Someone joked with me after the service last Sunday that it was the first time he had heard the Tribulation preached about on Mother’s Day ! Maybe there is a correlation there somewhere. If you weren’t with us on Sunday, here’s a recap :
What Would You Do ? John 12:1-11 (story of Jesus and friends at the home of Simon, a former leper, in the village of Bethany, outside of Jerusalem)
Question : What would you change, or do differently, if you knew Jesus were returning this year, or within the next three years. (You may remember this is a question Bart Larson asked us during his preaching series in the book of Isaiah.)
Theme : In the face of uncertain and turbulent times, the followers of Jesus in this story did three things :
1. They fellowshipped – that is to say, they spent time together.
A celebration was taking place in the home of Simon : Simon had been healed ! Lazarus was alive ! Jesus had come back to this special village where friends were. Yet, there were also ominous shadows on the horizon : the authorities were scheming to arrest and kill the Son of God. Traumatic events were about to rock this little group of followers.
The Bible says turbulent days may soon be upon the Earth again – events that will be just as dramatic as the Passover which saw the crucifixion of Jesus. Events in our world seem to be lining up in fulfillment of Bible prophecies concerning a period of time known as the Tribulation, followed by the return of Jesus to the Earth. Purposes of that Tribulation time include :
God’s judgment of wickedness on the Earth (Isaiah 13:9 ; 24:19-20) – a time described as when the Earth will fall and not rise again !
God’s offer of worldwide revival (Matt 24:14 ; Revelation 7).
God’s breaking of the stubborn pride of Israel, … opening the way for Israel to finally believe in her Messiah (Jeremiah 30:4-11 ; Daniel 12:5-7).
You and I need regular fellowship in the face of uncertain and turbulent times that may soon be upon the Earth. When we neglect gathering with God’s people – on Sunday mornings, or in our home groups, or at other informal times – we miss out on : preparation, perspective, encouragement, and support. The whole family needs it – adults as well as children.
2. They worshiped.
Martha worshiped through cheerful service. Mary worshiped through extravagant giving. Lazarus worshiped with a life which day after day – through word and deed – pointed people to Jesus (John 12:11).
What is your “love language” of worship ? Not everyone is verbal in their worship. Martha wasn’t either – she let her homemade cooking do the talking that evening ! However, I do think every true follower of Jesus, like Mary, has something “extravagant” tucked away deep in their heart that they would like to do for Jesus – something that really measures up to all you think about Him.
What is that thing for you ? And – given the urgency of the times — what are we waiting for ? It might be a large financial gift to the Lord and His work, such as Mary gave, or it might be a wholehearted commitment to service in the Church. It might be becoming a committed member of the church, or maybe being baptized. The fragrance of what Mary did filled the whole house. What act of worship of yours – cheerful service, extravagant giving, daily pointing people to Jesus – would fill the whole place with the fragrance of the Good News of eternal life and love ?
3. They attempted to live at peace during a time of tension.
There was tension inside the house (with Judas, in particular), and there was tension outside the house (where people were plotting to kill Jesus and Lazarus). Jesus’ rebuke of Judas seems gentle, considering what Judas was doing – stealing from the treasury of the little band of disciples. Wouldn’t he have liked to have put his hands of the fortune which Mary’s anointing oil represented ! May God lead us to repentance and change if our scheming, our pettiness, our unforgiveness, our self-centeredness, is a source of tension in the church in the face of coming turbulent times.
A final question we asked on Sunday was this : How did these friends of Jesus do what they did ? How did they – in the face of uncertain and turbulent times – fellowship, worship, and live at peace ?
It seems that the motivation which gripped the friends of Jesus at Bethany was this : gratitude. They were filled with gratitude for what the Lord had done. That’s the thing that must grip us as well … in the face of uncertain and turbulent times.
What would you do if Jesus were returning this week ? … this year ? … within the next three years ?
This Sunday, Jeff will kick off a two-part sermon series whose purpose will be to sharpen our vision concerning ministry to young people at Emmanuel. Chris Neale will follow up with part 2 on Sunday, the 26th. You won’t want to miss these two important messages from the Lord for our congregation !
Purposes & Positive Outcomes at Emmanuel
An important motivating verse for me over my years of pastoral ministry has been Colossians 1:28-29 —
“We proclaim Him (Christ), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
For this purpose … I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”
Sometimes I’ve wondered what the phrase “complete in Christ” means. I’ve asked myself and our church leadership what is the “outcome” we hope will result for people who go through life and spiritual process at Emmanuel.
Here are four things I hope every person who goes through the experience of being part of Emmanuel will come out possessing :
a vibrant relationship with God, through faith in His Son, Jesus
strong relationships with people
growing depth in the knowledge of the Bible
equipped to serve (whether through teaching, mentoring, leading, witnessing, or in other ways)
Would you pray about these outcomes being true of all of us at Emmanuel ? I recently heard a speaker say that positive outcomes can come from the intense effort of just one individual. Of course, as Christians we would add prayer to that, as well as faith and perhaps other elements of a vibrant spiritual life. Nevertheless, the remark caused me to wonder : Who will be that person at Emmanuel ? Will you ? Will I ?
Hellos & Good-Byes
For the past few weeks our family has watched a nest of baby robins in the shrub outside our dining room. The little birds and their mother have provided constant entertainment and kept us all peering out the window as often as we were in the dining room.
This past Monday evening when we pulled into the driveway from being in town we found the nest empty and just one of the babies perched out in the driveway, listening for its mother, and trying to gain the courage to fly a little further.
It was another good-bye – another reminder that someone has flown out of our life. Good-byes are still hard, even if it seems like we’re getting more used to it. Someone said the loss of a loved one left them feeling that “life was a little less sweet, death a little less bitter.” The Bible says : “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). One day we will all say “good-bye” to this world we’ve become so familiar with, and “hello !” to our Savior and a new earth and new heaven.
Are you getting ready ?