Satan

Satan 

What do you see when you picture Satan? Seems like old movies depicted him as a silly looking man in a red suit. There was an 80’s song that said, “I’ve heard about him, but I never dreamed he’d have blue eyes and blue jeans.” They don’t match the depiction in scripture. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” (Zechariah 3:1 NIV) The word Satan means accuser. The Hebrew word for “to accuse” comes from the same root as Satan. So if you follow the word meaning, picture Satan as a prosecuting attorney who is bringing all these charges against you.

 

His charges are not made up. He doesn’t have to dig much before he finds where you break God’s law. There are multiple charges and the penalty is steep. Thankfully, we are not left alone. We are given an advocate, Jesus Christ. I have been in the jury for a trial twice in my adult life. I learned a lot of things. First, you can’t get more boring than a courtroom scene. Don’t believe any of the stuff you watch on tv. You’ve got to work to stay awake during a trial. It is as mundane as reading an owner’s manual. Second, if I am ever accused of a crime, I hope I have money for a good lawyer. In both of these cases, the defendant had a public defender. I’m sure the defender was overworked and understaffed, but the defender never seemed well prepared for the trial. If I were on trial, I’d want the best lawyer I could afford to get the jury to declare me innocent.

 

Picture a courtroom scene. You are on trial. The Heavenly Father is the judge. Satan is accusing you of offenses. The devil knows everything you have ever done. Thankfully, you are not alone. God has given us the greatest defense lawyer in Jesus. Like Perry Mason, he hasn’t lost a case yet. Is Satan accusing you of sin? Don’t let him drag you down to his level. You have a great defense. But Satan is persistent. He doesn’t give up easily. Satan isn’t wearing a red suit. He doesn’t have blue eyes and blue jeans. He is accusing you of sin. He is hoping you will fall into it again. He is hoping you will plead your own defense, a swift and certain loss. He doesn’t want you to call that successful advocate, Jesus. So what are you going to do?

 

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Management Experience

In 1 Timothy 3, Paul is giving the description of the kind of elders God wants. One trait he mentions is managing his own family well. Then, almost as an aside he says, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:1 NIV) Reading this passage of scripture sparked several thoughts in my mind. Some I will share with you in this article.

First, I thought of my own children. I am very thankful for my children and love them dearly. All three have many good traits. As a dad, I enjoy hearing from you and others some of the good things they do. However, I know they are not perfect. Each has his or her own weaknesses and shortcomings. I treat each one in a loving and caring way and try to be as consistent as possible. Yet, I do not treat them in exactly the same way. One child may be more sensitive, and I have to take extra precautions not to overly criticize when correcting. Another child may be strong willed and I am firmer in what I say than with other siblings to get the point across. (I am staying very generic for those who can guess which one.) The examples could go on and on, but you get the idea. I thought of some of those examples that stretch me and challenge me as a parent. Paul is pointing to the same sort of practice in the church. As members, we are to love and care for all fellow members. However, this does not mean we treat everyone the same exact way. Some are more sensitive. Others are more strong-willed. All are to be loved. Hopefully, we all practice this verse in our dealings with each other. Naturally, since this is said in the context of elders; elders have the most experience with this. The main training ground for elders is in the home. This is why we are excited when we see dads who are heavily involved in their children’s lives, especially the spiritual side. We know he is an elder in the making whether he realizes it or not.

My thoughts also went to Sparky Anderson. He was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970’s when they were regularly contending for the playoffs. (Later, he also managed the Detroit Tigers to a World Series win in 1984). Once, I was watching a documentary on the 1970’s Reds and their accomplishments. Near the end, the discussion was on how the Reds ultimately slid back to mediocrity. Sparky described a scene where the front office met with him. Several players were up for free agency. They were coming off a championship year and all those players would command a high salary. So the front office management came to Sparky and said, “Who must we re-sign, and who can we let go?” Well, he gave his opinion and that was what the money side of the management followed. In the interview, he said something like this in a very sad tone, “Obviously I was wrong. I let the player go who was the glue to our team. We never won the World Series again. Maybe that shows what type of manager I am.” (Personally, I think Sparky was a great manager!) However, the tone of his voice and the comments he made stand out in my mind. Even a good manager makes mistakes and learns from them. Sparky didn’t quit managing. As I mentioned above, he went on and managed another championship team.

