He Is God, He Decides

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 De 32:39 'Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
 40 For I raise My hand to heaven, And say, "As I live forever,
 Php 1:19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.                              
 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (There’s Paul, echoing our mission statement, living for the sake of others rather than himself!)
 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,
 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
 Joh 11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.
 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there."
32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."  33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
 34 And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see."
 35 Jesus wept.
 36 Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!"
 37 And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"
 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days."
 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?"
 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
 42 "And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."  43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"  44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go."  45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.
God decides. Matters of life and death, wounding and healing are in His hands. Paul’s very life was hanging in the balance as he wrote this letter to the church at Philippi. He was imprisoned at Rome and would soon appear before Caesar. It was a life or death situation. But Paul knew the truth of our OT lesson.

 He knew there is no God besides God. He knew that God kills and God makes alive. He wounds and He heals and there is none that can deliver from His hand.....not even the powerful Caesar. Paul remembered the words of Hanna in 1 Sam. 2:6:

 1Sa 2:6 "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.

He believed the words of the psalmist in  Ps 139:16:

 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

The truth of this power of God over death and life is abundantly illustrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Dead for four days, the body already in a state of decay, but God decides! Life and death, wounding and healing are in His hands! Even the decaying body of Lazarus is restored to full vitality. What peace and comfort we forfeit when we forget this basic truth!

I was watching a movie the other night, which I do not recommend for anyone, it was much too gruesome! I think it was called “The Awakening 2.” The movie sought to portray the inevitability of death. It was the idea of when your time is up, your time is up and there is nothing you can do about it.

The movie brought up two great spiritual truths. Number one was, that’s right, when your time is up, your time is up, and the second spiritual truth which they hit on as people tried to figure out how to stop the march of death was this:  “only new life can defeat death.”

Of course they completely failed to portray these truths as they relate to God being in charge and Jesus being the only One to conquer death and the only way to new life and victory over death....but what do you expect....it’s Hollywood!

But some Christians struggle with these truths just as much as those who are not believers. We want to wrestle with God. We want to ask why! We demand an explanation. We want to know why some people are called home so early and others are allowed to tarry. We want to know why some are called to suffer and others are not.

This week, a 16 year old girl went to school in Colorado, just like she did every day, but she never came home because she was killed by hostage taking gunman, and we want to know why? Why did you allow this to happen God? Hy her? Why not the others? Why?

We all have that part of Peter in us that wants to protest God’s way of doing things. Jesus last words to Peter were recorded in the Book of John and He said,

 Joh 21:18 "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish."
 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."
 20 Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"
 21 Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"
 22 Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."

Whether we live or die, whether we are wounded or healed, it all boils down to God decides. Give Him the glory. He knows...we don’t. He is God, we are not.

Most people don’t like to hear this passage from Deuteronomy. Kill seems like such a strong word! Oh please don’t use the word kill and associate it with an all loving God! All right then use the phrase “ I determine when a life is ended,” if it makes you more comfortable, but it doesn’t change the truth that our times are in His hands!

While it’s true that Satan is the murderer and the destroyer, he cannot lift a hand to slay anyone without the go-ahead from God. Just read the Book of Job and you will see that truth graphically displayed.

God has reasons for allowing death and suffering. Sometimes they are related to His judgement, as witnessed so often in the OT and even in the NT as was the case of the hypocritical Ananias and his wife Sapphira.

 Ac 5:4 " Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. So you see judgement against Ananias...but mercy in that those who heard about this knew that while God is love, He is still holy and not to be taken lightly.

Sometimes His reasons are related to His mercy. I think of King Hezekiah. I wish we had time to read the whole account found in 2 Kings 20, but let me just summarize for you. King Hezekiah took ill and the prophet Isaiah told him to put his house in order, for he was going to die.

Up to this point Hezekiah had been a wonderful God-fearing king. He was devastated by this news and pleaded with God to spare his life. God said, “okay, I’ll give you another fifteen years.” Well, wouldn’t you know it. Hezekiah committed a grievous sin during this time.

This sin resulted in Hezekiah losing everything. His sons were carried off into captivity in Babylon where they served the king of Babylon as Eunichs..
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pray for healing and long life. Remember God still decides. His purposes were even fulfilled with the extended life of Hezekiah, but you can see that sometimes God calls us home in mercy....in response to things we cannot see in the future.

Of course the prime example of a merciful death would be that of Jesus.  Sometimes His reasons are just a smaller part of a much larger scheme. Which we will never see or understand until we are in glory!

When Joanie and I lost our baby boy to a miscarriage, this passage in Deuteronomy, was a great comfort to me personally as I sought to deal with the “whys” of the situation. We don’t know why are baby boy was taken from us,  but it is enough to know that God allowed it to happen. He was not taken by surprise!

He had reasons and there is no point in doubting the love and wisdom of those reasons, especially when one considers the love and wisdom he displayed in allowing His only Son to be mercilessly crucified for our sake.

The God who kills, also is the God who makes alive. He is the author and giver of life. We talk of genetic engineering, but not one engineer can engineer anything without God’s permission. Not one child conceived in a petri dish can be conceived without God’s permission. Not one clone will be allowed to come into existence without God’s green light.

