When Prosperity Comes, Head to the Brook

A postcard of the brook Cherith from 1921
[Image credit: Picryl/Library of Congress

Have you, as a child of God, ever noticed that when a prosperous season comes to you, God will often send you away to a place of separation? It won’t necessarily be to an isolated shack in the middle of a desert or a forest; in fact, you may never even leave your own home. Instead, it will most likely be to a place where you are removed from regular contact, perhaps with close friends or relatives, or maybe those you work with. You would very likely have difficulty fulfilling even your daily needs through them anyway. You may try to seek assistance instead from someone else you know, or perhaps through some public service, only to be politely turned down. You will probably reach a point where your main source of sustenance seems to just disappear.

It is at this point that you will likely question God about your current circumstances, with the thought that something has gone seriously wrong here! Feelings of self-pity begin to spring up from sources previously unknown to you. Your thinking begins to be dominated by the mindset that “practically everyone else is doing well, so why can’t I do well too?” What you fail to realize is that this is just the place where God wants you to be! He doesn’t want you feeling sorry for yourself. In your time of desperation, His goal is for you to no longer be centered on self-reliance, but on developing and increasing your God-reliance.

We find Elijah, a prophet of God in the Old Testament, at a time when he was also separated from others and led into a position where he was forced to be dependent on God.

At that particular period, Israel had drifted away from God, and He brought a drought into the land through Elijah as a result. “…Elijah …said unto Ahab [the king], As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

Even though the rains did stop and the dew no longer formed, the land did not immediately cease being prosperous. Yet God told Elijah, “Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there” (1 Kings 17:3, 4). Elijah knew that he had to remove himself from the presence of the king and his officials after publicly making the proclamation of no rain. But he could have discreetly stayed somewhere in the region for a while. After all, the land was still producing abundantly and the people still had plenty. Yet he “did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan” (1 Kings 17:5) before the drought began to take its toll.

Notice that God sent him to a brook, not a river. This particular brook was a seasonal stream anyway, and it would not last.

“…it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land” (1 Kings 17:7). God surely could have led Elijah to the Jordan River, or some other large body of water. And even Elijah’s food was brought in by the birds, since there were no herds that could have continually sustained him grazing nearby. Once again, God had Elijah where He wanted him, just like He has you.

God wants His children, in flourishing times or in lean times, to be dependent on Him. Elijah’s assigned brook was feeble, but God could have kept it continually flowing, and He could have even provided additional birds to deliver more food. Elijah could have tried digging a well, or searching for work with a sheepherder or farmer. It would have been a very difficult journey, but the possibility existed for him to go to another region or country that had plenty to eat and drink. But to do so would only have separated him from the will of God.

It was God who placed Elijah into this situation, but it was not permanent, because God did not intend for him to stay there long. When the brook dried up later, Elijah was forced to move on. But even after it dried up and the birds ceased to provide for Elijah, God still made a way through a widow nearby. Not only was Elijah sustained then by her, but the woman and her son were also blessed to overflowing! If God had sent Elijah to a large river instead, he would have very likely taken God for granted, and would not have left the area.

During a season of prosperity, the child of God can stop being dependent on Him so easily.

But He wants us to look to Him, not on what He gives us, or on what the world provides. Even if your rain and dew do not stop, the brook will still cease to flow. The birds will also no longer supply your needs. This is not accidental—God has intended it to be this way. As your Heavenly Father, it is not His desire for you to be independent of Him and self-reliant. Follow Elijah’s example by looking to Him and depending on His faithfulness, and not by looking to others or the world around you for your sustenance.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him” Lamentations (3:22-25).

Advertisements

Where Were the Carpenters After They Built the Ark?

Drawing of workers constructing oNoah's ark by A. KircherImage Credit: Wellcome Collection

“God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before Me…Make thee an ark…” (Genesis 6:13-14).

For almost 6,000 years, God has allowed man to follow his own path to progress by permitting him to bring his principles and methods of accomplishing his goals to full development. By the time of Noah, what was the final outcome of the first sixteen centuries of “progress”? All Earth’s inhabitants had broken entirely free from any moral restraint and become wholly corrupted. Lack of belief in God and disobedience to Him had ruined the moral nature God had given them so much that no hope remained.

All flesh had reached the point where it couldn’t get any worse. So God had nothing left to work with. All He could do was to totally destroy them, saving only the few who were righteous and still obedient to Him. Only one man and his family qualified when the climax of evil had been reached. All the rest of mankind had become devastated. Now God alone could provide the remedy for the future of the human race.

Today man is exposed to a similar situation of danger. The Lord has declared that He’s soon going to call the whole world to judgment for its sins against Him—yet we do not prepare for it in any way.

