Resurrected Hero – Mark 16

Jesus is our Resurrected Hero!  Regardless of what is happening in the world right now that might tempt us to believe otherwise; the risen Christ reminds us that He is able to bring hope where there is despairjoy where there is grieflove where there is indifference, trust where there is fear, new life where there is death.

Some years ago, the Pepsi Company had an advertising slogan that said this, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation!” Now that sounded good here in North America, but it didn’t quite cut it when it was translated into different languages around the world. In fact in Taiwan, when the slogan was translated, it promised something that Pepsi couldn’t deliver either. Instead of, “Come alive with the Pepsi generation!” the translated slogan read as this, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead!”

Now I don’t know if that increased, or decreased, their sales, but there is a world of difference between the two meanings, isn’t there? What their slogan promised was too impossible to be true. But the good news for us is this – what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

The reality of the resurrection is the foundation of our faith.  In Mark 16, at the empty tomb three instructions were spoken to the women:  “Do not fear – Come and see – Go and tell.” They apply to us today as well!

Jesus is the ultimate hero, but next up for hero status is the women!  They were traveling with Jesus during his three years of ministry; they were last at the cross and first at the tomb.

The women who come to the tomb in Mark 16 are not only grieving as some of us are today who have lost a loved one, but they are in the shock that comes in the first days of grief and loss because a relatively young person they love was killed in an act of violence. Today there are too many grieving people who find themselves in a similar place as these women. All throughout our nation and indeed the world – families of little children, teenagers, and adults are mourning the loss of loved ones who were killed by acts of violence. The women we meet that first Easter morning can relate to those who are grieving such losses.

. 2  Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  3  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”  4  But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  5  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6  “Don’t be alarmed,”

Because Our Hero is Alive we can Overcome Fear

As the women went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week, the question foremost in their minds was. “who would roll away the large stone blocking the entrance to the tomb so they could anoint Jesus’ dead body?” They are worrying about who will roll away the stone for them because that obstacle is too large for them to move on their own, but when they arrive God has already taken care of it. Often times in life we spend many wasted hours worrying about things that never take place or that we never have to face. God has gone before us and cleared the path, made a way, or rolled away the stone.  This is a lesson of Easter that is often overlooked in the amazing news of Jesus’ resurrection, but it is a very important thing to remember. Rather than worrying about how we will roll away stones that are so large and heavy and seemingly immovable and getting all stressed out about it and putting pressure on ourselves to figure it out, we’re invited to learn from the women’s experience to trust God for our future.

This message of hope against our fears is so needed today! I read an article recently from American Psychiatric Association that compared to the results of a similar poll a year earlier, 39 percent of adults in the U.S. are more anxious today than they were a year ago.  They add that anxiety is rising across all age groups and demographic categories.  Anxiety and fear may be common and on the rise but we are taught by Jesus “not to worry” and by Paul or “not to be anxious

Hannah Whitall Smith author of The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, wrote, “Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer, but when seated, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. “Why do you not lay down your burden?” asked the kind-hearted driver. “Oh!” replied the man, “I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too.” And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus, still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burden, and often go weary and heavy-laden throughout the whole length of their journey.”

The women are acting in love and devotion in going to the tomb, but they are burdened with worry about the stone blocking their path. Yet God has already gone ahead of them, even as God goes ahead of us to prepare the way for us when are seeking to live in faith and obedience. If you have a stone you’re worried about rolling away, I encourage you to release your burden to God and trust the Mighty One to roll it away for you.

Next they were invited to “Come and See” that the tomb was empty.

You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.

There is much evidence for the empty tomb.  A former atheist Lee Strobel researched the empty tomb of Christ and became a believer.  He has written great books such as, The Case for Christ. 

In this short 2 minute video, he shares 4 Evidences or reasons to believe the tomb was empty.

No one could keep Jesus in the grave. The religious big shots who wanted him out of the way failed to do it; the power of the Roman army and justice system could not hold him; even the lack of faith on the part of the disciples couldn’t keep him dead. They expected to find Jesus when he promised he would not be there. God’s power to raise Jesus is greater than any power in the universe. Trust God’s promises. He is greater than all our problems or infirmities. The Resurrection assures us that Christ is alive and real.

