Windburns

Windburns

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

David Chang

When I was in high school, my main extracurricular activity was band—concert and marching. Concert band was a challenge from time to time, but it was marching band that really put everyone to the test. After all, there is a major physical aspect to the activity.

The summer between my sophomore and junior year was a particularly hot one in Oxford, MS. It was difficult. The hot sun was constantly beating down on us, and if the sun weren’t killing us the temperature was high enough to make our knees buckle. We were fatigued and mentally exhausted as the summer went on. 

One of those days was very windy and there were patches of clouds—a very welcome change. We didn’t think anything of it. Some of us didn’t even put on sunscreen that day because the sun wasn’t just constantly beating down on us. But on that day it wasn’t the sun nor the temperature that got us. It was something that we didn’t even think twice about. In fact, we thought it was a good thing. On that particular day many of the band got windburns after being outside for more than 6 hours. 

It shocked me just how quickly something that we thought was harmless or even helpful could be so damaging. Those strong and gusty wind that helped cool us off initially, when we were exposed to it for hours, turned out to be an even bigger problem than the sun itself.

——————

Whether it be 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, or the pastoral epistles, the New Testament is ripe with the idea of staying sober and vigilant. But why? Why is it so necessary for us to stay awake and be aware? Most of us are spiritually upright and good people, in the sense that we have good moral compasses and have a relatively heightened conscience. We do not go out and actively commit crimes, hurt others, or drown ourselves with vices.

But what does still plague all of us, no matter where we are in life, are the seemingly small and insignificant things we ignore. Things that we may not even bat an eye when we do and behaviors that we may even think is helpful—it’s those “little” sins that gnaw away at the connective parts that keep our armor of faith together. 

As a termite eats away at a house hundreds of thousands of times its mass causing permanent and significant damages, there are these little things that go under our radar that—give it enough time—can completely break down what we have built in terms of our faith.

To those of us who are not Christians yet, it may be that thing that you keep doing in your life that you know deep inside that causes dysfunction and problems but you write off because it’s not as “big” as some of the other bad stuff that people do.

To those of us who are Christians it may be something a bit more secretive, those hidden sins that we do not address—letting it fester and rot from the inside.

You see, the things that get most of us aren’t the outright terrible and unforgivable crimes. It’s the small lies that we tell. The little things we try to keep from God. The secret sin that eat away at our relationships and our integrity.

What are those things to you? What red flags are you ignoring in your life? What are you justifying? What are you constantly engaging in that you think is helping but instead is killing you? Give it enough time, and even a tiny trickle of water can split rocks. Even a small breeze can burn your skin with enough exposure. 

The reality of sin is all the same. It is something we must all be vigilant and aware to actively prevent and avoid. 

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