To Heaven, Through Hell

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To Heaven, Through Hell

November 13, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 65:17-25                      Luke 21:5-19              2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Anyone with more than a few laps around the sun is well aware that sometimes life is not a bed of roses, or a bowl of cherries, or however you want to say it, life is not always all that great.  Sometimes it flat-out sucks pond water.  Life is filled with pain, sickness, hurt feelings, tragedy, betrayal, abandonment, loss, suffering, and death.  But it isn’t always bad.  As bad as life can be, and the bad stuff can sometimes last far longer than we’d like, we also know that life can also be filled with joy, healing, excitement, victory, hope, encouragement, friendship, and love.

This understanding is the source of two great quotes that help us to keep our pain in perspective.

Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

When we struggle with death and loss, and when whenever good things end, it helps to remember that the reason that we are mourning, is because of the good things that happened.  But when we are faced with pain in our future, or when we are enduring it in our present, we should remember that Winston Churchill famously said…

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

And it is those perspectives that I would like you to keep in mind this morning as we consider where we are going, what we will pass through on the way there, and how should live our lives in the present so that we can keep moving toward our final destination.  We begin this morning reading from Isaiah 65:17-25, as God paints a picture of what life will be like in the world that is to come.

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,  or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord, they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

God will create a new heaven and a new earth that is fundamentally different from the one in which we live, and we will live there for so long, and our healing will be so complete and enduring, that we will hardly remember the pain and the suffering that we once endured.  Life will no longer be a struggle but will be filled with joy instead of weeping.  Old age will be normal and there will never be the sorrow of mourning the loss of a child.  No longer will people and nations be uprooted by famine, warfare, natural disasters, pestilence, unemployment, taxation, or anything else but God’s people will live, work, grow, plant, and endure in one place, in one home, with their families.  Even the animal kingdom will be changed so that we will have no fear of them, they of us, or them for one another.  God’s promise is that there is a better future for all those who love him.

But that isn’t at all the picture that Jesus draws for his disciples.  The future that Jesus describes reminds us that what God showed to Isaiah is the distant “not yet.”  In between our now, and the “not yet” is more of the ugliness that we have seen throughout history, and worse.  As Jesus and his disciples are walking through Jerusalem, the disciples marvel at the beautiful stonework of the temple and its surroundings.  But Jesus uses those stones as a warning of what is to come.  We hear these words in Luke 21:5-19.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Jesus says that his followers will be hated by their families, friends, neighbors, and the entire world simply because of their love for him.  But in the end, we will endure because who and what we are in Jesus Christ endures even beyond death.  The only way that we can lose is to give up.  Stand firm.  Keep moving forward.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

But what does that mean for us today?  How does that inform us, or teach us, about how we might survive, one day at a time, through the weirdness that is life in the twenty-first century?  And that is one of the things that Paul addresses in his letter to the church in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teachingyou received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.

Clearly, this isn’t a prescriptive text that tells us everything about how to live as a church in times of disruption and chaos, but Paul says that one of the things that we need to be to be doing, as we have heard in other passages in recent weeks, is to keep busy, and to stay on task.  And one of the ways that we do that is to stay away from people who are bad examples.  The first among these bad examples are people who aren’t doing anything.  But worse than that are the people who aren’t doing anything and are using their free time to disrupt the people who are doing something.  Also, a part of Paul’s description of these disruptors is that they are people who claim to believe, and count themselves among the believers of the church, but do not live as if they believe because they don’t do the things that the scriptures teach.

Paul says that, because he and his ministry team intentionally wanted to be a good example, they did not accept a salary, or gifts, or meals, or anything else while they were in Thessalonica.  They didn’t do so because pastors, missionaries, and work teams aren’t entitled to being paid or even being treated well, but because they wanted to be a model for the people to follow.

It is worth noting at this point, that the phrase Paul uses here, has been borrowed, grossly misinterpreted, and misused by a recent political campaign.  Apparently, there has been someone, during the most recent election, that was claiming that the phrase, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” implies that welfare or giving to the poor runs against biblical principles.  But that is, frankly, spiritual malpractice.  Paul’s statement, and this example, in this case, is for internal church use and is ministry specific.  When the church was busy working, and fed its workers afterward, it didn’t make sense to feed people who didn’t do any work.  Paul wasn’t saying that the church shouldn’t feed the poor, that would be contrary to the words of Jesus.  What he was saying was, don’t show up to eat lunch at the Habitat for Humanity work project if you aren’t doing any work.  In that specific case, the food was intended to feed the workers.  And so that sentence should not, and cannot, be misconstrued to try to say that Jesus doesn’t want us to feed the poor.

Let’s summarize.  What we heard today is that we are on our way to someplace better.  God is at work, even now, preparing a place for us to live forever and in that place all the broken things of this world will be fixed.  There will be no more mourning, or crying or pain, parents will no longer have to bury their children, no longer will people and nations be uprooted by famine, warfare, natural disasters, or pestilence, and will all live, work, grow, plant, and endure in one place, in one home, with our families forever.

But between here and there, will be pain, and suffering, and death, and all the other terrible things that we have come to expect from our broken world.  Not only will those things continue but, at times, they’ll be a lot worse.  In the meantime, whether things are better for us or worse, the message is to stay on task, to keep doing the work that God has given us to do.  And while we’re doing that, we should stay away from busybodies who keep other people from doing their work.  Stay away from people who are idle and disruptive because they’re just going to waste your time and keep you from doing the work that God has given you to do.

The message for today is just to stay busy.  God has given us work to do as individuals, and as a church.  We can expect to go through difficult stuff.  We can expect that the horrors of this broken world will not get better and will often get worse.  But through it all, we need to keep moving forward, keep doing the work of Jesus Christ, and keep on calling the world to hear the message of the gospel so that they too can receive healing, rescue, and restoration.

