a monthly devotional journal
Issue No. 60
In this issue:
Perspective 1 - Blinded
Perspective 2 - Riches Untold
Perspective 3 - Foresight
Swirling, multi-colored, multi-shaped dancers pirouette through the air, falling then blowing about, cascading, tumbling frantically over each other, finally to give up the dance, to nestle quietly together into a gathering, moldering pile.
It is the time of year when deciduous trees transition from their luxurious gowns of green, through brilliant Joseph-robes that dazzle the eye, to drying, faded brown smocks and, eventually, an almost embarrassed nakedness.
What was just a short while ago a solid wall of emerald hues behind our home, is now a jumbled pastiche of rust and brown, and scattered pockets of blue sky where all summer there have been none. Every day a little more of the woods' interior is revealed; every day we see a little further to the fields that lie beyond. Though the sun may shine, the air stays crisp and clean except for the light powdering of leaf dust that fills the nostrils with the fragrance of melancholy autumn.
All summer long the tree leaves have played false with us. We have seen their predominant green as their true color, attributing the transient earth hues of autumn only to the fading of their life before falling to the ground to die and be mashed under the cold weight of snow.
Not commonly known, however, is that it is the colors of fall that are the true ones. The brilliant reds, warm oranges, and rich musky browns are the true colors of the leaves. For most of the year, the presence of chlorophyl--which absorbs red, violet and blue light, but reflects green--masks the real color of each leaf. It is only in the autumn of the year, when the chlorophyl fades, that the true color is revealed.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor. 4:3-4
The spiritual "chlorophyl" of this age--Satan himself--has shielded the true revelation of God from those who do not recognize Jesus as Christ, while that same truth is revealed and illuminated by the Spirit that comes to dwell upon the occasion of our trusting in Him.
The nemesis of God blinds the hearts and minds of those who do not yet know God, so that all they see is the deceitful brilliance of this angel of light. The true colors of God--the eternal, unchanging truth of His nature, His character and personality--are never seen at all.
But even with the resident Spirit, the believer can be temporarily blinded by the Father of Lies. Even with the words of God in our hands and the Holy Spirit's ready counsel in our ear, we can be fooled into believing the pretty "greens" that shield us from the truth of our God.
There remains a part of us always tuned to his lies, for we will not be remade into Christ's image until the day our feet rise above this temporal plane. Until that day, there will always be at least a small part of us that gives ear to the one who wishes us no good, the one who seeks only the best for himself--never for those who have sworn to his allegiance.
The believer may not have sworn his oath, but that means that Satan will only try all the harder to veil our gaze as we search for God amidst the false colors of the forest.
Finding the real God in the tangled weeds of this age is not an occupation for the faint of heart--nor for the lazy. Take it for granted, let down for just a moment, and the world will rush in, painting glorious pictures out of colors that should not be believed. Satan, and the blinded oafs who don't realize they belong to him, will sweetly hope to convince you that they are in sole possession of the truth--that surely we may pick and choose among the many gods available; only a fool would settle for just one.
We needn't pay any attention to them. The gods of this world are made of papier mache. Like dying leaves falling from a tree, they are blown about by the capricious wind, casting about according to the whims of those poor souls who bow before them.
When we think too much of ourselves, it is easy to think God too small. When we become consumed with our small and transient trials, the result is that we fill our world with self. The more room taken up by self, the less room remains for God. Contrarily,
"While we are looking at God, we do not see ourselves--blessed riddance."
From the days of the first man, mankind has been preoccupied with self. And from those early days, his blindness to the truth has been encouraged by the devil.
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:4-6
God had intimately revealed Himself to Adam and Eve more fully than He has to anyone since. They communed with Him in ways that more completely illumined the truth of Deity than has ever been revealed to man. But even with that, they voluntarily listened to the wiles of the serpent and turned a blind eye to the truth of their Maker.
Then, as always happens with humanity, the sin of selfishness was handed down to the next generation.
