Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Intentions

“As soon as I get caught up, by-golly, I am going to give to that organization!”
“I’m almost at the point whereby I can really give to those in need!”
“I wonder why the rich people don’t give more? If I had what he or she has I would certainly would be willing to give!”

We tend to judge others by there actions and ourselves by our intentions. And yet, it is not the amount that is most important - it is the attitude of giving.

I was struck by the Apostle Paul’s writing in his second letter to the church of Corinth. Much of his letter was focused upon - promises that the people within the church were making - their good intensions - and the need for the members of the church at Corinth to follow through - WITH ACTION! Paul was admonishing the people, “TALK IS CHEAP!”

Paul sent emissaries to the church to encourage the people to follow through with their good intentions. His focus was not so much upon those who were in need and required the gifts of the church. Paul focused upon those who “intended” to do something - but did not follow through.

“Now, about the offering that is [to be made] for the saints - God’s people [in Jerusalem] - it is quite superfluous that I should write you. For I am well acquainted with your willingness - your readiness and your eagerness to promote it. And I have proudly told about you to the people of macedonia, saying that Achaia [most of Greece] has been prepared since last year for this contribution; and [consequentially] your enthusiasm has stimulated the majority of them.... Still, I am sending the brethren [on you], lest our pride in you should be made an empty boast in this particular case, and so that you may be ready, as I told them you would be. Lest, if [any] Macedonians should come with me and find you unprepared [for this generosity], we , to say nothing of yourselves, be humiliated for our being so confident.” - 2 Corinthians 9:1-4

In the next verses Paul focuses his attention upon the blessings awaiting those who follow through and give; not until it “hurts” but until it feels good! The spiritual and physical fulfillment is immeasurable!


Paul also paints a word picture of the dire consequences of promises not kept. Unlike heart rendering television commercials showing men women and children suffering from malnutrition, disease and exposure, Paul focuses upon the the consequences of “well-intending givers” should they boast of their intentions and then recline in their Lazy-boys never to accomplish a thing.

The point has been made. Perhaps there is a cause you have been considering but have yet to take appropriate action. Now is a wonderful time to enjoy the blessings of giving. Perhaps you have heard yourself repeatedly saying, “if I only had - then I would certainly give...”. Is there any reason why today is not the day you begin to faithfully give whatever it is you can give?

In Luke, chapter 21 verses 1 through 4 Luke records how Jesus looked up and noticed the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. We might assume that they did so in a manner intended to be noticed by those passing by. Looking closely, however, Jesus also noticed a particular poor widow who [we might suppose] humbly slipped in her two small copper coins.

“And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.” - Luke 21:3-4

Consider the blessings we have today and willingly, readily and eagerly give. It is impossible to out-give God.

Enjoy the blessing!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In The Midst

“Then one of them named Cleopas answered Him, do you alone dwell as a stranger in Jerusalem and not know the things that have occurred there in these days?”
- Luke 24:18

Perhaps in today’s lingo the verse might be interpreted, “HELLO? Did you JUST get off the boat? Do you have ANY IDEA what is going on here? Is ANYBODY home?”

Sometimes God just doesn’t seem to get it. He just seems out of touch with my particular situation. Have you ever felt that way? “Knock, knock, knock; hello God? Are you there? Are you listening? HELLO?”

Circumstances surrounding the resurrection often go unnoticed but therein is a wonderful microcosm of life.

The tomb was empty. The word spread like wildfire. Already the religious leaders were spinning the event to say that somehow the eleven remaining followers of Jesus (a few fishermen, a doctor and a tax collector) armed with fish hooks, stethoscope and calculator, overtook the fully armed guards at the tomb, rolled back the stone and removed the body of Jesus.

This was not just another execution. This man was known. He was front-page news! Whether or not the public saw him as a kook, a cook or the coming Messiah, the masses were aware of his death and burial. Now, He was missing!

We see that in the midst of sadness, Jesus was there. He didn’t come just in time; He was there!

“ And behold that very day two [of the disciples] were to a village called Emmaus, [which is] about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things that had occurred. And while they were conversing and discussing together Jesus Himself caught up with them and was already accompanying them. But their eyes were held, so they did not recognize Him. And He said to them, ‘What is the discussion that you are exchanging between you as you walk along?’ And they stood still , looking sad and downcast. Then one of them named Cleopas answered Him, ‘do you alone dwell as a stranger in Jerusalem and not know the things that have occurred there in these days?’ And He said to them, ‘What kind of things?’” - Luke 24:13-19

The disciples went into detail how this One they had hoped to be the Messiah was crucified at the behest of the chief priests and rulers, how He was buried and how a couple of crazed, hysterical women were driving them crazy with the notion that Jesus had arisen from the dead! This might be one of the reasons they were heading out of town! There’s a limit to what a person can take!

And then Jesus does something interesting. After He listens intently and lovingly to their hearts, He begins to speak to them from the Scripture revealing the many Old Testament prophesies pertaining to His death and resurrection.

“And Jesus said to them, ‘O sluggish in the mind, dull of perception and slow of heart to believe - to adhere to and trust in and rely on - everything that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary and essentially fitting that the Christ, the Messiah, should suffer all these things before entering into His glory, His majesty and splendor?” - Luke 24:25,26

After easing their hearts, breaking bread with them and reclining with them their eyes were instantly opened! This causes me to reflect upon my own slowness of mind and heart to trust Him; to know without doubt that He is here with me, already accompanying me as I walk through life’s trials.

The story goes on. Evidently, that very same hour, these men ran back to Jerusalem, CHANGED! Somehow the women did not seem quite so hysterical! When these two found the eleven followers of Christ they could hardly contain themselves!