Lastly they were invited to Go and Tell Others

7  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’

These three women faced three overwhelming problems as they set out to honor Jesus’ body. First, they were grieved, sad and depressed their friend was gone, second the soldier guard would prevent them; third the rock in the tomb’s doorway would be too heavy to move; and fourth as women their testimony to such a miraculous event would have been considered legally worthless in a court of law!   Against such obstacles, what could these three women expect to accomplish? Yet urged on by love and gratitude, they were determined to do what they could.

The church’s mission—to send the gospel to all the world—is fraught with overwhelming problems. Any one of them appears devastating. Against human stubbornness, disease, danger, loneliness, sin, greed, and even church strife and corruption, what can a few missionaries accomplish? Yet like these solitary women on that Sunday morning, we go out with love and gratitude for Jesus and leave the big obstacles with God.

We are invited and challenged to become part of God’s plan to tell others the Easter story. The message for them and for us is this: Jesus goes before us, just as he told us. Jesus goes ahead and to see him we need to keep trusting his word and keep moving forward in life. In the command of the messenger lies the promise of forgiveness, hope, and new life.

The promise of forgiveness is that Jesus doesn’t give up on us when we fail. That is why Peter is specifically mentioned. He was the leader among the disciples and the one who denied Jesus three times. Yet Jesus is looking forward to seeing him in Galilee as well. Peter will be forgiven. Forgiveness gives people second chances.  Even when we have failed Jesus, he still goes on before us telling us what to do next on our journey of life and faith, if we’re ready to resume following him with all our heart.  Part of the hope of Easter is a fresh start and renewed purpose for disciples who have denied and betrayed Jesus.

We too can betray our friend Jesus in many ways: when we give in to the pressures of temptations and trials, when we have spoken words or made decisions that contradict who God calls us to be; when we have forsaken our commitments, neglected the poor, ignored the lost, or failed to devote our time and resources to matters of eternal consequence.

Jesus knows how his disciples fail him then and now, yet he still goes before us, inviting us to meet him and to resume the journey together. The messenger knows who the women are looking for – they are looking for Jesus.  Who or what are you looking for today?  Where are you looking for answers to life’s most important questions?  The answers are found in Jesus our resurrected hero.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

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Jesus Our Hero (Mark)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman! Have you heard that popular phrase before? Superheroes are incredibly popular in today’s society. With new comics, movies and TV shows coming out each week, the world has become captured by these amazing tales. They have incredible powers that defeat evil in miraculous ways.

However, these are just fun fictional characters that can’t really save us. As Christians, though, we understand that we do have a real-life superhero. We have someone that is always looking out for us. We know we have a superhero with Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the most powerful being in this universe, and nothing can stop Him. He is the world’s ultimate superhero, because there are no weaknesses or limitations that make Him imperfect. Jesus has everything we need in a superhero and more.   He is described in scripture as: amazing, astounding, a miracle worker, healer, the Savior of the world, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, All Powerful, All Knowing, having power over creation, demons, diseases and even death!

I was fascinated by an article I read recently in Psychology Today entitled, “Why Jesus was a Hero to Billions.”  It’s an excerpt from Dr. Scott Allen’s book “Why We Need Hero’s”  he states, “Jesus was a Born Hero – In our studies of heroism, we have found that the “born hero” is a rare breed. Extraordinary situations typically bring out the heroes among us. But in every Sunday Christian service, and especially during the Christmas and Easter seasons, much of the world honors the most powerful story of the born hero in the western world. Being endowed with divine DNA makes Jesus an especially revered hero.”

Dr. Allen goes on to point out that, “Our research on heroes indicates that people especially honor heroes who experience pain and suffering during their heroic acts. The more that heroes suffer for their cause, the higher the pedestal on which we place them.”

Jesus Suffered On The Cross, making him an enduring hero.

The Romans made sure than anyone who died by crucifixion would suffer horrifically. Jesus was violently flogged before his crucifixion. Iron balls and sharp sheep bones were fastened near the ends of the whips. The iron balls caused deep bruising and the bones lacerated the skin. There was ample blood loss and Jesus’ level of pain would have put him a state of shock.

