When the Day of Pentecost had Come

 I wonder what they were thinking about on that day? Had they gathered together to celebrate the holidays or were they making plans for the future? We don’t know where they were, why they were there or even how many of them there were. But we do know that what happened on that day changed history and ultimately changed the world.

 It had been seven weeks since the carpenter from Nazareth had been crucified. A lot of things had happened since the day the Romans had nailed Jesus of Nazareth to a crude cross and hung him on Golgotha to die. Probably the greatest thing that happened was that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Three days after he was placed in a borrowed tomb it was empty. Three days after the apostles had given up hope; hope had been given back to them. Three days after the devil had tasted victory he saw defeat. Three days after the religious leaders had celebrated his death they had to cope with his resurrection.

 During the time after his resurrection Christ had appeared to his apostles both individually and collectively. He had made them breakfast on the beach at Galilee and gave them the great commission on top of a mountain. He had promised them that the Holy Spirit would come, appeared to a crowd of five hundred and then ascended into heaven in front of his followers.

 Ten days after Christ had left they found themselves in a room in Jerusalem doing just what Christ had commanded them to do they were waiting. It is interesting to note that even at this point they had a pretty firm grasp about how to play church; they were busy with administrative functions. Nobody was saved but they did have the opportunity to vote Matthias in as an Apostle. It’s amazing that even today churches have captured that ability to look busy while basically not doing anything. Every year at our conference there are churches that report that haven’t seen a single person come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ but they continued to function as bureaucratic entities, forming boards, electing people to fill roles, filing reports doing all the things which would ensure that they would continue to exist.

 And so here they are, gathered together to celebrate Pentecost. Acts 2:1 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.

 Pentecost is a New Testament name for an Old Testament festival. When most of us think of Pentecost we think of Christianity, but as is the case with most of Christianity the true beginnings of Pentecost are rooted in Judaism. The word comes from the root word for fifty and literally is fifty days after Passover. Sometimes it is referred to as the feast of weeks or the week of weeks, because seven weeks is 49 days and the next day is Pentecost.

 Historically the Pentecost celebration commemorated the giving of the law to Moses and also had agricultural significance. In recognition of that the crops first Omar or two quarts, or 1.89 litres of barley were brought to the altar as an offering along with two loaves of barley bread.

 Pentecost was a day of celebration. Servant labour was prohibited and so it was a holiday for all. Presumably the believers had made their sacrifices, remember they were all good Jews, and nnow they were together, whether they were in anxious anticipation over whether or not this would be the day that the Holy Spirit would come or if they were just sitting around enjoying each other’s company we’ll never know this side of eternity, all we know is that they were together in on place.

 I had said earlier that we didn’t know who was in the room who the they were that were mentioned in this first verse and we don’t know for sure but we can make some guesses. Acts 1:13 tells us that ten days earlier right after Christ had ascended Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the zealot, and Judas son of James, got together in Jerusalem. Luke tells us that they were with the women, who are the women? Well several are mentioned in Jesus life they include Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, Martha and Salome the mother of James and John.

 As well Luke tells us that Jesus mother and brothers were there so that’s Mary, Jude, James the two new candidates for apostleship were there so that would are Matthias and Joseph called Barabbas (also known as Justus). Maybe Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have been there, Luke’s giving us the account and so that would leave 97 of the original 120 who we don’t know their names. It was Groucho Marx who said “Although it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a very early age.”
And the church was born at a very early age as well and this was to be its birthday.

 We may not know exactly who all was there that day but whoever they were the NKJV tells us Acts 2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all in one accord in one place. How they got a hundred and twenty people in a Honda is a mystery to me but at least they were parked.

 But right there in that one little phrase is the secret to a church that is going to succeed and that is they were moving in one direction. If a church is to go forward then everyone needs to be aimed at a common goal. One of my favourite books as a child was Dr. Doolittle and one of the amazing animals in Dr. Doolittle’s menagerie was a Push Me Pull You, kind of looked like a horse with a head on either end. And it was constantly pulling itself in directions that it didn’t want to go. And sometimes the church is like that. Being with one accord doesn’t mean that we always have common consensus, but it does mean that we have co-operation.

 The time will come that we will begin with earnest to think of expanding our building, whoever Earnest is. Not everyone will agree that we need to expand, we won’t all agree on the size or what it looks like or the colour carpet we put down, however if we are to move ahead then even though we don’t all agree on every little detail we will have to cooperate if we are going to get the job done we will all need to be in one Accord, although personally I’d prefer a Camry.

 We need to have a common goal, do we want to remain a medium sized church, do we want to be a large church of five or six hundred or do we want to be a mega church that will have an impact not only on our immediate area but on the other churches in the area as well as the churches in the denomination. What is our desire and what is our goal?

 These men and women knew what they wanted, they wanted the Holy Spirit. After all that is what they were promised in John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
And again in Acts 1:8 Jesus told the apostles Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. They had already experienced failure on their own, that’s why they went back fishing. They had been promised power and that power is what they were waiting for.

 And so there they were, waiting and probably enjoying each other’s company when it happened, it was incredible. I mean you wouldn’t have believed it unless you were there. What happened oh sorry, Luke tells us about it in Acts 2:2-3 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.

 And so there they were, in one accord, 50 days after the crucifixion celebrating Pentecost as all good Jews were and two things happened. The first was that a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and secondly what appeared to be tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. Neat huh, bet that would shake things up in your average Wesleyan church wouldn’t it?

 Now let’s not confuse the signs with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit isn’t fire, he isn’t wind and he doesn’t look like a bird, you ok? For just a minute let’s take a look in the Old Testament way back to 1 Kings 19:11-12 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.
Sound familiar? Earthquake, wind and fire? Sounds like a rock group. The wind and fire were signs, sent to prepare the people for what was supposed to happen next.

 You see as is the often the case it the problem isn’t that we don’t listen to God, the problem is that we’re not paying attention. Sometimes it just takes a word, when the Holy Spirit came upon Mary in Luke 1:35 there was no wind or fire, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in John 1:33 he came as gently as a dove. But sometimes there’s a need to get our attention. Now I don’t know what was going on in that room before the wind and fire arrived but I would suspect that God had their undivided attention after the fact.

 Everybody’s ready, they know something’s going to happen and if we continue to read in our narrative Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. Again two things happen, the first is that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Filled as in completely filled, not a little bit filled, not half filled, not three quarters filled, but filled, filled, filled. Jesus has gone, but the comforter has come in his place just like Jesus had promised, and the very first thing that the believers did was to speak in other languages.

 Now you can ignore that, or you can skip that, or you can rationalise that but no matter what you do with it, it will not go away. The only way you can get that out of your bible is to cut it out but it will still be in mine.

