This post is from a message delivered on the 31st of January 2021. It includes the children's message because there is a sermon seed embedded in the message.
I haven't posted for a while. Thank you for reading. I hope to have more soon. May God bless you. May you know you are loved. May He give you peace. Amen.
How many of you have had a pet or loved one die and wished that they could come back to life?
What if they did? In our passage today from Scripture, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. What would you think if one of your pets came back to life?
You would think it was a miracle, right? Or maybe some cruel trick?
Well, when Jesus raised Lazarus Jesus’ loved ones were thrilled. Mary and Martha were so happy.
Picture a man wrapped much like a mummy in linen coming from the tomb. That would shake you, right? Everything is a little topsy turvy when Jesus can bring the dead to life. That is some monster power. It is scary, out of our imagining.
You may have read or seen The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? In that story, Aslan represents Jesus. Aslan is a lion who comes back to life. In the beginning of the story, Susan asks Mr. Beaver if he is safe. “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”
That might be how we feel around Jesus who has the power to raise from the dead. We may not think of Jesus as safe but so good.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for this day. Thank You for this
church. Thank You for our parents and care givers that raise us in Your truth.
Thank You that Jesus died and because of Him we live. Surround us and protect
us this week. Thank You for our lives. And all of God’s children said, Amen.
Sermon "Who Do You Love?"
I knew a minister who prepared for a funeral by walking the course of the church in front of the casket. He would take several turns around then stop with his hand over the coffin and proclaim, “rise from the dead and live,” then he would say the name of the one inside. His wife joked that someday he was going to be successful and it would scare him half to death. I know it would scare me possibly fully into death.
We don’t expect that God will grant us power to bring a person back from death. But what do we expect? Do we expect any power at all? Do we expect a call, a ministry, or even a slight nudge?
Do we expect to be comfortable? After all, we are God’s children and God does not want us to be unhappy. Does God make us comfortable?
Do we submit to God’s design in our lives? Do we claim Him as our sovereign authority? Do we listen for His instruction and then do what He asks?
I remember a passage from Phillip Yancey’s book, Prayer, Yancey told of a man who had lost his connection to God. The man continued to pray and pray fervently, but he felt far away. The man was bereft. He saw a wilderness before him. Still his hope was in God. I think of this man when I read Job.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to a majesty so big that it has power over even death, I stumble. Though it is my greatest joy to live in right relationship with God, I still struggle with the hugeness of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit. It is frankly beyond comprehension.
Psalm 139 puts it this way;
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
To be in right relationship with God is opening yourself to an unfathomable majesty, a vastness that we cannot comprehend. I want safety. I can’t help it. I don’t like being at risk. In the last year we have given up multiple freedoms for the hope of an elusive safety. We have looked out on our towns and country without recognition, at first empty then partially shuttered now masked. We have done this for a disease. I am reminded of Edgar Allen Poe’s shirt story, The Mask of the Red Death. Maybe would our actions be warranted if it were the Red Death? Can a disease render us so afraid of dying that we forget to live? What would we do with a redeemer who has such overwhelming magnificence that he can overcome that very death? When we stare into the starry night and behold its boundlessness, does it move us to wonder and worship, or do we get a case of the jitters and run inside? What is it we long for? Is it safety? Is it comfort? Is it convenience? If so, this is a small god we seek. A safe god, a tame god. It is a little ‘g’ god that cannot be worshipped let alone be a redeemer.
In our first passage, we hear Job’s words. Job has been stripped of his wealth, family, and health. He has complained to God and to his counsellors. His counsellors are unmoved. They are convinced that because of their comforts, their conveniences, and the safety they and not Job are in right relationship to God. They know that Job has somehow been a bad man and they have repeatedly urged him to confess and be done with his sins so he can get back in God’s favor. These counsellors have a small space for God.
But Job is done with trying to reason with un-hearing men. These words in chapter 19 are his confession of faith. He is no longer complaining or professing his virtue. He has turned his attention to God. Like the man in Yancey’s book on Prayer, Job seeks the only helper capable of dealing with such vastness with such a topsy turvy world. Job prays for and testifies to a redemption and a life not of this world. In short Job turns his thoughts to Heaven.
He challenges his colleagues to pay attention.
23 “Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
Job is changing tac here. H is saying not me, but my God, I will testify to.
I will no longer defend myself but turn my attention wholly to God. He knows he
will see no earthly peace. He has lamented his lot but now is focused on
greater things. Job tells his listener to mark well his words. Thinking of this,
thousands of years later we have his words. His prayer was answered by God. In
gorgeous testimony Job tells us:
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Job here tells us of Jesus, of Emmanuel, God among us, who humbled Himself
and came to earth. He humbled Himself even to death and that death on a cross.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
Job is not here bartering with God and expecting riches for Job’s testimony.
Job is clearly certain he will die and see no earthly revival. Yet he knows he
will live beyond death and not only live but see God.
27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
This is the testimony of someone who longs after God. Job loves God, even in distress, even when his world is upside down, yet he is God’s man through and through. The man of prayer in Yancey’s book is like Job. He is God’s man through and through.
What about us? Are we God’s men and women? Do we love God? Do we wait for Him in times of inconvenience or discomfort or trouble, or do we set about trying to fix the problem without prayer without Scripture, without a right relationship with God? Who do we love?
In our second passage form John 11, Jesus not only conquers death for Lazarus but Jesus proclaims that He, Jesus, is the resurrection and the life. These are bold words, but they are also new words even today. What does it mean to be the Resurrection? What does it mean to be the Life? What is the difference, then, between being able to resurrect someone, as Jesus did with Lazarus, and actually being the Resurrection? In the second statement Jesus is the resurrection; He is without limits. Time and space no longer constrain Him. Also, death does not constrain Him. It is not so much that He has the power to resurrect, but is the very Resurrection itself, for Lazarus and as we will see in the next statement for you and for me. Then follows the statement, “and the life.” Jesus is the life. He is not constrained by time nor space nor even death. Those physical rules of the Earth are not His, but we are His, and therefore we live in Him. He is life, and He is our life.
Going back to that powerful passage of Job, I know that my redeemer lives, notice that Job speaks of Job’s redeemer. It is personal. It speaks to the notion of kinsman redeemer. In the story of Ruth, Boaz becomes Ruth’s kinsman redeemer. Job is speaking of that kind of redeemer, someone who saves another; a kinsman who saves one of his own that is without recourse. Job had been stripped of wealth and family and health. He turned to his only hope, his kinsman redeemer, Goel. This redeemer Job speaks of is a redeemer of life. In fact, this redeemer is life, and calls Himself so in our passage from John. Now notice here how clearly these ideas come together. We are God’s children, His kin. He, Jesus, is our kinsman redeemer. He has purchased our very lives form the edge of hell. He is our personal redeemer, our kinsman redeemer, our corporate redeemer of the church and the very definition of the resurrection. In Him, through Him, by Him and of Him we live, and are made whole and pure.
Our joy in this is beyond expression, it is the vastness of the starry sky. It outside of our understanding.
In Psalm 27:13-14 David says I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
That is what we are to do. We are to take heart and wait for the Lord. Search the starry skies and walk confidently to testify even in a topsy turvy world, - even as we stare in the limitless sky or sea. Remember that we worship a mighty God, the only One with the power to save, the only One without constraints of time or space or even death, the only One worthy of worship. Let us testify to that in a world gone mad with the comfortable, convenient, and safe. Let us claim with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives.”