Sunday, May 18, 2014

Even Now

Where is he?  Where?  Where is he?  How many times had she asked that question over the past four days.  Her only brother had come down with some mysterious virus and nobody could do anything for him.  Well nobody except for their friend Jesus.  How many times had he reached out his hand and the blind had seen, or the lame had walked.  If there was any hope for Lazarus it would only be through Jesus.  Granted she hadn’t actually asked Jesus to come, she had only sent word that His friend was deathly ill.  If Jesus was the friend that he professed to be wouldn’t he have come?

But she had waited and Lazarus got worse, and she waited and Lazarus died, and she waited and Lazarus had been buried.   Jesus had healed the paralytic and he didn’t even know him, he healed the blind man who was just a face in the crowd, surely he would come for his friend.    And still the thought tormented her, where was he, surely she couldn’t have misjudged Jesus so badly.  He had eaten at their table and slept under their roof surely that had meant something to him, or maybe not. 

And then a murmur began to weave it’s way through the crowd that had gathered to mourn with the two sisters, the master is here, Jesus has arrived.  And Martha couldn’t help herself, she was on her feet rushing to meet her friend.  The thought that had burned in her heart was already on her lips,
John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.

I don’t think it was said with a mean or vindictive spirit, but I don’t think it was simply a statement of fact either.  I think she was disappointed in Jesus and felt betrayed and I’m sure the question even though unasked could be read in her eyes, “When you heard he was sick, why didn’t you come then?” 

Max Lucado says that “The grave unearths our view of God” And he’s right how often have we heard “God if you existed my child wouldn’t have died, if you’d have answered my prayers my life wouldn’t be empty, if you cared my mother wouldn’t have developed cancer.”? 

How often are we guilty of dealing with God in that very same way, of demanding to know why he doesn’t do it the way we want it done, when we want it done?  The experts tell us that it would have been a two day walk from where Jesus heard the news to Bethany, and you all know how an expert is defined?  X being the unknown quantity, spurt being a drip under pressure.  So if we take the experts word for the distance and add to it the two days that Jesus waited before he left we come up with a grand total of four days, the exact number of days that Lazarus had been in the grave. So Lazarus was dead before Jesus was even told that he was sick.  Sometimes we just don’t know.

And then she said the most incredible thing, something that revealed volumes about her character and her faith, John 11:22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

“Jesus I may not understand what you’ve done, I may not be able to explain it, I may not like it but even now I still believe that you are capable of anything.”

How about it people?  Are you convinced even now that he is able to do anything?  Are you?  What do you believe that God can do even now through Cornerstone Wesleyan Church?  All we have to do is look at what He has done in the past to see what he can do in the future; because what he did yesterday he is capable of doing today.

1) Even Now God Can Do The Impressive.  I love the story of Gideon.  Maybe you don’t know it, after all it happened almost three thousand years ago.  It was during a time that Israel had come under foreign rule, the story is found in the book of Judges.  The Midianites had conquered Israel and the people had run for the hills, literally living in caves and ravines.  Not satisfied with that the Midianites made a nasty habit out of burning any Israelite fields they found and killing their animals.

In a situation like this who do you need?  You need a hero right and where do you find a hero, well I checked the yellow pages and they skipped right from herbs to hobbies.  But if you’re God you don’t need the yellow pages and so an Angel was sent to a young farmer named Gideon.  Well to make a long story short Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men not bad.  But God said “Hey you guys could defeat the Midianites all by yourself, tell anyone who is afraid to go home.”  That did it, 22,000 of them left.  Imagine how Gideon must have felt.  But still 10,000 is better then none.  But God said  “Hey Gideon still too many, get everyone to drink from the stream and keep only those who drink from their cupped hand.”  Well maybe you know what happened 9,700 of them knelt down to drink and Gideon was left with 300.  To quote God in Judges 7:7 The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” And he did! 

Now that’s impressive.  But not necessarily impossible.  You see the three hundred men surrounded the Midianite camp in the middle of the night each one armed with a trumpet, a clay pot and a torch.  On a prearranged signal they blew their trumpets and smashed their clay jars, waved their torches and yelled  “For the Lord and for Gideon.” Well the Midianites had just been woken up, panicked turned on each other and beat a hasty retreat. 

