What Cloud Are You Under?

 

A watercolor painting of cloud over camp of Israelites in the wilderness

When God brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt into the wilderness, He led them in a rather unconventional way. “…the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). One pillar provided shelter from the hot sun, and the other illuminated the darkness—both of which were a visible expression of God’s presence, since no human being can physically see God Himself and live.

Wherever the cloud went, the people were to pack up and follow it.

“And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed” (Numbers 9:21-22).

Notice that the cloud remained ahead of the people; they did not move on past it into unsafe and uncharted territory.

Only once, when they were being pursued by the Egyptian army, did God arrange for it to be behind them as protection. “…the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:19-20).

As children of God today, we likewise need to pursue after God’s presence.

He wants to continually dwell among us now spiritually, just as He did physically, in a sense, among the Israelites. But sadly, we often follow the wrong cloud. This kind begins as a small cluster, but develops quickly as it feeds on our unbelief and worry. The more we focus on it, the more it grows, filling with all kinds of sin, such as lust, adultery, pride, greed, envy, hate, murder, etc. It does not just linger over us; it envelopes us as well.  If we continue on after it, we will eventually be overtaken to the point of death. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord desires our obedience to His Word and our continual fellowship with Him, not with the cares or pleasures of this sinful world.

It is when we take our eyes off Him that we no longer know if He has moved on. It is not that He actually leaves us behind, but that we become distracted and end up not moving, or we drift away in another direction. This is when that dark mass of evil and sin starts to form like a cloud over us, which ends up restricting the view we can see around us, and, unlike God’s presence, it will not illuminate the night. In fact, it is the very darkness that only He can dispel.

What cloud are you following today? Is it the one of His presence and life, or of unbelief, sin and death? There are all kinds of clouds—yet only one is His.

Your life will never be secure and at peace with God if you are under one of the other kinds of cloud.

Too many in this world today have the wrong cloud covering over them. As a result, they continually wander in the desert, vulnerable to the enemy. God made a way for us to know where He is, day or night. Look upon His cloud and be led by Him, and you’ll be safe and sheltered from all harm.

 

[Image credit: J.J. Derghi, 1866. Wellcome Collection. CC BY]

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!

Greater Than Any Fence

sunset and heron behind fence

A simple chain-link fence was all that separated me from the Great Blue Heron standing at the pond’s edge. Hoping for the “perfect shot,” I carefully inched closer, camera in hand. With each successive step toward the fence, the heron became more wary of my presence. I slowly raised my camera to the fence top, when—whoosh—the heron made its rapid egress gracefully into the sky, evading me once again.

I spotted ibises later, moving across a grassy bank. With the tangled network of trees, bushes, and vines before me, the possibility was small that my presence would disturb them. Yet they still continued to hurriedly move farther down the bank. I cautiously repositioned myself just a short distance down along this barrier between the birds and me. Taking careful aim, I brought the ibises into focus, and waited silently. Suddenly, two boys gleefully bounded out of woods nearby toward my direction. The birds spotted them through this ‘fence’ and quickly flew off. Another fine photograph evaded me!

One would think that birds and animals feel safer behind fences and barriers. Yet almost every time, they flee at the slightest disturbance without hesitation. I’ve seen squirrels and doves high in a tree quite alarmed, that would run or fly away while I carefully walked underneath them. They didn’t know how difficult it was to reach them. So why would they, or a larger animal such as a cow or deer, feel compelled to move away from a human being, even though a large barricade stands between them? Could it simply be that they don’t understand just how secure they really are?

sheep behind fence

Many in today’s world harbor a similar fear. They consider the devil and all the evil associated with him a threat, and flee in the opposite direction at the slightest disturbance. This effort may be effective if someone nearby deliberately planned to throw a large object at them, but the devil operates in both the non-spiritual (natural, visible) realm, and in the spiritual (supernatural, unseen) realm. He is already waiting on the opposite side before they even get near there!

