The Wrong Battle; the Wrong Weapons

The most desired of conditions, peace is by far the most elusive.

Peace – in its simplest definition – is the absence of conflict. But there has always been conflict. There was conflict among the angels of heaven. There was conflict in the Paradise of Eden. There has since been conflict between all clans.

We know and appreciate the concept of peace. We crave and long for it. We write and sing about it. We fight and die for it. We want it as much as anything, yet we have no earthly idea how to both obtain and keep it.

The human being is conflicted. He is conflicted with his world, and with his self. Life is a search to ease the stress, curtail the strain, scratch the itch of conflict. But the itch returns, the scratching ensues, and the cycle continues. Continue reading “The Wrong Battle; the Wrong Weapons”

Flipping the coin

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Mt. 10:34).

Almost any picture we paint of Jesus is lacking. It is especially true of the canvas, but also of the heart. Jesus is complex – infinitely so. When we think we have captured him, some other piece of him floats by and we must pour out all the other pieces and try to put them back together again. Haygood put it this way: Continue reading “Flipping the coin”

No righteousness at all

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Jesus said that a person couldn’t enter the kingdom unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees. One might be inclined to ask: What, exactly, was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? And how can we exceed it?

To answer the first question in a word: self-righteousness. Continue reading “No righteousness at all”

Options Jesus didn’t leave us

C.S. Lewis was right when he said of Jesus:

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to (Mere Christianity).

How did Lewis reach this conclusion? He read the gospels. The more we read the gospels the more impressed we are with what we find, particularly in the words of Jesus. The things Jesus says are so ingrained in the “idea of Jesus,” that we regularly miss the shocking nature of them. Continue reading “Options Jesus didn’t leave us”

Exceptions that prove the rule

“If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14).

What makes a proverb a proverb is that it is generally true in most cases. This also means there could conceivably be an exception to the rule, but it would only prove the rule.

When Jesus spoke the proverbial statement above, he was warning his disciples not to blindly follow the advice and  attitudes of some of the religious hierarchy of the day because of their hypocrisy. But even he recognized that there are exceptions to it: Continue reading “Exceptions that prove the rule”

Satan’s Catspaw

“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (Matthew 16:23, ESV)

Peter is the only disciple who was called “Satan” by Jesus. It was the strongest rebuke ever uttered by the Lord to any of the twelve – Judas included.

Moments after Peter was commended for his confession of Jesus as the Christ of God, he was being rebuked for insisting that Jesus need not die in Jerusalem. It was an echo of the temptations Jesus endured from Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-4).

Like Peter, Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. Like Satan, Peter encouraged Jesus to avoid the cross. Peter had become “Satan’s catspaw” (Robertson).

Continue reading “Satan’s Catspaw”

We Must Be Blind

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5, ESV).

If you own a smart phone with facial recognition technology, it is designed to see what it wants to see: your face.

Your brain does something similar, but less distinct. It seems hardwired to sees faces. It sees faces everywhere: clouds, a grilled cheese sandwich, Mars, the Moon. Your brain is designed to see faces, so it sees them. Continue reading “We Must Be Blind”

Don’t Look Back

No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, ESV).

When I had a more fitting location than my present one, I used to grow a decent-size garden. We tried to grow pretty much everything: tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, weeds.

We grew a lot of weeds.

These days, I only have space for a few tomato plants. Not nearly as rewarding, but much less work. Continue reading “Don’t Look Back”

Indeed, who is an Israelite?

Behold an Israelite indeed…” (John 1:47).

Jesus said this about Nathanael (aka, Bartholomew).

The word “indeed” implies a different understanding of the word Israelite than the one commonly held. What was the common understanding of the word Israelite in the days of Jesus?

Most Jews (since the days when Jacob’s name was changed to Israel) were known as, and identified themselves as Israelites. But this name always had more than mere tribal or geographical connotations to God. Continue reading “Indeed, who is an Israelite?”