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Mile 2: Settling Scores with Love

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Five to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

Image result for 2 mile markerRemember that Jesus came not to abolish the Law of Moses, which did in fact contain the phrase, Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth [Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21]. In each instance, the prescribed punishment is to be equal to the crime or the injury visited on another person. A punishment should fit the crime, not exceed it.

In other words, the phrase was meant to deter people from hurting others to begin with, so that they wouldn’t suffer the same pain they inflicted. Instead, common cultural practice perverted the phrase to justify revenge, excusing private vengeance outside the court of law.

A slap on the cheek wasn’t about personal injury, it was an insult. A punch in the pride.

In the Old Testament, it was illegal to keep someone’s cloak from them overnight, because it was commonly used as a person’s only blanket. A knee to the need for self-preservation.

And under Roman law, Roman soldiers were allowed to force someone to carry the soldier’s belongings for them, but only for the distance of one mile. An attack on time.

But Jesus pushes this command to its heart intent.

1) Leave vengeance to God [Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19].

And,

2) Love our fellow human beings, even when–maybe especially when–they aren’t loving us in return.

After all, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth [Matthew 5:5]. In his pride the wicked man does not seek [God], so we Christians should not be like the wicked [Psalm 10:4]. We should not let our pride well up and keep us from seeking God’s will in any and every instance.

God alone is our protector and provider [Philippians 4:19]. When others wrong us, we look to Him for our safety and well-being, not to ourselves.

And we should be leaving time in our daily lives for divine appointments such as these opportunities to show the love of Christ to the lost and dying, to the wayward and wicked.

Our choice to love in these humbling circumstances is just like Jesus’ meekness and silence as He was led before His executioners [Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32]. And our selfless attitude is a light, that possibly, may be the very thing to win the wicked person to Christ.

Do you settle your own scores? Or do you respect God’s equality system and act in loving self-discipline?

KCS

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God Doesn’t Backspace

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18

Image result for backspaceIn His day, people were trying to figure Jesus out. False prophets were not uncommon in Israel in the past [Jeremiah 14:14 & 23:16; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 13:9 & 22:28; Hosea 11:6; Matthew 7:15; Acts 5:26-29 & 13:6]. So was this guy from Galilee really a miracle-working prophet of God? Was He possibly even the promised Messiah?

And if Jesus was a prophet or the Messiah, what was God’s directive? Was He instituting a new order through this audacious preacher-prophet-teacher-healer?

Jesus knew their hearts and minds [Matthew 12:25; Luke 5:22, 6:8-10 & 11:17]. He answered their questions before they could ask them out loud. No, God is not changing His plan of redemption. Yes, the Law and the Prophets still matter in the eternal scheme of human history. Yes, I am the fulfillment of everything that you have studied and heard. No, this world will not last forever. No, God isn’t rewriting the game rules. Yes, everything God said would happen will happen.

The Law of Moses was more than just the ten commandments, though they get the most attention. There were people in Israel whose whole life’s work was to study and interpret the law–experts akin to modern day lawyers. But the Law was meant to show people their sinfulness [Romans 7:7-8 & 8:3]–not to redeem them from it. The Prophets also came to make people aware of their sin, yet they too were powerless to save anyone.

Jesus came to complete the work began in the Law and the Prophets. He came to redeem people from their sin. As long as the Creation endures–and it is going to pass away one day [Revelation 21:1]–the Law and the Prophets will still show people their sin and Jesus will still, by God’s grace through our faith, reconcile the repentant to Himself.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus refers to the alphabet in these verses. When He says the least letter, it is the Hebrew yodh or the Greek iota, both literally the smallest letters in their respective alphabets. And the least stroke refers to the horn a little letter flourish, like the bottom curve of a lowercase j. God didn’t change his mind or His plan on even the smallest detail.

As the author of life [Acts 3:15], God never needs to brainstorm, draft or revise. He never needs to eat His words or print a retraction or buy a bottle of whiteout. He doesn’t backspace or delete.

The Word of the Lord stands forever [Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25]. Are you standing on that Word?

KCS

Free to Follow

“As Jesus was walking along beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22

Image result for net fishingJesus begins His ministry in Galilee by calling disciples to Himself. This was not customary. In fact, usually it was the disciple who chose the teacher or rabbi. Prospective students would begin by sitting at the back of the room, listening to their would-be rabbi. If they liked the teaching and wanted to study under the rabbi then they worked their way to sitting in the front and following the rabbi wherever he taught.

