The Masquerade

Photo of costume masks hanging on display

“Hey, Mitch, what are you wearing for the masquerade?” a voice yelled out from one cubicle. “Mitch, is the bell going to toll this year?” said another voice bursting out of one of the offices, followed by uproarious laughter. Mitchell began to hurry as he walked to the city planner’s office. He had often regretted his choice of dressing up as a Liberty Bell two years ago, ever since he first stepped foot in the annual gala. The masquerade ball, hosted by the city to benefit the abused children’s home, was one of the biggest events of the year. People from all over the region and even other parts of the world would attend, wearing some of the most elaborate costumes ever seen.

When Steve, the city planner, saw Mitchell at the door, he interrupted the others’ conversation. “Mitch, I know “gala planning” is not regular city business activity, but I’ve got to press you into going this year. I’ve heard you’re still reeling from the reaction to that bell costume a few years ago, but people loved it.” The others in the room readily agreed. “Look, you’ve got to remember that this whole event is for the children,” Steve pleaded passionately. “Oh, before I forget, here are the reports I wanted to give you. Don’t be a devil and let them ‘fall’ off the back of your motorcycle this time.” Mitch initially returned the quip with a sheepish look, but then followed up with a devious smile.

When Mitch woke up early the next day, his day off, he could hardly wait to get downtown to the theatrical supply outlet. He knew that if he was going make a big splash this year, his outfit would have to truly be out of this world. The clerks were few, but their knowledge was phenomenal. He eventually had enough supplies to make a dozen devils. After racing back home, he began composing all the elements for his breathtakingly ‘devilish’ design. His pinstriped suit was black and flaming red, his pointed boots—deep cherry, and his face, hands, neck and ears were all painted bright red. Even his hair was dyed a flaming red and spiked, complete with two curved horns. With pitchfork in hand and faux fangs in his mouth, he could have scared the devil himself! “Ha! Let’s see them in hysterics over this. I’ll have them hiding under the stage in sheer terror!”

man with devilish appearance with red candlelight underneath face

He arrived at the hall hours early, but the line to get in was already over two blocks long. “I can’t just stand here all afternoon,” Mitch thought as he surveyed the crowd. “Even fifteen minutes will take away most of the effectiveness of this outfit.” After driving around awhile, he discovered a place he could slip in unnoticed. He gloated to himself about how he just parked and passed hundreds of people in only ten minutes. “Why, I didn’t even pay the admission. My, my, how evil I am!”

Once inside the auditorium, Mitch was stunned by how lavishly the building had been transformed. After severely startling three people and causing another to faint, he decided to sit in a darkened corner and nap until the crowd really filled the building. Loud trumpet blasts from the band soon awakened him, so Mitch decided the time was now right to make his entry. Assorted screams and gasps emanated from those at the tables he passed as he made his way over and sat down. All eyes were on him as he slowly lifted his head and looked around, or so he thought.

But, across the vast room, there was another man drawing the attention of almost everyone in sight. His eyes captivated anyone who looked at him. They were totally enamored with him. It seemed that everything he said or did left them in awe. But he had no costume. He was simply dressed impeccably instead. No suit in the world could even remotely come close to the one he wore. Even his hair was styled perfectly.

Mitch was crestfallen. He had one of the most striking costumes in the building, but it was no match for this individual. He tried parading about with a vicious sneer and an evil laugh that would chill anyone’s spine, while shaking and pointing vigorously with his pitchfork, but to little avail. Almost everyone gravitated toward the slick and amiable stranger. Finally admitting defeat, he decided to leave. On his way out, he passed near the man of the hour. As he glanced over in the other man’s direction, he paused as he was conversing with the multitude and remarked: “Hey, nice outfit. I appreciate the publicity.” Mitch nodded in return, finding himself totally unable to speak. He finally broke free from the hold this guy seemed to have on him and managed to leave. But the man’s words continued to ring in his head. He blurted out, “Who does he think he is, the devil himself?” as he walked toward his motorcycle.

