Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to Recognize the Enemy (including anti-Christ)


"Why do you not understand what I am saying?  It is because you cannot hear My wordYou are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."     John 8:43-44

For soldiers on a battlefield, the most critical survival skills are knowing how to recognize the enemy, and knowing where his battle-lines are.  If we mistake enemies for friends, we are in danger of heedlessly straying into their territory, and being killed or captured.

Human armies wear distinctive uniforms to show which side they are fighting for.  In spiritual warfare, each army is clothed in its own unmistakable spirit.

Jesus gives simple directions for recognizing the enemy.  The enemy is first of all, emphatically, NOT "flesh and blood" (II Corinthians 10:3, Ephesians 6:12).  Thinking so, a great many Christians in this time believe their enemy is anyone who represents a human identity different than their own: racial, national, political, or religious.  Scripture says not.

(This isn't to say these human "dividings" Galatians 5:20 calls "deeds of the flesh" factions...don't share some of the enemy spirit.  Racial hate-groups and nationalisms frequently teach their followers to murder; religious groups have also done so, and do so.  And political factions usually operate by lies.  The point to be clear about is that the spirit they manifest, and not the "flesh and blood" group they belong to, is the enemy.)

And in the passage quoted above, Jesus emphasizes two primary spiritual characteristics by which we recognize the enemy, "the devil."  He is a murderer, and he is a liar: he is in fact the source ("father") of all murder and all lies.

Saying so, Jesus indelibly maps the battle-lines for us.  We're involved in the inevitable warfare between the one whose spirit is murder and lies, and Jesus, Who IS Himself Truth and Life (John 14:6).

John denotes the existential basis of this warfare when he writes that the spirit of anti-Christ is active in the world (I John 2:18, 4:3), alluding to the essential spiritual nature of the enemy: against, and counter to, Christ.  Thus, the same way The Holy Spirit God sent into the world is of Christ's nature (and so Jesus speaks of Him repeatedly as "the Spirit of Truth:" John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13), and manifests Him.  The spirit of anti-Christ also present in the world shares satan's nature, and manifests him.

And the same way The Holy Spirit manifests His Presence in those who act in Jesus' nature, satan's spirit manifests itself in those who act in his character.  That is Jesus point in John 8: that the men He's talking to, in their desire to murder and lie, show unmistakably whose spirit they act in, and who is their spiritual "father."

Murder was a heavy accusation; and scripture gives no hint that the men was talking to had actually killed anyone previously.  But Jesus' viewed murder, again, by its spirit.  He'd taught that anyone "angry with his brother" was guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22); which John later made explicit, that "everyone who hates his brother is a murderer" (I John 3:15).

Jesus said the men he was ralking to wanted to kill him because He spoke the Truth to them (John 8:40).  They proved Him right.  But even before rhey cried out for Him to be crucified, He recognized in them satan's "desire" to murder, and satan's "desire" to destroy The Truth.

We know then, that the spiritual warfare in which we're involved is even now manifest on earth, in men.  Who has the Spirit of Christ can see and attest to His Presence in the world, manifest in the deeds of those who walk in Him (Romans 8:4), the good deeds God has prepared for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).  We can also clearly see and attest that the spirit of anti-Christ is in the world, manifest in those who walk in the spirit and deeds of murderous hatred and lies, satan's own spirit.

Our speculation about "anti-Christ" has always centered on the single individual who is the final and greatest spiritual counterfeit, the world-leader who will be satan himself in flesh, and satan's imitation of Christ, God in human flesh.  And we have always assumed that individual will be such a singular monster of evil that we will easily be able to recognize him and reject him.

But when His disciples asked what would be the signs of "the end of the age," Jesus warned that there will be many "false Christs" (pseudochristos) and false prophets, " as to mislead, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).  John too emphasized the plurality of anti-Christ's manifestations, warning that " is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared..." (I John 2:18, my emphasis).  The same way we need to be aware that the spirit of anti-Christ is already in the world, even before the final deceiver himself appears, we need to be aware that his spirit is manifest in many men, even now.

Jesus warns that the "false Christs" and false prophets of the end times will be such skilled deceivers that they will almost be able to mislead the "elect."  It's an extremely sobering warning to Jesus' Own people: we should all be frightened at how close a thing Jesus says it is that we could be misled.  Most of all, His words should deeply impress on us our need for mindful attention to hearing His voice.   

