Death’s surprising connection to life (My Redeemer Lives 1:2)

Death and life are intimately linked.

I think we like to believe that life sits over here, while death has its own box on the other side of the room. Life is the front door, the window sill, death is the basement, the back scary corner of the garage no one wants to clean so we all just ignore it.

It doesn’t work that way and Revelation tells us why. It also tells us what death and life both have to do with resurrection.

Revelation 1:17-18 –

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

The Him in verse 17 is Jesus. The I is the apostle John. The John who reclined at table with Jesus, so close he could probably hear his heartbeat, but also saw Him transfigured on a mountain top in all His glory. There is no doubt that John knew Jesus as a teacher, a friend, and also knew without a doubt Jesus was the God of the Universe.  So why do we find John in Revelation falling like a dead person at Jesus’s feet?

There are other examples in Scripture of death-like responses to visions sent from God. The prophet Daniel 10:7-9 –

And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

The ESV translation notes clarify that my radiant appearance was fearfully changed is more accurately translated from Hebrew as my splendor was changed to ruin.

The NIV translation of verse 8 stands out to me –

So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.

Was Daniel passed out, trapped frozen in fear, deep in worship because of the vision? Was John?

Death is always connected to resurrection.

Death is a powerful force in this life. People fear it, wait for it, try to subvert it. John’s reaction is just another reminder of death’s power over each of us.

However, it’s also noteworthy that when we are confronted with the resurrected Christ, in the flesh, in John’s instance, or at the very least the His message and messengers in Daniel, something like death is the reaction. Coming face to face with the Resurrected Jesus is coming face to face with God’s raw power over all things.

Read Revelation 1:17-18 again and look closer at verse 18 this time:

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus, in Revelation, proclaims that he doesn’t just hold resurrected life in His hands, but He’s in charge of death too. God is always in charge and we know in our brains that means that God holds power over death, but the resurrection reminds us that not just life is in God’s hand, but death too. He keeps both the Keys of Life and the Keys of Death and Hades.

Ack. I don’t think this makes us very comfortable. We want God to weep life from His pores, but have nothing to do with death.

What does it mean that He holds the keys to death?

Eternity is for unbelievers, just as much as it is for believers.

Death will come to us all. In that way, it is part of God’s plan. Maybe that’s why atheists are fine with Jesus being a prophet, fine with Jesus’s death, but the resurrection is where they draw the line.

The Resurrection shows us clearly that this God, this Jesus Christ of Nazareth, controls both realms. He’s over all and through all and in all. Death and Life aren’t in boxes for Him. Instead, He has the power to hold them, to open them, for His plans. If you don’t know Him, that’s more than uncomfortable. It’s terrifying. When you know Him you know this as well:

This same Jesus reaches out His hand in the face of death.

Revelation 1:17-18 keeps giving us nuggets of goodness –

 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

He laid his right hand on me…

I died, and behold I am alive forevermore…

Yes, death and God’s connection to it are not comforting, but our powerful Savior is also the Savior who lays His nail-pierced hand on us and welcomes us to Life, Resurrected Life in Him.

One of my favorite Revelation commentaries assures me that

Jesus offers grace, in life, in death, and in Life again.

 

When Life Feels Not-So-Fresh (My Redeemer Lives 1:1)

Welcome to My Redeemer Lives!

I love the first day of a study because everything feels fresh.

My intentions are fresh, my pen seems filled with fresh ink, even my Bible gives off fresh-page vibes, just waiting to deliver insight to my brain cells.

It’s important to breath in fresh for just a moment, because, most of the time, life feels not-so-fresh.

Routines, monthly payments, staring in the fridge figuring out what to eat, classes, errands…

what feels not-so-fresh in your life?

Then there is the darker side of not-so-fresh.

There once was a man named Job who knew about not-so-fresh, and that’s putting it lightly. He sat in not-so-fresh. He knew emotional struggle, loss, and a life turned upside down, but it wasn’t all drama-drama. Instead, I think one of the hardest parts of Job’s story is that he had to sit in all the muck for a while.

Job 2:12-13

12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

And this is just the first week.

Job has wounds- holes in his heart where his loved ones’ laughter used to be, unrelenting sun where his roof used to give him shade, and now personal, physical decay in his flesh- infection, boils, rot. (Um, gross.)

Job laments and his friends seems super supportive for about a millisecond. Then they pick up the salt shaker, guised as “helpful suggestions” and add salt to his wounds.

Not only does Job have to endure all this pain, but now he has to endure crappy advice. Gag.

Job’s friend’s advice and explanations take up half the book of Job. Their “thoughtfulness” says nothing more to Job than,

“Oh, look at you and all your problems.Clearly we are better than you. Clearly we are more loved than you. Clearly we are doing something right and you are doing something wrong.”

Not-So-Fresh Friendship is what that is, right there.

