Are You Cutting Ears and Calling Angels?

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JESUS HAD POWER (Col. 1:16-17).

“Wonder-working” power (Luke 5:17).

He could walk on water, raise the dead, and instantly heal those afflicted with horrible, life-long disease.

He could cast out demons, feed thousands with but a few loaves and fish, and transform water into wine.

He could rebuke the storm and calm the sea.

He had power (Acts 10:38).

And yet…perhaps His most surprising manifestation of power was the intentional failure to employ it (1 Pet. 2:21-23; cf. Isa. 53:7; Mark 14:61).

Despite the unlimited miraculous resources at His disposal, when faced with Calvary and all that entailed, Jesus restrained His own mighty hand.

Has it ever occurred to you that one of the Lord’s most significant displays of power was expressed in a non-miraculous way?

The chief priests, elders and scribes (ie., religious leaders!) levied a sordid array of attacks against Jesus.

They brought false testimony against Him (Mark 14:55-58).

They accused Him of blasphemy (Mark 14:64).

They spat upon Him, they blindfolded Him, and they struck Him (Mark 14:65).

Pilate had Him scourged (Mark 15:15).

His own friends betrayed Him and denied Him (Mark 14:10-11; 66ff).

Finally, He was thrust upon a cruel cross and forced to endure humiliation and torture (Mark 15:22ff; cf. Heb. 12:2).

Jesus could have prevented it all.

Peter tried to (Mark 14:47); in fact, he had vowed to (Mat. 26:31-35; Mark 14:31).

When the enemies attempted to take the Lord away, Peter struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

In another one of his brash initiatives, this future leader, apostle, and preacher of the first-century church tried to start a fight.

Peter wanted the mob to know that He was ready to come to blows if necessary, and he drew blood in order to prove his point.

But Jesus didn’t need Peter’s sword.

He was/is the Son of God.

He not only had power, He had all power at His disposal.

He could have called angels.

Mighty, super-human (Psm. 103:20; cf. Mat. 28:2-4; 2 Thess. 1:7) legions.

A legion was anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men strong.

We sometimes sings, “He could have called TEN-THOUSAND angels…”

More accurately, He could have called between 36,000 and 72,000 angels plus (cf. Rev. 5:11; Dan. 7:10)!

So what would He need with Peter’s puny blade?

The host of heaven could have been beckoned with but a word, and Jesus could have retaliated.

Let’s be honest.

Most of us have more in common with Peter than with the Lord, right?

When our mates hurt us with words, we want to show our superiority and exhibit our prowess.

“Where’s my sword?!  Hey angels, come on down!”

When our enemies try to injure us, our inclination is to emulate Peter rather an Jesus.

We want to unsheathe our weapon and fight back; we want to call in reinforcements and engage in combat.

But the Lord urges us not to use force (Rom. 12:19).

You see, we like jesus (Mat. 26:54), have a mission (Mat. 5:43ff; 1 Pet. 2:20), a mission to reconcile others to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

So how can we bend our will to the Father’s and subdue our desire to use force, intimidation and or power?

Consider:

  1. REMEMBER–those who live by fighting eventually die in battle themselves. 

“All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mat. 26:52).

I know couples who are capable swordsmen.

They are skilled in verbal engagement.

They know how to cut to the core with their sharp tongues (Prov. 12:18).

They mutilate their mates by hacking them to pieces with their words.

(Peter would be proud!)

By their malicious and caustic jabs they bleed the life out of their relationships.

As a result, their marriages are killed, and divorce ensues.

Husbands, wives…swinging your swords (Mat. 26:51) doesn’t produce peace; it only escalates hostilities (Prov. 15:1).

Be lovers (1 Cor. 13:4-8a; Eph. 5:25; Titus 2:4; Song of Solomon), not fighters (Prov. 17:14; 20:3; 1 Tim. 3:3).

Be peacemakers (Jas. 3:14-18; cf. Mat. 5:9), not war-mongers (Jas. 4:1; Psm. 68:30b).

2.  REMEMBER–employing force nullifies your mission.

“How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Mat. 26:54).

Had Peter been permitted to fight off the Roman mob, had Jesus summoned His legions (Mat. 26:53) and prevented His own capture, Calvary might never have occurred, and you and I would still be in our sins!

Peter could have cut and Jesus could have called, but either alternative would have aborted the Father’s will for mankind (Mat. 26:54).

Brethren, when we employ retaliatory force against others, we effectively severe any opportunity to win and reconcile them to Christ (1 Pet. 3:1; 4:19).

We have a mission to win souls (Prov. 11:30; Mat. 28:19-20; Rom. 12:17-21), not personal battles (1 Pet. 2:20ff), or arguments (2 Tim. 2:24).

