Saturday, February 27, 2021

Which Lion?

Photo by Clement Bardot 2014

In this dream, I am lying in the fetal position on a stone floor and realize I’m in the grasp of a lion, encircled by its front legs. It gazes at me intently, then gently extends its paw and touches each of my fingers.

Oddly, I’m not afraid, but I’m not sure whether it is about to devour me or is just protecting me. I get up very cautiously and back away.

When I awaken, I find the dream troubling but not frightening. The paternalistic, intimate, and loving gestures of the gentle giant reminded me of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ Himself (Revelation 5:5). His tender touch with His paw to each of my fingers reminded me of the touch of life as God created Adam and made him a living soul (Genesis 2:7), portrayed on the Sistine Chapel ceiling by the great artist Michelangelo as God, in human form, reaching out His finger to touch Adam’s outstretched finger.

In the allegorical novel the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Christian author C.S. Lewis used a lion, the noble Aslan, to symbolize Lord Jesus, Christ and King. Aslan portrays not only a just and victorious ruler, but one who sacrifices his own life for a traitor, just as Jesus died to save us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). Yet Aslan arose from the dead by a supernatural force, symbolizing Jesus Christ rising from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Aslan then kills the White Witch, a representation of Satan, whom Jesus Christ will defeat (Hebrews 2:14-15) at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:7).

If the lion I dreamt of represented Jesus Christ, why, in the dream, did my doubt and reluctance outweigh my desire to remain in the lion’s loving embrace? Why did I back away from the One Who gave His life for me? Which lion was this – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, or the evil predator wanting to consume me?

The morning after the dream, one of our daily devotional readings was by Charles Stanley, warning that Satan is a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Indeed, Satan is not only the father of all lies (John 8:44), but the great deceiver. He lacks originality and has no creative power from himself, so he imitates Jesus Christ, the Holy Trinity, His miracles and His teachings.

The devil has his ministers at the helm of governments, universities, corporations, and even churches (Ephesians 6:12), where they can appear as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). This is not surprising, for Satan, whom God created as Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-15), the most beautiful and eloquent light-bearer and covering angel, can also transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:4).

In contrast to the loving yet omnipotent Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Satan is a roaring lion on the prowl to destroy anyone susceptible to his traps (Revelation 9:11). Thankfully, once we are saved by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, we have His Holy Spirit living in our heart (2 Corinthians 1:22, 3:3; Galatians 4:6), to guide us away from Satan’s lies and deception, and a band of angels to protect us (Matthew 4:6; Hebrews 1:14). He Who is within us, namely the Spirit, is greater than he who is the ruler of the world, namely the devil (1 John 4:4).

The Spirit protected Samson from a lion, which was likely sent by Satan in an attempt to destroy Samson’s potential ministry, by empowering him with supernatural strength that allowed him to kill the lion as easily as he might have killed a baby goat. Yet Satan then used the lion to tempt Samson into a downward spiral of sin, beginning with defiling himself and his parents by eating honey from the lion’s carcass  (Judges 14:5-9).

Similarly, God empowered the young shepherd David with the strength to kill a lion and bear that threatened a lamb in his flock, in a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), laying down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). In a way, this defeat of Satan’s messengers prepared David for the battle to come against Goliath, chief of the Philistine warriors, whom David slew, giving a great victory to the Israelites (1 Samuel 17:32-58).

Lying on the stone floor in the dream reminds me of Daniel in the lions’ den. When Daniel was imprisoned for praying to his God, he was sentenced to a savage and cruel death by being thrown into a den of hungry lions. Yet God subdued the lions by His angel, who restrained and calmed the would-be predators, shutting their mouths, so that Daniel emerged unscathed. Then God permitted the same lions to be used to destroy Daniel’s enemies (Daniel 6:7-28).

The lion, King of the Jungle, may represent deadly forces at work sent by Satan to torment and destroy us. Yet we must remember that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Lion of the Tribe of Judah, rules over all and has infinite power to subdue our enemies (Isaiah 41:10).

May the Spirit give us wisdom to discern the good from the evil and the faith to trust Him completely and to remember that He will not allow any evil or harm into our lives unless it is for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28) and His ultimate glory!

© 2021 Laurie Collett


Saturday, February 20, 2021


Photo by W.carter 2017
 My husband and I recently explored a nearby nature preserve that we hadn’t visited before. There was a trail map posted at the trailhead, which we perused casually before embarking on our adventure, but there were no printed brochures to take with us.

We soon came to a fork in the road, which neither of us had noticed on the map, as the trail overall appeared to be a circular loop. There were no trail markers at the fork to guide our journey. I preferred the shadier path to the left, while Richard felt that the right path was more likely to be on the main loop. So right we went, and were later relieved to see a blue number painted on a short post, suggesting that we were still on the main trail.

Yet without a map, we were still in the dark about where the trail would take us, and how long our journey would be. Suddenly I screamed as a large snake, once coiled out of sight behind a clump of grass, sprung across the path before slithering away in the bushes.

“It was black, so most likely a harmless racer – no need to panic, says the woman screaming,” I chattered away, more to calm my own nerves than to reassure Richard.

Soon we came to a lovely view, live oak trees framing a serene lake, their branches gnarled and fuzzy with dark ferns, giving them a distinctive yet oddly pleasing appearance resembling tarantula legs.

“We’ll have to come back one day for a picnic, if we can remember how to find it,” Richard said.

As the sun grew warmer, we began to tire and thought about heading back. Just then a fellow hiker crossed our path, and we asked him if he knew the quickest way to return to the trailhead (well, actually, I asked him, because you know how most men hate to ask for directions!).

