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The Scorpion and The Tortoise

Monday, July 27th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, questions, sermons | 4 Comments »

Sometimes we wonder why we sin. This is especially hard if we think we are basically good and “the answer is within.”

The fact is, the problem is within. For all practical purposes, we have ourselves to thank when we give into temptation. Jesus told us, “From Within, out of the heart of man, is what defiles the man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Where is the logic in that?

That brings me to the fable of the scorpion and the tortoise.

One day, a scorpion who wanted to cross a pond. As you may know, scorpions can’t really swim. He found a rather unsuspecting tortoise and asked if he would give him a lift.

The tortoise exclaimed, “Are you joking? You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear tortoise,” laughed the scorpion, “If I were to sting you, you would drown and I’d go down with you! Now where is the logic in that?”

“You’ve got a point there,” reasoned  the tortoise. “Hop on.”

Resigned to his fate

The scorpion climbed aboard and the tortoise set off into the water. Halfway across the pond, the scorpion carefully aimed his powerful stinger and gave that tortoise everything he had.

As they both sank to the bottom, the tortoise, resigned to his fate, turned to the scorpion and said, “Do you mind if I ask you something? You said there is no logic in you stinging me. So why did you do it?”

“It has nothing to do with logic,”  the drowning scorpion replied.  “It’s just my nature!”

In a sense, that is a very accurate way of defining temptation. When we get tempted and when we give into it, we like to conveniently place the blame on someone or something else.

I’ve heard people say, “Get behind me, Satan . . . and push!” The fact is, “It’s just our nature!”

Be careful

So be aware of that today. Satan needs our cooperation in this area before we give in to his temptation. Where there is no desire on our part, then there is no temptation.

As it’s been said, “It takes two to make a successful temptation, and you are one of the two.”

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)

How to win the spiritual battle

Monday, July 20th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 11 Comments »

Over the last few posts, I have been writing about the spiritual war we are all engaged in.

Before I finish this series of posts, I wanted to let you know that I am speaking tonight at the National Worship Leader Conference in Leawood, Kansas.

I will be joined by artists like Mac Powell of Third Day, David Crowder, and Michael W. Smith, as well as other speakers. I would appreciate your prayers.

For more information on the conference, click here.

The battle never stops

Now, back to the battle.

Like it or not, the moment you commit your life to Jesus Christ you are engaged in a spiritual battle. The believer may be known by his inward warfare as well as by his inward peace.

This battle is not between flesh and blood, but with a very real opponent called the devil.

We have looked at the various pieces of armor we are to wear as we face our opponent, including the utility belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and, of course, the gospel shoes.

Those are all primarily defensive weapons. In other words, you don’t attack your enemy with your sandal, breastplate, or helmet. You need another weapon for that.

Unsheath your sword!

Paul calls the one piece of offensive weaponry God has given us the sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Many believers have all their armor in place, but they never use their sword. They leave it in the sheath. They talk about it, and brag about how sharp it is, but they never actually utilize the sword in spiritual battle.

The devil knows all too well the power and authority of the Bible and he will try to keep you from it at all costs.

Keep this in mind: Whether we know the value of our sword or not, Satan does. He will do everything he can to see that we keep our swords sheathed or that we don’t put them on in the first place.

The power of memorization

The enemy will certainly try to keep you from memorizing the Word of God.

Why? Because the Psalmist says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). The devil has felt its sting and authority.

It’s good to carry a Bible in your briefcase or purse, but the best place to carry the Word of God is in your heart.

How sharp is your sword?

I ask you now, what shape is your sword in?

Is it polished from daily use as you study the Scripture on a regular basis, and sharpened on the anvil of experience as you have applied and obeyed it’s truth in your life? Or is it rusty from lack of preparation or dulled by disobedience?

It’s been said “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”

If we neglect the study of the Scripture, our spiritual life will ultimately unravel because everything we need to know about God is taught in the Bible. And if it can’t be found in the pages of Scripture, you don’t need it.

You can win in this spiritual battle. Not by running away, but rather by putting on the whole armor of God and unsheathing your sword, which is the Word of God, and using it.

I encourage you to do that today.

Wear your helmet!

Saturday, July 18th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 8 Comments »

Hey everyone! Did you happen to notice our new Web site is up?

Sooo . . . what do you think? Let me know your thoughts.

