Know Your Enemy

Sometimes I think we give the devil way more credit than we should. That being said the devil is our adversary. After all, Satan means adversary. We should also understand that he does have a vast network of demons that do his bidding so while we should not give him too much credit it is important to know his tactics. That all being said I want to look at three tactics found in Genesis 3.

First, the devil “perverts language” as Bruce Waltke says, using it to confuse Adam and Eve.[1] Before the fall language was wholesome and only communicated truth or was used to ask questions but never for deceit. The idea of using language to confuse or tempt was completely foreign to the minds of Adam and Eve. This is not to excuse Adam and Eve because they clearly had God’s words regarding the tree. But we should understand that to them there was language was pure, so the statements and questions of the serpent made sense to a degree.

For us to combat this we need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has said. Personal revelation about Scripture and direction in life are good but we need the revealed Word of God to fall back on in times of trouble and question. The devil can easily make us question a direction we believe is from God and he can attempt to use Scripture to confuse us. We fight this the same way Jesus did and that is by rightly dividing and knowing the Word of God.

Second, I see that the devil turns God’s command regarding the tree of knowledge into a general question about all trees in the Garden. This planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind because later she sees that the tree was good for food (v6). Additionally, the serpent goes on to contradict God’s words in verse 4 when he says, “you will not die.”[2] The devil makes Eve think that “God is jealous and makes lavish promises” introducing the idea that God does not have their best intentions at heart.[3] The trickery here was to make Eve think that God was keeping something from them. That there was more that could be had but to get it they must get it on their own.

The devil can often confuse us (or at least me) about things that seem to contradict. Genesis 2:9 says that all the trees in the garden were pleasing in appearance and good for food including the tree of knowledge of good and evil so the devil can say if it is good for food then you should eat it. If God wants me to be happy and live in abundant life, then why shouldn’t I get what I need? I am not under the Law I don’t need to give tithes or offerings. I need to live an abundant life, don’t I? This is just one example but in truth, the devil comes at us with all sorts of temptations that for things we can justify. The problem is again that we must go back to the Word of God and see what God has truly said on the matter. We cannot philosophize the Word of God or His commands. Paul writes in Colossians 2:8 that we should not be carried away by teachings, philosophies, and traditions that are not based on Christ. We cannot turn God’s specifics into questions about abstract and general things and we must hold fast to the promises of God and trust in Him.
Lastly, as Walter Brueggemann says in his commentary on Genesis, God was objectified by the serpent. [4]  God was not included in the conversation that the devil had with Eve. The devil will attack us this way. He will get us to question God, His motives, His previous commands, and so on all the while being sure that we talk about God but never to Him. We must always be careful not to let God become an academic study. We cannot allow God to become just another subject we study. Our endeavors to learn about Him must be married with a desire to grow closer to Him. These two things must never be separated. God is not an abstract concept and should not be treated as such. Christ’s life and death was not only simply to save us from eternal separation from God but to give us union with Him. It is Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We can treat it as salvation from sin and death but more than that it is a call to relationship. Just as our salvation does not exist outside of Christ our knowledge of Him should not exist outside of Him either. Galatians 2:20 says that the life we now live we by faith in the Son of God.

When we better understand our enemy, we are better prepared on how to fight. We should understand that we fight from a place of victory, but it is a battle nonetheless. The victory is ours in Christ, but we still live in the flesh. So, arm yourself today and know how to fight.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, and Cathi J Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001): 91.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Didymus, and Robert C. Hill, Commentary on Genesis. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 82. accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost.

 

[4] Walter Brueggemann, “Genesis,” (Louisville, Ky: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2010), 48, accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost

 

New Book

I am days away from finishing my first book. It is little (about 10k words) but I am very excited. The book goes through Colossians chapter 3 and discusses the first priority we have in our attempts to become the husband, father, wife, mother, and employee we want to be as well as some direction from the Bible on how to be that person. The book may end up on Amazon but for now, I will have a page on my website where you can download it for free in either ePub or PDF. Because I am so excited I have an excerpt below. I hope you enjoy it and it is a blessing to you. It has been a huge blessing for me to write it and spend time with God creating it.

Excerpt From “First Things First”

I would like to give you seven easy steps to be a better husband, father, wife, mother, or employee. It would be nice to give you some simple steps that you can do and then claim that these steps would radically change your life. I would like to, but I cannot. I am sure there is a book at a store near you that can do this, and I am sure that in that book it will list things like take the time to notice things, slow down, learn to say no, be in the moment, don’t rush, remember to breathe, and so on. There will also be a few good stories in the book that illustrate what happens when you follow and or don’t follow these principles. I would even imagine that in this book there will be a section dedicated to having a deep and powerful connection with Jesus.

However, because that book has been written a hundred times I will not go there. Instead, we will look at one part of what those books talk about – Having a deep and powerful connection with Jesus. I am of the opinion, and I hope to persuade you to be as well, that the first and most important step in becoming a better husband, father, wife, mother, or employee is to have not only that deep and powerful relationship with Jesus but to be secure in that relationship. I would go so far as to claim that minus anything other than that being the most important part of the process of becoming a better person the rest of your efforts are in vain.

