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[Part 3 of 3]

As we left off last time, I was positing that we could have Jesus’ peace the same way He achieved peace.  The key to achieving it lies in understanding:

The world’s peace is the ‘absence of conflict.’  God’s peace is perspective in the midst of conflict.

The ‘perspective’ I am talking about is the way of realizing and acknowledging that:

  1. God is fully in control,
  2. God is fully able to accomplish everything He wants to accomplish, and
  3. this same sovereign, omnipotent God loves you and has the best ever plan for you!

It is a perspective that flows from truths such as;

  • “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28)
  • “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)
  • It’s the perspective that you are only here for a little while longer, and then Heaven forever:   “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14b)

[Side Road:  Where do you find the perspective that leads to peace?  i) Studying the Bible, ii) the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you, iii) investing in prayer, and iv) hearing testimonies of those who have gone before you . . . but all that is another blog for another day . . . .]

Get it?  If not, stop here and meditate on this:  God’s peace is perspective in the midst of conflict.  It was never the plan that Jesus would bring worldly peace on this earth with His incarnation.  (“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division . . . .” Luke 12:51)  It was, however, His idea to leave you in the midst of the conflict with “His peace.”   (“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  John 14:27)

Let me try to illustrate this point this way:  What are you going through today that is robbing you of peace?  (Finances?  Health?  Relationships? Name it to yourself or write it down.)  Now, use your imagination with me a little:  If Jesus walked in and said to you — right this moment, while you are on the computer:  “I know that thing you are going through is tough, but – now don’t tell anyone – I’m coming back in a few hours . . . and that problem will be gone forever.”  Then He continued:  “Can you hang on a couple more hours?”

You’d say:  “Yes, Lord, I can certainly trust you for a couple hours!

Jesus:  “Could you for those two hours have peace, even though your problem was still there?

You:  “Absolutely!  Knowing what I know now, I could have peace because I’d know the problem was only temporary!

Jesus:  “How about a couple days?

You:  “Well, the two hour plan was better, but, sure, two days?  I can do that as long as I know the plan!

Jesus:  “If I told you there were some things I’d like for you to do before you go, things that would really mean a lot to me, could you hold out for longer . . . say a couple of years?

You:  “Um, years?  Wait a minute, sure, I mean, I can probably do that.  Little harder, but yeah, pretty sure.  I’ll get a two year calendar out and mark off the days every evening and as long as I know the exact date then I’ll be able to do it.

Jesus:  “Can you trust Me if I don’t tell you the exact date?

You:  “Um . . . .

Jesus:  “Can you trust Me if I don’t tell you even the approximate date?

Brothers and sisters, that’s where we’re at.  It is the same promise by the same omnimpotent God:  It just doesn’t have a set calendar date for your Blackberry!  If you can just keep this perspective, though, I can assure you that you will have His peace.  Let me leave you with some Scripture and a prayer — and this may be the most important section of this three-part blog:

These are Jesus’ words to his disciples toward the end of His ministry (as found starting in John 14 proceeding through 16, selected verses):

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe  also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.   If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also . . . .  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you . . . .  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’   Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.   I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here . . . .  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Let’s pray:

Lord God, You are in control.  You are able to accomplish exactly what you want.  You want the very best for us – Your plans for us are better than our own.  We are only here for a little while, and then we’ll be with You forever.  We know we’ll have tribulation here during our short stay, but we believe You when You say You’re coming back to bring us home, to resolve every conflict, to wipe away every tear, to heal every wound, to meet every need.  Help us to keep this perspective every moment of our lives, that we may know Your joy, that we may know Your Peace, and we pray, as You promised in Phil 4:7, that the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

Shalom aleichem,

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

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[Part 2 of 3]

When we left off, we were considering how strange it was (to me at least) that our Holy God, while incarnate on the depraved earth, could have ‘peace’ and want us to have that same peace — ‘His peace’ — as well.  I asked you to think about what it was in your own life right now that was keeping you from ‘peace.’  (Remember it?  Good, hold on to it a bit longer.)  As we pick up today, we need to start with the question:  What is ‘peace’?