The deceivers will not succeed in misleading the "elect," of course.  We have Jesus' Own promises to His sheep that " one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28, my emphasis), and that He will never desert or forsake His Own (Hebrews 13:5).  And we know that His Spirit in us witnesses to our heart that we are His.

But recognizing how prone we are to self-deception, and how "desperately wicked" our hearts are, we'd be foolish to trust completely in our sense of certainty that we are "elect."  Jesus doesn't say that all who think they're elect will be safe from being deceived by the spirit of anti-Christ.  He says that those who are His show it by hearing His voice, and following Him.

In this very time (which we know from the above scriptures is the "last hour"), satan is already preparing people to follow anti-Christ, by making them "comfortable" in following men who manifest his spiritual character of murderous hatred and lies.  Nowhere is this more evident today than in America.  And Jesus is strengthening His people against being deceived to follow such men, by speaking to us in His Spirit, teaching us to discern the battle-lines of the spiritual war even now taking place in this world ("distinguishings of spirits," I Corinthians 12:10).

May all who hear Jesus' sober warning also give mindful, continual attention to His guiding voice of spiritual discernment, and follow Him.  Amen !!


Monday, January 01, 2018

Re-Post: Authority


Our brother Mark DuPre writes a blog for which the descriptor "devotional" is insufficient.  His love of God is manifest in his thoughtful meditation on scripture; and reading there, my spirit and mind are always renewed to praise our King.

I first came across a series he did on scripture's teaching about "Authority:" a foundational principle of our faith largely ignored...even many parts of the Church at this moment.  His thorough exegesis of God's word to us about His authority could not be more timely, indeed prophetic.

To my understanding, Mark's writing notably achieves his purpose...even more God's purpose...of "getting it straight in our hearts."  Below is the first segment of his series on authority.

Luke 7:8-9 For I [the centurion] also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!

Romans 13:1-7 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves…. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake….Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Jesus is recorded as marveling only twice. Once was at the unbelief demonstrated at his hometown of Nazareth. The other time was at the faith of a Gentile soldier, whom Jesus recognized as having faith greater than that of His own people. Specifically, the centurion’s demonstration of faith was based on his understanding of authority. He was a man who moved in his own authority, and was recognized as a man of authority. He knew how to take orders and how to give them. He recognized in Jesus someone with authority like him, but with power much greater than his own

Israel was often rebuked by God for her rebelliousness, and it’s clearly an aspect of human nature that is evident from Adam to the present. But we live in a particularly rebellious age, when even the idea of authority is under great attack. The very word “authority” is often expressed and often received as if it had the word “abusive” in front of it. But as we can see, the concept of authority is from God Himself (Romans 13:1b: “For there is no authority except from God.”)

We can wring our hands over the misuse of authority all we want—and there will always be plenty of evidence for hand wringing—but the idea of authority is from God. So as disciples of Jesus Christ we must come to terms with what authority is, how it’s manifested in this earth, and how we are supposed to deal with it.

The first issue with authority, however, is not a mental understanding of its various manifestations. It’s getting it straight in our hearts that we are to submit to or work with authority where we find it. Since authority is from God, it is to be honored. It is to be adjusted to, perhaps even bowed to in our hearts. There will be little true revelation of authority in our lives if we haven’t settled it that authority is an aspect of God worthy of our efforts to understand it the best we can, with the goal of recognizing it, submitting to it, and glorifying God in the process.

The attack on the idea of authority is, at its foundation, an attack on God, as authority is from Him. The great struggle for many of us is the constant parade of abuses of it in history and even in our own lives. But man’s misuse of God’s authority doesn’t negate its reality. Neither should we let it blind us to where God’s authority is in our lives, so we may rightly position ourselves before Him and reap the rewards that come with faithfulness.

While much of the rest of the world is blind to authority, dismissive of it, or even rebellious against it, the Christian should be eager to locate God’s authority in every aspect of his/her life. We should be eager to use that authority to bless and just as eager to submit to authority as unto the Lord.

Prayer: Father, cleanse my heart of the rebellion that comes to the surface when I consider the issue of authority in my life. I repent of using man’s misuse of authority as an excuse not to follow You in that area. Help me to see where You’ve placed authority in my life, and help me to honor You in working with it.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Re-Post: "5 Things Jesus Would Say to Conservatives"


I don't agree with all the points this brother's post makes: but "conservatives," who claim to politically represent Jesus' teachings, should expect to be thoroughly measured on how they manifest Jesus' teachings.  Even moreso, those who self-identify as "Conservative Christians."

