What’s Satan’s End Game?


Satan and his end game for the world, for humanity, really for his own personal destruction, though he thinks it’s for his glory, is no secret. It’s what he’s planned from the beginning.

Some years ago, as part of our study in the book of Luke, our pastor showed something critical about Satan. But it starts first with why Luke said he was writing his book:

it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3-4, emphasis mine)

The central purpose was so that Luke’s target audience, originally a man named Theophilus—but now the rest of us,too—would know the exact truth about the things “accomplished among us [the first century believers], just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:1b-2).

Luke then launches into an account of the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah, interspersed with the angel’s announcement to Mary about Jesus’s coming birth, including this statement: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35b, emphasis mine).

Fast-forward thirty years and both Jesus and John are grown men. John was baptizing people in the Jordan and Jesus also came to him to be baptized. When he came out of the water, “the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’ ” (Luke 3:22, emphasis mine).

Curiously, or so it would seem on the surface, Luke follows this account with a genealogy of Jesus. One thing His lineage shows is that He was a descendant of King David. But it doesn’t stop there. Rather it traces His heritage back to Abraham and beyond, until we get to this: “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38, emphasis mine).

So in these opening chapters, Luke shown the angel telling Mary her child would be the Son of God, the Holy Spirit announcing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that by lineage He is the Son of God.

Enter Satan. Behind the particulars of the three recorded temptations Satan threw at Jesus is a central theme: “If You are the Son of God” (4:3b); “if You worship before me” (4:7a); “If You are the Son of God” (4:9b, emphases in all three are mine). Satan was calling into question Jesus’s identity—the very thing Luke had clearly established in the first three chapters.

This strategy is not so different from what Satan used in the garden with Eve. He suggested that God was holding back from her, that if she would eat of the fruit, she would be like Him. Satan’s key question was, “Indeed, has God said . . .” (Gen. 3:1b). Satan’s tactic, then, is to call into question God’s words and God’s Word, the Incarnate Jesus Christ.

I suggest Satan’s plan of attack has not changed over the years. He still wants people to doubt God Word and His words. Surely God didn’t really mean . . . And Jesus is The Way? Really?

The issues with which we’re confronted in our postmodern/post truth culture fit nicely with Satan’s strategy. Nothing can be known for certain, our society tells us, least of all the Bible. It’s gone through so much copying and translating, not to mention interpreting. How can we know what He really said? The best we can do is identify the particular truths as defined by a particular faith community, understanding that someone else with a different mindset may well see things differently.

So “do not kill” doesn’t necessarily include abortion; “men with men committing indecent acts” because God turned us over to our “degrading passions” due to our exchanging “the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1) isn’t a statement against homosexuality; belief in creation instead of evolution is foolish dismissal of science; loving people is more important than loving a “wrathful tyrant God”; believing that hell awaits anyone is barbaric; and many more such beliefs.

Satan is working the audience. He’s getting applause, and he’s winning people to his side. He has the culture now asking, Did God say . . . And if the answer is, Yes absolutely, the accusations fly. How foolish to believe that, how hateful to say so, how cruel to claim it, how bigoted to think such. Accuse, accuse, accuse. But that’s what Satan is—the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10). He finds it intolerable that we cling to what God has said.

The best way to fight such a spiritual enemy is to stand firm and hold fast. Scripture tells us that, too.

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb. 3:12-14).

This post is a revised and updated version of one that appeared here in April, 2014.

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Secularizing Faith, Or Sanctifying Life Experiences?


Ventura Beach (via Rachel Marks)A popular pastoral position among evangelicals today seems to be to teach that there should be no dividing line between the secular and the sacred. The idea is that God is not merely God on Sunday and in churches.

He is, in fact, God of all our moments and in all places. We should, then, stop thinking of church as special or different. It is a place where we gather, but God is with us in the car wash or the grocery store or at the beach or in the theater.

All this makes sense to me. In fact, it’s consistent with what I learned as a teacher in a Christian school. The great emphasis in my school was integration: God’s word was to be an integral part of everything we taught—not an add-on class.