But that was an earthly tradition. God isn’t content to wait around while we stray further and further from His truth, hoping that we might show up in the back of His class our of curiosity. He passionately pursues all people.

Jesus found His first four disciples working as fishermen in the Sea of Galilee. So they were probably of mixed Gentile and Jewish origin. They probably had a recognizable accent to the “purer” Jews of the south. And they probably would have been despised–or looked down on–by the religiously devout just as much as Jesus was.

They were perfect for the job in every way!

Simon Peter is hard at work with his brother Andrew when Jesus promised to make them fishers of men. James and John responded too.

I have to wonder if they had any idea what Jesus meant by this turn of phrase. Were they well versed in the prophecies of the Messiah? Or were they from Galilean families who practiced watered-down worship?

Regardless of what their understanding, what we do know about these men is the most important thing that could be said of anyone. They followed Jesus. Without hesitation. Without concern about their livelihood or their parents. They literally laid it all down and committed their lives to Him.

So often we let the love of the world consume us–the desires of our physical bodies, the desires of our eyes and the pride for what we have and do–bind us up [1 John 2:16]. When Jesus knocks on our hearts and calls our name, we hesitate. But what about my college plans? My job path? My friends? My house? My family? My healthcare? My retirement?

We have so much that we, like the rich young ruler, sadly turn away from following Jesus’ lead [Mark 10:21-22].

Is your life free to follow Christ? Or are you weighted down by the world?

KCS

Journey of the Torch

“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali–to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'” Matthew 4:12-17

Sweden Fire, Finn Candle, Sweden Torch, Hot-log

When Satan didn’t succeed in tempting Jesus, it appears he turned his attentions to attacking Jesus’ cousin, John. Maybe now he could force God’s Son to out Himself as the Messiah. Surely the Savior of the world would storm the prison and miraculously overthrow the government, decimating its army to free one of His beloved human beings.

But it’s still not God’s appointed time.

It was, however, God’s time to send His Son as a light to all nations.

So instead, Jesus moved to Capernaum from which most of His earthly ministry was soon to be based. This is the promised blessing for these two tribal territories whose trade routes connected Israel to the Mediterranean.

Capernaum was a sizable town in the Galilee region. Because of the Assyrian captivity, the people there were of mixed-culture descent–returning Jews and the pagan peoples that moved into the area during the captivity. Influence from all of the Gentile religions greatly diminished Jewish worship in Galilee.

They had become spiritually dark.

But Isaiah had foretold that God would send His Son as a light into this spiritual darkness [Isaiah 9:1-2]. The reason? Because it was always God’s intention to redeem the whole world, not just Israel [Genesis 12:2-3, 18:18 & 22:18; Acts 3:25].

Satan intended to silence John’s message, but God’s purposes prevailed. Jesus took up the torch of John’s message, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near [Matthew 3:2], and stepped into the way prepared by John’s ministry.

A torch that he passed to His disciples. A torch that has passed down through the generations and come to us. God’s light is still for everyone on the planet. His redemption for everyone who has, does and will ever live. The way has been prepared for you and I to take up the message.

Will you embark on the journey of the eternal torch? Making disciples of all nations? Teaching them to obey God’s Word? And baptizing them in the name of the Triune Godhead [Matthew 28:16-20]?

KCS

Stepping in God’s Will

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”” Matthew 4:5-7

Image result for Herod's temple

Jerusalem, the holy city, was the focal point of all Israel’s worship. And the highest point of the temple was the place from which the priests sounded the trumpet to draw Jerusalem’s attention to important events.

Satan is goading Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah. Like reverse psychology? Go ahead Jesus, you know you want to. We both know who you are anyway. Satan even cites scripture himself this time so that maybe Jesus won’t dismiss him so easily. Or maybe so that he will. Or whichever will trip him up.

But Jesus doesn’t want to reveal himself. Not in this place. And not at this time.

He wills to act in time with God’s good will. Jesus’ divine perfection is so rock solid that Satan can’t pester or bully him into doing anything to the contrary.