But for all this bad advice, all it does for Job is turn him back in on his own misery. Job had real, physical pain. The disease he experienced, the destruction of all he held dear was physical destruction.

What physical struggles make them aware of their weaknesses?

What physical struggles do you have in your life?

 

In his weakness, God’s answer to Job is a physical promise recalled by Job, himself, in our theme passage for this study:

Job 19:25-26

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God…

Problems in life are often physical, or very physically impact us.

Resurrection is physical too.

Job tells us that he will see God in the flesh, not as a spirit or vague idea. This same flesh that decays will see a greater promise.

Read the NIV translation of the next verse, Job 19:27-

I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!

Skin destroyed, eyes that fade…

What part of your body makes you keenly aware that your body is passing away, decomposing faster than we’d like?

Here’s mine- hard, grey hairs that stick up like electrical wire; weird throat wrinkles that feel thick and sloppy at the same time; slowly losing my singing range to vocal cords meant only to last so many years.

The promise of resurrection reminds us that rebuilding is coming. Fresh is coming. While struggle and not-so-fresh, even death, is part of our story, it’s not the end of the story, nor is it even the climax of our plot.

Physical pain and physical problem remind us of a greater promise. We sit in the physical reality of this decaying world and its violence and disasters, political upheaval, and uncertain footing.

Some days look fresh and some days look not-so-fresh. Sometimes we stand in the promise, sometimes we sit on that ash heap with Job, but either way:

I know that my Redeemer lives is the fresh song in our lungs.

Because He sings a fresh song over us each day until we physically see eternity –

Resurrection

Restoration

Fresh and new.

You can download this Scripture card and one for every day of the week at PureJoyCreative.com. (LINK)

Don’t forget this week’s Bible margin to help you reflect as you study.  (LINK)

 

Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts and insights in the comments here and on social media.

 

Catch the week one video here:

Destruction to Resurrection

Downloadable Video Viewer Guide – Destruction to Resurrection

 

Jesus Ate: A My Redeemer Lives Resurrection Reminder

One year, shortly after Easter, I heard a passage from Luke in church. Three days later, it dawned on me that Jesus was eating.

That seems very un-unique as an insight; Jesus ate with people all the time, and as long as we exist with books or the internet as part of our lives, we likely have Da Vinci’s depiction of the Last Supper etched in our minds.

Jesus ate. Son of God, Son of Man, ate for 33 years on this earth…

plus 40 days.

What dawned on me after that Luke reading was that the Resurrected Jesus was eating.

Jesus walked around after the Resurrection. He had conversations in the garden by the tomb and along the road to Emmaus. He called the disciples out from their boats once again and invited them to dinner. He taught. He prayed. He held Thomas’s hand to His side.

He wasn’t less God or less Man these forty days than He was on Christmas morn. This was mind-blowing to me and this insight settled in my heart like this –

If Jesus ate after his Resurrection, and loved on his disciples, and preached the good news, then even though I can’t see Him in front of my face, this same Resurrection God lives and works in my life every day.

He eats with me.

He teaches me.

He prays with me.

He holds my hands and wipes my tears.

The Resurrection is so powerful. It means God’s presence and life in our days.

I want God’s presence and life! He is Living Water for my thirsty soul.

Let’s discover our Resurrection God together where He is always, always found – in His Word.

In My Redeemer Lives, we’ll talk about resurrections throughout Scripture, but we’ll also talk about what God’s doing now, what God is resurrecting now, in our lives. We’ll talk about words, and what they mean, where they point us, and what promises His Word gives.

Words like…

Glory

Heartbreak

Waiting

Light

Rest

What words do you think of when you think of the word resurrection? Share with us in the comments!

My Redeemer Lives starts next Monday, February 19 through April 9th, right here. Join in our study community by subscribing to the blog via email. The study posts will be delivered right to your inbox five days a week. Comment on the post with your own thoughts and insights. There will also be Bible verse graphics and visual faith tools. Share on social media with the hashtags #myredeemerlives and #ilovemyshepherd.

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Jesus ate. Jesus eats with us each day.

And because my Redeemer lives, there will be a day when we share a Feast with Him that we can’t even begin to imagine.

Ready for some resurrection reminders?

I Love My Shepherd is partnering with PureJoyCreative to offer you weekly Bible margins, Scripture cards, and other visual reminders of the life our Redeemer brings to our days. Some will be free downloads, and others will be available for purchase in the PureJoyCreative Etsy store.

Here is the first freebie to get you started – a My Redeemer Lives Scripture engagement page to take notes on, write prayer requests, or color as you study in the coming weeks! Click on the image for this free download.

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Look for a free downloadable margin every week. We have a couple more surprises up our sleeves as well. Subscribe to I Love My Shepherd by email if you haven’t already so that you don’t miss a post!