Psalm 121
Hebrews 12:1-3

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew. She would occasionally walk around to see each child’s artwork. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”
Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, “They will in a minute.”1

The little girl had her eyes set on God.

The same could be said of the writer of the 121st Psalm: “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord.” We don’t know the historical context for the writing of this Psalm, but it’s not hard to imagine that for whatever reason he was downcast. His opening line “I will lift up my eyes” implies that he had been focusing in the opposite direction. And perhaps someone has reminded him as he reminds us that when we are feeling down we need to lift up the eyes of our souls and fix our gaze on heavenly things and therein rediscover hope.

That’s good counsel for those of us who either live in or worship in Chippewa Lake, for a sadness fell over the community last Tuesday afternoon when we learned that Mr. Bryon Macron, who many had been praying for was gone. Many are downcast. We are sad for him, sad for his widow and three daughters. Sad for his colleagues, the firefighters who were so close to him in life, and who were closely involved in the recovery of his body.

And we are sad for this community. Nancy was walking and ran into a neighbor and as they talked, this lady said, “There’s now a sadness over the lake.” Eight of my twelve students in Disciple Bible Study live in Chip. We spent the first 20 minutes Thursday evening talking about this. Several people expressed similar thoughts: “This is a community noted for friends, family, and fun on the lake, and now there is this shadow over the whole community.”

Unfortunately, life is full of shadows; shadows of doubt, of fear, of grief, shadows of sickness and shadows of death.

In times like these that try our souls, when the shadows threaten to engulf us, we must remember to “lift up our eyes to the Lord.” Or, as the writer of the Hebrews encourages his readers who are living life in shadows because they are suffering persecution, “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As we struggle to deal with this situation and others like it, we must remember to maintain the upward look. For our help comes from the Lord.

The upward look leads to Christian hope.

Gail and I visited Bob and Sharon Petruna Thursday. Sharon told us she has been diagnosed with a different kind of cancer than she battled last year. Doctors removed a tumor two weeks ago, but she still has a couple of spots. She is waiting to hear if she will be able to receive immunotherapy, which tends to have either very positive or very negative results. I said, “Sharon, how’s your faith holding up?”

She said, “It doesn’t really matter whether I make it or not, what matters is that either way God’s will is going to be done, and I am satisfied with that.”

Her story reminded me of a story about a mother and 6-year-old daughter who had finished their shopping at Wal-Mart to discover it was pouring rain outside. And she and her mother and a handful of other folks stood there just inside the door of the Wal-Mart waiting. Suddenly, the little girl said, “Mom, let’s run through the rain.”

“We’ll get soaked if we do,” Mom said.

“That’s not what you said this morning,” the young girl said.

“When did I say we could run through the rain and not get wet?”

“This morning when you were talking to Daddy about his cancer, you said, ‘If God can get us through this, He can get us through anything!’ ”

Suddenly that group of people couldn’t hear anything but the rain. Mom paused and thought for a moment about what she would say for this was a teachable moment in her young child’s life. “Honey, you are absolutely right, let’s run through the rain.”

And off they ran. The rest stood watching, smiling and laughing as mother and daughter darted past the cars and yes, through the puddles and they got soaked. Somewhere down the road in life, that Mom will find herself reflecting back on those moments they spent together in the rain. She will laugh again and her heart will beat a little faster as she recalls that precious moment when they ran through the rain believing that God would get them through.2

The Psalmist is inviting us to, in an act of faith, lift up our eyes to the Lord and run through the rain allowing Him to fill our empty and downcast souls with hope. For the upward look leads to Christian hope.

William Barclay writes, “God is the great savior, the great deliverer of His people. And the deliverance which He gives is not the deliverance of escape, but the deliverance of conquest. It is not a deliverance which saves a man from trouble but one which brings him triumphantly through trouble. It does not make life easy, but it makes life great. It is not part of the Christian life to look for a life in which man is saved from all trouble and distress; the Christian hope is that a man in Christ can endure any kind of trouble and distress…and come out to glory on the other side.”3

That’s the message that people in our community needs to hear. We have the privilege of pointing hopeless people to a living hope as Saint Peter calls it in his first letter to the church.

A living hope is not just wishful thinking; it’s a living hope because it is based upon our living God and His sure promises indeed it is a living hope because it is based upon the greatest promise of all – “the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (I Peter 1:3a)

And then he continues:
Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls (I Peter 1:3b-9).

The salvation of our souls; and not only ours, the Triune God is all about having those of us who are in the Kingdom reach out and offer hope to those still waiting to come in. Because no matter who they are or what they have done they are all welcome.

Last week our Disciple lesson was on the gospel of Luke, whose theme is “God Seeks the (say it with me Disciple grads) Least, the Last and the Lost.” He is a God of grace who is not willing that any should perish but that all come to salvation” (II Peter 3:9).