Peace is a central concept in the Scriptures.  The words translated as ‘peace’ in the Old and New Testaments appear more than 360 times.  I found that I was able to group or categorize most of them as follows.

  • Many were used as greetings or farewells:
    • Peace to you!
    • Peace be with you!
    • Go in Peace!
  • They were used as part of benedictions:
    • The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.  (Num 6:26)
    • Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!  (2 Thess 3:16)
  • Peace was to be sought after:
    • Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.  (Ps 34:14)
  • Jesus is specifically identified with peace:
    • For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  (Isa 9:6)
    • There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, (Isa 9:7)
    • [F]or God is not a God of confusion but of peace . . . . (1 Cor 14:33)
  • But peace is very elusive on earth.  The Old Testament in particular makes this clear:
    • They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.  (Jer 6:14)
    • They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.  (Jer 8:11)
    • When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none.  (Ezek 7:25)
    • It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace.  (Ezek 13:10)
    • ‘. . . along with the prophets of Israel who prophesy to Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ declares the Lord God.  (Ezek 13:16)
    • Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace.  I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.  (Ps 120:6-7)

So, we know a little better what the Bible says about peace, but the question remains:  How can we have peace when we have conflict?  (. . . when we have unmet needs?  . . . when we don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills?  . . . when we don’t know what to do with what the doctor just told us?  . . . when we have sin in our lives that keeps showing up . . . again?)

How do we have peace like Jesus had peace?  How do we have “His peace”?

Answer: The same way Jesus found His peace.  How is that?  Well, that would be in the third (and final) blog on peace (I promise).

Shalom aleichem,

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

[Part 1 of 3]

A friend of mine, Robert Barron, recently led an excellent devotional at a Board of Directors meeting for Sheridan House Family Ministries.  One of the points he made struck me anew even as he was making it:  Robert was explaining that Jesus wanted us to have not just joy, but His joy.

His joy?”  I thought.  How could Jesus – the All Holy One, the Sinless Savior – describe His time on the earth – the fallen, groaning, sinful earth – with a word anything like “joy”?  Do we really understand the vast separation between the holiness of Jesus and the depravity of man?  I’ll answer that one for you:  NO.

Being finite, fallen creatures, we are not able to comprehend the extreme holiness of God.  The best we can do (if we close our eyes tightly, cover our ears, and strain our brains) is think of someone who is a whole lot better than ourselves.

If we cannot fully comprehend the holiness of God, can we at least comprehend the depravity of man?  Well, even though we start out closer to the goal, we still cannot really comprehend it to even a reasonable degree.  Remember, except for the sin that is in our own hearts (which we fancy to be not as bad as the sin in others . . .), we typically can only see the effects of sin.  Even then, we can only see a fraction of the effects of sin as we happen to witness them ourselves (or hear about them on the news, etc.).  Jesus, on the other hand, sees not just the all of the effects of sin, but as God He actually knows men’s hearts  — in other words, He sees the sin itself.  What, then, does God know about men’s hearts?  Well, He knows that they are more deceitful than all else and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) for starters.

So I move the previous question:  How can Jesus, who is more holy than we can comprehend, while living with more sin than we can comprehend, describe anything about His incarnation with the word “joy”?

Suppose you got up from your computer right now and walked outside to the nearest septic tank or sewer and jumped right in.  (Got that visual now?)  Do you understand that that doesn’t even compare to Christ leaving heaven in the incarnation?  Now, while you still have that sewage scene in your mind, picture yourself barely floating, up to your neck in . . . it, and calling your friend on the cell phone saying “Boy, I wish you had ‘my joy’ right now!”

Right after that thought, I began to recall that Jesus not only wanted us to have ‘His joy,’ but also ‘His peace.’  (John 14:27)  Peace?  Seriously?  Here?  Now?

As a Christian litigator and mediator, my thoughts about peace on this planet were more like:

“[They cry out] saying ’Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace!” (Jer. 6:14)

“Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace.” (Ps. 120:6)

or

“I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” (Ps. 120:7)

So then, whence cometh this Peace of our Lord?  Well, that answer would be in the next two blogs . . . .