Wait—what about the fence mentioned earlier? Could the devil attack if a fence is in place in our life to protect us? It depends on our relationship with God. When we allow sin in our life, gaps appear in our fence, giving the devil access to us. Ever since the first man’s failure in the Garden of Eden, no human being has been able to be in God’s presence—whether in Heaven or on Earth—because of sin. Sin is disobedience to God’s laws and commandments, put in place for our benefit. Violating them results in both natural and spiritual consequences. God cannot permit or tolerate any sin in His presence, yet God wants every human being to be in His presence.

fence with hole

This is the point where Jesus, God’s only Son, comes in. Sin caused separation in the relationship between God and man. Through the requirements laid out in the Bible’s first five books, God made a way for man to come before Him, but only in a veiled manner back then. Sin couldn’t truly be defeated, because it required something sinless to overcome it—meaning no one from this earth would ever qualify. Sin could only be covered, or temporarily hidden, through the shed blood from the sacrifice of a spotless, innocent lamb. This meant that these lambs had to be continually sacrificed.

Jesus was sinless before He was born on this Earth as a man, and remained so all the way through His death on the cross and beyond. He was therefore able to fulfill this sinless requirement. He was the ultimate ‘spotless, innocent lamb’ that willingly (God never forced Him) shed His innocent blood by sacrificing His life on the cross. He permanently covered the sin of every man, woman and child that has lived, is living, and is yet to be born! Because He was the final sacrifice, no more lambs had to be sacrificed. When He cried out on the cross, “It is finished (literally just “finished,” John 19:30), He was referring to the end of the old physical sacrificial system, and of sin’s control over our lives. Not only did He sacrifice His life on the cross—three days later He arose from His tomb alive, completely victorious over sin and death!

So how does this apply to the fence I mentioned? Well, initially you need to admit to God that you were wrong and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross by faith, as if it was your own sacrifice of yourself. He took your place and paid your debt for sin that He didn’t owe (remember, He was continuously sinless and blameless) —a debt impossible for you to repay. In fact, you can’t even pay the interest! Ask Him to forgive you for all of your sins against Him, and turn completely around in the opposite direction of them, thereby allowing Him to be in control of your life. [Click here for more information about giving your life to Him.] Do this, and He, in essence, becomes a hedge or fence around you. Not a literal fence you can see, but a spiritual fence that the devil and his minions are aware of, yet cannot get past.

cross with blue sunset

Because of Jesus’ victory at the cross, the devil no longer has the legal right to break through this fence and attack you—as long as you are yielding to Jesus, allowing Him to work in your heart and life. This doesn’t mean that the devil won’t threaten and intimidate you though. Like the boys running near the barrier scaring the birds, the devil will still create quite a racket—enough to make you believe that he has actually broken through the fence! The difference is, when you put your trust in Jesus, focusing on Him and not yourself or anyone else, that fence will remain secure.

Actually, you will be even more protected than the birds I mentioned. They are only safe from direct attacks on the side that the physical fence covers. But Jesus protects you on all sides. “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (Psalm 91:2). He is greater than any fence or hedge of protection that you’ll ever find on this Earth. Make a commitment to Jesus today and let Him be your shield and barrier.

Abiding Under the Shadow

person and shadow

A shadow can be considered a nuisance or a benefit at various times, like when a cloud obscures the sun. On a hot summer afternoon, the shadow from a large cloud is a welcome relief, but on a bitter, cold winter morning, the shadow from almost any size cloud will cause discomfort. A shadow could be a sign of impending danger as well, like when a very large object is about to fall on someone. On the other hand, a shadow could also be an indicator of protection.

The psalmist declares in the first verse of Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a wonderful thought for us, the children of the Almighty, to be under His shadow! Imagine how our enemies would feel if they knew that someone the size of the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica combined was hovering over us to protect us. Yet that represents only a fraction of how much God covers over us when we dwell in His secret place.

