Saturday, October 30, 2021

Angels and Demons


Guardian angel protecting child from demons

As many prepare for All Hallows' Eve, also known as Hallowe'en or Sanhain, even those of us, including me, who do not celebrate can be reminded of the invisible spiritual warfare going on around us. October 31 ushers in the dark half of the year and is considered a satanic holiday honoring demons and witches. It has been said that if we were actually to see the physical manifestations of the battle between angels and demons, we would most likely lose our mind.
Scripture warns of the power of evil spirits to inhabit the soul, spirit and body of those who leave themselves open to demonic possession, and shows the miraculous power of Jesus Christ to cast these out even when His disciples could not (Mark 5:2-19; Luke 4:41; 7:21; 8:2; Matthew 4:24; 8:16, 28-33; etc). 

With so much evil and death in the world, I don't understand why many glorify it with gruesome skeletons, corpses, zombies wielding hatchets, and similar "decorations" in their front yard. As a child, long before I was saved, I enjoyed dressing up in a pretty costume and going door-to-door to collect candy and pennies for Unicef. I liked harvest decor but never related to ghoulish costumes or eerie reminders of the dark side of this "holiday."

Reflecting on all this brought to mind a blog post I wrote several years ago about a true incident illustrating invisible forces battling around us, which I have reposted below:

After midweek evening service at church a few nights ago, I had an unforeseen encounter with an invisible obstacle. As we returned to our car in a neighboring parking lot, I tripped over a cement parking block that was, at least from my perspective, invisible as I stepped down off the curb. The street light illuminated the car from behind, casting a shadow over the parking block, which had discolored to match the color of the pavement, giving me no warning of its presence.

As my feet hit the block and propelled me forward and down, I slammed both knees against the cement and my jaw and chin against the hood of the car. My first thought was that all my teeth had been knocked out, and almost immediately thereafter I was sure I had shattered both kneecaps.

Thankfully my husband was there to lift me to my feet and go running for ice, and my pastor and church family surrounded me with love, concern, assistance and prayer. I could feel the power of those prayers, and my fear was soon transformed into relief and gratitude that I was not seriously injured and would be left with only a few minor scrapes and bruises.

Like this incident, so many threats we might face are unforeseen and invisible – a burglar lying in wait by our doorway, a giant iceberg looming beneath the ocean in the path of a speeding ship, even a cancer cell lurking in our blood stream. We may believe we are invincible because of our high tech security system, the seaworthiness of the vessel, or our usually excellent health.

We tend to forget that we are undeserving of these unearned benefits, but that they are gifts from God (James 1:17), and that He could remove them at any time in accordance with His perfect will (Job 1:21). Yet for His children, who are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, God works all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

How many times have we complained about some minor inconvenience, like being delayed at a traffic light, while being unaware that He is actually protecting us from an accident further down the road, invisible to our eyes yet clearly perceived by His perfect radar.

We worry about what is in our sights, as it distracts us from what may be far worse. We may think we see clearly because what we are looking at is well illuminated, as was the car in this incident, yet are we vigilant (1 Peter 5:8) about what is hidden in the shadows? Only God knows all things (Job 42:3; Psalm 139:6), past present and future, while we are blissfully unaware of many dangers threatening our physical safety, our emotional wellbeing, and our spiritual wholeness. Yet His unseen hand protects us from these and more (Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; 4:34).

As I thought of the force of the impact and the unforgiving nature of the surfaces my body fell against, I realized how miraculous it was that I walked away with only a little swelling and a few scratches. Thank you, Lord Jesus! Injury to my jaw could have silenced my teaching and singing ministries, and fracturing my knees could have ended our dance ministry. Yet God in His grace and strength empowered me (2 Corinthians 12:9) to resume singing and dancing the morning after I fell!

As I thanked and praised God for His protection, this portion of Psalm 91 came to mind:

Psalm 91:9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Similar passages recur in the Gospels (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:11), emphasizing the importance of the angels, or ministering spirits, God sends to protect those who are or will become His children (Hebrews 1:13-14). In the Old Testament, angels sometimes appeared in the form of strong men (Genesis 18), and sometimes they were invisible to men yet perceived by animals (Numbers 22:21-34). But often our senses may be blinded to the spiritual warfare raging around us, with Satan and his demons seeking to devour us while angels protect us from this onslaught (Ephesians 6:12).

All of Psalm 91 describes various dangers against which God is our shield and refuge. As I was so dramatically reminded, His unseen angels can even hold us as we stumble, lessening the blow that Satan would deal us. We can’t see the prayers of saints who intercede for us, but we can feel their power (James 5:16) as they ascend to His throne (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4) and radiate blessings back to us.