 Now to be truthful I don’t know what came out of the mouth of those believers on that day, could have been Greek, or Hebrew, or Swahili, it might even have been Canadian, eh. I don’t have a clue.

 But I do know what went into the ears of the people outside. They heard God being praised in each of their native tongue. Now that’s neat.

 I once heard from a reputable source of a Wesleyan missionary in Haiti who had to travel to the other end of the island where they spoke a different dialect than he knew and even though he had never learned that particular language he was able to communicate in it for the five years he spent there, but when he left the ability to speak in the dialect was gone.

 Now there are all kinds of disputes that we could get into at this point. You know the things people love to fight over, “you always speak in tongues when you are filled with the Holy Spirit.” “You never speak in tongues when you are filled with the Holy Spirit” “you aren’t saved unless you speak in tongues” “no , no, no you aren’t saved if you do speak in tongues.”

 You see what happens is that too many of us are guilty of putting God in a theological box; we say this is our position so get in there. I have met many wonderful spirit filled people who have claimed the experience of speaking in tongues, I can’t just write them off. On the other hand I have met many wonderful spirit filled people who have never claimed the experience of speaking in tongues. Go figure.

 I have never spoken in tongues, probably never will speak in tongues, but I have met a wonderful saviour named Jesus Christ and have been filled with the Holy Spirit and nobody can say that I haven’t. Our church is not a charismatic church and our discipline states that we will not use tongues in worship nor will we promote them. But it does say in Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. It wasn’t instantaneous it was as the spirit enabled them. Now we shouldn’t have a problem here.

 Acts 2:5-6 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. In saying that let’s recognise the fact that we’re not talking about a couple of different languages here instead we are told acts Acts 2:9-11 Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs. And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!”
And so at least in this particular reference to tongues it would appear that these men spoke in a known language that they had no knowledge of. Or at least that is what was heard.

 But tongues is not the major issue here. The fact is that it was simply a tool provided to them so that they could fulfil the promise that Jesus had made 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.”
these men and women were told that they would be filled with power and would be witnesses to places that they had only heard of. How would they speak the language? Hey no problem. Where would they get the courage? Same place. This group that was certainly on their way to be a typical evangelical church that is ingrown and stagnant suddenly was proclaiming the greatness and wonder of their Lord so loud that people on the street wondered what was happening.

 The miracle here was not the language that they spoke in but that they had the courage to speak in any language, as far as we can tell this was the first time that Peter had ever preached and three thousand people were saved. “Incredible.” you say “Denn why doesn’t that happen when you preach?” good question, but then again when was the last time that this congregation was so filled with the Holy Spirit that three thousand people showed up to find out what was happening.

 When the crowd came and saw the 120 do you know what their reaction was, “They are drunk, that’s all!” I bet it’s been a while since anyone mistook our salvation for intoxication. From these 120 people men and women who were filled with the Holy Spirit the world was changed.
On a typical Sunday morning we have twice that number worshipping at Cornerstone, I wonder what God could do with us, if we let him?

How much is enough?

Penn of Denn

In a recent article on “Corporate Greed”, Michael Lazaridis, CEO of Research in Motion, was named as Canada’s highest paid top executive, with a salary of $51,515,518.00 in 2007. In case you missed that number, I will spell it out for you; fifty-one million, five hundred and fifteen thousand, five hundred and eighteen dollars, a year.

And while that may not quite be a million dollars a week, it’s pretty darn close and it works out to almost $25,000.00 an hour for a forty hour week. Which means when Mr. Lazaridis went to work on January 2, 2007, by the time he took his morning coffee break, he had earned more than my annual salary.

If you are wondering where I’m going with this, you’re not alone and I’m not sure I have a point to make. I’m just saying: What could you possibly do, to justify a salary of $51,515,518.00? Seriously! Maybe if you came up with a cure for cancer or a way to run our cars on politician’s promises.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is as well.” I guess that applies to a fifty dollar treasure or a fifty million dollar treasure. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    

He Could Have Been Called

The two men stood on the wharf, looking across the shimmering water, seeing their final destination only in their hearts. They were about to begin a journey that would not only change them, but would change the world. One was known throughout the church, the other, some people knew his name. He was a relative new comer, with a shady past and a spotty reputation. Those who did know about him figured that he wouldn’t last long, that he’d just be a flash in the pan. Here today, and gone tomorrow. One was sailing to a foreign port; the other, he was simply going home. It’s funny how history is though, because 2000 years later the man who was less known is now considered one of the pivotal people in the history of the early church. The man who was known throughout the church is now merely a footnote in church history.
Earlier in the service Karen read from Acts 13 and part of what she is read was Acts 13:2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.”
Well we know who Saul was; he was the man we now know as Paul. Paul who was the persecutor of the early church. Paul whose life was dramatically changed on the Damascus Road. Paul who wrote the majority of the New Testament. Paul who was the catalyst for the Christian Church to become more then another Jewish Sect. We all know who Saul was; he was Paul. But who was this man Barnabas?
Acts 11:24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
And so we are told that Barnabas was a good man. What a drab description to give someone, a good man. Or at least that would be the feeling of many people. To them good just isn’t very interesting, you know if you want to live a dull life then just be good. Too many people feel that sin writes history while goodness is silent. We’ve even come to the place that our heroes are at the very best tolerable, but seldom are they good.
Dr. John Gossip, a theologian from Scotland wrote “It is held by many people as a first axiom that holiness is a dull affair, and God’s company intolerably dreary and that for vividness and colour and interest you must look elsewhere.” It would seem that nobody gives goodness much credit these days and yet without goodness why live?
Without goodness than the atheist are right, without goodness why strive to make the world a better place. No, sin is not the only author of history; throughout history good men have had an impact and have changed our world. From Martin Luther to John Calvin, from John Wesley to John Newton good men have made a difference. Where would our world be without the Lincolns, without the Grahams, without the Livingstons and without the Schweitzers. What a dreary world this would be without the Martin Luther Kings and Mother Theresas .
Our country was founded and built on the foundation stones of moral goodness; even the very name the Dominion of Canada is a direct Biblical reference. Goodness is not dull, it’s vibrant, and it’s not boring it’s exciting.
But what else do we know about Barnabas? Other than that he was good, we are told in the scriptures that his nickname was “Son of Encouragement” but what else could he have been called?
The first time we come across Barney is in the book of Acts 4:36-37 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.

