The Father of Lies

fire

“ ‘…(The devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ ” (John 8:44, NIV).

You’ve probably seen the cartoon caricatures. A little red devil, with horns on his head and a pitchfork in his hand, mysteriously appears on the shoulder of an unsuspecting individual. This devil stands in opposition to an angel, a winged being clad in white, with a halo gracing his head, who sits strategically atop the individual’s other shoulder. Each attempt to persuade the conflicted person to heed their advice. The devil is seen as a trickster, the angel as a moral compass. Their banter is playful and predictable. Ultimately, the individual must decide. To whom will he listen?

But I urge you – do not let the cartoons fool you! The devil is very real and shares little in common with his pitchforked friend. He wants more than to lead you down a wayward path. The devil wants your very soul, and he’ll do anything within his power to attain it.

Jesus called it like he saw it, referring to the devil as a murderer, who seeks to steal both the present and eternal life of his victims. The devil is a liar to his very core. There is no truth found within him. He speaks only the language he knows, language that is weaponized with shame, sin, and mistruth, each aimed directly at the heart of man.

Still, Jesus is greater. Jesus is truth incarnate. He embodies love and acceptance, mercy and forgiveness. Listen to his grace-filled words. He, too, is whispering in your ear – you are loved, you are redeemed, you are free.

You Have the Words

bible open with red bookmark

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’ ” (John 6:68, NIV).

It was a tipping point in Jesus’ public ministry, a proverbial line-in-the-sand moment. Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life was seen as offensive, and many of his followers chose to desert him. Yes, Jesus’ words were challenging to his disciples and demanded a decision – to stay with Jesus, whatever that would entail, or to leave him and forfeit his message of grace.

So, Jesus asked the twelve a very pointed question, “ ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ ” (John 6:67, NIV). And, that’s when Peter, always brazen in his actions, made his declaration of faith. That’s right, Peter, who would soon deny ever knowing Jesus, confessed that Jesus was the only one worth following.

Followers of Jesus share much in common with Peter, not just in regard to his foibles and failures, but in his decision to follow Jesus and provide a witness to the world. Like Peter, we, too, “ ‘…have the words of eternal life’ ” (John 6:68, NIV), words that cannot be had any other way than through Jesus. Like Peter, we must be bold in our witness that Jesus’ words bring life, not just in the present, but eternally. There is no other place to go or person to follow. Let’s proclaim this message to everyone!

God Is Present

sunset and mountain

“ ‘Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24, NIV).

“We invite you God into this place.” You’ve probably heard this phrase or one like it. Perhaps, you’ve even said it. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making such a statement. It’s just not completely accurate.

God is omnipresent, which means that he is present in all places at all times. Therefore, we do not need to invite God into any place, for he’s already there. God is in the still-quiet sanctuary on an early Sunday morning, preparing hearts to receive him. God is alive in Worship, stirring in people expressions of faith and adoration. God is in our schools as students nervously prepare for an exam. He is in our workplaces and in our homes. Most importantly, by his Holy Spirit, God lives within the heart of each believer.

Yes, God is present everywhere we look, and even in some places in which we refuse to look. We don’t have to search for God or fear that he is absent. He is present throughout the heavens and to the ends of the earth. He even dwells within us. God is perfect. He is powerful. And, he is present!

 

Doorframes

cross - doorframe

“ ‘Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:9, NIV).

In Old Testament times, God gave the Israelites several commands, the culmination of which was, “ ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). God’s chosen people were not only to obey these commands, but they were to pass them on to their children and grandchildren. For this very reason, God told the Israelites to
“ ‘Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:9, NIV). In this way, the Law of God would be remembered every time the Israelites entered their homes.

I find it interesting that the Law of God was to be written on the doorframes of the homes of the Israelites. For just prior to this command, the Israelite’s doorframes were written upon, not with the Law, but with the Gospel. During their captivity in Egypt, in an event that would become known as the Passover, the blood of lambs was spread on the doorframes of Israelite homes so that death would literally pass over these families.

Time and again, both then and now, the Law of God is covered by the grace of God. Such grace is found in Jesus at the bloodied frame of his cross. For on the cross, the Lamb of God was put to death on our behalf. Our sins are passed over and we are free.

