Speaking the Truth

Penn of Denn

What would you be willing to give up to speak the truth?  Would you be willing to give up your life dream or would it be easier to say nothing?  Apparently for twenty one year old Carrie Prejean, it wasn’t a question, or at least not one that deserved any thought. 
Ms. Prejean is the reigning Miss California.  During the recent Miss America competition, she was asked by one of the judges if the rest of the U.S. should follow Vermont’s lead in legalizing same sex marriage. Her response was, “I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other, but in my country and in my family I think that I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Obviously not the answer the judges were looking for. The majority felt that she could have been more politically correct.
Asked if she would take back her statement if she knew it might cost her the crown, she responded by saying, “It’s not about being politically correct, for me it’s about being biblically correct.” 

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


A Final Gift

They came in the dark. In the cold of early morning. They had come to give. The others had taken, but they only wanted to give. There would be no reward. No recognition. No return. They were giving out of love. After all what could Jesus give back? He was dead. What could a dead man offer? They were climbing the hill not to receive but to give.
They came to give their last gift to a dead man. They couldn’t bring him back to life, but they could still give him one last gift. They had come to wash the cold still body of their lord and to prepare it for its final rest. Peter wasn’t doing it; Andrew hadn’t jumped up and offered to help. Those he had healed were nowhere to be found, nor were the ones whose sins he had forgiven. I wonder if half way up the hill Mary Magdalene began to think “Why are we doing this?” “What about the eleven, where are they, or Jesus family?” We don’t know what they were thinking but we know what they were doing, they were giving.

They were giving in a physical sense because we are told that they took spices with them. But more than that they were giving of themselves. It was dark and it was cold and it probably would have been a whole lot more comfortable in a warm bed then it was in the damp morning air carrying a heavy bag of spice up a long hill to a grave yard. But that’s where they were. And they were giving to Jesus.
And so on the morning of the resurrection, before they knew the tomb was empty we see a gift being offered. A gift they bought and a gift they brought for Jesus. , They knew that if this was their act of worship than it would have to cost them something. And that principle is repeated throughout the New Testament, time and time again we see God’s people rise up to meet the need of God’s church.
One of the top three reasons given in an extensive survey of non believers as to why they didn’t attend church was “Because they are always asking for money.” I don’t blame people, I guess probably churches are constantly asking for finances but I wonder why that is. And besides people don’t stop attending the Lions Club or the Rotary or the Kinsman and they are always asking for money.
Every year we have door knock appeals from the Red Cross, and the Cancer Fund, and the Kidney Foundation and a dozen other worthy causes and yet people don’t say “Hey they only interested in money.”
Maybe the reason the world feels negative about the church and finances is that they don’t feel like they are getting anything in return or that the church doesn’t contribute anything to the community.
But then again the bible doesn’t tell us that we are a service organization, and the only thing that the scripture requires us to put back into society is better people and I guess when everything is said and done that’s a pretty important contribution. But God never expected the world to support the church.
So Who is Expected to Give? The simple answer is those who love Jesus. The ladies who went to the tomb that day didn’t expect the Romans to take care of Jesus’ body or the crowd from Palm Sunday or the Jewish authorities. They had adopted the attitude “If it’s going to be it’s up to me.” From its very beginnings the church carried its own load. You can hunt through the New Testament and you won’t find any reference to the early church having a bagel drive to raise funds or having a Saturday catacomb sale or a chariot wash.
But you will find instances like Acts 2:44-45 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
And Acts 4:32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. Now that is a fairly radical concept of giving and a pretty radical concept of living. And nobody can really say whether or not that communal concept extended beyond the first generation of believers in Jerusalem.
But we know that the churches that sprung out of the initial movement continued to be generous. Even the Corinthian church which was criticized for sexual immorality and theological error was commended for their generosity in giving to the work of the kingdom. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he urged them to give, we can find that in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Now regarding your question about the money being collected for God’s people in Jerusalem. You should follow the same procedure I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. The result of that admonition is found in 2 Corinthians 8:10 where Paul commended the Corinthians by saying: Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Wow not only were they the first to give but they wanted to give. Would kind of remind you of what Paul said about the Macedonian churches, listen to this, 2 Corinthians 8:2-4 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
Can’t you just hear them “Please Paul, we want to give more, we know we’ve already given a lot but please let us help more.” Ok. In Philipians 4:16 Paul writes Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once.
So let it be said that the biblical precedent is that God’s people provide for God’s work. We don’t expect the world to do it, we don’t expect the government to do it is to be done through the giving of the people of God.
What Are We Expected To Give? You understand that John tells us in his gospel that Jesus’ body had already been prepared by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus before they put it in the tomb. They had probably done what had to be done but the ladies wanted to do more. At different times I get asked the question “How much should I give?” and they are really asking “How much of my money should I give to God”” Maybe a better and more accurate question would be “How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?”
How would your mindset about giving change if it were up to you? If Cornerstone staying open or closing came down to what you were willing to give this year? Would you step up to the plate
What are the people of God supposed to give? It is inevitable that when we talk about the tithe or a tenth of our income people always say “but that is an Old Testament concept”. And it’s true that it is an old testament concept, in fact it is first laid down in Leviticus 27:30 One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy. But then again “thou shalt not kill” is an Old Testament concept as well but we don’t write that off, do we?
And even though the tithe wasn’t commanded until Leviticus we actually have two instances where people gave ten percent of what they had to God before the law was laid down. The first instance was in genesis chapter 14 where Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to God. I wonder why he decided to give a tenth? It wasn’t written down anywhere, there weren’t any meddling preachers then why ten percent. Then Jacob decides to make an offering to the Lord and we read in Genesis 28:22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.
Now isn’t that strange, of all the choices that Jacob could make he decides on the very same amount that his grandfather, Abraham, did. No written instructions. No law. This was before the bible said “a tithe belongs to the lord” matter of fact it was before the bible. He could have made a hundred choice, 1%, 2%, and 3%, all the way up to 100% but they gave 10% Could it be that God told them?