Here’s a pertinent paragraph from a paper on the philosophy of Christian education which speaks to this point:

Truth cannot be divided. “All truth is God’s truth” accurately delineates the nature of truth, whether in the spiritual or in the natural realm. Real teaching, then, is the process of making known God’s truth. Real knowledge, congruously, is seeing the world as God sees it. Then truth and knowledge, unified by God’s Word, mirror reality. Thus, God’s Word needs to be an integral part of the curriculum of every subject. Courses should not be taught with course material and the Bible. Rather course material must be studied in light of the Bible since God’s Word is the source of absolute truth.

And yet . . .

Scripture seems to teach a standard of holiness that makes a distinction between what is sacred and what is impious, or, to use Old Testament terminology, what is clean and what is unclean. In fact, one of the things God had the prophet Ezekiel proclaim to the exiles in Babylon was that the priests—along with the prophets, princes, and the people themselves—bore responsibility for the punishment God brought on His people. And this was what Ezekiel, on God’s behalf, called the priests out for:

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them (Ezekiel 22:26; emphasis mine)

In truth, the whole Levitic law was all about separation: God’s people separated from the godless nations; the priests separated from the people; the high priest separated from all other Levites and Israelites.

Primarily what was to separate the nation was their worship of God and their obedience to His laws. They were to be holy because God is holy.

And according to Peter, we Christians are also to be holy for the same reason (1 Peter 1:16).

But what precisely does it mean to be holy? Is this where we pull out a list of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots? Some Christians would have us think that’s the way to go while others want to throw off any semblance of following dictates handed down thousands of years ago.

In truth, Jesus showed us what following those dictates actually means: do not commit murder actually means, don’t hate someone else; do not commit adultery actually means, don’t look at another person with lust; love your enemies replaces love your neighbors and hate your enemies. He summed it all up by saying, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

All right, Jesus, I’ll get right on that. I’m not meaning to be disrespectful, but really? We imperfect humans are supposed to be perfect like God who is without spot or blemish? Not possible.

Which was precisely Jesus’s point.

So we can throw away the lists, right?

We can throw them away so far as we look at those lists as a means to acceptance with God. This is the key difference that separates Christians from others who believe in a monotheistic religion. We recognize that we are incapable of the kind of perfection that marks God, the kind of perfection God demands.

The only one who measures up to God’s standard of holiness is Jesus. But when we confess our sins, when we believe Jesus sacrificed Himself to pay for our sins, we have a new birth. We become new creatures. Not perfect creatures, mind you. We don’t suddenly have a no-more-sin gene implanted in us.

Rather, we are saved by faith and we are saved for good works. Meaning that, because of our new standing with God, our hearts are changed. We don’t want to serve only ourselves. Instead, we want to serve God and the people He puts in our path—at least we know we should want to do that and most of the time we do want to do that.

But it’s a war. A spiritual war. One we’re equipped for. One we don’t fight alone. Nevertheless, we battle, not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces.

So what does this have to do with the divide between the secular and the sacred?

I think the divide is in our heart, not out there in the world. What we cling to as ours is profane. What we yield to God is sacred.

Jesus explained it this way when a Pharisee challenged His disciples with one of the Thou Shalts that they had ignored:

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (Matt 15:18-20)

In other words, if my heart is filled with evil thoughts and hatred and lust and lies and covetousness, it doesn’t really matter if I keep a list of all the right things to do and all the wrong things to avoid. I’m profane because my heart is filled with things that defile me.

In short, the pastors are right as far as they go, and Ezekiel is right (well, he was speaking what God told him to, so I guess that’s a no brainer). But the idea that all is sacred isn’t quite right—all is not sacred if our hearts are defiled.

And the last time I checked, that spiritual war I mentioned earlier is still going on.

CSFF Blog Tour – Dream Treaders by Wayne Thomas Batson, Day 1


csffbannerThe CSFF May/June feature is Dream Treaders, a “tweener” book (between middle grade and young adult) by Wayne Thomas Batson. I’ve been trying to think how I can describe this book or what topics it brings to mind about which I could post. The truth is, the premise behind this novel seems quite unique, and the thoughts it inspires aren’t necessarily reflective of the book.