Jesus was then forced to carry the heavy cross to the crucifixion area, where his wrists and heels were nailed to the wooden beams. After hours of agony on the cross, Jesus would have succumbed to a combination of asphyxiation and blood loss.

“People admire the courage of a revolutionary. In his day Jesus was a rebel who violated Jewish customs and defied Roman law. Like Socrates of ancient Greece, Jesus could have spared his own life by offering some defense of the social disruptions he caused. But he did not.”

Jesus Died To Save Others

As Christians, we believe that Jesus died to save the world. The Gospels tell us that three days after he died, Jesus rose from the dead and 40 days later ascended to heaven. The story of the resurrection is a central part of Christianity because it signifies to that God approved of Jesus’ work on earth and that Jesus lives forever.

After Jesus died, many of his followers were burned, stoned, or crucified by Roman authorities. This persecution backfired. As martyrs, these Christians were the source of inspiration for millions of people who began practicing the Christian faith.

Jesus Transformed Society

Jesus was, and is, a transforming leader, inspiring people and elevating them to new levels of morality. Historian and author H. G. Wells wrote, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Jesus was a hero to people of his day and continues to change lives today which is why we are all still talking about him 2,000 of years later. This is why movies are made about Him, His life and His death. This is why billions of books, songs and works of art have been about Him and also why billions of people have declared to follow Him.

Join us in our new series starting on Easter, Hero to learn more about Jesus, the ultimate superhero. We’ll be digging into the book of Mark.  Jesus the action hero is always in action; encouraging his followers, healing the hurting and returning in power! He calls on those who would follow him to be in action as well. Join our adventure in the book of Mark (the action gospel) to learn more about Jesus our true hero.

Darrell

http://www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
https://www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/20-reasons-jesus-is-the-true-superhero.aspx#I78o5F37ceIG3blG.99
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-need-heroes/201412/why-jesus-is-hero-billions
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The Shelter of God’s Forgiveness – Psalm 51

What do you do with a guilty conscience?  A few days after Tax Day, I guy wrote into the IRS and said, “I haven’t been able to sleep since I filed my taxes.  I was not honest with what I owed, enclosed is a check for $500.  If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send in the rest.”

Guilt is a powerful emotion that many people try live with.  I read that the director a mental institution in London once told Billy Graham that half the people in his mental hospital could be released if they could find forgiveness.

Forgiveness is available to each of us through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to carry around the heavy burden of guilt.   This psalm explains the nature of sin and the character of God’s forgiveness.

This is one of the few psalms where we are given the reason why it was written.  The inscription reads, “A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

The background of the psalm includes David and Bathsheba. David had broken at least four of the 10 Commandments in this incident.   The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 11.  Here’s the abbreviated version:  One spring instead of leading the army David stays home.  Walking on the roof he sees a woman bathing (Bathsheba), (he covets), has her brought to him, has sex with her (adultery) and sends her home.  Later she sends word that she is pregnant, her husband, a soldier in David’s army, was away fighting for his king.  When David learned that she was expecting a child, he panicked and tried to cover up. He ordered the husband home from battle and sent him down to his home, hoping that he would sleep with his wife and the child would then be accepted as his own (lying.) But Uriah was more honorable than David, a committed soldier and though he came home at the king’s orders, he would not go down to his own house but slept with the soldiers at the palace and returned to the battle the next day.   David then arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle (murder) so he could take Bathsheba for his own wife. About a year after these initial events, God sent Nathan the prophet who confronts David about his sins, an event which is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:1-13. The results of that confrontation and David’s desire for forgiveness are expressed in Psalm 51.

Here we learn some lessons how we can overcome guilt in our lives.  Psalm 51 breaks down into three simple prayers:

Verses 1-6 Prayer of Confession

Verses 7-12 Prayer for Restoration

Verses 13-17 Prayer of Witness

  1. Confession (1-6): It means to agree with God.

Like the sting of a scorpion, David feels the painful sting and guilt from what he has done to himself, others, and to God. His heart is crushed and broken by the weight and guilt of his sins. Let’s not be fooled by the accolades of those who are party animals and like to live a wild crazy lifestyle. Sinful living is painful and we cannot escape the consequences.