So the tithe is mentioned in the law and it’s mentioned before the law. But what about in the New Testament? Take the case of the Pharisees, Jesus did not like these guys every time you see them together in the scriptures they are fighting; they mix like oil and water. And Jesus condemned the Pharisees for a lot of things but there was one thing that he commended them for and that is found in Matthew 23:23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Jesus didn’t tell them to practice justice, mercy and faith instead of tithing; he told them to practice justice mercy and faithfulness while tithing. He condemned them for hypocrisy, he condemned them for neglecting important things, he called them tombs full of dead men’s bones, he called them snakes, but he commended them for their tithing.

Remember back in 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once. Acts 18 tells us that the Corinthian church was started by converted Jews, people who had been brought up with the concept of tithing, if you were to tell a Jew that they should set aside a sum of money for God’s work in keeping with their income I wonder what amount would come to mind? Throughout the gospels Jesus commended people for giving ten percent or more but he never commended anyone for giving less than ten percent. On two occasions he even told people to give everything they had, and when he praised the widow in the temple it was because she had given everything that she had.

Where are we at? Could Christ commend us for our giving? We have many people in the church that tithe and some people who more than tithe and a good number of people who it would appear would rather die than tithe.

So the next question begs to be asked Why Are We Expected to Give? The women who came to the tomb that morning were giving out of one motivation: Their love for Jesus.

One more than one occasion Jesus used a person’s handling of money as an indication of their spirituality. The rich young ruler felt that he had done everything he needed to do to find favour in God’s eyes, and Jesus said “there’s one more thing that you have to do, you have to let go of the purse strings.” Why? Because God’s blessing upon our lives will cost us everything that we value in life more than Jesus. If there is anything in your life that you value more than Jesus Christ then you are not a disciple. As long as you have something in your life that is more important than God you are worshipping at the feet of a golden calf. The bible tells us that the rich young ruler went away sorrowful. Why? Because he had discovered what he owned and what owned him.

James Moffat made this statement, “a man’s treatment of money is the most decisive test of his character, how he made it and how he spends it.” Jesus said something very similar in Luke 16:11 And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? If you haven’t given God his due, does that make you untrustworthy with worldly wealth? I don’t know, I’m just asking. Oswald J. Smith was right when he said, “I have learned that money is not the measure of a man, but it is often the means of finding out how small he is.” You know I am convinced that some people will never be trusted with a pile because they weren’t true to God with the little bit that they did have. Other’s I am convinced profited because they rendered unto God that which was God’s.

In saying that let’s say this, God expects us to be faithful with what he’s given us. One wit wrote these words, “it’s not what you’d do with a million, if riches should e’r be your lot, but what you are doing at present with the buck and a quarter you got.” There are those who consistently tell you what they’ll do for God, when their ship comes in. If they’re anything like me they’ll probably be at the airport when their ship comes in. God isn’t interested in what you’d do if you had so and so’s money. He’s a lot more interested in what you’re doing with what he gave you.

When God used Moses he used a simple staff, what would have happened if Moses had of said, “Hold it, let’s wait until I have a fancy rod, I could do a much better job with a prettier rod.” No, he used what God had given him. When David went out to fight Goliath it was with a simple sling. You know it’s a whole lot easier to be faithful with a lot when you’ve already learned to be faithful with a little. If children are taught to tithe it will be easier when they are adults to continue doing it.

A pig and a cow were talking about what they gave that farmer, the cow said “well I give cream and butter and milk” “hah” said the pig, “I give bacon, and pork chops and ham.” “The difference” said the cow, “is that I give well I am still alive” Some give according to their means and others give according to their meanness, where are you?

God’s economy is not based on greed. When I seek things with greed I get what I hadn’t expected. It started way back at the beginning with Adam and Eve. They didn’t eat the forbidden fruit because they were hungry, they ate it because they wanted something back, they wanted to be like God. Instead they got tossed out of the garden, literally ate their way out of house and home. When Abraham offered his nephew lot first choice of the lands and Lot took the very best, he was being like a kid. I remember seeing a Peanuts cartoon once where Lucy and Linus were taking the last two pieces of cake and Lucy took the biggest piece. “Hey” said Linus “if I had of had first choice I would have taken the smallest piece.” “So, what are you grumbling about” replied Lucy. Lot took the biggest piece and he lost everything he had in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Why did David want Bathsheba? He already had three wives and you know what Mark Twain said, “The bible speaks very clearly about bigamy when Jesus said no man can serve two masters”. To even up the ground here it was Author Erica Jong who said “Bigamy is having one husband too many. Monogamy is the same.” The greed that David had, wanting what wasn’t his to have, put a gulf between him and God and eventually led to the ruin of his family.

Tithing is not an investment. You don’t do it out of greed. You don’t do it to multiply your riches. And you don’t give to prove how good you are. And you don’t give to gain control. You give out of your love for God and out of your concern for ministry.

Even in saying that let’s remember that God always repays when you give. If your motive is pure. If your motive is pure. God doesn’t settle all his debts in this life but he is no man’s debtor. In Luke 14:14 Christ told his followers that they would be repaid at the Luke 14:14 The resurrection of the righteous.
I don’t want to get into a deep theological discussion on rewards and crowns and levels of rewards in heaven, but I love the story of the man who got to heaven and Peter showed him to this little tiny shack and said “here it is.” The man was flabbergasted and replied “This is it, what happened to my mansion?” “Well” said Peter “this is all the building material you sent up”

God will take care of the reward. And there is repayment in this life as well. Mark 10:29-30 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

People often ask how in the world can people tithe, I can’t make it on 100% let alone 90%. But it’s amazing how far God can stretch that 90% when we believe that he can and will do it. Have you ever looked at where your money goes? Is God’s money paying for the needs or the wants in your life?

The bottom line, nothing that I have said this morning has made one iota of difference in your attitude toward giving. I have just fulfilled some people concept of the preacher that is always looking for money. If you tithe you are thinking “good he really told them” if you don’t tithe you’re thinking “why did I bother coming this morning” I’m not trying to guilt people into giving. Maybe I should get a pulpit that I can pound on and tell you that if you’re not tithing then you are going to hell. But I’m not sure that I really believe that. But before we close let me run one more scripture and thought by you, alright.

