Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

This morning I am reminded that we live in a broken world marred by death, corruption and wickedness.  This all stems from a sin back in the Garden of Eden and the resulting curse we all sit under.  This causes pain, grief and mourning.  Yet, our hope is in Jesus Christ.  This story from the life of Christ ought to remind us that he is the resurrection we hope for.  He is the life we need.  Jesus is the one who will one day reverse the curse.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus[a]was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered,“Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them,“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,[b] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles[c] off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said,“Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

– John 11:1-44

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Puppies, Butterflies, and a Savior

When I was ten years old, I had a puppy named Tina. You would have loved her. She was the perfect pet. An irresistible, pug-nosed Pekingese pup. One ear fell over, and the other ear stood straight up. She never tired of playing and yet never got in the way.

Her mother died when she was born so the rearing of the puppy fell to me. I fed her milk from a doll bottle and used to sneak out at night to see if she was warm. I’ll never forget the night I took her to bed with me only to have her mess on my pillow. We made quite a pair. My first brush with parenthood.

One day I went into the backyard to give Tina her dinner. I looked around and spotted her in a corner near the fence. She had cornered a butterfly (as much as a butterfly can be cornered) and was playfully yelping and jumping in the air trying to catch the butterfly in her mouth. Amused, I watched her for a few minutes and then called to her.

“Tina! Come here, girl! It’s time to eat!”

What happened next surprised me. Tina stopped her playing and looked at me. But instead of immediately scampering in my direction, she sat back on her haunches. Then she tilted her head back toward the butterfly, looked back at me, then back to the butterfly, and then back to me. For the first time in her life, she had to make a decision. Her “want to” longed to pursue the butterfly which tauntingly awaited her in midair. Her “should” knew she was supposed to obey her master. A classic struggle of the will: a war between the “want” and the “should.” The same question that has faced every adult now faced my little puppy.

And do you know what she did? She chased the butterfly!

Scurrying and barking, she ignored my call and chased that silly thing until it flew over the fence.

That is when the guilt hit.

She stopped at the fence for a long time, sitting back on her hind legs looking up in the air where the butterfly had made its exit. Slowly, the excitement of the chase was overshadowed by the guilt of disobedience. She turned painfully and walked back to encounter her owner. (To be honest, I was a little miffed.) Her head was ducked as she regretfully trudged across the yard. For the first time in her life, she felt guilty. She had violated her “should” and had given in to her “want.” My heart melted, however, and I called her name again. Sensing forgiveness, Tina darted into my hands. (I always was a softy.)

Now, I may be overdoing it a bit. I don’t know if a dog can really feel guilty or not. But I do know a human can. And whether the sin is as slight as chasing a butterfly or as serious as sleeping with another man’s wife, the effects are the same. Guilt creeps in on cat’s paws and steals whatever joy might have flickered in our eyes.

Confidence is replaced by doubt, and honesty is elbowed out by rationalization.

Exit peace. Enter turmoil.

Just as the pleasure of indulgence ceases, the hunger for relief begins. Our vision is shortsighted, and our myopic life now has but one purpose—to find release for our guilt. Or as Paul questioned for all of us, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

That’s not a new question. One hardly opens the Bible before he encounters humanity coping, or more frequently, failing to cope, with guilt. Adam and Eve’s rebellion led to shame and hiding. Cain’s jealousy led to murder and banishment. And before long, the entire human race was afflicted. Evil abounded and the people grew wicked. The heart of man grew so cold that he no longer sought relief for his callused conscience. And, in what has to be the most fearful Scripture in the Bible, God says that He was sorry that He had made man on earth (Genesis 6:6). All of this from man’s inability to cope with sin.

If only we had a guilt-kidney that would pass on our failures or a built-in eraser that would help us live with ourselves. But we don’t. In fact, that is precisely the problem.

Man Cannot Cope with Guilt Alone

When Adam was created, he was created without the ability to cope with guilt. Why? Because he was not made to make mistakes. But when he did, he had no way to deal with it. When God pursued him to help him, Adam covered his nakedness and hid in shame. Man by himself cannot deal with his own guilt. He must have help from the outside. In order to forgive himself, he must have forgiveness from the One he has offended. Yet man is unworthy to ask God for forgiveness.

That, then, is the whole reason for the cross.

The cross did what sacrificed lambs could not do. It erased our sins, not for a year, but for eternity. The cross did what man could not do. It granted us the right to talk with, love, and even live with God. You can’t do that by yourself. I don’t care how many worship services you attend or good deeds you do, your goodness is insufficient. You can’t be good enough to deserve forgiveness. No one bats a thousand. No one bowls three hundred. No one.

Not you, not me, not anyone. That’s why we have guilt in the world.

That’s why we need a Savior.

You can’t forgive me for my sins nor can I forgive you for yours. Two kids in a mud puddle can’t clean each other.
They need someone clean. Someone spotless. We need someone clean too. That’s why we need a Savior.

What my little puppy needed was exactly what you and I need – a Master who would extend His hands and say, “Come on, that’s okay.” We don’t need a master who will judge us on our performance, or we’ll fall woefully short. Trying to make it to heaven on our own goodness is like trying to get to the moon on a moon beam; nice idea, but try it and see what happens.
Listen. Quit trying to quench your own guilt. You can’t do it. There’s no way. Not with a bottle of whiskey or perfect Sunday school attendance. Sorry. I don’t care how bad you are. You can’t be bad enough to forget it. And I don’t care how good you are. You can’t be good enough to overcome it.