What is hope?

Do you have hope? What is your hope? In Colossians chapter 1 Paul mentions hope four times and that might not sound like a lot because a lot of words are repeated throughout the chapter and throughout the Bible in general so what makes, or should make a word like hope stand out?

Not all words are created equal. Words like love, freedom, victory and hope carry more weight than other words. For example, if you are in sales then a word like “discount” carries more weight than other words. When you are talking to a customer and they hear the word “discount” it will make their ears perk up. Use it two or three times in the conversation and you have their attention. If you are talking to your kids (little kids) and you mention a snack they instantly pay a little more attention because a word like “snack” means something more to them. The same thing holds true here in Colossians 1 with the word “hope.”

Hope as is typically used means something along the lines of “want something to happen or be the case” but that is not what the word means in Greek. In Greek, hope, as used here, means “confident expectation” which is to say you know this is a thing is going to happen. The difference is huge because in the typical usage definition you would like something to be true but in the Bible (especially in Colossians) you know it to be true.

I think we get it. Let’s look at Colossians 1:27 which says, “God wanted to make known among the Gentile (non-Jews) the glorious wealth of this mystery which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” With the understanding of what hope is in biblical terms, we can read this and see that Christ in us is the confident expectation of glory. What a relief! I don’t have to be great or good enough but Christ in me is good enough. Jesus is the answer to the question of what does God want from me. All my work can be laid down and I can rest in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. I can rest from my labor and take His yoke. I can stop trying to figure out how to make myself good enough because it is Christ in me that is good enough.

Hope is such a powerful word. Hope is an amazing thing because the hope is Christ, not my better performance. If we back up and look at two of the other uses of hope in chapter 1 we read that we can love others because of our hope in Christ (Col 1:5a). We can love others the way we should and want to because of the hope of Christ. The pressure to perform or be self-sufficient is gone because of Jesus. The hope (confident expectation) we have in Jesus frees us to love others.

The hymn writer Edward Mote wrote “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Our hope is built or founded in Christ and on His work. This brings us to the second point which is that our understanding of this hope is found in the Gospel (Col 1:5b). Because of the message of the Gospel and the confirmation from the Holy Spirit we can understand that there is hope. The Holy Spirit brings the truth of the Gospel to life in us and produces fruit. The hope of Christ is not pie in the sky but is a living hope that is useful and producing fruit in us now.

I will close with this thought from Paul in Romans 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Hope is not only an amazing and wonderful thing but if your hope is in Christ, and that is the key, then it will not disappoint because Jesus is faithful. He is always faithful and will always be faithful because He cannot be anything but faithful. That might now always show in the way you want but it will always be true. You can count on that.

Just a thought,

Mike

But Now

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him. – Col 1:21-22

The main thing that sticks out to me in this verse is “But Now.” But now is powerful because it transitions from what was to what is. Those in Christ used to be alienated but now they are not. They used to be far from God but now they are not. They used to be enemies with God but now they are not. The but now transitions and I love transitions. The problem is transitions are not always smooth and we have to remember that.

People coming to Christ, those who have recently come, and even those who are deepening their walk are transitioning. They are in the but now phase and honestly, we are all in the but now phase. The but now phase is where we spend our entire Christian walk because we are constantly in a place of growing and changing. We are, or at least we should be, constantly growing in Christ and learning what it means to walk in the new man. Because of this, we need to have grace for another and support each other.

As I have said before I love analogies so here is one comparing the life of a Christian to a child. When a baby is born, it can do nothing on its own. It needs constant support and nurturing from the parents. Everything is new and different so we don’t get mad when they cry or need feeding. Instead, we understand that are weak and fragile so we treat them accordingly. As they grow they start the but now process. They begin to speak and we expect them to learn to articulate their wants and needs. We do not expect full sentences or even proper words but attempts. As they become toddlers they should be better are communicating and becoming more independent but they are still learning. We expect more from them but only what is appropriate for their age and intelligence. This continues as a toddler moves into childhood and then teenage years. We have constant expectations and desires for growth but they are always in a but now transition.

You and I are always in a but now transition too. We do not reach full maturity on this side of heaven. Paul says that we press on towards the goal because we have not reached it yet (Phil 3:13-14). We are always in a but now transition moving towards Christlikeness. The beautiful part is that the Bible says that Jesus has reconciled us. This means we move from a position of acceptance and not to a place of acceptance. The starting point makes all the difference in the world. We start in Christ, move in Christ, and finish in Christ. We have acceptance and will be presented holy, faultless, and blameless to the Father in Christ, we just need to walk in it.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

Colossians 1:10

It is God’s desire for His children to walk with Him in fellowship and in the works He has prepared ahead of time for them. Verse 10 of Colossians if read on its own starts with something that has the potential to strike fear into the heart of the believer “walk worthy of the Lord.” This can cause one to instead of walking in joyful fellowship walk on eggshells wondering if they are pleasing the God they serve. However, we read in verse 9 that Paul says that when you are filled with the knowledge of God’s will then you will walk worthy of Him, pleasing Him, bearing fruit, and growing in the knowledge of Him. Fruitful ministry and growth in Christ does not come on its own apart from first receiving Him. A servant of God in ministry can no more have a successful ministry apart from Christ then a car can move without an engine. It is Jesus that gives fruitfulness when we walk with Him, and it is in walking with Him that we know more of Him. The cycle continues because as we know more of Him and are constantly filled with Him we go and are fruitful in the things that He has called us to.

