Stupidity Is Not A Virtue

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF DANIEL

One of the worst things about the English language is that too often we don’t really know how to use our own words.  DATA, for instance, is plural.  There’s no such thing as one data point.  Or, take the word CORPORATE.  When you see that word I suspect you’re thinking of Microsoft or Amazon as examples (I live in Washington State).  Well, originally it just used to mean any task undertaken together.  You know, lots of people corporately coming together for a single purpose.  It used to be that the *opposite* of corporate was an idiot–literally a solitary single person who didn’t go for the BENEFITS of being part of the group.  It used to be that AN IDIOT was just somebody who stuck to himself–in a peculiar way.

“Oh, oh.  I know where you’re going,” you might be thinking.

But I’ll tell you the word that’s been messed up the most and that’s the word ‘CHURCH’.  Christians aren’t idiots.  We know that a church is a group of people–it’s a CORPORATE GATHERING of the body of Christ.

But let’s face it: when you think of THE CHURCH, you’re probably thinking of a building.  The truth is, it’s so easy to think of THE CHURCH as a building because it’s easier for THE CHURCH to be a place more than a way of life.  We can visualize a place and identify with it better.  It’s safer when it’s a building we go to once a week more so than AN ATTITUDE which defines our lives.

Well, that might be what we think, but it’s too limited.  At times, I fear we may be in danger of losing our CORPORATE notion of CHURCH.  I believe the fellowship I’ve been gathering with for the past 5 years has a better understanding of CHURCH as a people, but we can always do better.  We do a pretty good job of carrying for each other, praying for one another in times of need.  But even we have friends and neighbors and colleagues that NEED us as well.  Too many isolated people are imprisoned voluntarily in the cells of their own homes when what simply they need most is companionship and friendship of a God-breathed individual more interested in serving God than himself.

Our God is a CORPORATE God.

Not in the sense of the way of doing things according to some rules laid down, but in the sense of togetherness that He desires for us.

WE WORSHIP HIM IN COMMUNITY.

It’s a community centered on Jesus to be sure, but it’s not, as we suppose, just a ‘Jesus and me‘ thing.

SCRIPTURE  Daniel 2:14-30

In my study this week and at first thought, I noticed a missing detail, but it is a detail that shows up time and time again centered on RELATIONSHIP. Think about the RELATIONSHIP that Daniel has with Arioch, the king’s captain.  Think about the RELATIONSHIP Daniel has with his young friends.  See how it is these relationships ultimately bring Daniel closer in relationship to God.

Well, okay, Arioch’s job was perhaps to bring Daniel a bit closer to God than Daniel was expecting, but I noticed here, how Daniel was able to talk with him so freely.  Clearly, Daniel and Arioch had a pre-existing RELATIONSHIP, so string that together that Daniel could ask Arioch to risk not only his job but his neck, in delaying the king’s order.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  I sure that they must have spent time together.  There’s nothing to suggest that Arioch could have cared a lick about Daniel’s god.  But he CARED about Daniel.  And through RELATIONSHIP he could learn to appreciate his god, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so true.  We are often the only Bible our friends will ever read.

STUPIDITY ON DISPLAY!

One cold and rainy day while visiting my brother and his family in Texas, we had all decided to venture out to the family property, the Ranch, and see all the progress that had been made.  After arrival, we reluctantly got out the vehicles into the inclement weather, shivering, but trying to stay enthusiastic.  My dad, my wife, and my sister-in-law’s sister decided it was wiser to remain in the car.  My dad was in the front seat while the girls were in the back seat, unnoticed by dad.

After seeing the family out in the cold and wet elements he shouted, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid not noticing the ladies in the back seat grinning, knowing that he had no idea they were there..  My wife still muses at the event.

I noticed in this passage of Scripture the only STUPIDITY on display is the one who is acting by himself?

I mean, why is the KING so furious that he wants to kill off the entire government?  WHY?  Because he is acting foolhardy and alone.

This isn’t CORPORATE unless perhaps if you were a big accounting firm.  Corporate acts are slow and deliberate because they benefit from counsel.

More importantly, I specifically noticed the FELLOWSHIP of the believers present: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They all came together to PRAY.

It just so happened the Word came to Daniel.  That’s a group in total HUMILITY to God and to each other.  I doubt they cared which one of them actually heard from God directly.  They were simply living out the commandments.