In the meantime, think about what is in your life right now that is keeping you from peace.  You’ll need that thought for later.

Until then, Shalom,

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

If you are reading a blog from a conflict resolution site (and, you are), you are probably expecting to read about resolving conflicts.  Fair enough — but the resolution of the conflict is only the last of three parts of a conflict and there is a whole lot of “in the middle of conflict” before that occurs.  So a very important question is:  What should you be doing while you are in the middle of conflict or trials?

My pastor (Bob Coy) answered that beautifully this past Sunday morning when he taught us how to be “right in the middle when you are right in the middle.”  (I’ll try to remember to post a link here to the sermon when it’s posted on the Calvary Fort Lauderdale site.  You’ll be blessed need to hear it for yourself.)  Here is my personal take-away (the good parts are Bob’s):

Thesis: When you are “right in the middle” of your trial, be sure you are “right” in the middle of your trial.  In other words, don’t be “wrong” when you are right in the middle of your trial.

Genesis 40:1 and verses following tell us of the time when Joseph was in the middle of his own trial.  He had been unfairly sold into slavery, and then unfairly imprisoned when his master’s lying wife unfairly accused him of something he didn’t do.  He was, at this time, in the middle of his unjust imprisonment.

Note:  The middle is the toughest part of a conflict or trial.  In the beginning (e.g., you just got diagnosed with something rotten) you don’t fully understand what is about to happen and you are holding out hope of somehow missing the trial altogether.  Your friends and family are there to support you and you’re feeling cared for and loved.  The end of the trial is not so bad either:  In fact, it can be great because even though there is still pain, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and you know you’ll be out soon.  The middle of the trial, however, is not like either of those.  The friends and family are not there as much (or at all), God seems to be preoccupied with something else on the other side of the world, and Satan seems to be there to accuse and condemn.  The middle is also the longest chapter of the three.

Pastor Bob explains that from looking at this section of Scripture and how Joseph conducted himself, we can see three ways to know if we are being “right” in the middle of our own conflicts and trials.

First, are you sympathetic towards others?

Second, are you optimistic about the outcome?

Third, are you being kind to the unkind people?

Notice in Genesis 40:6-8 how Joseph, though unjustly imprisoned, still shows sympathy toward the cupbearer and the baker:  (paraphrased) “Why are you guys so sad today?  Oh, you had some confusing dreams and don’t know what to do?  Please, tell your dreams to me because God has given me some gifts in this area!”  If you know Joseph’s history, you might think that he might rather avoid anything having to do with dreams!

In verses 8-14 we see how Joseph remains optimistic about his future even while in the middle of a lengthy prison sentence.  Now we must remember that we’ve read ahead so we know that Joseph gets out . . . but that’s not how it would look to Joseph at that time.  At that stage in the story, there is nothing that indicates Joseph will be released at any time in the future.  Nonetheless, Joseph goes ahead and helps these inmates out by interpreting their dreams.  God reveals to Joseph through the dreams that one of the inmates, the cupbearer, is going to be released in three days.  Joseph, knowing this inmate will be in Pharaoh’s presence within the next 72 hours, asks his fellow prisoner to remember him to Pharaoh and get him out of prison.

In verses 16-19 it is revealed to Joseph that the baker is a bad man.   (It would appear that the baker and cupbearer might both have been imprisoned at the same time for some undisclosed wrongful act because Pharaoh was unable to determine at the time which of them was the guilty party.  Seeing as these two were the “food and beverage” police for Pharaoh, perhaps Pharaoh was poisoned?)  Nevertheless, Joseph treats the baker kindly and tells him what his dream meant.  (At first, I thought that didn’t actually sound that kind, but let me keep speculating a bit:  This could have been an extreme kindness, because it gave the baker an opportunity he didn’t have before.  He now had the opportunity to confess and seek forgiveness before it was too late.  The Bible recounts for us many times where God told certain people that He was about to punish them and they repented and He relented.  Perhaps this is an illustration of God’s mercy through Joseph?)

