Is Satan Real?

July 15, 2015devil

Most people in America don’t believe that the Devil is real. They believe that he is a fictionalized character coming out of the dark ages and used to frighten people and give them an excuse for their poor behavior. So you have the silly cartoons of the red devil with horns and a pitchfork sitting on your shoulder whispering in your ear to entice you into doing something bad. Of course those who dismiss the devil as fantasy also dismiss Hell as an invention of the church used to frighten people into obedience to them. When asked what the basis is for their disbelief, they have no ground for such denial except for their own feelings, their own thoughts about what ought to be and what ought not to be.

On the opposite side, people are more open to believing in Angels and Heaven because they represent hope for further life after this world, and of course most everyone wants to live forever. Eternity is a concept imbedded in everyone’s heart. But even here, there are a significant number of “enlightenment” people in the western world who dismiss this as fantasy as well, mainly because they don’t want there to be a God who might judge them some day. Most people rest this belief on their feelings as well.
There is nothing better than a happy ending, right?

Frankly speaking, we would know nothing about creation, Heaven, Hell, angels or demons, the life after death, or eternity itself if God who created it all had not chosen to reveal these things to us. The ultimate question is where do you find out the “truth” about creation, life and death, etc.   These are the eternal questions that everyone wrestles with. And there are a myriad of beliefs concerning these issues simply because there are an infinite number of feelings and imaginations concerning the ultimate truths about life. As it turns out our imaginations are quite fertile.

But truth is by definition exclusive. There can only be one truth. It is interesting that academics teach truth in all of science & history, physics and mathematics, but when it comes to eternal truths everyone can have their own truth & they are all true. How illogical and insane. Jesus doesn’t agree with such nonsense. He is clear about Truth. He defines Himself as the Truth about all of life. He is the Truth. His Word is God’s revelation of the Truth. If you want to know the truth about the devil, all you need to do is read God’s revelation of Truth.

 

Satan was created as a holy angel.
Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer.
Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, which is apparently the highest order of created angels. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6).
Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15.

 
Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.
Satan’s pride led to his fall. It is no coincidence that most of our sin revolves around pride, our ego, our desires and wants.

After his fall, Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2).
He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matt. 4:3; 1 Thes. 3:5),
and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3).
His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.”
Another of his titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Cast out of Heaven, he has set himself about the task of taking the highest order of God’s creation, humanity, and dragging them down into Hell with himself for all eternity. It is akin to kidnapping a father or mother’s child and making their child’s life miserable for all eternity. I can think of no greater pain in life, than to see a beloved one ripped out from arms of love and cast into the great abyss of evil and darkness. Jesus came to rescue us from that very darkness.

Satan is the ultimate source behind every evil, every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. Hence the world continues to persecute the true followers of Jesus.

Why is there evil in the world? Simple, Adam and Eve, the head of all humanity, chose to follow the great Deceiver. Separated from God down through history, most of humanity has chosen to serve self, and in doing so they are really following the plan of their father, the author of all evil.
To the degree of their rebellion, is the degree of evil and sin in the world.
Satan’s destiny is sealed with all who follow him, an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Jesus is the only One who can deliver us such slavery & destruction.   It is God’s greatest gift, a miracle of love and salvation for His beloved. Blessed are those who listen to the call of the Great Shepherd and come back to the Fold.

Veritas vos Liberabit!
Pastor Mike


Sheep in the Fold

protecting-the-sheep
I am known for wearing boots and a cowboy hat. I really can’t explain it, except that I just never wanted to grow up. I wanted to be a cowboy. I think I was born a century too late.
At our first church in Kernville, California we were up in the mountains about 3,000 feet off Lake Isabella. It was an old cowboy town and people went there out of LA to retire. It was just natural in that environment to wear cowboy hats & boots. When we left Kernville, I decided to take my boots and hats with me & we have been connected ever since.
 
