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Max Lucado, Christian Author

(featured image by Mark Ralston, Getty Images)

The Las Vegas mass murders leave us reeling; struggling to make sense of such tragedy. Where the Bible may not tell us the why of the tragedies, it is quick to tell us who.

Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world (Ephesians 6:12 NCV).

The Bible names a real and present foe of our faith: the devil. He is not just a symbol for evil, he is the source of evil. He doesn’t live in myths and fables, he is an actual being who stalks our planet. He knows his time is short so he seeks to wreak havoc on every occasion.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He comes “only to steal and kill and destroy” (John. 10:10). You’re enjoying happiness? Satan wants to steal it. You’ve discovered joy? He’ll try to kill it. Love your spouse? Satan would love to destroy your marriage. He is the enemy of your God-given destiny and longs to be the destroyer of your soul.

Don’t dismiss him.

Agree with the witness of Scripture. From the Bible’s earliest to final pages, we are confronted with an arrogant anti-God force of great cunning and power. He is the devil, the serpent, the strong one, the lion, the wicked one, the accuser, the god of this age, the murderer, the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air, Beelzebub, and Belial. He oversees a conglomeration of spiritual forces: principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, princes, lords, gods, angels, unclean spirits, and wicked spirits.

Satan appears in the Garden at the beginning. He is cast into the fire in the end. He tempted David, bewildered Saul, and waged an attack on Job. He is in the Gospels, the book of Acts, the writings of Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude. Serious students of Scripture must be serious about Satan.

Jesus was. He squared off against Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He pegged him as the one who snatches the good news from the hearts of the hearers (Matthew 4:15; 13:39). Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus proclaimed: “Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Jesus saw Satan not as a mythological image, not an invention of allegory. He saw the devil as a superhuman narcissist. When he taught us to pray, Jesus did not say, “Deliver us from nebulous negative emotions.” He said, “Deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

We play into the devil’s hand when we pretend he does not exist. The devil is a real devil.

But, and this is huge, the devil is a defeated devil. Were Satan to read the Bible (something he is wont to do), he would be utterly discouraged. Reference after reference makes it clear: the devil’s days are numbered.

“Having disarmed the powers and authorities, [Jesus] made a public spectacle of [the forces of evil], triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15). Jesus stripped Satan of certain victory. He and his minions are being held on a short leash until the final judgment. On that day, the Great Day, Jesus will cast Satan into a lake of fire from which the devil will never return (see 2 Peter 1:4; Jude 1:6). Evil will have its day and appear to have the sway, but God will have his say and ultimately win the day.

Be alert to the devil, but don’t be intimidated by him.

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“I  believe that God can and will bring good out of evil, even out of the greatest evil. For that purpose he needs men who make the best use of everything. I believe God will give us the strength we need to resist in all times of distress. But he never gives it in advance, lest we should rely on ourselves and not on him alone.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, After Ten Years in Letters & Papers From Prison, 10. 

 

The Third Reich, 1933-1945, was arguably the most heinous regime in history. Comprised of some equally malevolent characters, this administration was responsible for initiating the biggest and most costly war mankind has ever known, and perpetrated one of the worlds biggest acts of genocide, in what is now referred to as the Holocaust. This list could have been bigger but I settled on these 15 (mostly) NSDAP members.

#15 – Hermann Goering

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A WW1 veteran, the Reichsmarschall was head of the luftwaffe, and the founder of the gestapo. After the fall of France he stole millions of pounds worth of art from Jews, and amassed a personal fortune. Goering took part in the beer hall putsch of 1923 and was wounded in the groin. Subsequently, taking morphine for pain relief, he became addicted to the drug for the rest of his life. In 1940, the Marshal ordered the bombing of the civilian population of Britain (the Blitz) and was involved in planning the holocaust. Goering was the highest ranking defendant during the Nuremberg Trials. Sentenced to hang, he committed suicide in his cell the night before his execution by cyanide ingestion.

