On (Dying) Snakes and (Defeated) Satan

Phyllis Nissila

ON SNAKES

snake-reptileIt is said of a snake that even though its head may be cut off, it takes a while for its slow metabolism to respond. In the interim, sometimes up to an hour, its tail thrashes about destroying whatever is in its way.

Its head also lives on for a spell: pupils dilate and fangs sink into whatever is near as the doomed reptile executes its final reflexive actions fueled by a snake’s brand of terror-laced adrenalin. [1]

If it is we who are near, and the serpent hasn’t been contained, there is still cause for fear.

ON SATAN

How seemly, then, literally and/or metaphorically, Satan slithered into Eden as such a being.

And how equally seemly for us to keep in mind that even after our spiritual arch enemy’s ill-fated head-on collision with the Son of God (ca 33) he, like his reptile counterpart, continues his destructive postmortem thrash-about until his own containment (Tribulation’s end) and fiery finale (1000 years hence).

In another but related metaphor, we are, as it were, engaged in a mop-up campaign against this (defeated) enemy. But nevertheless a potentially lethal one, particularly if we don’t have, or we have rejected, “the field manual,” the Bible, in which there is much to say about dealing with and overcoming him.

How appropriate for us to keep all this in mind particularly these days that, many believe, are at the doorstep of that seven-year tribulation interval.

Although Jesus Christ crushed Satan’s “head” at Calvary in fulfillment of the prophecy at Eden, the Serpent is still bent on his end game: destruction of all things God. And, as those who study such things remind us, his reactions to Jesus’ lethal blow are not merely terror-filled but rage-filled, intensifying as he knows his (prophetic) containment is near.

So how do we keep our distance from the venom? Here are a few things I have learned about his nature and the nature of He Who conquered him, Jesus Christ, in Whom we, too, can experience victory.

ON THE METAPHOR

  1. Satan is relentless.

There is a brand of thought that ciphers thus: if we are nice, the “enemy”  wreaking havoc (or merely opposing some “better way” we think best) will eventually come around impressed with our brains, bucks and/or brawn.

But that’s not who coils near.

Despite those who would personify Satan as teachable, changeable and easy to manipulate–like human beings–Satan’s end game is our end. Period. No compromises, negotiations, pleas, changes of heart or mind.

Here’s a reminder, citing another creature of prey: “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).

When Jesus dealt with the presence of evil the only energy he spent was the energy—and power—of Words already “weaponized,” as it were, against Satan. “It is written….,” began Jesus, after each of the three temptations in his desert experience, as He contained Satan with Truth (see Matthew chapter 4).

Our instruction is to respond the same way when evil snakes near and to let our “no be no” when evil tempts us from without—and from within. Citing a few good reminders from the same text Jesus used is a good idea, too.

Why? It’s not only lawyers, politicians, and false messiahs who know how to wield the weapon of rhetoric to advance their own campaigns. Satan (first in his class) knows how to spin, too.

Best not to argue.

2. Satan is not merely a Dude of Darkness.

Nor is he a Party-Animal in a Red Suit, a Mythical Fire-Breathing Reptile or any other archetype or caricature we conjure up out of ignorance or for fun and/or profit.

In his darkness there is no fun. At all. Nada. The only profit—our annihilation (see above).

Without the power of the Spirit of God who indwells believers, there is no defeating—or humoring—this one. If we have “swept ourselves clean” of some evil in any way other than that prescribed in God’s Word, we are still fair game for the ultimate gamer.

That little story in Luke 11:24-26? About the one who successfully wielded the broom and swept himself clean of an evil spirit but had nothing to replace it? Mayhem times seven returned.

  1. Satan is the opposite of God in all respects.

Here is a good list of what we can expect from the manifestation of God’s spirit, courtesy of St. Paul in his letter to the believers in Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 4:7, NIV).

And even better news: It (love) never fails (v. 8).

Here’s what we can expect from that other spirit who has been coiled to attack since before the crust cooled:

Exactly the opposite.

ON THE ANTIDOTE

empty-tomb-by Bob Lythgoe, public domainTime for encouragement.

