From Death to Life, 21 April 2019

From Death to Life (Easter)
Series—The Quest of the Good Shepherd
Luke 24:1-8

Series Big Idea:
Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our culture, yet it is at the heart of the two greatest biblical commandments: love God, love neighbor.

Big Idea:
The resurrection changes everything—past, present and future.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Welcome to Resurrection Sunday, our annual Easter celebration, the biggest day on the Church calendar. This is the day we remember the greatest moment in history, when the God who came to the world He created died for the sins of humankind and rose from the dead. He was crucified on a cross, the most horrific torture known in the day, yet he conquered sin and death. He arose. Hallelujah!

Although the vast majority of USAmericans believe Jesus died and resurrected, you may be skeptical. If you’re not convinced Jesus is alive, just imagine for a few moments that he is living, that he hears our prayers, that his promise to return is true, that his death was an acceptable sacrifice to pay for the sins of every man, woman and child who receives the gift of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation extended to them. Listen to this amazing story, the Easter story, the events recorded by a doctor named Luke of what happened following the horrifying death of Jesus:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. (Luke 24:1)

You just can’t make this stuff up! If Luke—or any other writer—was creating fiction, they would never mention women as the first eyewitnesses of the empty tomb. Women were second-class citizens in the Roman Empire. The authenticity of Dr. Luke’s account is strengthened by details such as this.

All four gospels—or “good news” biographies of Jesus—mention the Resurrection occurring on the first day of the week. Sunday became the day of Christian worship as a result, so this detail is significant, too, since the Jewish Sabbath is from Friday night until Saturday night.

Why did these women—named in other biographies of Jesus—go to the tomb? They brought spices to give his body a proper burial. The original Greek word for spices here is…
aroma. Interesting.

In Matthew’s biography, after the death of Jesus, we read:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:62-64)

It’s ironic that a group of unbelievers remembered Jesus’ prediction that he would rise from the dead, yet his own followers seemed clueless.

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard. (Matthew 27:65-66)

A Roman guard unit consisted of sixteen soldiers—four groups of four. Four would stand in front of that which they were guarding and the other twelve would be behind them, often sleeping in shifts.

Sixteen soldiers were guarding the tomb on Friday, but they weren’t there on Sunday! Back to the women with their spices:

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, (Luke 24:2)

The stone is believed to have been 1.5 to 2 tons!

but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. (Luke 24:3)

I can’t imagine how they felt. Was the body stolen? Who moved the stone? I’m sure the main question was, “Where is the body of Jesus?”

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? (Luke 24:4-5)

This is a great question!

The universal symbol of the Christian faith is the…cross. It fits nicely on a necklace, is easily constructed with two pieces of wood, and can be found around the world. But the cross is an object of torture. It’s an image of death.

The cross is incredibly important because on it Jesus died for the sins of all who follow him, declaring him LORD and Savior. He lived a perfect life so he could die as a perfect sacrifice for sinners like you and me—imperfect people stained by our failures that separate us from Almighty God.

Our culture is filled with stereotypes and impressions of heaven and hell. Don’t expect heaven to be a place with people floating around playing harps, and don’t look for red guys with pitch forks running around in hell. Let me give you two simple definitions:

Heaven is where God.
Hell is where God isn’t.

Because God is holy and intolerant of sin, our sin separates us from God. That’s why Jesus came, lived, and died—to pay the price, to take our punishment, to cover our sin. The wages of sin is death and we must pay…or we can let Jesus’ death pay it. It’s our choice.

Contrary to statements about God sending people to hell, C.S. Lewis famously said, “All that are in Hell, choose it.” We choose to believe in Jesus, follow him now, and spend eternity with him in heaven—where God is—or we can reject him now and spend eternity in hell—where God isn’t.

But back to our text:

He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” (Luke 24:6-7)

Jesus predicted not only his death, but his resurrection. Not even Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, or Criss Angel can do that!

Then they remembered his words. (Luke 24:8)

Have you ever missed something someone told you? I admit sometimes I’m not the best listener and someone will say to me, “I told you…” Ugh!

