< Return to Booklist

Paperback: $8.99
E-book format: $2.99

b-amazon

Looking Up:

Collected Essays & Devotions

Does the Bible challenge you? It should. Do you think deeply about Scriptural truths? You should.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

This little volume of essays is taken from Gary W. Ritter’s blog at his website: www.garyritter.com. They contain subjects and Biblical concepts that many people have overlooked in the church. Their focus is on end-times events and God’s supernatural world as depicted in the Bible.

How should we view the world today? What is happening all around us? We know only through the Word of God. When we look at the world through a Biblically, prophetic lens the chaos surrounding us comes into focus.

These are the latter days. Come think, be challenged, and begin a deeper life if the Spirit through pursuit of the only One who saves: Jesus Christ.

Read Excerpt

101 – To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice

The enemy of God, Satan, has schemed since the Garden to rid the earth of those he believed would fulfill the Word of God, that is, the people who would crush his head. (Genesis 3:15)

In every opportunity that has presented itself over the millennia, Satan has taken it.  Only by destroying the Jews could Satan halt the prophetic fulfillment of God’s Word.  Satan has used human passions and the hatred that men harbor as the means to his end.

One of those means began when God, through the prophet Samuel, directed King Saul to kill all the Amalekites, men, women, children, and to destroy all their livestock.  The king over them at the time was Agag.

There were, I think, a couple of reasons for God to want the entire tribe of the Amalekites wiped out.  This is something to explore another time, but I believe these were related to the Canaanites, the son of Ham, the son of Noah.  God sent the flood because of the extreme sexual wickedness of man on the earth, but were those destroyed completely human?  From the Genesis 6 account, I think there’s good reason to suspect not, that actually the human race had been corrupted by the intermingling of fallen angels, that is, the “sons of God.”  The flood eliminated them, along with the Nephilim, but subsequent to the flood, many tribes descended from Ham had giants among them, including the Amalekites.  It is reasonable to presume that likely the wife of Ham carried some of the corrupted DNA and passed this on to future generations.

The other reason, of course, for God’s instructions to Saul was to again test his obedience.  He failed once more and God eventually ripped the kingdom from him.  The account in 1 Samuel 15 tells us:

But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good.

Once more Saul decided to do things his way, rather than the way of God.  It is from here in 1 Samuel 15:22 that we have the saying:

To obey is better than sacrifice.

Saul’s disobedience required Samuel to finish God’s task.  King Agag is brought before Samuel thinking he’ll skate and come away with his life, but Samuel obeys God and kills him.

Fast forward to the time of Esther and the evil noble in the kingdom named Haman.  Esther 3:1 says that he was an Agagite.  Despite the Amalekites being destroyed by Saul in the 1 Samuel account, there were obviously other groups or cities of them elsewhere.  Later in 1 Samuel and then in 2 Samuel King David runs into them, so it was definitely not their entire race that Saul destroyed.  From one of those subsequent tribes or cities, a relative of King Agag had to have continued living.  I’m not sure of the genealogy, but it’s clear that Haman is a descendent from the incident with Saul and Samuel.

I think we can also presume that Haman’s hatred of the Jews was passed down to him because of the prior victory of the Jews over the Amalekites in Saul’s day and was fueled by Satan’s own rage against God.  Haman’s machinations almost led to the complete destruction of the Jewish race, just as he might have thought was intended by the earlier battles, but through God’s invisible hand, the Jews were preserved.

The conclusion I draw from this is that there can be consequences to our disobedience far beyond what we can see.  Generations pass, but the results of one man’s disobedience almost lead to Satan’s objective, which is to prevent the coming Messiah.  Of course, none of this surprises God.  He knows the end from the beginning, and He was prepared.

Great wickedness will be unleashed upon the earth during the Tribulation.  From what disobedience in the past might terrible results occur during this time?  I can think of one area.

I’ve previously stated that I believe the Roman Catholic Church will be the Harlot of Revelation 17 and the overseers of the One World Religion.  If you examine the lives of the popes through the years, you’ll see that most were extremely wicked men, full of adulteries, lying, and murder.  Don’t believe me?  Please check it out for yourself.  I seriously question whether any one pope throughout the entire history of the Catholic Church was born again.  Certainly, what Catholicism teaches as the way to salvation is not Biblical, so not one pope as the head of that church would be in a position to know God the way His Word says He must be known.

What if, perhaps just one of these popes had been a Godly man and halted the progression of the Catholic Church toward what it will become in the Tribulation?  What if there had been a Mordecai, as in Esther, who might have consulted with someone like Esther, and that particular pope turned from his evil ways?  It didn’t happen and so we have a religion perfectly poised to fulfill its prophetic role.

Disobedience to God has far-reaching consequences.  Indeed, “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

102 – Preparation & Victory

The preparations we make in our walk with the Lord can make the difference between victory and defeat.