But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?" Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:4-6,8-9
Preoccupation with self casts a veil over our eyes that blinds us to the things of God. But the opposite can also be true. Our blindness toward the things of God causes us to draw inward, and to become preoccupied with self. And Satan has a hand in both circumstances.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the truth of God for [the] lie, and worshiped and served [the creature] rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:25
Jesus Christ, of course, came to lead us in a superior direction.
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4:18-19
God's immensity does not change based on our perception of Him. The truth of God is that He is (in the true sense of the word) great--He is grand and glorious.
There are gods who wish us to remain blind to the truth about them. They revel in deceit, and present themselves to us as angels of light when in truth they are vermin of darkness.
But the Lord God of heaven desires that our eyes be kept fully open. He has nothing to hide. He knows that the more we see Him as He is--the more fully we will comprehend His truth--the closer will be our communion with Him. And that is His true desire.
"They are under the influence and power of the devil, who is called 'the god of this world', because of the great interest he has in this world, the homage that is paid to him by multitudes in this world, and the great sway that, by divine permission, he bears in the world, and in the hearts of his subjects, or rather slaves. And he is the prince of darkness, and ruler of the darkness of this world, so he darkens the understandings of men, and increases their prejudices, and supports his interest by keeping them in the dark, blinding their minds with ignorance, and error, and prejudices, that they should not 'behold the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God.'"
The common belief is that all other senses of a physically blind person become more acute because of the absence of sight. But when we are blind to the things of God, all our senses become dull.Into the Word ------------- Psalm 146:7-8 __________________________________ Isaiah 29:18 __________________________________ Isaiah 35:5 __________________________________ Isaiah 42:6-7 __________________________________ Isaiah 42:16 __________________________________ Isaiah 44:9 __________________________________ Isaiah 56:10 __________________________________ Isaiah 59:10 __________________________________ Matthew 11:5 __________________________________ Matthew 15:14 __________________________________ Matthew 23:16-26 __________________________________ Luke 4:18 __________________________________ Luke 6:39 __________________________________ John 9:39-41 __________________________________ John 12:37-43 __________________________________ 2 Cor. 4:1-6 __________________________________ 2 Peter 1:9 __________________________________ 1 John 2:11 __________________________________ Rev. 3:17 __________________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
"There is something very comforting in the thought that the devil is an adversary (1 Peter 5:8). I would sooner have him for an adversary than a friend. O my soul, it were dread work with you if Satan were a friend of yours, for then with him you must forever dwell in darkness, shut out from the friendship of God. But to have Satan for an adversary is a comfortable omen, for it looks as if God were our friend, and so far let us be comforted in this matter."
"Satan paints God with his own colours."
Making it Personal
What is there about Satan that he (Satan) does not want you to know?
What is there about God, that Satan does not want you to know?
Into the Word
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." Luke 15:11-24
What are we missing while behind the veil? What is taking place on the other side? What things do we miss because we have been blinded by false colors and lies?
Several years back, when we were searching for a house to call our new home, our real estate agent took us to see a very nice house located on the outskirts of Des Moines.
In many ways the property was faithful to the list of requirements we had handed her at the beginning of the process. The house was hidden from the road, tucked back into a wooded clearing, accessible by way of a long curving drive. The house was attractive, almost unique, with a well-manicured lawn surrounded by thick woods.
But the first thing I noticed was that standing on the lawn made me feel as if I were standing in a room with four walls. The trees--though lovely in themselves--created a virtual wall behind which nothing could be seen. The result was not "living with nature," but rather living in isolation from it.
The property we eventually chose has much more open space (and the lawn is not nearly so well manicured). Even in the summer, the trees are sufficiently scattered about that one never feels actually entrapped by them. But still, there is a remarkable difference in the line of sight between the seasons.