1)
He Could Have Been Called “Son of Generosity”. From this scripture we know that Barnabas was a Levite, that is he belonged to the family of priests who served Israel. We know that he was from Cyprus, which happened to be in the same place then as it is now, here in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. And we know that he sold a field that he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
Why would he do that? Maybe he had been back in the crowd when Jesus told the young Lawyer in Matthew 19:21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Or perhaps he had watched other believers as they used their combined resources for the common good of the body. Or maybe it was just Barnabas’ way of saying, “Here you go God, you can have all of me, including my field.” You know that our financial attitudes are often indicative of our spiritual attitudes. As a matter of fact Jesus said that how you handle your money is a pretty good measurement of your spiritual state.
Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Oh that was good, let’s hear it again. Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.Don’t you just love it when he says stuff like that? You know if you say your heart is in God’s work but your money is elsewhere then your hearts not really in God’s work.

 Maybe Barnabas discovered that as long as he had the field that his loyalties were torn, maybe he’d been saying, “You know I’d serve God but I have this field I have to take care of.” We don’t know, probably will never know unless we ask Barnabas when we get to heaven. What we do know is that the first time he is mentioned in the Bible he is characterized as a giver. And one of the first characteristics of being good is not just giving what we are; it’s giving who we are.

 Martin Luther said “A religion that does nothing, that saves nothing, that gives nothing, that cost nothing, that suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

 I’m sure that Barnabas could have thought of a dozen good places to spend the money, a new tent, a new chariot, Christmas, clothes, summer holidays, celebrations. But he didn’t spend it on any of those things he gave it to God’s work. And I’m sure that those who knew what he did might have said “He is the Son of Generosity.”

 The next time we see Barnabas is found in Acts 9:26-27 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.

 2) He Could Have Been Called “Son of Compassion” Let’s put this into perspective. When the church was in it’s infancy it was seen as a group of heretics by the Jews and there were some in the Jewish religion who felt it was their duty to put a stop to this heresy. One of those people was a religious leader by the name of Saul. He became one of the foremost persecutors of the Christian faith, although he would have seen himself as one of the foremost protectors of the Jewish faith. His entire life revolved around imprisoning Christians and destroying Christianity. It was his life, it got him up in the morning, it was his vision and his motivation.
And into his neatly ordered life stepped Jesus of Nazareth. The complete story is found in Acts chapter 9, but through this vision Saul’s life is turned inside out and he begins to serve the Lord. The result is summed up in Acts 9:19-20 . . . Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
When Saul arrived back in Jerusalem the church wasn’t quite sure what to do him, here was a guy who was intent on destroying the church and he shows up for worship, what would your response have been? The church was naturally suspicious of his motives, and with his background you really would be hard pressed to fault them for their reaction.
But here was a man who cared about Saul, I mean really cared he was willing to go out on a limb, put his own reputation on the line and vouch for Saul. You see love and kindness are grandiose ideas but they are just ideas until they are put into practice.
If we are going to impact our community it will only be as they see our love for one another, when they see how we care about each other. There is no place in the church for squabbles or personality clashes. Sometimes you have to put those things aside and get on with your Christian walk. You ask but what if I just don’t like somebody in the church, one word answer “Tough”. You weren’t called to like them, you were called to love them and if you are wondering what that means then you need to read 1 Corinthians 13. As a matter of fact let’s read it together, you do any public readings lately. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
And remember this ultimately you are not responsible for how another believer treats you, but you will always be responsible for how you treat another believer. When Paul listed the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 & 23 this is what he wrote Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
And if’n you aren’t exhibiting those characteristics to other believers there’s a pretty good chance you not showing them to anybody.
John Wesley said that his rule for life was “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
A little boy was asked if he knew the difference between kindness and loving kindness and he said that was easy,
“If I was hungry and you gave me a piece of bread that would be kindness. If you put jam on it, that would be loving kindness.”
Barnabas went out of his way to be kind to this new believer and I’m sure people who knew about might have said “He is the Son of Compassion.”

 Acts 11:25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul.

 3) He Could Have Been Called “Son of Cooperation” A little background for this incident. If we were to go back a little bit in this chapter we would discover that when persecution broke out in Jerusalem that some of the believers fled from Jerusalem and ended up in places like Cyprus and Cyrene from there some carried on to Antioch. As they settled there they told people about Jesus and the bible says that a large number of people believed and turned to the Lord. When the church in Jerusalem heard what was happening they sent Barnabas to oversee the work. Under his ministry even more people became believers and it was at that point that Barnabas went looking for Paul and if we were to continue reading in Acts 11:26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

 Not everyone is willing to share the glory. I’m sure there must have been temptation when that inner voice told Barnabas, “Ride her out son, you are going to be the pastor of the fastest growing church around.” A temptation to write a book on how to grow a church and to say “Hey look at me, look at what I’m doing” But Barnabas wasn’t nearly as interested in furthering Barnabas as he was in furthering the kingdom.

 And because Barnabas wanted to serve Christ first he gave Paul his first big break, and pretty soon Barnabas and Saul became Saul and Barnabas. And the neat thing is that it didn’t seem to bother Barnabas at all. And Barnabas didn’t just pick up the phone and call Saul either. He probably walked the 200 kms met his friend and said “Saul this is awesome, God is moving, people are getting saved, the church is growing and I want you to be a part of it as well my friend.”

 Sometimes we need Barnabas’ who will let someone else take the glory and the thanks, and sometimes we need to be Barnabas’ who will let someone else take the glory and the thanks. Leonard Bernstein said that “The hardest instrument to play is 2nd violin, everyone wants to play 1st Violin but nobody wants to play second fiddle.” The Oak Ridge Boys sang a song in the eighties that said “Nobody wants to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, everybody wants to be the lead singer in the band. It’s hard to get a line on what’s divine when everybody’s pushing for the head of the line.”

 I’m sure that when people saw what Barnabas had done might have said “He is the Son of Cooperation.”

 Do you remember the first instance when Barnabas was mentioned, it was in Acts 4:36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.

 5) He Was Called Son of Encouragement. What a testimony, the man’s name was not Barnabas, the man’s name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed Barnabas which in English just means Barnabas but in Greek meant Son of Encouragement. Would people refer to you as a son or daughter of encouragement? Or of discouragement?

 When I was a teenager and went to work for Tip Top the one thing that I often attributed my sales success to one the belief that my manager, Ian Vincent, had in me, and six years later when I returned from the states and needed a job it was Ian again who became my encourager. Through the twenty years of my ministry I had a number of fellow pastors who have been my encouragers and it’s interesting to note that my strongest and staunchest supporters are successes. Laurel Buckingham, David LeRoy, H.C. Wilson. So are they encouragers because they are successful or are they successful because they are encouragers.

 Barnabas was a lifter upper of people. Henry Ford made this statement. “The ability to encourage others is one of life’s finest assets.”
Who is there in your life that you can encourage? Are you a lifter upper or a tearer downer.

 So was Barnabas a good man because he was a giver, a sharer and an encourager? Or was he a giver, a sharer and an encourager because he was a good man? Well the answer is in one of the scripture that we started the message off with Acts 11:24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

 You see we’re not naturally good, that is a myth. The Bible says Isaiah 53:6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. The natural part of us is the rebellious part, the disobedient part, the selfish part. The part that says “No I won’t and you can’t make me.”