As we wrap up this series on the spiritual armor we wear to fight a spiritual war, we only have two pieces left—the helmet and our one offensive weapon, the sword (more on that Monday).

Paul tells us we are to take “the helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17).

In a war, the two most sought-after and vulnerable targets on the ancient battlefield were the heart and head. With our heart and other vital organs ably protected by the breastplate of righteousness, the enemy will try to strike the head. One well-placed blow here and the battle is over.

What does it mean to wear the helmet of salvation?

It would seem to me that the apostle is telling us to watch our thoughts in general. Most temptation comes through the gateway of the mind and imagination.

This is why Paul tells us, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your mind may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Smashing warped philosophies

When those “flaming arrows” of ungodly thoughts come, we need to have our guard up.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5-6:

“We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (THE MESSAGE).

Watch your thoughts!

So watch what you allow into your thought life. Our minds, thoughts, and imaginations must be protected. Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, “As a man thinks, so is he.”

Satan recognizes the value of first getting a foothold in the realm of the thoughts and imagination, as this will “prepare the way” for that thought to translate into action! As it’s been said:

Sow a thought and reap an act.
Sow an act and reap a habit.
Sow a habit and reap a character.
Sow a character and reap a destiny.

So think “heavenly thoughts” this weekend!

This and that

You may want to check out my weekend column at WorldNetDaily. To read that, click here.

Also, here is my weekend devotion.

Guided missiles

Friday, July 17th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | No Comments »

As we fight the spiritual battle, we need spiritual weaponry. We have looked at the utility belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and proper footwear.

Now let’s consider our shield. The apostle Paul writes, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16).

The words “above all” mean that faith is of paramount importance. The other armor won’t function apart from faith.

The shield that the Roman soldier would use was made of wood and then covered with cloth and leather. They were large, rectangular objects about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide (basically the size of a door). By crouching behind it, the soldier could completely hide himself.

Missiles coming!

The term “Fiery Darts” that Paul uses refers to one of the most commonly-used enemy tactics of his day.

Prior to an actual face-to-face engagement with the enemy, a warrior would often encounter a barrage of flaming arrows coming from all directions. Their sole purpose was to demoralize and confuse him.

Our modern equivalent might be guided missiles or rockets.

The Roman soldier had to hold up his shield to protect himself from those fiery arrows. Sometimes, he would dip his shield in water so the fire-tipped arrows would be extinguished when they struck the shield.

Watch your thoughts

Satan has his “flaming arrows,” or “guided missiles,” that he shoots our way too. They are swift and silent and we receive no advance warning of their arrival. You can wake up in the morning, and the enemy will hit you with a flaming arrow before your feet even hit the floor.

It might be an impure thought or a thought of complete despair. You may be gripped with intense fear and terror: “What if this happens, or if that happens?”

It might be a thought of hatred toward someone. It might even be a blasphemous thought or a thought of doubt.

When do these “flaming arrows” come?

Answer: at strategic times, like when you decide to read the Bible.

Isn’t it amazing that you can open the newspaper and maintain your full ability to concentrate with no distractions? You can get through the whole thing, the want ads, the comics, and all the advertisements with no disruption whatsoever.

Or you may watch some mindless TV program and you’ll get through it with no phone calls, no distractions, no problems.

Now try opening the Bible and watch as “all hell breaks loose” and those flaming arrows start flying!

It might be an inability to concentrate. It might be a hundred and one things you should be doing that come to mind. They aren’t necessarily evil thoughts per se,  just things like: “Oh boy! I forgot to go do this” or “I’ve got to pick up the cleaning, return that phone call, etc.”

The devil hates the Bible

Listen, the enemy’s primary objective is to keep you from the Word of God.

Sometimes people will ask me to sign their Bibles. When I do, I will often write, “Sin will keep you from this Book, or this Book will keep you from sin.” The enemy will try to keep you from reading your Bible.

These “guided missiles” will also come during times of trial and hardship. Satan will whisper in your ear, “God has abandoned you. He’s left you. He doesn’t love you!”

I’ve been hit with a few arrows like you

I know about this personally and so do many of you. It is then that I hold up the shield of faith.

Here, faith means the ability to quickly apply what we believe so as to repel everything the devil does or attempts to do to us.