3.  REMEMBER–the greatest exercise of power is often the decision NOT to employ it.

Jesus didn’t dial 1-800-4ANGELS; instead, He turned over His Shepherd’s rod and became a sheep Himself (Isa. 53:7).

Real power backs away from a fight.

Real power shows restraint and exercises self-control.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23; cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-9).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

 

Will You Go Anyway?

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JESUS SENT TWO disciples ahead of Him into a nearby village to carry out a special errand.

“Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat.  Loose him and bring him here.  And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing him?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of him'” (Luke 19:30-31).

Once the animal had been secured, Jesus purposely rode the colt in Jerusalem.

I say “purposely” because His presence on the beast served as a sort of formal announcement.

In ancient times a conqueror would ride a stallion into a city indicative of the fact that he reigned over the people.

However, when that individual came mounted on a colt, it said peace prevailed.

So Jesus, the Prince of Peace, rode the colt into Jerusalem (cf. Zech. 9:9) proclaiming His impending coronation.

Not surprising, His entrance into the city was met with divergent response.

Many hailed Him with joy, welcoming Him as an earthly sovereign who had come, so they thought, to re-establish the Davidic kingdom and overthrow the Roman empire (Luke 19:37).

By contrast, others were angry with the Lord because they interpreted this ride into Jerusalem as rank arrogance and blasphemy (v. 39).

The religious establishment insisted that Jesus rebuke the jubilant crowds for their error.

I find it compelling that Jesus, not only rode into Jerusalem on a colt, knowing full-well how folks would respond, but He was also conscious of what would inevitably occur in that city.

While the people on this occasion shouted, “Hail Him!  Hail Him!”, before long they would cry just the opposite, “Nail Him!  Nail Him!”

Jesus knew that Jerusalem meant His torturous death–and He rode into town anyway.

He crucified self before He was crucified on Calvary.

May I ask some hard questions for your personal consideration, dear reader?

  • When a fellow Christian has sinned against you, and you anticipate friction in the meeting, will you, like Jesus, crucify self, go anyway and engage your brother or sister (Mat. 18:15)…OR will you avoid the meeting all together?
  • Husbands, when there is serious conflict in your marriage, indicative of some major heart issues, and past experience has taught you that it is easier to sweep problems under the rug than to address them, will you take the lead in your relationship as God has ordained you, and lead your wife in reconciliation (Col. 3:19)?
  • Elders, when you are aware of the fact that some of your sheep have incrementally drifted from the fold–and you anticipate some difficulty and resentment when you go to see them, do you go anyway (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2)?
  • Christian, when you are personally aware of the fact that a fellow child of God is engaging in egregious sin, do you go to that individual with a burden on your heart and try to lead him or her back to Jesus (Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20)?  Do you go despite knowing that it will be a difficult conversation?

Jesus knew that going to Jerusalem would bring pain–and He went anyway.

What about you?

Will you go anyway?

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

Are You Planting Peach Trees?

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THOMAS DREIER TELLS the story of a an eighty-year-old man who was in the process of planting a young peach tree.

The old man’s neighbor asked, “Do you expect to eat peaches from that tree?”

“No,” he said.

“At my age I know I won’t.

But all my life I’ve enjoyed peaches–never from a tree I had planted myself.

I wouldn’t have had peaches if other men hadn’t done what I’m doing now.

I’m just trying to pay the other fellows who planted peach trees for me.”  (David Dunn, “Bread Upon The Waters,” Trying Giving Yourself Away, 1947, 22).

THOUGHT:  We are often unconscious of the fruits of our own thoughtfulness, and likewise of the thoughtfulness other saints have invested for our benefit, perhaps many years ago.

Shouldn’t we be planting peach trees for future generations (Eccl. 3:2; 1 Cor. 3:6; John 4:35-38)?

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

INCARNATE: Mustard Seed for July 31

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“How quickly and effortlessly can we slide into a series of small decisions that land us in a tangled web from which there is no easy exit.”  Erwin Lutzer, “Conflict with Doubt,” Growing Through Conflict, 48

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20; cf. Galatians 6:1a).

Are There No Moral Absolutes?

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MODERN RELATIVISTIC THINKING suggests that we have no rule or standard by which we can distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, or moral and immoral.

Hilary Putnam, a Harvard University professor, sums it up when he declares that moral and ethical judgments are “something that we ultimately judge by the ‘seat of our pants'” (Alan Crippen II, ed., “The Train Wreck of Truth and Knowledge,” Reclaiming the Culture, 59).  We must come to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for ethics…” (Ibid), he asserts.