 The secret is found in John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
6) He Could Have Been Called “Child of God”

 Barnabas was good because God was working through him, because Jesus had changed his life and his heart and because the Holy Spirit was in control and guided him. So where are you at? Who’s in control of your life? And what would people nickname you if they had the chance. The promise is still as real today as it was 2000 years ago John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

 

Things to be thankful for.

Penn of Denn

Hopefully you didn’t have the opportunity to observe the Church sign this past Monday.  Apparently, during the wee hours of the morning some industrious vandals took the opportunity to change the lettering on our church sign from an announcement about our summer day camps to various profanities. 
I discovered their work when I went into the office on Monday and frantically removed the letters before they could be seen by any more folks travelling up the Hammonds Plains Road.  As I was pulling the letters down, I marvelled at the effort and risk that the miscreants expended to put them up.  It is amazing what we are willing to do and willing to risk in order to do wrong. 

I also paused to be thankful; first, that it was a holiday Monday, so there wasn’t as much traffic as there could have been.  And secondly that a couple of members of the community, who I don’t know, went out of their way to contact us and let us know about the incident so we could remedy the situation as soon as possible. It is nice to know that there are people out there who still care. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    
 

An Eunuch Situation

It’s a unique story, actually it’s an eunuch story as well but we’ll stick with unique. We don’t know the exact reason he had travelled the miles that separated his home land from Israel, it may have had to do with his job, after all he was the treasurer of Ethiopia, we are also told that he was a eunuch which really doesn’t have a lot to do with the story as a matter of fact the term eunuch was used to refer to someone who had been castrated but was also used in reference to government officials but we aren’t going to go there, although it couldn’t have been a compliment. The important thing to understand here is that he had a high standing in the court of his country.
So perhaps it was business that brought him from his home. And well we don’t know the primary reason that he came we do know part of what he did while he was in Israel. We are told that as part of his trip that he went to Jerusalem to worship. We don’t know how he had heard about the God of Israel but at some time in his life he had discovered the one true God and had embraced him and now he had the opportunity to worship in Jerusalem and had jumped at the chance.
His religious beliefs may not have been that big of a mystery though, in the Old Testament in the book of 1 Kings chapter 10 we read about a mysterious visitor that King Solomon had. She is only identified as the Queen of Sheba and we are told that she had heard about the great Wisdom of Solomon and had come to see for herself. She brought with her a pile of expensive gifts (pile being the technical term for many expensive gifts) including nine thousand pounds of Gold. She also brought along a number of what the Bible called “hard questions” for Solomon, and he answered them all. Even though we don’t know exactly where Sheba was located four thousand years ago tradition tells us that it occupied the area that we now know as Ethiopia, and again tradition tells us that the Queen returned to her country having embraced the God of Solomon. This is probably the reason why the highest award that can be given in Ethiopia is referred to as The Most Exalted Order of The Queen of Sheba and if you were to look at the medal you would see that it is fashioned in the shape of a Star of David. So perhaps the fact that the Treasurer had more then a passing knowledge of Judaism isn’t all that strange.
I’m sure that while he was in the holy city he had taken the opportunity to do some sight seeing. Wandered around the temple, checked out the scenery and now was on his way home and as he travelled he had his carriage on cruise control and was reading aloud from the Old Testament. Which really isn’t as odd as it may sound, traditionally we don’t read aloud unless we are reading to someone else, however historically we are told that in that era when people read, they were more likely to read aloud then read silently even when reading to themselves. Go figure?
And as he bounced along reading from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, a man began to walk along side of his carriage and struck up a conversation about the scripture that was being read. It wasn’t long before the stranger showed the traveller how the Old Testament Prophesy had come alive in Jesus Christ. We don’t have the entire text of the conversation, but we do have the result because when the traveller had heard the entire story he asked to be baptized and he was, right there and then and went on his way rejoicing. And so we have to assume that he had embraced Christ as his Saviour and experienced the forgiveness that goes with that. As a matter of fact if you have been following along in the book of Acts you may notice that next to vs. 36 there’s probably a little star after the words “Why can’t I be baptized?” that little star means that in some but not all of the ancient manuscripts there were additional words and they are usually noted at the bottom of the page of your bible. In this instance those additional words read this way, “You can,” Phillip answered, “if you believe with all your heart.” And the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
So what can we learn from this story? Up to this point the gospel message had been preached to Jews and Samaritans who were like second cousins once removed. Jews didn’t consider Samaritans to be Jews but Samaritans did. They were of mixed linage the results of when Jews had intermarried with gentiles during the exile. This story is the record of the first non Jew, Non Samaritan who embraced Jesus Christ as Saviour. It’s interesting to note that the first person outside of the this Jewish circle of influence who is invited to participate in the new covenant was in all likelihood black.
So what can we learn from the story?
1) A Story of Obedience If we were to go back a little bit in the book of Acts we would discover that as the church had grown in Jerusalem that opposition broke out and the church came under persecution. Some were imprisoned and others were killed. As a result Christians moved away from the city in order to escape persecution. It was kind of interesting that the last words of Christ were a command to the church to preach the gospel beyond Jerusalem but they had become very comfortable and it took the threat of death for the early believers to actually do what they were supposed to do in the first place. And so we read this in Acts 8:1. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.
One of the people who fled to Samaria was Philip who was one of the seven men who were chosen to be deacons in Chapter 6. By the way if you haven’t read the book of Acts how come? It’s a fascinating story of how the church began. When Philip arrived in Samaria he began telling people about Jesus, and an incredible revival broke out. People were getting saved, demons were being cast out, sick people were being healed. If that happened today they’d write a book, produce a CD and 60 minutes would do a show about it. 2000 years ago what happened was that the Apostles visited. And in the midst of all this excitement was Philip. You can’t even begin to imagine the excitement he is feeling being in the middle of this great work of God.
And then suddenly we read in Acts 8:26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.”
I wonder how Philip felt? All that is happening and all of a sudden he is told to leave. Perhaps he protested “But God, this is good, people are being saved, miracles are happening shouldn’t I stay?” “No you must leave.” “But God, Jerusalem is dangerous, they killed Stephen there you know.” “I know but I want you to go, now.”
And the Philips reaction is summed up in the next verse which begins with these words Acts 8:27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,
Let’s pull up one of our trusty maps again. Put in those spots of recognition, the Dead Sea, down here in the green is Egypt. Here is where all the excitement was happening in the region of Samaria, here’s Jerusalem where the persecution against the church was happening and here is Gaza. And it was somewhere along this road that Philip was commanded to go and where he met the Eunuch.
