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Equip Their Ship

sailing shipHave you ever asked yourself the question, “what exactly is my objective in training my children up in the faith?” I know I’ve thought to myself, “Leading them to Christ is my first and greatest objective but then what? Where should my focus be?”   Recently a good friend and mentor of mine pointed something out in Ephesians that I’d like to share with you.

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12 (emphasis added)

I’ve read this passage in Ephesians many times and the word “equip” has always given me the sense that we were to be preparing the body, through spiritual training, to carry on the work of the kingdom. This I believe is true. But the mental picture that is communicated by the original Greek word is somewhat lost in our English. The word is “Katartizo” and it means to fit out, make sound, or complete. To fit out. Outfit. It is used in the sense of outfitting as one would think of outfitting a ship that has a journey to complete. First the ship must be seaworthy. The sails must be in good repair, the hull must be sound, all of the navigational tools must be present and working properly, charts maps, etc. Additionally the ship will need to be supplied with all of its provisions for the journey. Food, water, etc.

So as parents and the church, our role is that of a loving spiritual outfitter. What a wonderful picture. More important, yes MORE important, eternally more important than our roles as academic outfitter, athletic outfitter, financial outfitter, is our God given mission as our child’s spiritual outfitter.

I will close with a quote from Patrick Henry’s will, “I have disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give to them, and that is the Christian religion. If they had that and I had not given them one cent, they would be rich. If they have not that, and I had given them the world, they would be poor.” I could not have said it any better. Equip their ship.

May you be blessed in your role as outfitter!

An Integrated Approach to Sermon Preparation: Applied to Philippians 3:1-14 – Part 2

Man-readingThe process I will walk you through today is in 5 steps;  (1) identify the boundaries of the text, (2) choose appropriate analytical tools, (3) interpret the true point(s) of the passage, (4) apply the passage, and finally (5) develop a rhetorical strategy for effective communication.   I will use Philippians 3:1-14 as a test case for this process throughout this presentation.

Boundaries

The old question and answer, “How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” applies to the study of God’s word as well.  The full counsel of God cannot be fully explored on any subject in a single sermon and so we must choose what passage or passages of scripture we will exposit.  There are many approaches to setting these textual boundaries, but in the case of Philippians 3 we will utilize rhetorical analysis to identify the pericope for exposition.  Verses 1 and 2 give us our first marker through the use of a very brief introductory narrative which introduces the audience, “my brothers and sisters,” Paul’s goal in writing, “a safeguard for you,” and the threat he is addressing, “beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!”  What follow are Paul’s proposition and his arguments for that proposition.  We find our closing marker in verse 15, “Therefore,” which signals a shift from argument to praxis or from indicative to imperative tone.

Pick your tools

In approaching God’s Word for the purpose of interpretation and exposition, it is critical to first choose the tools that best fit the passage.  In other words, the tool should fit the genre you are interpreting.  The tools appropriate to interpreting a Psalm would likely differ from those you would employ in interpreting an Epistle.  In our example of Philippians 3, Paul’s letter was meant to be read aloud to the churches.  It is in affect a persuasive essay or speech, therefore rhetorical criticism, as we have already employed, would be a valid tool.  The letter was written in a specific time and place in order to address specific challenges being had by the local church in Philippi.  This would indicate that a historical-critical analysis, in particular Greco-Roman cultural analysis, as well as a 1st Century Jewish historical understanding, would be useful in providing the proper lens through which to examine the passage.  In addition, a close reading of the text reveals some etymological questions that a careful word study would help in answering.  Lastly, our ultimate goal for any exposition is to relate what the passage teaches us about God and about ourselves from God’s worldview.  Therefore we must also pull the theological interpretive tool from the bag.   Now we are ready to get to work.

What’s the Big Idea?

