Skandalon

In my last post, I talked about mass shooters and how hate affects their hearts. Once hate has infected their hearts, they can more easily be prone to commit violence. But there is another aspect to the contagion of mass shootings, a spiritual aspect that very few people mention. That is the aspect of demonic influence.

Most people believe in the existence of angels. They view them as guardians who are here to protect humans. I too believe in the existence of angels and that there are many whose purpose is to help protect humans on earth. But there is another aspect to the angelic realm. That of demons, i.e. those angels that rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven millennia ago. Their purpose is more sinister; they desire to help destroy humanity.

Scripture tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 You see, the devil and his minions are just looking for an opportunity to do us harm. There is a word in the Greek New Testament, skandalon, from where we get the word scandal. It means “a trap, or snare, a stumbling block or a person or thing by which one is entrapped or drawn into error or sin.” BLB Lexicon.

The devil and his demons set traps for us to fall into; traps that can destroy our lives and the lives of many of the people around us. One of the best examples in Scripture is of King David. He was walking on his roof at night, looked out and saw Bathsheba taking a bath. Although she was a married woman, he decided then and there that he must have her. He had her brought to him, slept with her and eventually had her husband killed. The trap was set for him, the skandalon, and he suffered the consequences for the rest of his natural life.

There is a spiritual war going on and it is a war for the souls of men. One doesn’t need to be a mass shooter in order to be influenced to commit evil. Any one of us can fall into a trap set before us if we are not walking circumspectly. Can you think of a time in your life when you were tempted to make a really bad decision? One that would not only hurt you but possibly your children for years to come? I know I can and it is only the grace of God that allowed me to turn away from the trap that was in my path.

We are living in perilous times and it would do us well to be on the lookout for the skandalon that have been set for us. Sometimes the traps are camouflaged and we must look carefully for them and other times they are right in front of us. We must ask God for His protection as we go about our daily lives so we do not fall into the skandalon that are waiting to do us harm.

photo courtesy of Pixabay

The War College

The National War College is situated in Washington D.C. Its mission is “to educate future leaders of the Armed Forces, Department of State and other civilian agencies for high level policy, command and staff responsibilities by conducting a senior level course of study in National Security strategy.” It is imperative that our future leaders have more than a cursory understanding of how to prosecute a war, the economic and social costs associated with it, and a diplomatic way to gain a strategic advantage over foreign actors to protect our national security during the time of war.

We look around the world and see wars in various nations. Those that lead the fight in those wars are at a distinct advantage if they have an understanding of the military, social and diplomatic courses of action that should be taken in order to have a successful conclusion to that war. The strategy they use will make the difference in their subsequent victory or defeat.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. Scripture is clear when in tells us that there is a war being fought in the spiritual arena. Angels and demonic forces are at odds constantly in a war for the souls of men and women on this planet. Just because we don’t see it does not mean that spiritual battles are not taking place. Humans also play a part in this war but most people are not even aware that the war is taking place.

Chapter six in the Book of Ephesians clearly defines this war. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” It also tells us what to do in order to stand against these forces of darkness, i.e. we must put on “the whole armor of God.” We must dress ourselves as a soldier dresses himself for battle. We must put on truth, righteousness, and salvation. We must be ready with the gospel of peace, have the shield of faith and be able to use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. We must also be warriors in prayer in order to stand in the battle.

As effective as this armor is, it takes time and practice in order to learn how to use it well. One must fight in several battles to become experienced and battle hardened. Our leaders especially must be schooled at the War College in order to teach us how to fight successfully in this war. I have seen many a minister and missionary fight difficult battles and emerge victorious. I have also seen several fall in defeat.

Is this War College only for ministers and missionaries? Of course not. Just as our National War College teaches diplomats and civil servants to think strategically, so must we who are not “professional ministers” take classes there in order to learn to recognize our enemy and not be ignorant of his devices.

Ministers and missionaries are automatically signed up for the college but the rest of us are recruited for different classes as the need arises. Last year, I took the Endurance Class. I hadn’t signed up for it, but as events cascaded around myself and my family, I realized I had been drafted into the class and learned to fight the battle on a different level. Believe me, if it wasn’t for my armor, prayer, the grace of God, and loving support from other believers, I would not be standing today.