Jesus died and came back to life. Nice story. Even if it’s true,

So What?

I’m so glad you asked! In one statement:
the empty tomb changes everything!

First, the empty tomb changed the past.

The past two thousand years have ushered in arguably the greatest movement in history. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion, but he did come to show us what it means to be human. He lived a perfect life, preached the greatest sermons, died to reconcile all humanity to God,…but didn’t stop there.

Many people of history have lived extraordinary lives and done incredible things. Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Aristotle, Galileo, Alexander the Great, Plato, William Shakespeare…but they’re all dead. It would be foolish to try to talk to them, even if you were to visit their burial site.

But Jesus is alive, and that changed everything. Paul, one of the leaders of the first Christians, wrote to the church in the Greek city of Corinth:

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

I think that’s clear. Without the empty tomb, the Christian faith is useless. A few verses later, Paul writes,

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19)

That’s a pretty bold thing to say. Without the resurrection, our faith is futile, we are living a fantasy, our sins are eternal stains keeping us from Almighty God, there’s no hope for the dead, and we are most to be pitied.

Most people today acknowledge Jesus as an historical figure. Muslims believe in him. Hindus believe in him. Even atheists believe Jesus walked the earth. The question is,

“Who is Jesus?”

The Bible plainly teaches several things:

Jesus is fully God.
Jesus is fully human.
Jesus is perfect.
Jesus died.
Jesus rose from the dead.

By the way, Paul also noted:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:6)

If you take all of the witnesses and brought them to court to testify for six minutes each, it would take more than 50 hours to get through the testimony. And countless followers of Jesus have become martyrs, dying for their belief not only in the person of Jesus, but also his death and resurrection.

The empty tomb changed the past.
The empty tomb changed the present.

Think for a moment about something broken in your life, something seemingly hopeless.

This past week a friend was devastated by a house sale that fell through. Another failed to get a job they really wanted. Our world witnessed the loss of part of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. Every day we’re confronted disappointment, suffering, and even death.

I can’t imagine the horror of Jesus’ friends as they watched him hanging on a cross, his life extinguished before their very eyes. It’s as if they invested three years building a house, only to watch it go up in flames…with no insurance!

In the classic tale
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, there’s a scene where the great and mighty Aslan is killed on the Stone Table, devastating young Susan and Lucy. But that wasn't the end of the story.

I’ve had many storms in my life which seemed like dead ends. Loss. Hopeless.

But just as Jesus went from death to life, so also many things in my life have been resurrected. I’ve experienced redemption. I’ve found delightful surprises when I turned the page of my story. I’ve discovered miracles are real.

I was reminded of this in the movie
Breakthrough, a true story of boy who fell through the ice and was declared dead for 45 minutes before coming back to life, walking out of the hospital on his own, and living without brain damage three weeks later.

The empty tomb changed the present, offering hope to those who believe in miracles, who embrace the supernatural, who have faith in the living Messiah.

This doesn’t mean life is easy. In fact, Jesus promised us we would have troubles in this life, but he also promised to be with us through the storms of life…always.

The empty tomb changed the present. Finally,

The empty tomb changes the future.

One famous song says, “Because he lives/I can face tomorrow/Because he lives/All fear is gone/Because I know he holds the future/And life is worth the living/Just because he lives.”

Some people say Christianity is all about going to heaven when you die. Remember, heaven is where God is, and if you follow Jesus in this life, you will follow him in the next. The most famous verse in the Bible says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This isn’t just a reference to the next life, but to a whole and lasting life. An abundant life. A life filled with meaning and purpose and hope and peace. Christianity is all about going to heaven before you die, experiencing God’s presence and power now. But followers of Jesus are promised an incredible future, new bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body, eternity with God, a reality without temptation or sin. Here’s a sneak preview of what is to come:

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

If Jesus is still dead, I’m hopeless, my faith is useless, my destiny is eternal separation from God in hell because of my sins, and I am, indeed, to be pitied.

But I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus is alive, and that changed the past, the present, and the future.

I have resurrection power.
I have hope.
I have peace.
I have freedom—from sin, darkness, eternal death, and shame.