God does some impressive things in our lives, perhaps helping us deal with anger, or helping our relationship with our spouse or our children.  People have prayed for work and found the perfect job.  That’s impressive.  People have been sick and others have prayed for them and they have gotten better, that’s impressive.  God answers prayer in an impressive way, but none of those things were impossible.  People have found the perfect job without praying, sick people have gotten better without praying, relationships have been restored without God.  But he does do impressive things in answer to our prayers.

Are there situations in your life that you need to say, “Even now I believe God can do some impressive things for me.”  Maybe you’re at the end of your rope in your marriage or frustrated with your children and you feel like only a miracle could help, he’s still in the miracle doing business.  God still does the impressive.  Throughout the Bible we read how God stepped in and helped his people.  Abraham, David, Solomon, Joshua, Moses, Daniel each one could tell an amazing story of the impressive work that God did for them and even today there are people who would confirm that even now, May 18, 2014 ,God does the impressive.

God has done impressive things with this church. 

Twenty years ago, next month, you could have fit Cornerstone around a kitchen table.  Nine years ago there were forty of us meeting together at the LeBrun Centre in Bedford.  Today close to three hundred or us meet each Sunday in a multi-million dollar facility and there are probably three times that many in the community who would identify themselves with Cornerstone.  “Of course Cornerstone is my church, I go every Christmas.”  And that’s impressive but not impossible.  After all every church was started at some point. 

God can and will continue to do the impressive through Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.  When?  Even Now.

2) Even Now God Will Do The Improbable.   Do you remember the story of David and Goliath?  It seemed that everyone wanted to whump on Israel, this time it was the Philistines.  The story is found in the book of 1 Samuel 17.  The Israelites are on one hill, the Philistines are on another hill and the Philistines trot out their Champion, Goliath, and he was one big sucker standing over nine foot tall. Throwing down a gauntlet Goliath says, 1 Samuel 17:8-9 Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves!

Well, none of the Israelite soldiers were all that excited with the prospect of taking on this guy.  But along came David, not a soldier a shepherd, not an adult but a teenager and armed with a slingshot and five smooth stones he killed the giant and saved the day.

What would you say to that a professional soldier armed with the very best armaments available to him challenged by a mere boy with little more then a toy.  What are the chances of David being the victor.  Possible but not probable.  Hey, God not only does the impressive he does the improbable.  Daniel surviving a night in a den full of lions, Abraham and Sarah having a child in their nineties, Noah building a 450 foot boat miles from the nearest major body of water.  Impossible no, improbable yes. 

And God does the improbable today.  People addicted to one thing or another who have tried everything to break that addiction have turned to God and have conquered it.  Possible yes, probable no.  But even now God does the improbable.  Through prayer abusive husbands have become loving mates, shrewish wives have become encouragers and impossible teens have become our friends. 

Possible yes, probable no.  But even now God does the improbable.  Cancer patients have been prayed over and all traces of the disease have disappeared, Possible yes, probable no.  But even now God does the improbable. 

What are some of the improbable things that you need doing in your life, things that just aren’t likely to happen.  Need a personality transplant, he can do that, need self-control he can do that.  Do you have giants in your life that need to be put down?  He still helps to defeat giants.  And not only can he do the improbable in your life he can do the improbable in your church as well.  He’s already doing it. 

When we moved into the building almost nine years ago we decided that we needed to do more to impact those in our greater community and those in our world.  And since then we have provided thousands of pounds of food for Feed Nova Scotia through our monthly collections and Harvest for the Hungry.  We have provided meals for thousands of people who have been staying at Ronald McDonald House while their children were being treated at the IWK.  CIA has had an impact on the lives of people we will never meet because of work we have done at shelters for homeless teens and victims of domestic abuse, have served meals in soup kitchens and sorted through tons of food at Feed Nova Scotia.

Through your sacrifice we have drilled wells in five villages in Sierra Leone, have provided  resources for homeless teens in Odessa in Ukraine and made a difference in the lives of countless others in Haiti, Ghana, Thailand and Cuba.

A little over a month ago 27 families from Cornerstone stepped up to the plate to sponsor children in Peru in Partnership with Compassion Canada.

