The Guided Decision

Imagine having in your grasp the one thing that your heart desired more than anything. Of being assured that whatever that one thing was it was yours. What would you wish for? Understand it’s not the genie thing, no three wishes but one. What would your wish be, and remember this is it, no mulligans or take backs, no chance to say “darn, I should have wished for . . .”
That was the situation where Solomon found himself in the scripture that was read earlier. If we go back to 1 Chronicles 29:26-28 So David son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. He reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a ripe old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth, and honour. Then his son Solomon ruled in his place.
You remember David right, he was the author of most of the Psalms, and he was the shepherd kid who killed the giant Goliath in battle. It was David who became king, established Israel as a major force in their world, and established Jerusalem as the political and spiritual capital of Israel. David was considered to be the greatest king that Israel would ever have. And in the New Testament the coming Messiah is often referenced as the “Son of David” for example Matthew 12:23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
Well David was dead; the bible says he died at a ripe old age having enjoyed a long life. That’s right if you take the time to check and do the math he was . . . seventy, which coincidently is when I plan to retire from Cornerstone. So you have me for another 147 dog years. So David has died and left the throne not to his eldest son but instead to Solomon the son he had with Bathsheba.
And as Solomon ascends the throne he is asked by God in 2 Chronicles 1:7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
Let’s go back to where we started. Imagine having in your grasp the one thing that your heart desired more than anything. Of being assured that whatever that one thing was it was yours. What would you wish for?
According to the story Solomon didn’t hesitate 2 Chronicles 1:9-10 O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”
Not sure if God asked “Is that your final answer?” but apparently it was the correct one because we read the response of the Almighty in 2 Chronicles 1:12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!” Cool, not only did he get what he wanted he got what I’m sure he could only imagine.
King Solomon is known for his temple and for his mine, but more than anything Solomon was known for his wisdom. He is the author of the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and was renowned throughout his world for his wisdom. There is a story told in 1 Kings 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honour to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. And then we discover the result of her testing 1 Kings 10:3-5 Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba realized how very wise Solomon was, and when she saw the palace he had built, she was overwhelmed.
Over the next several weeks we are looking at Andy Andrews book “the Traveler’s Gift”, in this novel which he has subtitled “The 7 Decisions that Determine Personal Success”. The main character David Ponder visits 7 historic figure who each offer him one principle to base his life on. Last week we looked at the principle given to Ponder by Harry Truman and that was the responsible decision. We need to come to the point in our lives that we are willing to accept responsibility for the choices that have brought us to the place we are in our lives. So we have to decide that we will not blame our parents, our friends or our circumstances for our life. As long as we blame others we are saying they have control over who we are and what we do, once we accept that responsibility we realize that we hold control of our future. But that was last week.
The second person David Ponder is introduced to is King Solomon who challenges him to seek wisdom, this is “The Guided Decision.” In the book of Proverbs we are told by Solomon Proverbs 4:7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.
The question though is “How, how do we get wisdom?” Often times we are directed to the book of James where we read: James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. And so for many Christians that is their sole attempt at gaining wisdom in their lives, “Why I asked God and he gave me wisdom.” But then they go and do dumb things, go figure.
If wisdom was simply a matter of asking and receiving than why do we still make the wrong choices in our personal lives and our spiritual lives? And I have a theory, and I bet you can’t wait to hear it.
In Matthew Jesus tells us Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? But just because God feeds the birds it doesn’t mean they don’t have to work for the food. God provides it but they still have to find it, every morning he doesn’t just dump a truck load of worms in their nest and say “There you go, food for another day.”
In the same way I believe God gives us the wisdom we need, but he doesn’t just stick a funnel in our ears and pour it in. Instead he offers us the opportunities to become wise. One of my favourite movies from the past couple of years has been Evan Almighty and in it the question is asked, “When someone prays for patience does God give them patience or the opportunity to be patient? When someone prays for courage does God give them courage or the opportunity to be courageous?” And so I would add to that, when you pray for wisdom does God give you wisdom or provide you with the opportunities to become wise? And that is the problem, because people want wisdom like they want most other things in life, without paying a price.
So, the next question has to be: Where do we find wisdom?
We Receive Wisdom From Books This should be a no brainer but it really isn’t. We gain wisdom from reading. And not just reading anything, I firmly believe that we will gain the most wisdom from reading books. For thousands of years wisdom has been passed down in books of one kind or another and it is no different today. And I know there are folks who say “I read newspapers and magazines.” That’s not the same, they are great for news and entertainment but that’s not where you find wisdom. Can you remember the last time you were reading a periodical and had a eureka moment?
And don’t even get me going on the “I read what I need online.” That is like approaching a total stranger and asking for their advice, you have no idea what they know or don’t know, what their background is or for that matter who they are.
I am constantly amazed by people look for medical advice on the internet. It was Mark Twain who said “Beware of health books. You might die of a misprint.”
We encourage children and teenagers to read all through their school years and if they don’t like reading or don’t enjoy reading we want them to have remedial help. When does that change? And why do people brag about not reading? I hear people say “I haven’t read a book since I finished university.” That is nothing to brag about.
