Thanksgiving 2020 has been hard for many of us, but in this COVID-19 year, God has revealed again and again that He can use even the most challenging circumstances and personal tragedies to open avenues of understanding. We see things in hard times that we may not have noticed in more sedate surroundings. That lesson was reinforced in our own neighborhood a couple of weeks ago as
fire broke out in a family’s home near us. Thankfully, no one was physically injured, but the loss in other ways was tremendous, and it stirred an immediate outpouring of prayers, compassion, and provision of practical help that was inspirational. It was a fresh, living exposition of what unconditional, sacrificial love looks like. My wife and I felt a fresh wave of gratitude to be surrounded by people with hearts like those we saw in action after the fire, but God had more to teach that didn’t emerge right away.
An Unexpected Problem ~ Local fire departments were quick to respond and encouraged to find a fire hydrant only a few feet from the burning house. But their encouragement began to fade as they realized there was another problem the water couldn’t solve. Thick, black smoke had filled the house and was billowing out of every crack and crevice. The firemen had plenty of water and all the hoses they needed to deliver it, but the smoke was so thick they couldn’t determine the location of the fire. They had zero visibility inside the house and no way to know which way to point their hoses. Until they could clear out the smoke, they couldn’t effectively fight the fire.
It was like the fire had produced and deployed a defensive tactic to protect itself . . . and it was working quite well. It was a living demonstration of a “smoke screen.” The dark, blinding smoke rendered the firefighters’ tools ineffective and enabled the blaze to continue to feed undeterred on the family’s treasured possessions.
In a military conflict, while smoke screens can’t stop bullets, bombs, or missiles, they can obscure vulnerable weaknesses and make primary targets hard for enemies to discern, and when weapons can’t find their targets, they are mostly ineffective. Though we may not be engaged in a physical war, understanding how smoke screens work is helpful, because they can still be an effective tactic, and the devil knows that. It’s vitally important then that we understand what kind of “smoke” the enemy is using, and how to counteract it.
Stunning Realizations ~ As I reflect on the current spiritual, moral, and ethical status of our country, I’m dismayed at how so many of the traditional values that once characterized this nation are met with such unabashed contempt and arrogant disdain. Like many, I’ve repeatedly asked myself a familiar question, “How in the world did we allow our country to get to this point?” And how did we permit blows against such things as honesty, justice, righteousness, decency, and basic integrity to be delivered with such staggering force? We seem to be reeling around helplessly, like one of those poor, elderly people who was “sucker-punched” by some cowardly thug parading as a “peaceful protester.” And with even more intense attacks staged and ready to be launched against us, how do we stop this disgusting pattern?
We’ve lost major battles for religious liberty and freedom of speech again and again, but it’s not because we’re weak and ill equipped. We’ve allowed ourselves to be caught flatfooted, off guard, and unprepared. We simply didn’t see what was coming. In the same way that the smoke protected the raging fire in our neighbor’s house and enabled it to continue its devastating rampage undeterred, there are tactics at work in our nation that allow destructive forces to tear away, unopposed, at our foundational principles.
A Single Objective ~ Smoke screens are often used in military engagements, and they have only one objective. They obscure the attacker’s vision. As smoke obscures vision in a physical context, so do lies, distortions, and censorship in a spiritual context. They prevent us from discerning and dismantling strongholds of evil in the spiritual realm. It’s no wonder that presenting lies as truth has been a primary tactic employed by the enemy of our soul since the beginning.
Obviously, then, the only counteractive agent capable of rendering every lie useless is the truth. The problem is that separating truth from the endless stream of lies flying around these days can be a daunting task. One thing’s for sure. We’ll never get it done by exploring all the claims of self-identified “fact checkers.”
God had a better idea. His plan for presenting truth to the world was simpler and much more reliable than that. As the holiday season reminds us, God Himself took on human flesh and introduced Truth with life-changing effectiveness. John described Him with eloquent brevity:
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17, NKJV
God’s Followup Plan ~ Truth came into the world and walked among us. Truth embodied in Jesus Christ revealed the power that would destroy every lie, break every chain, forgive every sin, and overcome death itself. And the triumph of truth didn’t end when He left and returned to His place in Heaven. He had a follow up plan, because His ministry of bringing truth to life in the world wasn’t done. Jesus provided another way to demonstrate truth through living human flesh. As He promised, He sent the Holy Spirit of God, whom He called the Spirit of truth, to indwell and empower every one of His followers.
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17, NKJV
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth… John 16:13a, NKJV
We needn’t expect the Holy Spirit to supernaturally sweep across the land, destroy every lie, and expose the destructive forces of dishonesty. That’s not how He works. God can disarm the power of lies on a national scale and change an entire country’s direction, but He chooses to do it one person at a time. Our objective isn’t to eliminate all the smoke screens that enable the enemy to destroy our country’s foundational values. Our mission is to allow the Spirit of Truth to use us as individuals to confront the enemy’s lies wherever we encounter them and openly call out the evil intent underlying them.
It’s Not a Group Thing ~ The popular culture is obsessed these days with putting people in groups, and we can be drawn toward thinking in their terms as well. Jesus didn’t die on behalf of groups. He died for individual sinners like us. Groups may be important in God’s plan, but they’re always secondary. If the firestorm of evil running roughshod over the country is to be repelled, it isn’t likely to be the result of a specially-anointed group that found favor with God. Awakenings and revivals always have an impact on groups, but their primary focus is on individuals. When ordinary individuals come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and are inspired by God to share what they’ve found with other individuals, the smoke begins to clear. Then the devil’s strongholds begin to be exposed, and his power begins to weaken.
Those who have a personal relationship with Truth itself aren’t so easily victimized by the propaganda pouring out of digital talking heads. Those who have the Light living inside aren’t so easily blinded when some government bureaucrat, entertainment icon, or wealthy corporate CEO declares that a wrong thing is right, that evil is good, and that bitter things are really sweet. When the light of God’s truth overcomes the debilitating darkness of sin in our own minds and hearts, we can focus once again on the mission of living out God’s Truth and sharing the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ with others. That’s when we’ll see the smoke screens begin to clear out across the land, and evil will have no choice but to retreat.
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “As smoke obscures vision in a physical context, so do lies, distortions, and censorship in a spiritual context. They prevent us from discerning and dismantling strongholds of evil in the spiritual realm.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The only counteractive agent capable of rendering every lie useless is the truth. Separating truth from the endless stream of lies can be daunting . We’ll never get it done by exploring the claims of self-identified “fact checkers.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Truth came into the world and walked among us. Truth embodied in Jesus Christ revealed the power that would destroy every lie, break every chain, forgive every sin, and overcome death itself.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When ordinary individuals come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and are inspired by God to share what they’ve found with other individuals, the devil’s strongholds begin to be exposed, and his power begins to weaken.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When the light of God’s truth overcomes the debilitating darkness of sin in our own minds & hearts, we can focus once on the mission of living out God’s Truth and sharing with others the Good News of forgiveness & eternal life in Jesus Christ.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)