The account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 gives us a perfect picture of this.  The Israelites and the Philistines were mortal enemies, and at this point in time the Philistines had a champion of champions fighting for them, Goliath from Gath.

For forty days the opposing sides would line up against each other, and not much more than a lot of bluster and boasting would take place.  The two armies occupied opposing hills in the Elah Valley.  I’ve been there and the hills are fairly distant from each other.  The valley is quite large, with a stream nearer the hill that the Israelites occupied.

Goliath talked a good game and his presence generated immense fear among his foes.  He was huge, over nine feet tall and quite strong.  He challenged the Israelites to send out someone to take him on, and no one had the courage to do so.  You can’t blame them.  How could a man less than six feet tall defeat one towering over him at nine feet?

But David, little David, came along, a youth probably no more than fourteen years old.  He was a shepherd, which was a despised occupation.  It shouldn’t have been.  Shepherds had to protect their flocks, and David had experienced much in that role.  David tells of this in 1 Samuel 17:36:

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.”

If one thing incensed David, it was someone who hated and disrespected God.  That got his dander up!

He picks out five smooth stones from that creek near the Israelite line and advances toward Goliath.  Naturally, Goliath hurls insults at David, but in 1 Samuel 17:45,

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”

David goes on to say to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:47:

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”

What David says here reminds me of Zechariah 4:6, which says:

This is the Word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

David knows where his strength lies; he knows the authority of the Lord.  He knows this because of the time he has spent in the wilderness.  Think of the lonely days and nights watching the sheep.  He’s had no other company than God.  And he has used his time wisely, growing to know the Lord and gaining confidence in Him.

Of course, David defeats Goliath in this epic encounter and the Israelites go on to rout the Philistines.

We often wonder why we have such defeat in our lives.  So many of us who profess to be Christians live a soap opera existence going from one crisis to another.  Do you think if we spent more time with God seeking His face and developing our relationship with Jesus that our lives would be like this?

I don’t think so.  Jesus promised us trials and tribulations, but not soap operas.  One of the things I advocate strongly is spending time with God each day, preferably early to set the tone for the day.  In this time, if we read God’s Word and sit quietly in His presence, we prepare ourselves and settle our hearts so that we can turn to Him in the midst of the day’s trouble.

This is what David did for many of his young years as he prepared for his entry onto the stage of Biblical history.  He didn’t know this would be his role, but he did know that if he walked with God, God would be with him and deliver him.  And He certainly did.

Let us prepare for what God has in store for us.  Let us begin each day seeking the Lord.  If we do that, the Lord sees, He knows our heart.  He will be our advance guard in the battles of life, He will protect us from the rear and our flanks.  He will even carry us when we are too weak to fight.

As David did, let’s give the battle to God and let Him bring us the victory.

103 – King Saul’s Spiritual State

King Saul’s spiritual state is an interesting study.  Once Saul disobeyed God and the Spirit of the Lord left him, he was as messed up as anybody in the Bible.  Several times in 1 Samuel we’re told that evil spirits come upon him.  It happens first when Saul has a fit of jealousy over David after he’s had great success in defeating the Philistine enemies of Israel.

In 1 Samuel 18:7 following David’s victory, the women sing:

“Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

This incenses Saul and 1 Samuel 18:10 tells us:

The next day an evil spirit from God forcefully came upon Saul.

We must understand that God didn’t give Saul this evil spirit, He allowed it to come upon him because Saul’s heart had turned from God.  God was simply giving Saul effectively what he had chosen or asked for.

Saul tries to kill David with his spear, but David through God’s mercy escapes.  Saul’s son, Jonathan, brokers peace between them, and David goes out once more to fight the Philistines.  His name becomes well known among the Israelites and this increases Saul’s jealousy.  Time after time David successfully defeats their foes.  Saul can’t stand the acclaim David receives.

Once more, in 1 Samuel 19:9 we see:

But an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul.

Again, he tries to pin him to the wall with his spear and David must flee for his life.

Saul pursues David after he goes to Ramah to commiserate with the prophet Samuel who anointed David at the Lord’s behest to eventually serve as king in place of Saul.  Saul hears about where he is and pursues him, but watch this:

Three times the men Saul sent after David have the Spirit of the Lord come upon them, and they begin to prophesy.  Saul himself goes to this same place and he, too, experiences God’s grace as told in 1 Samuel 19:23-24:

So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah.  But the Spirit of God came even upon him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth.  He stripped off his robes and also prophesied in Samuel’s presence.  He lay that way all that day and night.  This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

This is so crazy following the evil spirits that came upon the man, but I think it also tells us something.  First is that someone doesn’t necessarily have to be walking with God for Him to come upon him in this way.  God has His own purposes.

Secondly, we have to ask the question: During this time, was Saul possessed by the devil?  My answer would be no.