GOD IS COMMUNITY.

They didn’t go to Temple (Church) together–Temple was over 800 miles away, and it was in ruins.  They simply came together out of common LOVE for an uncommon God who had supernaturally reached out to them and chose them for His kingdom.  I’m sure sometimes they wondered about their ‘chosen people’ status. But they knew if they were going to be FAITHFUL, they needed each other.

Today, we’d call that an Accountability Group:  A group of people comes together for the sake of the GOSPEL.

They come together in HUMILITY…COMMON LOVE for God and for one another.  They extend that LOVE to the world around them and they lift each other up.  When one is hurting, they extend God’s love.  When one of them is missing, they’re there.  And when one of them is REJOICING, they’re each lifted up in praise.

Christians are called to be a COMMUNITY of Christ-like believers that realize as great as our individuality is, our CORPORATE presence is in the WORSHIP of our King is even greater than ourselves.

As Christians, we are CALLED to overcome the world (1 John 5:5).  We do that precisely by being greater in LOVE, COMPASSION, and FRIENDSHIP.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘They will know that we are Christians by our…doctrines, or our theology–even our potlucks.’  No, the world recognizes how we love one another, how we visit one another, and how we care for each other.

THE PRINCIPLE laid down in Daniel is CORPORATE WORSHIP–with Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah.

It is a PRINCIPLE I see all across the Bible.  For every great hero in the Bible, there’s a companion:

  • Adam had Eve
  • Moses had Mirian
  • Aaron and Joshua
  • Joshua had Caleb
  • David had Jonathan
  • Ester had Mordecai
  • Paul had Barnabas, even Jesus had Peter.

When the Lord said that it was not good for man to live alone, I think He meant more than just males and more than just marriage.

Daniel had Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego.

In Daniel 1, Daniel was already in close communion with these fellows.  In Daniel 3, you are probably familiar with the fiery furnace story.  These three are never mentioned except in COMMUNITY with one another.  Daniel is chock full of stores of integrity and courage in the face of dire circumstances–standing up when everyone else bows to the culture.

How did they do it?  They did it together!

How would you have liked to be a part of that small group?  I’m sure they had their squabbles and disagreements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadrack thought Abednego was always late for the prayer group, and I wouldn’t be surprised that perhaps Meshach needed to shower more often.  I’m sure that each of them was an individual who was great in his own right–after all, you don’t get to be princes by being a wallflower.

But it’s a testament to their sense of CORPORATE LOVE for God that we don’t know anything about of these guys except as part of a group.

These men were all great, but they were all equal before God.  You cannot acknowledge God’s complete, scale-altering greatness, not see that any comparison to your fellow man is but petty foolishness.  That would be stupidity!

After praying corporately, Daniel is given the answer to the secret of the king’s dream.

[19]  Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of Heaven.

[20]  Daniel answered, Blessed, be the name of God forever and ever!  Doe WISDOM and MIGHT are His!

[21]  He changes the times and the seasons;  He removes kings and sets up kings.  He gives WISDOM to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding! 

I certainly don’t find stupidity in those who are blessed by God with “WISDOM” and “KNOWLEDGE” and “UNDERSTANDING”, do you?

We are all beings created for FELLOWSHIP with God and others.

WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER!

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CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search, advanced settings.

Dictionary:  Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Bible used:  Amplified Bible (AMP).

A Congregation of Two

TEXT: Luke 24:13-35 – The Events After the Resurrection

An EMPTY Tomb
An EMPTY Tomb

This last week during my morning bible reading, I decided to read in the first four Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke and John] the Scriptures pertaining to the DEATH, BURIAL, RESURRECTION of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  I tried to place myself in that time frame–observing the events of Holy Week:  Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

The evidence was plain–or was it?  How would I have reacted, and how strong would my faith have been on that particular Sunday morning?

I hoped that I would have been a “on fire” disciple/follower of Jesus–not doubting, strong in the words and teachings of my Teacher.

Or, would I have been disappointed in His death–His burial in a borrowed empty tomb–certainly not accomplishing and fulfilling the things I thought Jesus came to do.

With all those thoughts buried in my thoughts and imagination, I decided to re-read the events that took place AFTER the Resurrection.