Whenever we are working with the inspired word of God it is important that we resist getting cute or inappropriately creative with our interpretation.  While God’s word may be applied to many different circumstances, any given passage only has one meaning.  Recognizing, not inventing, that meaning and communicating it to our audience is the goal.  In our example of Philippians 3, Paul’s proposition in verse 3, “For we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials,” is the main point he will elucidate in the following verses and defines the rhetorical situation he is addressing.   In other words, physical circumcision as practiced by the Jews in this context represents the self-righteous acts of the law, while followers of Christ exult in His works of righteousness on their behalf and do so by faith through the Spirit of God, not depending on their own effort which adds nothing to Christ’s completed work.  Following this rhetorical framework Paul then responds to the implied argument from his opponent that credentials matter. He does via a description of his own impressive credentials, “If someone thinks he has good reasons to put confidence in human credentials, I have more,” which he then immediately dismisses three times in increasingly strong language.  They are liabilities because of Christ, liabilities compared to knowing Christ, and finally, they have the worth of excrement compared to being found “in Christ.”  In plain language, self-righteousness is a pile of useless dung when compared to the righteousness based on the faithfulness of Jesus.  It is this righteousness from God that is available to us in Christ.

Application

Once I have determined the appropriate interpretation or point of the passage, I take time again to read and reread the passage, meditating on what it means or has meant practically in my life.  The best place to start with Philippians 3 is with Paul himself.  What did it mean in his life?  How would he apply this truth? He makes this clear in verses 10-14.   Because of Christ’s faithfulness, Paul has four aims in life that we can share; to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death.  In verse 11 Paul states the goal of these aims is to “attain” (Greek – katantaō) to the resurrection of the dead.  It is important that we understand that the word “attain” here should not be construed as “earned.”  The Greek verb means to arrive at or to come to.  Paul’s desire is to be like Christ in everyway and persevere until His coming and the resurrection of the dead on the last day.  In this sense Paul’s “striving” or running after in verse 14 is not a work in order to earn salvation, but a deep ceded desire to know Christ more and more.    Having arrived at an interpretation and before beginning to compose a message, it is the cautious pastor who will look at some trusted commentaries to make sure he hasn’t made any fatal flaws or missed any nuggets that could be helpful to his final product.

The Exposition

Much as Paul employed rhetoric in writing to the churches of the 1st Century, so we will take the product of our interpretive work and put together the pieces in a way that is clear, convincing, memorable, and moves our hearers to action/application.  In doing this we will ask ourselves questions like; what historical background or etymological information that I have uncovered will be useful in my opening narrative?  How can I phrase my proposition in such a way that it will be memorable and complete?  What will be my arguments from scripture for that point? What potential objections or questions might my hearers have and how I can answer them?   How I can employ elements like parable, metaphor, or hyperbole to make the point more memorable and move my hearer to action?  What combination of my personal testimony on the subject (ethos), emotional appeal (pathos), and logical argumentation (logos) will have the greatest impact on my hearers?  What action or attitude do I desire to evoke from my audience?  Answering these questions will assist us in developing our manuscript from which our sermon will derive.

As you apply these steps; identifying boundaries, choosing exegetical tools, arriving at an interpretation, finding application, and finally developing a rhetorical strategy for preaching, we must keep in mind our ultimate objective.  It is not our purpose to reinvent what Paul said to the 1st Century church at Philippi, but rather to develop an interpretation and application that are faithful to the text and then to present them to the 21st Century church in a such a way that the power of God may be made manifest through it in their lives for the glory of Christ.

An Integrated Approach to Sermon Preparation: Applied to Philippians 3:1-14 – Part 1

Man-readingThis is a departure from my usual postings in that I am speaking mostly to others who teach and sharing a little of what has worked for me.  I pray that it will be helpful to others who answer the call to teach God’s word to people of all ages. 

A Solemn Call

There is no more solemn responsibility in the church of Jesus Christ than that of teaching others out of God’s Word. James the brother of Jesus warns would-be teachers not to respond carelessly to this calling: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). However, it is God who calls and God who gives gifts to men, so neither should the person of faith run from a true calling to teach. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly… if it is teaching, he must teach” (Romans 12:6-7).