So today as you go about your ministry whether it be a pastor, missionary, evangelist, dad, mom, teacher, police officer, server, or what have you. Remember first to connect with the God who loves you so. Before you attempt to reach those who are hurting and needing that love make sure you have received it because you cannot give what you do not possess.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

They call me Tic Tac….

download

Growing up I was never fond of my name. It is not that I have a bad name it is just boring because let’s face it Mike is pretty generic. I mean there are something like 4 million Michaels in the world so I am not even a one in a million. If I add my last name there is still almost 600 people. I just can’t catch a break. I tried for years to get a cool nickname too. I tried everything I could think of to get one. One summer I ate Tic Tacs all the time hoping someone would start calling me that (I was desperate). All my attempts failed. For a short time people called me by my last name but there are like 46000 people with the same last name so that was no better. I changed the spelling, abbreviated (my initials are useless) so again no help. I realize that Proverbs 22:1 says a good name is better than riches but if everyone has the same name they don’t know it’s me.

I have since gotten over that issue. It was not easy but a process. I realized that my name was not so important. My name and having it be unique would have been cool but it was not really that important. The name of Jesus however is amazing. At His name all will bow and confess He is LORD, and that is the name I am now concerned with.

See I am no longer worried about my name and it being something because I know the one who has a great name. My name while it has a small sphere of influence cannot give people peace. My name has never cast out a demon, or healed the lame, opened the eyes of the blind, or forgiven sin. The name of Jesus is so powerful that in reading this some people will stop because His very name makes them uncomfortable. To others who are His however they are at peace. So just one more time….Jesus!

Colossians 1:17-18 and Colossians in general scream about His name. It says:

“And He is before all things and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first board from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”

I know there are others but I really like these verses. There is so much there and it has been attacked so much over the years. Some bad theology has come out of not understanding these verses. Things like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others I am sure I don’t even know about. They say “see right there in the Bible, Jesus is just an exalted man. He was just the first man.” Well forgetting for a second about how that does not line up with what the rest of Scripture teaches. Let’s just focus on the context.

Paul was writing to people who plainly understood that the first born has inheritance rights. I cannot go into nor completely understand eternal Sonship (how Jesus is eternally begotten). The first born was in charge of everything. The term is Primogeniture and it just means the first born male inherits the estate of the father. Think about how kings would give everything to their first born son. It evolved over time in most places and daughters were given rights as well. The important thing here is not gender but stature. The first born got it all.

Those reading this letter from Paul understood that and then understood that it all belongs to Jesus. That is why His name is so powerful, because He gets it all. Everything good is wrapped up in Him and His name. There is something so powerful in His name.

That is why His name is the only one I am concerned with. I take the command to go in His name, preach in His name, do everything in His name very seriously. I am no longer concerned with my name but His because His name is great. When I think that not only do I get to be forgiven but use His name I am in awe.

So I may never have a cool nickname I get to use a name that is full of power and authority. I get to use the name of Jesus.

Just a thought,

Mike

I am not a reject!

So at this point I have sent out probably 2 dozen or so emails for youth pastor positions from Saipan to Oregon with most having cricket responses, but some rejections are starting to roll in. This is not fun, and it is not how I expected it to go (I am typically the constant optimist). To be honest I started to feel like a reject and sit in self pity. Then God and my daughter spoke up.

We were doing a Bible study last night and going through 1 John and my daughter asked if lying was a sin. Simple question so I fought the urge to give a dissertation and said yes. She then asked if that meant she was no longer a Christian because she sinned. My wife and I then explained to her that just like mommy and daddy love you and you are our daughter regardless of mistakes and actions God loves you even when you mess up. This was good enough for her. But it started something in me.

This morning I started thinking about that again. I felt like God was reminding that just like a lie does not mean you stop being His child a rejection does not make you a reject. We can (ok I can) take things to a place they do not need to go. It is hard when you get so many no answers or just a no. You can start to feel like no one wants you, and that you will never succeed. You do not want to not feel this way but without some encouragement you will.

Enter Colossians 1:27b and 3:3. These are two of my favorite verses ever. So much so I made 1:27b the WiFi password for a time so when the kids would have friends over they would have to memorize Scripture to use the internet. God can say so much using so little words. I am reminded that my place is in Him, and my work for Him.

So today I am back at (not just sending emails later) but refreshed in my mind and spirit. Reminded that I am a child of the King, and loved dearly. Sure there are many more well qualified candidates out there, sure a lot of them already have a degree and have been on staff for some time now. But there is one thing they are not, and that is me.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

Colossians 1:27b – Christ in you, the hope of glory

Colossians 3:3 – For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God