Masters of the obvious were they not? But I find that I sometimes do the same thing. I know that Jesus has promised to be with me and never leave me and yet, when He makes Himself unmistakably evident in my life, I say, “WOW!

Even with all that had happened, as these men shared their story, Jesus stood right there in the midst of them and they were startled as if they had seen a ghost. But Jesus, patiently and lovingly revealed Himself, His hands, His feet - and they marveled.

This little passage in the book of Luke means a great deal to me. It tells me that when I focus upon life’s circumstances, indeed, I can feel disheartened. But Jesus is always in the midst! Jesus is always accompanying His children along the way. If I stop, and truly be honest about my challenge and weakness to understand and overcome through my own strength, He is there to reveal His presence, to calm my heart and to break bread (fellowship) with me.

Where are you along the road? In which direction are you headed? Out of your Jerusalem heaped with sadness and remorse? Or are you headed back, rejoicing, victorious, accompanied by the risen Messiah?

Ya know something? THE LORD REALLY IS RISEN - WOW!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reporting Live!

We watch the news on every channel. We hear the testimonies of numerous eyewitnesses and see video footage from every imaginable angle. The evidence seems to be overwhelming - but the reports appear to be diametretically opposed. One event; a variety of conclusions.

These stories make for interesting conversation - but they seldom impact our lives.

There is one “news” event, however, whose impact upon every individual ever to have lived or ever to be born, is unavoidable. It is the, “Good News” event we celebrate as Easter.

You need not be religious to clearly see the, “on the scene as it happens” reporting recorded in the Bible - and the two diametrically opposed conclusions to the event.

Jesus was dead. There was no mistaking. The Roman guards witnessed his bloodied and beaten corpse removed from the cross. They, no doubt, observed the hasty preparation of the body for burial and armed themselves to guard the tomb, taking no chance that the body be removed in secret. Jesus was dead and buried. The tomb was sealed and guarded. End of story.

Except for ...

First Report:

"Reporting live, here at the tomb originally intended for Joseph of Arimathea, this is the disciple, Matthew. Earlier this morning this area experienced an earthquake, the magnitude of which is yet to be reported (Matthew 28:2). We do know that the epicenter appears to have been exactly where we are now standing.

Early reports indicate that the the heavily armed Roman guards, ordered to protect the sealed entrance of the tomb which [then] held the body of Jesus, were, in fact, terrified beyond their ability to respond to what can only be reported as extraordinary events.

We take you now to two eyewitnesses. This is Mary of Magdala and, the other Mary. Tell us, in your own words, just what you experienced.”

Mary of Magdala: “Well sir, this is all so overwheming! Mary and I arrived here early this morning; the sun was just coming up (Matthew 28:1). We brought spices with the intention of finishing the preparation of Jesus’ body (Luke 23:56; Luke 24:1). It all happened so fast! The earthquake; the stone, the guards fleeing for their lives; I don’t know where to begin.”

Matthew: “Just tell us what you witnessed, with your own eyes”

Mary of Magdala: “There was a man;”

The other Mary: “Yes! Yes!”

Mary of Magdala: “He was dressed in white; a luminous bright light!”

The other Mary: “I think THAT is what finally caused the guards to flee!” (Matthew 28:4)

Mary of Magdala: “We were frightened too. But this man, an angel, said to us, ‘Do not be alarmed and frightened, for I know that you are looking for Jesus Who was crucfied. He is not here; He has risen,as He said [He would do]. Come, see the place where He lay.’” (Matthew 28:5-6)

Matthew: “And what did you see?”

The other Mary: “WE DID NOT SEE HIS BODY!” (Luke 24:3)

Mary of Magdala: “The angel told us to go tell His disciples that He was risen from the dead and would meet with them in Galilee!”

Matthew: “We go now to the disciple, John for further information:

John: “Thanks Matt. I am still a bit out of breath having outrun my fellow disciple, Peter, here to the empty tomb. When we heard the news, we had to see for ourselves! And it was just as Mary said. The linen cloths were precisely as they where when they covered Jesus. Oh, and the burial napkin (or kerchief) which had been around Jesus head was separated from the other linens, but [remarkably] was still rolled up! (John 20:5,6) Matthew, as remarkable as it may seem, JESUS IS RISEN; HE IS RISEN INDEED! And I want to go on the record to everyone who reads this report:

“These are written (recorded) in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting in and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [that is, through what He is!]” - John 20:31; Psalms 2:7,12

Second Report:

Matthew: “Good evening. We have breaking news for you. The armed Roman guards who fled the scene of the tomb, therefore breaching their assignment, face severe penalties, even death, for being AWOL. This reporter is hereby documenting that while Mary of Magdala and the other Mary made their way to the disciples, some of the Roman guards made their way back into the city.”

“While they were on their way, behold some of the guard went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had occurred. And when they had gathered with the elders and had consulted together, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘Tell people, His disciples came at night and stole Himaway while we were sleeping. And if the governor hears of it, wewill appease him and make you safe and free from trouble and care. So they took the money and did as they were instructed, and THIS STORY HAS BEEN CURRENT AMONG THE JEWS TO THE PRESENT DAY.” - Matthew 28:11-15 [AD 33-36; AD 2010...]

Two stories. Two reports - as they happened. Observe all of the testimony. Observe all of the evidence. What is your conclusion? According to the Scripture, each of us must come to a conclusion. Each one of us must choose to believe and live by one story or the other. The choice is unavoidable. Which report do you choose to believe today?

May the glory, power, mercy, love, peace that surpasses all understanding and saving grace of our risen Savior richly bless you!

Happy Easter!