January 12 – Satan Blinds

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Ironically, I am writing this from a waiting room at the Wooster Eye Clinic.  I am waiting on a patient who is receiving a new lens.  Vision in that particular eye is foggy at best.  The new lens is designed to restore good eyesight.

Meanwhile, there is a spiritual parallel to that foggy vision in the lives of many.  The “god of this age,” Satan, blinds the eyes of unbelievers so that they do not recognize the hope of the gospel and the glory of Jesus.  If you have placed faith in Christ, you likely find it difficult to understand why others can’t grasp the simplicity of the message and why they don’t embrace the Savior of the world.  Here is, at least, part of the answer.  They are incapable because Satan clouds their minds and blinds their eyes to the hope that God has made available.

Even though Satan clouds the vision and confuses the thinking of unbelievers, vision and clear-mindedness can be restored.  God’s power is greater than Satan’s.  He shines into the hearts of people so that the light of the knowledge of Christ illuminates their hearts (v. 6).  His Spirit can break through the blindness so that a person is convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8).

If God is stronger and He does illuminate understanding and open blind eyes, one might conclude that God always wins and that every person would become a believer.  Of course, you know that not to be the case.  Reality is that people still reject Christ, in spite of the conviction and illumination that God gives.  In addition to Satan’s blinding power, there are still the twin (and seemingly contradictory) realities of human free will and God’s sovereign choice.

Who do you know that is currently blinded by the god of this age?  Pray that their blinders fall away like scales from their eyes.  Engage them in conversation.  Plead with them on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to the Father (2 Cor. 5:20).

sbk

January 11 – Satan on the Prowl

Read 1 Peter 5:1-14

Although I have been to Africa, I did not have the opportunity of going on an adventurous African safari.  I did not go out into the nothingness between villages where lions, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos live.  Just imagine, however, if you were traveling on foot without a tour guide, jeep-like vehicle, and pith helmet through the very terrain, where these animals were known to live.  There is no doubt that you would heed Peter’s advice at the beginning of verse 8:  “Be alert and of sober mind.”  Indeed, you would “be alert.”  Your head would turn with every noise that you heard.  You would constantly scan the horizon for signs of one of these animals.  But you would also be “of sober mind.”  After all, a sighting of one of these animals represented, not only a photo op, but also great danger.

Of course, that is the imagery and the caution that Peter is attempting to communicate.  Satan, you see, is like a roaring lion.  He is on the prowl.  He is looking for easy prey.  He wants to devour people.  His objective is to “steal, kill, and destroy” (Jn. 10:10).  We must, therefore, have our eyes open.  We dare not be naïve in thinking either that he does not exist or that somehow we are exempt from his potential attack.

It is interesting to note that he apparently does some of his best work in the context of suffering.  I am not suggesting that he is always the source of suffering.  That may at times be the case, as with Job.  At other times, however, his attack may be an attempt to convince you to jettison or compromise your faith in the midst of suffering.  It is then that we must “resist him” and “stand firm in the faith.”  Don’t cave in the midst of trials!

After all, suffering is not unique to you.  In fact, just think of those who have endured much more than you and yet they have remained faithful.  Stand firm!

In addition, remember that suffering is only for a little while.  Resist the attacks of the devil,knowing that the Savior will one day rescue you from them.  On that day, you will have no regrets for having stood firm in the faith!

sbk

January 10 – Satan Attacks

Read Job 1:1-22

Sometimes conversations about you take place when you are not there.  We call it “talking behind your back,” and we typically don’t appreciate it when we know that it happens.  But that is the problem.  We don’t always know when it happens.

Job sure didn’t!  While he was enjoying a life richly blessed with livestock, possessions, and family, others were talking about him.  The “others” in this instance were not the neighbors in the house next door who were jealous of all he had.  No, these talkers were none other than the God of heaven and His adversary, Satan.  And their location was heaven itself.  (Sidebar #1:  Even though Satan currently has access to heaven as the “accuser of the brothers,” no worries, God is stronger!)

So, before the calamity broke loose in Job’s life, Satan dialogued with God.  God’s premise was that Job was a godly man.  Satan countered that Job was just a spoiled son of an overprotective Father.  But God responded, saying that Job was no wimp.  He could withstand the best that Satan could deliver.  While God gave Satan permission to attack Job, He also defined the limitations.  (Sidebar #2:  God has your back!  He boasts about, strengthens, and protects His children, even when they go through hard times!)