When the word ‘devil’ is mentioned, the most common image that comes to mind is some creature resembling Mitch in his outfit. This is just what the devil wants us to believe. While there is no denying that the inhabitants of the underworld are grotesque, the fact of the matter is that deception is not usually presented by slimy, repulsive, obnoxious and horrifying creatures. We are, instead, most easily fooled by what is familiar to us. As master of lies and deception, the devil loves to make himself and his work look extremely appealing, while at the same time, it is breaking us down and destroying us.

If someone quickly ran up to us in a terrifying costume with arms waving about and a deep growl in his voice, we’d most likely flee for our life. We wouldn’t calmly stand there and engage him in pleasant conversation. Yet the devil himself, or one of his demons, can casually stroll up to us in a fine suit with fine speech and great charisma and we are totally mesmerized. When the devil came to Eve back in the Garden of Eden, he did not scare her into disobeying God. He was subtle and pleasing, and he even used God’s word (incorrectly, of course) to deceive her.

The devil uses any available means that will make us more susceptible and vulnerable, such as alcohol, drugs (legal or illegal), pornography, audio, video (like certain kinds of music, movies, video games, and television) and even what we eat.

As our resistance goes down, a door opens spiritually for his ‘helpers’ (demons) to enter our life. We may not always be actually occupied by these spiritual entities, yet we may still allow them to control us. This is why the Bible warns us to keep far from evil. Look all throughout the Old Testament and you’ll find instances where people fell for the devil’s charm and deception and became corrupted.

The point is, we are not to be fooled. The Bible speaks of the devil as “transformed into [masquerading as] an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and as a roaring lion, [who] walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He is also mentioned as one who “cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). The devil plays for keeps, using anything and everything within his power to try to deceive us and bring us down. But we don’t need to fear him, since his power over us is only as great as we allow it to be.

When Jesus sacrificed His life at the cross, He took away the devil’s power and authority over the children of God. When we stand on that finished work of Jesus and His victory on the cross, then we can have victory over the devil too. The key to victory is to increase and deepen our relationship with Him. Just saying that we have received Him into our heart is not enough. We must follow up and cultivate that bond through prayer and reflecting deeply on his Word. On the other hand, the less time we spend with God, the more vulnerable we become to the devil’s subtleties. As a result, we actually give him power over us, because we have turned our eyes off of Jesus and onto whatever the devil cleverly tries to slip in. He knows he has already been defeated by Jesus, but continues to do his best to keep this revelation away from us.

Don’t be entranced by his masquerade as a suave, savvy and reputable being. Keep your focus on Jesus instead, and leave it there, and you won’t be fooled when the devil masquerades in front of you.

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What Are You Doing Here?

rocky cave entrance

Fear can cause all kinds of reactions and impulses in us depending on the circumstances. Many will flee, while others may just stand still, like a deer in an approaching vehicle’s headlights. Some will not think or act rationally and might even aid that which is creating fear in the first place. Fear in itself is not necessarily wrong, such as fear of a vicious dog running toward us, or of being in an open area with a severe storm approaching.

The problem comes when we are living in a state of fear.

The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect [godly] love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). One might think that just because someone is a godly individual, they have completely overcome fear, but that is usually not the case.

There was a prophet named Elijah in the book of First Kings. He had just proven before the Israelites that God is a living god and had put to shame the prophets of Baal, who found out that their ‘god’ was lifeless, having no power or authority. As a result, these false prophets were slain. He then sought God to bring rain back upon the drought-stricken land of Israel. All of this was done in the presence of Ahab, the king of Israel. He had seen the hand of God make a mockery of the priests of Baal, and was actually riding in his chariot as the rain fell in abundance. Yet all he could do in return was to emphasize the death of the prophets of Baal in his report of Elijah’s actions to his wife Jezebel (one of the most wicked people in history). Naturally, this did not set well with her. “Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2).

You would think that, after all that had just occurred, Elijah would have stood up to her empty threats in the name of God. “And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:2-4).

Instead of seeking God, like he had done during the challenge to the prophets of Baal, and bringing rain upon the land, Elijah let his fear of Jezebel get the best of him and he ran away from the situation. Some say he ran as much as 180 miles!

