Questions from the Street: “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Us?”

Mark Wheeler

April 27, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Job 1:13-22

Questions from the Street: “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Us?”

Loving God, You hear Your peoples’ cry. We turn to You for understanding, comfort, and help. We praise and thank You for Your wisdom, Your strength, and Your unfailing love, made ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A long-awaited baby is born – with muscular dystrophy. A beloved spouse is rendered inactive by a stroke. A saintly Christian agonizes with bone cancer. An honest, hardworking merchant loses his business. A devoted spouse is left for another partner. A small nation fighting high poverty and unemployment is hit by a ruinous earthquake. A tiny child is orphaned by a drunk driver. A crack baby faces a very disadvantaged future.

You get the point. Your story is probably different from any of those – but not very different. The question we all ask is: Why do these kinds of bad things happen? Why do they happen to us? Why do they happen at all?

And the other side of the same coin is: Why do good things seem to happen for the already rich, already famous, already taken-care-of? Why do even wicked, evil people seem to experience more “blessing” than I do?

The underlying question, for believers, for Christians, is: How could a good, all-powerful, loving God allow life to be so unfair?!

Today is the first message is a series dealing with those kinds of questions. This particular question, in several different formats, came to me from several people – that’s why it is first to be addressed. Show of hands: Who here today has ever asked a question like this? Yep. I knew I wasn’t alone.

The book of Job, I believe, addresses this question – at least a little. So that is where we will start. How can a God who is both good and powerful let good people suffer and bad people prosper?

So, turn with me to Job 1. I actually read a piece of this yesterday at the memorial service for Judy – because she did not “deserve” to suffer; and neither does Gene. But today, allow me to read a little further from the text. Job 1:13-22…. —-

13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”                                                

                                                (KJV says, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away;

                                                                                Blessed be the name of the Lord.”)

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

We all know this story, right? For whom here is this one of your favorite Bible books to read? For those who don’t know it, and as a reminder for those who do – here’s a very quick recap:

Job is introduced as, like, the most righteous person on the face of the earth. And for those of you my age: “righteous” does not mean “far out” and “super cool” – it means that he lives a life of true integrity; he is faithful to God; he credits God with his prosperity and success; he raises his children to honor God; he lives in a healthy, open, honest relationship with his Maker.

And then a weird scene in heaven happens where Satan challenges God’s man, Job, by saying, “Of course he loves You, God. Look at all You have given him. But let me take it away and You will see that he only loves You for what You do for him, not for who You ARE to him.” And God says, essentially, “OK Satan. You’re on!

I wonder if I live a life worthy of Satan challenging God with my faithfulness. How would you do if you lost everything, everyone? Did you see how Job did? What does it say?

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,       and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;       may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

So, for Job, the suffering was a direct result, not of his sin, but of a world in which Satan has been allowed some measure of influence over us. That is why we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Some translations read that as, “rescue us from the evil one.”

That is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan tempted Eve and Adam to choose to listen him instead of to God. And the result was suffering – for them and for every generation ever since. The perfect world of “no suffering” became a broken world “filled with suffering”. Have you experienced this brokenness?

Why do we suffer? There is no single answer which can address every occasion of suffering; but let me throw a few answers to you, and you can see if one fits your particular question.

1)   Many evils are caused by the misuse of human freedom. The mother of a crack baby – the result is suffering. The drunk driver hits the young father – the result is someone suffers. Sometimes the freedom is a little more innocent, but still leads to someone suffering: we choose to keep eating double bacon cheeseburgers, and the result is a heart attack; we stay up late watching TV, and the result is sleeping through a final exam the next morning; we think we have to get to work early on a slightly snowy day and the only available vehicle is our motorcycle, and the result is needing a ride to work every day (and surgery, and pain killers, and physical therapy, and the need for a little sympathy) for dozens of weeks! These sometimes sinful, sometimes mistaken actions of limited, fallible, self-centered, disadvantaged human beings cause much undeserved suffering.