Never tire of doing good.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  These messages can also be found online at .  All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.comThe “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Two Big “Ifs” of Christianity

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Two Big “Ifs” of Christianity

August 07, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20                    Luke 12:32-40            Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

If you have ever programmed computers, you know that on the first day of your first programming class, you learn about the IF-THEN statement.  It is just what it sounds like.  The IF-THEN statement asks the computer to check some value and if that value is what you want, then you instruct it to do some other thing.  For example, IF the turnstile rotates one time, THEN add one to the memory location tracking the number of customers.

But outside of computer programming, we deal with if-then situations all the time.  If I want to earn interest on my savings, then I need to take our money out of my mattress and put it in the bank or invest it somewhere.  If we want to have a less difficult visit to the dentist, then we should brush our teeth every morning and do the things that our dentist asks us to do.  If we don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, then we need to stop and buy fuel when the needle moves to toward empty.

We understand if-then decision making because we make those sorts of decisions every day.  But sometimes those “ifs” can be big and dangerous.  If we smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, then we run an exceedingly high risk of cancer and other health problems.  If we drive our automobile over one hundred miles per hour, then the odds of dying in the event of an accident are almost 100 percent.

We can find if-then choices throughout our laws and in every contract ever written.  They say, if you do this for us, then we will do that for you.  Or, if you do this to us, then we will do this to you.  And, not surprisingly, this is also the kind of language that God uses to explain our choices to us and, in Isaiah 1:1, 10-20, we find two really big “ifs” in God’s words to Israel, and despite the passage of time and the coming of Jesus, they remain important advice and instruction to which we should listen. 

1:1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah, son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

10 Hear the word of the Lord,
    you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the instruction of our God,
    you people of Gomorrah!
11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
    what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
    of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
    in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
    who has asked this of you,
    this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
    Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
    I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
    I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
    I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
    I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
    I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!

16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
    Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
    stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
    you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

By describing Israel’s leaders and people as Sodom and Gomorrah, God accuses them of all sorts of sin and injustice.  And because of their actions, God says that he doesn’t care about their sacrifices, gifts, offerings, religious holidays, festivals, celebrations, meetings, gatherings, or even their prayers. 

What God really wants is for his people to stop doing evil, to defend the oppressed, to speak for the legally voiceless such as widows and orphans who, without a male family member, couldn’t even speak for themselves in court.

After that, God presents the two big “ifs” to his people.  “If you are willing and obedient,” then “you will eat the good things of the land.”  “But, if you resist and rebel,” then “you will be devoured by the sword.”  If you follow God, and do what God commands, then he will give you all sorts of blessings.  But, if you choose to ignore God, and do things your own way, then God will withdraw his protections and his blessings and let you face the world, and all the evil in it… alone.

The temptation for the people of Israel in the time of Isaiah, as well as the time of Jesus, is a temptation that still afflicts us in the twenty-first century, and that is to deceive ourselves into thinking that God isn’t watching, or that the return of Jesus Christ won’t happen any time soon.  Sure, we understand that Jesus is coming back, and we say that we believe that he is coming back, but do we really act like we expect that to happen any time soon?

That is exactly the point that Jesus is making in Luke 12:32-40 and as he makes his point, Jesus offers a warning to the people gathered in front of him that is just as relevant to us today.  Jesus said…

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near, and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks, they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Jesus cautions us that we cannot act as if we are going to live forever.  When we say that we trust God, we must act as if we trust God, and that includes how we treat our wallets and our giving to the poor.  God’s call isn’t for us to give what is leftover or, only what we feel that we can spare, but to give to the poor as if we trust God to care for us like we say that we do.

That hits kind of close to home, doesn’t it?

Jesus continues by saying that we cannot act as if the master isn’t coming back until tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or sometime after we die.  We must take God at his word and behave as if we expect Jesus to return at any moment.  We must act as we would if we genuinely intended for Jesus to find us busy with the work of his kingdom upon his return.

Paul revisits this same idea in Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 by reminding his listeners about people who had great faith such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, and using those examples to illustrate how faith might look if applied to our lives if we choose to be obedient.

11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed, and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

13 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. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

God promised Abraham an inheritance that only his descendants would see, and yet he persisted and remained faithful.  And through that, and other examples, Paul reminds us that our promise is for a future that we may never see in this lifetime.  We look forward to something better, we look forward to a better future, but it is a future in a kingdom that is not of this world.  We may never see health, or wealth, or prosperity in this world, we will face trials, temptations, loss, betrayal, and all sorts of struggle in this life but through these examples, Paul reminds us not to give up hope.

Instead, we, like Abraham, must remain faithful as we hope for a future that we might only see in brief glimpses or shadows in this life.  We must act as if we trust God.  We must give to the poor, share with others, and seek justice as if we believed what we say that we believe.  We must keep watch for the return of our master, Jesus, and conduct our affairs as we would if he might return this very afternoon and we wanted him to find us busy caring for his kingdom and his kingdom business.

Because, in the end, we still face those two big “ifs” that we heard in the words of Isaiah.

If you are willing and obedient,” then “you will eat the good things of the land.”

But, if you choose to ignore God, and do things your own way, then God will withdraw and let you face the world, and all the evil in it… alone.

Where will Jesus find you when he returns?

Choose wisely.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  These messages can also be found online at .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

An Unexpected, Unconventional, Unorthodox God

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An Unexpected, Unconventional, Unorthodox God

May 22, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

John 14:23-29              Acts 16:9-15          Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5

Have you ever thought about the gods of the ancient world? 

I remember taking mythology in high school and although many of my classmates didn’t like it, and seemed to think that it was weird, I found it to be interesting, and I enjoyed it.  But, although those ancient Greek and Roman gods, as well as the gods of Israel’s neighbors, are not something we think about often, they can add to our understanding of the God of Israel that we find in the Old and New Testaments.   The reason that the gods of the ancient world add to our understanding, is because when we spend all our time studying and discussing the God of Israel, we are deceived into thinking that Israel’s God was normal.  So, let’s be clear, Israel’s God is not normal.

