Sunday, February 11, 2018

Dear Orange Moon Friends

Friends: I can literally count on one hand the number of times we have sent out a Sunday message over these nearly 20 years.  I feel compelled to send this, however, a repeat from three years ago today, and "coincidentally," the subject matter of a sermon I will also deliver today.  Thanks, Glen).

"A Greater Gift"  

   "Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha (it was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick). Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.  Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was" (John 11:5-6).

    Had we never read the Apostle John's narrative, we might expect a prompt response by the Lord Jesus Christ upon hearing the news of His beloved friend's illness.  Instead, "Jesus loved Lazarus… when He heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was."  ???!  Connecting the dots leads to the enigmatic conclusion that the Lord Jesus delayed His journey Lazarus because He so loved Lazarus. Strangely, the Lord's devotion to His friend prompted His allowing Lazarus to die.

   Mary and Martha both expressed the same brokenhearted bewilderment: "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21; 32).  The sisters knew the Lord Jesus had received the news in time to travel to Bethany for a healing of their brother.  They also knew the Lord loved Lazarus and could have healed him.  What they didn't know is that a resurrection transcends a healing.  A resurrection requires a death.  Love therefore necessitated the Savior's puzzling delay because the Lord Jesus desired to bestow a greater gift to His beloved than the mere alleviation of sickness.

   "How long, Lord?" (Psalm 89:46).  Fifteen times in the Psalms, questions regarding delay rise to the throne of God.  The implicit answer comes, "Long enough, precisely long enough, to reveal the love of God to His trusting children in perfect mode and measure."  We're tempted to want healings, as it were, when our Heavenly Father purposes resurrections. The challenges come in multitudes of forms as He seems to delay answers, solutions, provisions, protections, and deliverances.  We echo Mary and Martha, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here…"   Precious things die during the delay, and if do not remember and affirm our Heavenly Father's perfect wisdom, and even more, His boundless love, we may give in to the despair that can cripple our fellowship with the Lord.

    Again, "Jesus loved Lazarus… when He heard that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was."  We must apply the principle of this anecdotal event to our own lives and experience.  Love's delay may often bewilder our understanding, but we must not allow it to discourage our heart. Indeed, our Lord often purposes resurrections that require delay and death.  He desires to give us better than we want or expect.  To do so, however, frequently requires that our particular Lazarus, in whatever form, must die in order to make possible God's transcendent resurrection. 

"Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: 
wait, I say, on the LORD" 
(Psalm 27:14).

Weekly Memory Verse
     "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
(Jeremiahs 33:3)  

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