Satisifed!

When I was a teenager back in the 60s, I had a little garage band, and our first song ever played together was entitled, “Satisfaction.” Later on it was picked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs, for it reflected the spirit of a generation. I believe it also represents a longing within each human being. “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

So many people are looking for satisfaction. They chase after all sorts of things to fill their life. If I just raised the best kids, build the best marriage, buy the best house, or have the best career, then I’ll have satisfaction, people reason. All these are good things, but they don’t really provide the satisfaction we need. Some people seek contentment through pills, narcotics, or alcohol. However, these things also do not provide the satisfaction they are seeking either.

Max Lucado wrote a wonderful book a few years ago in which he describes the search for satisfaction as a prison. He writes, “Come with me to the most populated prison in the world. This facility has more inmates than bunks, more prisoners than plates, more residents than resources. The name of the prison? You see it over the entrance. It’s spelled W-A-N-T. The prison of want. You’ve seen her prisoners. They are in want. They want something. They want something bigger, nicer, faster, thinner. They want. They don’t want much, mind you. They just want one thing Ð one new job, one new car, one new house, one new spouse. And when they have one, they’ll be happy. And they are right. They will be happy. When they have one, they will leave the prison.

“But then it happens: the new car smell passes, the new job gets old, the neighbors buy a large television set, the new spouse has bad habits. The sizzle fizzles, and before you know it, another ex-con has broken parole and returns to prison. The prison of want.”

He goes on to ask, “Are you living in the prison of want?” So many people are looking for satisfaction.

We have a song out of the Old Testament before us today. It is the testimony of the greatest king of Israel, David, who penned the song in the twilight years of his life. It is Psalm 23. He is looking back at how God has taken care of him through his life. He remembers his younger days when he was a shepherd himself, taking care of the family’s flock in the hills. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

David begins by telling us his subject: the Lord, Who is the maker of the universe, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who causes all things to be. These two words Ð the Lord Ð are then described by the following 115 words of Psalm 23.

The word David uses to describe God is Yahweh in the Hebrew. When Moses was approached by God in the burning bush and told to rescue his people from Egypt, Moses asked, “Who do I say sent me?” God gave him his name, “Yahweh Ð I am who I am.” (Another way to say it is, “the One Who causes all things to be.”) I am who I am Ð unchanging, uncaused because I cause, ungoverened by circumstances. He is a big God who stands above all things and holds our planet in the palm of His hand like a little tennis ball. Big God.

Our next word is, “is.” The Lord is, not was, not will be, not used to be. This God is. Throughout his life, David discovered God is present and near. He’s not a God of the past; He’s a God of the present. He is a God Who walks beside him through all the seasons of his life and now in his elderly years. “The Lord is . . . ”

“. . . my shepherd.” A Shepherd protects, gives care. Back in those days, kings were oftentimes referred to as shepherds of their people. Most of us don’t really understand the job description of a shepherd unless we look it up. I did that. Shepherds tend, herd, feed, guard, and protect the sheep. They have the sheeps’ best interests at heart. That is what David is saying. This God, my Lord, is one who has my best interests in mind.

Notice that David is implying a truth about himself that we sometimes miss when we read this song Ð it is written from the standpoint of a sheep. David’s talking like he’s a sheep. And yet, David was a great warrior, very macho. He knocked down the giant Goliath with the slingshot and stone. This was a man who was highly respected and looked up to by world powers around him. And yet now he writes, I’m a sheep.

Sheep are helpless, defenseless, dependent, even stupid, I’m told. Why would David refer to himself as a sheep? Did he know something we need to realize about ourselves? It’s a little uncomfortable to think of yourself as a sheep. How many National Hockey League teams or football teams are called sheep? We prefer to believe we are self-sufficient and independent. And it all comes off well until something comes along to shatter your thinking Ð like when the company where you’ve worked for so many years folds and your job is eliminated, and you don’t know where to turn. Or when your child stops listening to you. She’s running with the wrong crowd, and you reason the only thing you can do is lock her in the closet. Or when the doctor comes back with an x-ray showing a spot and orders more tests to look for more spots Ð and you feel helpless and dependent.

