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Tag: hope

Lazarus – Hope in the Midst of Grief

This morning as we continue our journey from Christmas to Easter – following the life and ministry of Jesus – we now find ourselves much closer to Easter than we are to Christmas. Although we aren’t given a precise timeline in the Scriptures, all the of the events that we will look at from this point on are likely to have taken place within the final 2-3 weeks before Jesus’ death and resurrection.

That being said, there is still a lot of stuff that happens during those 2-3 weeks. In fact, if you read through the Gospel of John, pretty much the last half of the book all happens within those last two or three weeks. So that’s probably helpful for us to remember as we go through our story this morning.

This morning we’ll be reading primarily in John chapter 11 – so if you’d like to follow along in your Bible, you can turn there with me now.

John chapter 11 – starting at verse 1 – reads like this:

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

John 11:1-3

So here we are introduced to three significant characters in the life of Jesus – three siblings – Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. And we quickly see that these three seem to hold a special place in Jesus’ heart. Specifically, in verse 3, we read that the two sisters refer to Lazarus as “Jesus’ dear friend.”

This tells me that this plea for help is not like the many other pleas for help that came to Jesus on nearly a daily basis. These sisters are not random strangers that have sent word to Jesus, hoping for a miracle – kinda like what we saw a few weeks ago with Jairus or the bleeding woman. But rather, these are some of Jesus’ closest friends. In fact, as we read through the Gospels, more than once do we we see Jesus hanging out at their house for dinner parties and spending time with them. It seems that Jesus is actually pretty close with this family – they are some of his closest and dearest friends!

But now one of these friends, Lazarus, was sick. Very sick according to the message sent to Jesus in verse 3.

Now if you’ve been with us over these last several weeks as we’ve been following the life and ministry of Jesus, you’ll recall how Jesus always seems to have compassion on those in need. When the wine ran out at the wedding, Jesus turned water into wine. When the crowds who were listening to Jesus teach became hungry at the end of the day, Jesus multiplied bread and fish for them to eat. When Jairus’ daughter was sick and dying, Jesus immediately stopped what he was doing and went to heal her!

Jesus always seems to have compassion on those in need! And so if Jesus showed such great compassion on people he didn’t even know, certainly, he will have compassion on his dear friend Lazarus! So let’s read what he does!

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The Need for Hope

We are now just two days away from December and the Christmas season is upon us. We’ve got snow on the ground, some of you have your Christmas trees up already, and as we just witnessed moments ago, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And so rather than continuing our study of Samuel through December – I thought I’d take a short break and do a series of Christmas messages.

Quite often I shy away from a lot of seasonal-type messages – just because we hear the same things year after year after year. But this Christmas, I do want to take the next four weeks to tell you the Christmas story – the whole Christmas story. I think sometimes we get gypped and we only hear part of the story. We hear about the angels, about the shepherds, about having no room at the inn, about the wisemen, but we miss out on all the stuff that happens before that.

So I want to start us off today, not with the wisemen, not with the shepherds, not with Mary & Joseph – not even with the prophets that foretold the birth of Jesus. Instead, I want us to start in the beginning. Literally. In the beginning – Genesis 1:1 

Because that’s truly the beginning of the Christmas story. In fact, the entire Bible is the Christmas story. Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a lead up to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in the New Testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this Christmas I want us to take a look at the big picture. I want us to try to see what God was doing right from day one. Because Jesus’ birth didn’t just happen. In fact, all of history didn’t just happen. God wasn’t just making stuff up as He went along. Before He even created the world, God had a plan. And that plan involved all the stuff that we read about in the Bible – everything from Adam & Eve in Genesis all the way to the end of time in Revelation. God had and still has a plan. 

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The Source of Our Joy

It has now been over a month since we last met together in person as a church family. I don’t know about you, but I’m really beginning to miss those times together. Its one thing to miss church for a Sunday or two – but it’s another to away from your church family for weeks on end. 

God designed us for relationships. In fact, he describes the church as being a body and we are all parts of it. A hand was never designed to function apart from the arm. A foot cannot fulfil it’s purpose without being connected to the leg.

It’s the same in the body of Christ. God has designed us for relationships with each other! The Christian life was never intended to be lived out in isolation!

In light of this pandemic, it’s certainly been good to gather virtually like what we’ve been doing, but it’s sure no replacement for meeting face-to-face. 

There is something about seeing people’s faces when we communicate. I think it was Shakespeare who said “the eyes are the window to the soul.”