The closest thing I’ve read to this kind of story is Soul’s Gate by James Rubert, but again that comparison could be misleading. On the other hand, what Dream Treaders makes me think of is spiritual warfare, but it’s not an angel-versus-demon book.

So what is Dream Treaders about? I guess you’d say, it’s a fight for the mind, but not in the traditional sense. Not that Soul’s Gate is a traditional fight for the mind either, but Dream Treader isn’t the fight for the mind, one person at a time. It’s got a greater scope, I guess you’d say.

But I’ll give my review later in the blog tour.

For today, I’d like to think a bit more about this issue of fighting for the mind. In reality, I think the fight for the mind is the real spiritual warfare. Yes, there might be demons and angels involved—Daniel learned that demonic activity interfered with a timely answer to his prayer, so there is spiritual battle going on in the heavenlies, including activity that affects humans. However, that kind of warfare is not something most of us observe. Elijah apparently did, but he’s the exception.

The battles that we can and should be aware of are those for our mind and heart. Eve, when Satan confronted her in the guise of a serpent, was in a spiritual battle. At stake was what she would believe about reality—God’s version (if you eat of the tree, you’ll die) or Satan’s version (you surely shall not die).

Of course there’s also the matter of the heart—not just what I believe to be true but what I care about most. This, I tend to think, was the issue Adam faced. He knew what God had said. Satan was not fooling him in the least. But he still chose to eat from that tree. Why would he do such a thing?

Might it have been because he loved Eve so much he couldn’t imagine living if she had to die? If that were the case, he was essentially loving Eve more than he loved God. He was also doubting God’s ability or willingness to care for him. Unlike Abraham generations later, Adam couldn’t imagine a way that God could make this situation better. He couldn’t grasp the idea that God could redeem Eve and restore her to Adam.

Of course there’s also the possibility Adam wasn’t choosing Eve over God. He might have been choosing his own curiosity over God—perhaps he did, in fact, want see what it would be like to taste the forbidden fruit. Or perhaps he wasn’t content any more to be so compliant. Maybe he decided he did want to be more like God than he already was.

Whatever the case, it seems clear that Adam knowingly chose to disregard God’s clear direction because something else mattered to him more than God did.

The battle Adam and Eve waged with Satan is essentially the battle we all have had to wage ever since—every day, every hour, every minute: Will I believe what God has said and will I choose to do what I know He wants?

To some degree this is the battle that’s being played out in Dream Treaders, both in the contemporary world and in the Dream. Wayne Batson, of course, never points to this parallel. Rather, readers are left to think through the issues themselves. And that’s as it should be.

See what other participants in the tour are saying about the book, the story, and the meaning behind it. (Because I’ve been having computer issues, I may or may not be able to post specific article updates.)

Angel Eyes – A Review


I rarely do reviews apart form blog tours, but from time to time, I make an exception. Angel Eyes is one, and I am so, so happy with that decision. Angel Eyes, officially releasing tomorrow, is the debut novel by Shannon Dittemore.

If you frequent Speculative Faith, Shannon’s name may well sound familiar. Besides being an occasional commenter there, she wrote last Friday’s guest post.

    The Review

The Story. Brielle, short for Gabrielle, is a talented dancer. An opportunity arose for her to study in the city and pursue what she hoped would be her dream job, but tragedy forced her to return to the shelter of her home.

Now, back in the little town where she grew up, she meets Jake, and he helps her to see the world through different eyes. Some of what she sees is glorious, but then there is the sticky black tar of fear. And danger.

OK, I’m keeping it cryptic because I don’t want to spoil the story. The action unfolds like a rose, each petal pushing outward a little at a time until the whole flower is in view. I have no intention of taking your corsage and yanking the petals apart.

Strengths. What isn’t a strength in this book? The language is beautiful, the setting poignantly realistic. The characters are authentic, down to their fears and sacrifices, their motives and heartaches, their hopes and struggles. There is such gentle (the flower image comes to mind again) character development–believable, gradual change that’s revealed through action.

Speaking of action, there’s plenty of it. Some is anchored in the mundane world of the every day, and that is typically teen and interesting. Most of the action, however, involves the interconnection of the here and now with the eternal. I guess you’d have to call this a spiritual warfare book.