In moments like those, you realize we’re sheep. We’re sheep.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being a sheep, humor me and take this quiz. See if you succeed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

1. You can control your moods. You are never grumpy or sullen. You are always upbeat and upright. If that sounds like you, raise your hand.

2. You are at peace with everyone. Every relationship is as sweet as fudge. Even your old flames speak highly of you. If that describes you, raise your hand.

3. You have no fears. They call you the Teflon Tuffy. Wall Street plummets Ð no problem. Heart condition discovered Ð (yawn). World War III starts Ð “What’s for dinner?” Does this describe you? Raise your hand.

4. You need no forgiveness. You’ve never made a mistake. You are as square as a game of checkers. You never cheated; never lied; never lied about cheating. Is that you? Then raise your hand.

I imagine no one has raised their hand, so let’s evaluate this. You can’t control your moods, a few of your relationships are shaky, you have fears and faults, and you really want to hang a badge of self-reliance on your chest. It sounds to me like you are just like me and David. You need a Shepherd.

Life with a shepherd is really not all that baaaaad. (Sorry about that.) We need to admit to ourselves, though first of all, that we are sheep that need a Shepherd.

David goes on to describe life as a sheep with his Shepherd. He said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” In other words, he’s not saying “I don’t want God. I don’t want the Shepherd.” He’s saying, “I’ll not be in want. I have found the secret of satisfaction. What I have found in God is greater than what I don’t have in this life.” If you have the Shepherd, you have everything you need.

The story is told of a little boy that won a drawing at a local toy store. The prize was to pick anything in that store and take it home. So the boy came down and met with the store owner later that day. He started browsing around looking for his chosen toy. He didn’t choose anything for a long time. Finally, the little boy walked up to the store owner said, “I want you, because if I have you, I have everything.”

That’s what David is saying today. If the Lord is your Shepherd, you’ll not want for anything. He has your best interests at heart.

Jesus talked about it as life abundant. This Shepherd, you see, loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you on a cross so that you might be His own, that He might lead you to green pastures and still waters. He truly does have your best interests at heart.

The key word in this verse is “my.” The Lord is my shepherd. There is a difference, you see, between knowing the Shepherd and knowing about the Shepherd. Those who know the Shepherd, experience His love and care in their life. Martin Luther once said, “True Christianity is expressed in personal pronouns.” And here we have one: my shepherd.

Do you know Jesus in that way? Is the Lord your Shepherd?

I was toying around with the tones and so forth of this verse. Could David be saying the Lord is my shepherd, implying other shepherds are out there that we might choose to follow? It might be your husband, your wife, your pastor, your parents, your friends. As important as these individuals may be in your life, they cannot be your shepherds, because they are sheep just like you who also need a Shepherd.

Is the Lord your Shepherd?

If you are trying to figure out for yourself if the Lord is your shepherd, remember Jesus’ words, “My sheep listen to my voice.”

Do you listen to his voice? Do you pay attention to Him in His Word and seek Him?

Jesus also said, “My sheep follow me.” Have you decided to follow His lead in your life? Will you take Him at His Word, believe He actually knows what makes your life work best, and do the things He tells you to do?

If that is the case, then, according to Jesus, the Lord is your Shepherd.

If you are looking for satisfaction, you need look no further. It is found in a relationship with the Lord, Who has done great things to make you His own through the cross and the resurrection. Won’t you entrust your life to His care? Place your well-being in His hands, for as you hold out your hand to Him, you will discover the hand that receives you carries nail scars from the cross. He really does have your best interests at heart.

Peggy discovered this for herself. She writes in her testimony, “Life was good. I was single, could come and go as I pleased. Weekends were spent cycling with the bike club or hiking in the mountains. I had friends, family, pets, a good job. Me, me, me. Life was good, but something was missing. I wondered, is there something more? Could I ever find complete happiness? Can I ever become a better person? Will I ever feel genuine inner peace? I figured these concerns would go away if I just kept busy accomplishing things, but they never did!