In the past five years we have sent men, women and teens from Cornerstone to West Africa, Haiti, Cuba and Guatemala.  And they have trained leaders, built homes for widows, taken hockey bags of medical supplies and held orphans in their arms.

And ten years ago if we had of told people the impact that Cornerstone would have locally and globally we would have been told, “Well sure that is possible but it’s really not all that probable.”     

And today God still wants to do the improbable through Cornerstone.   Today God can help us to minister in improbable ways to our community and to our world. When?  Even now.

3) But Even Now God Does Do The Impossible.  Let’s return to our original story.  Jesus friend Lazarus becomes ill and his sisters send news to Jesus.  As we noted before in the account we have they don’t actually ask Jesus to come but judging by their reaction they expected him to come.  Not only did they expect him to come they expected him to come and heal their brother.  That much is evident in Martha’s  words in John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.  and the words of her sister in John 11:32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  
Now that’s pretty much laying it on the line, isn’t it?  “If you had been here you could have done the impressive, you could have even done the improbable, but you weren’t here and now our brother is dead”

Now you would think that with expectations like that and knowing Jesus the way we know him that he would have rushed to be with the sisters or knowing that he wouldn’t have made it in time did a God thing and zapped Lazarus back to health long distance. We would think.

But listen to what happened.

John 11:5-6 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Now I don’t know why Jesus waited two days, and I’m not going to pretend I do.  What we do know is that when Jesus heard the news his friend was already dead and ready to be buried.

And then he came.  But Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days.  And even though it would appear that Martha had reprimanded Jesus for not being there sooner she tells him “It’s not too late because even now you can perform a miracle.”

Could you do that?  Standing next to your brother’s filled in grave could you express that type of faith in God?  You see her statement was not so much saying that she believed that Jesus could raise her brother, but she would trust him even if he didn’t. 

Martha was saying.  “Even now I believe that you can do anything, but I will trust whatever it is you do or don’t do.”

But the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus goes to the tomb, let’s read John’s account of what happened, after all he was there.  John 11:38-44 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Guy’s been dead five days, in the grave four days and he’s brought back to life.  That is impressive, and it’s improbable and it’s also impossible.  Dead people don’t come back to life that just doesn’t happen.  But it did happen.  You see it is the reality of what the Angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.” and Jesus summed it up when he said in Luke 18:27 Jesus said, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” 

And guess what God still does the impossible today.  People can change their behavior but only God can change their hearts.  What have you been told is impossible in your life?  Can you say with Martha “Even now”?

What would you have God do with Cornerstone Wesleyan Church?  Can you see it as God sees it?  Can you see it not as it is but as God would make it? 

Close your eyes for a minute and answer this question, if Cornerstone could be anything and do anything without taking into consideration any human limits.  Forget about money, buildings, or staff what do you believe God can do with this church? Because even now God can do the impossible.

This year we will continue to be there with a hot meal when families come back to Ronald McDonald House after spending the day next the sick bed of a child.  And while we need Vashti and Wanda to co-ordinate that effort it would be impossible for them to do it themselves. It becomes a reality when God’s people step up.

CIA will continue to minister in the downtown core, impacting the homeless and the hungry.  And while Pastor Ben co-ordinates the operations it will be men, women, teens and children giving up a few hours on Saturday who will make it a reality.

Right now James Galsworthy is in Uganda representing his God and his church.  Have you been praying for James?  Right now Val Lewis and I are working on a project that will take a team of doctors and health professionals to the Kamakwie hospital in Sierra Leone.

How many wells can be drilled in the future? How many children can be sponsored?

Pastor Marilyn and her team are working on a healthy marriage workshop for the fall.  We have dozens of children’s workers speaking God’s truth into the lives of children every week.  Pastor Ben and his team and helping teens connect with God. 

I read recently that our job as parents is to raise great adults not great kids, and we want to stand alongside of you in that responsibility. 

So this year which of your friends and family will begin a relationship with God that will impact their eternity?  We don’t just want them to come to Cornerstone, we want them to come to Cornerstone and meet Jesus. 

Can you believe the vision?  Can you believe God for the impossible? This is our future, so to quote that great Philosopher Yoda “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

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