God protects and shelters those whom He loves and who are obedient to His Word. He is ready and willing to shelter us under His shadow at any moment. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler,” the psalmist continues to declare in verse 4. His protection resembles a bird that spreads its wings to shield its young. Without the bird’s protective shadow, its young are helplessly vulnerable to predators that are quick to snatch them away. We are also helpless without His protection. His shadow is always ample to keep us covered, no matter how many enter under it, or how extreme the circumstances are outside of it. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:5, 6).

shadow of cross

But God’s shadow is only available to us when we earnestly seek it. When we enter and stay in His secret place, we obtain His protection. This place can only be found through prayer and communion with Him. It is an area where we can dwell alone in an intimacy with God that can never be shared with another. As long as we stay in His secret place, His shadow will continually be over us. But when we allow ourselves to be lured away by the cares of this world, we leave the protection of His shadow and expose ourselves to the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God expects His children to continually rest under His shadow. When we choose something else, we deny ourselves the abundant protection that He provides. The devil will try to keep us from abiding there, but God will never keep us out. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Why should we continue to expose ourselves out in the open when He is willing and able to shelter us bountifully? “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). Why wait until tomorrow, or next week? Come now into His presence, His secret place, and lodge under His shadow. Allow Him to be your refuge and habitation.

Our Little Bebop

We carefully backed our camper van in among the trees of our new campsite, which was elevated on a ridge about four feet beside a lake. The local ducks and geese soon found us. After welcoming us to ‘their’ lake, they told us they were ‘starving.’ Squirrels quickly descended from the live oaks draped with Spanish moss shading our lot.

One seemed to live in the tree beside our van, because he came several times every day to request a handout. We handed out saltine crackers, having nothing else a squirrel might desire.

He’d hold them in his front paws like a pizza box, and then spin them around from corner to corner, nibbling as he turned. We named him Chester.

The ducks and geese received carrot and potato peels. They gladly gobbled them up, being the freeloaders that they are, and immediately asked for more. After receiving the same thing morning after morning, they soon tired of the peels and demanded ‘real’ food. Chester continued coming down and asking for another saltine. Then he’d run back up the tree, returning two seconds later to ask for one more. How could he eat a cracker in less than two seconds? One day we spotted him stashing the latest cracker on a high limb before he ran back down. We also noticed that he was gaining quite a bit of weight. His name was soon changed to Chesterina, because ‘she’ was heavy with child(ren)!

We put our slow cooker right outside our van at night, so our food would be done cooking when we got up the next day (and to keep it from heating up our van as we slept!)

Another ‘woodland creature’ appeared not long after we started using it—a little calico cat with no tail. She was smaller than the average cat and did not have enough to eat or a home.

She was afraid of people, and would very cautiously approach our campsite hoping for a handout. But she’d run off out of sight if we approached her to offer something. We began leaving a bit of food for her on a picnic table at another site. Then we’d leave and watch and wait. She came around when the coast was clear to claim her handout. But the irresistible smell of cooked meat in our slow cooker every morning began drawing her a little closer to our van every day. One morning we found her hiding under our van, hoping something might fall out of the slow cooker and become hers!

The weeks went by, and she played in the leaves and caught lizards to eat because she couldn’t find anything else. Her generic name around the park was “Bobtail.” A large male calico cat, who was more adept at getting handouts, started coming around our site—drawn by the odor coming from the slow cooker. He would intimidate Bobtail and push her aside to claim whatever we might be offering that day for himself. She was too small and timid to fight back. So she would back off and let him have whatever he wanted. Hence, her lizard diet.

My husband noticed her dilemma. He would yell at the male calico to leave when he saw him coming around and would chase him away if he wouldn’t go. After a few days, Bobtail caught on that she now had a knight in shining armor who would defend her! She was really warming up to us and becoming less timid all the time.

One day she stood between my husband’s legs as he was threatening the male cat, and did the cat version of sticking her tongue out at him, saying, “So there! You heard him! Now don’t come back!” Then he ran off.

After a month or two, we moved from the tiny lot beside the lake to a larger site within the park. Before long, a little calico bobtailed cat came timidly creeping up to our patio! We introduced her to the novelty of dry cat food and put some out for her regularly. She decided that she didn’t need to be afraid of us anymore. We wanted to give her a name that was not so generic, but similar to the one she already knew, so we settled on “Bebop.” Since she had never lived with people, everything we did for her was a new treat. Sometimes we’d pour some liquid from a can of tuna into her water. She’d gingerly walk over and try it, then say, “Wow! They even have flavored water here!” What a delight she was!