In the late spring and summer, when the trees are loaded down with large green leaves, as I gaze out back, past the pond, the view is just that: green trees. They effectively form a visual barrier between the house and the interior of the woods and beyond.
But in the autumn, when the green color fades from those leaves and they begin to fall to the ground, thus opening the line of sight to the interior, suddenly a new world opens up. We can now see those things that all summer long had been shielded from our sight. Now the rich procession of life, previously hidden, is displayed for us.
With the green leaves out of the way, we can now see the groups of deer passing through the woods, and sometimes even pausing to settle into the bed of fallen leaves for a rest. Now and again a small troop of coyotes will pass by, snouts to the ground, intent on the trail of prey only they can smell. Sometimes wild turkeys will be spotted in amongst the trees--a harem of females accompanied by a fat, strutting tom.
All these things and more have been passing by all summer long, but remained hidden from our sight by the veil of trees with their beautiful, yet obstructive green leaves.
There are profound depths to a relationship with the Lord; there are nuances, quiet subtleties, and gentle whisperings; there are grand and troubling mysteries that are never seen--much less experienced--when we are shielded behind the veil.
A relationship with God is not one-dimensional; it does not travel in a straight line. It has ups and downs, anxious veerings off-course, exhilarating climbs up the mount of holiness. And so much of how that relationship develops is up to us. God does not change or change direction in all this; He is the picture of constancy. Every bit of His fullness lies waiting for us to discover, to view, to experience.
But we are deprived of that fullness through our own folly, when we listen to the lies that draw down the veil before our eyes.
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:1-14
Into the Word
There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. Gen 35:7Genesis 35:7 __________________________________ Deut. 29:29 __________________________________ 1 Samuel 3:1-21 __________________________________ Psalm 98:2 __________________________________ Psalm 147:19 __________________________________ Isaiah 40:5 __________________________________ Isaiah 65:1 __________________________________ Daniel 2:19-23 __________________________________ Daniel 2:29-47 __________________________________ Matthew 11:25 __________________________________ Matthew 16:17 __________________________________ Romans 1:18 __________________________________ 1 Cor. 2:1-16 __________________________________ Ephes. 3:1-6 __________________________________ 1 Peter 1:20 __________________________________ 1 Peter 5:1 __________________________________ Rev. 15:4 __________________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
"Faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.
"Believing, then, is directing the heart's attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to 'behold the Lamb of God,' and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives. At first this may be difficult, but it becomes easier as we look steadily at His wondrous person, quietly and without strain. Distractions may hinder, but once the heart is committed to Him, after each excursion away from Him, the attention will return again and rest upon Him like a wandering bird coming back to its window. God takes this intention for our choice and makes what allowances He must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world. He knows that we have set the direction of our hearts toward Jesus, and we can know it too, and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that a habit of soul is forming which will become, after awhile, a sort of spiritual reflex requiring no more conscious effort on our part."(11)
Making it Personal
Think back to an occasion when you permitted Satan to draw down the veil. How easy was it, during this period, to contemplate God?
What happened to eventually lift the veil?
What qualities or personality traits of God did you miss?
Into the Word
The Lord said to Moses, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink." So Moses took the staff from the Lord's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land--from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." Num 20:7-12; Deut. 34:1-4
The bright promise and hope for tomorrow is that there will come a day when we will no longer have to choose. There will come a day when righteousness will be as natural to us as breathing in the holy breeze of heaven.
Until then, however, it will be necessary for us to choose--to be ever vigilant toward keeping our gaze upon the things of God. How will we do this? How do we strengthen ourselves against the lies of the devil, so that we might remove his veil and see clearly our Lord?
Let's take a walk in the woods. The leaves have fallen, the obstacles have been removed, the veil lifted. Though the scene is less pretty than during the green and fertile days of summer, it is now more accessible to us. We can move through the trees unhindered by tall and groping weeds, and leaf-laden branches that would block our way. The droning flies and mosquitos, so bothersome and distracting during the warmth of summer, have departed with the first killing frost. The air is sweet with leaf dust, and the light jacket feels good on our arms.