 

 

 

 

#14 – Ilse Koch

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Known as The “Bitch of Buchenwald” because of her sadistic cruelty towards prisoners, Ilse Koch was married to another wicked Nazi SS, Karl Otto Koch, but outshone him in the depraved, inhumane, disregard for life which was her trademark. She used her sexual prowess by wandering around the camps naked, with a whip, and if any man so much as glanced at her she would have them shot on the spot. The most infamous accusation against Ilse Koch was that she had selected inmates with interesting tattoos to be killed, so that their skins could be made into lampshades for her home (though, unfortunately, no evidence of these lampshades has been found). After the war she was arrested and spent time in prison on different charges, eventually hanging herself in her cell in 1967, apparently consumed by guilt.

 

#13 – Joseph Goebbels

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Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels was the Reich Minister of Propaganda, and a vehement antisemite. Goebbels speeches of hatred against Jews arguably initiated the final solution, and no doubt helped sway public opinion to the detriment of the Jewish people. A sufferer of polio, Goebbels had a club foot, but this did not effect his standing as the second best orator in The Reich. He coined the phrase “Total War”, and was instrumental in convincing the nation to fight long after the war was effectively lost. At the end of the war, a devoted Goebbels stayed in Berlin with Hitler and killed himself, along with his wife Magda and their six young children.

 

 

 

 

#12 – Franz Stangl

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Born in Austria, Stangl was a commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps. In 1940, through a direct order from Heinrich Himmler, Stangl became superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at the Euthanasia Institute at Schloss Hartheim where mentally and physically disabled people were sent to be killed. Stangl accepted, and grew accustomed to the killing of Jews , perceiving prisoners not as humans but merely as “cargo”. He is quoted as saying, “I remember standing there, next to the pits full of black-blue corpses…. somebody said ‘What shall we do with rotting garbage?’ that started me thinking of them as cargo. Stangl escaped Germany after the war and was eventually arrested in Brazil, in 1967. He was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings, but argued: “My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty”. He died of heart failure in 1971, while serving a life sentence.

 

 

#11 – Paul Blobel

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During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables. Blobel was primarily responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev. Up to 59,018 executions are attributable to Blobel, though during testimony he was alleged to have killed 10,000-15,000. He was later sentenced to death by the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen Trial. He was hanged at Landsberg Prison on June 8, 1951.

 

 

 

#10 – Josef Kramer

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Kramer was the Commandant of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Dubbed “The Beast of Belsen” by camp inmates; he was a notorious Nazi war criminal, directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Kramer adopted his own draconian policies at Auschwitz and Belsen and, along with Irma Grese, he terrorized his prisoners without remorse. After the war he was convicted of war crimes and hanged in Hameln prison by noted British executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Whilst on trial he stated his lack of feelings as he was “just following orders”.

 

 

 

 

#9 – Ernst Kaltenbrunner

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Austrian born Kaltenbrunner was chief of security in the Reich where he replaced Reinhard Heydrich. He was president of Interpol from 1943 to 1945, and was there to destroy the enemies within the Reich. Kaltenbrunner was a physically imposing man with scars on his cheeks, which made him look like the tyrant he really was. Kaltenbrunner was one of the main perpetrators of the holocaust and he was hanged after the Nuremberg trials on 16th October 1946. He was the highest ranked SS man to be hanged.

 

 

 

 

 

#8 – Friedrich Jeckeln

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Jeckeln led one of the largest collections of Einsatzgruppen, and was personally responsible for ordering the deaths of over 100,000 Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other “undesirables” of the Third Reich, in the occupied Soviet Union during World War II. Jeckeln developed his own methods to kill large numbers of people, which became known as the “Jeckeln System” during the Rumbula, Babi Yar, and Kamianets-Podilskyi Massacres. After the war he was tried and hanged by the Russian,s in Riga on February 3, 1946.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#7 – Oskar Dirlewanger

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WW1 veteran Dr. Oskar Dirlewanger led the infamous SS Dirlewanger Brigade, a penal battalion comprised of the sickest most vicious criminals in the Riech. Dirlwanger raped two 13 year old girls on separate occasions in the 1930s, and lost his Dr. title after being imprisoned, only to have it reinstated after his bravery Fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He volunteered for the SS at the start of WW2, and was given his own battalion due to his excellent soldiery, Dirlewanger’s unit was employed in operations against partisans in the occupied Soviet Union, but he and his soldiers are widely believed to have tortured, raped and murdered civilians (including children) and he allegedly fed female hostages strychnine in order to entertain his soldiers whilst they died in agony. Dirlewanger was captured by the French in a hospital after being injured at the front as he had always led his soldiers into battle. The French handed him over to the Polish, who locked him up and beat and tortured him over the next few days. He died from injuries inflicted by the Polish guards around June 5, 1945.