Repeatedly the bible tells us not to test God. Old Testament and New Testament agree on that. But there is one occasion that God says “Hey test me, try me on this one and see that I’m not fooling. Ok?” That is found in Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

Paying the Fine

Penn of Denn

I read a great article the other day about a man who insisted on receiving a speeding ticket. Seriously! Jim Fouts, who is mayor of Warren, Michigan, was pulled over last week on his way to city hall. Apparently, he was clocked doing 72 km/h in a 65 zone. The police office warned the mayor to watch his speed and let him off with a warning.

Most of us would consider it our lucky day or perhaps even our due. “Well, it was less than 10 kms over the limit and everyone does it.” Not so Mayor Fouts, who worried all day about the warning, afraid it might be seen as favouritism. And maybe it was, or not.

So, he did what any of us would. He went to the Deputy Police Commissioner and demanded his ticket, and he got it. All one hundred dollars worth.

The mayor told the press that he, “had to set an example.”

How many times when we have been confronted with our sinful behaviour, have we sought to justify or rationalize our behaviour? The great thing is, when we confess our sin, the fine has already been paid. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


A Tomb for a Gift?

When our daughter, Deborah, was preparing to depart for Odessa in Ukraine last year she had to sign a form telling how she wished to have her remains disposed of if anything happened to her while she was overseas. Pretty heavy stuff for a twenty-one year old. But practical.
What do you do with your body if you are far from home when you die? When we were living in Australia I remember telling Angela that is anything happened to me to have my body cremated and to bring it home in the video camera case to avoid shipping charges. Video cameras were much larger then.
We don’t like to talk about things like that. When I was pastoring in Truro I had a great idea, we made “funeral information” forms available. It covered all the things that would need to be taken care of when a person died. Did they want to be buried or cremated, did they have a preference for who performed the service, what songs were to be sung, favourite scripture passages. I thought it was a great idea, we would keep them on file in the office and when they were needed it would save the family a lot of grief. We handed out 150 and got 4 back. It’s almost as if by talking about it we will make it happen but it’s going to happen whether you fill out the silly form or not.
Last week was Easter and we focused on the death of Christ and on his resurrection, and we often talk about Jesus being laid in the tomb and then the tomb being found empty, but have you ever stopped and thought about the tomb that Jesus was laid in.
Funeral arrangements are never easy but they are more difficult when the death is sudden and unexpected. I wonder at what point it dawned on Mary that something was going to have to be done with the body of her son when he was taken down from the cross. Remember Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem but his home was in Nazareth which was over a hundred kilometres away in a time when there were no trains or plains or hearses for that matter to move the body from point “a” to point “b”
We’ve all seen photos of the sculpture by Michelangelo with Mary holding the body of her son, there was a similar scene in the Passion of the Christ. I wonder what was going through her mind at that point? If she was wondering what was going to happen to her son when she let go?
Actually the scriptures tell us that by that time there was already a solution and as often happen that solution was provided by an individual who made a conscious decision to help. We read the account earlier but to refresh your memory. Matthew 27:57-58 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him.
We don’t know a lot about this man called Joseph. We know from this account that he was from the town of Arimathea, which was a suburb North West of Jerusalem. We know that he was wealthy, and from reading Mark 15:43 . . ,Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. We know that he was part of the Sanhedrin and he that was Kingdom minded. Luke tells us in Luke 23:50-51 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. And from John 19:38 we discover Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body. And from that tradition and legend has added some details.
Tradition tells us that Joseph was Mary’s uncle was a tin merchant. Because of his business legend says that had travelled to the mining community of Cornwall England which was renowned for its tin. As a matter of fact some legends even say that he took his Great Nephew Jesus to Cornwall when he was still a child. And that’s why William Blake’s poem says: And did those feet in ancient time, Walk upon England’s mountains green: And was the holy Lamb of God, On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
Legend continues to say that because of that connection and history that Joseph was later recruited by the apostles to take the gospel to England and that on the journey he took the cup that Jesus had used at the last supper, which of course began the legend of the Holy Grail. But all of that is just legend. But what is it that we actually learn from this story?
1) It Involved a Need. Actually Joseph saw two needs in this story. The first was a spiritual need. You will recall from the accounts we read that although Joseph was a believer he was not a Christ Follower in the public sense. In his heart and in his head he knew and accepted the claims of Jesus but nobody else knew about his decision. The scriptures said he was a secret disciple which I would kind of think is an oxymoron. Being a disciple means being a follower and I would think at some point you would have to make a public declaration. As Joshua was leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land he issued them with this challenge. Joshua 24:15 “But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
Story is told about a small town that had an awesome fisherman, during fishing season he always caught piles of fish, even when they weren’t biting for anyone else he would arrive back in town with all kinds of fish. Well the game warden got curious about how he was doing it so one day he invited himself along to go fishing with Buddy. Well they got in the middle of the lake and the fellow opens up the tackle box, pulls out a stick of dynamite lights it and tosses it into the water, boom. Fish float to the surface and the warden freaks out, starts screaming about the law and how big the fine would be and even possible jail time. Well, buddy looks at the warden, reaches back into the tackle box pulls out another stick of dynamite lights it and hands it to the warden and says: “you gonna talk or you gonna fish?”
Well there comes a time that we have to make a decision when it comes to following Jesus and it shouldn’t be put off, Jesus was pretty clear when he said Matthew 10:32-33 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