If you just don’t like reading or you struggle with it, consider audio books. They are available from the library or you can purchase them and listen to them in your car or while you walk or work in the garden. I love to read but there are some authors that I get the audio books and listen to them because it’s just easier for me.
And the books you read don’t have to relate to your profession. Sometimes we get into a rut where we only read those things that we have to, stretch yourself. When I picked up the Traveler’s Gift it wasn’t because I was looking for a sermon series it seemed to have the potential for a good read.
It was Francis Bacon said “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”
Seek wisdom in what you read.
We Receive Wisdom From Others. How many parents do we have here today? How many of you are concerned about who your kids hang out with? Sure you are. We all know the importance of the right peer group for our kids, I saw a neat T-shirt the other day it said and I quote “resist peer pressure all the cool kids are doing it.”
We understand that our kids will be influenced by those they hang out with, that if their friends are into drugs or having sex or using foul language that our kids are at risk for acting the same way.
It was no coincident when my daughter graduated from High School with honours that the five kids she hung out with graduated with honours as well.
We kind of understand the principle of “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you hang out with turkeys” when it comes to kids. So do we think there is a magic age that we are no longer susceptible to the influence of others?
Choose your companions carefully because they will have an influence over you. How they speak, what they believe and what their attitudes are. If you spend your time with negative people you will become negative, spend it with lazy people and you will become lazy.
If a negative person doesn’t bother you it’s because you have accepted their negative views as “normal”.
Be careful who is having an impact on who you are. If you want to have a successful marriage than find couples who seem to be doing it right and look to them for wisdom. Are you looking to succeed in your profession? Then hang out with those who have succeeded. Want to be a better Christian, find someone who is doing it. And be willing to be accountable to those people.
Andy Andrews wrote that he often asks people “What is a true friend to you?” And he goes on to say that more than 80% of the time people say “A true friend is someone who accepts me the way that I am.” And I notice some of you nodding. Here is Andrew’s response “My friend, that is dangerous garbage to believe. A true friend is someone who accepts you the way that you are! The kid who works at the drive thru at the local fast-food restaurant accepts you as you are — because he doesn’t care about you. A true friend holds you to a higher standard — he or she expects you to do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. A true friend makes you better by his or her presence.”
When you are making a decision ask others what they think, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:10 Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.
I Don’t know about you but the reason I don’t ask for advice sometimes is because I don’t want it, my mind is made up and I’m afraid of what I might hear. Other times it’s a matter of pride, we don’t think we need any advice; we act as if we know all there is to know and no one else has anything to offer. In the book of Acts when the early church struggled with theological issues the issue wasn’t simply resolved by Peter or Paul declaring that they were the final authority, an example is given in the book of Acts when the issue came up over whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Acts 15:6-7 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them. . ,” they called a meeting and discussed it, combining their wisdom to come up with the right answer.
It was Ben Johnson (not that Ben Johnson) who said “Very few men are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching. For he that was only taught by himself had a fool for his master.”
There are times I come up with a good idea; I mean a really great idea, a stellar idea. The idea of all ideas and then I run it by the rest of the staff or the leadership team and they say “what about . . .” oh yeah. And so when you are seeking wisdom, take the time to borrow wisdom from others.
And last but not certainly not least We Receive Wisdom From God Let’s go back to a scripture we had looked at earlier James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. The secret here is this should be at the top of the list not at the bottom. For too many people they go to this promise when they are down to clutching at straws. Instead of starting with this it’s where they go when they have already done something stupid. And their prayer is “Oh God get me out of the mess I’ve gotten myself in.” Hopefully if you paid attention last week you are at least acknowledging that it was your choice that got you into the mess in the first place.
So how do we find God’s wisdom? First in prayer. Take the time to lay it out for God, what is it that you want to do or need to do, and listen to him. Do you feel peace about your decision or do you find your self trying to convince God and win him over to your side? That’s not the purpose of prayer.
And the second way is by reading his word. He has already given us the answers that we need in a lot of cases and they are found in his word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
And we find scriptures like Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. Time and time again we go back to this, God spells out what he expects us to do and what he expects us not to do. And the way to read it isn’t pouring through it like an advice column when you get in trouble. It is reading it and knowing what it says. How does that happen? David gives us a hint in Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
You shouldn’t have to pray about whether you should be honest or not, whether you should steal or not, whether you ought to cheat on your spouse or your income tax. Because that has already been covered in the book. Through the years I have had the occasion to confront people over obviously sinful behaviour and they will assure me: I will pray about it. No you don’t have to pray about it, God has already given you the answer just read the book.
And then to go back to the second point ask Godly people, “What do you think I should do?”
I don’t know all of the decisions that need to be made by this group but I would challenge you to seek wisdom. Decide to read a book, ask others about the decision you are about to make and start reading the word of God.