The gods and goddesses of the ancient world, like Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Mars, and the rest, often behaved badly, cheated, had affairs and illegitimate children, acted on whims and were often moody, and unpredictable.  These gods ruled by intimidation and fear and demanded sacrifices and gifts simply to appease them.  Failing to appease them could mean that they would be angry and refuse to help.  The same was true for Baal, the god of the Philistines, as well as other gods of that region such as Chemosh, Dagon, and the fertility goddess Ashtoreth.  These gods demanded sacrifices, sometimes blood or human sacrifices, to ensure safety or a good harvest.

But Israel’s God was different.  From the beginning, particularly as we watch the story of the family of Abraham, the God of Israel begins his relationship with his people from a position of love and compassion.  God cares about his people and their children and does good things for them long before they do anything for him in return.  We see this difference illustrated in the gospel of John 14:23-29 as he shares these words of Jesus:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

Jesus says that if we love him, we will obey his teaching.  Jesus doesn’t say that if we fear him, we will obey, or if we want a successful harvest, or if we want safe travel, or if we want to appease an angry god, then we should do these things.  Jesus says that our obedience should grow, not out of fear or intimidation, but out of love.  And, when Jesus explains that he is leaving, he promises to send the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and remind us of everything that Jesus said to us.  The Spirit of God is sent, and does its work, before we even have the opportunity to do anything in return.  Moreover, Jesus says that the gift that he leaves with his followers, is not a gift of victory, wealth, abundance, or safety, but instead is the gift of peace and the absence of fear. 

In the world of history, and among the gods of the world, our God is unconventional.  In fact, our God is so unorthodox, that even those who have dedicated their lives to following and to studying, are still surprised by the way God chooses to do things.  In Acts 16:9-15, the Apostle Paul, and those who traveled with him, were surprised because, once again, God chose to turn their preconceived notions of orthodoxy on their heads.  Luke records this story:

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony, and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

There are several things in this story that are surprising and/or unexpected.  In Paul’s vision, he is called to Macedonia by a man and so he almost certainly expects to find one there when he arrives, but no one introduces themselves, and unlike the stories we’ve heard in recent weeks of both Paul’s Damascus road experience and Peter’s call to preach to the Gentiles, no one in Macedonia introduces themselves, and God does not direct them to anyone specifically.  Failing that, Paul and his team wait until the Sabbath and visit the river because traditionally, persons of the Jewish faith would meet at the river, likely because it was peaceful, but also because it was “living water” and provided a means of purification before worship. 

But when they walk along the river, with every expectation that they would find worshiping Jews, they, again, find no men.  They do, however, find some women, and one of them, Lydia, is either Jewish, or was otherwise sympathetic to, and a follower of, Israel’s God.  Lydia also is a business owner, a person of some wealth, and the head of her household.  She listens to Paul’s message, comes to faith in Jesus Christ, asks to be baptized, leads here entire household to faith and baptism, invites Paul and his team to stay in her home, and becomes the leader of the new church movement in Macedonia. 

None of this was what Paul or the other Jewish men expected, none of it was traditional, none of it followed the pattern of orthodox Jewish thinking, but it illustrates that our God often works in ways that are unexpected and unconventional.  And that pattern continues throughout scripture and even to the end of time described by John in Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5 where he says:

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Once again, this is a passage that we’ve read so many times that we no longer notice that there is anything unusual in it.  Through sheer repetition, the extraordinary is reduced to boring and yawn-inducing normality.  So, let’s back up and consider why John’s description is so unorthodox and unconventional.  John’s vision begins normally enough as he is carried to a great high mountain to see the Holy City of God.  That was normal.  The Temple in Jerusalem, as well as the Parthenon in Greece, and many other Jewish and pagan temples and places of worship are found on mountaintops because if the gods lived somewhere “up there” in the sky, then, logically, human beings were closer to the gods when they were on the top of a mountain, right?

But this mountain was not stationary but was coming down out of heaven.  Other than superhero movies and other works of fiction, mountains don’t come down out of the sky.  Even stranger, is that the Holy City doesn’t have a temple.  In John’s world, and in ours, every major city had a temple of some sort, and one would assume that a holy city would have one.  But no.  No temples, no synagogues, no cathedrals, no churches, zip, nothing, nada.  And the reason, is because that God himself, and the Lamb, his Son Jesus Christ, are the temple.  Why go to church to worship Jesus when you can meet Jesus face-to-face? 

And if that wasn’t enough, there is a river that flows out of the throne of God, trees that provide food to eat all year-round, gates that never close because there is no fear of an enemy attack, a tree that offers healing to people and nations, a day that never sees nighttime or darkness, and everything about it represents a place of goodness, righteousness, and purity that is without fear, and where life, the city itself, and everything in it, is designed, and expected, to last forever.

In every generation from Adam, to Abraham, to David, to Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and to us today, our God is different.  Human beings have always tried and have always failed to put God in a box.  Our God doesn’t demand obedience, as a payment in exchange for services.  Our God loves us, first, last, and always.  Our God asks us to follow him, asks us to love him, and asks us to serve him, not because we fear him, but because we’ve grown to love him, trust him, and be grateful to him for the love that God has already shown to us even before we knew him, and even when we were completely unlovable.

Our God isn’t like other gods.

Our God isn’t like the box that we try to squeeze him into.

Our God is unexpected, unconventional, unorthodox, and loves us first, last, and always.

And, when we have felt his love for us, only then can we hear him asking if we might love him in return.

And so, the question that I ask you today is this, do you love God?  Do you love God enough to follow him, and to trust him?  Do you love God enough to obey his instructions and commands?

And, if so, will you love the people around you, people you don’t know, people who are different from you, people who think differently than you, people who you might not even like very much, people in other communities, other states, and other countries?  Will you love them so much that they can feel God’s love for them?