Are you taking a class at the War College? Is it one you didn’t sign up for but were drafted into? Take heart. God is faithful and He will help you withstand the battle you are in. Learn to use your armor, pray, and ask others to pray for you during this difficult time. You will emerge victorious if you don’t give up and continue to trust God through the darkness. It’s only a class and it will come to an end at just the right time.

Image by Alison Updyke. Courtesy of Pixabay

Patterns in the Chaos

silhouette of trees

Photo by Harrison Haines on Pexels.com

When I think of the phrase, patterns in the chaos, I think of Jody Foster in the movie Contact. She had headphones on and was listening to the sounds in outer space that were picked up by the Radio Telescope Array in New Mexico. Someone asked her what she was doing and she replied, “I’m listening for patterns in the chaos.”  No matter where the chaos is,  it is a good thing to look for patterns in it.

As humans living on this planet, we deal with multiple forms of chaos. Take nature, for instance. Where there is a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or tsunami; we must deal with the resultant chaos that ensues. Each leaves a pattern of destruction in its wake in one form another. We have no control over this kind of chaos. All we can do is pick up the pieces and try to fix whatever has been broken or destroyed.

Then there is the chaos that is brought into our lives by others. If we have relatives or friends who have substance abuse problems, we know there is a form of chaos that swirls around them and the situations they find themselves in. Or if we have a family member or coworker who is unorganized or irresponsible, they create a level of chaos that we may or may not have to deal with. When we step back, we can usually see a pattern in their chaos. Again, we have no control over what another person does, only how we decide to relate to it.  Recognizing the pattern gives us the understanding we need  in order to deal with it.

None of us like to look at the chaos that we cause. When we make bad decisions, i.e. don’t pay our bills on time, spend money irresponsibly, or use poor judgment in one way or another; we create a level of chaos. When we step back and look at it, we can see there is a pattern to the chaos and that we alone are responsible for it. If we can recognize the pattern, we can learn to change our behavior. Fortunately, we do have control over this form of chaos and can do something about it.

There is another form of chaos that comes into our lives from spiritual forces. Have you ever made a positive decision spiritually? Perhaps you have decided to draw closer to the Lord, read your Bible more, give more to the Lord, or lead a Bible Study. If you have, you know that soon after you made the decision, you are bombarded with things or distractions that want to negate that particular decision. We each deal with an enemy of our souls that wants to keep us right where we are and prevent us from moving forward. Initially, and from time to time, these forces come against us. We don’t have control over them, but we can pray and ask the Lord to protect us from them. In order to take positive action (prayer) we must step back and see the pattern. Then we can recognize what is happening to us and begin to engage in the spiritual battle.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6: 12-13

Oblivious

knight-3003641_640Image by Yuri B. Courtesty of Pixabay.

Have you ever watched someone walking through a crosswalk while texting? The person is totally oblivious to what is going on around him. A speeding car could be coming in his direction and because he is not paying attention, he could be hit and killed. When I see people doing that, I want to shake them and tell them to “Wake Up!” A whole world is going on around them and they are distracted to the point of oblivion. Because of this, they put themselves in danger because of their inattention. 

Not only is this true in the material world, it is true in the spiritual world. If a person is totally unaware of the supernatural forces that may be affecting and directing him, he can end up in a very dangerous place. There are spiritual beings that are bent on the destruction of man and they are more than happy to take advantage of someone who is unaware of their existence. The materialist is in a war he cannot win because he doesn’t even know he is in one. He is at the mercy of the spiritual forces around him. 

Even if you are a spiritual person and believe in the supernatural, it is easy to become distracted and not realize the forces that are vying for our attention. Turn on the average television show or movie. Most of them have gratuitous sex, swearing and violence intentionally programed in so that our minds will be filled with negative images. Many of the thoughts and temptations we deal with are in our minds because a worker of darkness has placed them there. 

If we don’t want to become a victim of the warfare that is going on around us, we must not be oblivious to what is happening in the supernatural arena. We must arm ourselves daily with the spiritual armor the Lord has provided for us: truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, prayer, the gospel of peace and the word of God. Only then can we hope to not be a casualty of the spiritual war we are in. 

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Ephesians 6: 10-13