A Picture of REMEMBRANCE

Scripture for this blog-Bible study:  Hebrews 10:12-25, Luke 24:13-14

UNITY IN COMMUNION –

COMMUNION, Paul’s term describing the nature of the Lord’s Supper is the term used by many church groups, referring to their CELEBRATION of Jesus’ final memorial supper with His disciples.  Paul used the Greek term “Koinonia” to express the basic meaning of the Christian faith, a sharing in the life and death and more importantly in the resurrection of Christ, which radically creates a relationship between Christ and the believer and of the believers with one another – a partnership of unity.

Hebrews 10:12, 14 (NIV)

[12] But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…[14] because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The words speak to the present.  It’s a symbol of our unity, reminding us whom we are to be living for in this life.

  • It reminds us to keep our eyes focused on Him.

It tells us that He is who he said He was and is and we can trust Him today with our lives.

It points to the future.  We proclaim His death…He comes again!  It points to our complete redemption and glorification in Heaven before the Great White Throne.

What does Jesus want for us at this gathering?  Yes, Jesus wants something from us.

When we celebrate, and that’s what COMMUNION should be, is A CELEBRATION, not a ritualistic ceremony.  That’s what worship should be – A CELEBRATION!

WHAT IS JESUS’ PURPOSE?

Let’s together take a walk along the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13, with two disciples of Jesus who heard the two earlier reports of the Resurrection – Mary’s and Peter’s.

However, because they hadn’t personally seen the evidence, rather, they didn’t want to check out the evidence for themselves, probably because they were afraid of being caught and possibly receiving a death sentence, they decided to pack it in and head back home some 7 miles away from Jerusalem, and go back to their old way of living.

Alright, they gave up on Jesus…but thank God, He didn’t give up on them!

Notice verse 15 says, “Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them…”.  I especially like the English Standard Version (ESV) of the passage – “Jesus himself drew near…”  The thought here isn’t that these two disciples were simply geographically distant, but that their FAITH was distant as well.

JESUS knew their need…so He DREW NEAR. 

He didn’t say, “Fine!  You want to leave, you want to doubt, and you want to turn your backs on me?  Go right ahead.  Don’t expect me to come to you.  When you clean up your act and smarten up and return to where I am, I’ll consider taking you back.”  Thank God, Jesus isn’t like that.  He knows our weaknesses and struggles.

“I would have never been like those first disciples!”

We think WE would never act the way they did.  Fact is, we would…and we do…and most likely we will.  Our lives can often fog our vision, our understanding, our faith, and our hope…We allow circumstances to overshadow the truth.

  • It’s easy to lose focus.
  • It’s easy to doubt.
  • It’s easy to forget.
  • It’s easy to fall away.
  • It’s easy to reject.
  • It’s easy to take for granted.
  • It’s easy to misunderstand.
  • It’s easy to give up and give in.

THANK GOD…that in spite of:

  1. Our clouded situations and circumstances…
  2. Getting lost frequently along the way…
  3. The times we decide to hit the road again and run away from our difficulties…

…there’s a God who not only comes looking for us BUT…ALSO DRAWS NEAR AND TRAVELS WITH US UNTIL WE SEE AGAIN!  That’s good news!  That’s grace!  That’s Jesus!

He spoke with them for hours.

He spent the day with them explaining the truth of the Scriptures; this wasn’t a 20-minute sermon!  He was there physically with them until the sun was beginning to set.

They saw Him…

They smelled Him…

They walked near Him…

And yet, with all this physical closeness they still didn’t recognize who he was!

Hello, you two.  You are so caught up in your own pity party.”

WAIT!  Before we begin casting more stones here in judgment, we must confess that there have been times, even seasons, when we’ve been distant.  Times when we wanted to throw in the towel and lost hope over a particular circumstance.

It happened with our children – “This is your last chance!”…At our workplace – “It’s no use.  People around here don’t care.  I’m not going to take it anymore…I quit!”  [I’ve been there before!]  At school – “It’s too hard.  I’m in over my head.  I’m going to drop out!”…And even with God, “I’ve been praying for 8 years and you still haven’t helped me!…I’ve asked for patience and I get more problems…I’ve prayed for healing…all I get is sicker by the day.  HELLO, is anyone up there?!!!”