A Change of Vision

Who would have thought there could be that much of a change? I was travelling the other day and decided to stop and use the restroom and grab a coffee. So I stopped at an Irving station, after all Irving stations are renowned for their clean restrooms. Apparently, this particular station hadn’t gotten the memo and the rest of the facility wasn’t a whole lot better.

Upon hearing my observation (whining), Jason commented that he had noticed the same thing in other stations since Circle K had taken over. And I was disappointed; I had always been able to count on a clean restroom at Irving stations.

Then I saw a couple of lessons to be learned. Once the vision is lost at the leadership level, it’s not long before the vision is lost by everyone and that applies to churches, as well as, service stations. Secondly, in people’s minds, it is the owner, Irving, who has lowered the standards, not the management Circle K. And so we have to be careful, because when the church stops behaving as it should, it is ultimately a reflection on the owner, Christ and not the management, us

The Responsible Decision

He was 19 years old and his world had fallen apart. Up to that point he had lived a relatively uneventful life. But at the age of 19 his mother died of cancer and his father was killed in an automobile accident. In his own words “I took a bad situation and made it much worse.” Within a few years he found himself homeless sleeping under a pier.
It was at that point that Andy Andrews began to read biographies of famous people that he borrowed from the library. His quest was to answer the question “Is life just a lottery ticket, or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” After reading over 200 biographies Andrews determined there were seven characteristics that these “successful” people had in common. “What will happen,” he mused, “if I study these seven common denominators and harness them in my own life?”
Now a best selling author and in demand motivational speaker, Andrews is living proof that the principals he discovered could work and do work. Last year I read his book “The Traveller’s Gift” where he outlines the seven decisions in the form of a novel. The main character, David Ponder, visits seven historical figures who provide him with insights into those decisions. After reading the book and loaning out copies more times than I can count I came to the happy realization that makes the day of any preacher and that is “This will preach.” So over the next seven weeks we will be looking that these seven decisions from a biblical perspective and see what we can learn from them.
It started out innocently enough, but then again it usually does. They were the first couple and they had everything they could ever want. They lived in a beautiful garden in fellowship with their creator. We don’t know exactly where the Garden of Eden is or was Although some have tried to guess, first of all the Garden was situated in an area called Eden, so the Garden was not all of Eden, just a part of Eden. The garden we are told was filled with trees and not just any trees we are told they were beautiful and they produced delicious fruit, which tells us that God wasn’t just concerned with the practical but also with beauty. And if we pull down a map here, we are also told that the Garden was watered by a river that eventually became four rivers, today we know about the Pishon and the Tigris and the Euphrates, we don’t know where the Gihon may have flowed but with the other three we can guess that Eden may have been about here. However with the changes that would have happened to the geography after the great flood we really don’t know. We’re not even a hundred percent sure what the climate was like, but considering we are told in Genesis 2:25 Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. We have to assume that it wasn’t Nova Scotia weather.
And after God had created them he had given them pretty explicit instructions of what he wanted them to do he said in Genesis 1:28 we read Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.” Which considering they were running around the Garden naked probably wasn’t that much of a stretch.
And God also told them what they weren’t supposed to do Genesis 2:16-17 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” So they are supposed to make babies and fill the earth but they aren’t supposed to eat the fruit from just one tree out of all the trees in the garden. Good work if you can find it. I mean that seems like a pretty good gig to me.
But you know what happens then, yeah the devil crashes the party. Adam and Eve are in the process of doing what they supposed to do and not doing what they weren’t supposed to do. And Satan arrives and says “Yo kids, what’s happening?” And they say “Not much we’re just hanging around the garden working at making babies and not eating from that tree.” And Satan says “Excuse me if I’m being nosy but how come you aren’t eating from that tree? That’s a great tree as a matter of fact it’s probably got the best fruit of any tree in the garden.”
“Well” says Eve “God told us not to eat from that tree because he said we would die if we did.” “That’s a crock” replies Satan, “The only reason He won’t let you eat from it is because it’s the best fruit in the garden and he knows that if you eat from it you’ll be just like him. Besides a loving God wouldn’t let you die just because you ate one little tiny piece of fruit, go ahead, Bon Appetit.”
You know the story, Eve took the fruit took a big bite and said “This is delicious Adam, you should really try it.” And he did. And those two bites signalled the end of the world as they knew it. Their innocence was shattered and mankind was steered unto the path of sin. I read once that the trouble wasn’t the apple in the tree it was the pair on the ground. And yes I know that it doesn’t say apple anywhere and the climate probably wasn’t cold enough to grow apples, enough already.
The story of the first man and woman and how they disobeyed God and set the stage for their descendants is found in the book of Genesis the first book in the bible.
The book of Genesis reveals how creation came about, and allows us to see and understand that the God we worship isn’t simply the God of the little nation of Israel but indeed is the creator of all that is. Genesis provides the framework and sets the stage for the rest of the Bible.
I know that many of you have questions about creation, how long it took and if we should take the account in Genesis 1 and 2 as a literal account of the creation process or as an allegory. Bad news, you’re not getting the answers here today. You want to read about it just let me know I have a library full. But here is the reality, God created all that there is and man was a specific intentionally act of creation.
You may want to believe that you evolved from plasma but that’s not the way it happened. And if you think it requires a lot of faith to believe that mankind was created by God then take an actual look at what evolutionists are asking you to believe. They want you to believe that suddenly a something became a living creation and that one celled whatever eventually, by chance and by golly evolved into you. A living breathing miracle that has the capability to turn food into energy, to get rid of the waste that we don’t need, to reproduce and to come up with complex convoluted theories like evolution. You ever wonder how long did it take in the evolutionary process in order for reproduction to work? And shouldn’t that have stopped everything if it didn’t happen right away. But we aren’t going to talk about that today.
So where were we in the story? Oh yes, Eve has been tempted by the devil to disobey God and she in turn tempts Adam and it is literally the bite that changes the world. With that bite their eyes were indeed open and they were overcome with shame and tried to cover their nakedness. Up to that point there had been no shame, no sense of right and wrong. I don’t know if there was any magical power in the tree of knowledge of Good and evil or if it was the simple act of disobedience that made them realize the difference between doing what they should do and what they shouldn’t do. Regardless of what caused it to happen their innocence was no more.
1) They were in the Wrong. The directions that God gave were very simple: “Ddon’t eat from that tree, you see that tree over there? Don’t eat from it, get it?” And I’m sure that they nodded and said “Got it.” It wasn’t rocket science; there was no ambiguity about the command. “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it on Saturday or we shouldn’t eat from it on Sunday?” “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it at all or that we could eat from it as long as we didn’t eat from it to excess?” or “Maybe he meant that we could eat the fruit that was rated ‘g” but not the fruit that was rated ‘AA’ or ‘R’ and we’d have to exercise our own judgment on the fruit that was rated ‘PG 14’.”
God has given us a book that tells us what he wants us to do as well as what he doesn’t want us to do. In it’s simplest form it is the Ten Commandment but there is more then that, throughout the book you discover verses like Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
It’s not like God has a whole list of unwritten rules that he is expecting us to follow listen to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
And so regardless of what some people want you to think there are things that are right and things that are wrong in this life.
2) They knew it was Wrong. When Satan showed up and began his temptation he asked Eve “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” and listen to what Eve said Genesis 3:2-3 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. It would appear that she had a pretty firm grip on what they weren’t supposed to do, now notice what else she adds God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'” God hadn’t commanded them not to touch it; he just told them not to eat the fruit. For that matter they could have cut the tree down chopped it up and used it for firewood and been done with temptation.
In our lives how much of the wrong that we do is done in ignorance? How often can we honestly say “I didn’t know that was wrong.”? “You mean I shouldn’t have cheated on my wife, stole from my employer and lied to my parents.” “Who would have thought that was wrong?” Duh. You. We choose to do wrong.
Parents did you ever have a situation where one of your children did something they knew was wrong and then they hid from you? Because they knew that they had done wrong. I’m not sure if they thought they could hide forever or just until you got over being mad. That’s what happened with Adam and Eve.
God came looking for them and they hid, broke fellowship with God. Up to this point Adam and Eve enjoyed being in the presence of God but all of a sudden his Holiness revealed their disobedience. But why did they hide? Because they were afraid. But afraid of what? Genesis 3:9-10 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”
Was it being physically naked that made Adam afraid, it would appear so because the first thing they did was to cover themselves. But these two had been walking around buck naked since day one and it hadn’t bothered them, why now? I think that Adam and Eve were overcome with shame and they covered themselves physically because they couldn’t cover themselves spiritually.
Have you ever noticed that little children have no qualms about running around starkers? Indeed they seem to enjoy it. But there comes a time when their innocence disappears and they feel compelled to cover up. You say “That’s cultural Denn.” To a certain degree, yes. But even in cultures in much warmer climates where in the past they wore considerably less than would be considered acceptable by western standards most still wore something.
As a believer have you ever been ashamed to be in the presence of God because of disobedience in your life? Perhaps it was during your own quiet time, or during a worship service or maybe during communion. They knew that what they did was wrong and it caused a tear in their relationship.
3) They wouldn’t admit it. Even though they did what was wrong, and they knew it was wrong they refused to accept responsibility for what they had done.
Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” Boy does that sound familiar. It was the classic “Some Other Dude” defence.
Someone said If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.
And so they refused to accept responsibility for what they had done instead;
A) They Blamed Others
Lady Nancy Astor said “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.” Nancy Astor was the first American to hold a seat in the Parliament in England but you probably know her as the lady who said “Mr. Churchill if I was your wife I’d put ground glass in your tea” to which the Prime Minister responded “Madam if you were my wife I’d drink it.”