But he still did not outrun or escape God. “And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) God let him know that he was out of place in His plans. Elijah thought he was justified in fleeing, and he ultimately felt that he was the only prophet left in the whole region (or even the whole world!). How often we listen solely to our own mind for wisdom and advice.

Through Elijah, we can see how even a prophet of God will fall prey to fear when he takes his eyes off of God and looks to self instead.

As stated earlier, “there is no fear in love.” When we let go of God’s hand in our self-confidence, we find that fear is quick to take its place, which will often result in irrational behavior. “He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The key for us here is to maintain a steadfast relationship with God through His Son Jesus, where perfect (godly) love is found. When we focus on Christ, we rest in the shadow of the cross and fear will not enter in. When we become distracted, we let our relationship slip, especially concerning our self or the cares of this world. We can’t let fear take us over to the point where we think running away is the best thing to do. The Apostle Paul said, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13).

When the devil brings about a situation of fear, we are not to run or fight; we are to simply stand and hold our ground.

How often our fears are not legitimate but just empty threats. Yet we still resort to looking to our own self for the answer. Many times we go to extremes to evade fear and windup up out of the plan of God for our life. But in the end, we finally realize that we can never outrun God. This is actually good, because we have the assurance that He will be there for us when we finally give up and turn to Him for help. Our goal should be to turn our fear over to God at the outset. We should never reach the place where God has to ask, “What are you doing here?”

Spiritual Property Theft

a graphic of a masked thief of intellectual or spiritual property evading a policeman

(Image credit: Montage by author, unmodified graphic by Mohamed Hasen/Pixabay)

Josef enjoyed his work as senior engineer at Applied Technological Counter-analysis Systems. He emigrated to the United States from Europe more than 35 years ago and became a U.S. citizen several years later. He had always considered the United States to be a place of innovation and promise. Numerous patents were in his portfolio, along with electronic part designs and technical drawings for potential government communication equipment.

His son Giorgio is a professional musician and filmmaker whose name can be found on more than 26 different albums on the market. Many of his films have successfully made their way through the global film market, including more than 10 documentaries which have been nominated for, or have won, top awards. Josef’s daughter, Maria, an artist, author, and website designer, has also won numerous accolades for her work. Many of her books have risen to the national bestseller lists.

But over the past several years, Josef has grown increasingly aware of unusual activity both at work and at home. His biggest suspicion arose after an unexpected visit by several old classmates from the college he attended in Europe. Their visit was congenial, and all were very eager to examine his design work and read many reports he had archived long ago. One claimed to be researching material for a documentary he was writing, but whenever Josef inquired about it, a vague answer was the only reply.

His son and daughter also discovered their work in parts of the world where they have no distribution network. Maria was visiting an Asian country recently where she discovered a painting of hers for sale. She was alarmed that the signature on it was not hers, and that there were ten more just like it! She had never painted more than one of any of her works at any point in her career. Another time, Giorgio heard a song that he wrote and performed being played on a child’s music player, with no credit being given to him. It was a low quality counterfeit of one from a major toy manufacturer. They have even found some of their movies, books and poetry redistributed under someone else’s name.

The final straw came when Josef’s employer recently approached him about a design he had drawn up for a government contract the company had secured. That design had taken him many weeks to put together. Now the company wanted to know why a foreign manufacturer had not only already put the design into actual production, but had also released it for sale to the wholesale industrial market. After much consultation and collaboration with the government and the company’s legal department, Josef found that he, his company, and his children had all been victims of intellectual property (IP) theft.

This story is fictitious, but the actual concept is all too real. IP theft is a serious and difficult crime to combat that has been increasing steadily for several decades. Intellectual property basically consists of ownership of an intellectual creation, i.e., something that a person comes up from his own mind. It can include, but is not limited to: formulas, logos, books, movies, software, works of art, inventions, copyrights, trademarks, patents, literature, trade secrets, and client lists.