Suddenly, without knowledge of that conversation, Job’s blessed life was turned upside down!  On that day, people approached, each telling an “I’m the only one left” tale of tragedy.  Each messenger brought devastating news that was the result of this unheard conversation in heaven.  Each message was enough to cause a lesser man to crumble.

Not Job!

While others might have cursed God, he chose to bless Jehovah.  Though Job knew nothing about the heavenly conversation, he did understand something about stewardship.  In spite of the circumstances he experienced, he was still able to worship the One who had every right to give and to take away.  (Sidebar #3:  If your greatest prize is the Giver of the gifts rather than His gifts themselves, you can praise Him in the face of catastrophe.)

Yes, Satan sometimes has permission to attack you, but you don’t have to jettison your confidence in God!

sbk

January 9 – Temptation – Part #3

Read Matthew 4:1-11

The author of Hebrews tells us that “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”  (Heb. 4:15)  From that rich passage we see things about the sinlessness of Christ, His temptation, and His ability to identify with our situation.  But we also learn something about our own experience, namely this:  our temptation runs parallel to that which Jesus experienced.  We do well, then, to understand the nature of temptation and the tempter while also grasping the keys to making godly choices in the midst of temptation.

In Christ’s case, the devil himself was the source of His temptation (vv. 3, 11).  While he is very active today, keep in mind that he is not omnipresent.  He does, however, leverage his satanic influence through demonic powers in our own fallen nature and in a fallen world.

While our temptations may not necessarily have to do with food, spectacular miracles, and national power, we are subject to the temptations outlined by the apostle John:  “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16).  We may want to taste, feel, or experience something that lures us with the empty promise of satisfaction.  We may be attracted by something that appears to have beauty, but, in the end, brings death.  We may desire to impress others with position, possessions, or power while overlooking the fact that we will never have enough of any of those.

But Christ combated Satan with the word of God.  Your strength in the face of temptation comes from the Scriptures as well.  A strong commitment to truth is the only thing that will enable you to stay on a path of purity (Ps. 119:9).  It is only through the power of the word of God that you can recognize the lies of the tempter.  It is only then that we can see that he offers something he cannot deliver.

sbk

January 8 – Temptation – Part #2

Read Genesis 3:1-24

If you have been following along in our study of angels and demons, today’s reading likely sounded familiar.  We read it yesterday as we drew attention to Satan’s role in tempting Adam and the repercussions that we experience yet today.  There are, however, at least two additional observations from this passage that are worth noting.

  1. There is animosity between Satan and man. In speaking to the serpent, God expressed it like this: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  On the one hand, each of the offspring of Eve, every human being, has been in the cross hairs of the evil one.  He desires to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10) and is on the prowl looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).  Every human experiences satanic/demonic opposition.

But there is a sense in which the Father was speaking uniquely of Jesus Christ.  Even He experienced the hatred of the Tempter.  But, if you pay close attention to the end of that statement in Genesis 3, you will note that, while Satan struck the heel of Christ on the cross, Satan’s head will be crushed.  That crushing was certainly experienced in part at the resurrection.  In spite of the satanic plot to foil the plan of God to extend salvation to men, women, boys, and girls, Christ rose in divine victory!  And, ultimately, that crushing will be fully demonstrated as Satan is cast eternally into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20).

  1. The tree of life was declared off limits. Not wanting Adam and Eve to eat that fruit and live forever in their fallen state, God provided angelic cherubim who guarded access to the tree with flaming swords.  Thankfully, our access to that tree has not been denied forever.  One day, in a new heaven and earth, after the final judgment of Satan, those redeemed through the blood of Christ will see it and enjoy its produce.  “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”  (Rev. 22:2)

sbk

January 7 – Satan Tempts

Read Genesis 3:1-24

Time has passed for Lucifer.  Having aspired to be like God, he and his entourage of followers were expelled from their position among the holy angels with their corresponding privileges.  What initially began as a conflict confined to the invisible heavenly realm between Satan and God now spreads to earth as the devil places mankind in his cross hairs.

Just a little twisting of the truth was all it would take.

  • “God didn’t really say that, did He? That seems awfully restrictive!”
  • “Surely you won’t experience any negative consequences!”
  • “In reality, God is withholding something good from you!”