Unfortunately, I have seen people at a family level or a church level make a mistake and then conclude, “I have made a mistake. I am done leading!” Thus ceasing to be a leader in the family or the church. If you find yourself in that situation, I would like to remind you; your children aren’t perfect. We as members aren’t perfect. We don’t expect perfect parents, or elders, or preachers. We do expect leaders who live and learn, seek forgiveness and grow. We expect leaders with management experience. Thankfully, God is giving us plenty of that in our house and his.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Overwhelmed?

During the holiday season, I saw several posts on Facebook where friends basically said, “I am overwhelmed!” That’s easy to do around Christmastime. There are all the presents to buy and all the holiday gatherings for church and school and family. There are cookies to bake and cards to send out and plenty of places to go. When we get weighed down with all the stress, we become overwhelmed. It’s not just at the holiday season. We can be overwhelmed at any time. Would you believe that a prophet of God was overwhelmed? 

God told Ezekiel to deliver his message to the people of Judah. The message was that Babylon would destroy Jerusalem, the capital city. God was totally honest with Ezekiel. He said, “You will speak, but they will not listen and change their ways.” What a job description! “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me. I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days – overwhelmed.” (Ezekiel 3:14,15 NIV).

Some of the Jews were already in exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was part of that group. Now, he had to deliver the message that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Who would want to hear that? He sat there 7 days overwhelmed. What do you do when you are overwhelmed? Our typical reaction is similar. We tend to sit and worry and fret and not get much done, which leads to being further behind. Well, Ezekiel did not sit there forever. Eventually, he shares the message with others. What should we do when we are overwhelmed? Talk to God. Pray to him about what is overwhelming you. He can and will help. Talk to a friend. Many times, just talking about it releases the tension and is a big help. Also, that friend can open us up to our flaws. “You are doing too much.” Then, you can decide what to keep on doing and what you can let go. Or maybe that friend will help you see what you can start doing that will keep you from continuing in this cycle of being overwhelmed. Possibly learning to say the word, “No!” So if you are sitting there overwhelmed, you are in good company. Ezekiel was overwhelmed. Just don’t stay there!

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

The Holidays

 “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Andy Williams sings these words to us every Christmas season. There are lots of great things about Christmastime. Life has reminded me, that it’s not the most wonderful time for some. They don’t have parents to go home to or children will not be coming home to them. Sometimes, this is because it’s impossible due to death. The loneliness sinks in deeper this time of year. Other times, it’s by choice. Somebody refuses to go home or invite them home, and the regret and missed opportunities are replayed in one’s mind. 

When you are busy with activities this time of year, it is easy to overlook a friend or family member for whom it’s not “the most wonderful time of the year”. But is this Christ-like? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3,4 NIV). We need to step out of our comfort zone and invite that person we care about to share time together. Sometimes, this is just what the doctor ordered. Other times, that person will tell us, “It just brings back too many memories. I prefer to stay at home.” We respect that person and their privacy, but even when an offer is declined that individual appreciates you and I considering him or her.

Also, make the time to listen to someone when they are expressing their holiday blues. Sometimes, giving a person the time to vent and express their hurt and frustration is so helpful. Many times, people suppress their hurts because they feel like they have no one trustworthy to talk to. Hopefully, you and I can be that trustworthy person.

Are you down this time of year? I will share with you some words I call to mind when I am down. My Grandma often says something like this, “I could be down. But then I think about all the good times and memories we have. Then I’m not so down.” If I am missing someone in particular, I try to practice Grandma’s method. Relive that good memory and even though that person is gone, be thankful for that special time together. My mother has instilled in me the words of John Mellencamp, “Oh yeah, life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.” We have our highs and we enjoy those. We have our lows, and frankly we don’t like those. But we keep going anyway. Too many people love and care about us to do otherwise. If you are in a valley, I encourage you to keep going. We love and care about you.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Questioning God

Occasionally, I hear this statement, “We must not question God!” Have ever heard anyone say that? I have heard some very faithful Christians make that statement. Do you say that to yourself, “I must not question God?” I was reading through Jeremiah this week and was reminded of that statement.