Philip was obedient to the call of God. Have you ever felt that nudge that you knew was coming from the Father? To go somewhere or to speak to someone about Christ? Have you ever questioned the command, maybe thought “what will they think about me if I talk to them about religion” or “I wouldn’t know what to say.” Bottom line has to be that we need to obey. Perhaps Philip didn’t know it but there was a soul at stake, there was an eternity riding on his obedience, and perhaps we need to understand that telling somebody about what God has done in your life isn’t a matter of embarrassment, it is a matter of eternity. And perhaps we need to acknowledge a couple of things, the first is that if a person doesn’t embrace Jesus as Saviour and ask for forgiveness then they are destined to spend an eternity without God. The second is that it is our responsibility to tell them. Romans 10:14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
But Denn, that’s not my gift, somebody else can do it. Every once in a while you will read in the paper where someone has rushed into a building to save someone from a fire or jumped into a lake to save someone from drowning. They don’t say “Well that’s not my gift I will wait for someone else who is more gifted in that regard than I am.” They were doing what anybody else would do. Something you would hopefully do if you were in that situation. And in many cases lives are saved, but here’s a news flash, the people whose lives are saved, someday they will die and if they don’t have someone rescue them spiritually they will die without Jesus and they will go to hell. And that same reality applies to the ones you hold dear.
2) It Was A Story Of Urgency. You understand that when Philip was commanded to go there was a certain amount of urgency to the request. If he was to meet the Eunuch he needed to be obedient right then. Obedience deferred is not obedience. “I will do it tomorrow.” Means that you won’t do it today.
There were probably several reasons why it had to happen right then. The road would have been quiet allowing them the opportunity to talk, the Ethiopian was just returning from worship so his mind and heart were attuned to spiritual things. Out of all of the portions of the Old Testament he was reading a prophesy that related to Jesus, they were traveling along a road that would happen upon a body of water allowing the man to be baptized. Later wouldn’t have been good enough, it had to happen right then.
Fred was very ill and the family had gathered around his bedside along with the pastor, as he struggled for breath he motioned to the pastor to get a piece of paper and pen. He scribbled some words and handed the note to his spiritual leader. Not wanting to look gauche the pastor slid the note into his pocket to read later, and Fred died.
A couple of days later as the Pastor stood in front of the crowd at the funeral about to deliver the eulogy he realized that he was wearing the suit he had on when Fred died, he reached into his pocket removed the note and told the congregation, “these are Fred’s last words, and even though I haven’t read them yet I’m sure there is a message here for each of us.” And with that he unfolded the note and began to read aloud “Help, you are standing on my oxygen tube.”
Sometimes we can’t wait. Life is fragile, we know that. The person you feel like you should speak to today may not be here tomorrow. Or perhaps it’s right now that they are thinking about eternity and their heart is open. But for whatever reason when God prompts you to speak to somebody be willing to do it. But don’t just be willing to speak to them, speak to them.
3) It Was A Story of Preparedness When the opportunity arose Philip knew what to say. Acts 8:35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.
The traveller was reading from the Prophet Isaiah and Philip used that to tie in to the gospel message. Jesus was a master of this, do you remember when he was speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria and the conversation turned to water and Jesus offered her living water? He was talking to the crowd and the said Moses gave our people bread what will you give us? And Jesus offered them the bread of life.
Peter wrote to the early church and this is what he had to say in 1 Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
You don’t need to be bible scholar to turn the conversation to spiritual things. It may be a conversation about family values, or the fear that people are experiencing because of Swine flue and the economy and terrorists and global warming, or it might be simply inviting a friend or family member to experience Cornerstone for themselves and invite them over to have lunch afterwards.”
We hope that you are always ready to invite people to Cornerstone but there are definitely certain times of the year that opportunities are more evident, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, at Christmas people will talk about how we’ve lost the true meaning of Christmas, and that will give you take that opportunity to invite them to one of our regular services or to our Christmas Eve Service.
4) A Story of Celebration. Don’t you just love a story with a happy ending. They are riding along in the chariot. Listen to the story, Acts 8:35-36 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” Hot dog, the man got saved. You gotta love it when a plan comes together. That’s what it’s all about. And do you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to get baptized. I sometimes wonder if we have neglected that in our church today. When you become a Christian there should be a desire to be baptized, that’s what the Bible tells us we are supposed to do remember Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. If you have accepted the forgiveness of Christ and have turned your life over to him but have never been baptized you’re forgetting something and you need to talk to me about getting baptized. You alright?
Do you remember how you felt when you suddenly realized that your sins had been forgiven, the joy the excitement? The Bible tells us that after the traveller was baptized that Philip left and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. But even though it doesn’t say it I would imagine that Philip went away rejoicing as well because of what had happened. And we are told that there would have been a great celebration in heaven. No I could end the message here, and probably should, but I won’t.
5) A Story of Disappointment Historically we are told that Christianity found it’s way to Ethiopia in the fourth century, when a Christian philosopher from Tyre named Meropius was shipwrecked on his way to India. It was through his influence that the Gospel was introduced to the country. Four Hundred years after the Ethiopian Eunuch had returned home a changed man.
We know that when Christianity was introduced to Ethiopia that it had a huge impact on the country, probably because of the Jewish influence from a millennium before but why hadn’t it had the impact 400 years before? Could it have been that the Eunuch remained silent about his newfound faith out of fear of alienating others. You understand don’t you that Christianity is always only one generation away from extinction. If we don’t tell others then what? Will our faith die with us as it died with the traveller?
This morning as I was preaching someone came to your mind and God spoke to you about them. Listen again to Paul’s words Romans 10:14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
Now let’s read it again but this time you in fill in the blanks with that persons name Romans 10:14 But how can ______call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can _____ believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can ____ hear about him unless someone tells them?
Don’t ignore that, it could be tragic if you do. I want you to write their name in the blank in the scripture on the bottom of your note sheet and pray that God will first of all give you an opportunity to speak to them about your faith or invite them to church. And secondly I want you to pray that you will be obedient when that happens. Let’s pray.

Coming Home

Penn of Denn

You gotta love a happy ending. I’m sure you’ve all heard how the cat came back. I read an article the other day about a pup who had run away from her Texas home eight years ago who was returned last week.  It appears “Dancer” had been found by a musician wandering in his neighbourhood.  After being taken to the humane society it was discovered via a microchip implant that the stray actually had a home, albeit one that she hadn’t been to in a long time. Dancer’s owner, Alison Murphy, of Austin, doesn’t know where the wayward pup has been, but said obedience school is the next stop for her newly recovered pet.