 

 

 

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Halloween and the Dark Side — What Should Christians Think?

Friday • October 31, 2014

Halloween sweets

Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Hermann Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.

The issue of Halloween presses itself annually upon the Christian conscience. Acutely aware of dangers new and old, many Christian parents choose to withdraw their children from the holiday altogether. Others choose to follow a strategic battle plan for engagement with the holiday. Still others have gone further, seeking to convert Halloween into an evangelistic opportunity. Is Halloween really that significant?

Well, Halloween is a big deal in the marketplace. Halloween is surpassed only by Christmas in terms of economic activity. According to David J. Skal, “Precise figures are difficult to determine, but the annual economic impact of Halloween is now somewhere between 4 billion and 6 billion dollars depending on the number and kinds of industries one includes in the calculations.”

Furthermore, historian Nicholas Rogers claims that “Halloween is currently the second most important party night in North America. In terms of its retail potential, it is second only to Christmas. This commercialism fortifies its significance as a time of public license, a custom-designed opportunity to have a blast. Regardless of its spiritual complications, Halloween is big business.”

Rogers and Skal have each produced books dealing with the origin and significance of Halloween. Nicholas Rogers is author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. Professor of History at York University in Canada, Rogers has written a celebration of Halloween as a transgressive holiday that allows the bizarre and elements from the dark side to enter the mainstream. Skal, a specialist on the culture of Hollywood, has written Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween. Skal’s approach is more dispassionate and focused on entertainment, looking at the cultural impact of Halloween on the rise of horror movies and the nation’s fascination with violence.

The pagan roots of Halloween are well documented. The holiday is rooted in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which came at summer’s end. As Rogers explains, “Paired with the feast of Beltane, which celebrated the life-generating powers of the sun, Samhain beckoned to winter and the dark nights ahead.” Scholars dispute whether Samhain was celebrated as a festival of the dead, but the pagan roots of the festival are indisputable. Questions of human and animal sacrifices and various occultic sexual practices continue as issues of debate, but the reality of the celebration as an occultic festival focused on the changing of seasons undoubtedly involved practices pointing to winter as a season of death.

As Rogers comments: “In fact, the pagan origins of Halloween generally flow not from this sacrificial evidence, but from a different set of symbolic practices. These revolve around the notion of Samhain as a festival of the dead and as a time of supernatural intensity heralding the onset of winter.

How should Christians respond to this pagan background? Harold L. Myra of Christianity Today argues that these pagan roots were well known to Christians of the past. “More than a thousand years ago Christians confronted pagan rites appeasing the lord of death and evil spirits. Halloween’s unsavory beginnings preceded Christ’s birth when the druids, in what is now Britain and France, observed the end of summer with sacrifices to the gods. It was the beginning of the Celtic year and they believed Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves.”

Thus, the custom of wearing costumes, especially costumes imitating evil spirits, is rooted in the Celtic pagan culture. As Myra summarizes, “Most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to the old pagan rites and superstitions.”

The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic. Even as the society has pressed the limits on issues such as sexuality, the culture’s confrontation with the “dark side” has also pushed far beyond boundaries honored in the past.

As David J. Skal makes clear, the modern concept of Halloween is inseparable from the portrayal of the holiday presented by Hollywood. As Skal comments, “The Halloween machine turns the world upside down. One’s identity can be discarded with impunity. Men dress as women, and vise versa. Authority can be mocked and circumvented, and, most important, graves open and the departed return.”

This is the kind of material that keeps Hollywood in business. “Few holidays have a cinematic potential that equals Halloween’s,” comments Skal. “Visually, the subject is unparalleled, if only considered in terms of costume design and art direction. Dramatically, Halloween’s ancient roots evoke dark and melodramatic themes, ripe for transformation into film’s language of shadow and light.”

But television’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (which debuted in 1966) has given way to Hollywood’s “Halloween” series and the rise of violent “slasher” films. Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff have been replaced by Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger.