Because only then, will they be able to hear his voice.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  These messages can also be found online at .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Guaranteed Reward. If…

Guaranteed Reward. If…

November 03, 2019*

By Pastor John Partridge


Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18                Ephesians 1:11-23                 Luke 6:20-31


Do you know where you’re going?

I mean, do you know where your life is headed? 

While many of us have learned, the hard way, that our plans for life can often change unexpectedly, do you know, at least for now, what destination you have in mind for your life?

Many of us grew up watching the Depression era comedy, The Little Rascals.  In one episode, entitled, I think, “The Coaster Car”, the Our Gang built a big, unpowered, car in which a surprising number of them could ride.  At some point, using their donkey Algebra, they brought the car to the top of an impossibly long hill and, cut loose from their donkey, they began freewheeling, uncontrollably and with frightening speed, down the hill.  At one point in the dialog down the hill, Buckwheat famously exclaims, “I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re on our way!”

And, if we’re honest, that’s how many of us feel about our lives from time to time.  Our education, our careers, our children, and just about everything else can change so unexpectedly that our plans are often in a constant state of change.  We wake up in the morning and discover that while we have no idea where we’re going, we sure are getting there in a hurry.

But what about our spiritual lives?

Does being a follower of God and a follower of Jesus Christ give us any more stability than we often find in the chaos of our daily lives?  Well, it should.  Our spiritual lives come with a guarantee… if we do something simple.

But, before we get to the guarantee, let’s look at our destination.  We begin this morning in Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 as the prophet Daniel describes a dream that was sent to him by God that told him, and tells us, some important things about the future.

7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

“So, he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

While Daniel is clear that earthly kingdoms, like those with which everyone was familiar, even the superpowers of their day, rose and fell, and would continue to rise and fall, the followers of God, whom he calls “the holy people of the Most High,” will receive God’s kingdom and keep it, and presumably live in it, forever.  This is God’s promise to Daniel and to us, that we belong to God’s kingdom, that it is a real place, and that we will take ownership of it, and live in it, forever.

But how can we be sure?

After all, Daniel is a prophet of the Old Testament.  Wasn’t that a long time ago?  Didn’t the coming of Jesus change everything?  Is the promise contained in Daniel the same today as it was then?  And, the answer to all those questions is “yes.”  But, at the same time, the news is even better, because with the coming of Jesus we understand more clearly how and why that can happen.  In Ephesians 1:11-23, the Apostle Paul explains it this way:

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Paul says that we were chosen as the followers of Jesus Christ as a part of God’s plan to accomplish his will.  We were chosen so that people might see us, and our faith, and the way that we live our lives, and give praise to God.  The moment that you believed, you were marked with a seal that guarantees your inheritance.  Paul says that the God that has the power to raise Christ from the dead, certainly has the power rule over the kings, princes, popes, presidents, prime ministers, and all the other kinds of power and authority that exist on the earth yesterday, today, and forever.  And that God has put Jesus Christ in charge everything on earth, and in all of creation, for all time.

So, not only do we have God’s promise that we belong to God’s kingdom and that we will live in it forever, we can have complete confidence that Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords yesterday, today, and forever. 

But, even if we believe that all of that is true, and are willing to put our faith and confidence in the promises of God and the redemption of Jesus Christ, how does it happen?  What do we have to do to get there?  What does God expect of us?

And Jesus draws us all a picture in his sermon on the mount in what we often call the Beatitudes contained in Luke 6:20-31, where we hear these words:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
    when they exclude you and insult you
    and reject your name as evil,
        because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
    for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
    for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
    for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Jesus starts with a list of blessings that we will receive in heaven when we live in God’s kingdom because the ancestors of the poor, the hungry, and people who wept, the people who were hated and insulted and rejected, treated the prophets with care, respect and love.  But many people will not be nearly so happy when that day comes.  For them, the coming of the kingdom of God will be far less pleasant because they, and their ancestors, the people who were rich, comfortable, well fed, and well liked, treated the prophets just like they treated Jesus, with disrespect, contempt, and violence.

Jesus says that if we are listening, we should do something about it.  If we want to be included in the first group, and not the second, if we want to be the people who receive the blessings of God, then we should love our enemies, do good to the people who hate us, bless the people who curse us, and pray for the people who mistreat us.  We must give to people who steal from us, be generous to everyone, and treat everyone, even those who don’t deserve it, the way that you would like others to treat you.

Today we celebrate the lives of those who have passed from this world into the next, we honor their lives, remember what they have meant to us, how they showed us the grace of God, how they taught us about Jesus, and how they modelled a life of faith for us.  Today, we celebrate because we know that in them, God has already fulfilled his promise and they are, already, at home with Jesus in God’s kingdom. 

But as we remember, we also look forward to the day when we will rejoin all of those who have gone there ahead of us.  But we also remember that in order to get there, we have been called to do something about it.  

We have been called to live as if we believe.

Our reward is guaranteed.

If we walk the walk.




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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

What Happens When We Die?

Note: I have often asked our church youth and adults to ask me any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general and I would answer them.  Often that happened at youth group meetings.  This one came from a friend.

Question: A friend is asking a good question on Facebook and I think you would have a good answer. “Do you believe that when we as Christians die, we go immediately to be with Lord in Heaven, or do we sleep until He comes back for all of us and reunite with everyone who has passed?


My best answer is… maybe.

In theological discussions there are plenty of people, and denominations, on both sides of this issue and many of them are way smarter than I am.  But, that said, I think that we do, and we will, and there are several good reasons to think so.

First, there are several verses that may lead us to believe that we fall into some sort of “soul sleep” until the return of Jesus Christ, our resurrection. the final Judgement.  One of these, which is commonly read at funerals (I have used it a great many times) is 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, which says:

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Paul’s use of the word “sleep” might make us think that we will be sleeping between our death and resurrection, but we need to remember that Paul, and other writers, often used the word sleep as a kinder, gentler, way of saying die, death, or dead.  If we read that verse again with that in mind, Paul is simply saying that at the time of the last trumpet, not everyone will be dead.

