The Serpent

The Serpent

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Interesting conversations with godly people are some the best ways you can stir your desire to get into His word more. Studying the Bible will always bring to the surface questions we didn’t even know we had— along with the answers to the most important questions you could ask. 
Here’s an idea. Find somebody with a wealth of Biblical knowledge and create a shared note on your cell phone or computer. If there’s something on your mind or something you’d like to know more about, it helps to have another brain working to help you get to the bottom of it. 
It’s also a great way to keep you thinking about Biblical subjects! Below is a portion of a shared note that my brother and I have had for months now (Gary’s input is italicized and correspond with the numbers you see). 
Thoughts On The Serpent 

  • The serpent was crafty and could walk. Why this animal? Its craftiness seems to be linked with its intelligence (1). When the subject of possession is brought up, demons typically come to mind. The possessor of the serpent (2) seems to change form once again as Satan is described as “walking about on the earth” (Job 1) and traveling to the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4.5). Satan’s mobility had improved since the removal of his serpentine legs (3). Could it be that he was never a serpent from the beginning? What if he merely chose the animal for reasons unknown, and used his intelligence to utilize this particular creature’s capabilities. If the serpent changed his form to the Leviathan, then that would be a logical explanation for his mobility in Job (4). A mighty beast, with unnatural intelligence (5) that humans couldn’t tame. This would also explain how humans are able to dominate and tame all animals (Gen. 1.26-28) but weren’t able to tame the beasts in Job. 
  • (1) Rev 12.9; 20.2
  • (2) Satan is always portrayed as a serpent…except when he isn’t (i.e., cursed to crawl in Genesis, walking in Job 1 & 2, flying in synoptic gospels at temptation of Jesus, moving tactically in I Peter). I have to think that, like the angels, he had the ability to project his consciousness into non-sentient beings (i.e., no free-will override), or disguise himself as humanoid (II Cor 11.14; Gen 3.18; Heb 13.2). We know very little about who/what satan really is, but because he was a fixture in God’s entourage before banished to earth, I have to assume he was a watcher of some kind. 
  • (3) A curse that improves mobility is no longer, by definition, a curse. 
  • (4) God specifically names Leviathan as the pinnacle of his non-human creation. He would not have extolled leviathan if its characteristics were synonymous with the accuser in Job 1, 2. This would also imply a duality of personhood never attributed to satan (i.e., existing as two entities simultaneously). Since this predates Jesus’s arrival by probably 4500 years, satan is likely still in the accuser position in God’s entourage. This would make him a powerful cosmic being with the same abilities other watchers enjoyed. When he became the ruler of planet earth, his power was “chained” or throttled (II Cor 4.4; Eph 2.2; Lk 10.18; Rev 20.1-15). 
  • (5) I was unable to verify the leviathan’s unnatural intelligence, but Job does describe its unnatural strength. 

Happy studies! I hope this inspires you to begin your own interesting conversations. 

1 Peter–Part X

1 Peter–Part X

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter – Part X

Younger people, listen to the leaders. Every one of you should think of the other as being more important than yourselves. God stands against prideful people, but he’s very patient with humble people. Stay humble under God’s power and he’ll lift you up when it’s time. He cares about you, so you should always let him handle your anxieties. 

Exercise self-control, and make sure you’re watching carefully. Your enemy (the devil) is on a determined path – like a hungry lion – looking for someone to kill. Fight him with determined faith, he’s not targeting just you. Everyone in God’s family is experiencing the same kind of suffering all over the world. After you’ve suffered for a short period of time, the God who gives so much grace will personally make you strong, give you confidence, restore you, and give you security. He has eternal power. 

I’m sending this short letter to you through Silvanus, my faithful brother. This is all true, and it’s extremely important for you to understand God’s timeless kindness and let it keep you strong. The woman at Babylon sends her greeting; she is chosen, just like you. Mark, my son, says hi. Make sure you greet and affirm each other. I hope all of you who follow Christ enjoy peace. 