But it was more than simply a spiritual need that Joseph saw there was a practical need as well and that was what to do with Jesus’ body. Three things could have happened. 1) The Romans were notorious for simply leaving the body of executed criminals on the cross as an example for others. Birds of prey would feed upon them and eventually they would decay and fall off the cross to be picked at by animals. Some scholars even thought the reason Golgotha was called the Place of the Skull had nothing to do with the shape of the hill and everything to do with the skeletal remains left lying about. 2) That didn’t apply if the person who was executed was Jewish. We read in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession. The Jewish authorities felt that applied as well to those crucified and so the bodies had to be taken down before sunset. That is why the thieves on either side of Jesus had their legs broken, to speed up their deaths. But it was already determined that Jesus was already dead. But if there was nobody to claim the body than it was simply disposed of in the garbage dump. 3) A relative or family member could claim the body.
So from a practical point of view something had to be done for Jesus burial, his body wasn’t just going to buy itself.
Being a Christ follower doesn’t just involve a spiritual need it also involves a practical need. From the very beginning of Christianity believers have gathered together in local churches and those churches have had needs that were met through those who followed Christ. It’s not up to the world to meet the needs or the church, or the government and the early church didn’t do it through fund raising and bean suppers and bingo.
In the case of Cornerstone we have a mortgage, power and heat bills, maintenance, snow plowing and salary costs. And as the church grows some of those costs will increase. We now have more children at Cornerstone than we had total attendance three and a half years ago and in order to effectively minister to those children and their families this year we need to add a part-time children’s director position to our staff. And that will only happen as folks step up to meet that need.
And that brings us to the second point. 2) It Involved a Decision. Joseph filled the first need by publicly declaring himself a disciple of Christ. Have you publicly declared your allegiance to Christ?
Part of doing that is when you choose to obey his command and be baptized as a believer. The purpose of baptism was not to get wet it was to make a public declaration of a personal decision to follow Christ. And understand there is no example given in the New Testament of people waiting for a period of time after becoming a Christ follower to be baptized.
Matthew 27:57-58 As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. I don’t know how many people were there that day who could have done something, but Joseph didn’t wait for them to do something he did it. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus body. He didn’t hope that someone else would do it, he didn’t assume one of the apostles or Jesus family would take care of it, he did what had to be done.
In too many cases “Everyone thought someone would do it and in the end no one ending up doing it.”
There is no magic pot that we dip into at Cornerstone to meet the financial needs that we have as a congregation. If we are going to minister to this community, if we are going to provide a place for you and your family to worship, if we are going to be able to continue to teach your children and be there for weddings and funerals, than those needs will have to be met by those who call Cornerstone their church home.
And we do it a little differently than most churches do it, we allow you to determine what type of church you want to have. Next week we will ask each of you to make a commitment as to what you will give on a weekly basis for the next church year. We do it by giving each of you a commitment card to fill our and return, and my personal promise to you is that I won’t embarrass you or put you in an awkward situation.
But the bottom line is that my pay cheque, the mortgage payment, which by the way is $8,000.00 a month, the heat, the lights and everything else right down to the toilet paper is paid for by people who love Jesus and love Cornerstone.
And every person who is connected with this church will have to decide how much they are willing to invest in what we do. Because you will spend your money somewhere. And you will choose what investments you make, and Jesus said it would be litmus test of who we are, in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. And you will make a decision about Cornerstone when you fill the card out and make a commitment. And you will make a decision about Cornerstone if you choose to not fill the card out and make a commitment
3) It involved a Sacrifice Understand that this wasn’t some nebulous theoretical decision that Joseph made. When he publically identified himself with Jesus it wasn’t the popular thing to do, those who had followed Jesus for three years were hiding in the shadow and for good reason. Jesus had been crucified for being a traitor to the Roman Empire and to his religion. And Joseph was basically saying “I’m with him”.
When you take a stand today to seriously follow Jesus, not just call yourself a Christian because you aren’t a Muslim or a Hindu or a Jew, than there will be consequences. You will have to make decisions that may not be popular with your friends or your family; you may have to make choices that are at odds with your employment. I don’t know the price that you will be called to pay but there will be a price.
But it wasn’t just a personal cost that Joseph had to pay, there was also a practical cost.
Matthew 27:59-60 Joseph took the (Jesus’) body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left.
So you understand that this wasn’t just a loan this was a gift. It wasn’t like giving someone a book to read and then getting it back, or letting someone use your car for the afternoon. When Joseph put Jesus body in the tomb he no longer had the tomb. He was going to have to go out and buy himself another tomb. Don’t know what the tomb had cost, but it had cost something and people weren’t lining up offering their tomb.
Ultimately if Cornerstone is your church home and you want all the benefits that come from having a church home it will cost you something. Or at least it should cost you something. Otherwise you are parking on someone else’s quarter. It would be like going to McDonalds and picking up a tray of food that someone else had paid for and eating it.
Now sometimes we get the impression that God wants it all and He doesn’t care what happens to us or our families. That isn’t the plan, God doesn’t ask for 100% of our finances or 90 or 50 or 40 or 25. In the scriptures it speaks of God’s people returning 1/10 of our income to God. Note I said returning because the assumption is that all that we have comes from God. And so we have scriptures like Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
God doesn’t want us to lose our homes, he isn’t interested in us not feeding our children or defaulting on our taxes, that’s what the 90 % is for. And tithing isn’t something that kicks in when you are an adult. We have children and teens at Cornerstone who tithe their babysitting money and their allowance and it is easier to be obedient with a lot when you have already been obedient with a little.
J.D. Rockefeller Sr. One of the richest men in the world in his day said “If I had not tithed the first dollar I made I would not have tithed the first million dollars I made. Tell your readers to train the children to tithe, and they will grow up to be faithful stewards of the lord.”
I came across a neat saying that kind of sums up this point, You should give according to your income, lest God make your income according to your giving. So here’s a question, could you live on 10 times what you give to the church each week? What type of house would you live in? What type of car would you drive, what would you eat?

Say What?

Penn of Denn

I was sitting in my office annex the other day and was listening to folks use Canada’s third official language as they ordered double doubles, triple singles and four by fours.  Which begs the question: is a coffee with four creams and four sugars still a coffee? But again I digress.

As I listened to the customers speaking in a code readily understood by those who served them, I wondered about the language we speak in our churches.

How often do we assume that everyone who comes through our doors on Sunday morning speaks the same language as we do?  And I’m not talking about English.

I have to remind myself from time to time that not everyone understands “churchy” language. Part of my job is to act as a tour guide, as I lead people to catch a glimpse of the eternal.  And part of that job is occasionally acting as a translator, translating “Christianese” into everyday English.