We live in such a fast pace society.  We’ve become so impatient, so “me” focused.  And as a result, we give up way too easily, way too early, and way too frequently.  THANK GOD we are not left alone.  I’m not saying that you’ll never feel alone.  Truth is you will, but that’s not because God has abandoned you, it’s because you’ve abandoned Him!

God won’t go where he’s not welcomed.

If we want to keep pushing God out of our life…if we continue to ignore His Word…if we continue to break His commandments, and I’m not just referring to the ‘BIG TEN’, but all His commandments recorded in the Bible–then what gives us the right to expect Him to “be there” for us?

BUT THANK GOD that where He is welcomed, where there are those who are genuinely struggling with their FAITH, who sincerely want to believe, but because of a lack of hope…just can’t see God in their circumstances, you can be sure that you’ll find Him a lot closer than you might think.  You might even be BLIND to His presence right now, BUT He’s right there sitting or standing next to you…or walking beside you on the road you chose to escape.  Even though we all go through seasons of BLINDNESS, the good news is that sooner or later He will do for you what He did for those TWO DISCIPLES on the road to Emmaus.  Sooner or later you WILL see Him.

You see it wasn’t until He broke the Bread…that finally “Their eyes were opened” and they recognized Him.

Remember Jesus’ words…

“…Do this in remembrance of me…”

REMEMBER ME, DON’T JUST THINK ABOUT ME, REMEMBER ME.

Communion is a very intimate act.  So let’s communicate to our spiritual leaders that we require more than a ‘traditional’, a ‘run-of-the-mill’ type ceremony.  Communion should help us to focus on Jesus instead of ourselves.  It should point us to the One who has been near to us all along.

In this act of remembrance, HE REMINDS US of His constant LOVE and as we break bread we see that He HAS come near.  At least we should!  God wants our eyes to be opened – the eyes of our mind…the eyes of our hearts too.

And that’s why we are to gather at this table…not OUR table but HIS TABLE! 

NOTICE the CHANGE in the disciples’ attitude:

  • From despair to hope
  • From depression to joy
  • From doubt to belief
  • From defeat to victory
  • From dismay to courage
  • From disillusionment to enlightenment
  • From “…stood still, looking sad and downcast…” to “It is true!  The Lord has risen.”

Why the change?

“Jesus drew near…broke bread”!

The next time we gather to CELEBRATE, know that Jesus wants to do something!  And as we remember a historic fact…eat and drink these common everyday elements…we are reminded of ETERNAL reality –

JESUS IS here among us!

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CREDITS :

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP);  English Standard Version (ESV).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Music Video:  Remembrance by Matt Maher with lyrics – YouTube.

 

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

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CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted in images or text.

 

 

 

 

Following Jesus Comes With Risks


THE RISK OF FEAR –

Many people today are refusing to acknowledge Jesus in their lives because of the fear of other people’s opinions.

They are ashamed to be associated with Christ Jesus in public but attempt to confess Him when they find a need for Him when chaos is breaking loose in their lives.  Jesus describes them in Matthew 15:8 – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” [NIV]

Everyone who comes face to face with Christ (via media, radio, tv, internet, church, Preacher, blogger, etc.) must do one of two things concerning Him.  Either confess Him or deny Him.  There’s no neutral ground.

During the final few months of Jesus’ life, He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem along with His followers where He was crucified.  On their journey, Jesus gave them some very important teaching regarding DISCIPLESHIP.

That brings me to our Bible study and the risks involved in following Christ.

LUKE 12:8-12 (NIV)

[8] “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  [9] But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.  [10] And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  [11] “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  [12] for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

WARNING…NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISKS OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL…”

Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League (NFL), on their website page has inserted a WARNING LABEL and goes on to give information on the symptoms for concussions and concludes with these words:  TO AVOID THESE RISKS…DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.

At least this company is honest about the RISKS involved in playing football.

Similarly, the Bible is honest about the RISKS involved in following Jesus.

Paraphrasing, the Bible says, “To avoid the risks of discipleship, don’t engage in following Jesus!”

DISCIPLESHIP IS GOING TO COST YOU!

Following Jesus means opening yourself up to opposition, ridicule, resentment, harm, injury, and even death!