It all sounded good, so Eve “took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  And the consequences of these first two humans giving in to Satan are unparalleled but still felt in our day.  Their sin has impacted every generation since.  As a result…

  • Women experience pain in giving birth (v. 16).
  • Creation is cursed (vv. 17-19).
  • Work became a toilsome enterprise (vv. 17-19).

While we are all likely familiar with these oft-cited repercussions, there are yet other realities we experience today that we speak of less frequently.  As a result of that first act of disobedience, you see, we experience still today the ongoing opposition of Satan (v. 15).  Still today, he seeks to lure people into his trap.  Echoes of the devil’s lies reverberate in our day.  Whether with you or with those around you, he attempts to convince people that down is up and that wrong is right.  You have likely heard of people laughing at the guidelines God has established.  They are being duped by the same kinds of satanic lies heard originally by Eve as Adam listened in.

But there is more.  Because of Adam’s sin, every individual is sinful.  We are born guilty because of Adam.  And we are unable not to sin because we have inherited a sin nature from him (v. 8; Rom. 5:12-21).

But we are not without hope.  In spite of Adam’s failure, a Second Adam has come.  Jesus Christ offers us hope!

sbk

January 6 – Understand, Don’t Underestimate

Read Jude 1-25

Warning!  That’s what this one-chapter letter is.  It is a warning that false teachers attempt to infiltrate the ranks of believers.  They want to pervert grace and deny Christ.  They pervert grace by seemingly using it as a license for sin.  They deny Christ by failing to honor Him as master.  As a result, believers must sit up and take notice.  In fact, in the face of their attempts to lead people astray, Jude does more than warn believers.  He invites them to “contend for the faith.”  Like those entrusted with a sacred, precious treasure, we are to seek to protect and retain the sound teaching of God’s word.

The outcome for those who pervert grace and deny Christ is not pleasant.  Theirs is a future of condemnation.  While Jude develops that idea extensively by citing numerous Old Testament examples, it is particularly the angelic references that I want to highlight.

Their future condemnation is similar to that of angels who “abandoned their proper dwelling.”  This mysterious reference seems to be a reference to Genesis 6 where “sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose” (Gen. 6:6).  Many theologians agree that this refers to odd intermarriages between angelic beings and humans.  Clearly, this was outside of God’s plan.  Just as these angelic beings await judgment, so too, the false teachers will experience eternal sentencing.

Their current foolishness is depicted in the fact that they “revile angelic majesties” (v. 8 NASB).  Michael, the archangel, understood that one cannot stand alone against satanic power and influence.  Although this incident is cited nowhere else in Scripture, it seems that Michael and Satan argued over the body of Moses.  Michael was wise enough not to pronounce judgment on the devil.  Instead, he said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (v. 9)  False teachers, you see, do not have a proper respect for the reality of the unseen world.  They underestimate the power of angels and demons and exaggerate their own!

As we continue to round out our understanding of angels and demons, keep in mind that they are also moral beings that will one day be judged (1 Cor. 6:3).  And don’t underestimate the power of this invisible realm.

sbk

January 5 – Good angel gone bad!

Read Ezekiel 28:11-19

As I write this, the world is punctuated with national and international tension.  What will happen in, around, and through the nations in the Middle East?  Will terrorists attack again?  Where?  Why does everything feel like it’s out of control?

But international power struggles and threats are nothing new.  As Ezekiel wrote these words in the 6th century b.c., Israel found itself at odds with Tyre.  But, in this case, there was more at play than an earthly king gone bad.  I believe these verses give us insight into what it was (or who it was) that powered the king.  Like a puppet, the king of Tyre was being used by another force.  This powerful being was one who…

  • Was created by God (v. 15)
  • Had been perfect and blameless (vv. 12, 15)
  • Was present in the Garden of Eden (v. 13)
  • Had been an anointed guardian cherub (v. 14)
  • Enjoyed a privileged position on the holy mountain of God (v. 14)

Ezekiel is speaking of an angelic being that was like a precious gem to God.

But this good angel went bad.  Wickedness was found in him (v. 15).  He became proud.  Isaiah 14 seems to give us more insight on what happened.  This angelic “morning star,” you see, aspired to the very position of God.  He wanted to become like The Almighty.