So how does one keep oneself away from spiritual venom and its manifestations in the physical realm?

To sum up:

  1. Understand the nature of the snake.
  2. Understand its (dying) power.
  3. Understand the greater (living) power of its Creator–and
  4. Heed His instructions.

Here’s a good place to start that goes to the heart of the love that the true enemy of creation will never be able to understand—nor defeat:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, KJV).

An empty tomb bears witness.

(And just when that old serpent thought those three crude spikes, a twisted crown of thorns, and a blood-soaked cross nailed his victory…)

***

[1] http://factually.gizmodo.com/severed-snake-heads-can-bite-up-to-an-hour-after-decapi-1627136917

Images from the public domain.

 

Posted in Bible/literary themes, elements, Commentaries, end times spiritual survival, most recent posts, spiritual survival, survival tools | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST FOR MISSIONARIES IN IRAQ

Prayer Needed

REPOSTED from http://mkayla.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/prayer-needed/:

M’Kayla:

The following is a prayer request from Iraq. It is real. It is not news or a conspiracy theory. Children are dying at the hands of ISIS for their faith…this story has chilled me in a way nothing else has in my life. I don’t have an update, just please pray!

Prayer Needed

I received the following email from my brother-in-law this morning.

10/09/14 Thursday 6:39 P.M.

Prayer Request from Dan and Marilyn Wilson Missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS are asking to be showered in prayer. ISIS has taken over the town they are in today. He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. He said so far not one child has. And so far all have consequently been killed. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have had seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called them for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place at this time. Even so, they are begging for prayers for courage to live out their vocation in such dire circumstances. And like the children, accept martyrdom if they are called to do so. These brave parents instilled such a fervent faith in their children that they chose martyrdom. Please surround them in their loss with your prayers for hope and perseverance. One missionary was able to talk to her brother briefly by phone. She didn’t say it, but I believe she believes it will be their last conversation. Pray for her too. She said he just kept asking her to help him know what to do and do it. She told him to tell the families we ARE praying for them and they are not alone or forgotten — no matter what. Please keep them all in your prayers.

This came this morning… Just a few minutes ago I received the following text message on my phone from Sean Malone who leads Crisis Relief International (CRI). We then spoke briefly on the phone and I assured him that we would share this urgent prayer need with all of our contacts. “We lost the city of Queragosh (Qaraqosh). It fell to ISIS and they are beheading children systematically. This is the city we have been smuggling food to. ISIS has pushed back Peshmerga (Kurdish forces) and is within 10 minutes of where our CRI team is working. Thousands more fled into the city of Erbil last night. The UN evacuated its staff in Erbil. Our team is unmoved and will stay. Prayer cover needed!” Please pray sincerely for the deliverance of the people of Northern Iraq from the terrible advancement of ISIS and its extreme Islamic goals for mass conversion or death for Christians across this region. May I plead with you not to ignore this email. Do not forward it before you have prayed through it. Then send it to as many people as possible. Send it to friends and Christians you may know. Send it to your prayer group. Send it to your pastor and phone him to pray on Sunday during the service – making a special time of prayer for this. We need to stand in the gap for our fellow Christians. My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

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On Light and “Light” (“Is the Husband in a ‘BMBW’ Marriage Tantamount to Christ?” Part 2)

Phyllis Nissila

public domain sun photoA commenter on my previous post brought up what I think is one of the most frustrating and telling “bad fruits” of the natural tendency to “keep up appearances” when a rigid list of behaviors is imposed on groups of people based on the elements of “the flesh,” i.e., cultural and normalcy biases, human reasoning—and gender (not to mention lesser motivations…) particularly in religious systems, where grace can get lost in the mix.

One might paraphrase, “By bad fruits we shall know…too.”

This prompts me to share some thoughts on discernment based on an analogy that’s been on my mind lately.

SEEN AND UNSEEN

In addition to believing that God does not lie in His Word (yes, I’m a literalist when evaluating Scripture in context and in the original languages, and what I have learned in only my first forty years of growth and study has so far only strengthened this belief), I’m what you might call a “metaphorist,” too.