Once Bebop began to know and trust my husband, she relied on him to protect her. When she stood between my husband’s legs, she had faith in him that he would look out for her.

She only weighed nine pounds, but the bigger cat would turn and run off. He was not afraid of her—he was afraid of what my husband might do to him if he hurt or mistreated her! She was no longer timid and afraid around that cat, because she knew that her ‘knight’ would take up her cause and defend her! She stood up to her bully (as long as he was there over her), although there was no way she could protect her little self on her own if the bigger cat came after her.

cross at sunset

Paul writes that we are to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).” (Notice that we are to put on God’s armor, not our own.)

Being “strong in the Lord” means that we believe that God is our source of strength, and then rely on Him and the promises He has made to us so we can stand against the devil’s attacks.

It does not mean being strong in our own self, but only through the One in whom our real strength lies (literally, “Be strengthened with power.”) Apart from Him we can do nothing. By having faith in Him, we can “…do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“…in the power of His might” refers to …the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Your own strength is really weakness when battling the devil, but the strength of Jesus Christ’s power is almighty.

To the devil, we are timid little nine pound nothings. He is not afraid of us in the least.

But when we put on the armor of God and stand up to him relying on God’s strength, he runs off! He knows he cannot take on God and win! Bebop would say, “I can do all things through my hero who looks out for me!” And I say to you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

A Strong Tower

scrabo tower

You are in a bad predicament. Your enemy has you surrounded and is closing in quickly. What should you do? Run!

Me, run?

Yes, you! Run. Run to the nearest fortified protection.

But that’s retreating. I don’t retreat, I fight!

So you are going to fight an enemy that is always more powerful than you are? An enemy you can’t always see?

Well, if I try and apply myself hard enough, I’ll surely make some kind of headway and then I’ll round up some reinforcements.

But you will not be retreating in defeat and you won’t need any reinforcements if you’ll do what I just said!

But where do I run? I don’t see anything but some tower nearby.

That’s it, exactly!

It looks so isolated and I’m sure I’m going to be trapped when I get inside! Oh, now I see—a trap! Some help you are, sending me into a stuffy old tower in the middle of nowhere with an impossible enemy bearing down on me!

It’s not a trap. Are your plans any better? How are you going to fight with nothing but your bare hands?

I’ll make some kind of weapon with whatever is around me. I’m really a very resourceful person, you know. Look, rocks and pebbles! Yes! That’s what I’ll do. I’ll gather up lots of these and pelt the enemy in the eye, the face, or wherever I can do some harm. That’s it! I’ll be like David in the Bible, where he took some stones and knocked the life out of a giant! You know, I do have a rag in my pocket that would make a perfect sling.

Well, you could do that if you were relying solely on God first.

Oh! that is so difficult and complicated, and, besides, I’m pretty sure my aim is sharp, and I can throw really fast and… and…just how strong and secure is that tower up ahead?

Stronger than anything any enemy could use to come against it. In fact, no enemy will ever be able to overcome it. Period.

It doesn’t look that secure. Who designed and constructed it?

Jesus.

Jesus? You mean the One who died on some beams shaped like a cross thousands of years ago and miraculously rose from the grave a little while later? The One I accepted into my heart and surrendered my life over to sometime ago?

He’s the one! He not only is alive, He now sits at the right hand of God His Father in Heaven victoriously! You see, when Jesus died on the cross, He not only made it possible for anyone who believes on Him to have eternal life, He also took away the legal right for the devil to have control over them as well.

OK, so now how do this tower and I fit in with all of this?

stone tower

Well, when you put your faith and trust in the victory that Jesus won over the enemy (the Devil) through His sacrifice on the cross, then that victory becomes your victory. He is that strong tower that keeps you safe. The Bible says in Psalms 61:3, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” And in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

Wow, you mean that all I have to do is just put my trust in Jesus to shield, protect and care for me?

That’s right. When you try to fight the enemy in your own strength and effort, defeat and failure result. There is nothing about you that will overcome the enemy. It is only in Jesus Christ that you can have victory.

But aren’t there some procedures, some rules or requirements that I have to follow first?