If you get the wrong coffee because of a miscommunication, that’s a mistake that can be corrected. If you miss eternity because of a miscommunication, that is a tragedy and it’s forever.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


What Judas Missed

Each year since 1970 at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London England thousands of international visitors are asked to name which person, past or present, real or fictional they hated or feared the most. The name that has topped the list the most number of times has been Adolph Hitler, his name was replaced with Osama Bin Laden in 2001. But through the years it has included Idi Amin, Richard Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, Jack the Ripper a few years ago Liam Gallagher front man for the British rock band Oasis made the list, I wonder what he had done? But as far as I can tell Judas Iscariot has never made the list and that surprised me. I mean think about it, this was the man who betrayed Jesus Christ, the son of God, King of Kings, Lord of Lord, Prince of Peace. His name is synonymous with betrayal. None of the other eleven disciples made Collins English Dictionary, but Collins defines Judas as “Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, a traitor or betrayer.”

 If immortality was Judas’ goal he certainly achieved it. Really people just don’t like Judas or what he did. When was the last time you saw a Saint Judas Church? And a few years back when Biblical names were the flavour of the month for children’s names remember? We had Jepthaths and Joshuas, Joshias and Jeremiahs and Aarons and Levis and Obadiahs, but you never heard anyone naming their bouncing baby boy, Judas.

 For that matter you might remember that Jesus younger brother’s name was Judas. But when he wrote the letter that would eventually become a part of our New Testament he used the diminutive of his name which was Jude. Now we don’t read the books of I and II Pete or I and II and III Jack, so why was it that Judas felt that he had to shorten his name to Jude? Because he didn’t want to be identified with Judas Iscariot, would you?

 But who was he? Who was this Judas Iscariot? Well we don’t really know all that much about him, we do know that his father was Simon and that his surname Iscariot was probably a combination of the Hebrew words Ish and Kariot, which would then be translated, Man of Kariot. From the scriptures we discover that he was appointed treasurer of the twelve and that he became a thief, stealing from that very same treasureary. But what would compel a man to sentence his closest friend to one of the most horrible deaths imaginable?

 There have actually been six reasons suggested as to why Judas might have betrayed Christ.

 1) He was an Outsider Being from Kaerrioth Judas would have been the only non Galilean in the group. I may be that he grew bitter over being odd man out and that drove him to his dastardly deed.

 2) He was a Coward It may be that he turned crowns evidence to save his own skin and then saw the enormity of what he had done.

 3) He was Greedy Maybe plain and simply he did it out of greed. He did it for the money. He probably would have denied that, but you know what they say, when anyone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. One commentator estimated that the thirty pieces of silver would have been worth close to $1,600.00 today. Not a bad piece of change for an evenings work. Sometimes money talks so loud that it can’t be ignored.

 4) He was Nasty It could well be that Judas came to hate Christ because he couldn’t hide his inner self from Christ. Other’s looked at Judas and saw one of Jesus’ disciples a good man, a kind man, but Jesus saw him for who he truly was and so he had to destroy the one who saw into the darkest corners of his heart.

 5) He was a Patriot It might be that Judas’ last name wasn’t a derivative of the Hebrew Ish Kariot as much as it was a form of the Greek word that meant “Dagger Bearer.” Now the Dagger Bearers were a band of violent nationalists who were prepared to use every means available to them, including assassination to free Palestine from Roman rule. Perhaps Judas had set his hopes on a Messiah who would deliver his people from his oppressors. And then in bitter disappointment he betrayed him.

 6) He was Naive More likely then not though, Judas never intended for Jesus to die that day, instead he hoped to force his hand, so that when he was betrayed he would use his power to liberate Israel. If that was the case then what a tragedy Judas witnessed when he saw he plan fly all to pieces.

 Judas Iscariot; friend, confident, disciple, treasurer, traitor. How it must have broken Jesus heart when Judas stepped out of the crowd of those who came to arrest him and betrayed him with a kiss on the cheek.

 The name Judas will go down in history being synonymous with betrayal. But the question we need to ask ourselves on Easter Sunday 2009 is this, When Judas hung himself on that day what did he miss?

 If we go back to the text that was read earlier we read in Matthew 27:5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

 But if we keep reading we discover that Judas hung himself even before Christ was sentenced. Before Pilate finished questioning Jesus, Judas was dead. Before Barabbas was released, Judas was dead. Before Jesus was scourged with the whip, Judas was dead. Before the crown of thorns was pushed onto Jesus’ head, Judas was dead. Before they nailed Jesus to the cross, Judas was dead.