In this capacity, I’ve been lately pondering the comparison of visible light and the “spiritual light” of God’s Word.

Just as visible light has components that enable it to infuse the nooks and crannies of creation by virtue of the elements of intensity, frequency, polarization, and speed (the complete spectrum of which is not wholly visible to the human eye [1]) the perfect “light of God’s Word” infuses the entirety of spiritual creation, too, and an individual’s or a group’s “spiritual view” may not “see” all there is there, either.

Why not? Perhaps it’s not the “fullness of time,” for one example, for a revelation or visible manifestation of a prophecy or group of prophecies.

There are also “flesh reasons,” you might put it, for truncated or incorrect interpretation, such as “cherry-picking” Scripture to “fit” into the aforementioned “external framework” of argument, insufficient exegesis, assumption, or presumption–no matter what authorial position the interpreters or group of interpreters might represent or claim to represent.

We are all fallible.

But just what is it I am saying, here, in reference to the “male headship” teaching in the BMBW movement?

Just this: when we or someone (or “someones”) else put a cap on God’s Word from an external or mankind-centered motivation, though it might align somewhat or even entirely in some places with the full “intensity, frequency, polarization, and speed” of Scripture, THIS SHOULD BE A RED FLAG. Particularly when the “fruit” of the teaching, such as the frustration my commenter referenced, conflicts with the fruit we are to look for that stems from correct teaching and practice (see Galatians 5:22-23).

In other words, is a husband’s “Christ-type” positioning in a marriage, at least as is implied in advice to wives in the movement (see previous post), really a truth infused in all of Scripture, or has it been presumed so?

But how can we know what is the “light of God’s Word” versus mankind’s limited “light of understanding” in this, or any other teaching that emerges? This is my focus, today.

STUDY

Encyclopedias of information exist on the properties of physical light. I noted only a few facts.

Likewise, spiritually speaking, as the famed Bereans illustrated (Acts 17:11), a careful study of God’s “light” might also require “discerning through” spiritual encyclopedias of information, if you will.

But, whew! How is ANYBODY, then, to “get it”! Particularly in view of the fact that we, as Paul metaphorized, “see through a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12) when it comes to our limited understanding of all things God on this side of the pearlies!

And who has time to do all that work?!

Thankfully, God also provides benchmarks, i.e., “spiritual best practices” and perspectives to help the discernment process.

Here are three key verses:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 54:1, NIV).

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement (1 John 5:7-8).

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

Next question: so how are we to know who is speaking in alignment and who is not? How are we to possibly be able to  “prove all things” so that we can “hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)?

In addition to observing the afore-referenced “fruit of the spirit” emanating from aligned teachings and practices, here is another guideline when we don’t have the luxury of studying over time:

It’s not just about the text, it’s also about the context.

FOLLOW THE PROMPT

From my perch back in the English teacher’s classroom, this time the subject is literature, I offer this illustration.

When teaching students how to “unpack the prompt,” to discover fully the instructions for answering a test or assignment “question,” literature instructors stress the importance of proving one’s opinion with specific references—in appropriate context—to the text. This is critical for success.

In other words, a student might have a seemingly correct opinion as to some element or elements of a play, novel, essay, or poem, but without references to substantive elements in the work itself, he/she will have only accomplished half the assignment. It’s about opinion and  adequate support.

How does this relate to discerning Scripture?

The answer circles back to the discipline of the Bereans: study.

But how is the average person, without a Bible degree of some sort, supposed to figure things out, then?!

Fortunately, God does not leave us without guidance here, either, particularly on occasions when we don’t have access to teachers, preachers, prophets, counselors, and so on.

Our help?: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (Jesus, as quoted in John 14:26).

(This teaching is not gender-specific nor gender-restricted, by the way.)

And over the years I have also employed this wise advice a pastor once gave:

If the focus is centered primarily on us and our behavior, be very careful, no matter how educated and/or well-meaning the preachers/teachers may be, or how big and/or well-financed the religious institution may be.

Conversely, if the focus is on Jesus Christ (the real Christ, not a christ proxy, a Christ type, or someone actually claiming to be Christ), this is teaching in the right direction.

