Monday, October 27, 2014



[Photo of small boys in a Halloween devil's costumes]

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
—1 Peter 5:8

At Halloween’s Trick-or-Treat time, we tend to overlook any danger that might arise from dressing children in ghoulish costumes. To many, using such costumes represents innocent fun and simple make-believe. In fact, any notion that such characters are real and can pose a threat to anyone, doesn’t really occur to people, even some sincere Christians.

Yet, Bible writers apparently had a different view of things. Witchcraft is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Acts 8:9-24 tells the story of a sorcerer who had a large following for a long time until the Greater Power of Jesus came to these people.

And, of course, we have the record of Jesus praying in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” these words in Matthew 6:13:

“Deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13).

Trifling with evil through Ouiji boards, séances, physic readings, or even the reading of Astrology carries dangerous consequences. Make no mistake. Our enemy is too powerful for us when we try to meet him by ourselves. We can only defeat him through the power of the living Christ in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In John 8:44, Scripture calls this enemy a liar and a murderer.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
The Apostle Paul calls this enemy a masquerader in 2 Corinthians 11:14:

“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”

Even without indulging in the practices of the magical arts mentioned above, as Christians we wage a difficult battle with this enemy. Even though it seems we fight on every side against the evil of our culture and those who hate the gospel, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12:

“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.”

Yes. We need to know our enemy and have a healthy fear of his power, But, we can conquer the evil he throws at us through the strategic weapons of our spiritual warfare listed in Ephesians 6:10-18. We also can take comfort from reading 1 John 4:4:

“…the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

Be aware of the subtle tricks of the Evil One. He loves to see God’s children in masks mocking him, while at the same time he masquerades himself as one who is an angel of light and good.

How appropriate that hard on the heels of Halloween, we can sing with gusto on Reformation Sunday the words written by Martin Luther in 1529:

A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

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 powers,
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.



Monday, October 20, 2014

A Place of Springs


[Photo of a flowing spring]

“I am making a way in the desert and streams
in the wasteland… I provide water in the
desert and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen.”
—Isaiah 43:19-20

Have you ever struggled with a problem from which you had no way out? Has the road been dry and unyielding, going on much longer than you ever imagined it would? Do you have no strength for the fight, no tears left to shed, no prayers you haven’t spoken a thousand times? Then this blog post is for you.

I remember one school year during which I was assigned to teach in a school with poor discipline and with an age group to which I had trouble relating. It was a very bad “fit” for me, but I was plugging a hole in the schedule and the administration had shuffled teachers around so that I had room in my week for the classes there.

I remember how poorly the students treated me, even though I did my very best and spent hours and hours looking for materials I thought they would enjoy. Nothing worked. It was a very long school year.

Yet, amidst all the pain and lack of success with music classes, I had a group of students in my chorus who sang beautifully. They joyfully worked hard on the pieces I gave them and earned us a standing ovation at our spring concert. This group was my “oasis” in the desert during that awful school year.

I know a woman who had been an influential leader in her church, but when a new pastor came to the church, she realized he was not going to use her gifts as she had been so effectively used previously. She was heart sick that she was set aside, yet she felt committed to the church and its mission.

Not long after a new pastor came, she was led to a new para-church organization that needed her leadership skills. Also, she received an elevation at her secular job and was given new leadership opportunities there. Though she continued on at the church and was saddened by the direction things took there, God had given her other things that made her heart sing. This was her “oasis” in the desert in that difficult time.

A devoted Christian pastor I know went through the devastating loss of his ministry and his reputation through no fault of his own. The situation nearly ruined him financially, as well. Yet, in those days, he spent a couple of days a week watching his new granddaughter, who sat beside him in the car—those were days before car seats!—and with her little feet sticking straight ahead off the seat, she happily jabbered and sang in his presence. This was his “oasis” in the desert during a very discouraging time in his life.

While God doesn’t always take away our distressing wilderness experiences as quickly as we would like, in the midst of such a desert, He can provide those times of refreshing that keep us going.