 But the real tragedy is this, that when Jesus looked down from the cross, at those who had mocked him, and spit on him, at those who had slapped him and struck him. When Jesus saw those who had pulled his beard, who had beat him, had jammed that viscous crown of thorns deep into his forehead and nailed him to the cross. When Jesus looked at he mob and cried out in Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.Judas was already dead by his own hand.
And so the first and the most important thing that Judas missed was the Forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Now you may be one of those who believe that was Judas did was so heinous, and so horrible that Judas could never have been forgiven. But my bible still contains 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
Did you catch that? The Lord is not wanting anyone to perish. Anyone, not even Judas. Just as it was Judas’ decision to betray Christ, so it was Judas’ choice to die unrepentant and go to hell. To write off the possibility that Judas Iscariot could not obtain forgiveness for his actions is scary. You see Christ’s forgiveness is not dependent on our behaviour, and for that matter it doesn’t even matter whether or not we deserve it.
The forgiveness that each one of us needs is dependent on one thing and one thing only and that is the Grace of God. Grace has been defined as the unmerited, undeserved or unearned love of God. And surely Judas needed undeserved love as much or more then the rest of us.
You know the saddest part of the story is that Judas came so close to forgiveness. If we were to list the three things that are required from us in order to experience the forgiveness of God, they would be 1) Acknowledgment of our sin 2) A sense of remorse for our sin. 3) Acceptance of the forgiveness offered us, by faith.
So how close did Judas come? Matthew 27:4 “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.” There was the acknowledgment of his sin. Judas didn’t try to justify himself, and offer up excuses for what he had done. “Well, really, they knew who he was and it was just a matter of time until they came to arrest him anyways.” And he didn’t try to rationalize his guilt, “Well how was I to know that they were going to hurt him, let alone crucify him?” Instead he said “I have sinned, for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
In verse three of that same chapter we read these words, Matthew 27:3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders.
Now most of us have felt remorseful over some particular wrong in our life at one time or another. But usually only after we’ve been caught. For the most part we are like King David who cried out “I have sinned against the Lord” but he only said that after Nathan had confronted him with his adultery and murder. How many of you remember Jimmy Swaggert’s tearful plea that was played so often on the news after he had been caught in adultery and in tears he confessed “I have sinned.” Well we knew that Jimmy.
And yet even with Judas’ acknowledgement of his sin, and his remorsefulness, he still couldn’t bring himself to ask for forgiveness. And while two out of three might be alright in some cases, it just don’t cut it when it comes to eternity.
There are people in churches all over Metro and maybe right here today who know the truth of Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. They know that, and they are remorseful, they feel really bad about their sin. But for some reason they just can’t bring themselves to seek forgiveness from Christ.
I don’t know what it is holding them back, whether it’s pride or stubbornness but I do know that it’s a dangerous game to play, because you don’t have to hang yourself to miss the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Three days after Jesus and Judas died, Jesus rose again, but Judas was still dead. And as Christ appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he made a statement that would never apply to Judas. In John 20:19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.
And so the second thing that Judas missed was Peace. Peace, oh how that quality eluded Judas. He seemed to have lived without it and now it would appear that he died without it. That peace that Christ promised his disciples in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Even then it was just hours until Judas’ lips would touch his cheek in betrayal.
I wonder if Judas was struggling with his decision even as Christ spoke about peace. I wonder if even then he was craving a peace that would never be his. The world can never give you that peace and that is why suicide is the second greatest killer of Canadians aged 15-44. That’s why teen suicide has increased so sharply over the past twenty years. We look happy, and everyone may think we have the world by the tail, but we know deep down that we don’t. We alone know whether or not we have that peace.
You know it’s easy to externalize a peace, to put on a mask. Felix Powell was the composer of “Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag and smile, smile, smile.” It was once called the most optimistic song ever written, and yet Powell died by his own hand. Every year in Canada close to 4000 men, women and children take their own lives, why? Because often they are missing a critical ingredient and that is peace.
Paul wrote in the letter that he wrote to the Christians in the city of Philippi these words , Philippians 4:7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
If you have that peace then you know what I’m talking about, but have you ever tried to explain the depth of that peace to someone who hasn’t experienced it? They just look at you funny.
You see when most people talk about peace they think about what’s going on in the Middle East. But the peace that the Bible talks about isn’t just an absence of war. The Greek word for peace is I-ray-nay which literally means “To set at one again”
And it deals primarily with broken relationships. When we are granted forgiveness through the grace of God then our relationship with God is restored. We are brought to the place where we belong. Judas missed that restoration. Though he was a man who was torn apart with conflict, the method that he chose to resolve the conflict really wasn’t a viable option at all. Suicide doesn’t solve problems, it simply creates them.
It is very doubtful that Judas was able to say at his point of death the same words that Christ used, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”

 Judas didn’t damn himself at the point of betraying Christ. But he most certainly did when he refused to set the relationship straight. I am convinced that had Judas sought the forgiveness that only Christ can give, then he would have experienced the peace that only God can provide.

 One thing that most commentators will agree on it that Judas was a fervent nationalist. He was looking for an end to the Roman Tyranny and Jewish enslavement and he thought the answer lay in Jesus. The third thing that Judas missed was Power. I’m sure that if you asked Judas what was the one thing that he craved, his answer would have been power. Power to make a difference, power to affect change, power to get done the things that needed doing. He would have agreed with Ashleigh Brilliant who said “All I want is a warm bed and a kind word and unlimited power.” And yet his pathetic demise would bring to mind a lot of images, but power wouldn’t be one of them.

 When Judas came to the end of his relatively short life, he felt so powerless to cope with the events which engulfed him, most of which were his own doing, that he took what seemed to be the easiest way out and added to his sins the breaking of the sixth commandment, “You shall not kill.” Judas was so caught up in his own problems, that he missed the one thing that he craved the most. Because forty days after Judas died, Jesus made this promise to the remaining eleven disciples in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 Within ten days of that promise a power of unparalleled magnitude swept into the world. And Judas missed the one thing that had driven his life, power. The power that Christ gave to the disciples was a world changing power, a power that could only be described using the Greek word dunamos, the same root word from which we get words like dynamic, dynamo and dynamite.

 The same power that Judas so desired but missed is available to every one of us. The church in general today doesn’t lend itself to images of power, we’ve been relegated to the back burner of society. We’re no longer a force to be reckoned with. But let’s be truthful, is that because the power of the Holy Spirit is any less available or any less powerful today? Or is it because we fail to claim and exercise that power?

 Judas missed a lot, he missed the forgiveness of Christ, the peace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, but I’m here today to tell you that you don’t have to. All that Judas missed is available to you this morning. Christ forgiveness is just as thorough today as it was 2000 years ago and you haven’t’ done anything so vile that Jesus can’t forgive you. The peace of God still surpasses understanding in 2009 and the power of the Holy Spirit can still change our world as effectively as it changed the world of Peter and Paul.

 But just as Judas had to make the choice for himself, you will have to make the choice for yourself.


Penn of Denn

I love the diversity of God and God’s people. I had the privilege of worshipping with the folks at Full Gospel last Saturday evening during one their dedication weekend services. In Australia we had a saying. “They are as different as chalk and cheese.” After worshipping around the corner, I can truly say that Full Gospel and Cornerstone are as different as chalk and cheese. Isn’t that great!? But for all our differences there are many things we have in common and many passions that we share. We love and worship Jesus and we want to touch as many people as possible with His gospel and His love.

At Cornerstone we often say that we are here to help depopulate hell, and the reality is, we can’t do it alone.

I celebrate the diversity of the body of Christ because Full Gospel Church will reach folks who would never feel comfortable worshipping at Cornerstone or listening to Denn preach. And so I’m thankful that the pastor and people of Full Gospel have made the sacrifices they have made to help us fulfil our task of helping to depopulate hell. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


A Palm or a Cloak?