Dangers hidden from our limited perception may be invisible, but our God is invincible! His angels and the prayers of His saints may be invisible to us, but that does not diminish their effectiveness. Praise the Lord that He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; that He loves us infinitely; and that no danger can threaten us unless He allows it for our ultimate good and His glory!

© 2019 Laurie Collett


Saturday, October 23, 2021

What Kind of Light Are You?


Photo by Godot13 2007

As my husband and I sat reading our morning devotionals, I noticed that the motion-activated security light on the balcony turned on in broad daylight, triggered by the antics of a playful squirrel.

Such lights are useful protection against intruders, who in theory would be frightened away by the bright light if they ventured too close to the house with some nefarious purpose in mind. They are also useful to illuminate a dark entry if we return home late at night, protecting us from falling or being bitten by mosquitos as we search for our keys.

And yet, as in the case of the squirrel, the motion detector light lacks the discernment to distinguish an intruder from a harmless visitor, or our return home from a moth flying near the sensor, so some energy is wasted. Eventually the bulb burns out and the batteries lose their charge and both need to be replaced.

Other lights turn on only in the darkness, so they save energy during the day, or even store it if they are solar powered, and emit light only in the dark. Yet even in Florida, solar lights often fail if it is a cloudy day, or if trees block the direct sun, or even if it is too hot and humid for the solar cells to operate at optimum efficiency.

Other lights, like the strings of festive Christmas lights meant to lift our spirits and remind us of Jesus Christ, the true Light of the world (John 8:12), are set on a timer to shine only at night. This saves energy, but seeing the unlit plastic bulbs and tangle of electric cords and switches during the day detracts from the decorative effect.

Still, unlit Christmas lights are not as bad as the inflatable snowmen or Santas on timers that melt into a flat, plastic puddle by day – a disturbing sight for children enjoying their lifelike appearance at night!

And finally, there are security lights, often inside near the entry of businesses, visible through the glass doors to deter break-ins. These are always on, for maximum security, yet at the cost of higher energy bills and need to replace the bulbs more often.

These different types of lights got me thinking about our Christian life, once we have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Jesus said that we who are born-again (John 3:3-8) are also the light of the world, and that our light must not be hidden under a basket, but set high on a lampstand for all to see and glorify Him  (Matthew 5:14-16).

To me, that sounds like our light should always be brightly burning. In the wilderness tabernacle and later in the temple, the golden lampstand (Exodus 25:31–39; 37:17–24) was always to be filled with oil and burning continually, as it was the only source of light in a room without windows. It was also a reminder and foreshadowing of God’s light illuminating our lives, through His Word (Psalm 119:105) and through His Son Jesus Christ Who is the true Light.

Jesus referred to this symbolically in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, in that we are to be like the wise virgins who kept their lamps trimmed and filled with oil while awaiting the return of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). We too must be ready for Christ’s imminent return at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), for once the trumpet sounds, it will be too late to be filled with the Holy Spirit, if we are not already by having asked Jesus into our heart to be Lord of our life (Ephesians 1:13).

But sometimes it seems we are more like the motion detector light, turning on only when we think someone is nearby to notice and appreciate our illuminating comments or behavior. Jesus spoke harshly of the Pharisees who made a big show of wearing religious garments and speaking pretentious prayers in public, yet whose heart was far from Christ (Matthew 23).

Or sometimes we are like the darkness-activated light, quick to shine a spotlight at the first sign of evil in someone else, to criticize their flaws and draw attention to our own self-assumed holiness. It is true that men love the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds are evil (John 3:19). Yet Jesus said we are not to judge others, lest we ourselves be judged (Matthew 7:1-5).

Then there are the Christians who seem to be on a timer, being all sweetness and light in the Sunday church service, yet darkened by a bad attitude, words, or behavior as soon as they drive out of the parking lot. Rather, as the apostle Paul said, we should be ready to preach the Word at all times (2 Timothy 4:2), which we can hardly do if our lifestyle discredits our testimony.

So how can we keep our lights brightly burning at all times, to encourage ourselves, to be a blessing to others, and to bring the Gospel light into a dark, sin-filled, dying world? Only by being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit, by yielding to His power and not grieving (Ephesians 4:30) or quenching Him by disobedience, disbelief, or indifference (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Physical lights need constant replenishment of their energy source and bulbs, yet the power of Almighty God (Revelation 11:17; 15:3; etc.) is limitless and infinite. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). If we allow His power to flow through us, our light will never burn out, but will always burn ever more brightly for Him! (Philippians 4:13)

We should be like the eternal flame, perpetually burning to honor the memory of a fallen soldier, just as our life can honor the memory of our Lord and Savior Who sacrificed Himself for us. Or like the Olympic torch, carried from one race to the next by faithful runners, just as we are to run the race set before us and light the way for those running with us (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1).