My relationship with God is not built on fleeting emotions or feelings, but on faith in what He has said to me in His Word. Faith, or the “shield of faith,” is turning to God and His Word in time of attack, and not focusing on our fluctuating feelings or emotions.

Scripture does not say, “Resist Satan steadfast in your emotions, feelings, etc.,” but rather, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9).

So use your shield today! It could make all the difference.

Get your gospel shoes on!

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 1 Comment »

Chucks300Tonight in Orange County, I will be speaking on the topic of “How to Resist Temptation.” It all starts at 7:00 P.M.

For more information, click here.

Now, back to our topic, the spiritual battle.

It is essential in the Christian life that we not only hold, but also gain ground. This is done with proper footwear, which was as important to a Roman soldier’s armor as the shield and breastplate.

After telling us about the utility belt and breastplate, Paul says that you should have “your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 KJV).

Three qualities of good shoes

When we go look at shoes, we might put style at the top of the list. Hands down, my favorite shoe is the Converse Chuck Taylor. I pretty much live in them, despite the fact that they have little to no arch support.

On the other hand, the shoes of the Roman soldier had to be functional. They would have three qualities:

  • They had to have good grip, giving traction and solid footing
  • They also had to be tough to protect the foot from spikes or sharp rocks
  • Finally, they needed to be light, giving the soldier the mobility to cross 100 yards of open field in a minute.

Be on duty at all times

But what exactly is this referring to in the spiritual battle?

In the original Greek, the word “preparation” used in Ephesians 6:15 can be defined as “firm-footing, a strong foundation.”

This is why I have been teaching  this series on Thursdays and Sundays called Essentials: What Every Christian Needs to Know. So you will know what you believe as a Christian, giving you “firm-footedness.”

This word  “preparation” could also be translated as “readiness.” The idea here is to be ready at all times to share the gospel.

Scripture tells us that we as believers “should be on duty at all times.” You never know when an opportunity will arise for you to share the gospel with someone.

Be ready to move at a moment’s notice

Again, it’s the idea of being ready and willing to move at a moment’s notice, for those opportunities to share the gospel often come when we least expect them.

This is how we gain ground for the Kingdom of God.

When is the last time you looked for an opportunities to share the gospel? When is the last time you prayed for an unsaved person by name to come to Christ? When is the last time you personally brought a non-believer to church with you?

Remember, the primary way that God reaches people is through people. People like you and me.

Paul writes in Romans 10:13-15:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (NIV)

Ask the Lord for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone today!

Spiritual body armor

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 6 Comments »

We are engaged in a spiritual battle. There is no escaping it. The question really is, do we want to win or lose on the battlefield of life?

Having already looked at the utility belt of truth that the Roman soldier would wear, and what that would mean to us, let’s consider our first piece of actual body armor. Honestly, if this one is missing, we will be cut down quickly in the spiritual war.

I am talking about the breastplate of righteousness.

Protecting vital organs

Paul speaks of it in Ephesians 6:14: “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (NKJV).

For the Roman soldier, the breastplate was essential. It was basically a tough piece of leather with animal horn or hoof pieces sewn into it.

The piece went from the neck to the abdomen, and it protected the vital organs, including the heart. One well-placed blow here or to the head and it’s done, party’s over, and you just became a casualty.

Our modern equivalent would be body armor or the bulletproof vest.

What is the breastplate or righteousness?

To wear the breastplate of righteousness is the simple recognition we have “Christ’s righteousness” in our life. The Bible says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19 NKJV).

This simply means that when a person puts their faith in Jesus and is saved, His righteousness is transferred to our “spiritual bank account.” This is not personal morality, and it is certainly not “self-righteousness,” but something that God does for us.

For instance, Paul was a moral man, but he wrote that his desire was to “be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9 NKJV).

Justified!

In other words, we stand right before God, regardless of the way we feel. It is a part of what we call justification.

When a person is justified by God, all of their sins are forgiven. But, as they say in those commericals on TV, “Wait, there’s more!” We also have the righteousness of Christ transferred to our account, so to speak.

Why is this important?

This is important because the devil will say to us, “You are not worthy, you are weak, you are going down!” When he does, we can say, “I stand righteous before God because of the finished work of Jesus Christ!”

Scripture says Christ has “made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). In other words, if you have put your complete faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone as Savior and Lord, you stand positionally righteous before Him.

