The Next Move Is Ours

 

In every board game, such as checkers or chess, the first player makes a move and then another move always has to be made, alternating back and forth until the game ends. Whether you go first or second, your opponent will always have to move one of his pieces to another space after you make your move.

While the work Jesus does is not a game, He does expect the same kind of action from us. In many areas during His time of ministry here on Earth He made the first move. Then He expected man to make the next move after Him.

Let’s look at a few examples. We find the narrative of the death of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus was informed by Mary that her brother Lazarus was sick to the point of death. Jesus could have just said the word and healed him, like He had done on many other occasions. But this time, He chose to wait until after Lazarus died before He traveled to Bethany where he once lived.

When Jesus finally did arrive, Lazarus had already been dead and buried in a cave for four days. At this point nobody believed there was any hope for him. But that did not matter to Jesus, for “with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). When He reached the opening of the cave that had been sealed with a large rock, Jesus told those present to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39). He made the first effort in regard to raising Lazarus from the dead; now they were to make the next move.

Jesus could have moved the rock Himself, but He wanted to see how much they really wanted Him to work in this predicament.

If they were not willing to take the simple step of removing the barrier to the cave, then why should He continue? “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid” (John 11:41). After a brief prayer to His Heavenly Father, “He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin.” (John 11:43-44a). Then “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44b). It would not have been difficult for Him to go one step further and free Lazarus from his burial cloth right then, but that was not the focus here. Jesus expected the next move to be made by them.

Another example is found in the eighth chapter of Luke. “…behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as He went the people thronged Him” (Luke 8:41-42). Common sense says that Jesus should have ordered the crowd to turn aside, rushed over to the ruler’s house, and healed his daughter while she was still just sick. But Jesus does not follow human common sense; He is only obedient to what His Father desires. Therefore, He allowed Himself to be delayed. When He finally arrived at the ruler’s residence, the man’s daughter was dead.

This time, Jesus did not tell anyone to physically do something. He expected them to: “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole” (Luke 8:50).

The next move was in their hands. Jairus needed to believe that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. In verses fifty-four and fifty-five, at least one of those present followed through and trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness. “And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her meat.”

Look at one more example found in the fifth chapter of John. In Jerusalem, there was a pool of water that was stirred up periodically by an angel. Whoever entered in during this time would be healed of his infirmity. One man present had been afflicted with a disease for at least thirty-eight years, yet he had not been able to enter into the water in time to be delivered from his condition.

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:6-7).

Obviously, the man wanted to be healed; he was just at a loss as to how to do it. But Jesus came along and made the first move: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

At this point, the man could have replied, “But sir, I have been trying to walk for some thirty-eight years now and nothing has happened. Could you just pick me up and place me in the pool when it is stirred again?” Yet, in the next verse, the afflicted man believed in the words of Jesus and he made the next move. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked…”

Time and time again, we find that God will move first, and then hand it over to us to trust in Him and make the subsequent step. He leaves us with the choice to either obey His request in order to have our victory and deliverance by faith, or to stand still in doubt and unbelief, missing out on the blessing He has in store for us.

The bones of Lazarus might still be sealed in a cave, a synagogue ruler’s young girl would never have seen her thirteenth birthday, and a man might have died next to a pool of healing water if those present had not obeyed the Lord’s command.

Jesus isn’t going to make all of the moves for us. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He will often leave a portion for us to do, in order to try our faith in Him. Whenever the Lord moves first in our life, we need to remember—the next move is ours.

 

[Image credits:channah/Freeimages;Devanath/Pixabay]

Connecting to the Right Outlet

Rockwell is a pretty smart guy, except when it comes to non-technical things. Sure, he knows that a car can’t run without gas or oil, and that refrigerators, microwave ovens, and light bulbs all need electricity to operate. But ask him how they function, and he will struggle to give an explanation.

This is why, one cold morning in early March, Rockwell could not get his electric space heater to operate. He plugged it into an outlet in the living room and turned it on. After ten minutes, nothing had happened. He removed the plug and inserted it into the socket underneath, but still no power or heat.

He picked up the heater, shook it vigorously several times and placed it back on the floor. There it sat with no lights, no noise, and certainly no warmth. 

With friends coming for lunch, he knew he had to do something to get the place warm. He went to the basement and brought up another heater—smaller but still adequate. He inserted its plug into the same receptacle, turned the unit on, and waited. It, too, just sat there—cold, dark, and quiet.