2)   Some suffering is punishment(discipline is a better word) for sin. We choose to cohabitate without the covenant of marriage, and hearts are broken. We decide to fill our loneliness with someone other than our spouse, and a covenant bond is destroyed. We cannot violate God’s laws of nature and relationships without facing the consequences sooner or later.

3)   Suffering is good discipline! Hardships develop character, right? We might become better persons with deeper faith through dealing with loss, pain, handicap, and illness. Just before I typed this paragraph yesterday, I lost my “un-saved” sermon, and had to start over. And I realized – a test of faith through a pretty minor illustration of suffering like that might have been God’s way of reminding me that “a little pain” can call me back to Him. Remember CS Lewis’ claim that “Pain is God’s megaphone.” In the New Testament book of Hebrews we are told, “Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there for whom a parent does not discipline? … We had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject the Father of spirits and live? … He disciplines us for our good … Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11). Discipline yields “righteousness” – there’s that description of Job again.

4)   Suffering is needed as a contrast to pleasure.This, in my humble opinion, is the weakest argument for why suffering happens – but it is true. Without a loss, we take for granted what we have. Have you ever given something to the Just-for-Fun Yard Sale because you never use that thing anyway – and then the week after it sold at the Yard Sale you find a need for it? Without suffering, we don’t really enjoy pleasure, because we don’t realize that it is pleasure. In the winter, most of us don’t even think about our furnace – until it goes out! Sometimes, I believe, God gives us hard times to help us be more grateful for life’s blessings.

5)   Suffering is a necessary prelude to new life and hope. This is the message of the cross. It takes suffering to produce new life. Only through the pains of childbirth can an infant be born. Spring would not be so joyous without the barrenness of winter. Jesus tells us, “If anyone wants to be my disciple, he must take up his cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life must lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake … will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion.

As one continues reading through the book of Job, what we discover is that Job wants his readers to understand that it is a living relationship with our living God that gets us through the hard times. In Job 19:25-27 he shouts out, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end of time He will stand upon the earth! … How my heart yearns within me!

Maybe our suffering is nothing more than God helping us know how much we need Him!

Job wants us to know that God is real – and accessible – to all who call upon Him – and that God is always present in our struggle to face and to overcome the suffering.

I don’t mean that we don’t already truly intellectually agree that God is real, that He is almighty, or that He loves us. We very well might totally agree with that. But understanding that academic truth does not mean we have a full-on, trusting, relationship with that God! And that’s what’s at stake.

Loving God, You hear Your peoples’ cry. We turn to You for understanding, comfort, and help. We praise and thank You for Your wisdom, Your strength, and Your unfailing love, made ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Resources:

Kaiser, Walter C. ; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, IL; 1988; Pp. 149-151.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 374.

Wingeier, Douglas E., and Watson, David Lowes; Troublesome Bible Passages; Abingdon Press; Nashville, TN; 1994; Pp. 20-24.

So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about the Kingdom of God”

Mark Wheeler

Palm Sunday, 6th Sunday in Lent, April 13, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Mark 1:14-15

So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about the Kingdom of God

Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest! Jesus, You are the King of kings and Lord of all lords! And we praise Your holy name! Amen .

I have heard life described like this: Man’s life is made up of 20 years of his mother asking him where he is going, 50 years of his wife asking him where he has been, and one hour at his funeral when everyone wonders where he has gone.

I imagine that for a Presbyterian pastor, it goes more like: the congregation spends 20 minutes wondering where he is going with this sermon, the elders spend 5 minutes wondering what he’s been drinking this morning, and then everyone is wondering when we’ll get out of here.

In these weeks leading up to Easter we have been looking at the whole Bible and seeing how, from Genesis through Revelation, it is knit together as a singular story covering thousands of years written by dozens of authors in different languages across hundreds of miles.

We saw that on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He walked with two of His disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus and explained to them, from Moses and the Prophets, how He was the ultimate fulfillment of everything Scripture talks about. And we have followed some of the possible themes Jesus might have used to help His walking partners discover this truth; so we have examined the themes of Creation and the Fall, Love and Sacrifice, and Promise – and in each case we have witnessed how the Holy Spirit used those themes in the Bible to tell the story of Jesus, from 4,000+ years before Jesus was born to the end times yet to be experienced – the whole Bible points to Jesus.

This is our last week of this sermon series, and today we tackle the theme of the Kingdom of God.

So, what’s the biblical story of the Kingdom of God? Let’s start with Jesus and then move back and forward again. The Gospel according to Mark begins, not with the Christmas narrative like Matthew and Luke, and not with the Creation story like John; Mark begins with the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at these words from Mark 1:14-15 …. —-

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

In a few minutes we are going to celebrate the receiving of seven new members to this congregation! These seven new members could probably clearly articulate an answer to the question I’m about to ask – so if you are one of the new family-member people, do not answer this question out loud – let the others around you answer: What do you think of when you hear the words “Kingdom of God”? [Answers from the congregation… – expect to hear something about “heaven”, “paradise”, “peace”, “no more crying, etc”]

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God has come near!” And He called this Good News (Gospel)! What did He mean?

Some of you talk about the Kingdom of God every day – when you pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.What, exactly, are you praying for?

I think, what the Bible means by “Kingdom of God” always has something to do with our total submission to the Lordship of Christ. It means we are expected to surrender ourselves to God as the One who is in charge. God is sovereign, and therefore, we are under His rule.

That’s why Jesus said, “The time has come – the Kingdom of God has come near – repent and believe the Good News!Paul said, in II Corinthians 6, “For [God] says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ (Isaiah 49) I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, today is the day of salvation!

Let’s grab a cursory gander at how the Bible, from Moses and the Prophets, understands the Kingdom of God.

In Genesis, we see pictures of God’s Kingdom right from the very opening pages – the Creation stories describe God, in His whole majesty, as the King of the universeCreator of heaven and earth, and ruler of all that dwells therein. From Adam and Eve and God’s commands to be obeyed, to the destruction of humanity in the Noah and the flood story and His salvation of humanity through Noah and his family, to the call of Abram and the promise of salvation through one of Abram’s offspring, to the stories of Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and beyond. On every page God is seen as sovereign – in charge – ruler of all. Not only in the here-after – but also in the here-and-now!

In the history books of the Old Testament, again, we see pictures of God ruling His people. The Israelites were a theocratic society, God was their ruler – but they wanted a king like all their neighbors had. Finally, God gave them what they asked for – and they were sorry almost every day thereafter.

In the books of the Chronicles one king of Judah and one king of Israel after the next are said to, either, do what is right according to God or do what is evil according to God. Their lives were closer to Kingdom of God realities when God was pleased with their king’s leadership – and they were further from God’s Kingdom realities when they worshiped the Baals and set up Asherah poles and did evil in God’s eyes. The fact that the rulers were compared to God tells us that God’s Kingdom was different – experience-able, but not attainable.

The Psalms, and the other books of the writings in the Old Testament, are chalk full of Kingdom of God talk. Many of our hymns and praise choruses come directly from the book of Psalms, and many of them describe something of God’s majesty, God’s royalty, and our humble submission to Him, as their main subject of song and doctrine.

And the Prophets are filled with forth-tellings of what God wants for and from His people, and fore-tellings of how God will accomplish His Kingdom purposes. Our Thursday Bible study group just finished a thorough study of Isaiah where we saw prophecy after prophecy about the Kingdom of God, and about the King of all kings.

The New Testament, as one might easily imagine, has more easily recognizable references to the Kingdom of God. Again, with a quick run-through of the different sections of the New Testament we’ll catch a glimpse of how God reveals His Kingdom truths to us.

In the Gospels we see Jesus as the Creator God, the Savior from the Fall, the ultimate expression of God’s Love, the fulfillment of the covenantal Promise, and the true King of all creation. Jesus was crucified, not for breaking Jewish laws, but for claiming to be the King of a Kingdom no one could see!

Matthew details Jesus as the definitive King of kings; Mark reveals Jesus as the prophetic fulfillment of the Suffering Servant; Luke makes sure we see Jesus as the Savior for all mankind; and John convinces his readers that Jesus is the Son of God. All said and done – the Kingdom of God has come near – it is time to repent and believe!

How do we seek first the Kingdom of God, and experience the blessings of God’s provisions in this life?

The book of the Acts of the Apostles is the only actual “history book” of the New Testament – and in it we see the followers of Christ bowing before the King and living into the Kingdom of God – and thousands were added to their number, and the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized, and the jailor and his family became believers, and Paul was called into discipleship, and a handful of former Mission Community Presbyterians and a lady from the neighborhood and a brand new believer joined the LPC family fellowship – and the Kingdom of God grew.

How do we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as King, and give God the glory, every day?

Paul’s Epistles and the General Letters of the New Testament are all written to specific peoples for specific reasons concerning specific situations – and all of them instruct and exhort about how to experience the Kingdom of God here in this life to the fullest, and a few of them hold out the hope of what the final glory of God’s Kingdom will be like.

How do we understand the rule of God over us?

In the book of Hebrews, for 13 chapters, we are told how Jesus is better, bigger, stronger, faster, than anything else in the history of all Creation! And as such, He alone is worthy of our worship and service. Hebrews describes the Kingdom of God in terms of comparison to the Temple of Jerusalem, with all its splendor and gold, all its meaning and importance, as only a mere shadow, a whisper, of the glory the real-true Kingdom of God. In The Great Divorce, CS Lewis describes heaven in like terms – it so much more “solid” and “real” that the best and most beautiful of what we see on earth is murky dearth in comparison.

Will we join with the great cloud of witnesses and bow down before Jesus, the Lord of the Universe?

And finally, the book of Revelation, for some of you it is the best book in the Bible and for others it is the one you will most hide from, the whole book, in amazing and difficult to understand prophetic poetry, describes the Kingdom of God – waiting for us to respond to our invitation to enter it!

Will you say YES?! Will you enter into God’s glorious presence with songs of cheer?

The Kingdom of God has come near – repent and believetoday is the day of salvation.

If you are already a Christian – experience the Kingdom of God as fully as you can! God has chosen you … because God loves you!

If you are not yet a Christian believer, but you think you might want to be – hear God inviting you into His Kingdom, and RSVP with a willing spirit. God wishes that no one would be outside the Kingdom of God – all you need do is accept Him, and then know that God has chosen you … because God loves you!

Today is Palm Sunday, the day commemorating Christ’s entry into Jerusalem and the crowds praising Him with shouts of Hosanna as their new-found king, to liberate them from Rome, with Palm branches waving and lowered to the streets – – – may we welcome Jesus as our new-found King of kings, with shouts of Hallelujah and palms raised upward in sweet surrender to God as our Lord.

The first 70 (or 80 or 94) years of a Man’s life might be made up of a mother and a wife asking about his direction; but the one hour at his funeral does not need to be people wondering where he has gone.By receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior, by making Him our most valued treasure on earth, we can tell them where we’ve gone before ever even leave.

The Kingdom of God has come near to you – do not miss it – accept your invitation in – repent and believe. Amen.

Resources:

Lawrence, Michael; Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; 2010; Pp. 195-198.

Wheeler, Mark; The Ledger newsletter; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; 03/2014.

So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about Promise”

Mark Wheeler

5th Sunday in Lent, April 6, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:2-3; Luke 2:16-20; Luke 23:44-24:12

So, What’s the Story? “Let’s Talk about Promise

Source of persistent hope, when the world totters because of injustice and wickedness fills the land, we trust that Your justice will prevail. So we will rejoice in You and find our peace in Jesus our Savior. Amen .

I cross my heart and hope to die!”Seriously? What does “I cross my heart” even mean? And do you seriously “hope to die”?

I remember thinking those exact thoughts when I was a kid, in 2nd grade, when my friend Mike Slota wanted to borrow my bike and promised to return it in an hour.

We make promises all the time – and we break promises most of the time – because we aren’t always in control of life’s schedules and situations. I have promised to be someplace, or to help someone, or to give something – and because I over-slept, over-scheduled, or simply over-stretched my capabilities have not followed through. Or my car wouldn’t start, or my computer crashed, or a flight was delayed, and a promise was broken. And you all know exactly what I’m talking about.

Michael Lawrence, in his book about biblical theology, writes, “We habitually build our lives around promises. From mortgages to wedding vows, from Netflix to NATO, in large ways, our whole world is built around the idea that promises are made to be kept. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pricked America’s conscience when he said, ‘Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.’ And General MacArthur imbued hope in thousands when he promised, ‘I shall return!’

Promises help us to make sense of an unknown future. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” gave us hope for a sequel; Jennifer’s “until death us do part” helps me plan next week; your pledge to give to the ministries of your church allows your elders to order next month’s outreach projects.

The fact that our lives depend so heavily on promises, both individually and collectively, mean our lives are spent waiting, hoping, and believing. Again, Michael Lawrence says, “In between a promise and its fulfillment is a delay, and that delay requires us to live by faith.”

Because promises are broken so regularly, so frequently, we become timid and anxious waiters and hopers and believers. Your friends have broken promises; your parents have broken promises; your children have broken promises; your bosses have broken promises; your spouse has broken promises; your pastor has broken promises. Not because we mean to, but just because life happens all over us.

So I have a theory why we even make promises anymore. I think the reason we still live in the muddle of promises made is because we were made in the image of God – and God makes promises! We live in a universe created by a God who makes promises!

In these weeks leading up to Easter we are taking the time to look at the whole Bible and see how, from Genesis through Revelation, it is knit together as a singular story covering thousands of years written by dozens of authors in different languages across hundreds of miles.

On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, He walked with two of His disciples from Jerusalem to Emmaus and explained to them, from Moses and the Prophets, how He was the ultimate fulfillment of everything Scripture talks about. So this week, we are looking at the biblical theme of Promise, and seeing how it follows from Moses to the Messiah to you and me.

One thing we can clearly see is that the Bible is nothing more than a story of a single promise. When we understand this story we will be in a position to heal from the wounds of broken promises, and help others recover from their broken promise pains and injuries, too.

So, what’s the biblical story of God’s promise? It begins in the most unlikely of places: In Genesis 3, immediately after Adam and Eve choose to sin by going against God’s declared expectations, God gives what we usually call a curse – expelled from the Garden of Eden and relegated to labor and work; but in the middle of that curse God blesses them with a promise.

Genesis 3:14-15 …. —-

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, [lied about God’s character & convinced Adam and Eve to sin]

“Cursed are you above all livestock       and all wild animals!   You will crawl on your belly       and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.   15 And I will put enmity   between you and the woman,    and between your offspringand hers;
he will crushyour head,     and you will strike his heel.”

The first 11 chapters of Genesis offer wide sweeping stories of history with very few details – stories of betrayal and love, stories of heart-ache and forgiveness, and stories of decisive rebellion against God and of God making and keeping His promise – He holds Cain responsible for murder and protects him from ambush; God holds humanity accountable for evil and He rescues humanity through Noah and his family and makes a promise with the “bow in the sky”; God scatters people all over the earth and He promises to bring us all together again through the bloodline of Abraham.

Let’s jump down to that story in Genesis 12. God chooses Abram, an elderly, childless man, to be a great nation, and He calls them to be a blessing, an expression of God’s love, to the whole world. Listen to Genesis 12:2-3 …. —-

“I will make you into a great nation,      and I will bless you;   I will make your name great,       and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

  • The promise of God’s love is duly kept in this story. God completely fulfills this promise. He keeps His promise with Isaac, then with Jacob, then with Jacob’s descendents who are called the Israelites.
  • And God gives that nation a covenant and calls them to be a blessing, an expression of God’s love to the whole world. The class that I’m taking on Monday nights uses the phrase, “We are blessed to be a blessing.” Think how wrong it would be to receive the greatest blessing ever, and to not share it with others, with everyone!
  • Like Adam, the nation of Israel rebels against God by turning to other gods, idols that their own hands have made; and God responds by judging Israel, but throughout the judgment God continues to keep His promise with His people.
  • Joseph gets sold into slavery to the Egyptians – and God keeps His promise.
  • Moses hears God’s voice – and God keeps His promise.
  • The people aren’t allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their rebellion – but God brings them Joshua and keeps His promise.
  • During the time of the Judges, when “there was no king in Israel” and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” – God kept His promise.
  • The people demanded a king – they crowned Saul – but God gave them David and kept His promise.
  • With prophet after prophet, God kept reminding the people of His promise.

Now, let’s jump the 2,000 years from Moses through the prophets to the Messiah. Scholars tell us that Moses lived about 2,000 years BC, and tradition says that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s jump the 2,000 years from Moses to Jesus, where we find yet another “story-telling of God’s Promise” in Luke 2:16-20 …. —-

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Somebody has counted the Old Testament prophecies concerning the future coming Messiah – the usual number that these “counting-specialists” come up with is something like 365 – and do you know how many of those Old TestamentMessianic” prophecies were fulfilled in this “baby, who was lying in the manger”? Can you say, “All of them!

This is where God’s promise to Adam and Eve, and to Abram, and to Moses, and to David, and to you and me, reaches its full-blown power and presence. God finally keeps His promise by giving us Jesus!

Let’s just look at one more passage. Your Sermon Notes page has a typo – that last passage should say Luke 23:44-Luke 24:12. Hear the Word of God …. —-

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” [48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.]

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

[When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.] 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Promise made by GodPromise kept by God.

You see, I serve risen Savior, He’s in the world today;   I know that He is living whatever men may say;   I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer,   And just the time I need Him, He’s always near. … You ask me how I know He lives?   He lives within my heart.

Let me add a quick end-note here. The fact that God is a trustworthy, dependable God does not mean that I foolishly think that life will now suddenly become easy.

I have a friend – a brother in Christ – who is behind bars, I believe, because of a breakdown in the justice system. I have friends who are wonderful parents, whose daughter has just been taken from them and given to another, again because of a breakdown in the justice system. Yesterday I buried a good friend and colleague who was a devoted follower of Jesus – and he was only 54 years old, riddled with cancer and the effects of cancer treatments that ravaged his heart and lungs.

So why do I put my faith in this Jesus? Why have I decided to follow Him with as much of myself as I can put in His care? Why do I believe He is the answer to the ultimate questions of life?

It is because when I read the Bible I discover the themes of Creation and the Fall, Sacrifice and Love, and Promisefrom Moses and the Prophets, through the whole Old Testament, and through the New Testament – as a singular story of God and His love for us. You ask me how I know He lives?   He lives within my heart.

If you are already a Christian – know that you are included in God’s promise! God has chosen you … because God loves you!

If you are not yet a Christian believer, but you think you might want to be – know that you, too, can be included in God’s promise. God wishes that no one would be outside His fulfilled promise – all you need do is accept Him, and then know that God has chosen you … because God loves you!

Jesus not only said it, He actually did it – He “crossed His heart – and He died” for you. Amen.

Resources:

Lawrence, Michael; Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; 2010; Pp. 165-176.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Faith Alive Resources; 2012; P. 368.

Wheeler, Mark; The Ledger newsletter; Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church; 03/2014.