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For wisdom, one cannot beat God’s inspired Word. That Word, Jesus said, is truth (John 17.17). Even so, the secular works of man can be insightful. For example, soldiers and captains of industry alike still quote China’s Sun Tzu. From his work, The Art of War, we take our title. However, the full quotation is longer. Therefore, I will share it to provide context. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 1  

I realize some might say this is obvious enough to be a truism. Yet, for some, it is advice that seems so novel despite having parallels in Holy Writ. Doesn’t the Bible teach us to know our enemy as well as ourselves? Of course, it does.  

  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated) We see our enemy is on the prowl. That noun denotes stealth. Yet, it likewise signifies he is continuously on the move, a restless foe. This restlessness seems evident in the introduction of Job when we find Satan flippantly admitting to God’s question of where he has been that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1.7). Hence, in knowing our enemy, we expect that he will attack us at any time from any location. Thus, we must maintain our sobriety (i.e., sensibility) and state of preparedness (i.e., alert). As we introspectively examine ourselves, do we note that state of readiness to combat a cunning enemy? Do we have the tools for offense and defense ready? 
  • Paul reminds us that our battle is against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6.12). And those enemies have a leader that likes to use “schemes” (“wiles” KJV) (Ephesians 6.11). In other words, we do not expect our enemy to fight fairly. In pure militaristic terms, the devil is engaged in guerrilla warfare. He cannot win the war against a superior enemy (i.e., God), so he snipes those he can. Within the same context, though, we observe what we have at our disposal: the panoply of God. God’s armor consists of a loin covering (truth), breastplate (righteousness), shoes (readiness), shield (faith), sword (God’s Word), and helmet (salvation) (Ephesians 6.13-17). These items we must wield with prayer and alertness if we desire to win (Ephesians 6.18). Do we actively use God’s armor, or has our apathetic spirit cast it aside? 

In all fairness, Sun Tzu admits that knowledge alone cannot ensure every victory. And we acknowledge that, as Christians, there are times when we lose a battle against the enemy. Everyone sins (Romans 3.23). There are even occasions when the enemy is in more significant numbers. In such situations, Tzu says it is best to avoid the enemy. Of course, we cannot do that as Christians (John 17.14-16). But we can flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6.18; 10.14; 1 Timothy 6.10-12; 2 Timothy 2.22). And we must keep good company to ensure we are not corrupted (1 Corinthians 15.33). We must periodically check our footing (1 Corinthians 10.12). And when we are seeking to restore someone, we must look to ourselves so that we are not tempted (Galatians 6.1). In the end, though, Tzu’s truism serves us well. We must know our enemy and ourselves. In the interim, as we fight this good fight, we look forward to the day when God will destroy the enemy. Until then, we take comfort from these inspired words: 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5.4) 

Sources Cited 

1 Tzu, Sun. “A Quote from the Art of War.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/17976-if-you-know-the-enemy-and-know-yourself-you-need

Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Jesus knew temptation. The writer of Hebrews makes that point about Him in assuring us He, as our High Priest, knows just what we are going through in this life (2:18; 4:15). His suffering allows Him to sympathize. I am comforted to know that He understands, since He is like me (Heb. 2:17). Luke (4:1-13) records this significant and pivotal moment in Jesus’ life before He begins His public ministry. It gives me necessary insight into who Jesus is, and it helps me fight the common battle against the enticements of my flesh, my eyes, and my pride.

TEMPTATION STRIKES THOSE IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. To be clear, temptation strikes “every man” (Heb. 4:15). But, sometimes we conclude that it’s not so bad or so frequent for the spiritually strong. Here is the perfect Son of God, described as full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit (1), who encounters the tempter (2). Being spiritually strong can help make navigating temptation easier than it is for those who live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:5-14), but no one was closer to God and more spiritually healthy than Jesus as He walked the earth. How helpful to consider Paul’s warning here: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). 

TEMPTATION STRIKES IN PREDICTABLE AREAS. John classifies temptation into three major categories: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn.2:16). Methodical Luke lists Jesus’ temptation in that very order (cf. Mat. 4:1-11). The serpent, approaching Eve, must have appealed to these very areas at the beginning (Gen. 3:6). The devil does not have to get more complicated than that because these avenues are overwhelmingly effective for him. Though this and other passages reveal the Evil One’s intentions and efforts, we are fully accountable for how we respond to temptation (Jas. 1:13-15). We must take responsibility for how we handle temptation. 