"Conservatives" (like all of us) fall short.  This post seems an honest critique of some of those short-comings: which, if "conservatives" take correction in a Christian spirit, will give them fruitful thoughts for self-examination and repentance.

There’s no question that conservatives are not solely to blame for this problem [of disunity]. So where do I get off calling them out? That’s a great question.

In the last thirty years, evangelicalism has come under the spell of the Republican party. Through an intentional effort to secure this enormous voting bloc—one that responded positively to Jimmy Carter’s “born again” talk—Republicans focused on painting themselves as God’s party. They were the only ones who cared about Christianity and moralism.

Today, Republicans need the evangelical vote. They’ve come to a place where they rely on this bloc to carry them through elections. By coloring themselves as the choice for God-fearing Christians, they guarantee that poor, white middle America will consistently vote Republican—often against their best interests.

Meanwhile, evangelical Christians are increasingly poisoned by this political association.  As Christians have conflated Christianity and conservative politics, they’ve ended up championing things that oppose Christ: nationalism, war, division, racism, hatred.

If conservatives and liberals simply represented two sides of a political divide, I wouldn’t particularly care. Politics are important insofar as they affect real people and for that reason, I try and vote as responsibly as possible. But the fact that people outside of the church are left thinking that American conservative politics and Christianity are synonymous is wrong—plain and simple.

This post isn’t intended to slam anyone with conservative viewpoints. There’s nothing wrong with having a political perspective that skews right. The problem occurs when you believe that your religious and political identity are synonymous. If you think that you’re a conservative because you’re a Christian, this post is for you.

And while this isn’t intended to be mean-spirited, it is pointed. The relationship between conservatism and the church is driving people away from the cross—and here’s what I think Jesus would say about it.

Read the full post at


Friday, December 22, 2017

Lesser of Two Evils Again


An Aussie Christian blogger I hadn't run across before said (in another context) that a quote by Spurgeon appeared often on social media during last year's presidential campaign: "Of two evils choose neither."

I'd not seen the Spurgeon quote before: perhaps because I go on facebook no more often than I stroll through a sewer, and deliberately avoided it during the election season.  But Spurgeon's quote stated fairly well the conclusion I came to at that time, after hearing many Christian friends rationalize their vote for Trump by the "lesser of two evils" thinking.  So I set out to verify Spurgeon's quote.

In his "The Salt-Cellars," p. 297, Spurgeon did indeed write, "Of two evils choose neither. Don't choose the least, but let all evils alone."  (He credits that wisdom to "John Ploughman:" but in the introduction to his book of that name, says "John Ploughman" is his pseudonym.)

(One blogger claimed that the quote was being misused to discourage people from voting, because Spurgeon taught that people should vote.  He also claimed that what was being posted on social media was a different quote by a contemporary writer, John Marcavage: "Of two evils choose neither.  Christians must turn from the endless cycle of voting for the lesser of evils and expecting an unrighteous act to produce a righteous result. From a communist to a cultist, choosing the lesser of two evils is still evil, and never should we do evil that good may come.”

I find Marcavage's thought preferable to Spurgeon's, since it also warns against the related "do evil that good may come" teaching...another false rationale many Christian friends gave for voting for Trump...condemned in Romans 3:8.  But whether or not being misused, my purpose was only to verify Spurgeon's quote was genuine before I used it, and it was.)

I had come to the same conclusion as Spurgeon: though the way I put it was that operating by "lesser of two evils" thinking always results in our choosing evil, knowing it IS evil.

The enemy is infinitely subtle in his deceptions.  The “father of lies” has practiced his “skill” on human beings since the Garden of Eden, and he's incredibly more successful at it than any of us are at keeping ourselves from deception.  Any of us can be deceived by him to make a wrong choice.

By definition, we are deceived any time we trust ourselves to make a decision without exercising, and heeding, the Spirit’s discernment: a foolishness which opens us to greater deception, which deception always produces sin.

We don't ordinarily sin because we deliberately choose to do evil; rather, that we choose to do what we are mistaken in believing is good.  The template for producing sin is that we are persuaded, and convince ourselves, that some evil is, or could be, or would be, actually “good.”  That's where the enemy ordinarily operates.

And very successfully.  With Eve in the Garden, for example, when he persuaded her that disobeying God would confer God-like knowledge.  With many "Christian Conservatives," for example, when he persuaded them that electing Trump would result in "conservative" Supreme Court justices, who would outlaw abortion.  Again, see scripture's condemnation of this "do evil to do good" rationalization in Romans 3:8.

