Archive for May, 2024

Dependability: Who Cares? Part Two

Luke 22: 25 – 30

We need one another because inevitably we are going to have “trials.” Jesus warned “In this world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Paul also reminded us of this truth when he wrote: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).

Scripture gave us an example of the kind of care that is so filled with love for persons and truth that it risks the loss of friendship in order to defend the truth. Once the relationship is broken they reach out to work for its renewal.

Because of sin in the church at Corinth, Paul wrote them a letter exhorting, admonishing, and encouraging them. The admonition, that is warning of the consequence of their sin, temporarily broke their relationship with him. He then wrote them a second letter and in it gave insight regarding caring evidence that restored relationships.

Showing appreciation is essential in restoring appreciation. He wrote “… you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf… Now I rejoice… that your sorrow led to repentance” (II Corinthians 7: 3 & 9).

Psychologist/philosopher, Will James, wrote a classical work entitled “Principles of Psychology.” It is still a primary reference work in the field. He later admitted “an immense omission” in the pioneer work. He wrote, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” His regret was that he had not dealt with it at all in his book. Let’s not fail to deal with it in all of life. Make people feel appreciated. Show appreciation.

It is also expedient that separation be shown. “… let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God… godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted” (II Cor. 7:1).

Some well-meaning Christians have turned separation into isolation.  They have become so narrow they can’t even get along with one another.  Some have gone to the other extreme and will fellowship with any person or ideology.  Both are equally wrong.

A couple of teenage sisters slipped in the side door of their dad’s office in the governor’s mansion after school. They explained to him again a popular dress fad they wanted to copy knowing he didn’t want them to.  Then came their big clincher, “But, dad, everybody is doing it!”

Lovingly and patiently he wove one question into their conversation: “Whose daughters are you?”  After their acknowledgement of him as their dad he said, “Sure, you are the daughters of the governor. You don’t follow styles.  You set the styles.” As Christians, our impact for Christ would be more effective if we realized that by virtue of being children of the King of Kings, we don’t follow styles; we set them.  “Come ye out from among them…”

The Joy of a Job Well Done

Rummaging through old files is something no one likes to do unless they really need something. In the process, other items of interest are found. The following is from deep in one of my files found by accident.

“Everything I need to know, I learned from Noah’s Ark.”

1. Don’t miss the boat.

2. Remember we are all in the same boat.

3. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah started building the ark.

4. Stay fit. When you are 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something big.

5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job to be done,

6. Build your future on high ground.

7. For safety sake, travel in pairs.

8. Speed isn’t always an advantage. Snails were on board with the cheetahs.

9. When stressed, float a while.

10. Remember the ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.     

Basics, every thought in that is basic to being productive. They add substance to Colossians 3: 23, the theme text of my life, “…whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” If you do a good job as to the Lord and He approves even if people complain you don’t get depressed. You didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

Suppose you do a job with your whole heart as to the Lord and He approves. While people brag on you, compliment you, pat you on the back, and add a few “adda-boys” you don’t go on an ego trip, you didn’t do it for them, you did it for Him.

If you are going to do something, anything, do it enthusiastically. Put your whole heart into it. The Seven Dwarfs got the message and it showed as they whistled and sang, “Just whistle while you work. And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place. So hum a merry tune, it won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace.”

OK, OK you don’t have to whistle and sing, but it helps to have the spirit expressed by the thought. Remember, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.”

Finishing a task is a fulfilling experience. Remember, “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Good advice, you might enjoy it so much today you will want to do it again tomorrow.

The Apostle Paul wrote to friends who had worked diligently when he was with them. Leaving them he said, “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” (Philippians 2: 12). In summary, don’t just be people pleasers.

Get out there now and heartedly do whatever it is you have to do.

I’ll Be Back

Reflect on this summary of Jesus’ last days. “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time”  (I Corinthians 15:3-8).

A creditable, available body of eye witnesses were still available to testify of having seen the resurrected Christ.

Many of those in the first century were so fully accepting of the fact of His bodily resurrection that millions of them died as martyrs rather than disclaim it.

If these people were not absolutely certain of the resurrection they would not have allowed themselves to be tortured to death in order to proclaim it as fact.

Among those who came to the tomb the morning of the resurrection was the Apostle John who noted the facial napkin. In that era it was thought that life did not leave the body for three days after the person died. A napkin was placed over the face of the “deceased” in the event they revived so they could blow it off and call for help.

Like a detective investigating a crime scene John scanned the chamber looking for clues. In that napkin he found a clue with a message. John reported the napkin was “folded together in a place by itself” (John 20:7).

It was the custom of monarchs that upon the completion of a meal they would crumple their napkin and leave it on the table indicating they had finished and would not be back.

If they were leaving the table with the intent of returning they folded the napkin and left it neatly in place.

In that clue in the tomb Jesus was saying, “I will be back.”

He said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.”

That is reason to REJOICE!

He left us with many unanswered questions, but not a single one is a “need to know” question. He taught us all we need to know to be able to follow Him. Our inquisitive nature will always have one more question than there is an answer. It’s a good thing. It is a stimulus to our faith.