Well, I miss seeing into your souls! I miss seeing whether you’re joyful or whether you’re discouraged. I miss that personal connection with you and I’m certainly looking forward to when we can again meet face-to-face.

However, until then, we’ll just have to keep doing the best we can with the technology we have!

So this morning, I’d like to ask you a question. You can think about this and email me your answer sometime later this week if you like. I can’t see the answer in your eyes, but here’s my question: How much joy do you have these days?

If joy was like a gas tank – how full would your tank be? Is your joy-tank full and overflowing – or when it comes to joy, are you running on empty these days?

And I suppose this question might be best answered by the others in your household. Your joy (or lack thereof) is not something you can hide very well when you’re stuck at home with the same people for weeks on end! The people you live with can easily see just how joyful you are.

So maybe here’s what we’ll do. Let’s pause here for a minute and I want you to ask the others in your household that are watching this along with you – maybe your wife or husband, maybe your kids, or your roommate or whoever’s there with you right now. Ask them this question: “On a scale of 1-10, how joyful have I been in the last week?” – with 1 being about as joyful as a wet blanket and 10 being an absolute delight to be around. 

So how joyful were you? Were you an absolute delight to be around this week – or were you more in the wet blanket category?

Well, if you find yourself in the ‘wet blanket category’, don’t be too hard on yourself. In fact, I would guess that most of us have probably had quite a few highs and lows when it comes to joy in the past few weeks.

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Doing God’s Work

There’s a short film called “Godspeed” that I watched recently and it’s all about this Pastor, Matt, who ended up moving to and pastoring in a tiny community in rural Scotland. And while he is there, to make a long story short, he learns the value of slowing down, learning to really know and be known by the people around him, and he learns to participate with God in the slow work of changing lives through relationships. And I watched this film back in January and I am still processing the implications for my life. It’s had a significant impact on me and I’ve debated showing you the whole film in place of a sermon, but I’ve opted not to do that today – perhaps that’ll be part of a Bible study in the fall or something.

But at the end of the film, there’s a short epilogue. After spending 13 years in Scotland, learning to operate at Godspeed, Matt moved back to America and began pastoring a church in small city in central Washington. And the film closes with how Matt is now, along with his new congregation, trying to figure out how to live the slower, more relational “Godspeed” life in the midst of the fast paced, non-stop culture of America. Life in urban America is very different from life in rural Scotland, so how do these principles translate and apply in this culture?

And that actually sounds a bit like what we’ve been doing here for the past several weeks. About a month ago we began going through this series called “Kingdom Living” and we’ve been trying to figure out how do we live differently in the Kingdom of God while still living in this world. What does it look like for citizens of the Kingdom of God to live right here here in Alberta, Canada in 2018 in the midst of a very worldly culture & society? Because just like how rural Scotland is very different from urban America – the Bible describes life in the Kingdom of God as being very different from life in the kingdom of this world.

So far, we’ve looked at two major contrasts between these two kingdoms. The first contrast was how our western culture today is increasingly individualistic and me-centered. Selfies are our main way of expressing ourselves. The question everyone asks is “What’s best for me? – Not, “What’s best for us?” But in the kingdom of God, we are called to put others first and to sacrifice for the good of one another. 

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The Promise of Restoration

Today we begin a new series of messages from the Book of Nehemiah. I’m guessing that most of you wouldn’t list Nehemiah in your top five favourite books of the Bible, and in fact, it’s quite possible that some of you who couldn’t even tell me who in the world Nehemiah was. So it’s probably a good idea before we start, to briefly have a look at the history and background of Nehemiah. And there is a lot of history to this story – Nehemiah is one of the last stories recorded in the Old Testament – so basically the entire Old Testament is the history and background to Nehemiah. Now I won’t take you through the entire Old Testament, but we really need to go way back and have at least a basic understanding of the history of the nation of Israel.

So I want to start today about 1000 years before the actual story that we’re going to look at. Basically we want to start with the formation of the nation of Israel. As most of you know Jospeh brought his family of about 70 to Egypt to escape a famine – you can read about that in Genesis 46. Well, this visit to Egypt turned into a 400 year stay – and during that time, they grew from a family of 70 to a family of about a million. These people would be the founding fathers of the nation of Israel.

So we’re going to pick it up just after God freed them from slavery in Egypt and led them out towards the Promised Land. Now when God did this, he made a covenant (or an agreement) with them. This was the deal – if they were to obey the terms of the covenant – which include all the instructions you find in Exodus and Leviticus – basically summarized by the ten commandments – but if they were to obey God in all these things, God promised to bless them like crazy!

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