Here in Sacramento it can bring some confusion to people. They aren’t used to seeing a pastor in boots and a hat. So when I meet a stranger and they ask what I do for a living, I simply tell them that I am a rancher.
They say, ”Do you mean you have steers?”
And I say, “No, I have sheep”.
“How many sheep do you have?” they ask.
And I tell them that I have about 200 head of sheep.
That always intrigues them and they say,
“It must be a hassle to keep so many sheep in line and cared for”.
And I say, “You have no idea how difficult it is!”
Depending on the situation I can keep the charade up for quite a while.
But eventually I tell them that I am a pastor and my sheep are the members of the flock of which God has put me in charge. It can be a lot of fun.
In John 10:1-10 Jesus gives us a parable about the sheep in the sheep fold. At night, the sheep were ushered into a barricaded area, where they could not wander off and the Shepherd could watch over them to keep them from harm. There is great danger out in the world for unprotected sheep.   They have no way of defending themselves and cannot run very fast.   Hence they are easy prey for mountain lions, coyotes, wolves etc. For their own good and safety the sheep need to be penned in from the dangers of the world.
But the sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. The sheep do not know that they are penned in for their own safety. They do not appreciate the fence at all. They want to be free to graze and roam wherever they would like. They are not content with the food provided in the enclosure, they are more interested in getting out, getting free. They are oblivious to the dangers of the world. So they spend their time looking for a hole in the fence, even the tiniest crack were they might be able to squeeze through and escape their captivity.
And so it is with the people of the world. They don’t like the “sheep-fold” that God has created for their own good. They think they know better than the Good Shepherd. They want to set their own fences. rules and guidelines. In essence, they don’t like God and His way, they want to be god and create their own way. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, God gave them everything but one thing. But they wanted to be like God and have that one thing. We see the results of their fatal mistake in the world today.
Why is there so much unrest and anger and hatred and crime in the world? Basically it is because people aren’t happy with God’s rules, they want to be free and establish their own way of life totally ignoring the ways of God.
They genuinely dislike the God of the Scriptures. They detest Jesus and His claims as the Savior Messiah who came to deliver them from evil. In fact they are so rebellious that they have taken what God has called bad and malevolent, and they call it good and glorious. There can only be one tragic end to such a scenario. The wolves of the world will devour them. They have sown the wind and now are about to reap the whirlwind. It is only a matter of time.
May God have mercy on them and their misguided lives. May God have mercy on America, for those rebelling against God will take the whole country down.
Praise God that our first allegiance is to His Country, His Kingdom and His Glory. Regardless of what happens to this country, the very best is yet to be for those sheep who are content to live in the fold of the Good Shepherd.
 
May He come back soon and straighten things out.
Maranatha, Pastor


The Suffering of Jesus

resurrection morning

It was just after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave.  People were excited.  Certainly this man was the Messiah who would restore Israel.

The Pharisee’s were angry and fearful that Jesus might cause a rebellion in which the Romans would flatten them.  They decided that Jesus must die and on that day He became public enemy number one.  He had to hide out for a few days.  If He was going to die, He would be the one to orchestrate that whole narrative, not the Pharisees.  Six days before the Passover, Jesus comes back to Bethany to have a last Sabbath dinner with His good friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The “cat was out of the bag”.  People flocked to Bethany to see Jesus & also Lazarus who was giving testimony about his coming back from the grave.

     The next day, the 1st day of the week (Sunday), the day we refer to as the triumphal entry, Jesus, the “outlaw”, came out and openly entered Jerusalem with a crowd of Jubilant Israelites welcoming their King.

“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” (John 12:13) They were convinced that Jesus was about to re-establish the Davidic Kingdom and remove the Roman domination.

(That great welcome would swing 180 degrees a few days later when Jesus didn’t deliver what they wanted)  The Pharisees were powerless to stop Him, he was much too popular on that Sunday.

John records the events of the next few days, but strangely “omits” what took place on Wednesday.  Sometime on Tuesday Jesus says

John 12:27,28

27     “Now My soul has become troubled;

and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?

But for this purpose I came to this hour.

28     “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven:

“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Soon it is Passover night, the moon is full.  Jesus celebrates His last earthly Seder with His disciples.  Afterwards, they cross the brook Kidron and head up to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would spend His final free hours in prayer and in agony.  He had prayed here many times before, but we often don’t hear the content of His prayers.  Luke 22:39-44 tells us that He was in so much agony that his sweat “became like drops of blood” Modern medicine surmises that under extreme conditions of duress, capillaries in the head burst forth drops of blood literally pouring out of the skin like perspiration.

It was while being in this state of agony, thinking forward to the excruciating pain (literally “out of the cross pain”) that was waiting for Him that He was praying so fervently.

What was so agonizing for Jesus?  The pain that He was about to undergo?  The disciples asleep and soon to be forsaking Him?  Maybe He was focusing on the sin of the entire world (from the beginning of creation to the end of time).  He was about to pay the ultimate price for all of that sin.

Our sin would be placed on Him, so that we might receive His Glory.

     Whatever the reason for His agony, we see that Jesus who is fully God,

is at the same time fully man.  Here, His humanity is on full display.

In Matthew 26:38-39 we see more of His nightmare into which He is freely walking. He didn’t have to do this. It was the Father’s will, but it was His choice.

“I am deeply grieved, to the point of death.