A Palm or a Cloak April 05/09
Electricity filled the air as the people of Jerusalem pushed against one another to see the man that everyone was talking about. Some said he was a god and others said he was a demon. Some claimed he performed miracles while others proclaimed him a fraud a charlatan or worse. For better or for worse everyone had an opinion, even if they didn’t agree.
We are all familiar with the scene, the account from John’s Gospel was read for us earlier. Sometimes we talk about Palm Sunday, in the Bible it’s often referred to as “The Triumphant Entry” But it was the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In one short week Jesus would be dead and the crowds would be silent.
So you probably know the story but let’s look at the high points. In Chapter 11 of John you may remember that Jesus had been called to the town of Bethany where his good friend Lazarus was sick, before Jesus was able to get there Lazarus had died and so Jesus raised him from the dead. Jesus became the talk of the town and the news eventually spread to Jerusalem where the Jewish High Priest, a man named Caiaphas heard the news. Now you might think that the High Priest would be excited to hear that Jesus, the one who claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah had the power to give life to the dead. You know if Caiaphas had been wondering if Jesus was truly who he claimed to be than this might be the assurance he needed. Help him decide which horse to back, so to speak. But that was not the case.
John 11:47-48 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” Kind of interesting where their priorities were isn’t it? There are churches and people in churches that still feel that way today, they are more interested in protecting their traditions than in reaching people. But that is a topic for another time.
And so the story continues: John 11:53-54 So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death. As a result, Jesus stopped his public ministry among the people and left Jerusalem. He went to a place near the wilderness, to the village of Ephraim, and stayed there with his disciples. Jesus had become a wanted man, perhaps it was a reward that had been placed on his head that Judas collected, it was at that point that Jesus must have decided that discretion was the better part of valour and went to Ephraim, a small town outside of Jerusalem.

 There was a plan, a time and a place for the events to happen and while Jerusalem was the place this obvious wasn’t the time yet. Perhaps this was a time for Christ to reflect on what was going to happen and to prepare himself emotionally and spiritually for what would happen in the days ahead.

 Or maybe it was simply a matter of a better time. The spiritual impact of Christ’s sacrifice happening at Passover would have been exponential over just two weeks previous. We don’t know. As a matter of fact we don’t know anything about the time he spent in Ephraim and it really is incidental to the story other than a stopping point, because we read in John 12:1 Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead. So if we pull up our trusty map here is Jerusalem and here is Ephraim and here is Bethany, and it was at the home of Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha that Jesus crashed for the night. John 12:12 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city.
And this wasn’t just something that happened, a parade didn’t just suddenly break out I know that in the scripture that was read this morning it said John 12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it. But listen to what Luke says about the donkey

