Pay Attention!

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:8‭-‬9 NASB

The devil, the adversary. The word Satan means adversary. He is also called the god of this age, god of this world, deceiver, camouflager, Father of lies ….. he goes by many names. The words used here, seeking to devour, mean to gulp down. He wants to DESTROY us. Where is he? Is he real?

“Now there was a day when the sons of God [angelic hosts] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” ” – JOB 1:6‭-‬7 NASB

It amazes me to hear that people don’t believe he exists. I read an article online by Phil Zuckerman, Ph.D., professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, on the existence of the devil from his book, The Secular Life. Some excerpts:

How can people seriously believe in the devil? The year is 2015, not 1315. And yet, the fact remains that tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that there is a magical, wicked, evil — oh, and smart — being out there doing magical, wicked, evil deeds and presiding over a fiery realm, where demons crawl and witches cackle. Oh, wait. No cackling witches. Just demons, right?

According to a 2013 YouGov survey, 57% of Americans believe in the devil. And yes, that is 57% of American adults — not kindergarteners.

But there is no such thing as the devil, just as there is no such thing as fairies, imps, or goblins. The two largest religions in the world — Christianity and Islam — teach that there is a devil. And they are wrong. There is no evidence for such a thing. Not a shred. It is simply something that germinated from the unscientific, irrational minds of early humans who tried their best to explain why bad things happen to good people, why good people sometimes do bad things, and why there is so much needless suffering in the world.

He also included this:

In October, 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia declared that, yes, he most certainly believes in the existence of Satan. But why don’t we see him? Well, “you know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and what not. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore…It’s because he’s smart….What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” (Emphasis mine)

I belong on the side with Justice Scalia. Why? Because, like Dwight L. Moody, “The Bible says so, and I have done business with him.” May I add, it is not a pleasant experience. Does this mean I have dealt with Satan, the adversary, himself? Probably not. He has many fallen angels and demons who work beside him. Paul said:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” – EPHESIANS 6:12 NASB

He is sneaky; he is a liar and a thief. He incites persecution against followers of Christ, and he hinders the work of Christians. He sows doubt and distrust anywhere he can. How can one created being do all this and create such havoc in the world, when he is NOT omnipresent? He relies on his demons, his followers and all of the other fallen angels (back to Ephesians 6), but he is also a spirit and can travel quickly. The ultimate power behind persecution is Satan.

Even many Christians don’t believe Satan exists. If we can’t see it, it can’t be real….. but, we can’t see God, either. Does Satan exist? If not, where does the mayhem and evil come from? He is as real as you and I. An interesting note: the devil, Satan, is not currently residing in hell; he is very much alive and living here on earth. During the Tribulation period (still to come) he will be permanently expelled from heaven, although based on scriptures, he currently has at least limited access to heaven, to have conversations with God. He is seeking and stalking his prey, and his prey is anyone aligning themselves with Jesus Christ!

“But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” – 1 PETER 5:9 NASB

The Good News is this: JESUS has already defeated him, on Calvary! Calvary is our Hope, because it is where Satan was defeated. We don’t fight FOR victory, we fight FROM victory, and we apply it in everyday life. Be ready! Don’t focus on Satan, focus on Christ, but don’t underestimate the deceiver. After all, if an actual lion gets loose, do we ignore it, or try to get away from it? Don’t be ignorant of the devil, just be aware and stand firm; submit to the LORD in every aspect of our lives. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We are not alone in this battle. We – all Christians – are all in the same spiritual battle, and we need to be, and should be, watching each others backs.

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – JAMES 4:7 NASB

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” – REVELATION 17:14 NASB

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah defeats the lion known as the devil, aka Satan!

Peace of Christ

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” – COLOSSIANS 3:15 NASB

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – PHILIPPIANS 4:7 NASB

Peace. What a wonderful word. Sometimes, when I hear it, I have to chuckle as I recall the idealized thoughts of teenagers – “I want to see peace on earth; Give peace a chance; All the world needs is love, love, love…..” Sure, sure. Who doesn’t want all the fighting and evil to go away? It’s a nice thought, granted, but is it realistic in the world we live in? Unfortunately, no. As a follower of Jesus Christ – not as a Christian who is defined by the world – I believe it is for us to speak out:

“…… but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness …..” – 1 THESSALONIANS 2:4‭-‬5 NASB

When I allow the Peace of Christ in my heart, it allows me to more easily see the evil, manipulating ways of the world, and enables me to speak out against it. His peace teaches me to be content in my circumstance ……. and I continually work on that!