Then he prays to God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;

yet not as I will, but your will be done”

Pause to reflect on Jesus suffering and how he handled it.  His suffering was not pointless nor was it needless.  Neither is ours.  Each of us has our own “Via Dolorosa” (the way of suffering).  And just as Jesus was the Son of God, we too are His children (though obviously not like Jesus, the 2nd person of the Divine Trinity).  But none the less, we are God’s family.   He does not cause our suffering.  That is the business of the evil one.  But when He does allow us to suffer you can be sure that it is not needless or pointless.

As author Kim Reisman has noted, “The truth is that the Jesus way isn’t about God taking pain away from God’s people; it’s about God providing us with strength, courage, and meaning, with abundant life, often in the midst of pain.”(1)

         In American culture there is a different perspective on suffering. In our pursuit of happiness and pleasure, it should never happen.

When it comes we are quick to categorize it as an accident, just a bit of bad luck.  It could have happened to anyone, but unfortunately for you, your number came up.  It is simply the order of nature.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  Richard Dawkins and his ilk tell us that life is empty, pointless, futile, a desert of meaninglessness and insignificance.  Just like the rest of the world, (“red in tooth and claw”), our suffering is a part of the evolutionary process.  Tough luck, too bad, so sad!

         Thank God for Jesus Christ!  He tells us and shows us that suffering can and does have purpose and meaning.  Ultimately God is on the Throne and He will have the last word.  In the end, Jesus is resurrected to sit at the right hand of God. But His suffering and death, far from meaningless, provides our way out of sin and death.  He reunites us (the prodigals) with the Father.  He walked the Via Dolorosa, and so must we take up our cross.

I wonder what the purpose and plan for our pain might be.

Surely God knows, and that is enough.

         Coram Deo – Pastor Mike

(1) Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, Following At a Distance

(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005), 75



Trust in The Lord

It’s simple. It’s short. Yet it’s incredibly powerful. Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–with good reason. It sets forth a life-changing truth that is worthy of our attention. Spend three minutes reading this article, and see if you agree. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Let’s break down this life-changing truth to make sure we understand it.  

Trust in the Lord.

It starts with trust. Any real relationship has to start with some level of trust. It’s the only way a friendship will endure. It’s the only way a marriage will work out. It’s the simple reason why an employer hires workers, or why the workers stay employed. It’s all about trust. Trust in the Lord, however, takes on an entirely new dimension. This is our trust in an eternal, all-powerful, all-wise, all-loving God. He is worthy of our trust. The trust is important, not just because of who God is, but because of the way in which we must trust him: with all your heart. It involves every fiber of your being. That’s the kind of trust we can have in God–a complete, unshakable, deep, abiding trust. If you are a Christian, you trusted God for salvation. You can trust Him with the rest of your life, too–every detail.   Read part 2, Don't Lean On Your Understanding


Do Not Lean on Your Own Understanding

Read part 1 first, Trust In The Lord. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  

Don’t Lean on Your Understanding

The verse involves a positive–something you must do. But it also involves a negative–something you must not do. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Basically, the verse is telling us that we ought not to be self-reliant. We cannot pursue a course of action, a financial decision, a business move, a relationship, or an educational choice, simply based on our own understanding. It must be founded in our trust in God. Self-reliance is such a deceptive trap. We begin to pride ourselves in something–our savvy, our looks, our intellect, our spirituality, our family, whatever. And when we do, it takes away our trust in the Lord. It has become trust in self. The result is a dangerous compromise that will lead to destruction.  

Instead, Acknowledge God. In Everything.

The antidote to this self-reliance is found in the first command of the verse. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” Which is developed in the next verse: “In all your ways acknowledge him.” The word “acknowledge” isn’t merely a polite tip of the hat to the Man Upstairs, or a few words of grace over your meal, or even perfunctory attendance at church to let Him know we’re still cool with what He’s doing. It’s way more. It’s allowing Him access, control, command, and involvement in all your ways. What’s the result of this? Will God ruin your life? Will he be a Sovereign Killjoy? Will He rob you of fun? The verse ends on a promise. What is it?  

He will make your paths straight.

The promise is put in the form of a metaphor. What does it mean to have straight paths? Several things. First, paths lead toward an end–a destination, a goal. Thus, trusting God wholeheartedly in every area of life gives your life a sense of purpose and priority. Second, it indicates that there will be a clear understanding of where you are going and what you are doing. It makes daily decision-making an easier and less painful task. You realize you are trusting Him. He, in turn, is making your paths straight. Thus, the way ahead is more apparent. Third, “straight paths” suggests moral purity. It suggests a life that has less of sinful compromise and more of wholesome attitudes, actions, and behavior. That’s the kind of life that God promises. It’s the kind of life that you can have. It begins with trust. It involves acknowledging God in every way.