In Jeremiah 32, God tells the prophet to buy a field from his uncle. Purchasing a field is a normal activity. What is uncommon is the timing. Jeremiah had been prophesying that the Babylonians would take away the Jews into exile. The Babylonians were right at the doorstep. So the prophet was buying land just before it was taken over by an invading army.

This transaction is full of symbolism. God wants the people to know, “Yes, you are going away for awhile. But you will return. One day, your descendants will live in the Promised Land again.” Jeremiah obeys God. He buys the field from his uncle. He is obedient, but he doesn’t like wasting money just as much as the next guy. It would be similar to buying a field you know is going to flood in 2017. Who would do that?

Jeremiah prays to God. He ends his prayer with, “And though the city will be handed over to the Babylonians, you, O Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’” (Jeremiah 32:25 NIV). God does not throw a fit. He doesn’t say, “How dare you ask me any questions. I am God Almighty! No one questions me!” Here is his reply, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NIV). Then, the Lord goes on to explain his actions for several verses. Then he summarizes by saying, “Once more fields will be bought in this land of which you say, ‘It is a desolate waste, without men or animals, for it has been handed over to the Babylonians.’”(Jeremiah 32:43 NIV).

God didn’t mind Jeremiah questioning him. He was glad to explain why he told Jeremiah to purchase land. God doesn’t care if you ask him questions. He is ready to explain himself. God doesn’t care if you question him. Questions lead to answers. My son Gabriel has always been full of questions about computers. That has led him to a lot of knowledge about the subject. I believe the same is true about God. Honest and sincere questions about God do not drive one from the faith, but further into a deeper relationship with God. So don’t be quiet. Raise your hand and ask God those questions. He has the answers. He will teach you his ways.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

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You Know Me

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.” (Psalm 139:1-4 NIV)

This passage of scripture shows us the all-knowing nature of God and how much he cares for us. Do you remember what you ate for supper last night? When did you go to bed? When did you get up? You may have gotten busy with the day’s activities and already forgotten, but God has not!

It’s good to know God remembers, even when we forget. But sometimes it is scary. That means he knows about that person who was really annoying me. I did my best to keep my mouth shut, but a lot of hateful thoughts were going through my mind. Thank God I did not voice those thoughts, but God even knows those thoughts! So if he knows my thoughts, then he also knows my actions. He is aware of all the sins I have ever committed. The ones I would definitely not like to name in a public forum like this article. This is true for me. And it’s also true for you. God knows what you were thinking the last time you had a rude waitress, whether you let her have it or not. God knows all the sins you have ever done. That’s frightening, isn’t it?

Here is the great news. He knows my impure thoughts. He knows your bad thoughts. He knows all my sins. He knows all your sins. But he still loves us. That’s amazing! Most people find out a small portion of our bad thoughts and deeds and they are ready to drop us like a hot potato. God is not like that. He knows me. He knows you. He knows us inside and out. He loves us. He longs to have a relationship with us. He wants to save us so we can spend eternity with him. He knows you. Do you know him? Be close to God. Don’t run and hide. He wants to lead you in the everlasting way. 

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Stirring Up Dust

Have you ever stirred up a bunch of dust? Sometimes, in cleaning, you may think you are creating a bigger mess rather than making things better. You begin dusting, vacuuming, and rearranging; and halfway through you wonder if this is really worth it. Turning to God and the Bible can appear to be the same way. You probably thought you were a pretty good person until you started reading your Bible. Then, you read about all these sins and come to a better understanding of how sinful man really is. Satan throws in the temptation to give up. There is that tendency to give up in the middle of a major cleaning task. Satan wants you to quit this spiritual overhaul as well. You are a major threat to Satan. He cringes at the thought of God continuing his good restorative work on you. No wonder he tempts us to give up so easily.

Thankfully, God gives us something to settle the dust – his grace. Grace teaches us that God does not expect us to be perfect. He knows we are human and will sin. He sent Jesus to die on the cross to take away our sins. He continues to work with us so that we will be holy and sanctified in his sight.