“We Are” Versus “I Am”

i am

“Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many’ ” (Mark 5:9, NIV).

Jesus doesn’t fear confrontation, even when it means standing against Hell itself. He never cowers in the face of evil. Jesus doesn’t run from danger, and he will go to the ends of the Earth to search for and save even one lost soul.

The Gospel writer Mark records a frightening, yet fascinating, account of a demon-possessed man and his life-altering encounter with Jesus. Mark’s description of the man is quite startling. He lives among the tombs in the region of the Gerasenes. No one can stand against him. Like a dog, the man is chained, and like a monster, he breaks the chains. He approaches Jesus, not out of aggression, but out of obedience, for “…even the demons submit…” in the presence of and at the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17, NIV). When asked by Jesus to identify himself, the man states, “My name is Legion…for we are many” (Mark 5:9, NIV). The demons speak for the man, but they have no authority over Jesus. The “Legion” of demons, the “We Are”, is no match for “Jesus”, the “I am”. At their request, Jesus casts the demons into a nearby herd of pigs, and to the demons’ surprise, the pigs stampede into the sea and drown. The collateral damage is massive, and the townspeople ask Jesus to leave the region, but the man, formerly demon-possessed, stays, providing a witness for Jesus to all who will listen.

Jesus referred to himself as the “I am”, identifying himself as the God of the Old and New Testaments. He said things like “…I am the bread of life…” (John 6:35, NIV) and “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6, NIV). Jesus, the personification of God, came down from Heaven and was victorious over the forces of Hell. Through the sacrifice of the “I am”, we are forgiven and free. And we, also, have an amazing story to share.

Dry Bones and New Life

valley of death

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life’ ” (Ezekiel 37:4-5, NIV).

Ezekiel Chapter 37 is an interesting passage of Scripture. It’s the story of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones. Why are these bones described as dry? It’s because these bones have long been left for dead. In fact, they are about as dead as dead can get. There is not even the hint of life within them.

While Ezekiel’s vision is likely representative of Israel’s exile to Babylon, it is symbolic of a deeper truth – that God can bring life out of death. Think about it. God formed the first man, Adam, from the dust of the ground. Yet, Adam was lifeless until God breathed into his still body. Adam’s first breath of life was the breath of God.

So, too, Jesus lay in a borrowed tomb. Make no mistake about it. Jesus was dead. He had been crucified just days before on a cross at Calvary. Yet, God breathed life into Jesus’ lifeless body, and the Resurrection of Jesus became God’s ultimate demonstration of life being torn from the grip of death. Yes, God breathes life into that which is dead.

Consider the “dry bones” in your life. Maybe they’re the bones of the “skeleton in your closet”, that deep, dark secret of your past. Or perhaps, the “dry bones” are broken relationships with old friends or family members, and, no matter how hard you might try, life seems to be unrestorable. Just maybe, the “dry bones” are most descriptive of your finances, your addiction, or even your devotion to God.

Don’t be afraid as you stand in the valley looking at the many “dry bones” in your life. God can and will bring life out of death. Restoration is just a breath away. Speak to the “dry bones”. Share with them the Word of God. And, watch them rise again.

Jonah (Part 3)

underwater

“…you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…” (Jonah 4:2, NIV).

The phrase “slow to anger” appears multiple times throughout the Old Testament of the Bible. It is a fitting descriptor of God, especially when compared to the quick-tempered and short-fused character, Jonah.

Jonah refused to travel to the city of Ninevah, not because he was too busy for the trip, but solely due to self-serving motives. Jonah was petty and judgmental. He did not want to preach his divinely assigned message to the Ninevites, because he did not want them to repent and receive God’s mercy. Jonah would have much rather seen the city and people of Ninevah in ruins.

Unlike Jonah, God is “slow to anger”. He doesn’t react in a knee-jerk sort of way. God is patient when it comes to dealing with sin and the short-comings of people. God is fair and just, but he is merciful and gracious as well.

The Ninevites experienced the amazing grace of God, and we can, too. God is “slow to anger” and desires a relationship with each of us!