Let’s go back to Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
How often in our lives do we seek to blame others for our behaviour and seek to blame others for the failures in our lives? And so we say “It was because of my parents or my teachers or my friends. They led me astray.” Motivational speaker Dr. Robert Anthony claims “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” And so you don’t need to change if it was someone else’s fault that you sinned. Very seldom do you hear someone say “I sinned, it was my choice, nobody forced me tempted me or enticed me, I did it because I wanted to.”
B) They Blamed The Devil And what was Eve’s response to Adam’s charge? Genesis 3:13 Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” It was the classic “The Devil made me do it.” Defence and the poor Devil didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Yes the Devil will tempt us to do wrong; yes he wants you to fail as a Christian. But you don’t have to. One of the greatest promises in the bible is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
The bible never says that we won’t be tempted, but it does say we don’t have to give in to temptation. There isn’t anything that you will be tempted to do that somebody else hasn’t already been tempted to do and yes some did give in to that temptation, but many didn’t.
All Adam and Eve had to do was whistle and God would have been there and turfed the Devil out on his ear. But no they were enjoying the conversation. And you know and I know that when we are being tempted that if we actually stopped and prayed about the situation things would probably go in a different direction, but then again maybe that’s what we are afraid of. It was English writer Margaret Oliphant who said “Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.”
But you know the story could have had a different ending because 4) There Was Another Answer If we went back to Genesis 3:11-12 “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
“Yes,” Adam admitted, and then if instead of trying to shift the blame I wonder what would have happened if he had of said “I was wrong and we are so sorry, next time we will call out to you and we’ll resist temptation.” Do you think God would have forgive Adam and Eve? I do. And while that might be a hypothetical question what happens when we sin isn’t, the word of God promises us in 1 John 1:8-9 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
So how do we tie this into the Traveller’s Gift? The first decision is the “Responsible Decision”. Which is simple the decision to accept responsibility for the choices you have made and the choices you will make. When the scripture tells us But if we confess our sins to him that means that we have to accept responsibility for our behaviour before God.
In the book it was President Harry Truman who presented the first gift to David Ponder when he told him “The buck stops here.” If we are to succeed in our personal and spiritual life we will need to make the decision to quite passing the buck and quit blaming others for where we are.
The temptation in our life is to say “why me?” the real question should be “Why not me?” Each of us are where we are today because of choices that we made somewhere along the line. The decision to study in school or slough off, the decision about where we would further our education and what courses we would take, the decision of who we would marry. Some of you may be thinking Well I didn’t want to get married, we had to.” Well that involved another choice didn’t it. Every addiction began with a choice, you may be thinking “I don’t have a choice, I have to do it.” But you made the choice at the beginning the choice to try whatever it is you are addicted to.
And when accept the responsibility for where you are than you have acknowledged that not only do you hold the past but you also hold the future. God gave us the gift of our free will because he knew that if we choose to we could make the right decision.
This week will you resist the temptation to blame people and circumstances for where you are today? And will you take responsibility for your behaviour and your choices?