That being said, this is one God-glorifying story, consistent with the Bible. It is faithful to Scripture whenever Scripture speaks of such things as you’ll find between the covers of this book.

At the same time, Angel Eyes is imaginative and unpredictable. About the time I thought I knew what the issues were, like Brielle, I found out things weren’t as they appeared to be.

Yes, there is tragedy and sadness and a look at hard things. As both Brielle and Jack acknowledge, sometimes the hero doesn’t make it. But this book faces the hard parts and asks the harder questions. No easy answers here, but thoughtful, truthful ones.

Weaknesses. I don’t really have anything for this section. The worst thing I can say is, the parts from Brielle’s point of view are written in first person, present tense.

Generally I find that voice annoying, and I thought at first this book would be all about teen angst like so many young adult books seem to be these days. It’s sort of the flip side of chick lit–same tense and person but the snarky, flippant tone has been replaced with the cynical, fatalistic tone of youth that has grown up too fast.

In truth the beginning of Angel Eyes had a bit of that tone, but there was more lurking around the edges. In addition there were occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view that gave a different voice. I appreciated the change. And as the story unfolded, Brielle’s voice mirrored her character development. It was masterful. (I told you I didn’t really have anything in “weakness.”)

Recommendation. I hope Frank Peretti endorses Shannon’s next book. He should. She is marvelously contributing to the supernatural/spiritual warfare genre he established with the Darkness books years ago.

Although this book is directed at young adults, all-the-way-grown-up adults can enjoy it just as well. A must read for Christians. I highly recommend Angel Eyes to anyone who loves a good story.

One last thing: keep your eyes on Shannon. I have a feeling you’re going to be hearing a lot about her from now on.

And yes, the publisher provided me with an advance reader’s copy of the book, though I made no agreement to give a favorable review. That was solely my decision.

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:55 pm  Comments (6)  
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Combating Satan


Scripture, of course, is the only reliable source of information on the subject of combating Satan. Last Thursday I alluded at the end of my post to the passage from Ephesians in which Paul names the armor we need for the battle we’re engaged in “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12b).

I’ve most often heard the armor identified as the list in verses 14-17: truth, righteousness, the “preparation of the gospel of peace,” faith, salvation, and the word of God. Each of those elements Paul aligns with physical armor of his day.

Too often that’s where we stop since the metaphor stops, but Paul went on to name another vital element we need in our battle against the schemes of the devil—prayer.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
– Eph 6:18-20

Pray for all saints. Pray for those who are charged with proclaiming the gospel.

When I was writing the last few posts about Satan, I couldn’t help but think about C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. This little book contains supposed letters of instruction from an under-secretary of a department in Satan’s organization to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. At one point he gives his thoughts about rendering prayer ineffective:

The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether … If this fails you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by actions of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing.

– pp. 33-34

Screwtape goes on to say that should “the Enemy” defeat Wormwood’s first attempt at misdirection, all is not lost. He can still disrupt “his patient’s” prayer by getting him to pray to a “composite object” constructed from images of “the Enemy” during the Incarnation and images associated with the other two Persons, coupled with the patient’s own reverenced objects: “Whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it—to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him” (p. 35).

It seems to me this “keep them from praying” strategy might be all too real. How many churches dropped their prayer meetings? How many Christians dropped their family prayer times, their before-meal thanks, their individual quiet times?

And when we do pray, how much of our time is filled with requests rather than praise and thanksgiving … or confession? How many of our requests are for ourselves rather than intercession for all the saints and for those who preach the word of God? When we intercede for others, how much of our prayer is for what’s happening physically rather than for what’s happening spiritually?

Lest you wonder, I’m feeling quite convicted.

We’re in a War


I realize I’m probably writing for a small crowd today as a good many visitors living in the US are off having a final summer fling on this long Labor Day weekend.

I, on the other hand, am used to laboring on Labor Day. When I taught, I usually had much to do to get ready for school (here in California, the traditional start of school is after Labor Day). So starting a typical work day today doesn’t seem out of the ordinary.