TEMPTATION STRIKES WHEN WE ARE VULNERABLE. Jesus has gone an unfathomable 40 days without food when He encounters the devil (2ff). The devil goes straight for this susceptible area. Think back to times when you haven’t gotten proper rest, you faced stress and pressure, you were sick or felt poorly, and other trying times. These can easily become doors we open to sin. All of us will experience physical and emotional weakness. We must be aware that these lead to spiritual exposure. 

TEMPTATION CAN MAKE US CALL WHAT WE KNOW INTO QUESTION. Twice, the devil uses conditional statements to try and create doubt. First, he says, “If You are the Son of God” (3). He called Jesus’ identity into question. Then, he says, “if You worship me” (7). He seeks to get Jesus to question His loyalty. It was not a matter of what Jesus intellectually knew, but Jesus dwelled in the flesh (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). Be aware that temptation will cause us to question things we know, too. That includes our exalted identity and our true motivation.

TEMPTATION IS THWARTED BY AN OMNIPOTENT TOOL. Jesus wins His battles with the devil and temptation by leaning on truth. There are 86 quotations of Deuteronomy (the second giving of the Law of Moses) in the New Testament, and Jesus quotes this book in reference to each of the devil’s temptations (8:3; 6:13; 6:16). Proper knowledge and handling of Scripture help even when enemies of truth, even the devil, try to misuse Scripture against us (as he does with Jesus, misapplying Psalm 91:11-12). Scripture is God’s own weapon, given to us not to cut and maim others but to fight off temptation and fend off the biggest threats to our faith and soul (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). 

It is wonderful to contemplate a day in which temptation will be permanently past-tense (cf. Rev. 21:1ff; 1 Cor. 15:55-58). Until then, we benefit so much from seeing how Jesus coped with the bane of temptation. It also helps us appreciate what He endured in order to give us salvation. 

Vasily Polenov (1909), “Christ In The Desert”
How Satan Tempts

How Satan Tempts

Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Genesis 3 records for us the fall of man. This account reveals to us the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world. We can learn a lot about the devil in his first interaction with God’s creation.
 
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
 
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. There is no timeframe between chapter 2 and 3.
It could’ve been a month, a year, a century that has gone by. Whatever the time frame, Satan comes to Eve and places doubt in her mind. This is quite possibly the worst lie ever told. “Did God really say…?” While Satan doesn’t physically appear and speak to us today, he still uses this same tactic. He has destroyed many churches’ worship to God. “Did God really ask for music with no instruments?” “Did God really say for the women to be silent?” By casting doubt Satan has corrupted the worship and faith of millions.
 
After he casts doubt, he then blatantly contradicts God, “you will not surely die.” And once again he continues to blatantly contradict God’s word today. The message Satan tells the world is completely different from what God has given to us. Satan contradicts the Father. Rather than “love you neighbour as yourself” he says “love yourself above your neighbour.” Rather than “serve God and keep his commandments, he says “serve yourself and listen to no one.” Satan contradicted God in the past and continues to do so today.
 
After he casts doubt and blatantly contradicts God, he then offers power, “you shall be like God.” Obviously in their close relationship with God, they understood who created the world. The created wanted to be like the creator, but the devil offered a lie. Satan only has one thing to offer– sin. He oftentimes portrays this lifestyle of sin as a lie.
He offers happiness and joy, but at the end of the day all he has to offer is sin and regret.
 