Watch the Signs

Penn of Denn

I read an article that Golden and District Search and Rescue Association, (GADSAR), a non-profit, volunteer based, search and rescue group from British Columbia, has suspended operations recently after being named in a recent lawsuit.

Apparently, Quebec skier Gilles Blackburn, is seeking damages after he and his late wife spent 9 days lost in the mountains, before GADSAR found them.

You have to understand, Blackburn and his wife skied off trail, in an area that was posted with warnings. His comment was “It is not unusual for experienced downhill skiers, familiar with expert runs, to ignore warning signs and to go off into unpatrolled areas.”

It was a tragedy and there were mistakes made, but a deliberate decision was made by Blackburn and his wife to ignore the warnings and disobey the signs and it was that decision, that led to them getting lost.

Isn’t it the same way spiritually? Some people deliberately choose to disobey God’s direction and then they blame Him or the church for the situation they find themselves in. God is in the saving business, but we have to do our part and that is paying attention to the warnings. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    
 

Almost Only Counts in Horseshoes.

    

 You ever play horseshoes? Angela’s Dad loved to play horseshoes. Throughout the summer months if you are wondered where Al was all you have to do is wander down to the horseshoe pitch and there he was. Personally I’m not a big horseshoe fan, and some of you are wondering “What in the world are horseshoes?” Shoes that fit on horses of course. But they are also a game, two people play with large specially made horseshoes, some folks own their own horseshoes much like some bowlers own their own bowling balls. And you take turns throwing your horseshoes down the length of a sand filled pitch trying to get them around a stake driven into the ground at the end of the pitch. You get a certain number of points for getting your horseshoe around the stake and a certain number for being the closest to the stake. When I was a kid, when somebody said “I almost did this” or “I almost did that” the proper response was, “Almost only counts in horseshoes.” Did you ever say that? Did you know why almost only counted in horseshoes?

 That is one of the facts of life: almost doesn’t cut it, as a matter of fact “Almost only counts in horseshoes.” In the book of Acts, Paul was arrested for preaching the Gospel and the Roman Consulate Festus decides to hand over the responsibility of Paul to King Agrippa, who wasn’t really a king at all but who was actually Herod Agrippa the second, who ruled over a small part of Palestine at the grace of the Romans with his sister Bernice, who was the sister in law of Festus. The story is told in the book of Acts in chapter 26 Paul states his case, he starts with his early life and then how he persecuted the Christians, and then he told of his conversion, in short he gave his testimony. Paul has laid everything out and used all his ammunition, and then he closes with these words in Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”

 Paul has become the master fisherman. He has baited his hook, he has cast his line and now he has a nibble, he can see Agrippa taking the bait, easy, easy, and gotcha. he gives the line a jerk to set the hook. You know it’s at this point that most of us fail in being fishers of men. We testify, we witness and get folks interested and then we don’t set the hook and they eat the goodies and swim away. But not Paul, Paul takes the time to set the hook. Paul was used to success, and I’m sure that he was ready for Agrippa to saw, “I believe Paul, I believe”. But instead we read in Acts 26:28 Agrippa interrupted him. “A little more, and your arguments would make me a Christian.” You might be more familiar with this translation Acts 26:28 NKJV Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” Almost Paul, but not quite. Paul must have been flabbergasted, discouraged, disgusted. And when I get discouraged I think of Paul, he blew it, he wasn’t a hundred percent.

 Why? Who knows, maybe he wasn’t convincing enough, perhaps he had turned Agrippa off in some way or perhaps Agrippa wasn’t paying attention maybe his mind was wandering and was thinking of something else. We don’t know why Agrippa was only “Almost persuaded”. Paul had done everything right but it didn’t seem enough.

 I love the ministry, it’s my life, and to a certain degree I have been training for the ministry since I was sixteen years old. During the summers I spent working on salvage tugs and oil tankers but during my high school years I began selling and I continued to sell into my time at college. I sold dress clothes, blue jeans, vacuum cleaners, wood stoves, bicycles, cars, trucks, travel trailers and advertising. From the time that I was sixteen years old I made my living convincing people that they needed what I had to offer.

 Ministry is sales. No that’s not sacrilege. I have something other people don’t have but need. My job very simply is to convince them that they need Jesus Christ. Every once in awhile someone will ask me if I can do something about the weather to which I reply “Sorry I’m in sales not management.”

 Now I am not one of those people who can sell everything to everybody I will never be able to sell refrigerators to Eskimos, I worked hard at my selling and I used all of the tools of my trade. I made sure that I was properly groomed, and well dressed, I discovered how to address people and set them at ease, and I learned everything about my product and I learned how to set the hook. It was no good spending time selling a product and then never ask the customer if they actually wanted to buy it or not.

 And so Paul is ready to set the hook, He says “King Agrippa, do you believe?” and Agrippa says “You know Paul, you almost persuaded me” Not good enough Agrippa, almost found is still lost, almost saved is still doomed. I remember selling Toyotas, I never like saying I sold cars, it’s because people think less of you but when you say you sold Toyotas it’s like you’ve done a service to humanity. One afternoon my boss asked me if I had sold anything that day, and I replied, “I almost sold a truck this morning” and he replied, “Well, I’ll almost pay you on Friday” and he walked away.