Instead, God’s Son responds with wisdom. He knows that Satan is misquoting scripture, twisting God’s words to entice him to flaunt his own godhood. In Jerusalem. On the pinnacle of the temple. For all the religious leaders and devout Jews to see the fulfillment of their long awaited Messiah. The angel guard was meant to protect Jesus whilstsoever he faces harm before his appointed time.

And this is not it.

Jesus applies God’s word properly. He understands that stepping out of God’s will has detrimental consequences and would possibly even revoke the promise. And he also understands that all scripture is to be taken together. God didn’t promise the angel guard so that Jesus could go around throwing his physical self into harm’s way to show off. Just as God doesn’t extend us grace so that we can squander our life in sin.

Do you apply God’s Word with wisdom and understanding? Or do you let the world goad you with misquoted or out of context passages?

KCS

Born of Water and Spirit

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:16-17

Image result for flying doveOne of the amazing things about Jesus is that he never walked into a situation and announced, HeyI’m God’s Son, I’ll handle this; or, I’m in charge now, do what I say; or, Bow to me my servants or be crushed. Neither did he start spouting his resume, touting all of the messianic prophecies that he’d personally fulfilled.

On the contrary, God the Father announced the birth of His Son through the star, the angels and the kings, perfectly harmonizing every prophecy in its fulfillment. And, here again, God announces Jesus’ Sonship through a dove and a voice from the opening heavens [Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28; 2 Peter 1:17-18].

John also attested to Jesus’ Godhood.

As for Jesus’ testimony about himself, he simply lived the life that perfectly accorded with the will of God the Father. He didn’t have to study the prophetic scriptures to know how to live, he just lived–everything about his humanity synced to God despite having complete freewill just as we all do.

The Spirit of the Lord was on him and reigned in him [Isaiah 11:2]. And this pleased God.

Here Jesus models to the world what it is to be born again of God. Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one.

We too can be born of God–born again of water, aka baptism, and the Holy Spirit [John 3:3-6]. Then we are adopted as His children [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7; Ephesians 1:8] and, living by the Spirit, please God.

Are you born again? Have you found new life–passing through the water of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit? Is your will syncing to God’s?

KCS

Commission Confirmed

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented.” Matthew 3:13-15

Image result for face out of waterJesus was fully God, but He was also fully man. He had to travel from Galilee to the Jordan the same way everyone did. It was a hot and dusty walk for him just as it was for all the others.

Jesus came to have his physical body baptized in water, but he had no sin to confess. Did the crowds murmur at his lack of confession? Or did they whisper the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood, trying to understand the truth of him?

John knew full well who Jesus was. He tried to defer to Jesus’ spiritual authority, but Jesus is not so self-important that he can’t be ministered to by a human being. On the contrary, Jesus was blessed by John’s ministry just as John was blessed to minister to him.

The deeper significance of this moment was not lost on Jesus. He is the fulfillment–the completion bringing to reality–of all of the prophecies and the generations of waiting for the woman’s seed who will crush Satan’s head [Genesis 3:15], the promised inheritance of Abraham, the living law of Moses and the eternal culmination of the line of King David. By faith in the Christ who was to come, each of these were credited with righteousness, that is, they were considered morally right or justified in God’s eyes.

When Jesus was baptized by human hands in an earthly river, his physical body was cleansed like a high priest washing before offering the temple sacrifices [Hebrews 4:14-16]. Spiritually, Jesus was preparing to give himself as the spotless sacrifice–without a sin to confess but bearing all of our sins on the cross–to impart his righteousness to each of us who accept his sacrifice by faith.

John baptized the Son of God Almighty, but that didn’t bring his ministry to an end. He didn’t reach the top in a big showy fanfare and then retire. Instead, Jesus’ baptism reaffirmed John’s commission. Whatever we do to our fellow human being, so we do to our Lord [Matthew 25:40]. Each time John honored his call to baptize repentant sinners, he was ministering to Jesus all over again.

We have also been commissioned to baptize the nations [Matthew 28:19-20]. When we obey our call to make disciples, we minister to–that is, attend to–Jesus.

And John consented. Jesus wasn’t going to override John’s freewill, forcing him to do it Jesus’ way. God always honors our right to choose.

What would you choose if Jesus showed up and asked you to minister to him? The answer is as easy as how you treat the people you see everyday. Because as you do to them, you do to Jesus. Are you faithfully fulfilling your commission?

KCS