There are more points from his sermon to consider (see below), but let me close with a thought from someone who has been through his own trials and who works every day with people going through trials:  If you are a Christian going through a trial right now, know that it will not last forever and you will get through this.  I don’t know when – it may be tomorrow, and it may be a while yet.  Everything is working together for your ultimate good if you are called according to God’s purpose.  So when (not if) you get out of this, don’t you want to look back and see that you were sympathetic to others during your own difficulties, that you never lost faith that God would see you through it, and that you were kind even to those who were unkind toward you?  Don’t you want to have been “right” in the middle of it?

I do.

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

P.S.  This blog was already too long for a blog, but if you’re interested, here are some more points from the Bob Coy’s sermon for your further consideration and study (still, you ought to listen to it for yourself):

Look at 2 Cor. 8:1-5 at how the Macedonians who, though they were “in a great ordeal of affliction” and “deep poverty,” still gave to a sister church with “liberality.”

Remember that sometimes in God’s economy, He will use those to whom you have ministered, to later minister to you!  (If you don’t know the story of how Joseph went from inmate to Prime Minister of Egypt, read what happens with the cupbearer in Gen. 41:9-41.)

When you are in a trial and someone hurts you, just remember that hurt people hurt people.  Stop the cycle. Return kindness instead.  Being hurt is not a license to hurt back.

Hurt can turn to anger, and anger can turn to bitterness.  (Bitterness is a root that goes deep into the dirt and keeps you from moving on.)  Heb 12:14-15:  “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”

Check out how Jesus reacts in his own trials:  For one instance, see John 18:19-23.  Read as well 1 Peter 4:12-16 to see that we should “glorify God” in our suffering.

The vote is over, so now I’ll write.

Much has already been written of course regarding Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and it’s new pastor, Tullian Tchividjian.  Some of it was fair, some of it not.  Much of it was gossip and much of it was very shallow.  Some of it was written by people who failed to do any first-hand research and some of it was utter foolishness.  Still, some of it was well-written and some of it inspired.

I will tell you up front that I have some very strong opinions about a lot of what happened — opinions to which I believe I am entitled because I am no outsider.  Shortly after my conversion to Christ (in 1977), I joined CRPC and I worshiped there until shortly before Jim Kennedy’s passing — nearly thirty years.  I was baptised there, married there, taught there, served in various positions, and was ordained there as a Ruling Elder, later to be chosen as the Clerk of Session.  Suffice it to say that I had, and still have, strong ties to many there at many levels.  I have very close friends who support the direction of the present CRPC leadership and very close friends amongst what the local paper is calling the “dissidents.”   I have lost sleep on several occasions over this and the effect it has had on my friendships.

I have come to several conclusions.  Want me to tell you who was “in the right” in all of this?

Sorry, wrong blog.  Not my job.

If not to cast my “vote” for one side or the other, then what is my reason for writing?

Some have chastised others for airing “the Church’s” dirty laundry outside of the Church.  That criticism, it seems to me, has some scriptural justification, but it might be missing the mark.  You cannot read the Bible without noticing that God has recorded for all to see (that is, not just the Church) the mistakes, failings, and corruption that have taken place within the ranks of His followers.  (I have sometimes wondered how much of the Bible would have made it past the Public Relations Department if it were being edited and published today.  Imagine the editing necessary for just Abraham’s life!).  God has made it very clear in His Word that we are all sinners — and then provided us with examples!

Why does God publish our shortcomings to the world?