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the Will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – ROMANS 12:2 NASB

I Surrender

“Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.” Dwight L Moody

Continuing Pastor Mark Hitchcock’s sermon from Sunday …… he talked about humility in our Christian life. It makes me wonder why so many Christians are so proud.

“You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬7 NASB

“Pride is the soil from which all sin grows.” Mark Hitchcock

Merriam-Webster describes “servant” as “someone that serves other. A “subject” is “to make oneself amenable to the discipline and authority of another,” or, to be under someone, a servant, of service to someone else; humble. nothing we can do on our own, all depends on GOD. The phrase here, to “clothe yourselves” means to tie it on, like an apron on a servant – like Jesus did when He washed the disciples feet.

“….. and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to – continually fighting, open warfare – the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34, 16:5, 6:16-19) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, ….” – 1 PETER 5:5‭-‬6 (Deuteronomy 8:2-6, James 4:10)

“Clothed in humility” ….. are we scantally clad?

Do you see what the message is? We must consciously come under the Hand of GOD. Not just in this moment, but continuously, as we go through life. It’s so easy to let pride, the I can do it attitude, creep in! GOD will exalt the humble, not man. It may be this life, and it may not be, but it will definitely be in GOD’s Kingdom and Eternity.

Remember these words of the old hymn by Judson W. Van DeVenter, published in 1896? This is what he said of his inspiration for the hymn:

For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full-time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing. (Emphasis mine)

I Surrender All
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust him,
In his presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all,
All to thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Jesus, I surrender all.

Not Me …..

“Not me!” A familiar phrase for anyone who spends much time around kids. Generally, it’s said because someone is in trouble, but consider what the Apostle Paul wrote, and what Jesus said:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – GALATIANS 2:20 NASB

Not me!

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – JOHN 10:27‭-‬29 NASB

Was they making excuses so that we could live however we pleased? Knowing that our salvation is permanent, a ‘done deal’, so we can say and do whatever comes to our mind, without regard to anyone else? It appears that many who claim to be Christians use these scriptures just that way.

Joe McKeever, preacher and writer at crosswalk.com and http://www.joemckeever.com writes this:

The person who goes on sinning as before, as 1 John puts it in several places, is not saved and never was. (Emphasis mine)

The person who has no desire to live close to the Lord Jesus and to please Him and never has had, is probably not saved and never was.

However, that said, we say without fear of contradiction that in Heaven there will be people we never expected to be received. We will be surprised again and again. And, just as certain, there will be people we expected to find in Heaven who never made it.

God is the judge and not us. We see through a glass darkly, the same way we do everything else. We see doctrine through that darkened glass also, and no doubt get some things wrong.

Let us always come with humility to these matters of eternal significance. And let us pull back from the foolish who have all the answers and tolerate no dissent.

He’s right. When I accept Jesus as my Saviour, I’m asking Him to walk with me in my life, guiding my path and my decisions. Does that mean I’ll always do and say the right thing? Not at all! My free will, my stubbornness, and my vanity will continue to get in the way and trip me up, and I will want to yell “It’s not me! I didn’t do it!” …… I need to let go of all that and allow myself to relax in the arms of Jesus, He Who lives in me.

Not me, but HIM! Image from Pinterest.com

Of First Importance….

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…..” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:3‭-‬4 NASB

This is of first importance. Aside from this, does anything else in this world really matter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of GOD; that He was born of a virgin and lived as a human so that He could be hung on the cross, the ultimate and final sacrifice for our/your sins? Do you believe that He came out of the grave on the third day, triumphant over death? If you do, congratulations!!! By believing this, we get to spend the rest of our lives and forever more with our Saviour! Can it be so simple? Hallelujah; yes!