During Jesus’ ministry, He experienced growing opposition and persecution even from His half-siblings–His own family (Mark 3:21).  He noticed that His disciples were becoming increasingly fearful–even standoffish in some cases as they saw what was happening to their teacher.

So, He used His disciples not to FEAR people, but instead to FEAR and REVERENCE God knowing that God cared for each one of them (Luke 12:47).

Then He urged His DISCIPLES to acknowledge Him before men.

I’ve found it interesting when pastors today give an invitation for accepting Jesus as their Savior at the end of Sunday Services with “every head bowed,” [‘no peaky’] and proceeds to encourage the hand raisers to “acknowledge Jesus as Savior before men”!

How does one do that?  And if they don’t do as suggested, what then?

The analysis of ACKNOWLEDGING Christ Jesus before others have both a positive and negative aspect.

I’ve always voted when asked for the “positive” first before the “negative”.

Jesus said in verse 8,  “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others…” 

Jesus puts our relationship to Him in an eternal perspective.  I like the way the Amplified Bible reads:

“Whoever declares openly [speaking out freely] and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God.”

“ACKNOWLEDGE, DECLARE, PROCLAIM”…the point lies in doing it “before men”!  And if we acknowledge Him before others here on earth, then that will lead to Him acknowledging us before the tribunal of heaven.  WOW!

The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9 (NIV)

To DECLARE Christ Jesus before others mean that we do ALL THESE THINGS, whatever we do, whether it’s at work or at school or at home or at play, we do it ALL for Jesus.

Jesus’ PROMISE –

When we confess Christ before men, then He will declare us at the Last Day.

What a precious promise that is for every believer!

On the day we die, as we stand before Almighty God, everything about us will be revealed.  All our past sins–even those that are secret–will be exposed.  Each one of us will be condemned by God’s Law, condemned by our sin, condemned by our conscience, condemned by Satan himself.  We will stand before God without HOPE.

BUT…and this is a glorious “but”…if we’ve acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior on earth, then Jesus will rise up in our defense!  He will tell the Father and all the angels that we belong to Him by faith.

He will tell the tribunal of heaven because of our FAITH in Him because we’ve received the gospel because we’ve acknowledged Him on earth.

He is acknowledging to all in heaven we belong to Him!

His MERIT covers ALL our faults, our iniquities, our sin and we must be accepted into heaven because of what He has done for us.

Not Acknowledging Christ Before Men Comes With Recompense.

This is the negative aspect of not declaring Christ before man.  Jesus said in verse 9,  “…he who disowns and denies and rejects and refuses to acknowledge Me before men will be disowned and denied and rejected and refused acknowledgment in the presence of the angels of God.”  [AMP]

What does it mean to “deny” Him before men?

It means that we don’t stand with or for Jesus.  It means that we don’t acknowledge that we’re Christians.  It means that when people speak against Christ and Christianity in our every-day-world, we remain silent, making excuses for all the reasons why we shouldn’t acknowledge Him.

“I don’t want them to think I’m a religious nut!”

You can add to this list, I’m sure.

Jesus says that if we don’t acknowledge Him we DENY Him!

And if we “deny” Him, He will “deny” us!

The Principles Laid Down In Acknowledging Christ Before Men –  (Luke 12:10)

VERSE 10 is a difficult verse to understand at first.  That said, I find TWO PRINCIPLES that come into play here.

There’s SIN that’s FORGIVEABLE (Luke 12:10 (a)).

I think Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and author explains it best when he said, “To speak against the Son of Man is to speak against Jesus Christ without fully understanding who He is or what He has done.”  This isn’t the full and final denial as illustrated by Judas in verse 9.  Nevertheless, to speak a word against the Son of Man is SIN.  But…and here’s the good news…it is a SIN God can and will forgive.

Almost all Christians spoke a word against Jesus before coming to saving faith in Him.  But as soon as we fully understood who He was and what He did, we repented of what we said and received forgiveness from Him.

There’s SIN that’s UNFORGIVABLE (Luke 12:10 (b) ).

Here comes the “BUT”–“…but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  This is where there’s been some misunderstanding.

What does it mean to “blaspheme” against the Holy Spirit?  What does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven?  What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church?

Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation.  If we look to God the Father and then turn from His glory and embrace sin, that’s bad!  If we look to His Son, Jesus, who He sent into the world and then have turned away from His glory and embrace sin, that’s doubly bad!!

But in either case, there’s hope–the Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption.  This redemption is outside of ourselves and available to us as long as we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith.

But it’s a unique and special role of the Holy Spirit plays in our lives to apply the Father’s plan and Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, to make us beneficiaries for all the Father and Son have done for us.

John Piper gives this definition for the Unforgivable Sin:

The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that He withdraws forever with His convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.

Sometimes people worry they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and have committed a sin that’s unforgivable.  The fact that a person is worrying that he or she might have blasphemed is an indication that he or she hasn’t done so.

A person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is so vehemently opposed to Christ that he believes Jesus is from Satan.  And that sin will not be forgiven!  [See Mark 3:20-35]

The Risk of Hostility in Persecution – (12:11a).

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the magistrates and the authorities…”

Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution.  It was going to be inevitable that persecution was going to come.  In fact. this happened shortly after Jesus. death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven when Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1).  The apostles were often arrested for their faith in Christ Jesus.

But Help Is On Its Way! – (12:11b-12:12)

[11b]  “…do not be anxious [beforehand] how you shall reply in defense or what you are to say.  [12] For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour and moment what [you] ought to say”  (AMP).

Although Jesus’ promise was particularly directed to the apostles, it also applies in principle to ALL disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.

We can trust the Holy Spirit to help us whenever we speak for Jesus. 

You may feel inadequate or ill-prepared or not very knowledgeable of God’s Word.  That’s not the point! It’s the matter of telling what you know about Jesus in a personal way and pray that the Holy Spirit will take what you say–however inadequate it may be–to do His saving work in other peoples lives.

Finally, Taking A Stand for Jesus Christ.

God is calling His disciples–that’s you and me–to take a stand for His Son Jesus!

Acknowledge Him, declare His name with your lips that He is Lord and Savior of your life.

He is calling you to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus in your home, in your office, in your playground, in your neighborhood, and in your school.

And remember, when you do so, you have the glorious PROMISE that Jesus will take a stand for you on the day you appear before God in heaven.

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CREDITS ~

Commentary:  The Power to Risk in the Cause of Christ/John Piper quote – Desiring God.com

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or where noted in the text or images.

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – copyrights may apply.

 

Living Your Life With Intentional Expectation

Intentional-Living

Scripture Study Verses:  Isaiah 29:16 & Ephesians 5:15-16

“INTENTIONAL LIVING” BEGINS WITH “CONVICTION”:

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“CONVICTION” Definition:  “the act or process of convincing,” “the state of being convinced,” or “a fixed or strong belief”.

So then, “BIBLICAL CONVICTION” applied to a true believer, can be said to mean… a person whose convictions are derived from Scripture and whose convictions affect him spiritually.”   *[See footnote [i] ].

My Testimony of Living Under Godly “Conviction”–

Years ago, while trying to live out my Christian life… God was convicting me to a need in my spiritual life.  A need to be a person who does not live by default, but lives by decision.

To be a person who ‘determines’, is a person who STARTS at the beginning –

“I will do what it takes to know God better, to love Him more, so that He can work in and through me to be more Christlike.”  

Once I became aware of God’s plan in my life…not my plan…as prompted by the Holy Spirit, I became determined; determined to live my spiritual life intentionally.

THE CHALLENGE –

I have read somewhere in my studies over the years, that there are…

THREE TYPES OF PEOPLE:

  • Those who make things happen.
  • Those who watch things happen.
  • Those who wonder what happen.

My challenge?  Becoming INTENTIONAL in ALL areas of life.

I believe it was Dr. Randy Carlson of Family Life Radio who once said, “To be intentional is knowingly choose your direction and shake up the routine…or the autopilot of your spiritual life.” 

“SPIRITUAL GROWTH requires an intentional effort on our part, while SPIRITUAL STAGNATION and decline requires no effort at all”  

[See footnote [ii] ].

So if you find yourself in a state of godly conviction, of needing spiritual growth, let me try to help you understand how to be intentional; strengthening your relationship with God.

Living Redemptively–

God has redeemed you not just from SIN and its penalty, but He has also redeemed us from an empty life.

