Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Salvation from the fiery lake

Maybe by creating me God made His first mistake,
Coz I’ve failed the test of life after countless retakes,
I doubt in His image my life He spake,
Coz the mirror reflects the opposite each morning I awake,

Like Eve I’m tempted to blame it all on the snake,
But I was alone when I baked the sin and ate of its cake,
God’s will my mind knows but my body forsakes,
So it’s entirely my fault that my tummy now aches,

So the punishment fits the crime coz His Law I chose to break,
The sentence is life in hell in the eternal fiery lake,
But I cannot fully pay for my sin even with the blankest cheque,
Coz even at death the punishment I cannot shake,

So in my hopelessness Christ chose to reach out for my sake,
When His life He gave up for mine on a painful stake,
With love and the promise of this shattered pot to remake,
He scraped the stain of my sin with His eternal rake,

He gave me a new name so my past ID is now a fake,
His image not mine on the new ID photo I had to retake,
His Kingdom not mine a new citizenship I take,
He continues to save the drowning from the fiery lake!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Issues on Africa: Do ancestral spirits really exist?

As it so happens in our beloved continent of Africa, wonders never cease!

A few months ago when I visited my home country, Kenya, I was amused to watch on the local news that an elderly man, who had passed on, had left behind specific instructions to be carried out by his relatives upon his death. He commanded that he should be buried with a live calf next to his coffin lest he returns to haunt his kin. This instruction, rather threat, was allegedly issued because years back, one of the cows en route to him as bride price died on the way.

And as years passed by, seeing that there was no sign of the dead cow being replaced by a live one, he warned that when he dies, he should be buried with a live cow lest he returns to give his people sleepless nights. So to honour his wish, he was indeed buried with the poor calf. As his relatives shovelled the soil back into the grave, the cow mooed, rather cried, in dismay. The cow’s cries were actually a welcome sign to the mourners because the deceased had said that the cries of the cow would be a sign that he was pleased with the offering.

At that point, amazed by the event, I thought of my own death and concluded that: because I love chicken so much, maybe I’ll threaten my relatives at my deathbed to bury me with some KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), lest I return to haunt them... It’s less trouble than a whole cow anyway.

But on a more serious note, such astonishing acts of ancestral fear and worship are quite frequent in Africa even today. This just happened to be one of the few cases that made the headlines.

The reason sane and even intellectual people would be driven to such acts is because of the traditional African belief in ancestral spirits, that the departed exercise control in the spiritual realm and have the power to influence the affairs of mankind on earth. But is this really true?

If dead people have control over the spiritual realm and can influence the affairs of mankind, then where does that leave God the Creator and His sovereign will? It would imply that men, and in this case, dead ones, have control over the world, and not God. Even logically, before perusing the Scriptures, this doesn’t make sense.

But what does the Bible have to say? Scripture is very clear that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). So if what awaits man after his death is judgment from God, how can he then turn and at his death, become a judge over the affairs of mankind on earth? It is impossible!

Further, as Christ died on the cross, He assured the repentant thief on His side that, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Christ never left room for the repentant thief to become an ancestral spirit upon his death and return to haunt those who put him on the cross.

Thus it is clear from Scripture that when man dies, he immediately either goes to heaven to be with the Lord if he is a believer, or if he isn’t a believer, he unfortunately winds up in hell as he awaits final and eternal judgment when Christ returns.

So what then do we call the supernatural manifestations and threats that we experience in our families from time to time in the name of ancestral visits? Well, biblically, there’s a clear answer.

But before we ponder upon the biblical response, it is also worth pondering a logical one. Mostly, when a so-called ‘ancestor’ manifests, it is almost always to threaten that if the individual or entire family doesn’t carry out his demands, they will pay the consequences. Well, if ancestors are people known to us and in most cases, our departed loved ones, why do they always seem to operate with threats and not love? For example, if my father dies and allegedly appears to me as an ancestor with a certain instruction, shouldn’t I expect that he comes in the name of love and not a threat that causes fear? Why should my own loved one threaten me? The only logical answer is that he is probably not my dearly departed kin.

But now to a biblical answer. Paul made it clear to the Corinthian church that, What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19, 20). Paul was simply making a statement that when you worship and make sacrifices to spiritual beings other than the one true God, it doesn’t matter what you call that being; whether you call it an ‘idol’ or an ‘ancestor’, the being you are sacrificing to is simply a demon.

Paul was confirming that in the spiritual realm, there are only two entities that man can interact with: either God or demons. The Gentiles at the time of Paul offered sacrifices to idols thinking they were offering sacrifices to real gods. But Paul quashed that notion in this passage by rhetorically renouncing that an idol isn’t anything but a demon. In the same way, as Africans, when we perform rituals in the name of appeasing ancestral spirits, what we are doing is nothing but worshipping demons. We should not be quick to forget that the Bible warns that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). And if he can do this, then what prevents him from disguising himself as a mere human being, and in this case, as your ancestor?

But then you may ask: ‘How do I deal with the demons that have been running rampant in my family for generations?’ Well, it starts with knowing Christ, the only true God, and His saving work on the cross; because no one in the history of mankind has ever demonstrated genuine and absolute authority over the demonic world as He did (Mark 1:27).