“The worst thing that can happen is you die.”
– John Piper
The God Who is There: Leader’s Guide
For the wages of sin is death…
– Romans 6:23a
Doubtless many think that hell, if it exists, is for really bad people, like the guards at Auschwitz, perhaps. What this overlooks is that the guards at Auschwitz were just ordinary people from a sophisticated and highly educated culture…
Hell reminds us of our utter dependence on God. It was willful independence that lay at the heart of the fall (see Genesis 3). But tossing away our dependence on the Creator God who made us is equivalent to tossing away our life: death follows. When we have no experience of the grace that saves and redeems and transforms God’s people, and when we lose the providential support that maintains us in this broken world, the result is hell.
 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
In the city, the strongest sensations may not be the sights but the smells. An interesting mixture of something rotting and urine constantly remind you of where you are. Our preference is to avoid such unpleasant or ugly things but life is not found in an artificially sterile environment. Neither is glory.
Jesus asks that the stone to Lazarus’s tomb be taken away. Being courteous, Martha desires to shield Jesus from the awful smell that must be within. But Jesus intends for all to see the glory of God.
Glory shines brightest in the darkest, ugliest places. God’s glory is revealed most clearly in the cross of Christ – the most awful spectacle in history. So when we avoid the dark places of our world or deny that the darkness in our hearts exists, we prevent ourselves from seeing the Lord of Glory conquer that darkness and make things new.
There is no resurrection without death. Lazarus had to die in order to be raised again. And when Lazarus is raised from the dead, he is not raised so he can flee from a world of darkness to one that is light and easy.
We must not forget that later the Pharisees plot to kill Lazarus. He very likely experiences persecution as a member of a sect banned from the synagogues and Jewish communities. Lazarus does not live forever and eventually experiences death again.
Lazarus is raised so that he and many others might see for themselves the weightiness and splendor of God. And those who believe are then sent back into a world of darkness to honor this awesome God and shine His light for others.
Just How Pro-Life Are You Really?
Not long ago, a friend and I went through the drive-through window at a fast food spot. The fact that the server had a thick foreign accent, characteristic of fast food franchises in Southern California, and that my friend never shied away from making his racism a matter of public record, made me cringe as I prepared for the inevitable. Sure enough, this friend made some typically racist remark. The sad thing is, he’s a pastor. The odd thing is, he’s a rabid opponent of abortion. But is he consistently pro-life?
Evangelicals raise no qualms when the United States commits millions to Israel or spends millions on a military campaign to free a tiny, but wealthy, oil state with no regard for democracy, but when it comes to talking about the emergency in Somalia, Africa, with hundreds dying every day from starvation, the sentiment seems to be, “We have our own problems here at home.” Evangelicals rightly protest the murder of the unborn and decry the silence of those who refuse to defend those who have no voice to defend themselves. Nevertheless, that same silence hovers secretly over the same impassioned group when children die senselessly after they are born. Shouldn’t there be an outrage of equal proportions? Isn’t life life? Or are we just caught up in the glitz and glamour of political debates? Are we really pro-life?
Link: Complete Article
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
…there is a kind of life which leads to death, and there is a kind of death which leads to life…What the world calls life (a desirable self-indulgence) leads to alienation from God which in reality is death, whereas the putting to death of all perceived evil within us, which the world sees as an undesirable self-abnegation, is in reality the way to authentic life.
 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Originally, man was meant to have dominion over the earth. We are uncomfortable with words like subdue and dominion because it sounds like humans are meant to be oppressive dictators over the rest of creation.
However, Adam was not to be a dictator, but a steward. He had no authority that had not been given to him. He could not do whatever he pleased with God’s creation. With God’s intention in mind, we realize that in the beginning Adam was not called to be a gardener but a protector. His original call was to defend the creation, his wife, and the honor of God by defeating the serpent. Instead, he did nothing as the serpent deceived his wife. Adam did not destroy the serpent but agreed with him and joined forces with him against God, opening the door to sin and death.
After the fall, mankind would still like to believe that we are in charge. My children are convinced that they are in charge of our house. No one had to teach them this and it is with great difficulty that we teach them that they are not. We are born this way.
And that is especially sad because we are not in charge. We are not in charge of when we are born or when we will die. We are not in charge of what will happen to us or how exactly our children will turn out. In fact, we are not even in charge of ourselves.
…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Man was to have dominion over all creatures and even the earth itself. Now, we have dominion over nothing. We are not masters but slaves to our passions and circumstances. This is bad news, but when we can admit that this is true, the Gospel becomes very good news.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
 “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Loving Jesus and serving His sheep will be costly. If Peter follows Jesus, he will die a martyr. We prefer to follow Jesus soaring above the storm, away from the mud, and the mess, and the ugliness of life. But this is not the way of love. In 1 Corinthians 4:15, the Apostle Paul says, “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.” It’s much easier to be a guide, than a father. It’s much easier to be a Bible teacher than a mentor, a counselor than a parent, or a manager than a shepherd.
Real love does not clock in and clock out. We know this. When we get married, we no longer get to do whatever we want. When we have children, we don’t get to go wherever we want. Will following Jesus cost us less?
Loving Jesus and serving His sheep is costly, and moreover each of us does not get to choose what cost we will pay. Jesus does not invite Peter to submit his business plan for approval. Peter loves Jesus but martyrdom is certainly not his personal plan. But there is more to life than our personal plans, even our “spiritual” personal plans.
In the end, Peter does follow Jesus and he does lose his life. Peter preaches the gospel even though it gets him crucified all because he understands that Jesus does not just say “Follow.” Jesus says, “Follow ME.”
Wherever Peter goes, whatever he endures, Jesus will be there with him. Peter is willing to die because he knows when he follows Jesus, even in death, he will be near His Savior.
Jesus does not send us out alone. He is a good shepherd. Jesus will take care of us. He will use His staff to beat back the wolves. He walks with us through the very valley of the shadow of death.
The Unpredictable Plant
 But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.  So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”
– Jonah 1:4-6
Storm is the environment in which we either lose our lives or are saved; there is no cool, safe ledge on which to perch as spectators. There are no bleachers from which to enjoy the lightning and thunder, the waves and breakers of the storm. We are in it, prophet and people, sailor and saints. Nothing else matters at this point; it is life or death. Whatever else has been on the agenda is on it no longer. There is this single item: salvation – or not.
Money, a powerful element in human autonomy, holds a key place in [this story], Jonah using his excessively large sum of money to purchase passage to Tarshish…But the power of money disappears in the storm. There is only a single power to deal with now: God – and God’s salvation.
The only thing the sailors found useful to do in the Jonah storm was to lighten the ship, get rid of what they had heretofore assumed was their primary concern: “they threw the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them” (1:5)…As God’s action intensifies, the significance of our human lives…comes into focus as the single point of who we are, not what we have to offer him, not what we can do to help him.
If the storm sets the conditions in which these stories take place, prayer is the essential action. In the Jonah story, the sailors pray, each crying to his own god (1:5) and then to Yahweh (1:14). The captain asks Jonah to pray to his god, but Jonah doesn’t do it (1:6). Jonah will later pray from the fish’s belly, but the salvation has by then already been accomplished…
Trouble, at least extreme trouble, storm-trouble, strips us to the essentials and reveals the basic reality of our lives. In Jonah it was prayerlessness…The storm revealed Jonah to be a prophet who did not pray.