1 Peter 1:18-19 says,

“You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold,  But [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ (the Messiah), like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot.”

A FEW STEPS TO LIVING WITH “DECISION”:

THE PROBLEM.  Too many people end there.

“Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people)”  (Ephesians 5:15).

*Note:  DETERMINED PEOPLE…strive to make wise decisions based on the Bible’s wise decisions, no matter what your coworkers, your neighbors, or family say.

THE NEED–

To put DETERMINATION on the Front Burnernot the back burner, then turn the flame on high!

stovetop

Being DETERMINED to live decisively–elevate correct priorities.

“He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]”  (Colossians 1:18).

YOUR PRIORITIES should…

  • HONOR GOD
  • HONOR YOUR FAMILY
  • HONOR OTHERS

Being in COVENANT compliance in all areas of your life; to submit to His authority.

One way that The Fear of God can be explained is “To honor God, with the audacity to obey”  [Creflo Dollar sermon notes].  

Not in a “submissive” frame of mind?  If your answer is “no”, then you are living in rebellion.

Isaiah 29:16:

[Oh, your perversity!]  You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be considered of no more account than the clay? Shall the thing that is made say of its maker, He did not make me; or the thing that is formed say of him who formed it, He has no understanding?

85afec292db8f082846af4f74c370fb8

QUIZ TIME:

Who CREATED you?  GOD.

Who has the right to tell you what to do?  GOD.

Setting Aside Our AGENDA and Looking at God’s AGENDA –

Another STEP to look at, is we NEED to recognize that only by God’s grace, we’re even here.  

Surely, we should be so grateful, to allow the Ruler of the earth and heaven to have His way in our own lives.  He deserves that much.  He is LORD whether we want to admit it or not.

Allow Him to not only be the SAVIOR of your life, but the LORD, the boss, the C.O.O. (Chief Operating Officer), or whatever title you might give Him.

BUT…He is the One we need to SUBMIT to, above all others, especially ourselves.  Tell Him you are serious about following Him as LORD.

NEXT STEP…

Increase your time in the Bible and Prayer…

Colossians 3:16 says to…

“Let the word [spoken by] Christ (the Messiah) have its home [in your hearts and minds] and dwell in you in [all its] richness…”

It makes sense to me, if I wanted to LIVE a life more decisively, seeking to please God, then I needed to know what pleases God.

The best way to learn what makes my Heavenly Father smile (pleasing Him)…is to read and study His Word.

Some need to increase some, while others need to just plain start.  That’s okay.  START!

  • READ 5-10 minutes a day.  It doesn’t have to be an hour.
  • CHOOSE a time that works best for you, and stick to it!  

Since retirement, I choose the morning.  The issue isn’t when you do it, but the fact that you do it.

It’s best to be consistent on the time.  If you are not in the habit of daily reading the Bible, then start off small.  But START!  Don’t procrastinate any longer.

Dr. Charles R. Swindoll says, “The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of JOY.  Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind–jump in.”

And if you are in the habit, then bump it up a little.  PRAY while you are reading the Bible. as the Holy Spirit prompts your spirit into responding to what you’re reading, and then, just do it!

NEXT…Daily Renew Your Walk with God –

I have to make this decision every day, before anything else I do.  Setting aside a special time [before my bible reading] to meet with Him, to tell Him I LOVE Him and His Word.

Renewing Your Covenant Promise…(Daniel 9:4):

And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession and said, O Lord, the great and awesome God,  Who keeps covenant, mercy, and loving-kindness with those who love Him and keep His commandments.

EXPECT GOD TO MOVE…

If you might be thinking at this point of study, that the RESULTS of living by DECISION is brought about by your own effort, you’re missing the point.

In fact, it is only by God’s Grace that He decides to move and work in yours and my life.

The STEPS presented in this blog are not an attempt to jump through a bunch of spiritual hoops, trying to please God with our spirituality.

The ideas, the concepts, the steps, are only tools that I use to gain insight into God’s LOVE & CARE, not because we’ve done everything just right, but because He is honored in doing them.

God Sees the BENEFITS it brings us…

So, He blesses the efforts, because it brings HIM glory, not us.

We put forth the EFFORT because it pleases Him and blesses us!