In light of all the information He left us, what will be your response? Will you have the right answer to His definitive question? It was asked of Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Or, in old English, “Lovest thou Me?” Summarily your faith response embodies your answer. Answer it now with a truthful resounding “Lord, you know I love you” and spend the rest of your life proving it.

Day Eight Sunday: Resurrection

Matthew 28: 5 – 8, John 20: 1 – 23, Luke 4: 4 – 49

What happened on that radical resurrection morning was more of a miracle than it would be for the sun to rise in the west. He arose!

Two approached the grave concerned with the removal of the gravestone in order to prepare it for the final entombment. The stone, to them a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, was a pebble to the Easter angel who had moved it away.

The correlation of the Greek texts of two different gospels reveals the stone had not simply been tilted away from the cave. It had been moved away a great distance uphill. These stones customarily weighed about three thousand pounds.

When God does something He does it right. He can roll away any stone in your path to spiritual truth and maturity.

An angel messenger met the visitors with the most hopeful message. Matthew simply focuses on the message of one of the two saying:

The day of the resurrection was the day —– THE SON ROSE BEFORE SUNRISE.

The angel said: “Fear not!” The Greek verb tense used means “stop being afraid.” All His little cadre of friends could say was, “We had HOPED that He was the one to redeem Israel…” (Luke 24:21). Their hope had died. When hope died fear was given birth. In the moment of death everything seems frozen to those grieving.

There was only yesterday – there was no tomorrow.

They were living on the wrong side of the resurrection. Today those who are still searching for some man-made, humanistic solution to our problem are living on the wrong side of the resurrection also. In the resurrection, the empire of joy, peace, and liberty was brought to light.

Biblical Christianity is a faith of promise, not of nostalgia. Its thrust and momentum is always forward. It moves inexorably into the future. It calls us to what lies ahead in Christ. This inspires and enables one to cope. This is the hope Easter inspires, there is reason to find out how to live through the resurrected Son of God who arose before sunrise.

Historian Arnold Toynbee, in his monumental work entitled,  The Study of History, devotes a chapter to saviors. He lists them in four categories:

The savior with a scepter —- the political savior.

The savior with a book —- the philosopher savior.

The savior with a sword —- the militant savior.

The man-god or god-man savior —- those of Greek mythology.

Professor Toynbee points out that each of these finally capitulates to the ultimate enemy, death. Politicians, kings, military leaders, philosophers all die. All of these demigods ultimately surrender to death. Then this imminent scholar concludes:

“When the last civilization comes to the river of death, there on the other side filling the whole horizon with Himself will be the Savior.”

If someone were to say to you they saw a dead man walking, you might think that person to be a candidate for residence on the “funny farm.” If five were to tell you that you might think it a joke. If ten bonded together with that story you might think it a conspiracy. If 500 said it, at the very least, don’t you think you ought to at least look in the coffin.

These did and so should we.

“Seen” as used in the texts means to behold. It can mean to comprehend. They had experienced the power of an elevating presence.

On Resurrection Sunday, or Easter, we reach the culmination of Holy Week. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the Christian faith. The very foundation of all Christian doctrine hinges on the truth of this account:

HE AROSE.       

Day Seven Saturday: In the Tomb

Matthew 27: 62 – 66, Luke 23: 56       

The Pharisees asked Pilate for a guard to be placed at the tomb “Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” (Matthew 27: 65).

Jewish leaders had asked Pilate for a guard to make certain the tomb was secure. Shortly before this Herod had disgracefully divorced his wife, the daughter of the King of the Nabataeans, Aretas domiciled in Petra. Aretas retaliated by engaging Herod’s forces in battle east of the Dead Sea. Herod’s forces suffered heavy losses in the battle. There were scarcely enough to keep the peace during the festival apart from Roman soldiers. In response to the request made of Pilate the scarceness of Jewish forces prompted Him to say, “You have a guard.” It is commonly thought he was giving them a guard.. However, it is more likely he was saying “You have a guard, your Temple Guard, use the guard you have.” This being true there were not members of Herod’s forces or Roman soldiers at the tomb resurrection morning, but Jewish members of the Temple Guard.

Jesus’ body lay in its tomb, where it was guarded throughout the day on Saturday, which was the Sabbath. When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Christ’s body was ceremonially treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus: “He brought about seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus’ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth” (John 19: 39-40).

Nicodemus, like Joseph of Arimathea, was a member of the Sanhedrin, the court that had condemned Jesus Christ to death. For a time, both men had lived as secret followers of Jesus, afraid to make a public profession of faith because of their prominent positions in the Jewish community.

Similarly, both were deeply affected by Christ’s death. They boldly came out of hiding, risking their reputations and their lives because they had come to realize that Jesus was, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. Together they cared for Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.

“For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (I Peter 1:18-19, NLT).

While his physical body lay in the tomb, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for sin by offering the perfect, spotless sacrifice. He conquered death, both spiritually and physically, securing our eternal salvation.

At sundown on Saturday gloom had engulfed hope, death mocked life, angels wept and demons laughed, BUT Sunday is coming.