Luke 19:29-31 As hy came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives, he sent two disciples ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ “
Now we might be tempted to add a whole range of mystical application here, that maybe this was a miracle or a step of faith on Jesus behalf, you know, just do and it will happen. Chances are that Jesus knew the man and had arranged in advance for the donkey to be there. The words “The Lord needs it” were probably a password so the man would know that he was giving the donkey to the right people. I mean he’d feel kind of silly had the two disciples shown up and he had to tell them: “I gave the donkey to two other guys who were here about an hour ago.”
We know that Jesus had friends in Bethany, remember that’s where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and so it’s not that far of a reach to see that Jesus had already put steps in place for his entrance to Jerusalem. Which would lead me to suspect that if it were alright for Jesus to do preparation and not always wait until the last minute and then call on God in panic that there might be a lesson there for us as well.
From this account we are told that the young donkey had never been ridden before, that the colt wasn’t even green broken.
We had horses when I was a kid and I’m not nearly as amazed by the fact there was a donkey waiting there for Jesus as I am that he got on the back of an untrained animal that had never been ridden before and stayed on. My experience with horses was been that they aren’t overly impressed the first time a person climbs on their back. Another one of those miracle things.
Now the entire donkey and colt thing may not mean a whole lot to you and me but to the people of Jerusalem it meant a great deal, and just in case they missed it Matthew reaches back into the Old Testament and pulls out a reference from the prophet Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.
It’s interesting that while we see a donkey as kind of a second rate horse for the people of Israel it was very symbolic because traditionally and culturally a donkey was what a king rode when he came in peace. Perhaps a suitable mount for the Prince of Peaces.
Jesus knew that the religious leaders were out to get him and yet instead of slinking into the city under the cover of darkness he rides triumphantly in a manner that is bound to reveal him as Messiah. William Barclay who wrote the Daily Study Bible Commentaries made this statement “Jesus entered Jerusalem in a way that deliberately set himself in the centre of the stage and deliberately riveted every eye upon himself. All through his last days there is in his every action a kind of magnificent and sublime defiance; and here he begins the last act with a flinging down of the gauntlet, a deliberate challenge to the authorities to do their worst.”
If that is indeed what he was trying to do he certainly succeeded. But what about the people in the crowd that day? We know that less than a week later they weren’t shouting hosanna, as a matter of fact some of the very people who wanted to see him crowned on Palm Sunday wanted to see him crucified on Good Friday.
Now at this point you might be thinking, cool Denn has forgotten it’s Stewardship month and he’s not going to talk about giving. Not a chance.
You see as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that Sunday so many years ago people responded in a variety of different ways to his presence and the responses were demonstrated in very tangible ways. As a matter of fact they way they responded is the way people still respond to Jesus today.
Some Gave Nothing. There are a few different sub groups that we find here. First there were those who were hostile to the claims of Christ. They were the ones who tried to trap him, who called him a demon and accused him of blaspheming against God. Couldn’t really expect them to give. Maybe you fit into that category, you are only here because it’s easier than listening to your spouse or parents nag you about coming. Maybe you are kind of like the person that George Orwell described in Animal Farm when he wrote He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him).
And then there were the uninterested. It wasn’t that they were negative to Christ they just didn’t care one way or another; they saw a bunch of people and joined in to see what all the commotion was about. Kind of what P. T. Barnum said “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”
They stood on sidelines looking in, maybe they yelled the occasional Hosanna so they didn’t look out of place but they hadn’t bought into the entire Jesus thing. They were just there for the show and you couldn’t really expect them to give either.
But there were those who were interested in what Jesus was saying, they were looking for him to make a difference in their lives, perhaps to heal them or feed them or they truly meant what they said when the called out Hosanna, which means “Lord save us.” But they weren’t really looking to give anything back.
And there are people just like that in our churches today, they want what the church can provide, they want to have a service on Sunday morning that they enjoy and they want their children to be taught about God is a safe clean environment and they want a place and a person to perform weddings and funerals, but they really want others to pay for it. When it comes to giving to the church some people will stop at nothing.
The reason we call the Triumphant Entry “Palm Sunday” comes from John 12:12-13 The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!” Some Gave a little: It really is a neat picture. And you’ve see it in paintings and drawings and movies. Here comes Jesus riding on the donkey the people waving palm branches and yelling Hosanna. These were excited people; they saw something in Jesus that they liked, maybe something they wanted to emulate.
It was an impressive scene, some people are waving the palm branches and we are told in the other Gospel accounts that some of the people laid the palm branches on the road to form a carpet for Jesus to ride over.
Kind of cool but really, there was a little effort. I mean here there would be an effort in finding a palm branch. In Israel you would just have to turn around and rip one off a tree, and if they were anything like the palm trees we had on our property in Australia you just have to stoop over and pick one up. The real sacrice didn’t come from the people nearly as much as it did from the tree.
But is a gift a gift if it doesn’t cost something?
And it is the same with the church. There are those whose giving to the church is little more than a tip of the hat. Oh they might mouth the words and talk about giving but it’s a five dollar bill dropped in the box every once in a while. And to be frank the church cannot survive with Palm Wavers. Marilyn and I were talking the other day and she reminded me of a statement that one of our professors at Bible College made. And I am in no way trying to imply that Marilyn and I are in any way close to the same age. She obviously began college very, very young.
But I digress. Marilyn reminded me that Dr. Kanzelmar said that the way to see if an idea was valid was to see if it could be transferred to everyone in the church. So obviously giving five dollars a week per family isn’t valid, for that matter even if every family in our church gave twenty dollars a week we would just barely be able to pay our mortgage. So Cornerstone would have a really nice building with no heat no power and no staff. Is that the Church that you want?
And so church is like everything else how much you value it is really indicated by how much you are willing to pay for it. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Jesus was telling people “If you want to see what is important to you, look to where you spend your money.” I’ve said before if you want to see where your priorities are than look into the two most important books in your life. Your chequebook and your date book. Where do you give your money and where do you give your time.
Angela’s father told me that once he was in Virginia on a Navy Ship years ago and went to a black church for service one Sunday and when it came time for the offering the preacher admonished the people to give out of their means not their meanness. What do you give out of? Your means or your meanness?
Mark 11:8 Many in the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him . . .
Some Gave a Lot: So perhaps you are sitting there thinking “So what’s the big deal? They laid their coats down.” Well those in the know tell us that 2000 years ago in Palestine that the vast majority of people didn’t have a closet full of coats or for that matter a few coats or even a couple of coats. Instead we are told that most people would have only owned one outer garment.
So there you are with only the coat on your back and here comes Jesus, some are waving and chanting and some are breaking off palm leaves and laying those down for Jesus to ride on and you really want to demonstrate your love for the one they call the Messiah. Would you literally give him the shirt off your back? Apparently some would. This is a garment that was used as outerwear during the day and a blanket at night. It was so important that it was actually protected by Jewish law.
We are told in Deuteronomy 24:12-13 If your neighbor is poor and gives you his cloak as security for a loan, do not keep the cloak overnight. Return the cloak to its owner by sunset so he can stay warm through the night and bless you, and the Lord your God will count you as righteous.
And there were some there that day that were willing to allow a donkey to walk on their cloaks and possibly do whatever else a donkey might do on their cloaks. Why? Out of their love and devotion for Jesus. And again Jesus said Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. In a very real way they were willing to lay down what was important to them to worship Christ.
The bible gives us clear direction on what God expects. It’s called a tithe and it means a tenth. It is mentioned in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. It is mentioned in Malachi the last book of the Old Testament and it is mentioned in Matthew in the New Testament as well as in the book of Luke and Hebrews in the New Testament. As a matter of fact those in the know tell us that the Bible speaks more about money than it does about prayer and that Jesus spoke more about our money, how we make it and how we spend it than he did about heaven and hell combined. Because he knew how important the subject was.
And many of you give a lot to God’s work at Cornerstone as a part of your worship. And it cost you something, there are other things that you could use that money for but you have chosen not to. Thank you, you have laid your coat down for Jesus to use.
Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Some Gave Everything: There were many in the crowd that day who would never set eyes on Jesus again, and those who never gave his words or their encounter with Jesus a second thought. But there were those there that day that their encounter with Jesus was a life changing event.

 It defined who there were, it shaped how they lived and it may even have determined how they would die. And I don’t just mean those who gave their lives in the persecution that accompanied the early church, the martyrs. I’ve said before that I am sure that Jesus would agree: “The problem isn’t getting people to die for you it’s getting people to live for you.”

 For many on that day Jesus was not just an abstract or an ideal he had changed their lives and they were there to express their thanks and their adoration to him, and that didn’t end on Palm Sunday. And so when we have committed ourselves to him our giving isn’t an issue because all we are is his and all we have is his.
This morning my challenge to you isn’t how much money are you prepared to give to God it’s how much “You” are you prepared to give to God? And remember in the end our commitment will not be measured in our words nearly as much as it will be measured in our actions.

Spring is in the Air

Penn of Denn

    I am presently working toward a compilation of the best of the “Penn of Denn.” It will include three hundred of my favourite columns and should be ready in the Fall. Perfect for that Christmas gift for the person who has everything. But I diverge.

As I read through the years, I was amazed that every Spring I wrote at least one “Penn” wondering where Spring was. Bizarre. One would think that after having lived most of my adult life in Nova Scotia, I would know that March 21st is simply a date on a calendar.

But every year Spring does come. And it will come again this year. We might not know what next week’s weather will bring ,but we have not just the hope of Spring, but also the knowledge that for as long as any one can remember Spring has followed Winter in Nova Scotia. That is just one more example of God being in control. And whatever Winter you are going through in your life right now, it too will have an end. So if you can trust God with something as important as Spring, surely you can trust Him with the rest. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.