BUT…let me point something out here.  Even if God did nothing in your life because of your decisive efforts to become closer to Him, have you really lost anything?  I don’t think so.

Your clearer view of correct priorities will help you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself and your family.  God honors that.

God Brings the RESULTS, not us.

We do these things, trusting God will be pleased to mold us and to be more like Him.  And by the way, before you start thinking, that it’s easy for The WORD Detective…I was in the working world most of my Christian life.  These principles have worked for me and still working for me, whenever I put them into practice, no matter what situation.

Living By DECISION Instead of DEFAULT!

JESUS is our example, for He did nothing by default and was decisive about everything.

Nothing shows that better than Luke 9:51:

“As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”  (NIV).

The King James Version says that “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”

4021b34d6feda5c5bac210ace5682ca1JESUS was decisive here, but more than that, is found in the first part of that verse:

“As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven…”

He knew what was coming up.

He knew that going to Jerusalem would bring about DEATH.

BUT the book of Hebrews, 12:2, tells us that Jesus went to Jerusalem and faced the cross, rejecting its shame, for the JOY set before Him.

Huh? The “JOY”?

How could the thought of being tried illegally in secret be joyous?

How can knowing that He would hang on a cross for hours and hours, suffering in the most agonizing way of capital punishment cause JESUS to see JOY?

ANSWER:  Because He saw beyond Jerusalem.

He saw the result–Pardon, Forgiveness, Freedom, Opportunity for you and I to know Father God on a personal level.

He knew what would be needed to be done before time!  And, He decided that He would do it.  That my friends, is being “intentional”!

JESUS waited for just the right time, and then He came to make it happen!!

In comparison to what JESUS has done for us, is it really too much to ask ourselves that we spend a bit of time each day to deepen our relationship with the One who made that RELATIONSHIP possible?

Believe me, it isn’t easy.  But God works and makes it worth it.

Making A Bold Decision of Commitment to Live Decisively–

In study this past week, I came across a Bible verse that brings out the heart of this blog’s message:

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him…”  (2 Chronicles 16:9).

If you’ve been LIVING a life on autopilot, of “default”; a failure to fulfill an obligation as a result from ignoring the conviction presented by Abba, Father, you are going to have to make a choice.  You don’t have it all figured out right now, but you need to decide to be determined with a decisive effort to deepen and strengthen your walk with God, so it affects every area of your life…24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

And I guarantee that if you make the effort, God will change your life as He has changed mine. Believe me, He wants to do that for you.

But you need to be INTENTIONAL about being “INTENTIONAL” about that!

Expecting God’s PROMISE…(Romans 4:18-22 READ)

Abraham is called “the father of us all”  (Rom. 4:16).

From the standpoint of FAITH, Abraham was certainly the epitome of a man with ‘biblical conviction.’

When all odds were stacked against him, and even though at times he tried to give God a hand by taking matters into his own hands, he was DECISIVE in holding on to the PROMISES of God.

It’s up to you.  To decide today to start Living With Intentional Expectation! 

Ephesians 5:15-16:

“Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise–sensible, intelligent people;  Making the very most of the time–buying up each opportunity–because the days are evil.”

**NOTE:  If you feel liking sharing with other readers, a new decision of walking intentionally in your life, please do so in the comment section of this BLOG.

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i] : Bible.org. – Mark #6 by J. Hampton Keathley, III ;  Footnote [ii] : from C. S. Lewis – Screwtape Letters.

Scripture quoted from the AMPLIFIED BIBLE, except where noted.

Photo Credits by Google Images Search.

 

 

“This Isn’t Another MESSAGE On ‘GIVING’ Is It?”

1 Chronicles 29:9 (KJV):

“Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD; and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”

download

ONE MOTHER’S TEACHING ON GIVING–

It was officially Mother’s Day on May 10th, 2015 and I thought, what better way of starting the conversation, but from a story regarding a mother’s teaching on GIVING:

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson.  She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church.

“Put whichever one you want in the offering basket and keep the other yourself,” she told the little girl.

When leaving thee church that morning, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given.

“Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering, the mn in the pulpit said, we should all be cheerful givers.  I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter…so I did.”

The mother may not have agreed with her daughter’s reasoning, but at the heart of the matter is the fact–the daughter gave in the way she believed.