Just one. Believe (have faith) in Jesus, that He will take care of your enemy or problem. If you worry about the problem at hand, you doubt God. When Jesus was on this earth, He could have touched many more lives than He did if there had not been so much unbelief among the people. Even His own family and the people in His hometown refused to believe in Him.

Um, could we finish this conversation inside that tower? The enemy seems to be getting awfully close now, and an intense storm is brewing overhead too!

Well, do you believe that Jesus has the power to protect and shield you by that tower? Do you believe that His sacrifice on the cross has not only saved you from eternal punishment in hell, but has also set you free from the control of sin as well?

OK. OK. Yes, I do believe that, and I even believe that I can overcome the enemy only through Jesus and His victory at the cross. Now, can we go?

Don’t panic—we are already there!

Wow! This tower isn’t bad at all. I can feel peace, even though the storm is raging above and the enemy is charging all around us!

Let’s take a look outside.

Are you nuts? With all of the fury going on out there? Stop! Don’t push—I’m moving! Let me just look out this window here. Wait! Where is the enemy? What happened to the storm?

Jesus handled everything. Remember that He already fought the enemy and won the victory once and for all at the cross. We are to just rest in Him. Our victory over the enemy is only as good as the faith we put in Jesus Christ to take care of the problem for us.

This is amazing! So, by putting my trust in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross, He will be as a strong tower, a place of refuge? Yet, if I try to fight the enemy or solve the problem at hand on my own, then I will be like a deer in the midst of an open field with predators lurking all around?

That’s about the size of it!

Well, watch out world, because I’m looking now in faith for that strong tower whenever I find the enemy trying to overtake me!

————–

How about you, reading this right now? Have you put your faith in Jesus and the victory He won at the cross? Are you anxious over the problems overtaking you, or overwhelmed by the size of the enemy approaching? Is your worrying and lack of faith in Jesus Christ limiting God? The Bible says in Philippians 4:6, 7 “Be careful [full of cares, anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication [petition, asking in earnest] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is not a nice suggestion, but rather a command by God.

When the enemy comes at you, do you seek refuge in the strong tower of Jesus in faith, or do you try to fight the enemy, or take care of your problems in your own strength? Are you putting yourself first or God first? Jesus wants to be your strong tower from the enemy and your mounting problems, if only you will commit them to Him and let Him do the work.

The Devil is my Taskmaster?

ancient slave driver

“The devil is my taskmaster; I will always be in lack. I aimlessly wander in dry, barren meadows; he drives me through raging rivers of unrest, he wearies my life. In accordance with his nature, he deceptively sends me down the wrong way deeper into sin. Though I travel on the sides of the mountains of life, peace, and happiness, I am filled with anxiety and dread from the evil that still lies all around me: for the devil is always near me; his club and his dagger they distress me. God has abandoned me with no sustenance or help in the presence of my enemies; He cares nothing about my health and well-being; my cup is empty. Surely iniquity and ruthlessness shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will never be able to live in the house of the Lord for even a day, much less forever.”

If an anti-Bible was ever written, it would probably render Psalm 23 like this. Sounds depressing and rather dreadful, doesn’t it? Yet, for millions around the world, this is close to being the narrative of what their life seems like to them every day and night. They hope for a better tomorrow and it never seems to come. Or it does come, but with a hefty price—leading to more regret and disappointment.

The devil plays for keeps. Jesus said, “The thief [the devil] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). One of the devil’s greatest attributes is deception. He never acts fairly. Once he has a person deceived, his efforts to keep him from having eternal life with God become easier. In fact, the devil is so enamored with deception that he has deceived himself into believing that he can overthrow the Lord God! Throughout the Bible, his attempts to destroy, oppose, or corrupt the works of God are recorded. Yet he thinks God is not aware of how he operates, as if He is powerless to stop his nefarious efforts—the very Lord God who is the Creator of the universe!

The devil believes that, by corrupting as many of God’s creation (the human race) as he can, he will be able to coerce God into compromising and allowing sin to continue to exist.