“In 2003, I found myself depressed from the breakup of a very unhealthy relationship. Then one day a woman on the TV news was asked how she was dealing with her son being sent to Iraq. She said, ÔMy faith.’ I have heard that said many times, but I thought people of faith were just simply brainwashed and weak. This time I thought, ÔIf this woman can get through her ordeal with something called faith, maybe faith can help me.’ So I started going to church on Sunday. I hung on every word in the sermons. I read Christian books. I attended women’s Bible study and Celebrate Recovery. I was so hungry to find out who God was, who Jesus is.

“My hardened heart started to crack, and I felt a warm glow seep into the cracks. I started to act differently. My pain went away. I started getting on my knees every day talking to God. And God start answering my prayers, way too many to be passed off as coincidence. There is not enough time to mention all the miracles God has graced me with: my morals, my friendships, my values, my interests and priorities have changed. I am becoming the person God created me to be. It came through a personal relationship with Jesus. And nothing on earth compares,” Peggy says.

The Shepherd has your best interests in mind.

If you are looking for satisfaction, entrust your life to His care.

What Label Do You Put on Jesus

Haddon Robinson, in a devotional article, raises the question, What label do you put on Jesus?

It is evident from the media that there are many who compliment Jesus with some worthy titles, such as the most influential person who ever lived. This is a great compliment to which Christians would agree, but it does not satisfy the claims of the Bible that calls Jesus the Lord of Lords and the only Savior of the world.

Dr. Robinson refers to the biographical archives of a leading newspaper in the U. S. where one of the files is marked, “Jesus Christ Ð Martyr”. Jesus is in the company of many great people when labeled a martyr, but the Bible is not content with such a title. Rather, Jesus Christ is God, the One before whom every knee will bow and every tongue shall one day confess him as Savior and Lord. He did not only die for a good cause; He died to be our Savior. His death did not just mark the end of a beautiful life, for He was raised and is victor over sin, death, and the devil.

In our text, Jesus makes two important statements. The first one is, “No one comes to the Father but by me.” Jesus is the only way to heaven. Such a statement is not acceptable to the millions who are members of other religions or who have no religious affiliation. This is understandable. However, what is difficult to understand is that some Christians do not limit salvation to those who trust in Christ alone. These folks believe Jesus’ words are divisive; they do not build good will. Our culture cannot condone such a teaching.

This statement of Jesus is the assigned text for this fifth Sunday of Easter, on which many pastors will build their sermons today. It raises many questions which the Bible has chosen not to answer. One day they will be answered by a loving father who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Our mission for now is simply to proclaim God’s love in Christ and leave the rest to Him.

The second statement Jesus makes regarding himself is also offensive: “Any one who has seen me has seen the Father.” In other words, He claims to be God. In fact, later on Jesus says, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

The Church has summarized Jesus’ statements telling us who He is in the words of the Nicene Creed: “He is the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God; Light from Light; true God from true God; begotten, not made; of one being with the Father. Through Him all things were made.”

With biblical and confessional statements such as these, the Christian cannot reduce Jesus simply to one of the greatest religious leaders in history. He is far more than a martyr. To do this is to make the teachings of Jesus false. So what is the position of the Christian when he or she sits on a television panel with Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists? To give the impression that we are one happy family is wrong. However, this is what the majority of the television audience wants to hear. It is a popular message. The only problem is, Jesus does not give His endorsement to this witness.

People have the right to believe as they do, for it is their privilege as American citizens. We should live together and be good neighbors assisting each other in times of need. But the Gospel is offensive Ð it always has been and always will be to a majority of people in our world. Even today many are dying in their attempt to bring the message of Christ to their people. This comes as no surprise, for the Bible says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” Yet the Church is to proclaim this Word in love.

So it is clear that confessions such as “Jesus is God” and “Jesus is the only way to heaven” are offensive to many in our world. But so are many of the ethical teachings of the Christian faith that are in conflict with our culture.

For sixty-six years Christian Crusaders has been proclaiming the great message of Christ. God has blessed our efforts. While there are many who long to hear of God’s love, the resistance to the Gospel grows stronger as our culture becomes less tolerant of biblical truths. The day has come in the organized church when Scripture is interpreted in the light of our culture. Bible passages get new interpretations that change their meaning so they are not offensive to society as a whole. Let me use an example.