One of my favourite hymns is “Come thou Fount” and in it, is a line that says:” Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love”.  The author of the hymn, Robbie Robertson, did wander away from God for a number of years but like Dancer he eventually found his way home.  If you have wandered away from God there is still a welcome waiting for you, but you have to be ready to come home.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    
 

Who Was John Mark’s Mom?

It is just a fleeting reference, it doesn’t provide a lot of details and we aren’t really told very much about her, but never being afraid to venture into the land of speculation in the cause of a good message we shall venture forth looking at the first mother mentioned in the early church.
We don’t know a lot about this woman, she had a very common name and so she is identified by who her son was and she is referenced only once in the scriptures at all and that is in Acts 12:12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.
Just a little background here, the church is undergoing the first wave of persecution, James, John’s brother, one of the original 12 has been executed and Peter has been arrested, presumably to suffer the same fate.
The church gathers together in a home and begins to pray for Peter’s protection and God intervenes. An angel appears in Peter’s cell opens the doors and leads Peter out of the prison. And then we read this incredible statement Acts 12:11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” I think he probably realized that he wasn’t dreaming, and that is where we came into the story. Peter apparently had an idea where the church was meeting because he makes his way to the house identified as the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark,
We used to joke that as our kids got older we lost our identity and were only known as Stephen’s parents or Deborah’s parents, and so we only know this woman as Mary, John Mark’s mom, and yet her influence is seen throughout the New Testament and the early church.
So, all we really know is that Mary was the mother of John Mark who was one the young preachers used by Paul to minister to the early church and her home was used as a meeting place by the early church. And yet throughout the book of acts we see her son mentioned in the company of Paul, Peter and Barnabas as well he wrote one of the four Gospels, so you gotta figure that this lady did something right.
Tradition tells us that this was the house where Jesus gathered the 12 to share in the Passover celebration that we now refer to as the “Last Supper” and that later it became the ad hoc head quarters for the early church. If that is the case than we have to assume that Mary was a woman of means to have a house large enough for such gatherings.
And if that is indeed the case it would explain an obscure reference that we find only in Marks Gospel. It is discovered in Mark’s account of the arrest of Jesus. Mark 14:51-52 One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked. Other translations tell us that he was wearing a linen sheet. So here is the speculation, that when Jesus and his apostles left the home they were meeting in that young John Mark wrapped himself in a sheet and followed them, only to almost be caught by the guards who arrested Jesus, escaping with little more than his life.
If that was the case it would explain how we get the account of Jesus’ prayer and struggle in the garden, because we are told that the apostles were all asleep. So the speculation is that John Mark, probably just a young teen, followed the one who his mother worshipped and hiding in the garden was able to witness and hear Jesus’ struggle.
But it’s Mother’s Day not John Mark day so let’s leave the son and look at his mother.
The person that Mark was and became was shaped by his mother and that isn’t all that surprising considering how much influence our mothers have over us. It was Napoleon who said “Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.” And in his poem by the same name William Ross Wallace writes “For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.”
And so like most of us, Mark was who Mark was because of his mother Mary. His faith had been formed and shaped by the faith of his mother and on this day when we celebrate Mother’s it would be a good time to look at the character of this particular mother.
I think one of the most important details here is the one of omission and that is there is no mention of John Mark’s father. Because Mary is not identified as a widow, 18 other times in the bible women are identified with the words “a widow”, and because she was obviously wealthy enough to have a large home we have to assume that her husband isn’t mentioned because he is not part of the story of the church or a part of the family of faith. And so we have a household where one spouse is a Christ follower and one isn’t and the challenges that are posed in such situations can never be fully understood unless you are in that situation.
There are financial considerations, where will money get spent? The unsaved partner sees money being given to the church as a waste and you don’t even want to get started on how the believer views money spent on vices. There are social considerations. Who will their friends be and how will they spend their social time. And there are moral decisions. What should or shouldn’t be watched, listened to or read, what should they do or not do? What happens on a nice weekend is it church or the beach?
If the non-believer comes to church it’s often with a pout if they don’t come to church the believer feels out of place with all the families and couples. What was it the song said “One is the loneliest number of all.”
And that was the situation that Mary found herself in, she probably didn’t have to fight the hockey, baseball, soccer, scouts, sparks, band battles but I’m sure there were similar cultural concerns 2000 years ago. Will Mark be in church and youth group or will he be at the chariot races and practicing for the Olympics?
And so Mary would have been practicing her faith and raising her son in a less then ideal home situation. Now we don’t know at what point in her relationship she became a believer. Was she a Christ follower before the wedding or after the wedding? In her situation and culture that question may have been irrelevant in that her marriage may very well have been arranged and she didn’t have a choice of who she would marry or who would marry her.
I warn Christian teens about the challenges that they will face if they marry someone who doesn’t share their faith and if you don’t believe me I can give you the names of a hundred people who have been there. And I tell young people the easiest way to not marry a non-believer is to not date a non-believer. And they tell me not to worry they have everything under control. Sure, if I had a nickel ever time I heard that, yeah I’d have a pile of nickels.
By the way if you are in that situation, that as a believer you married someone who wasn’t you were probably warned, and you thought “Oh they’ll change and it will all work out.” I can sympathize with your situation but understand you put yourself in it. Not wanting to sound unfeeling but. . . you got what you got.
We are even warned about it in the scriptures when Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? You might recall the phrasing from the authorized version as not being unequally yoked. This doesn’t specifically have to do with marriage as much as it does relationships, such as business partnerships, but really our marriages are probably the greatest relationship in our lives and this scripture warns about the conflicts that this will bring.
I remember reading an article in our denominational magazine years ago and the woman writing was speaking about that very thing. She had gone to church and left her husband home watching sports and on her way she was grousing to God about how unfair it was. And she wrote that God asked her “how has he (meaning her husband) changed since you got married?” And that was the problem she responded he hadn’t. No that was the answer. She hadn’t exactly bought a pig in a poke.
When I counsel couples getting married I remind them if they can’t live with that person the way they are for the rest of their life they have no right to marry them expecting them to change.
Then there are those who come to a life changing relationship with God after they’ve been married, and that’s tough on both partners. And that was probably the situation here, Mark’s father had probably married a Jew and ended up with a Christian.
When that happens as a believer you can’t understand why your spouse doesn’t change and they can’t understand why you did.
But you can’t make them believe and you will never be held accountable for their behaviour, only yours. But here is what the word of God has for you today: 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 If a Christian man has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to continue living with him, he must not leave her. And if a Christian woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to continue living with her, she must not leave him. For the Christian wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the Christian husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children would not be holy, but now they are holy.
So what it is saying is if you are a believer and your spouse isn’t don’t start thinking how much easier life would be if you were married to so and so who is a believer, cause you’re not. Don’t even go there, because there is never a good reason for doing the wrong thing.
But don’t give up, I know all kinds of couples where the believer was faithful in their relationship to Christ and in their marriage and their partner saw in them a faith they wanted as well. It’s just not easy and it’s not always fast, or least fast enough.
Her marriage wouldn’t have been the only place that her faith would have been challenged. Remember she wasn’t only a believer being from Jerusalem she was probably a Jewish believer and for many in her family and her community of faith she would have been viewed as someone who had deserted her faith.
While we see the connection and continuation of the Jewish faith into Christianity and it was pretty much viewed as a sect of Judaism by many in that culture it wasn’t always viewed that way by the Jews. And the Jews in Jerusalem weren’t necessarily all that sympathetic to the early church. As a matter of fact it isn’t very far into the book of acts that we read this Acts 8:1 A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.
You gotta hate that.
And so the community that Mary would have grown up in would have turned their back on her, her husband wouldn’t have understood the changes that had happened in his wife and even the civil authorities would have seen her faith as a threat because as a Christian she would have refused to offer the annual sacrifice to Caesar that was required under Roman law.
And it was in this environment that she was called to raise Mark, to provide an introduction to Jesus and to nurture his growing faith. And she did, perhaps too well because Paul saw in this young man a faith that he thought could be used to change the world.
And now she was being called to let go of her son. We don’t know how old Mark was when Paul recruited him, but it really doesn’t matter. You never stop being your mother’s little boy. But this wouldn’t have been easy for Mary, letting her son go to follow his calling. We’re not talking about becoming the pastor in a quiet little community that respected you and looked up to you.
Mary would have known how many times Paul had been stoned and beaten, arrested and thrown into prison. It would have been no secret how the leaders of this baby church were being treated by hostile crowds around the known world. Listen to how Paul describes himself and his ministry: 2 Corinthians 11:23-25 . . . I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
And this was the guy she wants her son to job shadow. She would have known that she was being called to surrender her child over to God’s service, over to certain persecution and possible death. Knowing that when he left Jerusalem that day that he might never return. Did she do it willing? Or was it over her objections? We’ll probably never really know but considering that the faith that she passed on to her son we have to believe that she trusted God to know what was best for her son. Oh and tradition tells us that Mark was martyred in Alexandria, where the people resented his efforts to turn them away from the worship of their traditional Egyptian gods. We are told that in AD 68 they tied him to several horses and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.
Her faith required a commitment to her God, to her church and to her son.
And so it was in this less than ideal situation that Mary’s faith flourished and provided an example for her son. An example that allowed him to minister in less then ideal circumstances and to teach and literally effect the eternity of countless people.
We have to ask ourselves, how would the early church have been affected and consequently how would the world have been affected if Mary had not been the mother that she was?
Now you’ve realized that I have been speaking for about 20 minutes and haven’t had a single point come up on the screen and you don’t have a note taking guide in front of you to write down the various points. That’s not to say this message is entirely pointless.
I would challenge you to look at your situation today as a parent in the light of Mary’s story. And understand that regardless of how different those situations might be that you and Mary are serving the same God and you love your children.
And two thousand years ago Mary probably claimed the same promise from the Old Testament as you have and that’s Proverbs 22:6 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
Now keeping that in mind realize that the only responsibility in Proverbs 22:6 for the parent is the first part, Direct your children onto the right path the message of this proverb is “Do your best when they are young and hope for the best when they are old.”