Losses due to IP theft add up to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. As nations are becoming more globally connected, IP theft will only continue to rise. While economic loss is a significant part of the problem, the negative impact on creators of intellectual property can be just as great also. The vast amount of creative labor now being exploited is already incalculable. As technology advances by leaps and bounds, it won’t be long before no amount of government intervention will be able to fully reign in all of the counterfeiting and piracy of goods and ideas.

Yet an even greater kind of thievery has already been active for many centuries, which could be called “spiritual property” theft.

This happens when the devil counterfeits what God has created or instituted. The devil, once known as Lucifer, was the greatest of the angels and the choirmaster of Heaven. He tried to capitalize on his superiority by attempting to commit mutiny against God Himself. This resulted in him being thrown out of Heaven, along with a third of the other angels he also managed to deceive. Ever since then, he has surreptitiously continued to try to thwart and overthrow God. As the great deceiver, he makes every effort to make a nearly identical replica of the works of God in order to deceive us. He knows that he cannot successfully attack God directly, but he can attack through us, who were created “in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1) and are the dearest to His heart.

The devil constantly tries to get us out of God’s hand. He wants us to give up, turn against God, and come back into his world. Then he can boast to God about how His plan doesn’t work. The world is really just a battleground between the devil and God, with us caught up in the middle! This is why “spiritual” property theft is a far greater offense than anything else in this world. The Bible says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10).

The devil cannot create anything original; therefore he mimics, duplicates, or outright steals the works of God.

Thousands of years of experience observing the human race has made him extremely knowledgeable about man, to the point that he knows even more about us than we know about ourselves. He well knows how to deceive us to the point that we might even believe that he is Jesus Himself. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Therefore, as believers in Christ, it is imperative that we rightly establish ourselves in our relationship with Him. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). We are to look solely to Him, not some cheap imitation who will only lead us astray. Jesus is true and genuine; all else is just a lousy counterfeit. When He sacrificed His life on the cross and then rose again, He took away the ground for the devil to stand on. Jesus warned us to “…take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8).

With intellectual property theft, the value of the created item or idea is reduced as more and more pirated items are acquired, up to the point that the original creation becomes worthless. When we fall for the fake material that the devil promotes as genuine, in place of the real work of God, we do the same thing spiritually. We ultimately make God and His Son of no worth and thereby nullify our relationship with Him. The answer to spiritual property theft is Jesus. Let’s draw near to God in prayer and really seek His face, desiring of Him only that which is true. The more time spent with our Creator and in His Word, the less likely we will be led astray by the imitations of the devil.

Don’t Lower Your Sails Prematurely

 

Large white modern sailing ship with sails rolled up

How often we believers in Christ easily become spiritually complacent in our walk with God. Throughout the Old Testament we find many examples of complacency where the Israelites took God for granted. As a result, God would withdraw and let them find out that they were operating on their own. Through defeat in a battle, or being taken captive by their enemies, they learned the hard way that to be victorious in God, they had to continually obey His Word and also prepare themselves for the next trial or attack of the enemy. But whenever they became complacent or self-righteous, they failed.

God expects us to do as the Israelites should have done. We are not going in battle physically with our spears, clubs, swords, and armor today, but we are still fighting an enemy, and ours is unseen. Jesus said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38 emphasis added). Jesus would not have told His disciples this if He knew that they were strong in their spirit.

It is human nature to ease off at, or after, a time of victory. Compare this to a runner or race car driver who slows down or even stops just as he is about to win a race—even though his competition is coming up fast right behind him. Yet this is the very point when we must be the most vigilant. Peter became an example of how easy it is to be complacent concerning God, even though he was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. “And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, and thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept” (Mark 14:66-72). Not once, but three times Peter denied that he was connected with Jesus. Yet this is the same person who, just a short time earlier, had said “…though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Matthew 26:35).

Peter in his own wisdom thought he was strong spiritually, and probably felt that after having been with Jesus for some time, he could never stray away from Him.