Therefore, with all seriousness and diligence we, those called into a teaching ministry, must approach the holy Word of God with prayer and a reverence that drives us to give heed Paul’s advice to his disciple Timothy. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is here, with this frame of mind, that we must consider the methods or process employed in both “rightly dividing” the word of truth as well as expositing that word in such a way that we do not hinder God’s power therein, but rather present a message that is both faithful to the text and complete in its ability to inform and move the hearer to action or belief.

Today we will discuss a process for figuratively picking up any passage of scripture and turning it around in the light so that it can be examined from every angle, observing it through the eyes of the author and original audience, recognizing the true meaning of the passage, and then both systematically and artistically presenting it to our audience in a such a way that the power of God may be made manifest through it in their lives. The process I will walk you through today is in 5 steps; (1) identify the boundaries of the text, (2) choose appropriate analytical tools, (3) interpret the true point(s) of the passage, (4) apply the passage, and finally (5) develop a rhetorical strategy for effective communication. I will use Philippians 3:1-14 as a test case for this process throughout this presentation.

…Stay tuned

Actions & Words

Whether it be the crisis of fatherlessness or failing marriages or violence or drug abuse or any of the other social ills on the front page today, Jesus’ church is the only institution with the complete answer.  Jesus is the “last man standing.”  As His people, the children of the King of kings, we are called to imitate His character in a world gone wrong, to share His good news and grace with a world in need. That is the ultimate message of this blog.  One of the ways in which my family and I have chosen to put our actions where our words are is through the ministry of an organization we founded in 2006 called, “Open Arms Worldwide.”

OAW partners with Christian churches to implement and maintain gospel-based programs to reach at-risk children in the church’s local community.  Their vision for the future is a world where all children grow up understanding that they are beautiful and precious in God’s eyes and are enabled to discover the Hope and future that He has for them.

We have been blessed to be a part of this organization as full-time missionaries as well as Board members over the years.  If you haven’t heard of OAW then I invite you this Christmas season to check out their 2014 Year in Review which just came out.  It is an encouraging read and I pray it will be a motivating one as well.  Enjoy!  http://www.openarmsworldwide.org/2014-year-review/

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2015 to you and yours,

Mike

Shark wranglers

Continued…(click HERE to read previous post)

Sound Scary?

“At-risk children in my house?  Drugs dealers and thieves?  Juvenile detention centers?  Are you crazy?  That is the kind of thing best left for professionals, missionaries or folks without their own family to care for.  Besides, in this country you can get sued for looking the wrong way at a child. The risks are just too great.  What if I just write a check?”

As the President of a non-profit organization that survives on the giving heart of GOD’s people, I would say, yes, please do.  Better yet, you, your family, your business and your church could purpose to become regular financial partners with an organization, like Open Arms Worldwide (www.openarmsworldwide.org), that is working to get more “bull elephants” out into the places where children have been left most vulnerable.  But, if you stop there you are missing out.  Is it dangerous and risky? Absolutely. But with great risk comes great reward.

Do Not Fear

That leads me to my second animal story.  This one took place in the warm gulf coast waters of Florida in 2001 and was picked up and reported by most major television news networks at the time.  A man was relaxing at the beach with some relatives when he heard screams and looked to see a pool of blood forming around his nephew who was standing in the shallow water.  A seven-foot long, 250-pound bull shark had a firm hold on the boy and wasn’t letting go.

Shark Wrangler

The uncle jumped into the water, as most of us would, and, taking hold of the sharks’ tail, pulled the animal away from the boy.  The shark released, but had taken the child’s arm just below the shoulder. He was losing a lot of blood as his aunt began caring for him onshark finshore.  At that point the uncle would have been perfectly justified in releasing his hold on the shark and returning to the safety of shore to care for his nephew, but that would have to wait, there were other children still in the water.  Holding on tightly to that tail, he wrestled the beast, which was all the while trying to turn on him, up on to the beach where a park ranger shot it with his 9mm service pistol. The boys’ arm was retrieved and reattached, and the immediate danger to the other children in the water was removed.