 I’m sure that Paul wanted to say, “Agrippa, almost only counts in horseshoes.” But Paul wasn’t alone and neither was Agrippa.

 In Second Peter 2:5, Peter refers to Noah as a “Preacher of righteousness” Now you would think, at least I would, that if this fellow was a good enough preacher to get mentioned in the Bible as a preacher of righteousness that he must have been pretty persuasive. Wrong, out of all the people on earth he only persuaded seven people to join him on the ark.

Noah Didn’t Persuade Everyone

 Only eight people all up were willing to forsake sin for God, while the rest forsook God for sin, why? Because they were more concerned with the temporal then with the eternal. That’s the way most of us are. The concept of delayed gratification is lost on us, we want what we want and we want it now. We just can’t see much further then tomorrow. That’s why so many people don’t look at resale value when they buy cars, that’s down the road. That’s why they make CPP contributions mandatory and why we have the old age penison. That’s why we don’t make up wills or funeral arrangements.

 The people of Noah’s day were having a ball, they were saying, “Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die” today our philosophy is “eat drink and be merry for you ain’t never gonna die. The people of Noah’s day didn’t want to hear that things were coming to an end any more than people today want to hear that. Hebrews 11:25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:25 speaks of the “Fleeting pleasures of sin.” God doesn’t try to tell us that sin isn’t fun, but he does say that the fun doesn’t last. I’m sure that if Noah’s neighbours had of realized how close the reality that life must end was they would have changed their ways.

 Now I’m not advocating that you need to give up your fun and games, and live a dull, boring, humdrum, ho-hum, monotonous life in order to get to heaven. Even Zig Zigler couldn’t’ sell salvation with a line like that. Jesus didn’t say “I have come to take the fun out of life” and Jesus didn’t say “I have come to make life unbearable” and Jesus didn’t say “I have come that life may be a drag” what Jesus said was recorded in John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

 Who is them? Them is you? They were those who had responded to the claims of the Gospel. Millions of people have discovered an important fact, and that is that Christianity does not take the enjoyment out of life. Jesus Christ’s primary motivation is not to make life miserable but to make life full and rewarding.

 If you don’t think that you can have fun in Christianity I would wager that is because you are receiving your “Fun” from external sources. Drugs, alcohol, or premarital or extra marital sexual activity. In other words you aren’t receiving your gratification from within or from friends you are dependant on external stimuli.

 But things do end, and eventually the rain started, and Noah and his family went into the ark. And those on the outside, yelled out things like “Noah, you almost convinced us to repent.” And Noah leaned over the rail and said, “Almost only counts in horseshoes.”

 
 But wait, Noah and Paul you’re not alone. Genesis 19 records the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sin and immorality abounded in those two cities and God told Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities. Abraham began negotiating, “If I can find, 50, 45,40, 20, 10 righteous men will you spare the city” and God said “sure” or something like that. But in the end only four people were saved, Lot, his wife and their two daughters. Lot tried to convince his future son-in-laws, in Genesis 19:14 So Lot rushed out to tell his daughters’ fiancés, “Quick, get out of the city! The Lord is about to destroy it.” But the young men thought he was only joking.

 Lot Didn’t Persuade Everyone

 Lot’s future son-in-laws didn’t take the claims of God serious. They thought it was a game; unfortunately too many people have that attitude today. Religion is one big game show. And do you believe door number one, door number two or door number three? And whatever beliefs you pick you win as long as you live that belief sincerely. It doesn’t matter if it is Christianity or Islam, or Mormonism, or Hinduism, or J.W.ism, they are all seen in the same light. Wrong, It’s just that people refuse to take the words of Jesus Christ seriously, he said and I quote from John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

  You say, “No preacher that isn’t right, what he really meant was that if you are a good person then he won’t punish you.” wrong, he meant what he said, and what he said was “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The only door to heaven is called Christianity and all others doors lead to hell.

 God wasn’t joking when he said that the wages of sin are death, and when the fire and brimstone rained down on Sodom Lot’s son in laws must have cast their voices heavenward and said, “Lot almost persuaded us” And when lot looked down on the charred remains of those 2 great cities he said “Almost only counts in horseshoes” Paul, Noah and Lot you’re not alone

 Luke 18:18 Once a religious leader asked Jesus this question: “Good Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

 Jesus responded by saying, “That’s a good question, I’m glad you asked, keep all the commandments” and the ruler said, “been there, done that” and so Jesus says in Luke 18:22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

 And then in the next verse we see the man’s response: Luke 18:23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

 Jesus Didn’t Persuade Everyone

 Now let’s get one thing straight, money is not the important thing here, the important thing is the attitude. Money, an unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend, a job, a hobby a habit, what is the thing in your life that is more important then Jesus.

 With me, look I would have come to the Lord three months sooner then I did if it hadn’t been for a female. She was something else. When I was with her I felt like a million dollars. She had a gorgeous shape, all the curves were in the right places and she drew stares where ever we were. If I left her for five minutes when I came back there was a crowd around her. I’d only been serious with her for six months, but I had first laid eyes on her two years before and it was love at first sight. Every nickel I earned’ was spent on her and I knew deep down in my heart that when I accepted Jesus as Lord that I’d have to give her up.