 And remember there are only two ages mentioned here children, and old people and nothing in between, he doesn’t say anything about adolescents or young adults, not even Solomon was game to talk about teen-agers let alone make predications.

 And that was what Mary did, she directed her son onto the right path and modeled the way he should walk. It was no accident that Mark turned out the way he did.

 So is Proverbs 22:6 a guarantee? Unfortunately there are no guarantees. You see the proverbs talk about probability, if we do this then there is a better chance of this happening. So if we direct our children onto the right path, there is a better chance of them walking on it then if we don’t direct them onto the right path. But it does not negate in any way their free will.
We can train up our children, we can walk a blameless walk, we can see that they are in church each week, we can have family devotions, and we can read them God’s word. But we cannot, cannot, cannot make the decision to follow God for them. I mean we can’t even guarantee that they will turn out nice. As much as we would like to determine their salvation, we can only show them the way and trust God to bring them into his fold.
But remember there is nobody better positioned to influence your children then you. Please don’t wait to discuss God and Jesus with your kids until they are old enough to understand it, trust me they are old enough now. If you think it’s Julie’s responsibility in nursery, or Jenn’s in Jr. Church, or Marilyn’s in Ignite or Jason in youth you are seriously mistaken and you are gambling with your children’s eternity.

Apostles, What they Were and What they Weren’t

How would you like to have been in that job interview? “So, you want to be an apostle, what previous experience do you have? None huh, oh right this is the first time the position has been advertised for.”