The Bible clearly teaches that the practice of homosexuality is sin. In Romans we read,” Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:26-27).

We now live in a time when our culture is more accepting of the homosexual lifestyle. Within the churches, there is a recommendation that we follow the leadership of culture, which means to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages and to ordain practicing homosexuals. While some of our leadership frowns on the homosexual lifestyles, they would rather find ways to accept these unbiblical practices than to divide the Church on this issue.

We, who are told by Jesus to be the salt of the earth, are succumbing to present day cultural demands. Those of us who are opposed to this change are asking, “How do we justify this new understanding of Scripture in the light of our church’s teaching that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the authority in all matters of faith and life?” Culture is not to influence the biblical message. Rather, what the Bible says should influence culture as the Word is proclaimed by the Church.

Christian Crusaders wants our radio audience to know that we are opposed to the blessing of same-sex marriages and the ordination of practicing homosexuals. We are anxious to minister to homosexuals and to serve them with God’s Word. Yet, because Scripture speaks so clearly on this subject, we cannot condone the practicing homosexual’s lifestyle.

We believe that if we are faithful to God’s Word, our Heavenly Father will use the Christian Crusaders radio and Internet ministry to reach people with the Gospel. But we need your help. We need your prayers and financial gifts. Air time is expensive, and our program is dependent upon your gifts. Would you consider sending us a gift each month? Through the years, people who believed that Christian Crusaders proclaims the truths of God’s Word have included us in their estate planning. Some of this money is used today to finance our programs.

Our Board is not panicking. It believes that if God has a place for this program in reaching out with the truths that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, He will provide the necessary funds. We thank you for your support.

You Are Loved

A while back, a reporter told the story about a big Vietnam Veterans’ parade in Chicago that included a mobile version of the Vietnam wall. Like the original, it bore the names of all the soldiers who had died in Vietnam. When the newscaster asked one of the vets why he had come all the way to Chicago to participate in the parade, the soldier looked straight into the face of that reporter, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Because of this man right here.” As a soldier talked, he traced the letters of a friend’s name etched in the wall. “This man gave his life for me. He gave his life for me!” The soldier continued tracing his friend’s name as he tried to get his heart and mind around the sacrifice of his friend.

In our congregation, each year on Good Friday, we reread the entire Passion story of Christ. It is our opportunity to retrace the story of He Who gave His life for us, so we might never grow indifferent to the suffering and agony Jesus endured for us.

It is true Ð this is a gruesome story. And if you went back in chapter 18 of John’s Gospel, you would be sickened to read of the violence and hatred inflicted on Jesus. Virtue can be found in no one but one Ð Jesus. But behind all the cruelty, we need to be reminded that this isn’t simply a gruesome story about humanity’s worst. It’s also a love story about God’s best.

The story began at a tree in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were driven from the garden for breaking God’s laws and God’s heart. In John 19, we find ourselves standing at another tree where God is doing something very important for us through his Son Jesus.

John the apostle was present to see the whole thing, and years later he wrote about it. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:9). The crucifixion story is a love story about God’s atoning sacrifice. Jesus came to atone, or make us “at one,” with God.

Billy Graham said, “When we preach atonement, it is atonement planned by love, provided by love, given by love, finished by love, necessitated because of love.” Jesus came as a gift of love to make an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This world is full of betrayal and denial, cruelty and torture, sarcasm and jealousy, lying and scheming, murder and moral weakness. All we need to do is to read the news. The Bible is true when it says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

G.K. Chesterton, a famous theologian, once read an article in the newspaper entitled, “What’s Wrong With the World?” He sent a short letter in response.

Dear Sir:

Regarding your article, “What’s Wrong With the World?” Ð I am.

Yours Truly,

G.K. Chesterton

We are what’s wrong with this world. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. Jesus is taking our punishment upon Himself, suffering what I was supposed to suffer. What wondrous love is this!