But choosing an evil because it is a "lesser" evil is a different order of sin, greater than being led to do evil by our (hopefully momentary) spiritual blindness that it is good.  When we choose "the lesser of two evils," we willfully choose evil...knowing it IS evil.

If we believe circumstances exist in which we "have to" do evil, we acknowledge that satan is the effectual ruler of all things, and God is powerless against him.  God lied to us, saying He gave us a choice between good and evil, if satan can create situations in which no choice for good exists, and yet we "have to" choose.

Our beloved brother Tim ("Onesimus") in Australia made a comment that seemed to cap all my thinking about the deep consequences of believing the "lesser of two evils" deception.  He pointed out yesterday that what he sees happening in America (and having an even-closer view than he does, I'd whole-heartedly agree with him) is more than mistaken moral vision, greater even that foolish resignation at “having to” do evil.

What Tim saw, and saw truly, is that the "active support and promotion" of evil manifested in many American Christians' "political activism" is a quantum step beyond being deceived by the enemy, to joining the enemy.

I've been concerned at seeing that very thing among Christians I know.  Christians who last year reluctantly voted for Trump as "the lesser of two evils" evidenced they could still recognize evil.   But many of them...perhaps because their pride will not let them admit they did wrong...have now become staunch defenders of his daily lies, and his evil-intentioned actions.

That so-called "Evangelical base," professing to follow Christ while (sometimes even by) "active support and promotion" of evils committed by members of "their" politicians and "their" political faction, are becoming increasingly hardened in their rationalizing, acceptance, and love of evil.  The enemy is increasingly successful, through political deception, in creating a "church" bearing Christ's name which serves evil.

There is no reason to believe the enemy will abandon the tactic which has worked so well for him.  We should expect he will continue to practice it, in hopes of leading more Christians astray.  Christians who have their hearts set on following Christ must be even more alert and discerning about the deceptions the enemy will continue to try to insinuate into our thinking through politics in the coming days.

"Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves."     --  Romans 14:22


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Oaks of Righteousness


The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

                                                --  Isaiah 61:1-3

The first two verses are very familiar to us.  They are the words of prophecy which Jesus read from the scroll in his home synagogue, saying they were fulfilled that very day, in Himself (Luke 4:18).

I think it was sometime last year when I was praying for my teenagers and those of a beloved sister, that God brought to mind a phrase from scripture.  I had to look it up to see where it was, and make sure I got its words right.  I was very surprised to see it was immediately after the words Jesus said were the prophecy about Himself, words I've often read and meditated on.

Guess I stopped paying attention right after verse 2, all the times I read that passage.  But this time the phrase God brought to mind was in verse 3..."oaks of righteousness."

"That's what I want you to pray for your teenagers and Genelle's boys," God said.  So I have been every since.

Praying it this morning, God got me thinking about the phrase.

What is it He means by that phrase, that I should understand and mean too ?

The first things He brought to mind was that oak is a strong tree...that it is a straight tree, and that its roots go deep to hold it firm.

I trust if I continue to listen, God may say more about this scripture: but for now, that's what He's given me.  That he wants me to pray that my grandkids and Genelle's sons will be strong in righteousness, straight in righteousness, and firmly-rooted in righteousness.

Thank you, Father, for teaching me.  Please never stop teaching me Your ways and Your wisdom.  Amen.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Calvin on Evil Rulers


I very definitely have no dog in doctrinal disputes about Calvin's teachings.  I'm not even sure what anti-Calvinists are called, beyond "anti-Calvinists."  It's never really seemed a necessary part of my life in Christ to research and decide and declare if I'm a Calvinist or an anti-.

The formal theology associated with Calvin's name is doubtless flawed: that's only what we should expect of anyone's theology, including our own.  Believing any human mind can substantially encompass the reality of God is a first step toward idolatry...taken in pride.  None of us can, and none of us do.  So I'm also pretty sure the theology of Calvinism's opponents is just as flawed.

It seems a mistake to follow either to the extent we identify by one "side's" name, or by the other's.  Taking "sides" in theology is the same as taking "sides" in politics, football, nationalism, or any of the other human constructs to which men give their allegiance: that is to say, idols.

"Taking sides," or "factions," is not a fruit of Christ's Spirit any more than idolatry is.  Galatians 5:20 says "dividings" or "factions" grow from our flesh.  The Greek word there for "dividings" is haireseis, from which we get our English word "heresy."

