Staff and Sword

Resist [the devil], firm in your faith….
1 Peter 5:9

It’s not easy being a Christian.

People can laugh at you.

Worse, people look at and think of you in derision.

Worst of all, the devil incites hatred of Christians in world leaders and groups of people.

I suppose it should be comforting for a Christian that there is such opposition. It must mean Christians are relevant and powerful. Otherwise, why oppose us so vehemently?

When St. Peter wrote his first epistle, the Roman Emperor Nero was turning more and more paranoid putting down revolts, especially Jewish revolts in Palestine.

Nero would blame Christians for some of his problems and both Peter and Paul were imprisoned at this time, soon to be executed.

Being a Christian today in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa is no less dangerous.

The devil still prowls around like a lion.

Which means that we Christians are still relevant, powerful, and a threat to him!

Of course, he’s already defeated. He was defeated by Christ on the cross when our sins were forgiven through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

But defeat doesn’t mean the war is over. It just means its won. The battles still are waged.

And we need to be ready!

We need to resist the devil.

Our weapon is the Word of God. We resist by reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible.

When Martin Luther wrote “one little word can fell” the devil, he meant God’s Holy Word that is incarnated in Jesus.

We remain firm in our faith when it is strengthened through the Means of Grace.

The Means of Grace are God’s Word and the Sacraments. The Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion get their power from the Word of God.

And we are to remain in our baptismal grace daily through contrition and repentance. And we are to partake of the Lord’s Supper often. We do that by worshipping regularly with brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is true for you and for me. As a pastor I am not exempt from daily contrition, repentance and reading God’s Word, study and meditation. In fact, I not only have to do that but I do it in order to encourage and help others to do it.

Remaining firm in the faith is what I do and encourage others to do. God’s Word is my sword that I use to resist the devil. The Lutheran Confessions are my staff to guide others to do the same.

Please pray that we will continue to be strengthened in our faith to resist the devil and his minions in this world until that day that Jesus returns to take us to paradise forever.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Leviathan

“On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.”
Job 41:33

Knight George had been there the entire summer. And he was getting extremely frustrated.

He wanted desperately to return home and get back to work. But he couldn’t. Not yet, anyway.

He tried to spend his days wisely. He studied Greek and Hebrew and set out to translate the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament into the language of his people.

He had made good headway towards the end of the summer and was nearly done translating the New Testament by the time the snow was flying.

His days were occupied with studying, writing, and translating.

But nights were something else entirely.

He would try to sleep. But his foul mood and his deep depression at being away from his home and work weighed on him like an oppressive millstone.

He also felt oppressed and attacked by Satan himself. He knew he was doing the work of God. He knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to be who he was. He knew that he had been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.

But still Satan attacked! Breathing the flames of doubt and accusation like a fire-breathing dragon!

Night was Satan’s favorite time to attack. Knight George was tired, hungry, cold, bitter, and depressed. And Satan would use this time to press his attacks.

On one such night, Junker Jörg was feeling attacked by Satan. So much so he was provoked to violence. He picked up the nearest thing to him – an inkwell – and hurled it at Satan.

It smashed against the wall, staining it.

Within a few months, Junker Jörg, Knight George, would leave the Castle Wartburg, return to his post at Wittenberg, and resume his true name – Martin Luther.

The story of the inkwell is a legend, most likely based on his own statement about his stay in the Castle Wartburg where he had “driven the devil away with ink” (quoted from Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach’s website here: http://www.redeemer-lutheran.net/Articles/1000039345/Redeemer_Lutheran_Church/Media_Center/Pastors_Articles/Throwing_Ink_at.aspx).

But what is not legend is that Luther fought against Satan, as do we all! Satan is real. He is a fallen angel – and thus a creation of God and under his authority. He hates God and also hates us!

In Job 40, God describes Satan – so it is thought – as Behemoth. This is likening Satan to a wild and ferocious land beast.

In Job 41, God describes Satan – again, so it is thought – as Leviathan. This is a sea monster of some type. A giant sea serpent or squid. But one that has scales like armor and breaths fire.

This brings to mind a dragon. And this fits in with how Satan is described in the Book of Revelation.

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him (Revelation 12:7-9).

At the end of Job 41, God says that there is nothing like Satan on the earth.

Martin Luther – who fought the devil all his life – would describe Satan this way: auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen. This is commonly translated “on Earth is not his equal” (from stanza one of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, composite translation from the Pennsylvania Lutheran CHURCH BOOK of 1868).

God’s point in Job 41 – and Luther’s in stanza 1 of A Mighty Fortress is Our God – is that left to our own resources, we are powerless in fighting Satan.

Only God can defeat Satan.

And he did through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for us!

That one little word – Jesus – defeats Satan every time. And that one little word is ours through our baptism into Christ!

Satan may be able to take away all that we have. He took away Job’s wealth, children, and health. Luther poetic states that Satan could take away “our life, goods, fame, child and wife.”

But because of Christ, we will live forever and Christ’s Kingdom will be ours!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Behemoth

“Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you….”
Job 40:15

I started reading science fiction when I was about 11 or 12 years old.

It wasn’t long after that I picked up some fantasy novels and added that genre to my list of growing favorites.

When I was about 14 years old, I made the jump – albeit a small one – to horror novels. I read Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, then went back to the classics of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley.