In fact, many laugh and sneer at the very idea. Nevertheless, God’s wrath is going to fall. Why did God tell Noah “make thee an ark”? Because His sentence of death has been “passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12) already.

But along with the sentence of death, God made a promise of deliverance. Whenever God makes His darkest threats, He always reveals a way of escape. He sent the flood, but also provided an ark. Lot had to flee from Sodom before God destroyed it, but He provided the little city of Zoar for him to escape to. And God warns us today of the penalty for sinning against Him, at the same time providing the message of Christ—that He is full of mercy, unwilling for any to perish.

Noah had a firm belief in what God said He was going to do, in spite of the unbelief everywhere around him. He was in awe of God and had made up his mind to take advantage of any means God might provide to escape the coming wrath. Nevertheless, God did not make an ark and hand it to Noah. Man had to construct it himself from materials of this Earth.

A photograph of a life-sized replica of Noah's arkImage Credit: Greg Reese

At the same time that other men were chasing after wealth and freely indulging in pleasure and sin, Noah was using his wealth and substance to build the ark. It was a gigantic ship, the largest to that time, about a third of the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier. His holdings must have been sizable to be able to provide enough funds to construct such a monumental project.

Certainly his three sons would have helped build it, but even so, much more manpower would have been needed to complete such an undertaking.

There were men living then who had prospered in just about everything material. Some would have gladly received a contract to work in Noah’s shipyard, all the while having contempt for his reasons for building the ark. But, in spite of their attitude, every time they hit a nail or sawed a board, God provided another chance for them to repent of their man-centered evil ways and come to Him.

God offered all the people a way of safety, of salvation, to see if they would believe Him and accept the only way out. But they were not willing to consider living in an ark for months, because they were not willing to believe that a life-destroying flood was coming. Who would trust the ark to be their salvation if they truly thought they could manage an easier way? The first and hardest step toward helping people to get saved is convincing the careless and the prospering that their way of salvation will not save them. Yet they are not capable of saving themselves.

Noah believed God when He told him a massive flood of destruction was coming for all mankind. He knew he had only two choices: destruction or deliverance. So he took the necessary steps to conduct himself in a way that he would be allowed to escape the coming disaster. We have to obey God’s instructions to us as much as Noah had to obey God’s instructions to him. He had to have an ark built to be saved. But all we have to do today is to get into the Ark God already prepared for us.

Noah’s eyes could not see a flood forming, but his eyes of faith did see, and he believed in the reality of it, more than the reality of all he could touch and see right around him.

This made it possible for him to ignore the endless taunts thrown at him day by day and year by year. The direction his life was going to take was either pure foolishness, or it was more real than anything else at that time. A hundred and twenty years might have passed from God’s warning to Noah until the Flood actually came. Yet Noah held to what he believed God had told him. He did not let his faith waver the whole time. Then he was taken away, just as the very apex of human evil arrived, before God’s judgment had to be poured out.

And what about our faith today? Are we even aware of the coming destruction that looms just ahead? Do we believe God as He forewarns us to come into the Ark of safety? He has provided a similar means of escape for us like He did for Noah. He has provided His only begotten Son as the Ark for all who will believe. They will be able to board the Ark, but it will not remain open for the multitude that refuses to believe. Those people think their own good works will be sufficient to save them, but their works are about as useful as a raft in a flood! Who would be foolish enough to provide himself with just a raft if he knew a monsoon was coming?

A graphical image of Noah's ark floating in water during heavy rains with dark grey sky all around.Image Credit: Jeff Jacobs

It’s possible that many workmen who signed up to work on the shipbuilding project may not have made fun of Noah. But where were they when Noah went up the ramp into the ark? The neighbors of Noah most likely helped him obey what God had told him to do also. They may have helped make the way of salvation possible, yet they never obeyed God themselves. They also stood watching as Noah and his family went into the ark. What happened to them? Every last one of them drowned in the Flood.

Faithfully building the ark in response to God’s command was one way Noah preached righteousness to those around him. Yet none of them took advantage of his invitation to come aboard and escape the inevitable destruction of themselves and all around them. Even the woodcutters, carpenters, and other builders were ultimately destroyed—because they would not come into the very ark they had built! They failed to consider the future while they worked on the present project. So they ended up outside the ark of safety, and when it was too late, they realized that it had been built for them!

Have you climbed aboard the Ark yourself? You may be one of those who helped build it, yet not be on it when judgment comes! Where were the carpenters after they built the ark?

“In Spite of It All, the Lord Stood With Me”

Man sitting alone in large area with dark background in sunlight

Paul the Apostle is considered to be one of the greatest men in the Bible. He was educated by highly distinguished teachers, and obtained the status of a very knowledgeable and outstanding religious leader among the Jewish people. He said of himself that “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city  at the feet of Gamaliel [well-respected teacher and authority of the Jewish law], and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God…” (Acts 22:3).

