Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 28, 2016

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Why God? How Come?

August 22, 2016

As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. – John 9:1-7

Perhaps the favorite question we human beings like to ask is “Why?” My daughter at the age of three would ask, “Why is the grass green? Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Why can’t I just play all the time?” As we get older we still ask “why”, but the questions get more complicated. “Why can’t anything go my way? Why is God letting this happen to me?”

We want to know “why” especially when life gets tough. So we go searching for answers. Our sinful, limited minds often take us to the seemingly logical conclusion that if something bad happens to us, then it must be because we did something to upset God. We sinned, and now he is dishing out some divine retribution on us. That line of thinking presents two big problems: 1 – It presumes that our infinite and all-wise God can be figured out by finite creatures. 2 – It minimizes or totally ignores his merciful love.

When Jesus and his disciples met a man born blind, they asked Jesus whether the blind man or his parents sinned. They thought that his blindness must have been the result of God punishing either him or his parents for some sin.

But Jesus taught his disciples that there was a higher purpose to this man’s blindness. He said, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” That man was born blind so that on that day, Jesus could display his power as the Son of God by making this blind man see. More importantly, later in John chapter 9 we learn that this man was brought to faith in Jesus. God used the man’s condition as an opportunity to open his eyes to see Jesus as his Savior. In this way, God shows his believers that he truly is at work for their eternal good even and especially in hardship.

Are you facing trial and trouble? Have you wondered why God is letting those things happen to you? Have you thought that he is punishing you? He is not. All the sins of the world have already been punished in Christ on the cross. Your sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus alone. When he allows trouble and hardship to come into your life, he has a higher purpose: to display his work in your life, to work everything for your eternal good.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I face hardship, help me to trust that you will work through it for my eternal good. Forgive me for my doubts and despair. Strengthen my faith in you and bring me at last to heaven. Amen.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 21, 2016

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It is Good to be “Cross-eyed”

August 15, 2016

Elijah came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. – 1 Kings 19:4-8

Elijah’s crisis is understandable. You can feel a fraction of his frustration if you’ve been working through the entire summer without a break. You have to suffer through co-workers’ vacation pictures. They come back spinning exciting tales of adventure or relaxation while you were shouldering an added burden of work in their absence. Kind of makes you want to give up.

You have a sense of Elijah’s pain if you have struggled yourself. You watch loved ones suffer through painful sickness. You sit helplessly as friends give in to addiction or watch in horror as their marriages crumble. Unemployment and financial ruin strike too close to home. You aren’t immune from Elijah’s feelings of just wanting to give up.

But Elijah’s despair, and ours, comes from a lack of focus. He was fixated on his feelings, not reality. He had just been an eyewitness and a participant in God’s victory over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, overcoming 400 to 1 odds! Onlookers acknowledged the power and supremacy of the true God (1 Kings 18).

So God had to come to Elijah personally to encourage and strengthen him. God does the same thing for you today by fixing your gaze on the cross of Jesus. By his cross and empty grave Jesus proclaimed victory over your enemies of sin and death. His deliverance comes to you personally through his word. Focus on the reality of Christ’s victory. Focus on his cross whenever you are feeling like Elijah. Focus on Christ’s powerful victory over sin and death whenever you are ready to give up.

Prayer: Dear Savior, whenever I am weak and discouraged, help me turn in trust to you. Cause my eyes of faith to find deliverance and strength in your victory. Amen.

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 14, 2016

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Let’s Call It For What It Is

August 8, 2016

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him…[Then], some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat. – Mark 5:21-24, 35-43

They are called “euphemisms.” They are words we use to make things sound good when we want to talk about things that are not all that good. For example, “euthanasia” means literally, “good death,” but it is honestly hard to imagine any death being all that good.

But when is a “euphemism” not a “euphemism”? The crowd outside the house of the synagogue ruler, Jairus, did not know. All they could do was mock and laugh at Jesus. “How could Jesus be such a fool? He thinks that the dead girl is sleeping?” Anyone who has held the lifeless body of a little one – she was twelve – in his arms knows the difference between the slow, steady breathing of a child at rest, and the cold, lifelessness, breathless corpse of one now dead.

And Jairus and his wife? What is this casual, almost cavalier way of talking about the knife that went through their hearts and souls? “Sleeping?”

Yet the word “sleeping” is far closer to reality than our “dead and gone,” or even “gone but not forgotten.” “Sleeping” better describes what happens to the body when it, like a tent is packed away after camping, just waiting for the next trip.

When believers in Jesus die, the holy angels carry the souls of God’s children to heaven and place them in the powerful, yet tender arms of the Savior. There safe and surrounded in glory, they live and reign to all eternity. At the same time their bodies, but only their bodies, “rest” in the earth, eagerly awaiting the words of Jesus when he returns on the Last Day.

The two little words Jesus spoke are so special that they have been saved for us in Jesus’ original Aramaic, “Talitha, koum!” “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” And she did! By the power of Jesus she was raised from the dead.

Imagine the joy of the child’s mother and father, as they saw first-hand the resurrection of their daughter from the dead. By Jesus’ almighty power, her lifeless body immediately stood up and walked around the room. No weak wobbling! No slow recovery starting with clear liquids. That little girl needed lunch!

How blind are the mockers who could not see the power of Jesus! How foolish the doubters who cannot see the resurrection of the body!

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, we trust that you will take believers by the hand and speak your powerful words of resurrection to us, “I tell you, get up!” We eagerly await your return and our bodily resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

August 7, 2016

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