All because of an empty tomb.

Have you experienced the living Jesus? We can all read about dead people from the past, but Jesus is alive and wants a relationship with you. This isn’t about religion—trying to do good things to make God approve of you. He is already crazy in love with you and proved it by sending Jesus to die for you. This isn’t about tradition. This is about a person, a living person, Jesus.

But no gift is yours until you accept it. A check is worthless until you cash it. A winning lottery ticket cannot buy anything until it is redeemed. And the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross—his claims of divinity validated by his resurrection—is only sufficient if you confess your sins, repent and turn away from your life of sin, and receive the gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love of Jesus.

But it begins with surrender. Let go and let God. I know it’s hard. We all want power and control, but how’s that working out for you? Imagine how different your life could be if the Creator of the universe was in charge? The gospel—the good news—is more than just forgiveness of sins, though Jesus died to make that available to you. Our celebration today is that Jesus is risen. He has conquered all evil, he is seated beside God the Father, he rules the world by his presence until all things have been made subject. Make space for Jesus to be LORD, to be God, to lead your life, to rule your entire life.

There’s no pressure. There’s no guilt. There’s no manipulation. There’s only an invitation.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”

He said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6b)

He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25b)

Jesus is calling your name today. He wants to call you from darkness to light, from sin to forgiveness, from bondage to freedom.

Have you experienced Jesus, the living Messiah? The empty tomb changed the past, it can change your present, and it can tranform your future.

But you must respond. You must say yes. You must make Jesus your Savior…and LORD.

If you have said yes, if Jesus is your LORD, it’s time to celebrate!

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Journey Through The Wall, 24 April 2016

Journey Through The Wall
Series: Go Deeper
Genesis 22:1-14

Series Theme
“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

The Big Idea: The third pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is journey through the wall and know it’s all about Jesus.


This morning I’d like to take you on a journey. It’s a familiar journey for some of you. It goes like this:

We're goin' on a bear hunt,
We're going to catch a big one,
I'm not scared
What a beautiful day!
Oh look! It's some long, wavy grass!
Can't go over it,
Can't go under it,
Can't go around it,
Got to go through it!

We’re not actually hunting bears today, but we are talking about encountering a wall we cannot go over, under, or around. We must journey through the wall.

There are many types of walls but they all usually lead to one question:

Today we continue our series Go Deeper: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. We have said our lives are like an iceberg. There is more beneath the surface than we allow others to see…or sometimes even acknowledge ourselves. We’re all messed up because we live in a fallen, sin-filled world. You are messed up. I’m messed up. In fact, if you don’t think you’re messed up, you’re the most messed up!

Tragically, many people live their lives in denial…of their weaknesses, their family of origin, pain from their past, or their own emotions. God created us with both thoughts and feelings. We have both a mind and a heart. To live in denial is to prevent growth and change. To get real about our stuff is the first step toward healing and wholeness.

Let me say again we all have stuff. For some reason there are acceptable and unacceptable things in the church. For instance, addiction to alcohol is bad, but addiction to applause and compliments is generally acceptable, perhaps because it’s often hidden. Cursing is bad, but gossiping through prayer requests is not only acceptable, it is encouraged in some circles. A family with a history of divorce is bad, but generations of religious, self-righteous people is sometimes admired, even though Jesus directed most of His criticism at the religious leaders of His day who stood in judgment of the “sinners.”

I mentioned the propensity of some to wear masks. We may wear holiness masks so others will think we’re more spiritual than we really are. Another thing some mask is their emotions. I remember a certain Christian DJ who seemed to talk about tragedy in her life and then dismiss it with something like “all things work together for good so I’m just happy! Praise the Lord.” She was not real.

Let me just say it: life is hard. It was hard for Jesus. It’s hard for us.

Where did we get the idea we should be happy, happy, happy? Jesus said

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (
John 16:33b)

The Wall

The Wall appears through a crisis. When we hit the Wall, we cry out “God – Where are You?”

It’s ok to ask God questions. It’s ok to have doubts. It’s ok to ask, “Why?” God can handle it!