The last horror novel I read was The Amityville Horror. I had been feeling increasingly uneasy about reading such novels and this last one was so much about the occult and demon possession that it really scared me.

It scared me because I knew that the devil and demons are real. They are not something to be dabbled or played with.

And while that kind of stuff still scares me – I still don’t watch horror movies or visit haunted houses in October – I am not really afraid of the devil or demons. I know they cannot hurt me because I am a baptized child of God!

God continues to make it clear to Job that he is God and Job is not. He had been talking about the universe that he created and still sustains. He had been talking about the animal kingdom and its level of complexities that virtually prove that God is the Creator and man is not.

Here in chapter 40, God makes reference to Behemoth (verse 15). This name is based on the common Hebrew word for “animal” or “beast.” Today we use it to reference huge and dangerous animals.

But the way Behemoth is described in the Book of Job indicates that God may be talking about Satan.

Behemoth is a creation of God, therefore he is subjected to God’s authority. He is described as being unusually strong and large – certainly not equal to man. He is said to be “the first of the works of God” but in this case “first” means “greatest” and not first, chronologically.

Ezekiel 28 seems to hint at this. It talks about the greatest of angels becoming prideful and rebelling against God. He is then banished from heaven. Couple this with Revelation 12 and I get the impression that Satan was so beautiful that he turned all he was inward in self-pride and rejected his Creator.

God spells out to Job that even this Behemoth of a creature is still a creation of God and subject to him.

God uses the Behemoth to show that no matter what happens to us – good or bad – God is still in control of all things.

We need to follow Job’s example when confronted with this divine truth.

Be silent!

Be still and know that God is God (see Psalm 46)!

Even the mighty and epic creature Behemoth is still under the control of God!

Remember this the next time you are tempted to think you know better than God concerning your life or when you question whether God is in control of your life or even paying attention to your life!

He is. Both in control and paying attention. He may use his creation to get your attention, but he always is watching over you!

You need look no further than the empty cross and the empty tomb to see God’s love for you and his care for you.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

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Temptation

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

That’s one of those “they-isms.” You know:

“They say you should not swim at least a half-hour after eating.”

“They say you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company.”

“They say the more things change the more they stay the same.”

I don’t know who, exactly, “they” are, but they are correct; when it comes to the devil’s schemes to tempt us to sin, he tends to not be too creative. He uses the same temptations over an over again. But I guess he sticks with what works!

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

The devil started tempting people way back when there were only two people in the world. He approached Adam and Eve and tempted Eve to disobey God. The devil had a three-fold temptation scheme (in Genesis 3:6)

1. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Hunger)

2. “and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (Attraction)

3. “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (Wisdom)

I’ve noticed that I’m tempted to sin when I’m hungry. I’ve stolen candy or some other snack from my sons when I’m hungry (please don’t tell them until I’ve had a chance to repent and ask their forgiveness – I’ll do that right after I finish this).

But hunger doesn’t just have to be about a lack of food. People are tempted (and rather successfully) to sin when they have a hunger for power, possessions or money.

Attraction is also used by the devil to tempt us to sin. Eve was tempted by the attraction of the fruit. Now, I’ve never been tempted to sin by how a fruit looks. Even the most gorgeous apple, orange or watermelon only makes me think, “That’s a nice piece of fruit.” But everybody is different. And we all have that weak point where attraction to something or someone can be used by the devil to tempt us to disobey God.

Wisdom is a very subtle point of temptation for the devil. In a world that seems to be increasingly lacking in wisdom, it may not seem like the devil is using this one all that often. But “knowing more” can be, and is, used. Some of the highest rated TV shows are those that promote “knowing more” about celebrities, politicians, and knowledge. These can – and are – used by the devil to tempt people to disobey God.

The devil is crafty. And when you look around today – not to mention throughout history – you see a track record of hall-of-fame temptation levels by the devil.

And the devil set his goals of temptation pretty high in that he even tempted the Son of God – Jesus Christ!

Where Eve was tempted with the idea that forbidden fruit was just as good to eat as all the other fruit, Jesus was tempted with food after having been on a fast for over a month. This is a hunger of a different kind. The devil, perhaps, is tempting Jesus to give in to physical hunger. If Jesus does that, He will have broken His fast, something He had set out to do for specific reasons, and doing it by giving in to a lost and condemned creature. Instead of listening and following Himself (God) He would be listening and following the devil – and this would be a sin.

The devil’s second temptation was to question Jesus’ wisdom in putting His trust in His Father. The devil uses God’s Word against Jesus here, just as he used it against Eve (“Did God really say…?”). Surely this was foolish on the devil’s part. Who would trust God more fully and intimately than God’s only Son? Yet, the devil does it.

The final temptation is that of power. While Jesus knows that the world is His by virtue of being the Son of the Creator, this temptation is more subtle. How Jesus fights off this temptation is important. Jesus must fight it off without giving even a hint that He might accept the premise that the devil has some claim to the world. And this Jesus does successfully.

Temptation is something that we all face. The devil tempts us to sin because we are God’s children. He hates everything that has to do with God and he wants to destroy our relationship with God.

Jesus teaches us how to fight against the devil’s temptations and win. Know and use God’s Word. Every time the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus responded by quoting God’s Word.

Jesus fought this battle and won. And by His death and resurrection Jesus gives us the power to also fight and win our battles of temptation.