THE EMMAUS TWO AND THE UNSEEN STRANGER –

ROAD TO EMMAUS
ROAD TO EMMAUS

I am almost certain, you’ve all heard this story in the Gospel of Luke before–based on what happened on a 7-mile walk from Jerusalem.  It is the very heart of the Gospel which highlights the LIVING HOPE found only in the RESURRECTION of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote to his friends at Corinth…

“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who are asleep”  (1 Corinthians 15:19, 20 NASB).

But on that first Easter day, that LIVING HOPE was far from being established in the experience of two people mentioned in Luke 24:13-35.

We’ve just celebrated together Resurrection Sunday 2015.  Let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes for a time as they set out on their 7-mile journey.

IT WAS A HEARTBREAKING EXPERIENCE –

Have you ever noticed that some of the saddest words in our language begin with the letter D?  For example: disappointment; doubt; disillusionment; defeat; despair AND death.  All are summed up in the words of CLEOPAS and his companion to the stranger who joined them on the Emmaus road.  They had left the events of Good Friday behind them, yet what had occurred was still fresh in their memories.

Does that happen to you? It does me.  I try to put disappointing events that happened in the past behind me–don’t want to talk about them, don’t want to relive them and then all of a sudden, I replay the entire scenario to someone else.  I keep picking the scab over and over again and the wound never seems to heal over.

The News Reports Were In– 

Christ’s tomb was empty and did nothing to alter their thinking, it only confused them.

The congregation of two summed up the situation neatly in Luke 24:21:  “we were hoping that it was He Who would redeem and set Israel free.”

HUMAN HOPE is a fragile thing, and when it shrivels up, it’s difficult to revive.  HOPELESSNESS as a disease of the human spirit is hard to rewire.

Sickness overtakes someone you love, it goes on and on–you pray for a cure, your friends pray for a cure, and despair sets in. It becomes almost impossible to HOPE for recovery; even afraid to HOPE because of not being able to cope with another letdown.

The Emmaus Two–

This congregation of two men, created a wall of HOPELESSNESS around them, entrapped in their own misery.  We had hoped…” BUT…

What they were saying is, “We don’t expect it now, but we once did.  We had it, this thing called HOPE, but now it’s gone.”

Has something or someone come between your relationship with God?  If so, take in the words of the Emmaus story because the heart-breaking experience was only the beginning!

The Travelers Made Their Weary Journey Home–

A child's Sunday School class drawing
A child’s Sunday School class drawing

A stranger suddenly accompanied them along the way.  It was going to be one of the most wonderful walks in history!  We know, of course, it was the risen Jesus, but somehow these Jesus followers didn’t have a clue who He was.  In fact Luke tells us “they were kept from recognizing Him.”

They weren’t allowed to recognize Him for a purpose.  It was so that they might be in the same position as the church some 2,000 years later.

The stranger starts the conversation by asking a question:  “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?”  (verse 17).  So they poured out their sad story to someone who seemed so willing to listen.

The way Jesus dealt with the situation is a lesson for us–to help those who have lost HOPE.  They NEED companionship–they NEED a listening ear before a stream of “good advice.”

Let’s LOVE them by LISTENING, accepting the way they feel.  The last thing they need is a brisk “cheering up” talk or being told to “snap out of the funk.” There will be a time later to point them to a way of HOPE, to the One in whom HOPE is to be found.

But first things first.  They need someone just like you to listen to their story–someone who has “skin on.”

THE HEART-SEARCHING EXPERIENCE –

The congregation of two spokesman, Cleopas, expressed surprise by being asked what was worrying them,  “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  (verse 18).

There seems to me a note of suspicion in the voice of Cleopas, but Jesus continues patiently and innocently asks,

“What things?”  

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.  “who was a prophet…”

Notice in verse 19, they said,  “He was…” past tense.  Their experience of Jesus was in the past, thinking they were alone in the world.  The CROSS had taken Him from them.

We’ve all heard exciting testimonies of what JESUS has done in their past–but what about the present?  The past is history.

The question we all must face, is JESUS “a present bright reality” to those who give their experience to you and me?  Do we always recognize Him beside us?

LIFE has many distractions:

HARD WORK–ROUTINE–TIREDNESS–BAD HEALTH–

All can grind us down to carry us on mechanically, never lifting our eyes or minds from the dust of the road we’re traveling on.

We become unaware of the GLORY and STRENGTH found in His presence with us.