On the other hand, many people use Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:8 as proof that we do not sleep, but that passage is problematic too.  It says,

8:1 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

In some translations (such as the New American Standard) it is rendered as “…to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”  But that passage, alone, doesn’t confirm anything definitively.  In that passage, Paul is talking about looking forward to wearing his new body, which many believe that we won’t get until after the judgement.

Confused yet?

So far, what we have is ambiguous and more than a little confusing.  It isn’t hard to see why even theologians argue about such things.  But remember that I said this passage… alone… doesn’t confirm anything definitively?  The thing is, this passage isn’t alone.  While this may not be a profound theological argument, there are a couple of other verses that come to mine when I think about this.  The first is Revelation 6:9-11 which says:

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Here, before the judgement, under the altar of God, are the souls of the martyrs who are waiting for justice and judgement.  If we all sleep, then how did these folks get here?  Are we to believe that only the martyrs see God before the judgment?  It seems arbitrary and a little cruel that they would be singled out as the only ones who are awake, who are watching the events of the earth, and who must suffer and wait for justice.  It seems more likely that everyone is awake, but the martyrs get “front row” seats.

And then in



Hebrews 12:1 after an extensive list of the saints and heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 we hear this:

12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

The implication of this verse following immediately by a deliberate listing of the saints and heroes of God is that these people are alive, and aware, and watching the things that we are doing.  Similarly, Jesus often referred to Abraham, and others, in the present tense and not in the past or future tense.  Jesus was deliberate in saying that Abraham worships God… at this present moment.

And remember that moment when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-3 where we hear:

17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter, James, and John watch and stand witness as Moses and Elijah appear in front of them and minister to Jesus.  Are we supposed to understand that God woke them from their sleep just for this one moment, that they somehow understood who Jesus was and what was going on, did what they had to do, and then fell back asleep?  Or, isn’t it easier to understand that they have been awake the entire time, carefully watching the unfolding spectacle of time, the birth of the Messiah and the entire Gospel story, and then answered the call of God to enter back into our story?  The second one makes a lot more sense to me.

There are many more passages like this.

So, yeah, while not everyone agrees about this, I think that when we die, our trip to God’s side is immediate and there is no “sleeping” in between.



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Forever Love

“Forever Love”

November 05, 2017

(All Saints Sunday)

By John Partridge*


Revelation 7:9-1                     1 John 3:1-3                           Matthew 5:1-12



Being the first Sunday of November, today we celebrate All Saints Day and remember all of our friends and family that we have been lost to us.  Already we have named some of them and lit candles in their memory, but each one of us could easily name other friends and other family members that we remember, and think of, daily.  But although they are lost to us, we still remember and we still love.


This is not the kind of love that Meatloaf sang about in the 80’s when he wrote Paradise by the Dashboard Light where in one verse he swears that he would love his girl until the end of time, and in the next is praying for the end of time so that he can end his time with her.  When we think about genuine love, about love that lasts, or when we think about “forever love” what we are thinking about is more like the Forever Love that Gary Barlow wrote about when he sang,


Now I’m deep inside love and still breathing
She is holding my heart in her hand
I’m the closest I’ve been to believing
This could be love forever


Or maybe it’s like the Forever Love that Reba McEntire sang about when she said,


The first time I laid my eyes on you I knew

We’d spend this life side by side

I still feel the same though you’re so far away

I swear that you’ll always be my

Forever love


But I think even that falls short.  Because in the end, since our marriage vows are “to love and to cherish until death do us part” we are reminded that human love may only last as long as our lives on earth.  But there is yet another kind of love that loves more deeply, and that does last forever.


This is the kind of love that Christian artist Francesca Battistelli sings about in yet another song called Forever Love where she sings about God.


You are my forever love

From the bottom of my heart I’ll sing to You
From the depths of who I am I love You
With everything inside I’ll run to You
‘Cause all that I’ve become I owe to You


Whenever we use the word ‘forever’ we remember that this life is not permanent, but we should also remember that this life is not all that there is.  In the revelation of the Apostle John, he visited the throne room of God and offers us this description (Revelation 7:9-17):

9:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”


In this case, “forever” really means forever and “never” really means never.  Those who are in the presence of God will never hunger or thirst, they won’t suffer as much as a hard sweat in the hot sun, and God himself will wipe away all of their tears.  Forever.


Although he doesn’t use the word “forever,” in Matthew 5:1-12 that is exactly what Jesus means as he speaks about the future.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.


He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Rejoice and be glad, because the reward for the people who have suffered for their faith, and for those who have lived a life of faith, will given to them in heaven and that, as we know, is a reward that will last forever.


But what does that mean for those of us who have lost our loved ones and who remain on this earth?


In 1 John 3:1-3, we hear these words:

3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.


We are already the children of God.  We have already begun to live a life that will last forever but the day is coming for us when we will become much more than we already are.  This transformation has already happened for those who have gone ahead of us to eternity, they have already been given their new, perfect, and eternal bodies and they can already see Jesus in all of his glory but we know that, sooner or later, our day is coming.  But because we know what we know, we have no need to fear that day because rather than something terrible, we know that despite whatever pain we may face at the end our life on this earth, the transition, at the other side, will be wonderful beyond imagining.


But as we wait for that day and as we live out our lives, we are called to dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, to live our lives as Christ himself modelled for us during his life on earth, to seek peace, pursue justice, and to pour out mercy, compassion, and love into the people and the world around us.  And as we do so, we are called to purify ourselves and live lives that honor God.


Although we mourn as we remember those whom we have lost, we rejoice in knowing that they are, today, perfect, holy, and unimaginably blessed in every way as they live in the presence of God.  But at the same time, we also remember our calling to be worthy of the gift that awaits us.  Let us honor God, and honor those that we have lost, by rededicating our lives to God, to his kingdom, to purity, and to all that is good.


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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.