“Oh, sure,” he said. “Follow this trail up ahead about 50 feet, where you’ll see a large boulder. Turn left at the fork there and that trail leads back to the parking lot – about 15 minutes.” 

Our adventure made me think about how we navigate through life’s unknown terrain. Without landmarks of any sort, we would not only be lost, but without expectations or hope for what lies ahead (Ephesians 2:12).

The most memorable landmarks are often highly emotionally charged, like the snake startling me as it crossed my path. And yet these can be the least reliable. If I attempted to find my way based on where I had seen the snake, I would no doubt be lost, as I was too engrossed in a “fight or flight” reaction to have noticed the terrain, distinctive trees, or topographic features that would help me find the location again.

Nor could I count on the snake to stay in the same spot, for it would have moved on to a less travailed cranny in the bushes, out of sight yet lying in wait for an unsuspecting victim.

Then there are landmarks that would seem at first glance to be more reliable and immutable, yet may not actually be. We might think we could easily revisit the scenic lakefront spot, but what if a storm had caused a large tree to block the path leading to it, or a drought had dried up the lake altogether. The ferns growing on the live oak branches are epiphytes that may change in appearance with rainfall or seasons, so these would be an even less reliable marker.

The gentleman who gave us directions used landmarks that he knew would be there in the short amount of time it would take us to get there, as a heavy rock is unlikely to move and a trail unlikely to erode within half an hour.

But overall, the most reliable and durable markers were the blue painted numbers along the trail and the map at the trailhead laying out the whole course of the trail. Yet we gave these short shrift because they were neither exciting nor calming, eliciting neither fear nor peace.

It made me wonder if we sometimes do the same with God’s Word, ignoring its guidance at our own peril, because we are too easily distracted by and too eager to pursue (or run away from) transient sights that bring us pleasure or pain. Satan is often behind these pitfalls, luring us away from God’s Word with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), and evoking fear and confusion that cause us to doubt God’s Word (2 Timothy 1:7; Matthew 14:31).

Yet His Word is the blueprint for our life, the lamp unto our feet and light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). But sometimes our eyes are blinded, our ears shut, and our hearts hardened to heed and follow it (Isaiah 6:10; Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2; Matthew 13:15; Mark 8:18; Acts 28:27).

Jesus gave His disciples simple, yet surprising, landmarks to follow when He sent them on divine errands. He guided them to the large upper room where they would celebrate the Passover feast on the eve of His crucifixion by giving them a strange instruction. They were to follow the first man they saw carrying a pitcher of water when they entered Jerusalem, and he would lead them to a furnished room where Jesus and the twelve would have the Last Supper (Luke 22:8-20).

How could Jesus know that a man carrying a pitcher would be a reliable landmark to fulfill His purpose? His omniscience allowed Him perfect knowledge of time, space, and even inner workings of the mind and heart (Psalm 139:1-6). For this landmark to be effective, He had to know in advance what the man would be doing (carrying a pitcher), and where and when (at the gate of Jerusalem where the disciples would enter, and at that exact moment). Jesus had to know what he had already done (prepared the room for a large feast) and his mental disposition (that he would offer the room to the disciples).

Not your typical landmark, like the ones the stranger we encountered used to guide us home. Yet we must consider the source, and realize that if direction we hear comes from God, it is true and without flaw.

What if the disciples had reasoned that Jesus couldn’t possibly know what would happen when they entered the city, and decided instead to rely on their own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5-6). What if they followed their eyes to the most lavish venue, which might not be available or affordable, or used their “wisdom” to find a reasonably priced yet unsuitable spot?

Knowing our short attention spans and faulty memories, God often blesses His children with tangible reminders of His goodness and provision, sometimes by acting through leaders He has appointed. When God answered the Israelites’ prayer for deliverance from the Philistines and gave them a great victory, the prophet Samuel set up an Ebenezer stone to remind the people of God’s faithfulness (1 Samuel 7: 8-14).

Twelve stones marked the spot where God parted the river Jordan to allow safe passage of His ark, for God commanded Joshua to place these as a memorial of His deliverance. When children of subsequent generations would inquire about the meaning of these stones, the people were to recount the Lord’s goodness, saying “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.” (Joshua 4:15-24).

Landmarks such as these could potentially be destroyed, much as Jesus predicted that the seemingly permanent structure of God’s temple would be razed to the ground (Mark 13:1-2). Some memorials are recurrent, yet evanescent by their very nature, like the rainbow God places in the sky after a storm to remind us that He will never again destroy the earth by water (Genesis 9:11-16).

Some memorials are not linked to geographical location or to time, but are God-prescribed rituals to help us recall His mercy and love. The feast of the Passover preserved the memory of how God spared the firstborn of Hebrew households where the doorposts and lintel were marked by the blood of a sacrificed lamb (Exodus 12:1-27). This foreshadowed how the precious blood shed on the cross by the Lamb of God would save from physical, spiritual and eternal death all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

What landmark did Jesus Christ leave for us, looking back at His sacrifice on the cross, uniting believers in present fellowship, and looking forward to His return? It is the sacrament of communion, which serves as a past reminder, present trail marker, and guidepost to our future as the bride of Christ, to be united with Him forever after the Rapture at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! He instructed us that every time we break bread or drink the fruit of the vine, we are to remember His coming until He returns (Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Revelation 19:9).

Until then, may we not only keep this sacrament, but follow His Word, a map to guide us to His blessings and preserve us from Satan’s traps (Ephesians 6:11) as He directs us to the blessed hope (Titus 2:13) of eternal life (John 3:16) in Heaven!   

© 2021 Laurie Collett