“Yes, we do have a requirement, that’s right, just one: So were you with Jesus from the time he was baptized until the crucifixion and resurrection? You were? Perfect. That puts you on the short list, there’s just you and one other guy.
If you don’t know the story part of it was read earlier but to bring you up to steam. Jesus has ascended into heaven and the remaining eleven disciples are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are waiting, remember what Jesus had told them in Acts 1:4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.
And so there they are, just sitting and waiting. You gotta hate that, just waiting, not sure what’s going to happen, just waiting. And like us when we are waiting not knowing what we should do they get into mischief, well they probably wouldn’t say that. Instead they would say they found something to do.
We are told there were one hundred and twenty in the room, we don’t know for sure who all was there but we could probably guess. We are told that the remaining disciples were there, and Mary Jesus Mother and several other women. Maybe Mary Magdalene and Salome, as well the brothers of Jesus. Presumably James and Jude. So that is 16. And you might remember from Luke 10:1 The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. So assuming that all seventy two were still hanging around that gives us 88, pretty good chance Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were there so there would still be another 30 that we don’t know their names.
And they are just waiting and then Peter came up with an idea why doesn’t that surprise any of us? He decides that they need to replace Judas. Now I don’t know why they figured there had to be twelve apostles. Some thoughts, perhaps it went back to the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of Israel, or perhaps they just felt that since Jesus had picked 12 that there was something special about that number. Or maybe because there were 12 cans of coke in a case and 12 hotdogs in a pack, made it easier when they went on BBQ’s. Personally I would have offered to eat the extra hot dog, but that’s just me. We don’t know their reasons but obviously they had a reason.
So from the 120 they were going to select someone who was qualified we are told in Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
But as so often happens instead of getting one name they ended up with two, and apparently they had a tie in the vote because continuing along in the story we read Acts 1:24-26 Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven. Now personally I think that they should have prayed before they got to the point of Justus and Matthias playing rock, scissor, and paper for the position. And maybe they did. What we do know is this is the last mention that we have of Matthias in the Bible. Paul doesn’t mention him, James doesn’t mention him, John doesn’t mention him and Jude doesn’t mention him.
Even tradition is fairly silent on who he was and what he did. One account says “Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia.” Another account says he went to Colchis, which in modern day Georgia and was crucified there. While yet another tells us that he was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem and that his remains were eventually taken to Germany by Charlemagne’s mother Helena. Both the Catholic and Anglican Churches have celebrated his feast day on February 24th, and that’s all she wrote.
The story is told in the book of Acts, which is the 5th book of the New Testament. The author is the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke and that is Luke, who was probably a gentile doctor. Scholars place the writing of this book around AD 65. It was written to tell what happened after the resurrection. This is indeed the rest of the story. It is a great book, it’s here we meet Paul, the story of the church begins here and we are introduced to the personal power of the Holy Spirit. If you have never read the book of Acts you need to and that is why we have give each of you a reading card.
So with that being said, let’s take a look at what it takes to be an Apostle. In the scriptures we read about the 12 original Apostles, you can add Matthias, Paul calls himself an apostle and referred to James the brother of Christ as an apostle. The dictionary defines apostle this way: Apostle: noun (ə-pŏs’əl) “An ardent early supporter of a cause or reform” Add to that it was a pretty decent movie with Robert Duvall.
What they Weren’t
To begin with They Weren’t Much. That might sound a little disrespectful but really when you look at it, it is a reality. Think about it, if you were starting a movement that was going to change the world who would you choose? Maybe a politician or two, a banker perhaps and a lawyer, some folks involved in the entertainment industry. You would be looking for high powered people, people who could make a difference and influence other people. Think of how excited the church gets when they hear that some celebrity claims to be a Christ Follower.
But these guys were much socially. The apostles were anything but influential. We don’t even know what most of them they did before they became Apostles. There were four fishermen, a tax collector and a zealot, who was kind of a rebel rouser of sorts. The rest were just ordinary people, presumably leading ordinary lives and doing ordinary jobs. Nothing special, just people. They didn’t appear to be wealthy or powerful. And maybe it’s because ordinary people didn’t feel like they had a lot to lose by associating with Jesus and didn’t feel that had to give up so much to follow him.
As a matter of fact on later in the book of Acts when Peter and John were being examined by the High Council it was said Acts 4:13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.
And that goes to the second point that they weren’t much religiously either. Again you’d think that trying to make a difference in a country and a culture that held the formal religion in such a high place that there would have been a Levite or a Pharisee or as Sanhedrin in the original bunch, but as far as we know none of the that group was overly religious. And that was a complaint made about them by the religious elite.
You might remember the story of Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and the guys break off some grain and are munching on it Matthew 12:2 But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
And in Mark 7:1-2 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating.
So they really weren’t much socially or religiously
Along with not being much They Weren’t Perfect. I would think if I was writing my story that I would be tempted to put a fairly positive spin on it. I don’t mean lie, but you don’t have to tell everything do you? There are things I’ve said and done in my life that I’m not necessarily proud of and they aren’t high on my brag list.
The story is told that when Oliver Cromwell was having his portrait painted that he told the artist: “Mr. Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.” Apparently the Apostles were willing to paint themselves warts and all.

These were Jesus closest friends, they were his disciples, his Apostles, they had walked side by side with him for three years. When they had a question about his teaching all they had to do was ask, “So what did you mean when you said “The meek will inherit the earth”? You would think if there was going to be anyone who would get it right and not mess up it would have been these guys. And yet when we look at the portrait there are times that their faith was weak, there was times they didn’t quite get the entire “Christ like” spirit thing Luke 9:53-54 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” From Denn I would expect that, from James and John, I kind of expected more. There were times they questioned Jesus and even times they tried to correct him, and that’s without getting into one betraying him, one denying him and the others running off and leaving him to his enemies. Wow! Kind of sounds like some of us at times, see you could be an apostle. Maybe that’s why John wrote later in life 1 John 1:8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
So that is what they weren’t but more importantly now let’s look at What They Were
Last point I made was they weren’t perfect, how about you? You ever feel like you’ve blown it, you’ve disappointed Christ and you don’t know how you can face him or other believers? Do you remember the words of Christ on the Cross? You remember when he said Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” They Were Forgiven. When Jesus looked down from the cross and uttered those words of forgiveness, he wasn’t just talking about those who had him arrested and beaten and crucified. He was also forgiving his friends who had run and hid, Peter who had denied him with his words and the rest who had denied him with their actions. And he was looking down the long tunnel of history and talking to us, and when we stumble and fall, he’s there holding out his hand and his forgiveness, if we are only willing to accept both.
But we all know it’s easy to say you forgive someone, but a lot harder to actually forgive someone. Have you ever verbally said that you forgive a person but you avoid seeing them because you know that it will all boil up inside you again? Kind of, I will forgive them but I will never speak to them again. Do you remember the scene on resurrection day when the women went and discovered the tomb empty? Do you remember the message that the angels had for the women? Mark 16:6-7 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
And for forty more days he met with them and ate with them and laughed with them and demonstrated that forgiveness was more than a word.
I don’t know what you’ve done in your life. And probably don’t want to know. But I do know that the same forgiveness that was available to those who chose to follow Christ 2000 years ago is still available to those who chose to follow Christ today. And it is still more than just a word, when we accept the grace and forgiveness that Christ offers it restores our relationship with God.
But, the story didn’t end with Jesus words of forgiveness. The Apostles didn’t just return to their previous behavior, instead they put that behavior behind them. Even though Paul hadn’t written 2 Corinthians 5:17 they understood the reality of it’s message 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! They Were Changed They were no longer the people they had been. The wonder and miracle of grace was that their sins had been forgiven, and that doesn’t just mean that God ignores them it means they are gone, Peter understood that when he wrote in Acts 3:19-20 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. And David understood it when he wrote in Psalm 103:11-12 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
But with the change in their heart that came with forgiveness there came a change in behavior and attitude as well. The guiding principle of the Apostle’s lives became the words of Jesus in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. The final words of the book of Matthew records Jesus’ directions to the apostles when he said Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And that’s what they did.
And they knew that if they truly loved Jesus, that they would do what he asked them to do, and so they were no longer tax collectors and fishermen and zealots they were Christ followers and that defined who they were and what they did. So here is the question for today, does being a Christ Follower define who you are and what you do? Do you ask yourself that question “Is this behaviour consistent with Jesus teaching in my life?”
Can you be an Apostle? Nope, certainly not by the dictionary definition Apostle: noun (ə-pŏs’əl) “An ardent early supporter of a cause or reform” You are Two Thousand years late on that one, that boat has already sailed. And not by the definition set down by the early church, Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
But every one of us who chooses to follow him becomes his disciple, and we are forgiven and we are changed.