Rockwell decided that this was too technical for him to bother with at the moment. So he returned to fixing breakfast. Meanwhile, his neighbor stopped by for a brief visit.  He noticed right off that the house had almost no warmth, but he figured that Rockwell was already aware of this, so he kept silent and sat at the breakfast table. After they chatted a while, the temperature grew colder, and his neighbor could not remain quiet any longer. “Rocky, my boy, are you running absent-minded this morning, or did your heater give out on you?”

“Well, I plugged it in and tried all kinds of things to make it work. I even hooked up another one I got downstairs. I figured if I wait long enough, one might eventually turn on one way or another.”

His neighbor went over, checked both heaters, then the outlet.  Then he took a desk lamp, connected it to the same outlet, and got the same results: nothing. Finally he took one heater and plugged it into another electrical socket across the room. Voila! It came alive immediately and began to warm the room.

“Well, there’s your problem,” his neighbor remarked. “They were plugged into a dead outlet. For some reason, there was no power available there. They have to be connected to the right outlet if they are going to heat the room. All of your efforts earlier were useless.”

Now, how many of us today are living a cold life? Not a physical cold, where we need socks, sweaters, and heaters to get and stay warm, but spiritually, in our hearts. No matter what good method we try, we can’t seem to find the solution. We accepted Jesus Christ in our heart, yet we are still in a constant struggle to be free of some bondage in our life. Whether it is smoking, alcohol, drugs, pornography, immorality, lying, stealing, or a whole host of other sinful habits, we just cannot rid ourselves of their control.

So we turn to the medical world, psychology, self-help programs, religion, government assistance, pastors, churches, neighbors, and family members. We pray, go to church, read the Bible and consult other Christians, yet we still struggle with these problems. They frequently make us ashamed, depressed, confused, and overwhelmed.

We vow at the beginning of each day or week that we will not give in, but we still end up succumbing to the same sinful actions. 

As a Christian, why does it have to be this way? Why can’t we be free and victorious? Why do we have to be in this bondage? The answers lie in our understanding of Jesus Christ and the cross. By putting our faith in something else, we will always be under the control of sin. God does not want us to be in this state any more than we do, which is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He fulfilled all of the requirements of His Father that we could never accomplish, and paid a debt that we are unable to repay. 

The problem is that, when we accepted His Son into our hearts and made Him Lord of our life, we did not totally yield to Him. Instead, we continued to fight these battles with sin (a spiritual problem) in our own strength and effort (a non-spiritual answer).

Look at this another way. We are attempting to remove the coldness (sin) from our heart by connecting to a dead outlet (the world and its hopeless solutions). But when we plug into a live outlet (Jesus Christ and His victory on the cross), we allow power (His Spirit) to flow freely in our life. He is now able to remove the control all of these sinful habits mentioned earlier have on us, and our heart begins to warm up.

But, as long as we keep trying to clean up our sins by our self, we remain connected to a dead outlet and receive no connection to the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us. 

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). The “law of the Spirit of life” refers to when we connect into the live outlet. By plugging into a dead outlet, we are walking after the flesh, meaning the ways of this sinful world, which will always be followed by “the law of sin and death,” or bondage. 

Jesus said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

The only way to be free of the sin habit that perpetually plagues us is to accept the victory of the finished work of Jesus on the cross as our own victory. Stop plugging into a dead outlet of our own futile works, thereby cancelling out all Christ has done for us. Connect to the right outlet and we, as children of God, will find freedom from the control sin has had in our heart and life.

 

[Image credit:Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

Would You Die For Your Enemies?

“…God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

The Lord was pointing here to His reconciling death, which both His friends and enemies alike needed very much. The idea here is that sometimes a need is so compelling that a man might choose to die for the ungodly and his enemies even over the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the godly and his friends. This kind of love was the kind that Jesus had for man—demonstrated by His voluntary death on man’s behalf—which is the greatest love that there is.

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom 5:9).

Being now justified” means being pardoned, or accepted as His friends. When we were still His enemies, Jesus overcame everything that would keep us from being saved. So how much more reason we now have to expect Him to give us His protection, since we have become His friends. “By His blood” means by His death. Our value to God is in direct proportion to the value of the price of our redemption. We have been purchased and purified at the price of Jesus’ own shed blood, which makes us holy in God’s eyes. He will certainly keep His promise since we have been bought with such a very dear price.

“…if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom 5:10).