This is why Jesus emphasized many times that we must watch and, as well, pray. Whenever something is mentioned in the Bible one time—it is important, two times—it is very important, and multiple times—it is extremely important. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He is well aware that we tend to grow overly confident and then we stumble. Had the Israelites gone to God during and after the victories that He brought them through as much as they had prior to the battles, there would have been fewer defeats afterward. If Peter had been watching and praying prior to Jesus’ arrest, his faith would not have wavered and left him open for the devil to push him to deny Christ.

Watching doesn’t involve our physical eyesight solely; it is a spiritual matter as well. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). God wants us to be in tune with Him through the Holy Spirit. If we are not open to His Spirit trying to alert us of impending danger, we leave ourselves prone to failure when temptation arises. It is only through His Spirit that we can truly know and deal properly with spiritual matters.

Accordingly, prayer must follow when we have been made aware of any imminent peril by the Holy Spirit. We are to go to God and seek Him for direction and protection for what is to come. We need to be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit as we pray, or else we will ask amiss and be ineffectual in our petitions to Him.

If we are watching without praying, we are like a child who sees an impending attack, but just stands there, instead of crying out to a parent for help and protection.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). God expects us to continually keep watch and then pray, for we, in our own physical understanding, do not know when or where the devil may strike. Our victory only comes through Jesus and His finished work on the cross. But when we become complacent, we take our eyes off of Christ and look at ourselves. This will result in a hopeless defeat by the devil. Don’t be like the captain of a sailing ship who, upon seeing land ahead, lowered his sails prematurely hoping to come in on his momentum, while failing to look behind and see a violent storm rapidly approaching. Let’s keep our sails fully open while we watch and pray accordingly.

Trust Your Shield

graphic of red and silver shield with sword and battle axe

“God is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him” (Proverbs 30:5).

There are two ways we can obtain knowledge of God: by His word revealed to us, and by the experience of others who have put their trust in Him. His word portrays Him as the proper object for us to trust in both the natural realm and in the spiritual realm, always. Therefore, we are not to put our trust in rulers or in other men, but in God and His word. He repeatedly emphasizes that it is absolutely necessary for us to put our trust only in Him. Every word of God is pure, having already been put to the test in the hot oven of experience. And He provides perfect protection for all who rely on His word. Yet it is not so much His word itself that helps us, but God Himself, who spoke the word.

God called Israel, His chosen people to whom He had revealed Himself and His will, to trust in Him and no one else. And we are to trust in Him also. In fact, any soul who prays, whether Jew or Gentile, should trust in the Lord, not in man. He is the God who has made precious promises to man. He can always be trusted in everything earthly and in everything spiritual. He keeps His covenant. If we put our trust in God, we will not fail—because He cannot fail.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).

A warrior equipped with a shield on his arm can shove death aside. But the believer in God depends on Him as his shield to oppose the enemy’s blows. He is therefore kept free from harm. So we can put our full confidence in Him to protect us. We are not to trust in any creature. We are not to trust in our own righteousness or strength. We are not to trust even in our own heart. We are to trust in the Lord’s righteousness and strength alone. God told Abraham, “Fear not…I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). And He tells us that He will be our shield too, if we put our trust in Him. Then we will be able to receive His protection and blessing and prosperity. He is our shield to protect us from all our enemies by His grace and His power—whether sin, the devil, or the world—or all three. He also protects us from error and false doctrine.

“The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:3).

The Lord will become our rock, our fortress, and our shield since we cannot become these on our own. No man could become them for us instead. Man is without help when Satan comes against him, because man and his methods have no effect on the supernatural powers of darkness. The only Rock and Deliverer we can turn to and count on is the Lord. In Him alone we can place our trust. He is “the God of my rock” who is my shield.

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3).

The power of demons will be strongly used against every child of God, especially those with a divine touch on their life. It doesn’t matter what we feel in times of danger; the only way to have victory over these enemies is through the Lord in all dangers. We must put our total trust in God or we will not have victory. When we are sure we totally trust in Him, then we can, with confidence, totally expect to be victorious and have complete deliverance ourselves. Whoever tries a direction different from what is stated here will not succeed. He will be destroyed by the enemy in the end. But when we will put our full trust in the Lord God, He will be our shield, and we will be victorious!