Is there a lesson for us here?  Stay tuned…

Strong man down, continued (part 3)

We are losing ground in…

The Church

Where should we find a bulwark against the plan of Satan to take down the “Strong man” defense system? Who is the “last man standing,” that GOD put in place if not the Church of Jesus Christ?  The Church and its men should be an impenetrable fortress, protecting their children from the enemy of their souls.  Beyond that it should be a source of reinforcements for the families and communities who are losing their fathers.  Certainly in the Church we should find men, followers of Christ, committed to fulfilling their role of provider, protector, teacher and friend.

So where are they?  Again, some recent sociological research provides less than encouraging news for those children suffering on the front lines of fatherlessness.  It is not my purpose here to theorize on the causes (that is one bull’s-eye I do not wish to paint on my back), but the reality is stark as it regards men in the Church.

“Are males really less religious than females? Most of the studies made on the question seem to indicate that they are, and this appears to be true for all the Christian churches, denominations, and sects in western civilization.” [1]– James H. Fitcher,

“women are twice as likely to attend a church service during any given week. Women are also 50 percent more likely than men to say they are ‘religious’ and to state that they are ‘absolutely committed’ to the Christian faith.” – George Barna,

“Church attendance in the United States is about 60 percent female and 40 percent male. The more liberal the denomination, the higher the percentage of females.”[2]      – Leon J. Podles,

“Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family,” “Women typically emerge as the primary — or only — spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers.” – George Barna[3]

 

The news out of Western Europe is much the same, and in Brazil the numbers are almost identical, with the ratio of Christian women to men at roughly 57/43% according to the IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatístic in their 2000 census report.

While good people can disagree as to the cause of the masculinity deficit in the church, whether it is the feminization of sermons, worship and teaching in the church, liberal theology, a lack of vision driven churches or a generally feminized view of Christ and Christianity dating back to before the Reformation, there can be no disagreement over the plain fact that many Christian churches in the world today are not producing “strong men,” and those that are, by and large, are not sending them out into the world to stand in the gap for children who have been left defenseless by Satan’s schemes.


[1] James H. Fichter, “Why Aren’t Males So Holy?”Integrity (May 1955): p. 3.

[2] Leon J. Podles, “Missing Fathers of the Church”

[3] George Barna,Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators(Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996),p.87.

 

Strong man TKO continued…

Continued from previous post…

Grandpa Meyers

Early one morning in my sixth grade year my mother answered the phone just as we were heading out the door for school. It was my grandmother who lived nearby, calling for help because she was having trouble waking Grandpa.  My paternal grandfather, Frank H. Meyers, had died peacefully in his sleep.  We were all hit hard by his unexpected passing. I cannot ever recall feeling such terrible loss or sadness before that time or since. But despite the initial shock of losing the patriarch of our family, what would unfold as the months and years passed, would dwarf it in terms of shear destructive force.  My grandfather took very seriously the commands to “love justice, seek mercy and walk humbly with your GOD” as well as to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  He was one of 237 souls who had given his life to Jesus Christ one evening at a Billy Graham crusade held in September of 1952 at the old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, for as long as I knew him, was a wonderful man of GOD, a rock in his church, always available to lend a hand to a neighbor in need.  I never heard him utter a negative word about a soul. He was the glue that held our family together.  What I absorbed from him was his belief that life was simple if we would just let GOD’s Word be a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” He exercised his moral authority in our family in a gentle but powerful way and we loved him for it.