There, just up ahead, a squirrel busily--almost frantically--stores away his acorns for winter. Cheeks bulging from the nuts, he scurries here, there, scratching and sniffing the ground through the deep carpet of freshly-fallen leaves. Finally pausing, pleased with whatever mysterious qualities he has discerned, the squirrel digs and tugs with strength traveling up through his entire frame, and creates a small hole into which he drops one, maybe two, acorns. Quickly, before anyone else sees him, he covers over the cache, then moves on in search of the next. He will repeat this routine day after day, week after week, until the snow comes, hiding away for safe-keeping the precious food that will keep him alive over the winter and into the next spring. When it becomes necessary, the squirrel will remember--with a mysterious radar known only by his Maker--the precise location of every nut stored. In a flash it will be uncovered and taken up to his nest high in the branches of the barren trees, there to become his small winter feast.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"-- but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 1 Cor. 2:6-10
One of the truly remarkable things about our God is that He does a lot of the work for us. It's true that He doesn't force Himself on us, but He nevertheless performs much of the advance work that smooths our way toward Him.
The Lord has tucked away in each of our lives the Holy Spirit, who counsels, explains, comforts, and describes our God to us. The Spirit blows away the veil and, like a beacon searchlight, cuts through the smog of lies to light the way to the Father's truth.
But this is not to say that God does all the work for us. He smooths the way and sets the course that we are to take, but He doesn't carry us to our destination.
It would be a very stupid squirrel who awoke one bright snow-covered morning to say, "Hey! I'm hungry. What am I going to eat?" And it's a foolish and short-sighted habit for the Christian to wait until the veil has already enshrouded him before crying out, "What do I do now?"
One small acorn at a time, the squirrel methodically plans ahead, putting aside those things that will keep him alive through the bitterly cold winter. When the snow hits, he knows exactly where to go for food.
We know where to go for those things that will keep the liar at bay; we know the location of every acorn of truth--and when we forget, the Spirit reminds us where they've been buried. One small truth at a time, we keep the pathway clear, we keep our vision clear and focused. One step at a time, we fill our lives with God, so that nothing can ever again hide Him from us.
"Let us not cease to do the utmost, that we may incessantly go forward in the way of the Lord; and let us not despair because of the smallness of our accomplishments."(12)Into the Word ------------- Romans 1:17-18 __________________________________ Romans 16:25-27 __________________________________ 1 Cor. 2:6-16 __________________________________ 2 Cor. 4:10-11 __________________________________ Galatians 1:15-17 __________________________________ Ephes. 1:7-10 __________________________________ Ephes. 3:1-6 __________________________________ Col. 1:25-27 __________________________________ Col. 2:2-3 __________________________________ 2 Tim. 1:8-10 __________________________________ 1 Peter 1:3-9 __________________________________
Digging Deeper--Moving Higher
Making it Personal
Like the industrious squirrel stashing away his acorns for the winter, we need to be daily preparing for Satan's onslaught. Our preparations could be divided between defense and offense.What defensive preparations should you make for dealing with Satan?
What offensive preparations should you make?
Into the Word
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:1-11
Issue No. 60
[1.] Galatians 1:4; John 12:31. (return to footnote 1)
[2.] 2 Corinthians 11:14. (return to footnote 2)
[3.] John 8:44. (return to footnote 3)
[4.] Helen H. Lemmel (b. 1864). (return to footnote 4)
[5.] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications, 1982), p91 (return to footnote 5)
[6.] Matthew Henry. (return to footnote 6)
[7.] Ambrose of Milan (340-397); translated by John Chandler (1806-1876) and Louis F. Benson (1855-1930). (return to footnote 7)
[8.] Charles Haddon Spurgeon. (return to footnote 8)
[9.] Stephen Charnock. (return to footnote 9)
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