Easter Means All

“Easter Means All”

March 27, 2016

(Easter Sunday)

By John Partridge*


Scripture: John 20:1-18               Acts 10:34-43              1 Corinthians 15:19-26



For the last couple weeks I have occasionally heard some of my agnostic and atheist friends post online, stories about how Easter was originally a pagan holiday.  And the answer is never quite so simple that it can be strictly a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’  Without getting off the track and into a detailed rebuttal, it simply serves us all well to remember that Christianity wasn’t always a majority religion and has, in various times and in various places, been a persecuted minority.  So, over the centuries, Christians made a few concessions to “fit in” to their culture and save themselves from trouble.  But there have also been times when, as a majority religion, that pagans have converted to Christianity and have brought with them favorite elements of their old religious practices which were then “redeemed” by giving them new, Christian, meanings.  That is how we got Easter eggs and Christmas trees, and a lot of other symbols that now have a thoroughly Christian meaning.  Despite what you may occasionally hear on the Internet, just because you have an Easter egg hunt this afternoon, does not mean that you are in any way participating in pagan worship.

But, since we’re having that discussion, what is it that Easter really means?

In this case, I don’t mean how Easter is translated, or where the terminology came from, but instead I mean, what difference does it make?  What difference does Easter make to me, to my family, my community, and to my heart?

To answer that question, naturally, we are going to go back to the original story of that first Easter morning so long ago.  (John 20:1-18)

 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

In these few verses we see a group of people who have lost their friend, their leader, the focus of their lives, and all their plans for the future.  They are so paralyzed with grief that now, days after his death, they haven’t yet figured out what they would do next and so they are still staying together, pretty much where they were three days earlier, trying to put their lives back together.  On Sunday morning however, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women, return to the tomb where Jesus was buried so that they can complete the burial rituals that had to be skipped in order to complete the burial before the Sabbath began.

But even here there is a curious hint.  As Jesus meets Mary he sends her to tell the good news, not to his friends, and not to his disciples, but to everyone that he calls his “brothers.”  This is curious because as we read through the Gospels, sometimes Jesus uses the term “brothers” or “brothers and sisters” to mean his friends and his followers.  But at other times, when Jesus referred to “brothers and sisters” such as in Matthew 25:39-40 where he said…

“When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

And in those cases, it was clear that Jesus was describing a group of people that included… everyone.

This becomes even more apparent as the disciples begin to reflect and to understand exactly what happened until, in Acts 10:34-43 we hear Peter explain the events of Easter this way:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

So if we read Peter’s speech while we are thinking about the meaning of Easter and how Jesus asked Mary to tell all of his brothers and sisters that he was alive, what things rise to the surface?  For me it was these things: God does not show favoritism, God accepts followers from every nation, and the prophets testify about Jesus to everyone who believes.

Once we begin to see that the message of Jesus was intended for people other than his friends, it becomes unavoidable to understand that the message of Easter was not just for his friends, not just for Israel, not just for the Jews, but for everyone, everywhere and every-when.

And Peter wasn’t the only one who believed this.  In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth he also writes about the resurrection of Jesus where he says (1 Corinthians 15:19-26):

 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

Paul reminds us that Easter is about more than just the here and now.  Easter is about more than living one good life and then being buried.  Paul says that if Easter is only about living one good life then we are to be pitied more than anyone else alive.  Instead, Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus rose from the dead because Adam’s sin infects all of us and so Jesus endured the cross, died, and rose again so that all of us could be made alive again.  Jesus rose from the dead so that at the end of time, all of the kings, all of the nations, all of the politicians, all authority, all power, and all the people will bow down to worship God.  Jesus rose from the dead so that one day, all of his enemies would be defeated.

The real meaning of Easter doesn’t come from ancient pagan holidays; the real meaning of Easter comes from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The real meaning of Easter isn’t about God playing favorites, but instead it’s about God inviting everyone into his kingdom.  Easter isn’t about Jesus inventing a new kind of boy’s club, and it’s not about bringing “good news of great joy” to Israel or to the Jews, but is about God breaking out into the world that we live in and inviting everyone, everywhere, to become a member of his family, and to live in his house… forever.

Easter is about God announcing the good news of peace that come through Jesus to all the people of the world.

Easter means “all.”

On that first Easter morning Jesus told Mary Magdalene to go and tell everyone that Jesus was alive.

The news (and the meaning) of the resurrection of Jesus is still so good, that we should do the same.


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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at   These messages can also be found online at All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

The End of “The End”

“The End of ‘The End’”
November 01, 2015
(All Saints Day)
By John Partridge

Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-9                 Revelation 21:1-6a                        John 11:32-44

How many of you ever went to the movies when great actors and actresses like John Wayne, Vincent Price, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn were playing in the big screen? What about the Saturday morning cartoons with Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny?

It doesn’t seem to happen as much lately, but for many years those of us who watched movies in the theater, or cartoons on Saturday morning knew when the show was over because, at the very end, there was a sign that came up on the screen that said, “The End.” It was common for the cowboy hero to ride off into the sunset at the end of the movie as the words “The End” scrolled onto the screen. It was so common, and such a part of the movie environment, that comedies often had a little fun with the words “The End” and the credits that followed.

And as odd as it may sound, that is a lot like how the story of our lives seems to go. With the exception of those folks whose lives end in terrible tragedies where death comes swiftly, many of our endings are very similar. As we near the end of our story, family and friends come to see us, to say their goodbyes, to share a few last memories, perhaps to make a final apology, and to say “I love you” one last time. This is the big scene in the story of our life and for those who are left behind, it is as if, after our passing, the book closes on our story, the last reel of our movie has played, and the words, “The End” play on the screen.

That’s life, right?

Or, as it has often been said in the movies, “It is the way of things.”

But it was not always so.

The story of Adam and Eve tell us that in the beginning, when the world was perfect and without sin, death was not a part of our creation. Death, suffering, and all of the discomfort, mourning and pain that they cause us, were not a part of God’s original creation but entered into the world because of the rebellion of human beings.