When the people of Israel traveled the Sinai desert for 40 years, yearning for the rich foods of Egypt, and fighting off thirst, Scripture tells us in Psalm 78:19:

“…they spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’”

This passage of Scripture goes on to say in Psalm 78:23-27:

“Yet he [God] gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. Men ate the bread of angels;…He rained meat down on them like dust, flying birds like sand on the seashore.”

The unbelief of these Israelites greatly disappointed God because He expected His own people to know that He could indeed spread a table before them in the desert.

Likewise, God is able to feed us and to give us a cool refreshing drink in our distress. When you go through a long drought you don’t understand, I urge you to put your trust in Him. He can and He will provide an “oasis” in the desert for you!



Monday, October 13, 2014

Congenital Defects


[Closeup photo of the face of a baby girl]

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
—Psalm 51:5

We thank God when we see a new baby healthy and strong. Most little ones appear so perfect in every way. Yet, some parents know all too well the reality of a baby born with a defect of some kind, even if she looks perfectly normal on the outside.

Many times these parents spend the early years of their child’s life in and out of operating rooms hoping that doctors can repair the problems with which she came into the world. They wait and watch for signs of normalcy and steady growth. If she progresses well, the parents rejoice that all the pain was worth the path to healing.

Truthfully, all people come into the world with congenital defects of the spiritual variety. We have a “heart defect.” In our natural state, we may look normal to the world, but inside we carry a flaw which will “kill” us in the end, unless we get help.

We are born spiritually blind to the fact that we begin our lives already mired in sin that we inherited from our parents all the way back to Adam. Unless we get the right treatment, we will go through life unable to see our own condition. In fact, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:1 that we are actually “…dead in our transgressions and sins.”

So, what do we have to do in order to obtain a repair for this condition and recover? There is really nothing we can do on our own. Fortunately, the operation has already occurred—the treatment has been completed! Jesus took the pain, the punishment for our sinful condition on the cross, and by faith in Him we can know His complete healing.

Jesus Himself said in John 5:24:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

For our blindness, God has given healing light, for Jesus is the Light of the World because, as the Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:4:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

Even centuries before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Ezekiel prophesied about the surgical procedure for our healing in Ezekiel 36:26:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Hallelujah! God has already provided a “heart” transplant, light to heal our blindness, and eternal life in place of the living death with which we came into the world.

Through Jesus, we can walk in His perfection throughout our lifetime and in the eternity beyond.



Monday, October 6, 2014

Stagnant Cisterns


[Photo of a pool of stagnant water]

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken
me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own
cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
—Jeremiah 2:13

“Me do it!” We hear this exclamation from the mouths of “Terrible Twos”—those children who want to show their independence of others. Unfortunately, the trend continues well into adulthood. We find we would rather do it ourselves than accept God’s provisions for us.

The men of Babel revealed this sinful inclination to self-sufficiency when they said in Genesis 11:4:

“Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Sometimes, men and women of sincere faith, like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, feel they can “help God” by doing something meaningful for Him. Notice what Peter said in Luke 9:33:

“Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Why do we offer up these stagnant waters from our own “cisterns” and forsake the fresh springs of Living Water that God offers? Not only did God speak to Jeremiah about this kind of sparkling, clean water, but when speaking to the Samaritan woman, Jesus called Himself the Water of Life. He said in John 4:13:

“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus not only wants us to quench our spiritual thirst by receiving the Living Water, He wants that water to flow from our lives to others. When speaking at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Jesus told the crowd in John 7:37-38:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.

Anything we offer to others or to God from our own reservoirs will only leave them running for a mouthwash! When we give the Water of Life—our Lord Jesus Christ—through the power of the Holy Spirit, we arouse their appetites, quench their thirst, and stir to life those who live in the land of death.

Let us forever take a sledgehammer to our old cisterns and fill them with cement. Then daily, let us drink deeply from the Spring of Living Waters, so that we might have something of great value to offer others.