1.  Because there are “unchurched” who are very self-aware of their own sinful states and they will not come to Christ because they think they’re not good enough. God screams out:  “If you know you’re not good enough, you just passed the entrance exam!  Come on in!  I’ll introduce you to some of the biggest goof-ups and sinners you’ve ever met!  We meet in church buildings on Sundays all around the world!  There’s room for one more, I promise.”  (I love Bob Coy‘s illustration of God visiting the dog pound and choosing the mangiest of mutts for adoption.  Like Pastor Bob says:  “I’m just a pound dog, man!“)

2.  To give the Church the opportunity to show the world the difference between Christians and non-Christians. I’ve heard Steve Brown say many times that whenever God allows cancer in a non-Christian he allows it in a Christian as well so the world can see the difference.  Becoming a Christian did not signal the end of conflict for you on earth.  You don’t get all green lights, you don’t always get the fastest line in the store, your appliances still break, and you still have struggles . . . even with your friends.  Despite that, we’re supposed to be different.

So why am I writing?

Jim Kennedy was fond of saying, especially to new members:  “You’re in the army now!”  He often and properly admonished us to put on the full armor of God — but never to fight against each other.  (As an aside, the Church can and should have passionate debate within its walls — I have been involved in that myself.  Passionate debate is an indication that you really care about something.  It is fitting, for instance, to care passionately about the purity of the Church.)

So to my brothers and sisters involved with the CRPC situation, I admonish and encourage you:  Think about what you are doing (preferably before you do/say/write it) and how you are doing it (and practice “prospective retrospect“).  Show the watching world that Christ in you really makes a difference.  Memorize Matthew 18:15ff.  This situation is a mess, but it is also an opportunity.  Disagree . . . like Christians.  It might not make CNN, but it will count . . . forever.

I’ll pray that for you.  Pray that for me too.

–M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

“I’m not sure it’s even possible to resolve this one!” 

Very often the reason someone seeks a Christian mediator is that they are seeking not just resolution, but reconciliation.  It could be that there was a business venture or a marriage that has taken a bad turn and people who were once friends are now . . . not.  Both sides want healing (whether they express that or not); but frankly, they’re not even sure if it is possible.  It often seems like “too much” has happened for anything to be “fixed.”

In Mark 9:14ff, we read the well-known account of the incident where a man in a large crowd approached Jesus to tell him that he had a son who since childhood had been possessed by a spirit who caused the boy to do terrible things.  The father explained that he had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples, but they were not able to do anything.  Then he said to Jesus:  “If you can do anything, please help us.

Stop right there.  What is your first thought about that question or the man asking it?  My first thought (unfortunately) was:  “What an idiot.  ‘Son of God,’ remember?  Water into wine, blind seeing, lame jumping, dove descending . . . Hello?

Upon further reflection, however, that criticism is too harsh to impose on a contemporary of Jesus.  When we look at the scenario now, we bring with us our entire knowledge of the New Testament.  We know all the players, the plot, and even the surprise ending.  This man did not.  We have almost no idea what this man had heard about Jesus, except that somewhere he had been told that Jesus and His disciples could perform some types of miracles which included dealing with demon possession.  He probably was skeptical when he first heard this, but for some reason he made the trip to find out for himself.  We deduce from this that he necessarily had some measure of “faith” no matter how small.

What happens when he finally gets there?  The disciples strike out.  Nada.  Nothing.  They can’t help his son.  For some reason, though, the father doesn’t turn around and go home (wonder why . . . ?).  Instead he invests more time and energy in getting directly to Jesus.  (We aren’t told how much more time or energy, but it might have been considerable.) 

When he gets to where he’s told Jesus is, he makes his way past the large crowd — I think it fair to assume that means he purposed to and did something more than everyone else in the crowd just to be able to get within speaking distance of Jesus.  Again, I think this is painting a picture of a man possessed of some amount of faith.  In my mind, I see a man who is tired after expending all this effort and when he finally gets to Jesus, what does he see?  Nothing special.  Just a man.  His followers are failures and their leader is . . . plain.  Can we, then, blame him very much for wondering aloud “Are you able?”  I mean, Jesus probably doesn’t appear any more able than His disciples.

What, however, about us?  We know who Jesus is so is there any post-resurrection application of this story for us?  You see, the question of Christ’s ability has been answered once and for all.  No thinking person can ask that question ever again.  It is now perfectly clear who Jesus was and that He was and is today able.