I think that he was oppressed, but not possessed.  If he was possessed by the evil spirit, I don’t believe the Spirit of God would have come over him.  Jesus told us in Matthew 6:24 speaking of our allegiances:

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

Likewise, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:25:

You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.

The position of the Assemblies of God, of which I’m a part, holds to the position that if we’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit we cannot likewise be possessed by an evil spirit.  Someone, however, can certainly be oppressed or harassed.  Of course, we also have to remember that in the Old Testament, the Spirit came upon people, He didn’t indwell them.

We can ask, further, why did God bother to send His Spirit on Saul?  Perhaps it was to remind him of His mercy and that he could still turn from his wicked ways.  But despite this grace that God showers upon Saul, he continues his pursuit of David and never returns to the Lord.

What was it that started Saul’s deeper descent in falling away from God?  Jealousy.  This is such a clear picture of how we must guard our hearts.  Jealousy can bring great evil upon us because we open ourselves to Satan’s deceptions.

How much during the Tribulation will these wicked passions influence people?  I’m afraid that they will be consumed by them.  Once lawlessness is unleashed upon the world, there will be no restraint from the evil desires of men’s hearts.  It’ll get ugly very quickly and lead to a world that is filled with hate and violence.

I’m grateful that God has shown me the escape route from this time of horrors.  It is through faith in Jesus Christ and none other.  He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 3:16) and He will deliver His true followers from the coming wrath.  Thank you, Jesus!

104 – Anointed of the Lord or A Pretender?

All around we see leaders of the church who have taken upon themselves the mantle of the Lord’s anointed.  These are men, and some women, who call themselves apostles and prophets, who have followers, and who lead a church.  In the more extreme cases, these men have an entourage around them.  They have bodyguards, and are unapproachable.  No one can say a negative thing about them, because they fancy themselves as anointed by God, and who has the right to question someone given this authority?

Often, the Scripture these people use to justify their position and their invincibility is from 1 Samuel.  King Saul has been unjustly pursuing David in order to kill him because of his jealousy over David’s exploits and fear that David will usurp Saul’s position as king.

David is hiding out in the caves of En Gedi, a rocky, wilderness enclave toward the south end on the western side of the Dead Sea.  As an aside, somewhat south of there, a popular tourist stop along the road features Aroma Coffee, which is THE place to go for coffee in Israel.

Saul comes along looking for David and has to relieve himself.  He goes into a cave to do so—the very cave where David is hiding.  David has a decision.  Should he take out Saul and stop this nonsense of Saul chasing him all over Israel to kill him?

At the point of decision, David knows he can’t touch Saul.  His conscience is stricken for even considering such a thing, and later he tells his men in 1 Samuel 24:6:

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.”

The question is whether this verse is appropriate to use for someone claiming to have the imprimatur of the Lord.  Are these people untouchable?  Are they above discipline?

The reality is that people claiming this verse for how they lead are probably not in a place of being able to be disciplined.  They’ve raised themselves up in their own eyes and believe they’re above others.  Sadly, it is many of these kinds of men who fall into moral failure.  They lose any humility before the Lord and men they might have had and depart from God’s Word.  When that happens, they open themselves to the enemy and his deceptions and fall prey to him.

If possible, such leaders should be disciplined, but once they’ve attained this exalted status, that becomes difficult.  They may quote David to their devotees in 1 Samuel 24:10 where he tells Saul:

“I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.”

How dare anyone speak or act against the Lord’s anointed!  Of course, at this point in this person’s career, he has many followers and protectors around him who cannot see the truth.

These last days are full of such pretenders.  Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:15:

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

There are many such Scriptures.

Church leaders are and should be as accountable as anyone else.  In the body of Christ, we are all called to be Bereans and search the Scriptures (Acts 17:11).  We are to know up from down, good from evil, bitter from sweet (Isaiah 5:20).

There is no one who should lord it over us by virtue of their supposed anointing.  We have only to see the example of Jesus.  That was the last idea that would have entered His head.  Why should anyone—supposedly one of the Lord’s faithful followers—do something so contrary to the example we have in Jesus?  It’s another reason I have such a great problem with the Catholic Church.  Only their anointed representatives can interpret the Bible; the common man isn’t educated or smart enough.  Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses and their Watchtower Society.  Even with the hyper-charismatic New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) with its so-called apostles and prophets.  Can anyone say, “Cult?”

We need to ask the Lord in prayer for wisdom and great discernment.  False teachers, false prophets, and false messiahs have been around for a long time, but they are increasing in numbers and prominence in these latter days.  Jesus will come for His church in a cloud, and true believers will be snatched from the earth and protected from God’s wrath.  None of us will see Him walking around the earth today.  He will come again in His glorious appearing back to the earth only at the end of the Tribulation.  His saints, His bride, will accompany Him at that time.

Don’t be deceived.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and stay rooted to the Word of God to rightly discern the times.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.

– Luke 21:28

fish