The rhetorical question in I Corinthians 1:13 affirms that Christ is not divided.  Since Jesus identified Himself as "the Truth" (John 14:6), Christians, above all other people, must believe that "the Truth" is not divided.  There are no "sides" in Truth, no "your Truth" and "my Truth:" and the only "anti-" connected with it is denial of Truth.  The latter is what Jesus said is the distinguishing character of "the father of lies" (john 8:44).

Quoting Calvin here has nothing to do with identifying as a Calvinist or an anti-Calvinist.  I cite Calvin because I consider he speaks scriptural truth.


"We are not only subject to the authority of princes who perform their office toward us uprightly and faithfully as they ought, but also to the authority of all who, by whatever means, have got control of affairs...that whoever they may be, they have their authority solely from him....they who rule unjustly and incompetently have been raised up by him to punish the wickedness of the people; that all equally have been endowed with that holy majesty with which he has invested lawful power....a wicked king is the Lord’s wrath upon the earth...thus nothing more would be said of a [wicked] king than of a robber who seizes your possessions, of an adulterer who pollutes your marriage bed, or of a murderer who seeks to kill you. For Scripture reckons all such calamities among God’s curses. But...In a very wicked man utterly unworthy of all honor, provided he has the public power in his hands, that noble and divine power resides which the Lord has by his Word given to the ministers of his justice and judgment. Accordingly, he should be held in the same reverence and esteem by his subjects, in so far as public obedience is concerned, in which they would hold the best of kings if he were given to them.”

                                   --  John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter 20, Section 25

"He now commends to us obedience to princes...that the Lord has designed in this way to provide for the tranquillity of the good, and to restrain the waywardness of the wicked...for except the fury of the wicked be resisted, and the innocent be protected from their violence, all things would come to an entire confusion...

For since a wicked prince is the Lord’s scourge to punish the sins of the people, let us remember, that it happens through our fault that this excellent blessing of God is turned into a curse.”

                                  --  John Calvin, Commentary on Romans  (Chapter 13, vv. 3-4)


Monday, December 18, 2017

God Showed Up


My pastor Joshua Johnson recently preached a sermon that deeply resonated with me, and still does, proclaiming that "God showed up"-- which scripture records time after time, and which my pastor knew from experience God still does.  (The YouTube of that sermon, which I highly recommend, is at

My reading the following week included a Canadian pastor's blog, where he talked about the prayer in Isaiah 63:15-64:12.  Isaiah 64:1-2 especially caught my attention, since it too talked about God showing up:

"Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down,
That the mountains might quake at Your presence—

As fire kindles the brushwood, as fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence !"

There are many reasons we do NOT want God to show up.  Most importantly, because His Presence is tremendously frightening.  That "rending the heavens" thing would scare most of us out of our boots.  That's undoubtedly why His first words, and the first words of His messengers, are nearly always, "Be not afraid !"

 Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel captured very well the feeling we cannot but experience in God's Presence: "God is not nice.  God is not an uncle.  God is an earthquake.”  A character in C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe similarly describes Aslan: "Who said anything about safe?  'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

We have reason to be fearful. This King before us is good.  And in our gut, we all know we are not.  However cleverly we rationalize to ourselves that we are "a good person," we know all the great wrongs and hurts we've done.  We also know in our gut-theology that the Law's sentence for our crimes is death.  So it's a terrifying thing to stand before the Lawmaker, Who is also the only Judge of men's hearts.  We know...and know that He knows better than anyone else could...that we deserve death.

If He lets us live, it's only because His mercy is as perfect as His justice.  But the self-delusion we have always called "my life"...pride in my own way, my own righteousness, my own sufficiency, my own "cleanness" left in ashes by the Holiness of His Presence.  We would all say what Isaiah said when God "showed up" while he was quietly worshipping in the Temple:

Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”     (Isaiah 6:5)

At the same time, we want more than anything else for God to "show up."  We want blessing; and our gut-knowledge is that there is no peace, no joy, no provision, no protection...outside His Presence.  If only He could be persuaded to mail His presents to us, like a kindly uncle...instead of inconveniently bringing them in Person.

But that's the way He does it.  Our terrifying, blessing, King, chooses to come Himself: and no one can second-guess the King's decisions.

This season is, of course, the most appropriate possible time to talk of God "showing up" in Person.  This post bookends yesterday's "Why I Hate Christmas:" it might be subtitled "What's Real About Christmas."

So I say today, with all His saints, with all my heart,

Praise Him, all ye people, forever, and ever: for the King Himself deigns to show up here this day, every day, within His Own creation, in our human experience, in human Person !