You need a Savior.

– Max Lucado,
Second Chances: More Stories of Grace

With Thanksgiving…

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

– Philippians 4:4-8

Contentment Celebrates Grace

But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. –  I Timothy 6:6-10

Contentment celebrates grace. The contented heart is satisfied with the Giver and is therefore freed from craving the next gift.

Sin does two very significant things to us all. First, it causes us all to insert ourselves into the center of our worlds, making life all about us. In our self-focus, we are all too motivated by our wants, our needs, and our feelings, and because we are, we tend to be more aware of what we don’t have than of the many wonderful blessings that we have been given. But there is more; because we are self-focused, we tend to be scorekeepers, constantly comparing our piles of stuff to the piles of others. It’s a life of discontentment and envy. Envy is always selfish.

There is a second thing of equal significance that sin does to us. It causes us to look horizontally for what can only ever be found vertically. So we look to creation for life, hope, peace, rest, contentment, identity, meaning and purpose, inner peace, and motivation to continue. The problem is that nothing in creation can give you these things. Creation was never designed to satisfy your heart. Creation was made to be one big finger pointing you to the One who alone has the ability to satisfy your heart. Many people will get up today and in some way will ask creation to be their savior, that is, to give them what only God is able to give.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25–26). These are the words of a man who learned the secret to contentment. When you are satisfied with the Giver, because you have found in him the life you were looking for, you are freed from the ravenous quest for satisfaction that is the discouraging existence of so many people. Yes, it is true that your heart will rest only ever when it has found its rest in him.

Here is one of the most beautiful fruits of grace—a heart that is content, more given to worship than demand and more given to the joy of gratitude than the anxiety of want. It is grace and grace alone that can make this kind of peaceful living possible for each of us. Won’t you reach out today for that grace?

– Paul Tripp

The Humility of Help

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. 15 And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. 16 And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately itconvulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth.21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. Butif you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

– Mark 9:14-29

Church Sins

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with itspassions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. – Galatians 5:16-26

“Everyone has sins they focus on and sins they ignore.  The tendency, of course, is to focus on the sins of others and ignore your own.  The church is no different.  So here’s a proposal:  Deal with the church sin everyone in the church seems to tolerate.  Let me explain.  When you explore a passage like Galatians 5:16-26, you notice that included in the same list that speaks of sexual sins is a long list of what I call church sins.  Church sins are sins Christians engage in all the time that, frankly, no one talks about or addresses.  Right alongside sexual immorality, impurity and ‘wild parties,’ Paul lists: hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, jealousy, and arrogance.  If you add gossip and gluttony to the list, you’ve pretty much got a complete list of church sins we too often tolerate.  This list of sins actually describes the life of too many churches and too many people who would declare themselves to be ‘mature’ Christians. We are so blind to our own sins that we not only tolerate them, we sometimes celebrate them.  What do I mean?  Too many prayer meetings are thinly disguised gossip marathons.  Many churches could easily call their next potluck Gluttonfest. It wouldn’t be inaccurate.  More than a few Christians justify division, dissension, hostility, quarreling and jealousy in the name of being ‘right.’  This is terrible. It really is  And before you think I’m pointing fingers, I’m not.  I have gossiped, eaten too much too often, caused division and hurt, struggled  with envy, and I can be arrogant.  Don’t get me wrong … sexual sin has some heartbreaking consequences, but so does church sin. Seriously, just look at the state of the church today where church sin gets neglected, and you will see droves of people staying away and walking away.  So … what if church leaders: Never talked about sexual sin unless we also addressed church sin?  It would reframe the conversation.  It might even change some hearts. Including ours.

– Cary Nieuwhof

To be with Jesus

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem,with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. – Acts 14:7-13

In Acts 4:13, it is said of the religious authorities that, “…they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  What an interesting concept – to have a relationship with Jesus that is so strong that it is even evident to others, especially your enemies.  For years I have questioned just how many believers have more than a “ships that pass in the night” relationship to our Heavenly Father.  My impression is that few spend much time with Him in either the Word or prayer, and that even those who have “devotions” do so in a rather sporadic, habitual, casual manner.  These men had been with Jesus, and it had changed them in a way that was visible, and those visible changes made an impact even on members of the Sanhedran.

I have no problem with “Our Daily Bread” (nor with the good folks that produce it), but I don’t think a few minutes reading a devotion and even checking the Scripture on which it is based actually counts for a genuine relationship.  Time with the booklet is better than no time with the Lord at all, but I really can’t think of anyone who has been dramatically changed by reading it.  It seems to me that a Biblical relationship with the Lord is not something relegated to a five hasty five minute “good morning. Lord” approach.  We are told to pray without ceasing, to always be conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, to resist the devil, to be sufficiently aware of sin that we don’t deliberately participate in it, and many other things.

To my thinking, a relationship with the Lord is an “all the time” matter in which we are constantly aware of His presence, continually talking with Him about even the most mundane matters and consciously aware of allowing Him and His Word to shape up into His image in such a way that ever the most doubting can see the difference.

– Chuck Wood
The Woodchuck’s Den