It is never easy for a family to lose such a central figure so unexpectedly and my father never really recovered. The close relationship I had had with my dad in my early years, the moral teaching and good example he was for me were fond memories that seemed to begin to slowly erode away in my teen years as his own foundation was shaken.  I love my dad very much and cherish my childhood memories. Just remembering these events and imagining his sadness and pain at the loss of his father brings tears to my eyes.  It seemed like he began to lose his moral compass and bearings as a father and a husband. His crisis, which eventually led to the breakup of his marriage, could not have come at a worse time for his adolescent son. Even though I had asked Jesus to be my savior five years earlier, I was now at a critical time in my development when I needed more than ever a strong godly male role model to keep me from going off track. I was entering adolescence. The hormones were flowing. I was trying to define myself as a young man and at the same time questioning my own faith.  This was a crossroads moment where I needed a father to talk openly to me about what it means to be a man of GOD, how to take ownership of my faith, how to think about and treat women, how to develop self-control and so many other lessons.  My dad, in his sadness over the loss of his own father and what I perceived to be a moral and spiritual crisis, was effectively taken out of the game, leaving his own children vulnerable to our enemy’s schemes.

I was left to find my role models in older “popular” kids, old NFL films and movies.  I sought out other young men I could identify with. The model I found there was the “man” who had a girl on each arm, was in the middle of every fight, could drink into the wee hours and still win the big game the next morning.  Within a year of my grandfather’s death I was experimenting with alcohol, sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night, getting in to fights and “dating” one young lady after another.  In my mind I was becoming a “man.” I was twelve years old. I take full responsibility for my poor decisions during those years, but the fact remains that, by my father not taking the standard from grandpa Frank and carrying it for his wife and children, the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy had succeeded in tying up the “strong man” in our family. It would be nine long years of wrestling with GOD and my own conscience before I would return to my heavenly Father and many more years after that before I would fully reconcile my relationship with my dad.

If you are a dad, I ask you, have you let personal tragedy, work demands, selfishness, or any number of other distractions cause you to drop your guard?  Have you left your wife and children unprotected?  Men, we cannot let our guard down even for an instant.  Our enemy the devil is just waiting to land a sucker punch.

“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

The “Strong Man”

Jesus, when explaining how it was he could expel demons, said,

“How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.” (Matthew 12:29)

           In the same way, how can Satan enter the house of a strong man and steal the hearts of his children if he doesn’t first tie up that strong man? The answer is obvious, He can’t.  The father is Satan’s target number one in his attack on the family, civil society and the Church. Knowing that the father is the main line of defense, we must now have an honest assessment of the condition of those defenses. In much the same way as the biblical leader Nehemiah set out to inspect the walls of Jerusalem, we now need to mount up together and ride out to inspect the condition of GOD’s ordained defensive structures.

“By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem” Nehemiah 2:13a

Holes in the Wall

Sadly, across all levels of society, but especially among the poor, Satan has had great success in eliminating the strong man.  He has used a wide variety of tools including addiction, pornography, popular culture, liberalized divorce laws, the modern feminist movement and government welfare programs that seek to replace the father and encourage out-of-wedlock births.   In this way he has effectively removed the strong man from many families, communities and even the church.

According to the US census bureau, some 24 million children live in fatherless homes. That is nearly 48 million American children who are without their major protector, provider, teacher and friend. Today 40% of all children in the United States are born to single mothers. Outside the US the picture isn’t any better. In Brazil, where I work with at-risk children, 700,000 children are born each year without a father figure.  Roughly 30% of the entire population of Brazil doesn’t shop for a gift on Father’s Day because they don’t know the man. These children are incredibly vulnerable.  Just consider for a moment the pounding they are taking –

Incarceration Rates. “Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families…those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated — even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant.” (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)That is not of course including the millions of children with unengaged, abusive or negligent fathers that live at home.

Suicide. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)

Behavioral Disorders. 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (United States Center for Disease Control)

High School Dropouts. 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)

Educational Attainment. Kids living in single-parent homes or in step-families report lower educational expectations on the part of their parents, less parental monitoring of school work, and less overall social supervision than children from intact families. (N.M. Astore and S. McLanahan, American Sociological Review, No. 56 (1991)

Juvenile Detention Rates. 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)

Confused Identities. Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely than those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press, 1984).