Is the professor correct–are morals and ethics based upon our own subjective opinions?  Are there no moral absolutes?

Consider for a moment the repercussions of Mr. Putnam’s philosophical extreme.  (NOTE: The following excerpts are very explicit):

  • “The pro-life groups are right about one thing:  the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make such a crucial moral difference.  We cannot coherently hold that it is all right to kill a fetus a week before birth, but as soon as the baby is born everything must be done to keep it alive.  The solution, however, is not to accept the pro-life view that the fetus is a human being with the same moral status as yours or mine.  The solution is the very opposite: to abandon the idea that all human life if of equal worth” (Watkins, “Death What A Beautiful Choice,” The New Absolutes, 85).
  • “A principle at an elementary school in New Hampshire invited a homosexual men’s chorus to give a concert to the kids.  The choral members changed the words of familiar children’s songs to sing about boys loving boys and girls loving girls” (Mister Sandman, bring me a dream, make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen).  During the concert they asked the children to raise their hands if they have two mommies or two daddies living with them.  When parents heard about the concert after the fact, they confronted the principal, but she wrote them off, saying tha the concert was ‘part of a multicultural emphasis at school” (“Dial Deviant For Normal,” 145).
  • “Dr. John Money is professor emeritus of medical psychology and pediatrics at John Hopkins University and an influential voice in sex research.  In an interview with Paidika, a magazine that advocates civil rights for pedophiles, Dr. Money said: ‘If I were to see the case of a boy aged ten or eleven who’s intensely…attracted toward a man in his twenties or thirties, if the relationship is totally mutual, and the bonding is genuinely totally mutual, then I would not call it pathological in any way.”  Money believes that pedophilia is an orientation which cannot be changed or permanently suppressed” (Ibid, 148).

Observations:

  1. If there are no moral absolutes, then man becomes not the discoverer of truth–but the determiner of truth (Prov. 21:1; Judg. 17:6).  Contrast that with the revelation of Scripture: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23).
  2. Moral relativism is patently false.  Truth is absolute–fixed (Rom. 2:8; John 18:37), it is attainable (John 8:32), it is understandable (Eph. 5:17; 2 Pet. 3:16), it is identifiable (John 17:17; 14:6; 16:13; 1 John 4:6), and it is consistent (Titus 1:2).
  3. If we have no objective criteria or standard by which to distinguish between right and wrong, then it is impossible to identify certain behavior as “sinful.”  Again, contrast this with Paul’s rebuke of governor Felix: “Now as he reasoned about righteousness (i.e., morality”–Moffit), self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you'” (Acts 24:25).

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike

 

 

Are You Getting Your Degree?

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SCRIPTURE URGES US to mature in our faith to the point that we can find wisdom and instruction during times of difficulty (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 12:10).

It’s a biblical approach (cf. 1 Pet. 1:6-7), but the tuition fees are expensive and the courses can be incredibly challenging.

The Psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Psm. 119:67; cf. Rom. 8:28–emphasis mine, mb).

While we are inclined to ask God for ease and that He’ll deliver us from pain in all of its agonizing forms, He sometimes reminds us that the best life-education is earned and learned while attending UHK–the University of Hard Knocks (Prov. 17:3; Jas. 1:2-4, 12; 1 Pet. 4:12-19).   

So, what are some of the courses we must take in order to get our adversity degree (1 Pet. 5:10)?

PERSPECTIVE 101.  Paul taught, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Noted author, Robert Fulghum, once wrote:  “One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem.  If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire—then you’ve got a problem.  Everything else is an inconvenience.  Life is inconvenient.  Life is lumpy.  A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump.  Once needs to learn the difference.

REALITY MANAGEMENT.  Jesus said, “It rains on the just and the unjust…” (Mat. 5:45).  Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble…” (Job 14:1).

Everybody experiences pain.  None of us are exempt from tragedy and problems simply because we are children of God. If baptism served as an insurance policy against any form of harm or heartache, folks would accept Jesus for no other reason that to be spared such.

LIFE APPRECIATION.  The Psalmist asked rhetorically, “What man can live and not see death?  Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psm. 89:48; cf. Prov. 27:1; Heb. 9:27).

Death does not discriminate because of age.  Read the obituary column in your local newspaper.  People of all ages die–infants in the womb, innocent children, teens, young and middle-aged adults, and senior citizens all step into eternity on a daily basis.

We learn to be grateful and thankful for our life when we recognize that our time on earth is limited at best and that we have no promise of tomorrow (cf. Jas. 4:14; Psm. 39:4; 78:39; 90:10, 12).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”–Mike