 Her name was Catrese and she was my life and I fought a battle for three long months knowing it was her or God. And on the night that I turned my heart over to the Lord he told me “if you are going to serve me 100% then she has to go.” and I knew what I had to do and the next day I did it, I put a for sale sign on her. Oh did I fail to mention that Catrese was a 1971 Cutlass Supreme convertible. She was fire engine red, with white top and leather interior power windows and a 350 rocket engine with four barrel carby and, and, and.

 Maybe you aren’t foolish enough to let something as dumb as a car stand in the way of your salvation, maybe it’s your career or your friends, or you money or your pride. Jesus is looking for all of you. The rich young ruler thought he had it in the bag, it wasn’t until Jesus spoke that he understood , “He didn’t have the riches, the riches had him” Who or what is standing in your way. What is it in your life that is more important then Jesus.

 The rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he wasn’t ready to give it all up. Salvation is free but it aint cheap, it will cost you all that you have and all that you are. The rich young ruler knew that there were things in his life that would hold him back. It would save a lot of time, if some people were at least honest enough with God, and with themselves to do what the rich your ruler did. And that was to say , “Jesus you almost persuaded me to follow you”, and then he walked away. And Jesus must have been broken hearted as he thought, “Almost only counts in horseshoes.”

 Paul you are not alone.

 But there were others who were persuaded. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Bartholmew, Matthew and the rest of the 12. Zacchaeus was persuaded and so was Nicodemus, and Joseph of Aramiathia, and the woman at the well, and Simon the Pharisees, and the Paralytic at Peter’s house, the lone leper, the Prostitute who washed Jesus feet, the centurion at the cross, Saul of Tarsus, Cornelius, Prisccilla, Eunice, Jude, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, Graham, Mansvelt, Kneebone, Wickwire, Churchill and the list goes on and on and on.

 In Hebrews chapter 12 Paul writes Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

 That crowd represents the millions upon millions of people who have done more then “almost believe”. That crowd of witnesses is all of those who have gone on before you who were persuaded. The twelve were persuaded, the 120 were persuaded, the 3000 were persuaded, the multitudes were persuaded.

 You say “Denn you almost persuade me to become a Christian” almost isn’t good enough, almost finishing the race means that you didn’t make it. Almost in means that you are still out, almost healed means that you are still sick, and almost saved means that you are still lost.

 Denn Won’t Persuade Everyone

 Almost doesn’t make it down here and almost won’t make it on judgement day. When Agrippa died and stood at the pearly gates, and said “Paul almost persuaded me to become a Christian” St. Peter would have said, “Sorry Agrippa, Almost only counts in horseshoes.”

 The big difference is that horseshoes is only a game, and if you blow it then you play another game. Life and salvation are no game, there is no second chance. When it’s done, it done. That great American Philosopher Yogi Berra said “It aint over til it’s over” and that’s true, but remember Yogi , when it’s over it’s over. Paul said it best when he stated in the book of Hebrews 9:27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,

 Almost persuaded isn’t good enough, it won’t help you follow Jesus in this life and it won’t get you to heaven in the next life. Why was Agrippa only “almost persuaded” ?I don’t know. It wasn’t Paul’s fault, he did everything he could and it wasn’t God’s fault. Why is it that some who sit under my ministry are only “almost persuaded?” I don’t know, it’s not my fault, it’s not God’s fault. Jesus lost some, Paul lost some, Noah lost some, Lot lost some and Denn Guptill will lose some but I don’t want to. Are you almost persuaded?