The burden which had weighed so heavily on David’s life had taken its toll mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually was about to be lifted. The anticipation of it being removed brought relief to a weary man. Having been exposed as an adulterer and a murderer David casts himself on the merciful compassion of God. Note how in these verses David not only faces up to the revelation of his sin and guilt but also how he takes personal responsibility for his sin and guilt. Note how he speaks of ‘my sin’ and ‘I have sinned.’ David does not try to evade his guilt but faces it and admits it openly. David does not try to make excuses for his sin, nor does he try to pass the blame on to someone or something else.   So there is the first lesson in overcoming guilt – we must admit or confess our sin and guilt.    Then we find forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 reminds us of this very truth:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

  1. Restoration (7-12):

When David has confessed his sin and sought God’s forgiveness for his guilt he then calls upon God to restore him. I find that interesting. David was not content just to be forgiven. He wanted more than the guilt to be removed from his soul – he wanted a right relationship with God restored.   David asks God to cleanse him with hyssop – this was the action of the OT priest to declare the penitent ceremonially clean and acceptable for participation in worship. David asks God to declare him acceptable in his presence. He asks God to restore to him the joy of salvation which he once knew but was lost because of sin. Do we hear what we lose as a result of guilt?  When guilt burdens our soul then it steals the joy that we once knew in salvation. However, the result of forgiveness by God is joy restored. Here is the beginning of David experiencing not only forgiveness but freedom from guilt. When God forgives he also restores!  He not only blotted out David’s guilt, he washed him thoroughly and declared him acceptable in his presence.

This is exactly what we experience in Christ:  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, Titus 3:4-6

Do you ever feel stagnant in your faith, as though you are just going through the motions? Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making him seem distant?  David felt this way, in his prayer he cried, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” God wants us to be close to him and to experience his full and complete life. But sin that remains unconfessed makes such intimacy impossible. Confess our sin to God. We may still have to face some earthly consequences, as David did, but God will give back the joy of your relationship with him.

  1. Witness 13-17

When God forgives our sin and restores our fellowship with him, we want to reach out to others who need this forgiveness and reconciliation. The more I have felt God’s forgiveness, the more I desire to tell others about it.

Yes, David really messed up.  We mess up too.  That doesn’t change God’s love for us.

Notice 2 Samuel 12:24 : The LORD loved David so much that He forgave David, He forgot about the sin, and He blessed him with another son, Solomon.

God loves you that much too. He wants us to be forgiven and cleansed of the sin in our life. God sent Jesus to die on a cross so that we could be free from guilt and shame.  Jesus restores joy to our lives and gives us peace and purpose.  May you experience these truths as I have.

Darrell

 

Sources:
 Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 898.
Rod Mattoon, Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Treasured Psalms, Volume 2, (Springfield, IL: Lincoln Land Baptist Church, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 150-199.
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/overcoming-guilt-alan-mccann-sermon-on-discipleship-89668?ref=SermonSerps
https://www.raystedman.org/old-testament/psalms/how-to-handle-a-bad-conscience

 

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Encouragement in Times of Depression –Psalm 42

What do you do when your tears are your food day and night?

3  My tears have been my food day and night

What do you do when people taunt you and speak against you?

…while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

When we find ourselves facing discouragement and depression, how do we find encouragement?

In the last post we saw one step to encouragement is to Worship God.  Being with the people of God, who are singing and praising lifts us when we are down.  The word of God also encourages us and is a part of our worship.

The next step to encouragement is to Remember what God has done in the past.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you

This is a strong expression of determination. The psalmist is determined to remember how God has helped him in the past. That is one of the greatest things we can do when we begin to experience depression.  Think back to what God has done for us in the past.  Remember how God was there for you in the past.  Remember those who prayed for you. Remember how God has answered your prayers in the past.  Remember the day that you gave your life to Christ.  Remember when you were baptized.  Remember the times that God was faithful to you.

Have you ever known someone that has a habit of remembering only the bad things? They date everything by these negative events. “That was the day the toilet overflowed.  And that day is the day my cat ran away.”  That’s no way to live.