“I love To Tell The Story…of JESUS and His love” – [An Old Hymn]

THIS STORY in Luke can give us HOPE that JESUS is still there.  He’s the UNSEEN “STRANGER”, walking with us, listening to us and, if we’re willing to hear His voice, revealing Himself to us.

THE CONGREGATION OF TWO–

JESUS took their sorrow, their bewilderment and gave them a heart-ing experience.  How did Jesus do that?  He pointed them to GOD’S WORD–The Scriptures.

Luke tells us in verse 27, 

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in ALL the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

What? The Old Testament? Yes!

JESUS must have given the EMMAUS TRAVELLERS the greatest Old Testament explanation in history–to A Congregation of Two.

What a wonderful anticipation of Jesus at Calvary as He shared Old Testament revelation: the fall of mankind; the apparently victorious Satan in the form of a serpent– told that the SEED, the offspring of the woman “will crush your head and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The problem for the disciples was how to make sense of the CROSS, how to accept it.  Jesus helped them do that, showing them that the CROSS itself was the creative act of God.

THE CROSS of SHAME & SUFFERING had become the CROSS OF REDEMPTION for all who would come to Jesus in repentance and faith.

cross-steps-to-peace-photo-604x270

When Jesus arrives on the scene of our lives, He’s probing our thoughts; it’s the PURPOSE of blessing us.  But how do we respond?  Do we, like the two disciples from Emmaus, welcome His approach in letting Him minister to us?

Sometimes the things He points out are uncomfortable.  Do we really want Him to keep looking and explaining what previously baffled us?

Cleopas and his companion accepted the gentle rebuke that Jesus made,  “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken”  (verse 25).

Maybe, the key word here is “ALL”.  It wasn’t that they hadn’t read the prophets of old, but perhaps they’d read the Scriptures selectively…out of context…concentrating on those parts that spoke of a conquering Messiah–being kind to His enemies–be victorious.

The passages that spoke of a suffering servant didn’t fit with their expectation and they’d tended to skip over those parts.

When they now were given the explanation from the Scriptures they reacted positively, and in fact they wanted more, which led them to…

A HEART SEARCHING EXPERIENCE –

The two-hour journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus seemed like five minutes on that Sunday.  So wrapped-up in conversation with the Lord they hadn’t yet recognized Him.

Luke tells in VERSE 28:  “And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go further.”

JESUS is so gentle with us.  He won’t force Himself where He’s not really wanted as He awaited their invitation to come in.

God gives the world the greatest and most precious GIFT, the Gift Of Free Will–we can use it to invite JESUS into our hearts and souls or…allow Him to pass on.

God gave a test to the Congregation of Two to see if the disciples had more appetite of the things of God.  And they did.  We are told,  And they urged Him, saying “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over”  (verse 29).

That’s the sort of INVITATION that Jesus can’t resist:  “And He went in to stay with them.”  

A basic meal was quickly made ready for their guest.  The bread is on the table and the moment for Jesus’ reveal has come.  How does JESUS do it?

“He took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and

began to give it to them.”

THE ACTION of the breaking of the bread–

They saw His hands–they were different from the breaking of the bread and feeding of the Five Thousand, and the Last Supper.  They were the nail-pierced hands of JESUS.  In an instant they knew Him.  And in an instant, He’s gone!

Why did Jesus have to disappear at that moment?  Couldn’t the Lord stayed longer?

He could have but He didn’t because all part of the education, the continued teaching was to last 40 Days on Earth–how to manage without His bodily presence from now on; exactly the same as we have to do some 2,000 years after.

But JESUS is with us still by His Spirit.  He is with us as we fellowship with Him in WORSHIP, and in OBEDIENCE to His command, remembering Him in the “breaking of bread” service.

Christ Is Risen From The Dead!

Christ is the SAVIOR!  Christ is the HOPE of the world!

The TWO DISCIPLES in this story lost no time in retracing their steps to Jerusalem (yes, another 7 miles!) in excitement to SHARE the Good News.  May that be our experience after Resurrection Sunday and for the rest of our life.


BLOG CREDITS:

BIBLE TRANSLATION FOR THIS POST:  New American Standard Bible (NASB)

PHOTO CREDITS (Various): Photo Pin; Google Search Images and OTHER saved photos.

Sermon Notes: Owen Bourgaize Emmaus Experience.