On August 16, 1987, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after taking off from a Detroit airport killing 155 people. However, a four-year-old from Tempe, Arizona named Cecelia survived. When the rescuers found Cecelia, they didn’t believe she had been in the plane! Investigators first assume she’d been a passenger in one of the cars onto which the airliner crashed, but when the passenger register for the flight was checked, there was Cecelia’s name. She survived because her mother unbuckled her own seatbelt, got down on her knees in front of her little girl, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and would not let her go. Nothing could separate the child from her parent’s love Ð neither tragedy nor disaster, neither the fall nor the flames that followed. Such is the love of the Savior for us who left heaven and covered us with the atoning sacrifice of His own body to save us.

My dear friends, you are more sinful than you ever dared believe, but you are more loved than you ever dared hope. God loves you, and you need not question that any longer.

Brennan Manning is a Christian author and evangelist. His childhood best friend was named Ray. The two of them did everything together. They bought a car together, they double dated together, they enlisted in the Army together, they went to boot camp together, and they fought on the front lines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the good old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate his chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar, and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, sparing Brennan’s life, but killing Ray.

After leaving the Army, Brennan became a priest. When he was instructed to take on the name of a saint, he thought of his friend, Ray Brennan, so he took on the name Brennan. Years later he visited Ray’s mother in Brooklyn. As they sat up late one night having tea and reminiscing, Brennan asked her, “Do you think Ray loved me?” Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch and shook her finger in front of his face and shouted, “What more could he have done for you?” At that moment, Brennan experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus and wondering if God really loves him? Then Jesus’ mother, Mary, points to her Son and says, “What more could he have done for you?”

The cross of Jesus is God’s way of doing all He could for us. He loves you. He loves you.

A distressed father sat at the bedside of his comatose son who had been hurt while playing basketball. At a crucial point in the game, the 16-year-old lunged for an errant pass. As he toppled over a spectator’s chair, one of its legs caught him in the stomach and damaged some vital organs. Because he felt little pain, the team continued to play the game’s final minutes. However, he was hemorrhaging internally.

By the time the pain warranted a trip to the hospital, it was almost too late. The doctors worked frantically to save the boy, but the outcome was uncertain. Those awful hours of waiting for the slightest signs of recovery forced family members to ask questions they had never before faced.

One evening, the father sat alone at his son’s bedside when his pastor visited. Trembl-ing with emotion, the father asked, “Will God kill my son to punish me for my sin?”

Searching for words to comfort and grant renewed trust in God, the pastor said, “The Lord is not punishing your son for your sin. He couldn’t, because God punished His Son for your sin.” God loves us! He gave His Son to be an atoning sacrifice so we could be put back into a restored relationship with Him.

A line in an old hymn Ð When I Survey the Wondrous Cross Ð puts the suffering love of Jesus in a personal perspective. “Love so amazing so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

The suffering of Jesus on the cross Ð the love of the Father Ð calls for a personal response from you and me. He loved us, He died for us, He did His part, and He invites us to accept his suffering and sacrificial love. Call it belief, call it trust Ð however we describe it, it means we basically say goodbye to our sins and trust Jesus for eternal life.

I want to give you the opportunity to do just that today. I invite you to bow your head, close your eyes, and pray these words to God with me. You can repeat them. Let’s pray.

Jesus, Thank you for suffering and dying for me. Thank you for taking the punishment for my sin. I believe in you, I accept what you did, I give you my life and gratitude for what you did for me. Please be my Savior from sin and the Lord of my life now and forever. Amen.

This prayer represents your faith in Jesus. Oh how he loves you and me! He gave his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. You are loved!

Death Is Overcome

I hate death. I hate what it does to the people I love, I hate watching slow deaths and suffering of those that go through them, I hate quick deaths when life is snuffed out so quickly and there is no closure for the rest of us. I hate to see what it does to the loved ones left behind. I hate death.

God also hates death. It was never part of God’s plan, but was brought about by humanity’s sinfulness. Death is the enemy; Jesus came into this world to overcome it.

As a pastor, Over the years I have also found that people don’t like to think or talk about death very much. It does a real number on our heads as human beings.