If this could be, it would nullify God’s very existence and open the door for the devil to take the place of God in return. The devil does not care about anyone or anything on this earth. He loves to exploit the human race for his own gain. He likes to keep people content and distracted with both the cares and the pleasures of this physical life. Entertainment is one easy means of diversion, which keeps us from knowing the devil’s ultimate motives. At the same time, sin, which the devil heavily encourages, also takes its toll in the form of pain, disease, corruption, and ultimately, destruction. So, by living in his fold (or world), we are both satisfied and dissatisfied, happy and miserable, strong and weak, and so on, until we die. We are never complete, and there is always emptiness in our hearts.

The devil would have us believe that we are living in the gray area between good and evil, and that we decide which side we will ultimately end up living on. But the truth is that we are already living on the evil or dark side by default. We are living on his pasture and the lush green grass that we see is only a facade; underneath all of this is dry and barren ground, full of unsatisfying weeds. We are subject to his terms and demands. His burdens are hard and his yoke is heavy. We are slaves to his system.

shepherd-biegun-wschodni-8636(https-:unsplash.com:@biegunwschodni)-compressed

Yet God never intended for us to be under the devil’s care. Let’s look at the real Psalm 23 as God inspired David to write it:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

God wants to be our Shepherd and, in return for our obedience and submission to Him, we will not lack, because He will provide. He won’t let His sheep (those who have surrendered to Him) become sickly and starve. He will bring them to the land of plenty and lead them to the still waters of rest. He will restore them and keep them in a path of wholesomeness because that is His nature. He is their defense, and evil will not be a concern as long as they love Him with all of their heart. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). He will bring them to a plateau and shelter them from those who are against them. He will cleanse them of pestilence and protect them from irritation. As a result, truth and compassion will spring forth from them and be with them continually. God will not turn them away from abiding in His presence forever. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The devil wants us to think that his way is best. He doesn’t care whether or not man trusts him, or loves him, or hates his very existence, since man is already stuck on his side.

The only way out is to stop trying to make it on our own, and to give our heart and life to Jesus instead. When we surrender our ‘self’ to Him and repent (give up completely and turn the other way) of our sinful ways, then Jesus will reach down and pull us out of the devil’s pasture and place us into His own. He will care for us as a true shepherd cares for his sheep. Of course, the devil will still come like a wolf to try to steal us away and destroy us, but now we can call out to The Shepherd, who will come to our rescue (unlike the devil). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (John 11:28-30). Do you want to follow a cruel, selfish, and heartless taskmaster, or a loving and compassionate Shepherd, who has even given His life for all of His sheep?

For more about making Jesus as your Shepherd, click here.

On the Ledge


flickr photo shared by TrailVoice under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I can still remember a particularly beautiful Spring day when I was eight years old. The flowers had just begun to bloom around Sugarloaf Mountain, not far from Frederick, Maryland, near the Virginia state line. I remember sitting there high up on a mountain ledge. It reminded me of granite shepherds silently watching over the lowlands and local communities in the valley way below me.

I can also remember sensing the divine presence of the Lord God there. While I sat high on the ledge, observing the scene below in all its beauty from the height of the mountain, His sweet, still voice spoke to my heart, saying, “My son, what do you see?”

I responded to Him through my thoughts as I prayed. When I opened my eyes I said, “My heavenly Father, I can see that in the distance the area around Sugarloaf Mountain is still just as beautiful as it ever was.

I loved looking out at all the vast farmland below, divided only by jagged rows of wooden fences. I can still remember small clover blossoms of purple growing throughout all the green grassland where the farm animals grazed. The still waters of many small grassland ponds glistened. Little babbling brooks also branched off in many directions as they flowed through the farmland, restoring life wherever they went.

Then, once again, I sensed that same sweet voice from God saying to me, “My son, what do you really see around you?”

I responded, “My heavenly Father, I see my own fears: how rough and dangerous the jagged rocks seem to be, and how sheer the cliffs appear. The precipitous trails that lead down this mountain seem unstable. I can also see the fresh, trickling spring water flowing between the uneven ridges to the base of the mountain.”

Again the same sweet, still voice spoke to me and said, “My son, you observed well.”

Then I realized what He wanted me to recall to my mind while I sat on the mountain ledge:

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).

[This was my mother’s favorite psalm.]