Sometimes He just backs off in these matters and let’s us have our wishes. Do you want clones....go ahead, and see what kind of problems they will present. Do you want fertility treatment? Go ahead, but you will have to answer to Me for every child that I allowed you to create in this fashion, and the ones that you threw down the sink in order that you could have your wish. And our only answer is Lord, I have sinned against You have mercy upon me....and He will.

A classic example of God judging us by giving us our wishes can be found in the push for genetic engineering that occurred early in the 20th century. Margaret Sanger and others were pushing for birth control and sterilization in the hopes of eliminating “undesirables.” The church bought into this lie of birth control early in the 1930's.

And God said, okay church, do you want control? Do you want genetic engineering? Do you want to see what purifying the human race really looks like? Every child a wanted child? And He allowed Hitler to come to power......and we saw, but we still have not learned. God has His reasons....He decides. He is in control.

How much wiser it would be for all of us to embrace this truth in Deuteronomy. “There is no God besides Me. I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal!”

The next time you see someone with a handicap, think about this passage. Sometimes God wounds. Again, we struggle with the why of it, but we really only need to know that in wounding He gives us opportunity to give Him glory as we reach out to that person with the same kind of unconditional agape love that He extended to us.
The truth is, we are all handicapped aren’t we? If we could put our souls without Christ in front of a mirror, we would see how hideous we really are! We are all imperfect, all damaged by sin. Where would we be, if God hadn’t reached out to us and made the righteousness of Christ available to us?

 Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, (while we were handicapped and deformed by our sins) Christ died for us.

I find it interesting that in our gospel reading today reference is made to a blind man that was healed by Jesus

 Joh 11:37 And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"

We read about this incident involving the blind man in John 9

 Joh 9:1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
 3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
The purpose of this man’s handicap or wounding if you will, was that the works of God would be revealed in him. God would be glorified in this man’s physical handicap. And so it is with the handicapped in our midst, they give us an opportunity to bring glory to God as we reach out in care and compassion and acceptance and love.

 Know this. The world does not buy into this business.  The world says, “We kill, we make alive, we decide who lives and who dies. And so because it was expedient, nursing home patients are murdered in the wake of Katrina.
Laws allowing assisted suicide and euthanasia are passed.
Abortion is legalized.
And birth control rather than God control determines the size of our families.

And if God wounds someone with a handicap, the world again says, let’s test the baby in the womb and if there is something wrong.......well, it is legal to abort. Heil Hitler!

And so even though there is no cure for Downs syndrome....the number of Downs Syndrome babies that are born have been drastically reduced through the means of pre-natal testing.....what does that tell you?

The frightening thing about all this is with each passing day, more and more Christians are buying into this philosophy, or are apathetic toward the plight of the innocent unborn victims.  This should not be so! And it would not be so, if we truly believed what God is saying in Dt 32:39, “There is no God besides Me. I kill and I make alive’ I wound and I heal!”
And every time we take these matters into our own hands we are not only violating the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” but we are also violating the first commandment. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me! (NKJV) Because we are attempting to play God!

I think this passage from Deuteronomy is very appropriate for this Life Chain Sunday. Every person who gathers this afternoon from 1 to 2:30 on both sides of Casaloma between College Ave and Wisconsin Ave in Appleton. Is in effect saying, “I believe the truth of Dt 32:39.”  I believe we are not to take these matters of life and death into our own hands.

And every member of Living Word who shows up for the life chain this afternoon and holds up a sign, is affirming the first part of our mission statement: To declare the truth as found in God’s Word...the Bible.......and by sacrificing an hour and a half of your time this afternoon, you are also demonstrating the second part of our mission statement: To glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others (the unborn) rather than ourselves.

God may allow us, to end the lives of these children, He may even allow us to be apathetic about it, but one day we will have to answer for it.

 Pr 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.  12 If you say, "Surely we did not know this," Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not  render to each man according to his deeds?
Scary thought isn’t it?

 Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Yes it is a fearful thing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins. There is nothing you or I have done that He did not pay for on that cross.

And if you have been apathetic, or if you have been actively involved in ending the life of an innocent unborn child....I want you to know there is forgiveness for you......but you must confess the sin and open up your heart to receive His forgiveness.

In our gospel reading today we read of Jesus approaching the tomb of Lazarus. A hole in the ground with a stone placed over the hole. When He saw the tomb, He was “groaning in Himself.”

He wasn’t groaning for Lazarus....He knew what He was about to do for Lazarus....I believe He was groaning for all those who in the future would refuse to hear His voice and leave the stone over the hole in their heart.

How about you? Have you heard the command of Jesus? “Take away the stone!” Let the Son of God, the Light of the universe, flood into the tomb of your heart and give you new life! Let Jesus come into every chamber of your heart and remove all your sins...don’t hang onto any of them!

Give Jesus access to your heart! Roll the stone away and hear Him call you by name! Lazarus come forth......______________come forth___________________come forth____________come forth
And Lazarus did come forth and Jesus’ final command was “Loose him, and let him go!” Isn’t it time you were loosed and let go from your sins? All of them? Then roll the stone away and give Jesus access to your heart today!