The ways in which we try to avoid talking about it can be rather amusing. I came across a story about a South Carolina funeral home that was planning to open a coffee corner. They would offer Starbucks coffee, and have wi fi, a fireplace, and a television. The intent was to help mourners get their minds off what’s going on.

A news magazine in the community hosted a contest to name this novel little cafŽ. Honorable mention awards included, “The Grim Roaster,” and “Perk-a-tory.” The top winners were “Still Above Grounds,” and “Time to Meet Your Mocha.”

Thinking about death can make us rather uncomfortable and cause us to ask questions such as, What’s to become of me? Or, How am I going to get along without this person? When death hits our family, it literally can stop our world.

We have a story like that today in our text. Death was doing a real number on Mary, Martha and their friends. They were mourning the death of Lazarus, their brother, who as a good friend of Jesus. Four days earlier, the sisters had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill, sick unto death. But Jesus didn’t come right away. He told His disciples it was “to the glory of God.”

When Jesus decided to go, the disciples tried to talk Him out it. The last time He had gone, the people there tried to stone Jesus to death. But Jesus said, “No, I must go and be with my friend Lazarus who is asleep.”

Not understanding His words, the disciples asked if somebody else could wake Lazarus up. But Jesus insisted upon going.

When neared Mary and Martha’s house, the disciples could see all in the community were grieving. When Martha heard Jesus had come, she went running out the door to Him and said, “Lord, if only you had gotten here sooner, our brother would still be alive. Even so, I know you can do something.”

Jesus said to her, “Martha, Lazarus will rise again.”

She replied, “I know he will rise on the last day, but right now I’m hurting, for I’ve lost this beloved brother of mine.”

Then Jesus said, “Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live. And those who live and believe in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha said, “Yes, I believe, Lord. I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, sent from God.” Then she went running back to get Mary, who also came running out to Jesus and fell at his feet. She wept said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would still be alive.”

When Jesus saw the pain and the painful weeping of her and the friends who had come with her, He became very emotionally upset Himself. The Bible says, “He wept.”

Some people who were observing said, “See how He loved that Lazarus!” Others said, “He healed a blind man a few days ago who was a complete stranger. Why didn’t He help Lazarus?”

At that point Jesus asked to be taken to Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus told the others to take the stone away. But Martha immediately jumped up and said, “Lord, he’s been dead four days. (He’s going to stink!)” But Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you, you are going to see glory. Move the stone.” So somebody in the crowd pushed the stone aside, and Jesus looked up toward the heavens and began to pray, “Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer. I pray this prayer not for myself so much, but for these witnesses. Amen.” Then he called into the cave, “Lazarus, Come out!” Lo and behold, Lazarus stood before them, alive with his grave clothes still around his body. Then Jesus told someone to get that stuff off of him and let him go.

Jesus uses this amazing miracle occasion to teach us about Himself. The Lazarus story is one of Jesus’ seven signs. Each sign reveals a truth about Jesus, such as who He is and what He can do in a person’s life. This sign revealed this truth about Him: Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Him, though they die, yet shall they live. And those who live and believe in Him shall never die. Jesus is Mr. Resurrection. He has more power than you can believe! He has power even over death! Jesus teaches us in that encounter that He is the life-giver.

Someday, each one of us will breathe our last breath. However, the good news is, for those who believe in Mr. Resurrection Ð Jesus Ð death does not hold the last word over us. Instead, it leads to eternal life with Him in His heaven.

Lyman Coleman, a leader in the small group movement, lost his wife a few years ago. He writes, “The most painful decision of my life was to ask God to take Margaret home. She’d been suffering from repeated brain seizures and her body was wasted. I whispered in her ear, ÔHoney, I told you, ÔI love you.’ Jesus wants you to come home! We’re going to be all right. We give you permission to let go.” So she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

As I write this letter, I realize I am without my editor, my greatest critic, my teammate, my soul mate, my prayer mate, my partner in everything. We traveled the roads less traveled together in hard times and in good times. “Honey, I miss you, I miss you, I miss you. I will keep the light on for the kids, I will be there for our friends, and one day, we are going to join you where you are, all of us, because Jesus promised it.”