God, however, is unwilling to share His position with anything or anyone else.  Consequently, the Lord expelled this angel and his band of angelic followers (now referred to as demons) from his privileged position among the angels.  We experience the results of that yet today.  These fallen angels place themselves in opposition to God’s plan in individuals and in the world.

Today we often refer to him as “Satan” and his comrades as “demons.”  The Scriptures refer to him with a number of different titles and names such as “the devil,” “Lucifer,” “the dragon,” “the god of this world,” “the tempter,” “the accuser of the saints,” “Belial,” and “Beelzebul.”  Whatever his title, he opposes God and seeks influence in people and nations.

That is a good reason to pray!

sbk

January 4 – Angelic protection

Read Matthew 26:36-56

We often speak in terms of guardian angels who offer protection to us.  This is not particularly unbiblical.  After all, we read in Hebrews 1:14 this rhetorical question that enables us to see that angel activity intersects with the lives of the redeemed:  “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”  Granted, we are not told that the ministry of angels is only protective in nature, but it seems consistent with some of the statements in Matthew’s gospel.

  1. At the beginning of Christ’s ministry, Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the top of the temple with the rationale, “He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.” (Matt. 4:6) Indeed, angels could have responded, but it would have been foolish to obligate God with such an unnecessary, foolish decision.
  2. In this passage, at the end of Christ’s ministry, soldiers have surrounded, seized, and arrested Jesus. When Peter strikes out in defense, Jesus makes clear that He could have called upon His Father, who would have dispensed twelve legions of angels (72,000) to come to His defense.  But Jesus chose not to call upon them because He was committed to the will of the Father expressed in the Old Testament Scriptures that included His suffering (Is. 53).

So, what about those times when the angels don’t show up?  Maybe it wasn’t as if we intentionally put ourselves or God in a position where they had to.  It isn’t like we foolishly stepped out in front of a car and somehow “obligated God” to respond to our stupidity.  No, it wasn’t like that at all.  Maybe we were driving in our own lane, minding our own business and we were struck by someone else, seemingly without angelic intervention.  We incurred injuries and major car damage.

Perhaps we tried to eat right, exercise some, and generally take good care of ourselves.  But where were the angels that should have prevented the diagnosis that included that dreaded 6-letter word c_____?

Those are good questions.  It is interesting, however, to recognize that the very one who had 72,000 angels ready to respond to His situation had also prayed just moments before His unwarranted arrest, “May Your will be done” (v. 42).

Is it possible, then, that the Father has a bigger plan…even when the angels don’t show up?  It may be a plan that I cannot yet see and, perhaps, one that I will never know.  It is, however, one that I can by faith embrace as I trust the One I live to honor.

sbk

January 3 – Angelic visitation

Read Genesis 18:1-33

It was February of 1991.  Our three-year-old son, my wife, and I were traveling on a cold wintry day on a state route outside of Fort Wayne, IN on our way to help a family member in Dayton, OH move to a new home.  Weather and road conditions were deteriorating rapidly.  As we approached the Ohio line, we found ourselves entangled in a multicar accident.  Thankfully, we were not injured.  Unfortunately, our car was totaled.  It seemed that we were stranded in a wintry world of white with nowhere to go and no one we knew.  But the people in the nearest house offered us not only a warm living room while we made some phone calls but even overnight housing allowing family members to come to our rescue the next day.

Now, clearly, we were not angelic beings like two of the three visitors that Abraham took in during the mid-day heat.  Neither was any of us a theophany (God appearing as a man) like the other of the three visitors Abraham welcomed.  But we, like the three in today’s reading, did experience the warm hospitality of others.

The idea of hospitality demonstrated towards strangers is a scary thought today.  We are taught to be skeptical about strangers.  We never know who they really are.  Are they who they claim to be?  Could she be a serial killer?  Could he be a child-molester?  Could their story just be a great deception designed to deceive?  Those are valid questions!  In fact, just a couple of days ago, I heard about a 90+ year old woman who went to the door as a man initially said he needed money for gas and then he proceeded to injure her.  We need to be appropriately cautious and incredibly wise.

While being wise and cautious, God wants us to love our neighbor (who may a stranded motorist we have never before met) and to demonstrate hospitality to strangers.  In fact, when we help strangers out, we may be experiencing an angelic encounter without realizing it.  Here is the way that Hebrews puts it:

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  Heb. 13:2

sbk