This Present Darkness…

Periodically, I will go back and re-read books that I find valuable or entertaining.  In keeping with this tradition, I’m about to start reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti again.

The Bible tells us that what we deal with on a daily basis is not physical in nature; rather, it is spiritual.  Failing to understand that basic truth can cause all kinds of problems in your life.  There is a war going on for your soul and you will always be a casualty if you don’t know you’re in the cross-hairs of the enemy!  Paul clues us in to this foundational truth about life in his letter to the Ephesians:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12 (ESV)

Our struggle is against whom?  President Obama?  Republicans/Democrats?  Blacks, whites, neo-nazis, or Al-Queda?  No.  We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood.  We struggle against spiritual forces.  So many times we set our aim on people, not realizing all along that there is more at play than what meets the eye.  Did you ever stop to think on the higher reality that those who cause us difficulty and harm, though responsible for their actions, are under the influence of evil spiritual powers?   I really wonder how many of the ailments we see plaguing society are really caused by spiritual influence rather than physical imperfections (split personalities, depression, suicide, ADD, homosexuality, abortion, sexual perversion, etc…).  Saying that they are influenced by the spiritual does not give license to condone or practice these activities, but it can shed light as to the source of the problem.  Dealing with these types of problems with medicine will never work if they are spiritual in nature.  This is not to say that there are not true medical conditions out there that can be treated, but you have to admit that the concept of a spiritual root is provocative and worthy of serious consideration.  Along the lines of this train of thought, if there were demons present and active in the time of Jesus, did they pack up shop and call it a day when he ascended to heaven?  I think not!  That begs to question, “Where did they go?” and “What, if anything, are they doing now?”  I submit to you that they didn’t go anywhere and are just as active today, if not more active.  But I digress….

Notice that Paul gives a hierarchical listing: rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers.  Just like any modern military, there is an order to Satan’s forces, each with increasingly higher power and authority to work their evil.  Notice that Paul also clues us into the where: the heavenly places.  Where is that?  Those are the places you cannot see but exist nonetheless.  We now know from science that we live in more that four dimensions.  Four you say?  Height, depth, width, and time make up the four observable dimensions, but there are others that are not directly perceptible.  Science is confirming what the Bible has said all along.  Even though we cannot directly perceive the heavenly realms with our eyes, they exist and are populated with both good and evil beings.

The concept of evil and even the use of the word is largely missing in our sophisticated, humanist view of the world at large.  But make no mistake, just because we don’t use the word or acknowledge its workings, evil is present, alive, and on the move in the world today.  Christians accept the reality of the Trinity: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  If we can accept that each person of the Trinity is actively at work in the world today, then how large a leap of logic does it take to realize that Satan and his angels are hard at work in the world as well?

Sometimes it takes a vivid illustration to make this point and This Present Darkness will snap you out of any sleepy illusion that you may hold regarding the world of the spirit  and give you a fictional, but very thought-provoking view of what it looks like behind the scenes in the realm of the spiritual as it collides and interacts with what we see in the physical.

There is a war raging all around you.  Not consciously making a choice for one side or the other will not prevent you from becoming embroiled in the fray.  The war is real, the stakes are high, and you cannot escape it!  If your eyes are not open to this reality, then I pray that you take the time to explore my claims so that you can prepare and equip yourself to be the active warrior and not an unknowing victim.

Fortunately, the hard part is already done for you:  Jesus died according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose on the third day according to the scriptures.  Putting your faith in him and believing that only he has the power to cleanse you of your sin (another word we do not use much today), break you out of the chains of your current bondage, set you free, and make you a new man or woman truly alive as you were created to be is the solution.  And he will also give you the power to stand against the tide of evil washing over the face of the earth…the power to stand against this present darkness!

Be blessed!

It Only Takes One…

I was in the car yesterday at a stoplight while out running errands.  As I looked out my window, I saw a woman there with a sign asking for a donation.  I reached into my wallet to pull out my solitary dollar (I tend to use check cards so I don’t carry much cash), then I beckoned the woman over.  I actually had to wait as the truck in front of me was doing the same thing.  She came, got my dollar, then I noticed that the person behind me was giving as well and it made me think back to other times I’d given to someone on the street.  It seems to me that if one persons starts the process, then other people tend to pick up on the moment and give as well.  Perhaps they already had it in mind to do so…perhaps it was guilt, or peer pressure….  Who knows?  But I know the end result is that the person was helped.

Now I know there are myriad reasons for not wanting to give money to a person on the street corner and I will admit that those thoughts cross my mind as well, but the bottom line is we are told to give to those in need.  Period.  I won’t beat a dead horse here, but I will say that I just make it my policy to give and not question the motives of the receiver.  That is between God and them as far as I am concerned.  What I tend to think of is:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  (Matthew 25:35-40 ESV)

Remember, an enormous chain of events can start with a single action.  Will you be the one to start it all?

The War Within…

We recently covered Romans Chapter 7 on a Sunday morning in church and reading this again just serves to remind me of the war within…the war between the flesh and the spirit.

I found it interesting to see that the law allows us to recognize sin, and that recognition produces the desire in us, as a fallen race, to do that which we ought not do.

