There’s a reason General Patton has never been a cartoon character.

Sometimes I forget that we’re fighting a war.

Life is pretty good, really. I have enough to eat, clothes to wear, a house to live in, a car to drive. That’s more than most people in the world can say. All in all, I live an incredible life. I have everything I need and most everything I want too. And I’m so very thankful. But living so comfortably makes it very easy to forget about the war that we’re fighting.

No, not in Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya. I’m talking about the invisible war between good and evil, God and Satan. It’s a strange war because it’s already won; it’s already over. But we’re still stuck in the middle dealing with an enemy who won’t quit even when he’s been defeated. It’s easy to forget about this war when you’re comfortable and when you’re not struggling. And then sometimes its hard to remember it even when troubles come your way and we blame God for our pain.

Fighting a war isn’t something that we should forget, especially when we have an enemy dead set on destroying us. And if he can’t destroy us, he’ll do what he can to wreck our lives and our testimonies. And if we’re not ready for his attacks, he’ll catch us unsuspecting and we’ll fall.

I don’t feel like I’m really communicating well this morning, so I’ll just go ahead and let the Bible speak for me:

Ephesians 6:10-11

 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

I’ve read this verse over and over and over again all my life, but today the phrase all strategies of the devil really stood out to me.

Satan is a student of us. He’s a student of me. He knows my weaknesses and my insecurities. He knows exactly what to throw in my path to make me doubt God, to make me doubt God’s plan, to make me doubt what God has for me. Satan knows exactly how to get to me. And if I’m not ready for him, if I’m not prepared for his attacks, there’s a danger that I might start believing him.

This verse reminds me that Satan is a strategist. He has a playbook on each of us and knows exactly how we’ll react in most situations. He knows how to manipulate us. And if we don’t know the Scriptures well enough, we’ll end up following him, even if we don’t realize it.

Please don’t think though that because he’s a defeated enemy that we don’t have to take him seriously. That’s ridiculous. Defeated enemies are ten times more dangerous than ones who are winning.

We also need to remember something very important. Culture has taught us that Satan is a cute little creature with horns and a tail and a pitchfork. Comics make light of him. Cartoon shows joke about him. No one takes him seriously. And I think that’s one of his manipulations. Why should we be concerned about a cute little cartoon character in a costume?

No. Satan is an angel. One of the most powerful angels ever created. Beautiful. Awesome. Raw power. Intelligent. And so very very dangerous.

If you read Scripture, you know that even the archangel Michael wouldn’t rebuke Satan; I think that’s in the Revelation. Do we even have any concept of what that means? In the book of 2 Kings, chapters 18-19, one angel completely annihilated 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. 185,000! And, of course, there’s the story of the angel of death who crossed over Egypt and killed every firstborn. Angels are creatures we don’t want to mess with. And Satan was the most powerful of all of them. And just because his pride got him kicked out of heaven doesn’t mean he lost any of his power.

Satan is a brilliant warrior, an incredible strategist, and a forceful leader of an army of demons. Not taking him seriously is foolish.

So what can we do?

If Satan really is as powerful as Scripture says, how do we deal with him when he comes after us? Fortunately, this is a question that God has provided an answer for. Not once. Not twice. But three separate accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Satan came after Jesus when He was on Earth, tempting Him to do things He knew He shouldn’t do. Satan tempted Christ to turn stones to bread when He was fasting. Satan tempted Christ to throw Himself off a building to demonstrate His power and control over the angels. Satan tempted Him to worship him in return for all the kingdoms of the world. And every time, do you know what Jesus did?

Did He call down fire from heaven? He could have. But He didn’t. Did he wave His hand and make Satan disappear? He could have. But He didn’t. Did He punch Satan in the face? He could have. But He didn’t.

Jesus quoted Scripture.

For every thing Satan tried to convince Him to do, Jesus had a Scripture verse ready that told Him why He shouldn’t do it.

Why did Jesus allow Himself to be tempted? Why did Jesus let Satan do this to Him? Well, I think it was to give us an example of how to handle temptation when it comes.