Jesus undertook this work while we were still His enemies. But it was by this very work that we were changed from His enemies into His friends. God laid its foundation while we were still opposed to and resisting Him. This revealed that God was determined on His part to perform it. And He has consequently made the solemn promise that it will be made perfect. “We were reconciled” means that we have been brought to an agreement in a state of friendship and union with God. We became His friend, laid aside our opposition, and welcomed Him as our friend. The great design of God’s salvation plan was to accomplish this very thing.

This means that obstacles existed before which had to be reconciled on both God’s side and our side. But His death removed them, on His part. And on our part, we were reconciled when we honored His Law which showed His hatred of sin and upheld His justice. A Christian is reconciled to God by overcoming man’s hatred of God and His Law, and by bringing man into submission to His rule. He is also reconciled when his former unwillingness to be reconciled is removed by bringing his heart under control—by changing and setting it apart unto God. Now man is able to become the friend of God. All of this was accomplished by the sacrifice of His Son as an offering in our place. The two opposing sides have now been reunited!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

How perfect the love of Jesus is to us. He described the people He died for as “His friends.” And His object and purpose was displayed by “laying down My life for My friends.” But they were not His friends originally. They were enemies and hated God—all at the very same time that His Son laid down His life for them in order to reconcile them to God!

By ‘friends,’ Jesus did not mean those who love Him, but those whom He loves. These ‘friends’ Jesus died for are the same people Paul referred to by the opposite name—he said Jesus died for His ‘enemies.’ They weren’t the kind who had behaved themselves like friends, or shown any love and affection to Him at all—they were the opposite. They were only called friends because He chose them to be His friends. And by dying for His ‘friends,’ Jesus reconciled the ones who were His enemies by His Spirit and grace, and made them His friends.

Therefore, this love of Jesus, shown in giving His life for His people, is greater than any example of love among men. A man might lay down his life for others who deserve it, or he might even be forced to do it. Some may die hoping for worldly applause and glory. But when Jesus laid His life down for His enemies, He had no evil or selfish views—He freely volunteered to do it at the highest ultimate cost to Himself. Jesus would never have had His friends if He had not died for His enemies. He shows the way we are to deal with those who are alienated and hostile to God—by pouring out His unselfish, self-sacrificing affection on them, which will conquer all in the end. The death of Christ has therefore become both the pattern for our life and the hope for our heart.

When Jesus hung on the cross dying, His enemies rejoiced and triumphed over defeating Him. Yet the true, ultimate outcome of His humble and weak condition was to reconcile us to God.

And if He had the power to accomplish such a great work as reconciling us when He was humble and despised and dying, then how much more can we expect Him to be able to keep us safely in His care now that He’s the living, lifted up, triumphant Redeemer! If His powers which were weakened in dying were enough to reconcile us, how much more will His full, vigorous powers as an exalted Redeemer be enough to save and keep us! Judas “…betrayed Him…saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He…” (Mt 26:48). But Christ “kisses His enemies with the kisses of His mouth”, and makes them His friends—because He loves them! Now what He Himself said: “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19) is made clear. He willingly died for His enemies; will we willingly live as His friends?

This is a companion article to one written about Jesus dying for His friends. Please click here to read more.

 

[Image credits:(angry man) Rene Asmussenfoto/Freeimages; (angry woman) Cristina Matei/Freeimages; (cross) abcdz2000/Freeimages]

Would You Die For Your Friend?

graphic of blue background with a silhouette of person kneeling at a cross

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

This verse emphasizes that Jesus laid down His life for His friends. There is no better way to show a dear friend how much you care than to lay down your life on his or her behalf if it becomes necessary. And this is the kind of love Jesus has for us if we are His friends. He laid down His life for the ones He loved, and He wants us to be willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

God lives in all those who belong to Him. Others are thereby able to see God, because He is in us. They can recognize Him in us by His love shown forth to them through us. God approves of the kind of love that we transfer from ourself to our brothers and sisters in Him. He is looking for this kind of love which makes us forget ourself and pursue the good and well-being of others.

The love referred to here is the love of God in Christ—because Christ is love. And how do we know for certain that He loved us? He was willing to give up His life for us on the cross.

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us…” (1 John 3:16). And if we have the love of God in us like Jesus did, then we will be willing to die for one another if necessary to prove it is so. Therefore, the life of a believer should not be more important to him than the life of God’s own Son was to Him. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) emphasizes what the love of Jesus really is, and what our love should be.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another(John 13:34). Not long after He said this to His disciples, Jesus did lay down His life for them. This explains what He meant when He said “as I have loved you.” And those who believe in Christ should come up to this level of love also. When Christ came down from Heaven to Earth, He laid His royal majesty and glory aside. He loved man more than all of it—enough to give His very life for those who are so very dear to Him. This was the great love of Christ for His people, the very highest example of love among men.

