I have a human powered bicycle but more and more I am seeing electric bikes. From a distance they look like a normal bike but when you see them take off from a stop sign or climb a hill you realize there is more power available than just legs. One person I talked to said his e-bike took the hills out of the equation. I would probably add wind as I know there have been times when I have come back from a long ride straight into the wind where extra power other than my legs would have been nice. A couple of others said their e-bikes enabled them to ride because of injuries, which is a good thing. So, there are some benefits. For me riding a bike is exercise, so to go out and get help on hill climbs and against the wind kind of defeats the purpose. But even on a regular bike there have been extensive upgrades. My bike has lots of gears to choose from instead of just one to make pedaling easier. Yesterday I got passed by two guys riding carbon fiber bikes. My bike is pretty heavy, but they passed me like I was standing still plus you could tell these were good riders, as their average speed was at least 15 km/hr faster. I know because I tried to keep up which didn’t last long. I have blown by some riders and then moments later someone blows by you but in the end riding a bicycle is great exercise especially if you are just racing yourself.
After the bicycle was invented, it didn’t take long for human power to be replaced with mechanical power and thus the motorcycle was born. The only power you need is to get on and off. Getting from point A to point B became much quicker but less exercise and you still get wet. Bicycles are not the only thing that has changed. They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, but it seems invention has two mothers with laziness being the other. Someone said “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Maybe it’s not laziness but innovation but innovation definitely helps with laziness with the remote control as a perfect example. Can you imagine having to get up to change a channel these days? Look at the change just in hand tools. If you have ever tried to put in a large screw or drilled or cut something by hand, you will realize why they invented the hand powered drill and saw. Now you do not even have to take the effort to plug the extension cord in as everything is battery operated with power increasing. I have even seen robotic lawnmowers, so you don’t even have to get out and cut the grass.
Over time manpower changed to horsepower and horsepower changed to mechanical even though it is still called horsepower. All I know about horsepower is that if someone says they have a 500-horsepower car, that’s impressive and you can get where you are going in a hurry. One website talking about horsepower said, “in the olden days distances were measured in riding days, rather than in minutes or hours.” Walking takes a long time and riding a horse is much faster and takes less energy. Honestly, I have no idea what this means but they said, “In the U.S., one horsepower is defined as a unit of power equal to 746 watts, nearly equivalent to the English gravitational unit of the same name that equals 550 foot-pounds of work per second. One horsepower is a unit of power that equals the work done in lifting 550 pounds one foot in one second. One manpower = a unit of power based on the rate at which a man can work; approximately 75 watts, or about one tenth of a horsepower. In other words, it takes ten strong men to do the work of one horse.” There is a lot of math to this so let’s move on.
Machines began to replace the work of man. Digging a hole could take all day but a backhoe could do it in minutes. Man was replaced by horses and horses have been replaced by machines and inventions continue to make life better for the lazy person and meet the needs of many. Invention is not always good as we are seeing with Artificial Intelligence, especially in the church (ChatGPT) but that’s a different story. Today I have spent some time talking about the changes from man doing the work to machines doing the work. Most people are not resisting change as they enjoy their indoor plumbing or jump in the car for a quick trip to another city or enjoying a night on the couch without ever moving. Most enjoy the power that is readily available at our fingertips. It really comes down to more power. A horse has more power than a man and a machine is more powerful than a horse. Everyday people are enjoying and seeking more power and most are not opposed to it.
What is strange is that God, the creator of the universe who is all powerful wanted His people to benefit from that power but as scripture makes clear to us, His people rejected that power and continued to build with their own hands and in their own strength. So, while the world was constantly changing and increasing in the power created by man, the church remained content to continue in their own strength and not seeking power from God. Deuteronomy 32:15 “Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, they became heavy and sleek. They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior.” Ezekiel 5:5 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the center of the nations, with countries all around her. 6 Yet in her wickedness she has rebelled against my laws and decrees more than the nations and countries around her. She has rejected my laws and has not followed my decrees. 7 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you. 8 “Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself am against you, Jerusalem, and I will inflict punishment on you in the sight of the nations.” Jeremiah 6:7 “I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.” Isaiah 2:6 “You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and embrace pagan customs. 7 Their land is full of silver and gold; there is no end to their treasures. Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers have made.” Deuteronomy 8:17 “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.”
The church turned away from God’s power and went their own way and continued in their own strength. As we saw in Isaiah, they even decided horsepower would be better even though God gives victory over our enemies. Psalm 20:6 “Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” God has always shown us nothing compares to His strength and power. Judges 7:2 “The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” Gideon ended up defeating the vast forces with just three hundred men. Even so, man continued to depend on their own strength and not the power from on High. Isaiah 30:1 “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin.” God showed His power so that people would fear Him. Joshua 4:23 “For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” We saw this in the early church with the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:10 “At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” Don’t forget that was after Pentecost.
The God who created all things has no comparison. Psalm 89:8 “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” 1 Chronicles 29:10 “David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” Daniel 7:14 “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Jesus would come and show us the power available to the church. The church was not supposed to go out in their own power but by with power from on High. Zechariah 4:6 “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Luke 3:16 “John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Luke 4:36 “All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” Jesus would then give the disciples power and authority to do as He did. Luke 9:1 “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Mark 6:7 “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits. 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Acts 4:33 “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” Acts 8:6 “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.” James 5:14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
As we saw earlier, the world saw and sought more power. Even though God has offered the church power as part of His plan, the church was and is content to stay the powerless and has even gone backward. Jeremiah 7:24 “But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.” In the curse side we that Deuteronomy 28:32 “Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand.” That is not how it was supposed to be. Paul said 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” The church was supposed to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Paul also said 1 Corinthians 2:4 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” When the church returns to God’s word, we will be able to say again, Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”