What then shall we say?  That the law is sin?  By no means!  yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”  But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.  For apart from the law, sin lies dead.  I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.  The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.  For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.  So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me?  By no means!  It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. (vv. 7-14 ESV).

Furthermore, the flesh produces all manner of conflict as show by Paul when he continues in verses 15-23:

For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (vv. 15-23 ESV)

Paul describes the war we all experience within and he, very interestingly, personifies sin.  He doesn’t describe it as some inanimate, impassive, or impotent idea; rather, he uses active words like “seizing”, “deceived”, and “killed” to accurately describe what sin seeks to do to all of mankind who know the righteous Law of God.

This war plagues all who know the truth and Paul laments this, then gives the remedy:

Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 7:24 – 8:5 ESV)

Thank God!

Lord, may I live by the Spirit and not the flesh this day and every day through your power and sacrifice on my behalf.  Amen.

Are We All Overcomers?

Many Christians believe and teach that all of us become overcomers the moment we are born again and they use 1 John 5:4-5 as a proof text: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (ESV)

Consequently, the idea that a Christian can somehow fail to be an overcomer and lose his inheritance is a totally foreign notion to many.  This fallacy (that we are all automatically overcomers) has robbed the church of the truth, clouded its perspective of grace, and played right into the enemy’s hands.  Now, it’s true that positionally we are overcomers when we are first born again because Christ lives in us.  (He is the true overcomer!)  But “experientially,” how many of us really are overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil, even after being Christians for years?  Not very many of us!

There is no teaching quite as conducive to godless living on the part of Christians than the teaching that all Christians, no matter how they live their lives here and now, will someday rule and reign with Christ.  This philosophy frees Christians from any responsibility toward God in regards to daily living.  This is the type of theology that has caused our kids to say, “Hey, I’m saved; that’s all I care about, it doesn’t really matter how I live my life now.” Continue reading

A Highly Recommended Book For You

I’ve had this book for quite some time and I believe it is one of the most important books I will read in my lifetime besides the Bible itself.  Every time I settle down to start reading and studying the material, something takes me away and I never get finished.  The title is “The Kingdom, Power & Glory: The Overcomer’s Handbook”  by Chuck and Nancy Missler.  Here’s Nancy talking about it:

You can order it directly from their site: http://kingshighway.org/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=6 or from any other online retailer such as Amazon, Books-A-Million, or Barnes and Noble.

Let me know what you think!

Step Up To the Plate…

Sometimes I wonder why everyone thinks the government should have to provide all of the assistance to the needy in our nation.  Whatever happened to the Church handling this?  We do not need more government…we need more Godly people to step up to the plate and be the salt and light within the communities in which we live.

Disobedience and Mercy…

We all know that our actions, for good or for ill, have consequences.  The Bible is full of examples of this, but I want to focus on two examples: one of disobedience and one of mercy.

Israel looked at the nations around her and, not content to be led by the prophet Samuel, decided they wanted a King.  Though advised against such a desire, God relented and appointed Saul, son of Kish to rule over them.  Saul was instructed to destroy the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:7-28), but he did not.  In disobedience, Saul spared the King and the best of the flocks.  His disobedience cost him dearly!

Fast forward several years into the future.  Absalom, David’s son, revolts and David is leaving into exile.  Shimei, a man belonging to the family of the house of Saul was yelling curses as David approached (2 Sam 16:5-13, 19:16-23).  He even went to far as to throw stones at David, all the royal servants, the people and the warriors.  His soldiers wanted to kill Shimei for the offenses, but David thoughtfully refrained. He showed mercy.

Now, let us examine the consequences of these two actions. To do so, we need to look at the Hadassah’s story (Book of Esther).  Here’s a brief summary (read the book, it will not take you long):

  • The Book of Esther can be divided into three main sections.  Chapters 1:1-2:18 – Hadassah (a.k.a. Esther) replaces Queen Vashti; 2:19-7:10 – Mordecai overcomes Haman; 8:1-10:3 – Israel survives Haman’s attempt to destroy them.  The noble Esther risked her own death as she realized what was at stake.  She willingly did what could have been a deadly maneuver and took on the second in command of her husband’s kingdom, Haman.  She proved a wise and most worthy opponent, all the while remaining humble and respectful of the position of her husband-king.

Let us turn our attention to two integral persons in this event: Mordecai and Haman.  Haman was hell-bent upon the destruction of the Jews, not just in his city, but throughout the entire Persian kingdom!  Mordecai adopted Hadassah as his own in her parents absence and was instrumental in raising this gem of a girl who would one day become a queen and save her people.  Here’s the rub: Haman was a descendant of the Amalekite king who should have been destroyed had Saul obeyed his orders to destroy all of the Amalekites.  But, because he didn’t, the very fate of Israel was at stake.  Mordecai, on the other hand, was a direct descendant of Shimei, David’s thorn in the side.  Because David spared Shimei when everyone else wanted his head for what he had done, he allowed the mentor of the woman who would save the nation to be born.

Our choices have consequences…sometimes very far-reaching consequences!  I am reminded of the words of Moses: I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. 
    Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV


May you make choices that bring life and blessings rather than death and cursing!

Blessings!