I love the story of the two friends of a soldier who was killed in France during WWII
desperately wanted to give him a decent burial. They found a cemetery next to a Catholic Church. When the soldiers asked the priest if their friend could be buried there, he refused because the man was not a Catholic. But in his sympathy for those fellows, he told them they could bury their friend outside the fence that surrounded the cemetery. And so they did. After the war, the two decided to return and visit the grave of their friend but couldn’t locate it. So they asked the same priest about it. He told them that the night after they buried their friend he couldn’t sleep because he felt so bad about making them bury him outside the fence. So over the next few days, he moved the fence to include the dead soldier.4

By His grace, God in Christ has moved the fence to include all people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the people who lived within our mission field were already born into this living hope? But it is most likely true that not all who live in our mission field know the Lord. As long as that is true our Purpose Statement will continue to drive us! “Sharing God’s Grace with our community” takes on greater significance in light of what the community has experienced this week. Because after people come to Christ “although we will grieve (when things like this occur) we will not grieve as those who have no hope,” as Paul writes the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 4:13).

So what can we do?

We can and we must pray. First and foremost we can pray for the family of Bryon Macron, that in the midst of their heartache God would surround them with the “peace that passes all understanding” and that they would be filled with living hope for their husband and father.

We can and should pray for those in our community who need the Lord that God would soften and prepare their hearts to receive the good news of the gospel of Jesus. We happen to have here this morning all the community flyers that are going out tomorrow to every household in our area inviting people to attend our new 1 pm service. At the conclusion of today’s message let us pray that God will use these flyers to accomplish His purposes.

I also wrote in this flyer about how we are doing our best at being a community church and mentioned some of the ways. And so we must continue to support the Friday Night Meal, Gather to Scatter, our upcoming Easter Egg Hunt and a Bible School this summer, and any other ways that we come up with to Share God’s Grace.

What can you do individually? Tell your story to someone who needs to hear it. Tell them about how you came to faith in Christ, whether that happened when you were a child or as an adult; how you reached the point in your life where you understood that Christ died for your sins and you asked to be forgiven and began to follow Him.

And if your story involves something about your experience here at CrossPointe finding the grace and forgiveness of Jesus here then, by all means, invite them here.

This is all so very important because we are addressing the ultimate issue for human beings.

There are dozens of social issues that you and I could become involved in: drug addiction, education, the homeless, the poor, world hunger, any number of things that could help people, but the church of Jesus Christ specializes in talking about the ultimate issue of life. Because even if every woe on planet earth gets solved, I am still going to find myself at some point in the future standing in eternity. Doesn’t matter if I join a Rec Center, walk five miles a day and take a multivitamin. Within the next 20 years or so, maybe sooner, none of us knows for sure, I’m going toes up.

And then I’ll find out whether we are creations of God or we are not. We are either complex neurophysical beings that have evolved over the eons moving without rhyme or reason through time and space who came from nowhere and are going nowhere or else we are unique creations of the Holy God. If we are simply cosmic accidents and the whole thing is some kind of great cosmic practical joke the worst thing about that joke is that in the end nobody will even be around to laugh about it.

But if on the other hand, this is our Father’s world, and if Jesus, the Christ, really is the Son of God who was born into this world with the express purpose of dying on a cross so that sinners like you and I could be forgiven and reconciled to the Father; if that is true, then someone on the face of the earth must stand up and remind people of those truths!

Jesus said that His Church and its people are going to be the vessel which will carry the cargo of the good news of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

Gordon McDonald writes, “The world can do almost anything as well as, or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing that the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace. Only the church can do that.”5

Did you see a couple of weeks ago the Titanic was in the news again? Seems that a fire that was burning in one of the coal bins down in the heart of the ship as it left Southampton. The captain and crew knew that they could contain the fire, but what they didn’t count on was the prolonged heat exposure to the steel hull and now they are saying that weakened hull led to its sinking. Another story about the Titanic few know concerns Scottish evangelist John Harper, who was traveling to Chicago to take up his appointment as Pastor of Moody Church. His daughter Annie was with him, his wife having died a few years earlier. When the Titanic struck the iceberg and began to sink he put Annie into a lifeboat and then ran throughout the ship yelling, “Women and children and unbelievers into the lifeboats!”

When the ship finally went down, he had already given his lifejacket to another passenger. Survivors say that to the very end he was witnessing to anyone who would listen. One recalls clinging to a piece of wood when Harper floated near him. “Man, are you a Christian?” cried Harper.

“No, I’m not” replied the man.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,” Harper quoted Paul.

Harper floated away but came back to the same man a little later. “Are you a Christian now?” asks Harper.

“No, I cannot honestly say that I am,” says the man.

Again Harper pleads with him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Shortly afterward Harper went down. The man who survived was one of only six people rescued from a lifeboat. In a church service, four years later in Hamilton, Ontario he recounted that night. “There, alone in the night, with the stars above me and with two miles of water under me, I finally believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.”6

Let it someday be said of us at Crosspointe that with our last collective breath we were about the Lord’s business of sharing His grace with our community. Let it be said of us that we did so by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, (Hebrews 12:2) “who has caused us to be born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!” (I Peter 1:3).

1 David, Ken. Lighten Up and Live.
[Racine, Wisconsin, Broadstreet Publishing Group, © 2014] page 54.

2 Pollard, Jeanette Beardon Ed. Mrs. Claus Shares Stories from the Heart.
[Boaz, Kentucky: Success Ranch Publishers, © 2002] pages 7-9.

3 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series, the Revelation of John, Vol. 2.
[Philadelphia, Westminster Press © 1976] page 27.

4 Hewitt, James. Illustrations Unlimited. [Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale © 1988] page 249.

5 Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing about Grace?
[Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, © 1997, page 5.

6 Coffman, Elesha. Christianity Today, August 7, 2000.