And so, for now, “It is the way of things.”

But the good news is that it will not always be so.

The prophet Isaiah knew that God would not allow death, suffering, pain, misery, discomfort, and mourning to continue forever for the people that he loved. Isaiah wrote these words (Isaiah 25:6-9):

6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

If you have been here at Trinity in recent months, you will remember that we have seen this imagery of a shroud several times. The covering of the face, or the head, was a symbol of death. And so when Isaiah says that God “will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,” he is proclaiming that God intends, at the appointed time, to destroy death itself.

And at that time, God himself will wipe away all of the tears that have been caused by death and the resulting suffering of the living that are left behind.

Isaiah knew that this was true even if he didn’t know how or when it would happen because he heard the words from God’s lips and also because he understood the nature of God.

But in John 11:32-44, we learn even more and the story becomes fuller, richer, and even more wonderful.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

When Jesus arrives, Mary cries out that if Jesus had only gotten there in time, Lazarus would not have died. Mary had great faith and trust in Jesus but it seems from her words that she believed that Jesus had great power to heal, but now that death had come, healing, no matter how great, would be of no use. Others in the crowd have the same opinion saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Surely if Jesus was such a great healer, could he not have healed whatever sickness that had afflicted Lazarus? And we know that the answer to that is “yes.” But Jesus wanted to reveal something about himself that they did not yet understand, something bigger, and much more important.

Jesus asks for the tomb to be opened and ignores the reminders that Lazarus’ body has surely started to rot in the Mediterranean heat and surely, after four days, has begun to smell really, really bad.

Lazarus’ book had already closed. His movie had already ended. “The End” had flashed on the movie screen of his life days before.

But they do as Jesus commands.

The tomb is opened. Jesus calls to Lazarus as if he was only in the next room.

And Lazarus, still wearing his grave clothes and his death shroud, walks out of his own grave.

Mary, and her sister Martha, and all their family and friends, and the entire world discovers that Jesus not only has the power to heal, but that he has power and authority over death itself.

For Jesus, death is not the end.

And knowing this, the words of God that were brought to us through Isaiah become even more real. God has said that, at the appointed time, he would destroy, or undo, death itself. At the appointed time, God will bring an end to “The End.”

And now, even though we still do not know exactly when, we do know a little more about how, and we certainly know who, Jesus.

The last piece of our knowledge falls into place through the revelation of the Apostle John who saw this in his great vision from God (Revelation 21:1-6a):

21:1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘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.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

At the end of time, the end of the age, and the end of all things, God, the creator of all that is, proclaims that he is not just the beginning, but also the end. Death is no longer the end. Jesus is the end. Death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will be no more. And God himself will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Jesus, who has shown us that he has power over life and death, will bring an end to death forever. Those followers of Jesus Christ who have been lost to death will be restored to us and we will take up residence in God’s new creation.

No more will we fear death, because death itself will be dead.

That may very well be the greatest day in the history of days.

It will be the end of “The End.”

And the beginning of forever.

Risk and Return

“Risk and Return”
October 11, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture: Job 23:1-9, 16-17                    Hebrews 4:12-16                         Mark 10:17-31

Have you ever taken a risk?

Almost certainly you have. Life is all about risk.

Every time we get out of bed, there is a risk that the effort of waking up will cause a heart attack or a stroke.

Every time we get in a car, there is a risk that we will be in an accident.

Every time we take a bath or a shower, there is a risk that we will slip and fall.

Every time we eat fresh produce, or other foods, from the grocery store or prepared meals from a restaurant, there is a risk that something has gone wrong somewhere along the line, and there is a risk of serious illness.

We make choices, and take risks, all day, everyday.

The choices that we make cannot eliminate risk; all that we can do is to make choices that limit our risk to a level where we feel comfortable.

Some of us feel safer staying at home, while others are perfectly comfortable skydiving or SCUBA diving.

But our ability to risk, our comfort level with risk, is also a key factor in the way that we invest and prepare for the future. Investment advisers make a living helping others to make wise choices, based in-part on how comfortable they are with risk, in how they invest and prepare for retirement and other future events.

And our understanding of risk also plays a big part in how we understand the choices that we make about what happens after our lives end. We must decide what happens when this life is over and what preparations we can or should make for what comes next.

We begin again this morning in the book of Job (Job 23:1-9, 16-17), where Job wrestles with his suffering which he perceives as being sent by God unfairly.

Then Job replied:
2 “Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.
3 If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
4 I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.
6 Would he vigorously oppose me?
No, he would not press charges against me.
7 There the upright can establish their innocence before him,
and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.

8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

16 God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me.
17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
by the thick darkness that covers my face.

Job wants to confront God and demand answers for the injustice that he feels. He knows that God is fair but God seems to be missing and Job cannot find him. Job is accustomed to talking to God and to feeling his presence but suddenly he cannot and this, combined with the terrible things that have happened to him, make Job afraid. But even in the face of injustice, even in the face of fear, even in the face of death, Job perseveres and presses on. As Job evaluates risk, even in the face of all that he has endured, Job will not give up, and he will not give up on God.

But even if we are enough like Job to hold on to God in times of trouble (and it isn’t always easy), we still worry that God’s standards are too hard. We worry that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t trust enough, or have enough faith. We worry that God’s judgement will be too harsh when our lives are finally weighed in the balance. And it isn’t just paranoia that feeds this kind of worry. There are well-known stories in scripture, stories about Jesus which can feed our fear if they are understood incompletely. One of those stories is found in Mark 10:17-31, where a man wants to follow Jesus, but finds that he cannot because Jesus’ standards are just too high.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This man, known as the rich, young ruler, claims that he has followed all of the commandments of God (Jesus only listed six) but when asked to give away his money he cannot. Most of us, even if were asked by Jesus himself, would hesitate to give up everything that we own, but the rich, young ruler believed that he kept all of God’s commands. He walks away not because Jesus condemns him, but because Jesus’ question reveals his sin. He loved money more than God. He coveted money and has made money into an idol. That’s at least three commandments that he couldn’t keep.