And where is this verified in Scripture? “He (the Holy Spirit) will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (Jesus, as quoted in John 16:14).

But, you might now think, taking a little bit closer look, what does “glorify” mean, exactly?

Excellent question!

And the Grand Adventure starts here, my friends: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/doxazo.html

But let me encourage you further.

LET HIM SHINE

As you follow Jesus’ prompts through the Holy Spirit infused in you at re-birth, sent to illuminate every “jot and tittle” of God’s Word, frustrations will ease, confusion will abate, and the joy and lightness of another kind, emanating from your relationship with the God who loves you inestimably more than even the elements of His exquisite creation, will “shine you through” to that day when every dark glass will be shattered, every false Christ vanquished, and in the company of all others who worship Him and Him alone you will bask forever in the eternal light of God’s love.

And I have faith that once “home” we will all find that it will have been well worth the study, the process—and the “unpacking.”

***

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light

Photo from the public domain.

You might also enjoy be encouraged by this related post:

http://pnissila.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/eyes-to-see-devotional/

Posted in Christian Women Topics, Commentaries, encouragement in hard times, most recent posts, Patriarchy/Complementarianism | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Is the Husband in a “Biblical Manhood/Biblical Womanhood” Marriage Tantamount to Christ?

Phyllis Nissila

FROM THE ENGLISH TEACHER…

I concluded my last post with direct quotes from the document “Fifty Crucial Questions” (and answers) posted on The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website [1]. Permit me to do a bit of English teacher word/sentence analysis to help expose the errors in the teachings of the “husband as supreme authority over the wife as Christ is supreme authority over the church” and to propose the logical conclusions wherein the errors fester, wrong teachings of great import—and danger—for they cut to the quick of Who Jesus Christ is—and who a husband is not.

Not to mention the un-biblical (and potentially dangerous) position, spiritually, mentally, and perhaps even physically, into which these teachings put the Christian wife (and children) in such marriages.

FROM THE MOUTH…

For reference, again, from the document, here are the explanations given wives and husbands regarding her “submission role” in the teachings and his “Christ role” (bolding within the answers, mine):

Question 5: What do you mean by submission (in question 4)?

Submission refers to a wife’s divine calling to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts. It is not an absolute surrender of her will. Rather, we speak of her disposition to yield to her husband’s guidance and her inclination to follow his leadership. Christ is her absolute authority, not the husband. She submits “out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). The supreme authority of Christ qualifies* the authority of her husband. She should never follow her husband into sin. Nevertheless, even when she may have to stand with Christ against the sinful will of her husband (e.g., 1 Peter 3:1, where she does not yield to her husband’s unbelief), she can still have a spirit of submission – a disposition to yield. She can show by her attitude and behavior that she does not like resisting his will and that she longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness so that her disposition to honor him as head can again produce harmony.


Question 6:
What do you mean when you call the husband “head” (in question 5)?

In the home, Biblical headship is the husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision. (See question 13 on the meaning of “primary.”)

*qualifies: “be entitled to a particular benefit or privilege by fulfilling a necessary condition.” [2]

FROM THE WORDS…

The definition given the husband regarding his role is nuanced by use of the adverb “Christlike”. By the suggestion that he is to strive to merely act LIKE Christ, not AS Christ keeps this part biblical. Indeed, all Christians are called to Christlike actions.

However, and this is key to the first serious error, the wife is told that she is to go well beyond believing merely that her husband has only to behave like Christ.

The wife is taught, as the definition regarding her role denotes, that her husband IS Christ, or a Christ type, i.e., mediator between her and God. She is to believe that his Christness, if you will, is not merely his behavior, but his essence due to his husband status.

How is this accomplished rhetorically? By use of the cause/effect construction of the sentence: Christ has supreme authority over the church, therefore, the husband has supreme authority over her.

But here is the (dangerous) rub: Jesus Christ is sinless.

Her husband is not.

When any Christian, man, woman, or child, is called to follow (the real) Christ, he/she does not have to worry that Jesus will lead in the wrong direction.

When we follow those who claim or presume to be Christ, or Christ types, there is no such guarantee.

