Questions Jesus Asked # 93

Luke 12:49-51 – (see also Matthew 10:34-35) –  “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” NIV

Jesus has just completed a discourse to the crowd and then in application to His closest disciples that Warren Wiersbe sums up as “waiting, watching, and working.”  These are attitudes and actions that followers of Jesus need to have and exhibit for the long haul … to fulfill their purposes on this earth just as Jesus in this passage is waiting, watching, and working to accomplish His “baptism” or death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.  To get through that last phase involved opposition or “warring” … spiritual warfare.

Jesus was saying that just as He had opposition, His followers would face opposition.  It would take various forms from downright martyrdom to just ignoring the Gospel message or actively trying to discredit it and make believers into some sort of mentally unbalanced people (sound familiar?)

Just as He was encouraging His followers to be prepared to wait, watch, and work, they need to be prepared to face various types of opposition. Opposition will come in some form, so be prepared to deal with it. So the question is: “How do we prepare to face various types of opposition or spiritual warfare?”  Well, we certainly don’t go to the world for our playbook! A few passages come to mind …

First the example of Jesus: The Gospels indicated that He offered no resistance, and stood silent before His accusers until He was asked directly if He was the Christ or Messiah.  He then responded with the truth which He continued to speak even to Pilate at the appropriate times.  He knew His purpose, and He knew He had to face the cross in order to conquer death.

Then the words of Paul to the Ephesian believers about preparing for spiritual warfare:  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 – NIV)

       Then the words of Peter to followers of Jesus:  “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.   17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:15-17 – NIV)

So as followers of Jesus today who are waiting, watching, and working for the Kingdom until Jesus returns, how do we face opposition or (spiritual warring) in light of Jesus’ example and Paul and Peter’s words to believers?

Some questions to consider:  How do I react when confronted with spiritual opposition?  Is the opposition to me and/or my personality or Jesus?  Have I spiritually prepared myself for opposition by putting on spiritual armor?  Am I prepared to respond with “gentleness and respect” in the face of opposition?  Do I engage followers of the enemy to vanquish them or help convert them?

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Questions Jesus Asked #57

Matthew 26:53-54 – Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”  NIV

Judas Iscariot has just led a group of soldiers to arrest Jesus. Jesus has told Judas to do what he came to do. However, one of the previously sleeping disciples grabs a sword and cuts off the ear of the servant of the High Priest. John tells us (18:10-11) that it was Peter wielding the sword and that Malchus was the name of the servant.  It is interesting that the disciples that could not stay awake and fight the spiritual battles with Jesus are now attempting to fight a physical battle in which they are probably out numbered and certainly ill equipped to fight.  Continue reading

Questions Jesus Asked #24

Matthew 16:5-12 – When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

            7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  NIV

This is an interesting interchange between Jesus and His first followers.  Jesus is talking about spiritual things, and they are thinking about their stomachs. They had forgotten to pack a lunch for the boat trip, and when Jesus began talking about yeast, the first thing they thought about was real bread. Continue reading

Caring for the bunnies of this world

I was in my office preparing my Sunday message last Saturday morning.  The weather was rainy and in the 40’s.  All of a sudden I heard a commotion outside my window – like a cry of a small animal that was injured.  I went to the door and stepped outside to check out the situation.  I saw a large, black crow attacking a small bunny.

As I looked around I saw several other participants in the drama. There were a couple of red winged black birds harassing the crow because the crows often attempted to bother their nests in the wetland around the pond.  I also saw three other small bunnies running for cover.   Evidently, either the bunnies had decided that they were too big for their nest and it was time to venture out in life, or the crow had discovered their hiding place.  As I scared the crow off, it appeared that his victim was dead.  It was rainy, and cold.  I figured that the bunnies would find a safe place.  Perhaps momma rabbit would appear to guide them to safety.  I figured that the crow might come back, but would be satisfied with his prey and move on. I went in and looked on the internet for someone who might be interested in protecting wild bunnies.  I didn’t find anyone.

A little later, I heard more commotion.  The crow was back.  This time pursuing another of the bunnies.  It appeared that he had brought a couple of friends.  My efforts scared them off for a while; but they were persistent.  The nest that they had been in was in the middle of the yard.  It wouldn’t do any good to try to put them back there.  Where was their mother?

More time passed, and some youth came over to play basketball in the gym.  I asked one guy if he was interested in rescuing a wild bunny.  I went to the door and showed him where the bunny was hiding.  He went back, got his friends, gloved up, and came to rescue the last surviving bunny.  While they were coming,  I went back to the door just in time to see the crow and his friends carrying off the last bunny, and a momma rabbit forlornly watching the scene.  I thought, “If only I would have moved them to safety – perhaps under a bush where the crows couldn’t get them.”

Sure, this was part of the cycle of life, and there was a great likelihood that the riding lawn mower might have claimed these bunnies lives because their “dumb bunny” momma had made a nest out in the open in the middle of the lawn; but the Holy Spirit gave me a message.  He reminded me that Satan, the Adversary, is on the prowl like a lion (or a crow) seeking who he can devour, and there are a lot of spiritually clueless children, youth, and adults out there being attacked and trying to hide from his attacks.   Some of us have found safety in Jesus, and we have a choice when we see this happening.  We can ignore the situation, and say, “Well, that’s just what happens to dumb bunnies.  They should know better.  Their parents should now better!”  We can try to call the expert or someone else to deal with the messy situation.  Or we can chose to act to introduce them to the safety that God provides through a relationship with Jesus.   I stand convicted!