Or like the trustworthy lighthouse, set on the rugged cliffs to warn all of impending danger, we can caution against the eternal dangers of hell and damnation while beckoning others to the refuge (Psalm 46:1) and eternal life (John 3:16) we have in Jesus Christ!

What kind of light are you? Yield to the Holy Spirit and He will not only illuminate you like a candle that never burns out, but allow you to pass that flame on to others, to brighten their world until He brings us home to His everlasting light! (Revelation 21:23)   

Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.   

© 2021 Laurie Collett

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Jesus Sang!

Can you imagine how blessed the disciples were to live with Jesus for three years – to see Him face-to-face, hear His Word from His own lips, witness His miracles, and learn from Him directly how to pray, minister, live and die?

And yet we who have been saved by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) are also blessed, for His Word records many details of His teachings and earthly ministry.

On the eve of His crucifixion, our omniscient Savior knew the unspeakable agony that awaited Him –unimaginable physical pain, cruel betrayal by His closest friends and chosen people He had come to save, and worst of all, separation from His Father, with Whom He had been present continually since eternity past.

Yet rather than sinking into despair, Jesus used His remaining hours to share the Passover with His apostles; to teach them the sacrament of communion and its meaning,  remembering His broken body and His blood shed for the remission of our sins; and to pray, more so for all His followers than for His own ordeal.

But between the Last Supper and the prayer at Gethsemane, Our Savior gave thanks and praised God by singing! As far as I know, this is the only recorded time in Christ’s earthly ministry that He sang! Just as He had led the disciples in the Passover celebration and in prayer, I believe He led them in the hymn of praise they sang after supper, just after He foretold His shed blood and coming kingdom:

Mark 14:25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

What must it have been like to hear the voice of Jesus lifted in song to His Father? Jesus Christ in His earthly form was perfect in every way, as He was without sin. How resonant, melodious, expressive and clear His singing voice must have been! Although He experienced fatigue, hunger, thirst and pain as we do, there is no record that He ever fell ill, which I believe reflects His freedom from the curse of sin. There would have been no allergies, respiratory infections, or congestion to mar His perfect vibrato, intonation and range.

What a perfect example for all believers to follow, no matter whether we are trained singers or just making a joyful noise unto the Lord – to sing praise to Our Father even in the midst of, and especially in the midst of, the worst trials. In His restorative power, God can even enable the mute to worship Him in song! (Isaiah 35:1-6).

The apostle Paul and missionary Silas followed that example when they were wrongfully imprisoned, and their worship songs not only cheered their fellow prisoners, but caused an earthquake that released them all from their bonds. They used that miraculous display of God’s power not to escape, but to convert their jailer and his household to faith in Christ (Acts 16: 22-34).

Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Small wonder that Paul later encouraged all believers to commune with God and to uplift and teach themselves and one another with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Music that honors God is a way to witness to the unsaved (Psalm 98:2), to encourage other believers and to worship God (Psalm 149:1-2).

The Old Testament and Psalms are filled with exhortations for believers to praise and worship the Lord in song (e.g. 2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalm 13:6). God designed us in His image for His good pleasure, including our voices (Exodus 15:1,21), ears (Exodus 10:2), and musical abilities (Genesis 4:21) to resonate freely to His glory.

If we praise God with song even when we are suffering, those who hear it shall experience our witness of being born again (John 3:3-8) and may be led to trust the Lord themselves.(Psalm 40:1-3; 14:6). By singing unto the Lord, we bless His name; show His salvation; and declare His glory (Psalm 96:1-3).

Even the earth and all of God’s creation (1 Chronicles 16:23,33) sing out in praise! The sea should roar, the floods clap their hands, and the hills be joyful together (Psalm 98:7-8). Science has recently uncovered evidence of the music of the spheres, including radio signals being emitted from the Milky Way!

Although the Bible does not record Jesus of Nazareth singing except at the Last Supper, Jesus Christ – the Lord our God – not only sings, but uses His song to express His love for and joy in His children. And in turn, we are to sing to express the joy of our salvation that we have in Him: We can sing for joy, for He has conquered sin and death and given us eternal life!

Zephaniah 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. 15 The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more. …17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

While we are still on earth, we will continue in trials, disappointments, and tribulation. But praise God, we can sing through that heartache because of the joy that awaits us in Heaven! When that day comes and Christ returns for His children, we shall surround His throne with songs of praise from all nations, tribes and peoples! (Isaiah 42:9-12, Revelation 5:8, 14:2-4, 15:3).

Meanwhile, we can transcend from sorrow to joy in the Lord by singing His praises, just as Jesus sang to His Father as He prepared for the worst trial that ever was. Let us sing a new song unto the Lord (Psalms 33, 40, 96, 98, 144, 149), using each heartache to inspire a new perspective on praise!

© 2021 Laurie Collett