self-esteem. Seamands writes, “…low self-esteem
robs God of marvelous opportunities to show off His power and ability through (our)
weaknesses…. Nothing sabotages Christian service more than thinking so little of yourself
that you never really give God a chance.” Once again a scripture can be used to combat
this demon: “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)
Sometimes we may not find release from the demons that haunt us until we take a closer
look at our family history. Facing something called “generational sin.” When God gave
Moses the Ten Commandments, he says this, “for I the Lord your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those
who hate me.” (Ex. 20:5-6) Frankly, I’ve had a lot of trouble with this verse. How can a
God of love punish children for the sins of their parents and grandparents? And how does
that square with what God tells Ezekiel in Ch. 18: “the soul who sins is the one who will die.
The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”
(v.20) The only way it makes sense to me is to make a distinction between suffering and
guilt. We may have to live with some negative consequences of our ancestors’ mistakes, but
God does not hold us accountable. It seems to be the nature of life that family patterns, both
good and bad, perpetuate themselves. Counselors can help us explore our family’s past. Do
we see any ungodly patterns? Any significant trauma? Awareness is the first step toward
healing. Counselors can help us move on from there, with strategies to set us free from
dysfunctional patterns of the past. In addition, I have several good books on this topic.
I believe Jesus also uses modern science, giving wisdom to those who develop medicines
that can correct chemical imbalances in the brain.
There is no one quick fix for our struggle with inner demons. Although I believe in the
power of Jesus to set us free, I would assert that healing can take many forms. It is usually a
slow journey. One that begins with humility. Admitting that we struggle with inner
demons, and being as open and honest about our failures as Paul was here in today’s text.
In my experience, the most effective setting for emotional healing is a loving, caring church
family. Pastor Duane Beck, in a book called Even the Demons Submit, highlights the
importance of our brothers and sisters in the faith when he writes, “We learn from one
another and lean on one another long enough for Christ to make us a new creation.” *
I’ll close with a story from David Seamands’ book. He tells about market day in a village
in India. A farmer brought a covey of quail to sell. Each one had a string tied around its
leg and fastened to a center pole. The quail walked slowly and sadly around and around. A
devout Brahman passed by, one who believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life, and felt
compassion for the captive birds. He paid the farmer a generous sum for all of them, then
asked him to set them free. Though perplexed, the farmer cut the strings from each leg. But
the quail continued to march around in a circle. Even when shooed away some distance they
kept walking around in circles as if still tied. Are we like these quail sometimes?
It is our privilege as a church family to remind each another that Jesus has set us free, free
to fly. And so we sing now our affirmation of Jesus’ power to “break into our darkness
with his liberating light…to drive out demons with a piercing, two-edged sword.” (#1 – STS)
Let’s sing it like we mean it!
Sources: Healing for Damaged Emotions – Dr. David Seamands
Even the Demons Submit – Loren Johns & James Krabill, editors