He considered believers in Jesus Christ to be heretics and enemies of the Jews, and he was determined to try to exterminate them all in the name of God. But God turned all of that around by bringing Paul to the point where he, himself, became a believer in Christ. This forced him to reconsider all that he had been taught. He eventually came to the point where he could say, “…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Asa result, instead of continuing to berate and eliminate the Christians, he began to humbly exhort and teach them and to preach Christ and Him crucified to them.

Paul became the author of almost one third of the New Testament. He encouraged both individual believers and churches, and set certain erroneous beliefs in the fellowships of the believers of that day straight. He also traveled extensively across the Mediterranean region, from Spain to Jerusalem, by land and by sea, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to Jews and non-Jews alike.

Throughout all of this, a great number of fellow believers in Christ assisted and encouraged him, both physically and spiritually, wherever he went. But in the end, when it came time for him to stand trial before the Roman emperor Nero, he said that “…no man stood with me, all men forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16). Like Christ at His trial and crucifixion, not one person stood by his side. Imagine how disappointed and downcast he could have been at that point.

Thankfully, the story does not end there, as we read in the next verse: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear…” (2 Timothy 4:17).

Paul had the greatest support of all—the Lord Himself. What a wonderful, reassuring thought, to know that Jesus is by our side giving us strength and encouragement, much more than any other person on this Earth could ever do.

While we may never be in a position as dire as what Paul encountered, how often do we wallow in self-pity and despair over circumstances and situations that are nowhere near the level of Paul’s? Proverbs describes the best characteristic of a real friend: “…there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). The friend most true is Jesus Christ Himself. Through thick and thin, He will be right there by our side, “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). No matter how great or small the trial is that we are in, we can always rest assured that He is there with us, if we have put our trust in Him.

As we read through the New Testament, we find that God kept Paul in a position where he would not want to do anything else but look to Christ.

Even though he went from being beaten almost to death, then shackled in a prison cell, to being in the heart of an angry mob, to surviving a shipwreck, he never believed that God had abandoned him.

We as believers in Christ must remain continually in this same attitude. Our desire, our focus, and our faith must all be on Jesus Christ and the cross. Our best friends, closest relatives, and other loved ones may all forsake us at some crucial point in our life. Yet, as long as we pursue and obey Christ, and do not look to our self, He will always remain by our side and will never forsake us. In our most trying times, may we, as well, be able to say to others: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17a).

The Ultimate Insurance

handshake in front of various insurance terms

The concept of insurance has been traced as far back as 1700 BC in the Babylonian period. It is basically a guarantee provided by an individual, company, organization, or governmental entity for reimbursement of a specific loss. In return, the provider expects payment of a premium or prearranged fee for the duration of coverage. While the principle concept is simple and relatively beneficial as a whole, it has currently evolved and exploded exponentially into a global, multi-billion dollar industry that impacts the welfare of businesses and individuals alike.

We can now find insurance for practically everything. We can insure our health and our life as well as our pet’s health. Farmers can get coverage for their livestock and crops—and even weather insurance. If we want a home, we’ll need insurance for it, especially if we get a loan. We can get coverage to protect against mortgage rate increases, not to mention for losses due to floods and earthquakes, depending on where we live. The person who built the house most likely had builder’s insurance too. Are we planning to rent it out? Then we’ll want landlord’s insurance, and whoever rents it will need insurance also. If we have a registered vehicle, then we are required to have insurance, not so much for ourselves, but to cover the other person who runs into us, and vice versa. If we own a business we will need insurance, and if we have employees we will need coverage for them, too. If there are customers or visitors present, then liability insurance is necessary. How about legal expenses, our kid’s Ivy League university tuition, a superb singing voice, or that trip to Europe? Somebody will be glad to provide coverage for any or all of these, if we want to pay for it. We can find insurance for terminal illness, accidental death, terrorism, kidnapping and ransoms, cyber-attacks, divorces, and much more.

photograph of a person holding pen while about to fill out life insurance document

It seems like almost all areas of life can be insured to some degree. But what about when life is over? Sure, there is life insurance and death insurance, but how about for what happens to us after this life is ended, whether we are buried away or scattered over the sea? There are some who readily claim to insure the soul for a sizable fee, but their methods will only ensure that their wallets remain full. Why? We can find the answer in the Bible. Jesus said, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Unless we go to Jesus and accept Him into our heart, there is no guarantee or insurance for getting to Heaven for us when we leave this life for eternity. There is no other way or means that we, or anyone else, can carry out that will accomplish the same result.