True of all Christians–we give as we believe. 

In 1 Chronicles 29, DAVID led the people to BELIEVE in what they are given to.

David believed God deserved a TEMPLE.  At first, God would not let him build it because as 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 tells us,

DAVID wasn’t the type of man God wanted to have building the Temple.  BUT DAVID still believed the Temple for God needed building.

And so, in 1 Chronicles 29:2, David dedicated his own wealth to the project.

DAVID’S VISION IS INFECTIOUS (verse 6):

The leaders of the assembly dedicated money for the Temple.  And then (vs. 9), “the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole and blameless heart they had offered freely to the Lord.  King David also rejoiced greatly.”

“the people REJOICED because”…

The Hebrew word here for “rejoice” or “rejoiced” is ‘samach’ [Strong’s Concordance #8055]: “Samach usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and/or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of well-being or feeling.”  (See Footnote [i] ).

WOW! Rejoicing after giving.  What a concept and one that I surely need to give more attention to.  Remember, the people giving their offerings in 1 Chronicles 29 are giving willingly with a “whole and blameless heart.”

And they gave and they built because they believed in a VISION.

 The “What’s Happening Now Church?”

Flip Wilson was a popular comedian several years ago and one of his characters was a Preacher.  Flip did a skit once that I watched on television, where he told about this preacher.  He’d shout out:

“IF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO SERVE GO IT’S GOT TO GET DOWN ON IT’S KNEES AND CRAWL!!!

And the audience yelled back,  “Make it crawl preacher, male it crawl!”

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO CRAWL, IT’S GOT TO GET UP ON IT’S FEET AND WALK!!!”

“Make it walk preacher, make it walk,”  the audience moaned.

“AND ONCE THIS CHURCH HAS LEARNED TO WALK, ITS GOT TO BEGIN TO LEARN TO RUN!!!”

“Make it run, preacher, make it run!”

“AND IN ORDER TO RUN, ITS GOT YO REACH DOWN INTO POCKETS AND LEARN TO GIVE!!!”

(pause)  “Make it crawl preacher, make it crawl.”

A CHURCH CAN’T GROW IF IT DOESN’T GIVE.

And if our churches don’t give…it’ll crawl.

Inspiring People to Give–

Now when DAVID wanted to inspire people in their giving–he set the example.  He said–this is what I’m giving.  Then the leaders in the congregation stood up and set the EXAMPLE, the pattern for GIVING.

“TITHING” versus “FREE WILL OFFERING”:

In setting up the scene in 1 Chronicles 29, overlooking the “free will offering” principles would be detrimental to the whole MESSAGE on stewardship today.

Is there a difference between TITHING and OFFERINGS?

TITHING is giving GOD the first tenth of ALL your increase.  

In the Old Testament, most tithes were given from produce or herd.  But in modern times we tithe with MONEY since most of our increase is financial.

In the O.T. there were different types of tithes and different types of offerings.  TITHES were required giving according to the Mosaic Law, where OFFERINGS were voluntary.

Here in 1 Chronicles 29, the free will offerings given didn’t replace their tithes.  Their giving was above and beyond the Law of “10%”.

God trusted us with what is His in the first place:

He trusts us with an INCREASE–lets us have 90% of it–but places a 10%–the “sacred portion” aside (Deuteronomy 26:13; Numbers 18:28) which we are to tithe back to Him.  

This “sacred portion” is entrusted to us and we return it to Him.

TITHING TEACHES US Redemption–

The TITHE is the first tenth, the FIRST FRUIT of our increase.

Christ was God’s FIRST FRUIT.

When God gave to us His only Son to die on the cross for our sin, He REDEEMED us from the curse of the Law.  And when we give our TITHE, we are worshipping God by recognizing His REDEMPTION.

So then, we should recognize that through JESUS, we are redeemed and in turn God redeems and blesses the 90% that is our portion.

I remember after my wife and I were saved, our preacher gave a sermon on TITHING as many preachers try to fit in once a year, at least.  Afterwords, we both admitted to one another that “tithing” was out of the question.  We were overwhelmed at the time with debt and other obligations of a young family; we could tithe 10%!  But then, the Spiritual Light Bulb came on! God’s Word had penetrated our spirit, and we decided to be faithful and to trust God for the results.  We’ve been BLESSED ever since.