If anyone asks today whether Jesus is able, they are asking the wrong question.  If one must ask whether Jesus is able, then one should instead be asking “Who is Jesus?”  The answer to the “who” question – which is much more important anyhow – moots the “able” question.  I think this is Jesus’ point, by the way, in His response in verse 23 (paraphrasing):  “What do you mean ‘if’ I can?  If you believe I am the Son of God, then you know that all things are possible for me!”  Jesus is very clearly saying “Who do you think I am?  If you think I am the Son of God, then you have your answer to the ability question, don’t you?” 

[Side road:  I know that some read verse 23 differently.  Some interpret it as saying that “all things are possible” for someone who has enough faith.  So we try to work up more and bigger faith so we can “do” more and bigger things.  I do not think that is what is going on here at all.  The context of this verse is on Jesus’ ability, not on the boy’s father’s ability.  The boy’s father did not enquire how he could gain the ability to heal his son:  If the boy’s father had asked that question, then I would agree that Jesus might have been telling him that all things would be possible for him if he had more faith (although that would give me a problem with Jesus’ other teachings that the size of the faith is not the issue (e.g., Luke 17:5, 6)). 

‘Nother Side road:  Also, I wonder if Jesus, when he spoke of the need for “belief,” was looking out of the corner of his eye at the very disciples who had failed to cure the boy.]

Though the ability issue is settled, there is still an application today for this story.  The big question for today is no longer:  “Jesus, are you able?”  It is, instead:  “Jesus, are you willing?”  Personally, I do not remember at any point in my Christian life asking if Jesus were “able” to do something:  It never even crossed my mind that there might be a limit on what He could do.  I have often, however, in my own life wondered if He were willing to do something.  This is the much harder question.

Lord, this one is sick” or “Father, this situation is unjust” or “God, it would really be great if” – all these describe situations in which God is eminently able to act.  The question for today concerns His desire or His will for the particular situation.  This, I believe, is where the issue of our “belief” comes in today.  Perhaps it could be viewed this way:

Pre-Resurrection:  Do you believe Jesus has the ability to ________?

Post-Resurrection:  Do you believe Jesus is perfectly working out His plan regarding ____________?

The perspective we need to develop today is that the-God-who-is-able is carefully implementing His plan – a plan that no man and no spirit can thwart.

Do you believe that?  (If you are theologically liberal in your thinking, you might not!  You might hold to the idea that God has given man such “free will” that God has no control in certain areas:  God “hopes” certain things will happen, but He really doesn’t know if they will or not, and He can’t do anything to frustrate man’s “free will.”  Liberal theology is very scary.)

Conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist:  Do you believe that God is carefully executing His perfect plan in all its particulars?  Seriously? 

So this is a blog site about conflict and situations gone awry.  You’re thinking right now of a situation that is way messed up.  Do you really believe God is implementing His plan in that situation?  If you are like me – no insult intended – then you have the head knowledge to get this question right on a written multiple choice exam, but maybe your actions and fears don’t match up quite so well.  Do you ever say (with me): “God, I know you are in charge in a ‘big picture’ kind of way, but this particular situation right here really looks like a mess to me!  Here’s what I’m thinking needs to happen . . . .” 

This is where the next verse (24) comes into play for us today.  Note how the boy’s father says:  “I do believe; help my unbelief.”  Belief in what?  In Jesus’ day, the belief might well have been in Jesus’ ability to do something.  Today, however, the object of belief must no longer be on God’s ability, but instead on His having a perfect plan – a plan that is better than the one you’re currently devising. 

Do you believe the-God-who-is-able has a perfect plan?  Even for that situation?  Did you act like you believe that?  Do you, like me, have trouble with that last question?  Then pray with me: 

“God, Your ability is not the question anymore.  I know You can do it all.  I also know You have a plan – and I know it’s a far better plan than the one I have.  I do believe that; help my unbelief.  Help me to believe it so perfectly, that I act that way.” 

[I believe in gravity.  So much so that I base all my actions on that belief, unhesitatingly, and without question or even a thought that it might not be true.  Why then is it so hard to believe that the God who created (and sustains) gravity has a plan and to base all my actions on that belief?]