But here the Psalmist is showing us that memory can be an important aid by remembering the positive experiences of God’s blessing. “I will remember you,” he says, the times when God caused my heart to be full of joy.

Last year for Kaleb’s senior year and last year at home we went skiing at spring break. Kaleb and I would ski until the lifts closed but the girls would often go back to the car early and wait for us. They would rest and listen to the radio.

On the third day when Kaleb and I got down there and tried to start the car it wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. I immediately went to the office to see if they could give me a jump start. They said all their employees were busy closing down lifts, processing ski returns, etc. and it would be two hours before they could help.

I went back to the car opened the hood and started to wait.  Not long after a man parked near us, a friendly Texan asked if I needed jumper cables.  We got the car started and were delayed about an hour going down the mountain.  On the way down we saw police cars and a cleanup crew. We later found out that there had been a severe accident involving multiple cars.  Several people were dead and injured. If we had left at the time I wanted, we would have been part of that accident. Now when I find myself with a frustrating delay, I remember that God may be delaying me for a specific purpose

 The next portion of this poetic passage needs some explaining..

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.
7  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

He remembers an experience that he had when he was in the northern part of Israel near Mount Hermon, at the head of the Jordan River, on a little peak of the range where Mount Hermon is located, called Mount Mizar (which, incidentally, means “little mountain”).  Snow from Mount Hermon would melt flowing down to form the Jordan river that would then flow into the Sea of Galilee. On that occasion he could hear the waterfalls of that mountainous region with thundering cascades. He became aware of how they seemed to be calling to one another, “deep calling unto deep,” and it reminded him that the deeps in God call out to the deeps in man.

One of the amazing things about nature is the silent voices that call to one another across vast spaces. The moon calls to the deeps in the sea, raising the tides. Twice a day the waters rise in tides across the earth, because of the moon calling to the ocean. The sun and the rain call to the deeps in a seed, causing it to stir with life and to spring up and grow. There are vast distances that call to the deeps in wild birds, causing them to wing their way across long distances to lay their eggs; there are voices that call to certain fish, sending them across the sea to spawn up into a mountain stream. In this way the Psalmist is reminded that God also calls to man. There are deeps in God that correspond with deeps in man, and he calls to them. The Psalmist specifically names two here: the deeps of the love of God, and the joy of God, calling out to the corresponding deeps of prayer in the believer.

Which leads us to the next way we are encouraged in times of depression; Prayer.

In the last post, I shared about Abraham Lincoln and his struggles with depression and how he found help in God’s word and in attending church, but he also depended on prayer. Perhaps Lincoln’s most famous words on the subject of prayer reflect an awareness of his great responsibility and personal inadequacy: “I have been driven many times upon my knees,” he once confided in an associate, “by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

The psalmist has the same conviction…

8  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with mea prayer to the God of my life.

In the next verses we will see the Psalmist prayer.   It’s honest, it’s real and its raw. Do you feel you can be completely honest with God in prayer?  Can you tell God how you really feel?  The Psalms tell us it’s ok to be angry with God, to be frustrated and share hurts with God.

9  I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Years ago on a Sunday morning after the service I left for home, Danielle was still at church but I thought she was with Niki.  Niki thought she was with me, so we went home and left her. Of course, as soon as we reached home we realized our mistake and I came right back. I found her waiting for me, tears in her eyes and with disappointment  in her voice she said, “Daddy, you forgot me!” What a horrible feeling it is to be forgotten!

That is the feeling expressed here, and what a terrible feeling it is. How honest and real.

The first step to overcoming depression is to admit it. The psalmist readily admits, both to himself and to God, that he is in despair.

There is a saying that I agree with, “Without revealing, there is no healing.”  We must be honest and open to get better.  Prayer is the revealing that leads to healing.

As the Psalm ends and his prayer ends, he moves from Talking to God to talking to himself.

11  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a doctor who became a pastor in his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure ([Eerdmans], pp. 20-21), comments,

“Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself….

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God”.

We find encouragement from God’s Word, God’s People, Remembering the good God has done and Praying to God.

I hope that you may be encouraged this week.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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