David cried out to God for years when Saul and his men pursued him, and he was forced to hide in caves (see Psalms 69, 70, 71 and others).

Consider Job. Satan challenged God to take away Job’s wealth, animals, children, and good health, all as a way to see if Job would continue to be upright. At first, Job cries out to God, but God does not answer right away (Job 13: 20-26). Eventually, God speaks up and Job repents and relents (Job 42:1-6).

Abraham: Genesis 22:1-15

After looking at Saul and David, today’s character is Abraham.

Abraham had his share of Walls in his life. He was asked to leave his family and travel to an unknown land. He arrived and encountered a famine, had a conflict with his nephew Lot, his wife was unable to have children, he bounced off that wall and had a son with his wife’s servant.

At age 110 he hit another wall. His promised son was finally born and then God asks him to do the unthinkable.

Genesis 22...

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

God does not tempt, but tests Abraham to confirm his faith and prove his commitment.

This seems so bizarre to us, yet in that day child sacrifices were commonly offered to pagan gods.

Tragically, 1/3 of my generation has been killed, but that’s another issue for another time.

Mount Moriah is now the covered with the Dome of the Rock in Israel, a Muslim structure.

Abraham faces a Wall, a test that he causes a crisis of faith.

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Imagine that journey!

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Good question!

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:1-14)

God tested Abraham.
God allowed Job to be tested.
God often allows trials and testing in our lives…for two purposes

1. His glory
2. Our growth

This past week I was at the C&MA Great Lakes District Conference and Rev. Thomas George, our District Superintendent, reminded us of three things:

1. We were made by God
2. We were made for God
3. We were made for God’s glory

Our consumeristic culture says it’s all about us.

The Bible says it’s all about God. This is a very difficult message for us to grasp. Just to prove this, one of our worship songs was critiqued. It says, “The God of angel armies is always on my side.” While there may be a way to understand this correctly, our natural response is to be comforted knowing God is always on our side…but He’s not! He never makes that promise. He promises to love us, but it’s not about Him being on our side. He asks us to be on His side. It’s about His will, not ours. It’s about His plan, not ours. It’s about His glory, not ours.

Sometimes this means we find ourselves in very difficult places, asked to sacrifice a child, fleeing those who are supposed to be supporting us, suffering for doing good, or experiencing horrific pain despite seeking to follow Jesus.

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Get Real!

I urge you, family, to be real. There’s no shame in suffering. There’s no shame in feeling. There’s no shame in discouragement, depression, disappointment…or even doubting God. It’s His clear will for us to do life together. We need one another, especially when we face the wall. We need prayer, encouragement, and often tangible assistance from others. We’re often too proud to admit it but all need help sometimes, if not always!

One of the most sobering verses in the Bible is found in Hebrews 11. After commending many great characters such as Abel, Noah, Abraham, it says

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)


Like you, when I face the wall my flesh wants to go over it, under it, or around it. The only way God gets glory and we grow is when we go through it, not alone but with His strength and the help of others.

One of the best tools we have at First Alliance is prayer. We have prayer in small groups, Bible studies, and Sunday School. We also have men’s prayer here on Tuesdays at 8:30 AM and Wednesdays at 7 PM. We have women’s prayer Wednesdays at 6 PM. We have open prayer Thursdays at 7 PM.

There’s power in prayer. There’s freedom in sharing your Wall with others. There’s joy in bearing the burdens of others. We weren’t made to do this alone. We were created to journey with one another and with God…for His glory. He is here, whether it feels like it or not. He can be trusted, even when life doesn’t make sense. He loves you—really—and He is a mighty fortress.

Questions for Discussion

Are you “stuck” at the Wall? Have you been at the Wall some time before? Has someone you know and love been at the Wall?

What is it like?

What have you learned? What have you rejected?

Has it been difficult connecting with God and seeing His purposes for you?

How can we help people who are struggling at the Wall?

What does this text tell us about God?

What does this text tell us about ourselves?

Credits and Stuff

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Series outline and ideas from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

Other study questions from
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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