Satan is a strategist. He’s hell bent (pun intended) on taking as many of us down with him as possible, and he’s going to throw everything at us that he can to get us to turn our backs on God. And even if our eternal souls go to heaven, Satan can pester us and bother us until we turn our lives on Earth into unproductive, miserable messes. But if we know Scripture, if we take the time to immerse ourselves in what God has said, when those times of temptation come, we’ll have a weapon that both protects and defends us. Why do you think the Bible is called a Sword?

So how is Satan tempting you today? Is he tempting you to worry? God says don’t be anxious for anything. Is Satan tempting you to stress out about things you can’t control? God says that even if a situation is bad, He can make it beautiful if we trust Him. Is Satan tempting you to make a foolish decision because you feel lonely? God says that He never leaves us.

God is truth. The Bible speaks God’s truth. And it’s the only weapon that can tune Satan out. It’s the only force that can stop him.

So get in it. Read the Bible. Memorize it. Learn it cover to cover. And be ready. Because if Satan hasn’t come after you yet, he will, especially if you want to do great things for God. And when he comes after you, remember the verses that you’ve learned, remember the promises that God has made, and believe them. Don’t just say them. Don’t just memorize them. Believe them.

Then Satan has nothing to say, and he can’t hurt you. Not because of your own power but because you’re putting your faith and trust in the power of God. And compared to God, Satan really is little more than just a cartoon character.

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Samurai pretty much rock

I am a student of Japan. I have always been fascinated by their history, their culture and their people. I’m not sure where this fascination comes from, but ever since I was old enough to know what a samurai was, I’ve wanted to know more. And on that same note, I love armor. Armor is a terribly fascinating study, especially the armor of the samurai.

Medieval armor was interesting, yes. But the samurai, to me, were on a different level.

I know my writing habit is what drew me to first begin studying Japan and the samurai, but the more I study it, the more it intrigues me. I actually even bought a book called the Code of the Samurai which is actually a translated text about bushido; it’s actually a really good read and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the rules by which the samurai lived.

I think one of the things that fascinates me the most about samurai armor is that they all look different. Google samurai armor sometime and see what you come back with. They are beautiful examples of craftsmanship. Art, really. Passed down from generation to generation, each one symbolizing something in that particular family. Medieval armor is different; it all looks very much the same. Why else do you think people had to come up with heraldic symbols and colors? They couldn’t tell each other apart. But not samurai. The samurai were all unique and you could identify them by the armor they wore.

The verse this morning is familiar. One of those ones that gets quoted a lot but it’s one that people actually don’t really think about because it’s kind of freaky.

Ephesians 6:12-13

12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Other translations say that we fight against spiritural forces. Creepy huh? Do you ever think about that? About the fact that there really is spiritual warfare going on all around us? And no, you children of the 80’s, not Spiritual Warfare as in the awful old Nintendo game where you wandered the streets and converted nonbelievers (anybody remember that? Ugh).

There is a battle going on around us every day that we can’t see. It’s a struggle for our attention, our faith, our belief. Demons and angels. God and Satan.  God already dealt Satan a blow he can’t recover from; when Jesus died on the cross it ended Satan’s hold on us (we have to choose it, though). But Satan hasn’t backed down yet. He still thinks he can win, so he’s throwing everything he has at us.

But God has given us everything we need to resist him. God has given us his armor.

I don’t usually do this, but I’m including the rest of the verse.

Ephesians 6:14-17

14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[d] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[e] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Truth. God’s righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word. Those are the pieces of armor that God has given to us to fight against what Satan throws at us. If we wear them, nothing can hurt us. But do we use them? It’s rare. I know I don’t always use my armor when I have the option. I’d rather fight and struggle through a situation unarmed, but that usually ends up injuring me and the people around me.

Would a samurai have forgotten to put his armor on before he left for battle? Unlikely. His armor was the symbol of his family, his heritage, his honor . . . . and, let’s face it, folks, it was just common sense.

So we who are Christians need to remember that every day is a battle. And we’re not fighting against what we can see. We don’t fight against our coworkers (no matter if they annoy us) or our family (even if they frustrate us) or our government (even though The Man is getting a little big for his britches). We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.

So don’t forget to put your armor on. It serves a dual purpose, after all. It keeps you safe and you look totally awesome wearing it. =)

samurai warrior in armor

Samurai, circa 1860