And he is not the only one who is worried about Jesus’ reply. The disciples themselves worry that this standard is so high that none of them would be good enough. But Jesus’ answer to them is one of comfort as well as mathematics. Jesus tells the disciples that God keeps accounts. God keeps track. God knows what we do and how we live our lives. God knows the risks we take and he knows what we give up to serve him. God knows what you have given up in terms of money, family, time, pride, prestige and popularity to follow him. And Jesus promises that your return on investment will be 10,000 percent. As we evaluate the risk of investing in a future that lies on the other side of the chasm of death, we recognize that there is risk, but the reward is so significant, so amazing, that even a small amount invested will result in enormous returns.

But the best wrinkle in this story of risk is shared with us by the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 4:12-16) who reassures us about the fairness of God’s judgment where he says:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Simply put: God is not dead.

The word of God slices into us, even in the darkest corners of our soul, and reveals our sin. God’s word shines the light of judgement on our actions, thoughts and attitudes. But even though our innermost thoughts are revealed before the judgement seat of Jesus, we have no need to fear. Our high priest, Jesus, who sits in on the throne of God, was a human being just like us. He knows exactly what it means to be afraid. He knows how it feels to take risks. He understands us better than we do ourselves and it was his sacrifice that rescues us from our sins.

Even though it is frightening to know that God keeps an accounting of every moment of our lives, God’s accounting of the followers of Jesus Christ is not intended to condemn or destroy us. Instead, because Jesus knows us and understands what it is to be human, and because we have put our faith and confidence in him, we can approach the throne of God with confidence instead of fear. When we are weighed in the balance, the penalty for our sins has already been paid.

On the day that we approach the throne of judgement, instead of finding condemnation, we will instead find a place of mercy and grace.

There is no risk in trusting God.

There is no risk in following Jesus.

There is only reward.

There are only two real risks that we need to worry about.

First, there is the huge risk of failing to put our trust in Jesus.

And the second is in failing to invest in the life we have with him both now and forever.

Sinners in Heaven and Saints in Hell

“Sinners in Heaven, Saints in Hell”
October 04, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture: Job 1:1; 2:1-10                   Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12                       Mark 10:2-16

Has your life ever taken a wrong turn?

What I mean is, have events in your life ever unfolded much differently than you expected them to?

Life is like that but sometimes, as Christians, we struggle with it. In fact, unbelievers often struggle with the same thing without having a good scriptural understanding to fall back on. When (my wife) Patti returned from the recent Kairos prison ministry, she told me that one of the very powerful things that happened that weekend, was when the women who were volunteering, shared some of the problems that they and their families were having. Many of the women in prison simply assumed that these church ladies had it all together and that God was making their lives run smoothly.

But life isn’t like that at all.

Moreover, the Christian life isn’t like that.

Just because we follow Jesus, and have put our faith and trust in him, doesn’t mean that life always treats us with kid gloves. Too many of us have suffered from cancer, rebellion, unemployment, under-employment, abuse, disease, divorce, disaster, death and a host of other things. Just because we trust Jesus to welcome us to heaven doesn’t mean that believers do not sometimes live through little pieces of hell right here on earth.

During those times, the story of Job reminds us that even the best among us have faced suffering and hard times. (Job 1:1; 2:1-10)

1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

2:1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Job lost his money, his home, his children, and finally even his health despite the fact that he was “blameless and upright.” He was a moral and faithful follower of God. He did nothing to deserve the things that happened to him. But they happened all the same. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes terrible, awful, horrible, indescribable things happen to good people. And sometimes those things happen for no reason (that we can discern) whatsoever. God may have a hand in it, God may allow it, God may have a plan for it, God may use it, but whether he does or does not, it may be years (if ever) before we discover why. All we know is that the followers of God, regardless of how faithful or blameless, sometimes suffer and for reasons that we do not always understand, God allows it.

What is perhaps worse, is that virtually none of us are as good as Job was. There are few of us who can even come close to calling ourselves, “upright and blameless.” In fact, in Mark 10:2-16, Jesus raises the bar so high that destroyed even the Pharisees, and these were men who dedicated their lives to following rules that were intended to lead them to perfection.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

These were times that were, in many ways, much like ours. They were times when divorce was common and accepted both culturally and within the church. The Pharisees were, morally speaking, among the most morally “upright” in society, and they accepted divorce as normal, natural and acceptable before God and man. They tested Jesus because different factions among the church leaders argued over what was an acceptable reason for divorce, but Jesus raises the bar higher than any of them expected. Jesus says that divorce, for any reason, is sin and what’s more, insists that remarriage is also sin. In one moment, Jesus raises the bar so high that what is normal and acceptable becomes sin and meeting the standard become almost impossible. In a single moment, Jesus exposes many of the church’s “upright” leaders as sinners. Jesus then explains to his followers that the faith of a believer has to be like the faith of a child. Genuine faith must be trusting, teachable, humble, open, and accepting of others. In fact, if we kept reading for another couple verses, Jesus states quite emphatically, that no one is good, except God alone.

No one is good.

The bar has been set too high.

The standard is too difficult for us.

None of us is good enough.

All of us are sinners.

But there is good news.

And in Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12, Paul reminds us what it is.

1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

Paul zeros in on the core of the issue.

God’s standards are set impossibly high.

We are not perfect.

None of us are good enough.

But Jesus is the one who provides purification of sins.

Jesus is the one whom God has placed over all things.

Jesus is the one who suffered and died in our place.

And Jesus is the one who makes us holy.

We are all sinners.

But sinners like us will go to heaven if, like children, we put our trust in him.

Saints, like the Pharisees, those people who do all the right things and seem to follow all of the rules, will end up in hell if they place their trust only in themselves.

It is Jesus that makes all the difference.

Have you put your trust in him?