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Jesus is Mr. Resurrection. He gives eternal life. Even though we die, yet shall we live.

Jesus also calls Himself, life. Mr. Life! He resurrects dead lives Ð people walking around with dried up souls Ð and breathes new life into them. Scripture tells us in Ephesians that we were dead in our sins, but Christ came into this world to make us alive again with His forgiveness. Those who are spiritually dead can live again. Just as the father of the prodigal son rejoiced when his son returned home, so Jesus came to give us a new life in the here and now!

Not long ago, I read about a great basketball player named Pistol Pete Maravich. Basketball was his life and all the rest were simply details. He went to bed with a basketball in hand, dribbling on the floor and shooting it toward the ceiling. He rode his bike while dribbling the ball. As he rode in the family car, his dad let him hang out the window so he could dribble alongside the car. When he went to the movie theater, he insisted upon sitting next to the aisle with his basketball so he could practice his dribbling. He was an amazing ball handler!

All that practicing paid off. He was recruited by Louisiana State, and scored a career average of 44.5 point per game, a record in the NCAA. Eventually he was drafted into the NBA and continued his impressive playing. After ten years of play, Pete became the youngest man ever elected to the Hall of Fame.

When he retired from professional basketball in 1980 and his lifelong pursuit of victory was over, and Pete lost his sense of purpose. He experimented with astrology, astronomy, mysticism, nutrition, UFOs, sex, liquid drugs, and material things. Finally he finally met Jesus Christ and that relationship became the foundation of a totally new life. It gave him a sense of purpose that even basketball never provided. Now that same drive and dedication he had given the game, he gave to the Lord. He ran basketball clinics and camps and always shared his testimony about Jesus while teaching kids about basketball. Some time later, a book came out about him called, “Heir to a Dream.”

One day, Pete was to be interviewed on the radio with Dr. James Dobson on Focus on the Family. Before the recording, he told Dobson how great he felt, but seconds later he collapsed on the floor and died. Pistol Pete was now face to face with the Lord who had meant so much to him during those final years of his life. He had gotten his new life, his eternal life.

One person Pete touched in his final days was radio talk show host Larry King, who was recuperating from bypass surgery. The day before Pete Maravich died, King received a Bible from him. Written inside the Bible was this letter:

Dear Larry,

I’m glad to hear that everything went well with your surgery. I want you to know that God was watching over you every minute, and even though I know you question that, I also know that one day it will be revealed to you.

My prayer is that you remain open and God will touch your life as he has mine. Once, I was a disbeliever. When I could not fill my life with basketball, I substituted sex and liquid drugs or material things to feed my internal shell-like appearance. I was never satisfied, Larry. I have finally realized, after forty years, Jesus Christ is in me. He will reveal His truth to you, too, Larry, because Christ lives.

That’s what Jesus came to be to the Pistol Petes of the world like you and me. Jesus came to give us a new life in relationship with Him. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Martha, do you believe this?” That question is also aimed at us. Do you believe this? Jesus appeals to us, “Believe in me.” Belief in Jesus is more than just an intellectual sense. It is entrusting your life to His care and following Him.

The story is told about a great tightrope walker who was going to going to push a wheel barrel on a tight rope over Niagra Falls. It was a windy day and the crowd told him, “Don’t attempt this. You’re not going to make it!” Someone from the back, though, said, “I believe you can do it!” As he made his way toward the front, he said, “Go ahead! Do it! I know you can do it!”

The tightrope walker asked, “Do you really think I can do it?”

The man replied, “I do! I really believe in you!”

So the tight rope walker said, “Good, then get in the wheel barrel and come with me.”

That is what Jesus is appealing to you and me to do today. Get in the wheel barrel and come with Him. Believe in Mr. Resurrection and Life.

Life sometimes has a way of beating us up, causing us to be fearful and have doubts from within as believers. This story about Mary and Martha was saved in order that you might be built up and encouraged to believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.

If you have not experienced His presence in your life, give yourself over to Jesus Christ. He is the life giver. This is a matter of life and death for you. Come to Jesus. Believe in Him Ð Mr. Resurrection and Mr. Life.