But on to the topic. One reason I love writing fantasy is because of the clear depiction of the struggle between good and evil. In real life, however, I think we Christians get it wrong. Some don’t really think we’re in a war. Some think the war is a cultural entity, and some think Satan is the enemy, from beginning to end.

I don’t think any of these are Biblically accurate.

First the culture war. If God chose to leave us on the earth to change the culture, why wasn’t Jesus more concerned about changing the culture of His day? Where were His activities designed to condemn or bring down Rome? And even His moves against the Pharisees had more to do with what they stood for spiritually than anything.

On top of Jesus’s example, we have His commission. Go and change your culture, or go and make disciples?

Of course, there are professing Christians who don’t think we’re in a war at all. We are supposed to love and accept and tolerate and in the end everyone will be saved, so it’s all good.

Yes, we are to love. “Accept” might be a different story, and so “tolerate.” But in the end, only those on the narrow road will be saved. Those on the broad way are headed for destruction, so all is far from good.

But are we fighting those on the broad way? Is the war between the narrow-road minority and the broad-way majority? You’d think so to listen to a lot of professing Christians, but God never told us to go out and wrestle others into the kingdom of God. There’s still that “make disciples” command that mitigates against a war-like approach to other people.

So if the enemy is not others who believe differently, maybe it is Satan. The old “the devil made me do it” approach. And certainly he is an enemy. Scripture says he is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. I can’t see taking a passive approach with an aggressive enemy like that.

Scripture tells us we are to be on the alert against Satan and his schemes, we are to flee him, we are given spiritual armor and told to stand against him.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 5:12)

That being said, I don’t think we should neglect the war that goes on in our hearts for rule over the throne of our lives. Romans 6 spells out our options, but I get the impression that this is not a one-time decision:

Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Paul clarifies the battle waging inside us in Romans 7:

But I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (emphasis mine)

The war is real, not to be taken lightly, but we also need to remember, the outcome is certain.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The odd thing is, the fight continues.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 1:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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Writing Distractions


First my protagonist was slogging in the swamp, and I along with him. But the two of us no sooner got out of that mess than real life stuff started putting up speed bumps. First it was car problems, then a couple friend favors, health issues, and a series of inconveniences.

One night the electricity went out for all of maybe five seconds—just long enough to set off the answering machine so I woke up (and stayed awake far longer than I wanted to) and to mess up the digital clocks so they needed to be reset the next morning.

Another night it was a bug in the bathroom (I HATE bugs! 😮 ) and more hours of missed sleep.

Then there are the things that aren’t working quite right and will soon need to be replaced. But until then, they are … inconvenient and a distraction.

Last night my Facebook account got hacked. More inconvenience and time wasted as I worked to right things there. Then today I spent another chunk of time changing passwords at various sites to avoid more of the same. Apparently at one of the writer groups I no longer am active in, someone posted account info including passwords.

Opps! 😳 I was guilty of the thing they always tell you not to do—use the same password all the time. Mine was foolproof, I thought, so no worry. Sure, foolproof unless someone posts it publicly, then not so much!

All that to say, as I am closing in on the last revisions of The Lore of Efrathah, Book Three, now titled The Stone of Surrender, I’m besieged with these distractions—from minor to considerably time-consuming.

It reminds me of a line currently in the opening of the first Lore of Efrathah book (title is being renovated):

But what had [Jim] expected? Ever since he hurt his knee, the governing rule of his life seemed to be, If it ain’t broke, it will be soon.

Mind you, I wrote that line before the problems with the recliner and the microwave. 🙄

It’s about now I start to wonder how much of these kinds of “coincidental” interruptions, distractions, snags are purposeful plants by the enemy of our souls.

I’m not one to see spiritual warfare under every rock or in every full parking lot, but honestly, there comes a point where I start to wonder.

Does it really matter, though, if these accumulations of problems are purposeful attacks? I suppose not, except to maybe help me pray and to seek prayer support from others, something I haven’t done enough of lately.

So here it is. If God brings me to mind, and you have the nudge from His Spirit, would you please pray that the distractions and delays and snags will not slow my writing progress. Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind if they sort of disappeared. 😉

Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 11:29 am  Comments (3)  
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