Have you ever been by a building that was never completed? There was a large structure near the mall in my hometown like this. We rode by it many times as we headed west from the mall to the road home. As a child, I would daydream about the business that would be there if completed. Many people give up on God before his clean up job is complete. They are like that building and are only partially constructed. One of my mother’s refrigerator magnet reads, “Be patient! God isn’t finished with me yet.” You need to be patient because God is not finished with you yet.

In a religious article I read a while ago, a lady made this statement, “People quit too easily today.” Her comment was in reference to the younger generation and divorce. I am ashamed to say that many of us are quitters like she said. Be faithful in your marriage. Even more so, be faithful to God. He is fashioning a masterpiece. You may feel like a jumbled mess right now, but let God finish his work. When your life is done, then and only then is God’s construction complete.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Morals: Walking with God

Last week, we considered that morality affects how we treat other people. This week, we will see that morals help us have a close relationship with God. All of these areas greatly affect how we act. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV).

When walking with God, the first thing one learns is to fear him. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7 NIV). The fear of the Lord is respect and honor for the power and glory God has. There are people who believe in God, but the do not fear him. If you fear God, you keep his commandments. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV). Walking with God reminds us that we should keep his commands. If we are disobedient, we know we will be punished with hell. Also we see that we are punished in this life by the harmful consequences of our sinful actions.

Secondly, the Christian learns to do good when he is walking with God. This is what God wants Christians to do. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Jesus is well known for his good deeds. They are recorded for us in the gospels. Christians are little brothers and little sisters of Jesus Christ. Other people should be able to recognize one as a Christian by his service through good deeds. There is a great blessing to be gained from serving others. God has done so much for us because he cares for us. When we walk with Lord, we want to love like he does.

Thirdly, those who walk with God want to bear fruit. Jesus talks about this in John 15. He says that he is the vine and the Father is the gardener. His disciples are the branches. He wants the disciples to bear fruit that will last. The grape vine bears grapes. The vine of Jesus bears his fruit – Christians. Are you involved in this fruit bearing process? You should be. Train your children in the Lord. Teach the people you know about Jesus.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges

Joseph’s Faith

Joseph was good at whatever he did. When his brothers were doing a poor job, he reported them to Jacob. (Genesis 37:2) Later, Jacob sent Joseph out to check on his brothers again. His reward was being sold into slavery. Of course, this was better than the brothers’ Plan A – to kill him. Potiphar bought Joseph as a slave in Egypt. Joseph was a good slave. Joseph’s master noticed and placed everything under his care (Genesis 39:4). Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph too. She propositions him. He says no. In her scorned fury, she tells Potiphar the lie that Joseph tried to take advantage of her. Potiphar had Joseph put into prison. (Prison is a sign of Potiphar’s favor. Wouldn’t most slaves have been killed on similar charges?)

Joseph is in jail. If he got stuck in a mental rut, he could have easily concluded, “What use is there in being good? I was a good son, and got sold into slavery. I was a good slave, and ended up in jail. Why should I be a good prisoner?” Surprisingly, Joseph’s stays on the same good path. He is a good prisoner. The warden puts Joseph in charge of the prisoners (Genesis 39:22). Later, Joseph interprets dreams for two fellow prisoners. The baker learns in 3 days he will die. The cupbearer learns he will be released in 3 days. 

Two years after the cupbearer’s release, Pharaoh has troubling dreams. The cupbearer tells the ruler he knows a guy in prison who is a good interpreter. Joseph is summoned. He tells Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams. Egypt will have 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph that he places him over the famine relief project. (Genesis 41:39,40) When the famine hits, Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt for food. Then, Joseph and family reunite. Once dad dies, the brothers are concerned since revenge is a dish best served cold.

Joseph reassures them with this reply, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19b,20 NIV) Joseph had faith in God even in the darkest days. He was living Romans 8:28 before Paul had Tertius write it down. Joseph inspires us to keep the faith and do good no matter what. Wherever we find ourselves in life as the teenager who wants more responsibility, the young adult who would rather have another job, the middle aged who realizes ones marriage relationship is at an impasse, the retired who are struggling to find purpose, or the elderly adjusting to a new roommate at the nursing home; Joseph teaches us to keep trusting God and do good.

Written by: Jimmy Hodges