If you were here two weeks ago when we last looked at the book of Ezra, we ended on a slightly scary and somewhat sombre note. As we seek to live for Jesus Christ and to build his kingdom, there is real opposition. We will be opposed. And sometimes that opposition will succeed. We looked together at the tactics that the devil will use to oppose us. We concluded that we must not write this off as scaremongering. They had to stop rebuilding the temple for 16 years, which was a very long time.
Kemsing with Woodlands
If someone is going to oppose you, you want to know how they think. How they will act. Be one step ahead of them.
Sports professionals spend hours watching replays of the teams they are due to face. How does that striker line up for a goal? How does that tennis player respond if you hit a ball into that corner?
Let me ask you two questions.
Number 1: What makes you celebrate? What absolutely thrills you, has your phoning your mum or your best friend with excitement, is cause for a celebratory drink or meal, puts a smile on your face for a week?
I’d reckon the safe arrival of a healthy baby in a family is one of them. New job. The all clear at the hospital. She said “yes”. What else?
Have you ever returned home from holiday, and struggled to decide what to do first. There’s a car full of luggage to unload. The heating is turned down to frost levels. There’s two weeks’ post on the doormat. You discover you forgot to do the washing up before you went away. And to empty the bin. Everyone’s hungry. And what you really need is a cup of tea. So many things to do. But what are the priorities? What do you do first?
We’ve been following the story of the Jewish exiles as they returned home from Babylon in the year 539 BC.
Many people find this list of names dull. But in other contexts we find lists fascinating. It all depends on whether you have a connection or not.
Some of you will remember listening to the day’s football scores on the radio, before the days of ready internet news. Manchester City, 2; Crystal Palace, nil, expertly read by James Alexander Gordon. People would listen, fascinated, to the whole thing, every week.
It’s easy to wonder if God will achieve his purposes.
In the second half of last year, we worked our way through 1 Corinthians. Chapter 15 was just magnificent! Amazing views of the future God has promised all who follow the Lord Jesus. A future when our bodies are renewed, transformed to be glorious like Jesus, perfect for enjoying the renewed world God will give us to live in.
Being a Christian changes so many things. It affects every area of your life.
What is the single most important thing we do? What’s at the heart of what it looks like to live as a Christian?
Is it our church services: the songs we sing, the prayers we say, the bread and wine we share?
Is it our charitable work, helping the needy as best we can?
Is it the community we build, the way we look out for one another, and take others under our wing?
These are all good and important things. Maybe one of them chimes with you in a particular way.
Do you ever read something and think, “I’ll pretend I didn’t see that”?
Some homework set by a teacher at the last minute that you’d rather your children didn’t have to do.
An email sent at 5.25pm inviting you to some drinks after work.
A new “no-right-turn” sign on a route you drive every day.
We all get tempted to put our fingers in our ears from time to time. Pretend we didn’t hear something that is somewhat inconvenient.
At times, the Bible can be like that. Sometimes, God says things to us that we’d love him to unsay.
Last time we began to think about the question: What happens to us after we die?
Many people are plain confused about what waits for us after death. And with confusion comes fear. The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions, but it does have a lot to say. It addresses the future of those who do not know the Lord Jesus. And it addresses the future of Christians who do know and love him. And 1 Corinthians 15 is one of the places where it does.
Most of us wonder at times, what happens to us when we die.
Often the answer is that we just don’t know.
So we make something up that would make us feel a bit better if it were true. Many a parent has told their children that granddad has just become one of the stars in the sky, and if you look up you can see him looking down on us. We know it isn’t true, but we just don’t know what else to say.