Aggression. In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households.” (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, “Household Family Structure and Children’s Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children,” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).

Achievement. Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).

Delinquency. Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contract, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married. (Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Social Services, April 1994).

Criminal Activity. The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O’Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993

A Child’s God-given Defenses

So, what or who constitutes the defense system GOD has put in place for children? Let’s look to scripture. There we see that Biblical defense, provision, rescue, and strength giving is provided by Abba, Father.  As children of GOD we pray, “Our Father, who is in heaven…” and trust in Him to protect, provide for, teach and guide us. David calls the Father “my Rock”, “my strong tower”, “my salvation” and speaks of being hidden in the “shadow of His wings.” David proclaims about his heavenly Father, “He set my feet on a rock and gives me a firm place to stand,” in Psalm 40:2.

GOD in his wisdom created the family and placed at its head an earthly father whose role as defender, provider, teacher and friend were meant to reflect those same qualities found in our heavenly Father.

“For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. (Proverbs 4:3-4, emphasis added)

Does GOD’s design work?  Many of you who suffered under disengaged or abusive fathers would say no.  But that kind of father was not GOD’s design at all.  The fact is that when a child lives in the presence of a godly father, one who is committed to modeling a Christ centered life, one who is being equipped by God’s Word, one who is actively engaged in teaching the truth within the context of a loving and safe relationship, he or she is at nearly zero risk for things like drug or alcohol use, violence, and suicide.  The power of a committed, equipped and lovingly engaged Father, living out his faith before his children, is not to be underestimated.

So then, if you are planning an attack with the goal of creating chaos…

(The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;(John 10:10a)

…then you would surely want to eliminate or otherwise neutralize this very powerful defensive mechanism we call the godly father. Removing him from families, from communities and from the church would be a critical first phase in any well-planned attack on those institutions and the children in general.

How does this occur?  Continued…

Satan is “shaping” the battlefield

Whether we are discussing a street fight, modern military tactics, ancient city defenses or home protection, certain principles apply.

 Definition:

Shaping the Battlefield: Eliminate your adversary’s capability to fight in a coherent manner before committing forces. Set the conditions for success in decisive operations.

On March 19th, 2003 the second Persian Gulf War began when American Stealth bombers and Tomahawk missiles struck “leadership targets” deep within Iraq, opening the door for a massive and rapid infantry assault that would quickly overwhelm Saddam Hussein’s forces. Interestingly, heavy bombing has preceded most great invasions since the dawn of the cannon. In the military jargon, artillery bombardment “shapes” the battlefield giving infantry the greatest chance for decisive victory. It just makes sense that any well-conducted military assault would begin with taking out, demoralizing or otherwise incapacitating the targets defenses and leaders.  Removing leadership, jamming radar systems, eliminating air defense systems, destroying command and control structures and disrupting supply lines are all keys to causing confusion and overthrowing a kingdom.  Even before the age of modern warfare, cannon bombardment broke down castle walls, allowing foot soldiers to spill through the gaps and inflict untold damage on those seeking protection within.  When leadership is gone, the chain of command is broken and the defensive walls have been breached, it’s every man for his self. Chaos ensues and those left go into survival mode.  In physical war this tactic is obvious because of the “shock and awe” nature of modern weaponry and speed with which things happen.

Spiritual war is not so different. Our enemy’s use of this same tactic, however, can be so subtle to those not paying attention that by the time we realize an attack is under way, we have already been overrun. As mentioned earlier, Satan’s objective is clearly laid out by Jesus in John chapter 10, verse 10 where he says, “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” If your aim were essentially to cause chaos and confusion, promoting everything that is contrary to GOD’s Kingdom, it would make sense that the first strategic initiative would be to remove or render useless that Kingdom’s defenses. As a predator Satan seeks out the weak, the young, those separated from the herd and defenseless.  The children of the world are part of this group.

So, what or who constitutes the defense system GOD has put in place for children?   Next post we’ll look to scripture to answer this question.