 . . . and always remember how loving Jesus was to the man who lacked belief and admitted it.  He cast out the demon, the boy looked as though he were dead, and then Jesus extended His hand, raised the boy up, and restored him to his father.  He won’t be any less loving towards you now.  (Did I mention His plan is better than yours?)

So, take your situation “to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, [and] to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

Instead of bieng philosophical or controversial today, we’re going fundamental.  I want to address briefly an area where I get a lot of questions from clients and friends.  Since this is a mixed (some would say mixed up) blog, I want to divide this discussion into “civil” and “Scriptural” parts.

Civil Mediation and Arbitration.  It is very common to be confused about the terms “mediation” and “arbitration” as they are used in a civil or litigation context.  The terms are regularly misunderstood and misused – and despite what you may have thought, they are not interchangeable. 

A mediation, as the term is used today, is a very different thing than an arbitration.  A mediation is most often illustrated by two parties who present their different positions to a neutral third party who, working with them both (often in separate rooms), tries to facilitate a settlement between the parties.  In a mediation, it is always the parties themselves who are in control of the outcome and the mediator’s role is to try to help them devise their own solution. 

In an arbitration, on the other hand, the same two parties present their positions to a neutral third party (in the same room) and then the parties hand over control to the arbitrator who judges between them and enters a “ruling” which may be entirely different than what either one of them wanted (or would have settled for).

A quick way to remember the difference between the two is to associate the terms with trigger words. 

I say “mediator,” you say “facilitator.”  (he facilitates the parties reaching a settlement)

I say “arbitrator,” and you say “judge.”  (he judges between the parties with a ruling)

For a fuller explanation, and side-by-side comparison table, please check out this section from the FAQ page at www.ControlAltDispute.comhttp://controlaltdispute.com/faqs.html#differencebetweenMedArb

This distinction should take you a long way down the road in understanding the terms as they are used in civil litigation.

Scriptural Mediation and Arbitration.  The terms themselves are both found in the Scriptures, but one must be careful not to take the 21stcentury American legal usage/definition and apply it rigidly to these ancient writings or contexts.  In the Scriptures, the term “mediator” is primarily used to describe someone who stands between two parties so as to reconcile them to each other (grk:  mesitēs, from mesos meaning “middle”).  In this sense, it is consistent with the role of “mediator” as we use it in the American court system.  The “manner” or “procedure” however, is entirely different from what is found in the Bible.  (Hint:  Do not expect your court-appointed mediator to act as a ransom for either side!)  Also, the same Greek root translated as “mediator” is sometimes, in some translations, rendered “arbitrator” so, again, a direct and rigid application of the modern legal terms to the older writings would only serve to confuse.

If you wanted to study the Scriptural usages of the terms more closely, you might want to start with these verses concerning mediators and arbitrators:*

Gal.  3:19-20:  “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.  Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

1 Tim. 2:5-6:  “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

Job 33:23-24:  “If there is an angel as mediator for him, One out of a thousand, To remind a man what is right for him, Then let him be gracious to him, and say, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom’;”

Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24:  “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises . . . .  For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance . . . .  Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.

1 Sam. 2:25:  “If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?”

Ezekiel 16:52:  “Also bear your disgrace in that you have [mediated for] made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous.”

Ex. 21:22:  “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no  injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay [lit. by arbitration] as the judges decide.

Lk 12:13-14:  “Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”  But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

If you wanted to start a Sunday school discussion, you might ask:  In what ways is Christ’s role as mediator the same as, or different from, a court-appointed mediator?  (Speaking just for myself, I have yet to mediate a dispute between a perfectly holy party and a party dead in sin and trespasses . . . .)

For homework, read Chapter VIII of the Westminster Confession of Faith (“Of Christ the Mediator”) which begins with:  “It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King the Head and Saviour of His Church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom He did from all eternity give a people, to be His seed, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.” (citations omitted)

So now you know.

Blessings,

— M. Glenn Curran, III, Esq.

*(All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.)


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