The love Christ has for us He demonstrated in “laying down My life for My friends.” Jesus was referring to His atoning death which everyone needs, whether His enemies or His friends. It was His high purpose to display the greatest love there can be—the sacrifice of ourself for those we love. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). He confidently stated that the friendship kind of love He had was so strong, so intense, that He was willing to make this ultimate sacrifice for those He loved so dearly.

There are some people who would be willing to give time, or money, or position, etc. to benefit their friends. But the one element we all recognize as proof of love and friendship is when a friend is willing to deny himself on our behalf.

And the highest proof there can be of human love is when someone is willing to give up his or her life for the sake of a friend’s life. God gave the very highest proof possible to prove His love. Nothing could be more precious than the life of the One who is the Word of God, who was made flesh for our benefit. The most precious proof was the sacrifice Jesus made of His own life on behalf of His friends.

It was by Christ’s teaching that man received knowledge about God. But it was by His death on the cross that man was able to receive salvation. Jesus willingly sacrificed His life to win our hearts and make us His true friends. He brought a spiritual principle and power to our nature to tie us to Him in devotion and thankfulness for all time. Jesus was saying that we should love our brothers and sisters in the Lord with love of the same kind and high degree that He manifested for us. For the good of our friends, we must be ready even to die. Christ is love, and if we love as He loved, then we must be willing even to die for each other—one of the greatest needs among God’s people today. Ask yourself today—how high is my love for others, compared to Christ’s love for me?

 

[Image credit:Gerd Altmann/Pixabay]

Born to Die?

Since the time of creation billions have been born into this world, lived out their lives and then died. Yet out of these there was only one who was born to die. Over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ was born as a man to make a way for all of those who accept and believe in Him to have life for eternity.

No king, queen or leader of a nation, no prophet, apostle or leader of a religious organization was ever born to die for every human being who lived, is living or is yet to be born. Not a single person in the history of the world ever sacrificially gave their life like He did.

Jesus came to this world so that we could have everlasting life. He took on Himself all of our sins to the cross where he willingly gave His life. He loved us so much that paid a debt that we could never possibly repay, a debt He did not owe.

Whether it is Christmas day or any day of the year let us remember the One who was born to die so that we, if we accept Him, might live forever.

To find out more about accepting Jesus into your heart and life please click here.

 

[Image credit: Jeff Jacobs/pixabay & Derek Boggs/freeimages]

Your True Strength—the Joy of the Lord

A beam of sunlight shining through grey clouds on a body of water between two low mountain ranges[Image Credit: Davide Cantelli/Unsplash]

“Make no attempt to leave, thirst and mull over your spoiled gruel and keep it all for yourself, regardless of how much worse another’s condition is: for this night is full of sinful revelry to our Lord the devil: make every effort to feel sorry for yourself; for the misery and disappointment of the devil is your weakness and hopelessness.” Doesn’t this fictitious passage from an “anti-Bible” sound depressing? Yet it could describe just another day and night in the life of many people today. Why is it that way? It is from to a lack of real joy in their hearts.

We most commonly equate joy only with happiness. We can have happiness along with joy, but happiness is not all that joy is. Happiness is only a temporal and often conditional state of mind or being. It will come and it will go. We humans have often proven ourselves capable of going from happiness to misery in an instant. But real joy holds fast, regardless of our current condition or situation. The fact is that true and lasting joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.

Here’s that verse from the “anti-Bible” again, this time in its proper biblical form: “…Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Here the Israelites, who had been in captivity in Babylon over one hundred and sixty years, were just now returning to Jerusalem. While they were removed from their homeland for such a long period of time, they had been kept from really knowing the law of God (the first five books of the Old Testament—basically the “Bible” of that period). When, at long last, the people were able to hear God’s word read and explained to them again, they were grieved in their hearts and down in spirit as they became aware of their ignorance and disobedience.

As a result, Nehemiah, the governor of the land, made this proclamation to the Israelites, in order to encourage and remind them that it was a time of renewal and restoration of God’s covenant.

He and the priests did not want the people to focus on their failures, but on the One who could bring them out of their hopelessness and helplessness.

The “joy of the Lord” in this verse means reliance on the unfailing nature of God. But when men build their hope up on this sinful world, they will be disappointed every time. Joy is one common thread woven throughout the whole Word of God. It is not based on what we do, or don’t do, or only on our current circumstances. Joy is something that Jesus places within those who have committed their heart and life to Him. Joy is not found in what Jesus does, but in Jesus Himself and His unfailing nature.