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Facing the Storms of Life

Have you ever been in a really great storm? I mean a doozy of a storm? Do you remember when Juan swept through in September 03? I woke up in the middle of the night when the power went out, it actually flickered and the printer cycled on and off and woke me up. I remember hearing the wind and rain and looking out the window into the pitch black night and thinking “What a waste of a good storm, I can’t see it.” We had friends at the time who were single and silly and they got in their jeep and spent the night chasing the hurricane around the city, they were down at the waterfront in Bedford and Halifax and at Point Pleasant Park and they told us later what a hoot it had been.
As most of you know before I went into the ministry I spent a couple of years at sea with my dad on salvage tugs as well as a commercial fishing boat and during that time we spent more than a few day at sea in storms. I always found it interesting to see the point in the storm that I would go from being sick to being scared. In the scripture that was read earlier we saw that point arrive in Acts 27:20 The terrible storm raged for many days, blotting out the sun and the stars, until at last all hope was gone.
A little bit of the back story here. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel and then is sent to Caesarea to present his case before King Agrippa, and we will look at that next week. Now he has requested the opportunity to appeal his case before Caesar in Rome. Let’s pull down one of our trusty maps here. Here is Jerusalem, and here is Caesarea where their voyage begins. And here is Rome where they were heading, and obviously this would be the quickest way, but Luke tells us that there were supposed to make several stops along the way, apparently they were travelling on what would be called a costal freighter today. So their first stop was in Sidon and from there they head out and encounter the first of a number of storms, and so they decide to stay north of Cyprus and land at a port by the name of Myra. From there they are transferred to an Egyptian ship that is heading to Rome. Back at sea they encounter another storm and end up at a harbour named Fair Haven. And it is at that point we read this account Acts 27:9-10 We had lost a lot of time. The weather was becoming dangerous for sea travel because it was so late in the fall, and Paul spoke to the ship’s officers about it. “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.”
But what did Paul know? He wasn’t a sailor, so the captain decided to sail further up the coast to a more sheltered harbour by the name of Phoenix. And mixing metaphors that’s when the wheels came off the wagon and where we came into the story.
Now most of us will never be in a storm at sea, at least you want to hope you won’t it really isn’t a lot of fun, people get hurt, equipment gets damaged and sometimes you throw-up on yourself, not that I would know about the last one personally it’s just something I read in a book.
But every one of us here without exception will face storms in our lives. They might be storms in your relationships. Perhaps with a spouse or parents or children. It might be a financial storm, some of you went through that this past year, or it might be a storm as it relates to your health, and there are some of you here today who are in the midst of that particular storm even as I speak. And I am familiar with some of your storms, we have talked, you have asked for advice or prayer and I know what you are going though. But there are others here today who are good at hiding the difficulties in their lives. It might be the way you were brought up or a matter of pride I don’t know, but right now the wind is blowing and the seas are threatening to capsize you and you are terrified.
So. . . what can we learn from this story? Let’s begin with the storm itself. Acts 27:13-14 When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea.
And so the first thing we discover is The Suddenness Of The Storm In the spring of 1979 we were fishing on the Rali II off the northern coast of PEI when we lost our engine, it was a beautiful day and so we notified the Coast Guard that we were without power, they asked if we needed a salvage craft and our skipper, my uncle said “No, that’s alright, we will get our sister ship, the Nadine to tow us back to port.” The best laid plans of mice and men. Kind of reminds me of the scripture we just looked at Acts 27:13-14 When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. . . But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. And sure enough before it was over people got hurt, equipment got damaged and the only reason I didn’t throw up was I was terrified. When we finally got back to our home port people asked “What were you thinking?” Well we certainly weren’t thinking we’d end up in the middle of a storm.
One of my rules of boating is “It is better to be on shore wishing you were at sea than to be at sea wishing you were on shore.”
But really isn’t that how most storms arrive? Without notice? You think everything is hunky-dory and then the weather changes abruptly. Your boss invites you into his office and lets you know the company is expanding your employment opportunities, the police arrive at your door in the middle of the night or the doctor says “perhaps you should sit down.”
In football there is a two minute warning sounded letting the teams know that there are two minutes left in the half. Wouldn’t it be great if life gave us a warning to let us know that a storm is approaching? Two minute warning, unemployment ahead, heads up a tragedy is just around the corner. But life isn’t like that.
And while it may not be a comfort, understand that you are not alone, Luke and Paul weren’t the only two aboard the vessel and theirs wasn’t the only vessel at sea that night. It might seem that we are all alone walking through territory that no one has ever walked before but others have been there before.
Acts 27:15-16 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale. Following the suddenness of the storm was the The Frustration Of The Storm
In a perfect world the sailors would have turned their vessel into the wind, so even if they weren’t making much headway they at least had a semblance of control over their ship. But apparently they had left the decision too late and now if they attempted to turn the vessel into the wind it would breach and roll over.
And so they did the only thing they could, they held on for the ride.
I think one of the things we struggle with the most in the storms that engulf us is the frustration of helplessness. Last year I was at a conference in Moncton and the hotel we were staying in had a waterslide, so I decided that since I had paid for the waterslide I ought to use the waterslide. First time I had been on a waterslide in fifteen years and the thing that struck me as I careened down the tube was the feeling of helplessness, of being out of control. I knew how it had started and I suspected how it would end but right then I had no control over what was happening at that particular time. You know what I’m talking about, you are in a storm right now and you know how it had started and you suspect how it will end but right now you have no control over what is happening.

Soren Kierkegaard the Danish Philosopher summed it up when he said “I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess when my opponent says of it, “That piece cannot be moved.””
In a perfect world if we had of responded sooner we may have been in a better position, but “would of could of should have, won’t change the reality of the situation.
Most if not all of us want to be in control of our lives, even if we aren’t moving very fast we want to be able to say with William Ernest Henley “It matters not how straight the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul.”

But often in the storms of life control is wrestled out of our hands and all we can do is let it run before the gale. We can’t go back and undo it or redo it, all we can do is hold on and pray.
But that isn’t to say there wasn’t anything they could do. They had come to the realization that they had no control over the storm but there were things they could do to increase the odds of coming out of the storm in one piece.
Acts 27:17-19 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind. The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.

 Dealing with the Storm The sailors know there wasn’t anything they could do about the storm, there was no way they could magically transport themselves to safety. So they did what they could to make their vessel safer and increase the odds in their favour. The first thing they did was is found in our story: Acts 27:17-19 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They knew the only think between themselves and certain death was their ship and so they made every effort to make sure their ship remained intact.

When the storms of life threaten to swamp you realize that part of what keeps you safe are the relationships with in your life. And most importantly your relationship with God. Sometimes when the storm gets dark we find it hard to seek God, but that is when we need Him the most. Sometimes we feel like David did when he wrote Psalm 77:1-2 I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. Have you ever felt like that? Maybe it’s gone deeper, it did for David, Psalm 77:7-9 Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
Have you been there? In the darkest days of your storm have you wondered if you have been abandoned? Maybe you just need to follow through as David did Psalm 77:11-14 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. Stop and remember what God has done, he didn’t abandon you in the past and he won’t abandon you now. We need to remember Psalm 50:15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
The secret and the promise are found in Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
The word of God doesn’t say you won’t go through deep waters, or go through rivers of difficulty or walk through the fires of oppression, we are people we live on earth, that is life. Which may not be all that comforting but God is saying he is still on the throne and he is still in control.
And let’s not forget our relationship with those who care for us most. Too often during those times you feel like you are all alone and that there is nobody there for you. But too often that is because we have put up walls of self pity and pride. We have said either with our words or our attitude “I don’t need your help or I don’t want your help.” But at some point you will have to acknowledge that you can’t do it yourself. Surround yourself with people who can be there for you. Heed the words of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Author George M. