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Job: Why do bad things happen to good people?

My Mother in law had a bird feeder in her backyard and when Joanna and I were staying with her we would fill it from time to time, especially if it was something that Declan wanted to do. But it didn’t always have food in it. And when the bird feeder was empty, of course you would watch birds fly over to it, look for food and then fly away and it made me wonder… do the birds ever consider why it’s empty? Do they look for patterns or connections? Do they notice that it’s only filled on Sunday, or that it doesn’t have food when it’s raining, and more importantly, do they ever wonder ….if the bird feeder is empty, is it because of something that they’ve done?

Doubtful. What more than likely happens is, birds fly over to find food in our backyard, don’t find any and then fly on to another spot without ever giving it a second thought.

But human beings are different aren’t they? “Human beings are meaning -makers.” When something happens, we look for patterns, for reasons, for explanations. When Edward Jennifer noticed that milkmaids seemed less vulnerable to small pox, he fashioned a vaccine that virtually eliminated the disease. Alexander Fleming noticed that mold in bread kept his bacteria from reproducing and that led to the creation of penicillin.

If something happens to a stranger, we don’t look for meaning, right? It’s just life. But if it happens to us – we say, “I wonder what this means…” If that event is bad, then we might even assume that we caused it. And we’ll say things like, “I wonder what I did to deserve this.”

We question bad things. “Why? Why did this happen to me? At this time?” Because if we can come up with an answer, for some reason, then the misfortune and the heartache doesn’t seem so bad. We feel better… we feel better even if we believe that we caused it.

Because, I think, people would rather feel anything else …than feel powerless. And we want so much to believe that we live in a world that makes sense. The book of Job is a conversation about God, about good and evil and about punishment, but before we begin, we need to understand the challenges. As a reader, and as you approach the book of Job you may already be thinking:

1. God is all-powerful

2. God is completely good

3. Evil exists

And so here is my question, can all three of those statements be true at the same time? Because that is a hard thing to process. Why does evil exist if God is all-powerful? Can’t he eliminate it? And if he can’t… than is he all powerful? Maybe evil doesn’t exist. Maybe it only appears evil to us because we’re mortal and finite?

This is one of the challenges the book of Job wrestles with.

In the book, the characters have a challenge of their own and it looks like this:

1. God is all-powerful

2. God is completely good

3. Job is a good person

Because would an all powerful God, who is wholly good, let an innocent man suffer? Was Job a blameless and upright man as the Bible depicts? These are the challenges that lie before us for the next 6 weeks of lent.

And we will try to answer the question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Job 1:1-5

land Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

If you can imagine combining a college philosophy text book with a Shakespearean play, that would get you close to the complexities of the book of Job.

In the Hebrew bible – Job falls in the Ketuvim (writings) of the Tanakh, in our Bible it is placed in the Wisdom literature.

Job may in fact be the oldest book in the Bible – with the exception of the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Job is older than Moses, and probably even older than Abraham. Scholars calculate that while he was alive, Job would have lived during the ancient patriarchs (maybe at the time of Noah) of about 2000 B.C.

Job lives in Uz (pronounce Ootz) but we don’t know where that was. It seems to be somewhere close to Edom just East of the Jordan valley.

We also don’t know who wrote the book of Job, all that we know from what is mentioned in the book and of course what isn’t mentioned, is that the author lived sometime before Moses. It’s been speculated that while the Israelites were traveling through the desert during the Exodus, maybe they passed through Uz and Moses met some of Job’s children or grandchildren and they gave him this story.

It is also highly probable that Job wrote the story himself, or at least the narratives that take place between chapters 3 and 41. The book is written in Hebrew, but the language of course is very old and in many cases hard to translate certain words.

In fact the book of Job contains more “unknown words” than any other book of the Bible. The book also seems to be comprised of two documents that were merged together; the prologue of chapters 1 and 2 and the epilogue (chapter 42) are all written in story form and seem to be connected. Chapters 3-41 (the middle) are all written in poetic form and sound as though they were penned by a different hand.

It’s been thought in some circles that the book of Job is fictional or perhaps a play – there are others who would disagree saying that the book describes Heaven and words that God has spoken, and for someone to “invent that” would have been blasphemous. Not to mention that the book of Job records events from Biblical history, like creation, the fall, the flood, the end of the flood and even the tower of Babel.

The prophet Ezekiel thought Job was a real person…

Ezekiel 14:19-20

“Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, 20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

Job’s name means “hated” or “persecuted.” (thanks Mom and Dad) In the story we see him as a prosperous farmer with thousands of sheep, camels and various animals. He has a large family, many homes and several servants; and the Bible says he lived over 100 years.

v3 it says that Job “… possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys…” Notice that he has 500 “female donkeys” meaning he possessed a lot of animals that reproduced and made more – female animals are worth more than male, so the idea that he has so many female animals is another indicator of his wealth and prosperity.

Also notice, that these are all round numbers. Verse two says Job has 7 sons and 3 daughters – so how many kids does Job have? 10! Again, a round number – it means Job’s life is whole. His world is complete. His life is perfect – yes?

The Bible says that Job was “blameless and upright” so much so, that even though Job never did anything wrong, and he never heard of his kids doing anything wrong, as the patriarch and priest of the family, he would offer sacrifices for them “just in case.”

Continuing…

Job 1:6-12

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” 9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Job has a lot of textual evidence to the being known as the Satan (or the accuser). But this is not the red headed pitchfork wielding monster in Milton’s Paradise Lost or Faust or Dante’s Inferno. And we should never confuse them. The Satan of the Bible, is much different that the Devil of Mythology.

Here, the Satan seems to be “God’s spy.” Along time ago, there used to be men who were called “the eyes and ears of the King” and it was the job of these men to wear disguises and infiltrate the shops and markets and to “listen” to common talk, to put an ear to the ground to listen for dissension and discord. “Are the people complaining about the King?”  Maybe they don’t like the rulers? Their local officials? They’re complaining about taxes? Or welfare or medi-care? All of this was recorded and taken back to the King.

It is from this that the Satan gets his name…

v7 says“From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

The phrase “from going and coming” is the word “shoot” or shattat in the Bible and it’s very possible that this is the etymology for the title of  “Satan.” In the Greek, the word for “informer” is diabolos where we get the name Devil and the English word “diabolical.”

In our scene God holds court, all of the heavenly beings are there and the Satan gives his report on who is cheating on their wife, who is over charging their customers and who is mocking God – God takes it all in and says “ok, enough bad news… what about Job? He would never do ANYTHING wrong.”

To this the Satan kind of laughs and says… “Well, of course he is a goody-goody you bless him! He’s wealthy! What has he got to be upset about?” So God says, “I don’t believe you – and I’ll tell you what – do you what you want to take away Job’s blessings in life, but you are not allowed to touch his life.”

And this says a lot about the real Satan of the Bible. Because when you or I are looking for meanings in life, and when bad things happen, I think a common explanation is to say that “Satan is attacking me.” or “The Devil made me do it.” Sometimes in finding meaning to bad times, we place the blame on Satan.

But what do we see from the book of Job?

1. Satan is on a leash. God binds him and releases him. Satan does not exist or act outside of the will of God. If Satan could do whatever he wanted, then God would have no control and thus God would not be God. God puts limits on what Satan can do and how he is involved in the world. What else do we learn?

2. Satan is not all present -Satan is limited by space and time. In other words, he can only be at one place in the word. Here in the passage, the Satan tells God that he has had to travel back and forth from the world. Look, if Satan has time to mess with your one individual life – that means he cares more about you than the other 313 million people in the United States.

3. Satan is not all knowing, in other words – he can’t read your mind. Satan “assumed” that this first attack would cause Job to say something bad about God, but it was just his best guess. And in the end, he was wrong. Satan does not know the future.

4. Satan is real and he is active upon the earth. They say, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The Barna group polled born again believers and found that 60 percent of believers either strongly agree or somewhat agree that Satan isn’t “a living being” but rather “a symbol of evil.”

The Bible says that Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 and that he is the “ruler of this world” in John 12:31.

But all of these things should not drive us further into hiding, or fear, rather they should push us deeper into the arms of God who has the power to bind Satan and who is greater than Satan.

Let’s continue…. Job 1:13-19

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans (probably Arabians) fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants[c] with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven (probably lightning) and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans (probably ancient Babylonians) formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind (probably a tornado) came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

So Armies sweep in and steal Job’s animals and kill his servants, and a tornado takes the house where his 10 children were celebrating and now they’re all dead.

…And it’s very hard for you and I to read this and not feel uncomfortable. Did God and Satan just make a bet, over a man’s life and then kill his 10 children? All for what? To make a point?

This image of God, a God who plays games with people’s lives is reminiscent of the gods of the Greek plays. There is a line in King Lear that says, “As flies to wanton boys, are we to gods; and they kill us for sport.” In fact, if this weren’t a story in the Bible, this would be a hard thing to believe, wouldn’t it?

But look at how the first chapter ends….

Job 1:21-22

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

and the Bible says…. 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Was Satan right? No, he was wrong. And we see that WOW! Job is a man of unshakable faith.  No matter what life throws at him – but this first chapter raises even more questions, right?

Is life fair? Do we live in a world that rewards people for being honest and charitable? Or does God even care about what kind of person I am? In the end, Job didn’t blame God or curse God, but can a religious person be angry with God?

And the question of God’s power is still there – the questions about his goodness. Is God all-powerful if he can’t stop children from getting cancer, and he can’t stop bullets from flying? Is God good, if he allows planes to crash into buildings?

After an event like this – wouldn’t we be justified to say… “Where are you God?” or that “God doesn’t care?”

Because Job looses everything! The worst experience a parent can endure is the loss of their own child during their lifetime, and Job looses ten children in the same day. Where was God when that happened?

What about all of those prayers and sacrifices Job offered up for his children? Don’t those account for anything? Was that all wasted? Was that all meaningless?

I mean as a pastor, I have had people tell me that they’ve driven through a parking lot and prayed for a space and when one opens up – they say that it is a “God moment” and yet, I have seen entire communities rally around a family and pray for their baby – and hundreds of people are praying – and loving that family and it does no good – right? The baby dies. Does that make sense in a world where we try to find meaning? Why does God help find parking spaces, but He doesn’t have the time to heal babies?

And I’m sure Job has these same questions, he’s human, he’s flesh and blood like you and me, but what do we see Job do? Doubt? Curse? Give up?

No, the Bible says that Job worshiped God. The words of Job almost seem to say, “Even though, tragedy has struck my life and I’ve lost it all, I trust God and I know that everything will be all right.”

For Job there is comfort in placing his faith in God. And at this point in chapter one, we must acknowledge that there are no answers and perhaps no answers are coming later, there is no sense to be made, no connections, and no lines drawn – but Job is still able to find comfort. You see right now, Job has made no connections or assumptions. He has not tried to “piece together” the meaning of this. He has not looked for a reason and yet – he can still find peace.

For Job peace comes without answers, rather he finds peace in placing his life further into God’s care.

So in consideration of this first chapter there are a few things I want to point out.

1. It may be bad now, but we can trust that it will get better.

Romans 8:28

Whatever is going on right now, we have to remember that God is working it out for our good. True, it may not feel good now. Yes, there is hurt and suffering, but God will take those tears of yours and soften them with grace.  Job sits in the ashes and he prays, “God, I don’t understand, God I don’t like it, but I trust you and I know that good will come from this.”

And the Bible is full of difficult times and terrible situations – Job is not alone or unique in his suffering, but what we see from the men and women of the Bible is their steadfast faith and their undying hope. During these dark moments, don’t run to man-made explanations – run to God’s word.

You see the world tries to have answers, but the Bible has something better – the Bible has the power to transform your life and to give you the courage to go on.

2. It may be broken now, but we can trust God to fix it.

Philippians 1:6

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God does not leave things unfinished, nor does he leave things broken. God is complete in nature, He is whole in nature, so He will always be working towards a resolution. Sure, when you open the box and spill all of the pieces out on the floor, that is when it looks the worst – but we can trust that God will fix it.

3. It may be silent now, but we can trust the Spirit to speak for us.

Romans 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Often times in trials, our spirit seems alone, things are quiet and it appears that we have no one to speak for us. And often, we might even long for the days when Jesus was here on the earth because now it feels as though we’ve been abandoned. But before Jesus left, he promised…”

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

And the truth is the Spirit of God has not left us. Jesus has not left this world in “worse shape” then when he walked it. He has left his Spirit here with us, and the Spirit of God will never leave us.

4. It may be lonely now, but we can trust that God will always love us.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You know the simple matter is, no matter what is going on in your life right now, God still loves you. And no matter what happens tomorrow, horrific or blessing, God still loves you. I know it’s not always easy to hear, and it’s not always believable, but it’s true.

I want to tell you a story and we’ll close with this….

Singer and songwriter Jeremy Camp fell in love with a young woman named Mellissa, and like most relationships it had its up and downs and it was during one of their low points, that Mellissa discovered that she had cancer. And it was that valley in Jeremy’s life that drew him back to Mellissa and they both fell more deeper in love.

They got engaged and were married. But while they were on their honeymoon, Mellissa was beginning to have stomach pains and they had to take her to the hospital and it was then that they discovered that her cancer had taken a turn and that she might only have weeks to live.

Jeremy and Mellissa retreated into very private lives where they spent every moment together. His band would come by their apartment and play music and eat and they would all laugh and enjoy life together.

All in all, Mellissa and Jeremy were married for five months and Jeremy Camp was a widower at age 23. That is not supposed to happen. A famous Christian songwriter who is changing hearts and lives – a man who has written so many of the songs we sing in church – found the love of his life – and she died. What is the meaning of this? What do we do with this?

Well, Jeremy did what he does best. He wrote music. One of the songs was this next one “I still believe” and I want to read you one of the lines from the song…

Scattered words and empty thoughts seem to pour from my heart
I’ve never felt so torn,  seems I don’t know where to start

but it’s now that I feel Your grace falls like rain, from every fingertip, washing away my pain

I still believe in Your faithfulness, I still believe in Your truth
I still believe in Your holy word, even when I don’t see, I still believe

You see that’s the trick isn’t it? When there are no connections and no answers – when there is no sense to be made – the bird feeder is just empty and that’s all there is – are you still able to run to God in those moments and throw your arms around him and find comfort in his love? Because I would argue that for something’s there will never be a good reason.

Typically we take communion at the end of the service, but I am going to have Joanna & Brent come up and here and sing this song for us and while they are singing for us just use these moments to perhaps find peace like Job did – offer these hurts and pains to God and release your need to figure it all out – ? Because I would argue that for something’s there will never be a good reason -  maybe the only good reason is to love God more.

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Noah and the Mighty Ark

As a pastor and Father I am always looking for Children’s books that tell bible stories for my two young sons. Originally, I had purchased this book for my older son, but I think a very young child could appreciate this book just as well, because it’s all about the bright and beautiful pictures.

Noah and the Mighty Ark

Of course this book retells the story of Noah’s ark – which admittedly can be a hard subject matter for little ears. Despite what is painted on nursery walls, the story of Noah is not for children. I think the author does a wonderful job of shielding children from the more violent, scary aspects and stays true to the essence of the story.

Again, I think the book works on many levels – small children will love the pictures and enjoy the book being read to them – and older children will enjoy being able to read it for themselves.

Wonderful pictures and a wonderful story, well recommended.

Thank you to Zondervan for this preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review

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Soul Keeping

Perhaps for me this is mistitled, I would have chosen “Soul Keeping; my life spent with Dallas Willard.”  Mr. Willard died May 8, 2013 and the author of Soul Keeping, John Ortberg spent many years under his tutelage. And so for as much as this book is about nurturing your soul, it’s also a memoir of much of what Willard taught the author.

Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You

The first half of the book is an overview of what Dallas Willard taught the author and the second half of the book focuses on the need for a healthy soul.

We have Christian terminology that would say that when you become a Christian your “soul” is “saved.” But beyond that, I don’t know that there is a section of Christianity that bears responsibility for “soul upkeep.”

But the health of our soul, is the health of our spirituality. It’s the part of us that falls in love with God, it’s the nurturing side of us that comes out of us through Christian service. A healthy soul knows when to be impartial and is humble and is slow to judge others.

I have read a few of John Ortberg’s book that I have enjoyed a lot more. Undoubtedly he is one my favorite pastors and I certainly love Dallas Willard as well, I just don’t know if I’d say this new book is a “classic” as of yet… I wasn’t blown away by it, nor did it have earth shattering information that I didn’t already know, I think it was just a nice read and a nice reminder.

Thank you to Zondervan for an advanced copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

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My Redeemer Lives

When Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, died suddenly in his Graceland mansion in August 1977, his father, Vernon Presley, wanted to honor his son’s last request to be buried on the grounds of his home. However, the Memphis city council wouldn’t make an exception to the law prohibiting burials on private property. So, Elvis was originally buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis.

But the story goes, that Elvis’ father hired a man named Ron Tyler to steal Elvis’ body. Well, actually that’s only partially true, in truth he hired Ron Tyler to “pretend” to steal Elvis’ body. It seems the better plan was for Ron and two of his buddies to get a little tipsy and go down to the Forest Hill gate with some shovels and make some noise.

Of course, someone called the cops and when the cops showed up, the gentlemen said in slurred speech that they were there to steal Elvis’ body. The three men were slapped with trespassing and a misdemeanor and sent home, but… it was because of that incident that Memphis officials became worried that further attempts could be made and so Elvis’ body was moved to the Meditation Garden at the 13 acre estate in Graceland.

Now, I know some people say, “Elvis lives,” But what they mean is – his legend lives on, his music and his story and his inspiration live on, but Elvis “the man” is dead. But you wouldn’t know it – would you?

Year after year, Elvis Presley is one of the top earning musicians.  Each year, Elvis makes about 55 million dollars.

This morning the front of your bulletin says, “My redeemer lives” which is another way of saying “Jesus lives,” but that can’t be true can it? Didn’t he live thousands of years ago? Wasn’t he crucified?

The Bible says that after Jesus died on the cross…

Matthew 27:57-61

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.  He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.  And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud  and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Jesus was popular. Right? We can all admit that, the Bible says he fed 10 thousand people one time – that means one day at least 10 thousand people came to hear him talk – 10 thousand people is a concert stadium – 10 thousand people is as close as anyone would get to “rock star status” in his day.

When a rock star like Elvis, or Kurt Cobain or Bruce Lee dies … what happens to the grave site? People bring flowers, people adorn their graves, they leave notes, they leave pictures, their grave turns into a shrine.

The Jews are big fans of Abraham – Abraham is the Father of the faith and if you visit Hebron you can visit the “shrine of the Patriarchs,” legend says that Abraham, Isaac and Sarah are all buried here.

After the Buddah (Sidhartha Guatama) died, he was cremated, and if you are one of his disciples you can make a pilgrimage to the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Sri Lanka. It’s a beautiful castle that is the final resting place… of…. one of his teeth.

I’m not kidding, you’d think his whole body was buried here. Nope just his tooth.

Mohammad was a man who lived and died and he is buried in Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Saudi Arabia. It’s a beautiful structure, especially at night.

Ok… so where is Jesus buried…..

C’mon, surely someone who lived at that time kept a record of where he was buried. We just read that at least a few people knew, right? You got 2 Mary’s, and Simon of Aramathea. Because, you couldn’t have just “secretly buried” a guy THAT famous – he was publically executed by a world super power.

If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself, fly to Jerusalem and ask around. Jesus has no known tomb, no known shine.

There are churches all over on sites where Jesus supposedly did stuff, but no grave marker – no rumor as to where’s he’s supposedly buried.

King Tut has a tomb, George Washington is buried at Mount Vernon.. but where is Jesus’ marker? Nowhere. why? Is this realistic?

If Jesus lived and created the whole of Christianity… nobody ever recorded his burial? Someone had to know, and that someone had to have told someone, even if it was a secret, but the plain truth is there are thousands of pages and historical evidence to prove that Jesus lived but there isn’t a shred of evidence that proves he’s dead.

Jesus said he was from Heaven, he said he was perfect, He said he was God and he rose from the dead to prove that it was true.

Matthew 28:1-10

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb.  Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it.  Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow.

The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him.  Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”

With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.”

That’s Easter.

That’s why you wear the pastel shirt your wife bought for you- that’s why you got up this morning, loaded the mini van full of kids, that’s why we’re all going to grandmas house after service for lunch- because the tomb is empty and our redeemer lives!

And if you’re a skeptic – that’s OK. Even when Jesus lived there were people who didn’t believe. Even when he was standing there in front of them.

The apostle Paul understood how insane it sounded. A man, resurrected from the dead, so in one of his letters he records some empirical evidence.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8

I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures.  He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  and last of all he appeared to me.

What does that mean?  “Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures…”

In other words, Jesus died and came back just like he said he would. Prophecy said it would happen and it did happen.

“He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve…” - in other words his best friends. People who knew him best. The Bible says Jesus appeared even to a disciple named Thomas who the bible records as being a skeptic. A person who wasn’t going to just “believe” because everyone told him to – he wanted to see it for himself.

Cause when someone tells you, “Hey, your best friend who’s dead- he came back – he’s alive.” Your first initial reaction would be… “Oh yea, that makes sense. Happens every day.”  The Bible says that…

John 20:26-28

After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!”

Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”

A devout Jew. A man who was a monotheist. Meaning, Jews only worship one God, worshiping anything but Yahweh was against the faith. A man who saw Jesus in his lifetime, followed him as a friend, loved him as a brother fell on his knees to worship him – oh and then he appeared to about 500 other people… give or take…..

Paul says if you don’t believe it, you can always ask that guy, and if you don’t believe him, you can ask that lady over there and if you don’t believe her you can ask one of the hundreds of people who saw Jesus walking around….

Then he appeared to who? James. Who is James? James was Jesus’ half brother. How many of you have a brother? How many of you had a brother who thought he was “all that and a bag of chips?” Now how many of you had a brother that said he was God?

Yea…Jesus said he was God and his own brother believed him. And what did James do? He became a pastor, and he wrote a book of the Bible.

Then Paul says, “…last of all he appeared to me.” Who was Paul. Oh just one of Jesus’ biggest critics. Just some guy who was hired by the church to hunt down Christians and kill them. And what did Paul do? He became a pastor, a church planter and the author of about a third of the New Testament.

How do you account… for the life changes in these people…. if the tomb were not empty?

So why do we say it’s good news? How could the brutal death of the greatest man who ever lived be good news?

Because Jesus forgives our sins. Because he died for our sins. You and I, we work for sin all our life and the Bible says our paycheck is death, we deserve death, we deserve wrath.

In one of the oldest books in the Bible a man named Job said,

Job 19:25-27

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!”

Job was a blameless and upright man, but even he knew that he wasn’t perfect, we all need a redeemer.

You see it’s good news that Jesus went to the cross – he who was without sin, took your darkness, your pain, your abuse, your violations upon himself – all our sins upon himself and he died on the cross, with nails in his limbs.

Jesus’ last words were “father forgive them.” His parting thought on this earth was for others.  Jesus was without sin and he died so that sinners like you and I could be forgiven. And then Jesus said, “it is finished” all the work of salvation was done. All the work that he was sent to do – was complete and Christ died for our sins

….and today his tomb is empty

Hey, it’s Easter, we’ve all been to church on Easter a hundred times over. I don’t want to waste your time. Jesus said he was God. Jesus showed he was God It’s that simple.

And right now, the big choice isn’t where you’re going to go eat with grandma, the big choice is do you believe Jesus? He said he was from Heaven. He said he was sinless. He said he had the power to forgive sins and to mend hearts. He said he was God. Do you believe him?  Cause he either lived and told the truth or he lived and died and his body is hidden away somewhere.

God wants to give you something today – something more than just a nice Sunday; something more than just a new pastel shirt –  He wants to give you His son.

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Out of the Depths

Edgar Harrell has written a book “Out of the Depths” about the men who survived the sinking of the U.S. Indianapolis during World War II. And I think this book touched on one of my biggest fears, being alone – adrift at sea – abandoned in shark infested salt water for five days and nights with no hope in sight.

This book is about the faith and hope we have in God that enables us to have courage in dark times. But Edgar Harrell is not simply an author recording events, Edgar was actually a young marine who was aboard that ship when it sunk.

He is a survivor.

Reading Edgar’s brave story is truly a testimony to anyone who knows what it means to be blessed with the gift of each new  day.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes true-war stories, or tales of patriotism and bravery. How wonderful that this story has been recorded and preserved for everyone to read.

Thank you to Bethany House publishers for a preview copy in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

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