This fascination with the occult comes as America has been sliding into post-Christian secularism. While the courts remove all theistic references from America’s public square, the void is being filled with a pervasive fascination with evil, paganism, and new forms of occultism.

In addition to all this, Halloween has become downright dangerous in many neighborhoods. Scares about razor blades hidden in apples and poisoned candy have spread across the nation in recurring cycles. For most parents, the greater fear is the encounter with occultic symbols and the society’s fascination with moral darkness.

For this reason, many families withdraw from the holiday completely. Their children do not go trick-or-treating, they wear no costumes, and attend no parties related to the holiday. Some churches have organized alternative festivals, capitalizing on the holiday opportunity, but turning the event away from pagan roots and the fascination with evil spirits. For others, the holiday presents no special challenges at all.

These Christians argue that the pagan roots of Halloween are no more significant than the pagan origins of Christmas and other church festivals. Without doubt, the church has progressively Christianized the calendar, seizing secular and pagan holidays as opportunities for Christian witness and celebration. Anderson M. Rearick, III argues that Christians should not surrender the holiday. As he relates, “I am reluctant to give up what was one of the highlights of my childhood calendar to the Great Imposter and Chief of Liars for no reason except that some of his servants claim it as his.”

Nevertheless, the issue is a bit more complicated than that. While affirming that make-believe and imagination are part and parcel of God’s gift of imagination, Christians should still be very concerned about the focus of that imagination and creativity. Arguing against Halloween is not equivalent to arguing against Christmas. The old church festival of “All Hallow’s Eve” is by no means as universally understood among Christians as the celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.

Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically-informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed, but this takes hard work and may meet with mixed success.

The coming of Halloween is a good time for Christians to remember that evil spirits are real and that the Devil will seize every opportunity to trumpet his own celebrity.

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Currently I am reading, “Heinrich Himmler: The Sinister Life of the Head of the SS and Gestapo.” This statement from page 111 stopped me in my tracks…

The process of extermination that had begun with the insane in 1940 was continued in the case of many mentally defective and deformed children; Himmler’s orders, as far as defective children in the camps were concerned, were quite explicit; they must be done away with along with other “incurables.”

 

Now Playing | Hitler Seethes Over Germany’s Slapdown

As a vanquished foe, Germany is punished severely by the Allies at the Treaty of Versailles and undergoes a radical political shift which only intensifies Hitler’s anger and his resolve to make Germany powerful again.

posted 8/08/2008 12:56PM

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

“The time is fulfilled for the German people of Hitler. It is because of Hitler that Christ, God the helper and redeemer, has become effective among us. … Hitler is the way of the Spirit and the will of God for the German people to enter the Church of Christ.” So spoke German pastor Hermann Gruner. Another pastor put it more succinctly: “Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler.”

Timeline

1885 Wellhausen’s documentary hypothesis
1886 Student Volunteer Movement begins
1895 Freud publishes first work on psychoanalysis
1906 Dietrich Bonhoeffer born
1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer dies
1951 Dietrich Bonhoeffer’sLetters and Papers from Prison

So despondent had been the German people after the defeat of World War I and the subsequent economic depression that the charismatic Hitler appeared to be the nation’s answer to prayer—at least to most Germans.

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JEN WILKIN

A Day for Hatred

Today is a day for hatred.

As I write this article, the death count stands at 20 children. Twenty. Twenty babies who got on a bus or walked out a door or stepped out of a car at the drop-off curb and are never coming home.

Father in heaven, their lunchboxes still hold uneaten sandwiches, unread love notes scrawled on napkins.

For 20 families, the worst fear a parent can know was waiting at the other end of a phone line today. Eleven days before Christmas, no less. Those children and teachers who survived will carry in their heads sights and sounds that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

And what comfort is there to offer them? What words are there to speak? A parent takes every measure possible to protect a child, though we know full well the world is not safe. But this?

There is no spin to put on a story like this. Yes, we will hear stories of heroism begin to emerge over the next hours, and they are stories we will need to hear. But there is no way to soften the blow.

Nor should we want to.

As a mother watching someone else’s horror play out on a screen, I want to feel this to the core of my being. I want it to inform my thoughts and actions in a way that leaves me changed.

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