Eve was tempted by Satan, and he used the same methods then as he does now. Eve experienced:
  • The lust of the flesh (she wanted to eat of the fruit)
  • The lust of the eyes (literally says “it was a delight to the eyes,” v.6)
  • Pride of life (she wanted to become wise and have power)
The devil always knows what to say in order to get us to stumble. We must be vigilant and ready to refuse the tempter when he appears.
The Gripsholm Terror

The Gripsholm Terror

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The Gripsholm Castle, in Sweden, is home to the world’s oldest portrait gallery. This might be of interest to some art enthusiasts, but there’s something else in this castle you’d never forget seeing. Inside of a glass box in Gripsholm’s upper armory, there is an 18th century stuffed lion. This lion, nicknamed “Leo,” is a beast that tends to provoke a wide arrange of emotions from it’s viewers. It has a disfigured face and human like teeth with an oversized (fake) tongue hanging out of it’s mouth. The history of the lion is also somewhat of a mystery. However, there’s a particular legend about this taxidermy terror that the writer finds hilarious. In 1731 the king of Sweden was given an incredible gift. He was once the proud owner of a handsome lion and he loved this beast. Unfortunately, it died at a young age and the king’s heart was broken. He sent the lion’s pelt and bones to a taxidermist to have it stuffed so that it’s memory would be kept “alive.” There was only one problem. The taxidermist had no idea what a lion actually looked like because he had never seen one before. This being the days before the internet, he was forced to try his very best. The finished product remains part atrocity and part masterpiece to this day.

 In 1 Peter 5.8 we are warned about our adversary, the Devil, and that he is currently stalking the earth looking for his next potential prey. The sad truth is the fact that many in this world aren’t sure what this lion looks like. The Devil can disguise himself in the form of sinful pleasures and promises and as a result he has become the, “King of this world” (John 12.31). The Scriptures and the king of Sweden can both agree that things will get ugly if we aren’t sure what a lion looks like. 

The Fall Before The Fall

The Fall Before The Fall

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The Bible indicates a battle between Satan and his rebellious followers in several key passages. The reason for this spiritual spat is not given to us in great detail but we are told that it began after they abandoned their rightful habitation (Jude 1:6). While many have speculated as to what and how this happened, we simply aren’t told. Some have also made the argument that this event took place after the Creation of the world, but this is also not certain. Genesis 2:1 says, “the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts.” While that may seem to clearly indicate that angels must have been created alongside everything else, Job 38:7 states that angels gave “shouts of joy” after the creation of stars.

The spiritual conflict ended with Satan and his apostate followers cast from the heavenly realm (2 Peter 2:4, Rev. 12:14, Jude) just before, it seems, the creation of earth with the Archangel Michael taking a significant role in his defeat and expulsion. 

Satan seems to have been at one time a high ranking Angel who thought he somehow stood a chance against his very Creator. That is a ridiculous thought! The application of this historical (pre-historical?) event is evident. Nobody, whether Angel or man, can win against God’s will. It’s mind boggling to imagine taking on God Almighty in some kind of battle, yet Paul tells us in Romans five that we were enemies of God at one point while living in sin, and are currently waging a war with God if we are living in sin. We should let that long ago battle in the heavenly realm be a reminder to us that God always wins the war. He’s already won! Now is the time to make sure that you’re on the side of the truth and triumph and not the devil and the defeated. 

 

Get Angry!

Get Angry!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Balance is frustratingly difficult to pinpoint and maintain. More often than not we gravitate toward an extreme on either end of balance. 

With anger, most will fall into one of the extremes: either one has no spine or is prone to losing control. 

An example of balance can be found in Ephesians 4.26. It begins with a passive imperative: “be angry.” There is a time and place for this unpleasant emotion – any damage to the bride of Christ warrants this response, for example. 

There are three imperatives to balance out our use of anger: 

  1. Do not sin. 
  2. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. 
  3. Do not give the devil an opportunity. 

Anger is sometimes necessary, but it must be short-lived. 

Unchecked anger gives Satan space in our hearts. The word translated “opportunity” is τόπος (topos), which is a place to live, an inhabited structure, or a favorable circumstance for doing something (BDAG 1011). If we allow our anger to get out of control, we’ve created favorable circumstances for Satan to influence us. 

Since balance is what we’re looking for, we have to get angry to create positive change, but we have to temper (aha) that anger with restraint if we don’t want Satan to have a chance to influence the church through us. 