Is today’s Church suppose to adhere to the “giving principles” of the Old Testament?

Many people believe that today’s church should not follow the practice of TITHING–it was in the Old Testament–not mentioned in the New Testament except for reference.

But I say the LAW was given to help us see our need for redemption every time we tithe in honor and recognize our need for God and the amazing way He has blessed us and provided for us.

I think that many use the Gospel of Grace to free themselves from OBEDIENCE instead of discovering the GRACE OF GOD enables us to follow Him more passionately.

SO WHAT IS AN “OFFERING”, or generous giving?

1 Chronicles 29:6-8 (NASB):

[6] Then the rulers of the fathers’ households, and the princes of the tribes of Israel, and the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, with the overseers over the king’s work, offered willingly;

[7] and for the service for the house of God they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, and 10,000 talents of silver, and 18,000 talents of brass, and 100,000 talents of iron.

[8] And whoever possessed precious stones gave them to the treasury of the house of the Lord, in care of Jehiel the Gershonite.

[9] Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

OFFERINGS are something that you search your heart for (not your wallet), deciding to give beyond the tithe BUT NOT IN PLACE OF THE TITHE.

TITHES go to the local church but offerings are free for you to decide what to do with.  

Many people give OFFERINGS to their place of fellowship because they’re excited about what God is doing there and they know there’s a need.

Others use their OFFERINGS to support missions, a favorite radio or television preacher, maybe a local Christian para-church ministry.  ALL are great options as an OFFERING or GENEROUS GIVING.

Christian Maturity–

Christians mature (grow spiritually) as their FAITH grows in fiscal responsibility; in giving more and more generously to God’s kingdom through offerings that are over and above the TITHE.

Looking at a great verse where the Apostle Paul talks about offerings in his second letter to the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this:  he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously  [that blessings may come to someone]  will also reap generously and with blessings.

[7]  Let each one [give] as he has made up his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].

[8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

“GIVING” FOR A REASON:

Now hopefully, we don’t give to the “building project,” and we don’t give to the Pastor.  And as we see in 1 Chronicles 29, the people gave to God, to GLORIFY HIM, to build up His Kingdom.

If the attitude out there is “Yeah, sure we do”, then reread 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 one more time, or as many times as it takes, to give with a “blameless heart.”

Hopefully, you can give with a VISION; that God is going to do something special with your offerings because of your faithfulness.

It’s about BELIEF…

In 1 Chronicles 29, David says something about our believing (vss. 10-17).

IN DAVID’S PRAYER…HE PRAYED acknowledging that they were giving to the building of the Temple because… the believed God would supply.  The funds all came from God’s hands in the first place.  They were only using His bounty to build a place of worship for Him.

Other passages of the Bible speaks of this kind of BELIEF (1 Corinthians 9:6-11; Malachi 3:10-11).  

This is all in agreement with the powerful message given to us in Hebrews 11:6:  

“But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] BELIEVE that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].”

And so FAITH is important in all aspects of our Christian walk in Christ Jesus.  Especially in our giving.

TITHES & OFFERINGS:

Both our tithes and offerings (generous giving) should be a part of our lives as Believers–Christians. SO…

–GIVE “JOYFULLY” (1 CHRONICLES 29:9),

–GIVE THANKFULLY (1 CHRONICLES 29:10),

–AND EXCEL IN THE GRACE OF GIVING,

BUT NEVER FEEL PRESSURED TO GIVE!

It is NEVER about the amount you give, but about the JOY in your heart to give.

A song that almost every parent with small children have heard a million times and know the words by heart, is from the Disney movie, FROZEN – “LET IT GO”

Let me give you the words in the music lyrics that I thought might fit in perfectly to the message in our giving of tithes and offerings:

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

[TO GIVE]

set-it-free

 

 


 

Footnotes, Credits, and Commentaries:

Footnote [i]:  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Photos:

Google Search in 1 Chronicles 29 Images.

Bible References:

Amplified Bible except where Noted.

Commentaries:

ABC’s of Giving by Jeff Strite

Tithes vs Offerings by Patrick McCue

 

 

 

 

 

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.