For those who don’t believe ……. Why? What is keeping you from believing? Is it that Jesus can be God and man in one person, Son of the Creator of the Universe and a young, human, woman? Is it the idea of the virgin birth, or is it the idea of a Creator, rather than the “science” of the Big Bang Theory*? (*I challenge you to look up the definition of the word theory. It’s a hypothesis, a speculation; i.e. a guess, “without any assumption of truth.”) I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be a great intellect; however, I can (and do) read voraciously. If you need scientific proof of a greater power and a created universe, there is plenty of compeling evidence to be found. I won’t argue between a 24-hour 6 day creation and a “big bang” because we don’t know. I will say this: I believe both!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – GENESIS 1:1 NASB

Were you there? He created the heavens and the earth out of nothing….. the atoms colliding had to come from somewhere, and, BANG, there it was! But, moving on to Jesus….. If God could create the heavens and the earth from nothing, why couldn’t He have His Son born to a virgin in order to save His people (that would be us, the human race) from our bad decisions? Giving us free will when He created us was His decision, because He wants us to choose to love Him and have a relationship with Him, just as we choose the humans we have relationships with.

Are you just not sure that Jesus really rose from the grave? Do you want to, can you, refute the testimony of hundreds of first-hand accounts, eyewitnesses to His resurrection?

“….. and {after} that He appeared to Cephas [Simon Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep [died]; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Paul] also.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 15:5‭-‬8‭

Still have doubts? I promise you that those doubts come straight from our enemy, the Father of Lies, who wants nothing more than to have you reject the Gospel. The enemy wants us to question the Bible, and especially to question the New Testament and its eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. If he, the enemy, can get you to doubt and to question, he wins. The enemy knows that without Jesus, His sacrifice and resurrection, we have nothing. We know that with Jesus, with His sacrifice, we have everything.

Choose wisely. Remember what is of First Importance.

Image: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. Wikipedia

A Little Reminder…..

HALLELUJAH; OH GLORIOUS DAY!! Good Friday is over; Black Saturday is past us; Sunday has come – HE IS RISEN! The grave could not hold Him; death has NO power over Him!

“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the LORD descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
HE IS NOT HERE, FOR HE HAS RISEN – just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” ” – Matthew 28:1-6

Open Season

Hunters love it when they know it’s open season on their targets of choice. I’ve enjoyed deer and elk hunting, squirrel hunting; even jack rabbit hunting. It feels like a different kind of open season to me now – open season on Christians. What do you think? In the States, we really have it good compared to much of the world, and for the majority of history, too.

Right now, today, it’s Open Season on Patriots, and especially on Christians…. what do we do; what can we do about it? We have to be realistic. Anticipate the blows of the Enemy. Don’t let him and his hate surprise you. Be aware it WILL happen. We are under attack – and if, like me, you are a Patriot and a follower of Jesus Christ, expect to receive even more insults, reviling, and slander. (1 Peter 4:12, Matthew 5:11, John 15:18-19, 2 Timothy 3:12)

But WHY? God allows all of this to PROVE, purify, and refine our faith. It’s not like we are the first society to be subject to these attacks. Look at history, all the way back to the very beginning in the Garden. The Enemy attacked Adam and Eve, although it was more subtle than the attacks on us today …… or was it? Society can be very subtle in getting us to turn from the Way. Books, television, movies, songs; just a little twist to move our focus, and each little twist is an attack. We should rejoice that we have the privilege to suffer with and for Jesus, and that our God considers us worthy to suffer for the One Who suffered for us! (1 Peter 4:13-14, Philippians 1:29, Acts 5:40, 1 Peter 1:6, Romans 8:18) Keep the goal in mind – Eternity with Him!

We also need to ask ourselves, is the persecution because of ME/something selfish I have done or said, or is it because of my belief in the Gospel? (1 Peter 4:15-18) Our outcome through persecution, our difficulty is nothing compared to what non-believers will deal with in eternity! It’s a sober warning for those people, if they can just see it. For us, as followers of Christ, our reliance is to entrust our selves, our souls, to Amighty God. He is the giver and the governor of life, the Achitect of the Ages….

“Persecution of Christians is the largest human rights violation in the world.” – Philip de Coursey

The persecution and genocide of Christians across the world is worse today “than at any time in history.” The study by Aid to the Church in Need said the treatment of Christians has worsened substantially in the past two years compared with the two years prior, and has grown more violent than any other period in modern times. “Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution,” the report said.

A really good, albeit frightening, read on this subject is “The Dark Agenda” by David Horowitz.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?” – 1 PETER 4:12‭-‬17 NASB

Have you obeyed the Gospel of God?