You are both loved and accepted by God.

Satan tries to defeat us with accusations, but we stand in our relationship with God through Christ. Confident of our standing before God, because of the righteousness of Christ that has been deposited into our “spiritual bank account,” we know we have God’s protection in our lives against the accusations of Satan.

So today, make sure that piece of your armor is on because, frankly, if it isn’t, then the other pieces will not do you much good.

Suit up for battle!

Monday, July 13th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 7 Comments »

The day you believed in Jesus was the day that the real battle began. For just as surely as there is a God who loves you, there is also a devil who hates you.

It has been said, “Conversion has made our hearts a battlefield.”

So we have a choice in this spiritual battle. We will either win or lose. Gain or lose ground.

You can’t be a “spiritiual pacifist.” To fight a spiritual battle, you need spiritual armor. It’s time to “man up” (or “woman up”) and put on the whole armor of God.

Paul’s words about spiritual armor

The apostle Paul lays out the components of our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:13-18:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Every piece is important

Paul uses the various pieces of armor that a Roman soldier would wear to make his point. Having spent a lot of time being chained to them, he probably asked a lot of questions, and had an excellent working knowledge of ancient weaponry and warfare.

Each piece of the Roman soldier’s armor is interconnected to the other: all of it must be used. In the same way, it is not for us to “pick and choose” what pieces of armor we want or don’t want to wear.

Let’s consider the various pieces of armor we are to wear and what they mean:

The utility belt of truth

First, you need to put on your “utility belt of truth.” As Verse 14 says, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth.”

When I was a little boy, I remember being amazed by Batman’s utility belt. It was yellow in the comic books, but became black in the films.

Batman’s belt had his Batarangs, Batcuffs, rebreather (for breathing underwater), night vision goggles, and much more. All the things that the “Caped Crusader” needed to fight crime.

Problem is, both it and he are not real, so let’s consider the belt of real crime fighters–policemen.

A cop’s utility belt

Officers refer to this belt as their “Sam Browne.” It consists of their radio, handcuffs, holster and gun, Taser, chemical spray, flashlight, holder for extra magazines, baton, etc.

The officer needs that belt when he is out and about, doing his duty, and the same was true for the Roman soldier.

The belt was essential. Why? Because the breastplate, and the sword’s sheath were attached to it. It also held up his tunic, giving him freedom of movement. If the Roman soldier’s belt came off, his breastplate would fall off, along with his tunic.

What does it mean?

So what does it mean to “gird your waist with truth,” practically speaking? The utility belt of truth represents a life and mind that is pulled together
and is ready to serve for the Glory of God.

The utility belt of truth speaks of having integrity, truth in your “heart of hearts.” David said, “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6).

The opposite of integrity is duplicity. Duplicity is hypocrisy, trying to lead a double-life.

The person who tries to lives this way is a “sitting duck.” But a true soldier of Jesus Christ cannot live that way. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:4, “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.”

I encourage you to put on your belt, and live truthfully.

The battle we are all in

Saturday, July 11th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 1 Comment »

The day you became a Christian was the day that the a new kind of battle began. A spiritual battle that will rage on until we get to heaven.

The believer may be known by his inward warfare as well as by his inward peace. For just as surely as there is a God who loves you, there is also a devil who hates you.

His objective? According to Jesus, the enemy’s ultimate objective is to “steal, rob, and destroy!”

He has been successful in far too many lives. Don’t let him be in yours.

Don’t underestimate your opponent

We should never underestimate the devil, because he is a sly and skillful adversary. He has had many years of experience dealing with mankind.

As Martin Luther wrote in his song, “A Mighty Fortress Is our God:”

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe.

His craft and power are great,and armed with cruel hate

On earth is not his equal.

He can be overcome

Even though Satan is a powerful foe, he has clear weaknesses and can be overcome.

I want to share with you how that can happen in my message this weekend at Harvest. The message is titled, “What the Devil Doesn’t Want You to Know.” I believe the principles can be of great help to you.

You can join us live or watch the webcast. To find out more, click here.

Beware of snakes!

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 4 Comments »

greg_snake_300b

Tonight, I am speaking in Orange County on the topic of “What the Devil Doesn’t Want You to Know.”

I don’t know about you, but if the enemy specifically does not want me to know something, then I really want to know it. Don’t you?

To find out more about this study tonight, click here.