Contrary to popular belief, God loves us more than we could ever possibly imagine. No one in history, on this earth and beyond, loved us so much that they gave their only son to die for us. God’s Son, as well, willingly came to this earth to sacrifice His life on a cross to pay for not only our sins, but also for all of those in the past, and all of those yet to be born. God knew that it was impossible for us to pay the price for all of the wrongdoings we have committed against Him. That is why His Son, Jesus, lovingly took our place. When we reject His sacrifice, we are telling God that we know more than He does and our way is better. In essence, God does not send us to hell—we commit ourselves there through our self-righteousness and the rejection of His Son. God intended hell solely for fallen angels who rebelled against Him ages ago, and not for us, His beloved human creation. By acknowledging His Son and His sacrifice, as well as forsaking our sinful, rebellious ways, we insure ourselves against a life in hell forever. We open the door to real peace and joy.

We can have insurance against almost every possible loss that could happen in this world, but in the end, it still won’t be enough.

What we need is the “ultimate insurance”—Jesus Christ. His policy is not full of exceptions and fine print. It will never fail or expire. There are no surprises or continual rate increases. Pre-existing conditions don’t matter, and we will never be turned down. Jesus said “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Insurance is of little benefit if you wait until after you need it to decide. So give your heart over to Him today, while you still can.

To read more on how you can give your life over to Jesus please click here.

Are You Traveling On or Giving Up?

hikers on small clearing of hill

There was a man in the Old Testament named Job (rhymes with globe) who was in right standing in God’s eyes. Yet he went through suffering and an extremely great loss to the point that he wished he was never born. Even his wife said to curse God and end his life! Several of his friends, hearing of his losses and the anguish he was going through, came to the place where he resided. Rather than giving encouragement and support, they chided and ‘counseled’ him in what they believed were his erroneous ways. Each one felt that, obviously, he must have sinned and needed to repent of his wrongful actions. They were convinced that God was punishing him and that there was no possibility that He would work in any other manner.

Their ‘help’ was really just condemnation after condemnation.

Not one openly sought God first about Job’s condition; they firmly believed they were right and he was wrong. None ever considered that God ordained all of this and was behind it all, even Job himself—until sometime later when God made it known.

Yet, through it all, Job did not sin against God. He did not follow his wife’s advice. He lost his wealth, family, and health. This struggle brought him down to the very core of his being. But in the end, he knew and trusted in God in a manner like no one else around him. God works this way in all who truly want to follow Him. As we travel the path He has laid for us, we often find it to be a real struggle. There are rough places and narrow stretches. We are accused and blamed though we have done nothing wrong. It is not easy like others said it would be.

But, in spite of it all, as we follow God’s word and draw closer to Him, we continue to find many areas of our life become better than they were before we knew Him.

The word ‘travel’ has the same origin as ‘travail’—meaning to torment, labor, or journey. While we are not necessarily tortured, we do toil, labor, and struggle on a journey—but this one has eternal rewards. And, unlike traveling (or travailing) in this current world’s system, which leads only to physical exhaustion and death, we are on our way to a heavenly place which has no pain, struggle, toil, or travail.

We, like Job, are in a continual refinement process, not so much to prepare us for our heavenly destination, as for the present age that we live in.

We could equate our travail with the actions of a vaccine. It introduces a small amount of a disease into us so our body builds up immunity, or a means to cope with greater amounts of the same or a similar malady in the future. Similarly, God leads us into situations to bring us where we will turn to Him for deliverance. As a result, when similar problems come our way, we know how to handle them victoriously, just as Jesus did when the storm came upon the boat He and His disciples were traveling in.

“Now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with His disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth. But as they sailed He fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then He arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And He said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for He commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey Him.” (Luke 8:23-25 emphasis added). Jesus had been tested in another manner sometime prior to this. Having successfully gone through that particular trial, He was now able to rest, knowing His Heavenly Father would bring Him through this one safely also.

Looking back over the centuries, multitudes have traveled on in their journey to their resting place in heaven. Many were beaten, stoned, tortured, burned, ridiculed, imprisoned, maligned, falsely accused, and the list goes on—but they did not compromise or give up in their journey. Their focus remained on their heavenly home, knowing that this life is only temporary and all it contains will not last.

Problems and trials should never keep us from wanting to go forward in our walk with God.

In the beginning, it looked hopeless for Job. Yet he never threw up his arms in desperation and gave up on God (although he may have wanted to concerning his so-called ‘friends’!). The apostle Paul went through all kinds of anguish, but his response was: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12: 9, 10). When trying situations and circumstances come our way, let’s not be downcast, but rather let’s say, in the words of the hymn writer:

My heav’nly home is bright and fair,
I feel like traveling on;
Nor pain nor death can enter there,
I feel like traveling on.

Let others seek a home below,
I feel like traveling on;
Which flames devour, or waves o’erflow,
I feel like traveling on.

The Lord has been so good to me,
I feel like traveling on;
Until that blessed home I see,
I feel like traveling on.

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.

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!