Friday, 17 April 2015

Where there's smoke, there's fire

Let no one in any way deceive you...
- 2 Thessalonians 2:3 -

After a beautiful, balmy week in Gauteng and a sunny Autumn weekend back home, Cold Mountain is back. The tip of my nose is wet like a pup's. Outside the air is thin and sharp, everything glistens and it smells wet and mossy. The skin on my face feels taught from the cold when I return, breath steaming, with another crate-full of fire-wood for the hearth. It is a reminder once again that we live in the highlands, and all this clear crisp air and wild beauty comes at a cost. But since I still prefer a dripping nose and stiff hands to the rushed existence in the warmer, built up places - this is home and we love and embrace it with every surprising and oft challenging facet of it. I woke up two days ago with mists reaching for the windows and two lines of a song in my heart; along with one mysterious word. The chorus is still playing in my head - "On Christ the solid rock I stand, ALL other ground is sinking sand". A song we sang at fellowship and without a doubt the only surety we have to hold onto in the strange and shifting times we live in. And it is enough.

The "word" or actually two words are less simple to understand - but I will try.

Smoke screen... Just that. A mass of dense smoke produced to conceal an area, vessel or plane from the enemy. To conceal military activity or operations.

Something intended to disguise, conceal or deceive, camouflage...

Working in the shadows, disguising, deceiving, hiding the truth - this is the way of our enemy - Satan.

He may come in the ruse of a charming suitor, luring us away into places that seem so attractive, places of fleeting indulgence and pleasure. But behind the smoke screen, is the darkness of his hidden agenda. To keep our hearts away from the lasting joy found in our True Love - Jesus, and His clear and pure love for us.

Recently we were distracted by sensation over the defacing and threats of destruction of monuments and statues in our country. Behind this smoke screen, Satan plots to bring about racial dissension and hatred.

He may cause uprisings, violence, persecution of God's people, but behind the smoke screen he plots to place fear in our hearts, rather than the Spirit of courage and hope that the perfect love of Christ brings.

He may cause false prophets and spiritual leaders to deceive God's children with a smoke screen of halve-truths, teachings that may sound good and right. But if tested against the Word of God, are revealed to lack the whole Truth and ultimately lead to confusion, compromise and spiritual darkness.

He may cause disagreements in families, arguments about the meanings of Scripture, struggles for spiritual supremacy and a need to prove personal convictions. Hidden behind the smoke screen of self-righteousness that follows, is the truth that we are all equal in Christ. All "nothing" without His grace and righteousness.

He may set up a smoke screen with feelings of worthlessness, to stop us from seeing our own priceless worth in Christ. Instead we see magazines with "perfect people", read stories of heroes driven by a sense of personal achievement and pride, who make us feel small and without purpose.

He may make us feel outraged and powerless when authorities remove prayer from public schools and Christian morals are seen to be threatened by acts of corruption and blatant discrimination. Another smoke screen. And while we see only the limitations, we are blinded to the opportunities. The opportunity to work fervently for the Kingdom at home, steeping our own children in the knowledge and love of Jesus. Or in smaller groups where truth is valued and the power of prayer in an inner room is recognised. Nowhere else is the church as strong as in countries where Christians are persecuted. It is no longer their right, but a lifeline, a hope beyond life. For them to live, truly is Christ and to die (for the Kingdom) is gain.

For some the smoke screen will be a set of rules or laws they are deceived into following in order to stay in His grace. A need to do as much as they can to attain righteousness. But free from that lie and from the law written in stone - we see Christ, our only righteousness. Our only redemption from sin. Not because the law was flawed, but since we are. He took the curse of the law and sin on Himself as he hung on the cross. Wrote His law tenderly on our hearts instead - which we obey with love and freedom, not by rules and chains of bondage.

Ultimately we are told that Satan will set himself up as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and those who will be deceived, will believe him to be the one to empower, to set free. Behind the smoke screen of the greatest deception will be Lucifer, the fallen angel who was condemned to hell and longs for one thing more than anything else - to be God and to be worshipped. He will go to any length to draw God's children to him, promise them all they long for, but at the greatest price of all - living souls. Souls redeemed by Jesus.

The enemy is a roaring lion, a deceiver, a liar, a thief, a master of disguise. We encounter him at every turn, at every street corner, in the media, everywhere! He is the ruler of this current reality. This world.

What are we to do? We are still in this world... How do we not get overwhelmed by the smoke, spend our days in a maze of fear, frustration, limited vision and ignorance of what lies beyond it all? Or worse - in comfortable denial...

My oldest boy asked me to explain to him how a "Harrier jump jet" works the other day. I admit I had to look it up myself, I just knew that it can take off vertically from the deck of a naval ship without a runway. The powerful exhaust streams from the jet engine of the Harrier fighter can be directed downward as well as backward, and their direction can be changed in mid-flight. This allows the fixed wing Harrier aircraft to be thrust off the ground without the lift created by a rotor blade. It can literally rise up from a position of standing completely still, and hover over everything before normal flight resumes.

A strange analogy, I admit, but it came to mind when I was thinking of how we "rise above" or "overcome" each situation with Jesus. While being completely still. As Christians we do not need to stumble along in our little space that we have created for ourselves, or feel threatened by the proximity of so much wickedness, so much "smoke". Or do all in our power to be rid of the smoke that encroaches from all sides. Jesus gives us the power through His victory over the world and it's current ruler to rise above, to conquer, to be victorious. To be discerning, to see the smoke for what it is. To trust His powerful wings to take us above what seems to threaten and limit, to soar free and victorious in His Light and Truth.

There are times to take shelter under these wings and there are times to soar on them. As mature Christians we know that we need our Saviour in every situation. To shelter, guide or lift us up. We need His courage to allow Him to take us into the "unknown", His way. We will not always find all the answers to our questions there, but we will find Him. Be found in Him. And in Him there is peace and freedom. And hope.

"And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us". (Romans 5:5)

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