Baby rattlers

Have you ever seen a baby rattlesnake? They are actually kind of cute.

Everything is miniaturized, and they get that menacing look on their face, bare their fangs, and shake that rattler, warning you of impending doom.

You might look at it and think, “What harm could a little snake like this do?” The answer: plenty!

Did you know that the venom of a baby rattlesnake is more toxic than that of an adult rattlesnake? The best thing to do if you see a baby rattler is either kill it yourself or find someone who can.

I know they play their part in the balance of nature, etc. But they also play their part in biting people, sometimes with very unpleasant results.

The devil is compared to a snake

As I mentioned in my last post, the Bible compares Satan to a snake:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Satan often gets us with the “smaller sins” that turn into larger ones. In other words, “little” compromises that lead to big consequences.

He knows what he is doing, and has honed his craft of temptation for many years. He knows that if he can just get you to “think about it,” then he has a foot, or a fang, in the door!

Guard your mind

When Satan wanted to lead the first man and woman into sin, he started by attacking the mind (in this case, the mind of Eve). Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”

Why?  Because it is here, in “command central,” that we reason, contemplate, and fantasize. Your mind can reach into the past through memories, and into the future through imagination.

This is why the Bible says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not physical but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ!” ( 2 Corinthians 10:3)

Satan, the Deceiver, wants to get you to “just think about it,” to say, “What if . . . ? I mean I would never do this, but if I did, what would it be like?”

To accomplish his purposes, though, Satan needs help. Many times, we say, “The devil made me do it.”  But the fact of the matter is the tempter needs cooperation from the tempted.

Scripture tells us, “But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (or lust or passions)” (James 1:13-14).

Remember, it’s not the bait that constitutes sin, it’s the bite!

The snake and the Ford Starliner

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009 Posted in essentials, Pastor's corner, sermons | 4 Comments »

 starliner400

When I was a kid, I used to collect snakes. I was so interested in them that I actually had plans to one day become a herpetologist (someone who studies amphibians and reptiles).

I don’t know why I was so fascinated with them, because they are not affectionate creatures.

For instance, you always know where you stand with a dog. If he’s happy, his mouth is open in what sometimes looks like a smile with his tongue hanging out, along with a wagging tail. If a dog is angry or afraid, you know that too.

Even a cat will show some interest in you occasionally. But a snake, you never know that they are thinking.

The snake who always bit me

I had quite a few snakes over the years, some I had caught and some I had bought.

Over time, I had king snakes, gopher snakes, garter snakes, boas, and one weird little python that had it out for me. In fact, whenever I put my hand in his cage, he would strike and bite me.

Snakes are clever and sly

Though they are not affectionate creatures, snakes are very clever. Fact is, snakes can get out of the tightest places.

One time, I asked my mom to drive me over to a Newport Beach pet store so I could buy a new snake. We got in her Ford Starliner and made the trip.

The Ford Starliner was one of those overblown Detroit ’60s models that I did not appreciate at the time so much, but now look back on as a true classic.

We arrived at the pet store and purchased the snake. I loaded him up in my terrarium, placed it in the trunk, and we drove back home.

Upon arriving at home, we discovered to our surprise that the snake had escaped. My mom vowed to never drive that car again, because she knew that snake was somewhere in that car, and would find and bite her.

How to get a free car

A couple of weeks later, my mom needed to run an errand, so she carefully got into the Starliner and make her way down the road. All she could think about was that snake in there.

She came to a light and was waiting for it to turn green, when she suddenly felt a cold coil drop on her ankle. Her worst nightmare had just come true.

So she carefully opened the door, put her other foot on the ground, and leaped out, screaming, “There’s a snake in my car!”

At the intersection, there happened to be a police officer, who came running over to find out what was wrong. He looked up where the snake allegedly was, and found that it was actually just a loose hose.

But my mom never drove that car again, and eventually she just gave it to me!

The devil is compared to a snake

You remember in the Garden of Eden, the devil came to Eve as a serpent or snake.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field
which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

Of course, Eve’s first mistake was listening to what the devil had to say in the first place. Like a snake, the devil is always looking for an opening.

The objective is to have as little to do with him as possible. The Bible does not say, “Have extended conversations with the devil and he will flee from you.” Rather, it says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4.7).

More on how our enemy is like a snake tomorrow.