When Jesus came to this Earth as a man, He didn’t just bring a smile to someone’s face and then move on. That would only be happiness. Instead, His life became the perfect example of joy. No matter what trial or situation He went through, He put “the joy of the Lord is your strength” into practice. He did not wonder or agonize over how, or if, He was going to make it through. He put His whole trust in His Heavenly Father instead, who always made His joy complete. He knew without any doubt that failure was not part of His Father’s nature.

Open Bible laying flat on hardwood table with hands folded and resting partially near lower portion of book[Image Credit: Pixabay]

How can we have the joy of the Lord? Simply by keeping His commandments and obeying His Word. “As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:9-11).

How do we effectively keep His commandments? By not trying to physically accomplish them in our own incomplete capacity. Obedience to God’s Word is not like a collection of merit badges that we must try to earn in order to be in right standing with God. Due to our inherently sinful self, it is impossible for us to fulfill all of God’s law and requirements in our own strength—although untold millions have tried to, always without success. That is why He sent His Son to Earth—to be our source of strength. Jesus is fully qualified and capable of fulfilling all God deems necessary to be in right standing with Him. Instead of trying to do everything to be obedient to God by our own efforts, we should look to Jesus—which is just what God has wanted from us all along. All the way from creation to today, He has wanted man to trust and be dependent on Him alone.

All too often we focus only on misery, doubt and disappointment, which are inspired by the devil. But they only keep us in bondage.

No matter how hard we attempt to overcome the trying circumstances that we are in or will be going through, we will never be totally victorious without Jesus Christ. We can even be the happiest and most joyful-looking people around, but that is not lasting joy. True joy is Jesus Christ. He alone is our strength. Always turn to the One who cannot fail. He will carry us through, regardless of the difficulty of the trial or situation. Then we will know for ourselves that the joy of the Lord will be our strength.

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.

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.

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.

The Path to Greatness

A great tit feeding its young.

What is the whole work of a servant? It is to serve. Even though Jesus is God and King, He gave up all claims to honor and glory in order to be a servant to man. Since He was willing to yield Himself to the lowest position of a servant in order to serve the very ones He created, where do we get the idea that serving others is beneath us? “…the servant is not greater than his lord…” (John 13:16).

Jesus urged His disciples to desire earnestly to be a servant to not only some, but to all. “…whosoever will be chief among you…,” the one in the first or highest position—in order to have the first place in the kingdom of the Messiah—should first be a servant. The Apostle Paul confirmed this by becoming a servant to all men himself, despite the fact that he was a free man. He was willing to do this so that men might come to Christ. This attitude made him the “chief among the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) even though he considered himself the least of the apostles, and even the least of all the saints. But far more important than seeking to be chief over men is seeking the salvation of men’s souls.

Much of the time Jesus spent ministering here on Earth was in healing the sick and helping the suffering. During that era, the task of dealing with the sick and suffering was assigned to servants. Jesus gave up His personal freedom in order to bear the burdens of the sick, the suffering, the friendless, and the nobodies. His example demonstrated that true ministry really means serving, or assisting those in need. “Minister” and “servant are the true distinguishing marks of greatness. The message here is that anyone seeking greatness will do so by becoming the greatest servant.

Therefore, what should be the spirit of God’s ministers? A minister called of God should devote his time, his talents, his abilities, and his powers to the well-being of the flock Jesus has put in his care. He should not lord himself over Jesus’ flock. He should not take care of the affairs of the portion of the Church in his care by imposing his own will on others as if he ‘ruled’ the Church.

True greatness involves serving the body of Christ like the first apostles did. It also applies to a man who can humble himself and stoop to the lowest offices—if that is what it takes to move the true happiness and salvation of his fellow men forward.

He should be willing to spend himself in serving that flock. He should even be willing in his heart to give up his life unto death if necessary, if it will move the salvation of others forward. Paul said, “…I will very gladly spend and be spent for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Jesus promoted this idea, which He also lived Himself. His greatest apostle also lived it. Yet there are some, if not many, who still hold to the idea that greatness does not come from serving the lowly, but from being honored and served and elevated to a position of great dignity by others instead. The very attitude and exercise of serving, no matter how low it must go—when done willingly out of sincere sympathy and concern for the good of others—leads to being exalted. “…whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28). This is where that we find the path to true greatness.