But perhaps the more dangerous—not to mention heretical—logic of such teachings is that assigning Christic status to a man in the marriage relationship means that he is at once both Christ and anti-christ (false christ), he is at once both sinless and sinful.

This error in this conclusion should be egregiously apparent, and not just to Bible scholars and theologians.

If the wife has become ensnared in this belief system, or was reared in it, here is where the teaching winds further away from the straight path of truth down an even more treacherous road: how is she then to respond to her “relationship christ,” as it were, if he sins?

Not even the BMBW Scripture-spinners are denying that a husband, as revered as he is to be by his wife, might at times sin. However, should the Mrs. be aware of the Mr.’s transgressions, she is allowed but few suitable responses, again:

  • Showing by her “attitude and behavior” that she does not like resisting his will and that she “longs for him to forsake sin and lead in righteousness (again)” so that by her behavior, her “disposition,”
  • She still honors him as “head,” so that
  • (her right behavior) will thus bring back harmony

Here are but a few concerns prompted by these “instructions” for the wife:

Who is it that determines what attitudes, behaviors, and/or dispositions are “correct”?

What if Hubby’s sin is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual abuse?

Why is it that if it is he who has sinned, it must be she who, by “behaving correctly,” brings back the harmony in the relationship? This, ironically, actually puts HER in a Christ/Savior position assuming her husband is somehow unable to “save himself” from his sin without her carefully prescribed and executed responses…

Not to mention the potentially debilitating mental, emotional, and/or spiritual pain that she might experience trying to juggle all her responsibilities vis-a-vis his sins: the frustration, alarm, guilt, fear, doubt, etc., that predictably follows attempting to follow a false christ via mandates that are essentially religious works.

And, of course, what is notably missing in all this word smithing is the truth of the matter, i.e., it is wholly the husband’s responsibility to deal with his own sin (just as it is for the rest of us)—the acknowledgement of it, the confession of it, and any restitution deemed appropriate because of it—regardless of his wife’s, or anyone else’s, behavior.

Now on to the clarity of God’s Word.

FROM THE WORD…

That is to say, from the truth and protection of The Word:

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy, 2:5, NIV).

Period.

To my dear Christian sisters caught up in this teaching: there is no one who stands between you and (the real) Jesus Christ. Ask Him today for guidance, wisdom, and comfort.

And if there is abuse, contact your local authorities at once. Whatever you have been taught in this belief system, you—and your children—are still protected under the law.

***

 

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Who Protects Whom in Christ? (Thoughts on a BMBW Teaching)

Phyllis Nissila

WHO

As I read a recent commentary regarding one of the teachings of the contemporary, “Biblical Manhood/Biblical Womanhood” (BMBW) movement focused on who “protects” whom (in this doctrine, men hold the primary position of protectors of wives and families) [1], a critical “unintended consequence” came to mind.

A consequence that I believe may put many at risk of danger, physically—and spiritually. Continue reading

Posted in Christian Women Topics, Commentaries, cult and occult, end times spiritual survival, Featuring Women in the Bible, most recent posts, Patriarchy/Complementarianism | 2 Comments

A Call to Comfort (When Evil Seems to Prevail)

Phyllis Nissila

THE SITUATION

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

Nothing is wasted in God’s world, even when evil seems awash in every corner of the globe. One very excellent example of the above verse is the story Corrie ten Boom told of one of the last things her sister Betsie told her as Betsie lay dying in a Nazi concentration camp. Continue reading

Posted in Devotionals, encouragement in hard times, end times spiritual survival, most recent posts, spiritual survival | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

On Crushed Eggshells and Broken Hearts (Thoughts on Psalm 34:18)

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart [1]; and saveth [2] such as be of a contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18 KJV).

The idiom “walking on eggshells” connotes situations where one has to “tread carefully” around another or in a particular situation who/that is potentially volatile so as to avoid conflict [3].

A broken heart connotes a broken heart.

Making one’s way forward amid the shells and shards of either situation—or both, they are often bound together—is hard. But in turning to Jesus Christ for help there is hope. Continue reading

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