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Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just kill Satan? In order to adequately answer this question we will need to look at a few different aspects of the Devil himself, as well as the attributes of God.
It’s not hard to find evidence of a world filled with sin, and logically it would make sense for God to just destroy the source of the problem…or would it? Let’s notice a few things about Satan.
Where did he come from? In Genesis 1:31, God sees His creation and it says, “everything was very good.” All of God’s work was perfect. From this we can conclude that Satan started off as good and became evil. While Scripture doesn’t reveal his exact origin, it says enough for us to draw a logical conclusion. For example, 2 Peter 2:4, Matthew 12:24, and 25:41 point to Satan as the leader of a groups of angels that have abandoned heaven. So we have to ask, why was Satan cast out of Heaven?
Based on the previous verses and what we read in Jude 6, the angels were created with free choice. And Peter explains that the angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4). We read the phrase “The Devil and HIS angels” so Satan was most likely the leader and instigator of this rebellion in heaven. Satan tried to rebel against God and failed miserably and will face the consequences of his actions (Revelation 20:1-3). Since Satan cannot win against God, he now wants to get payback by taking his anger out on God’s creation.
So why doesn’t God destroy Satan? Aside from the fact that he’s an angel and killing him would be different from killing a human, we run into another issue.
Even if Satan were destroyed, man would still sin. James 1:14 tells us that as humans we are carried away by our OWN desires, and these desires lead to spiritual death. Satan doesn’t cause everyone to sin, at every location on earth, because he doesn’t have this kind of power. Even if God destroyed Satan, there would still be sin on earth.
There is one other aspect we must look at in order to answer this question; What is the definition of good? Without evil, how can good exist? If God is good, then evil must exist. Without darkness, how can we recognize light? There is balance and perfection in everything.
We are given free will, and if there were no other choice except faith in God, we would not have faith by choice. We would have faith by force. I think about when I was younger and got in a fight with my siblings. Mom would force us to hug each other. That hug was not done out of love, but by mom telling us to get it done. Do you prefer to be loved by choice or by force?
Satan will get what he deserves, but God is defined as a God of love. If God took away our free choice (either to serve Him or sin) then He would be a God of Force. God has the power to destroy Satan, but in doing so we would still be in a fallen world filled with sin. God loves us enough that He wants us to come to Him by choice. This is something each one of us should strive to do.
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How To Slay A Dragon

How To Slay A Dragon

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

There’s a part in Sleeping Beauty where the Prince slays a fire breathing dragon with his sword. This is at the climax of the movie, so this entire time the story has been building up to this one, final moment. It’s pretty epic. In our lives, we have many “Fire Breathing Dragons.” At this moment I would like to talk about three of them and how to “kill” them.

First, notice with me the “dragon” of lying. If you look at Colossians 3:9, it says, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all it’s wicked deeds.”
Lying in Colossians is labeled under “evil nature.” If we have stripped our old ways, why do we continue to lie? Because much of the lying that we do is for personal gain. For example, someone could come up to me and ask, “How much can you bench?” and I might say “850 pounds.” That’s a classic example of lying for personal gain. From now on that person will believe that lie I told them and possibly tell others. We can slay this dragon by telling the truth. Challenge yourself to tell full truths, and not half-truths.

Second, there is the “dragon” of Hate. Luke 6:27 says, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The hardest part of this verse is the second half. Trying to love those who hate us is extremely difficult because in our minds they started it so we have the right to hate them back. If you look at Jesus, our example, He says to love those who hate us. How do we do this? It requires a change of vision. We should try to look at those who hate us as a lost soul that needs saving. Looking at them this way might help us to love them more.

Third, and finally, is the “dragon” of Gossip. This one can be very dangerous because it might tear apart a friendship, a person, and the church. If you look at Ephesians 4:29, It reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Instead of tearing down someone or spreading rumors, let’s try to build up one another! To keep from letting something slip about someone, let’s try to practice what our parents told us from day one: “Think about what we say before we say it.”

Now there is one more thing we can use to slay “dragons.” The ultimate Two-Edged Sword is for slaying any kind of “dragon.” This Two-Edged Sword, the Bible, can slay any dragon that Satan sends our way. Today we only looked at three of the dragons that Satan uses against us. There are many more, and we must study Scripture to see what they are, and how we can slay them.

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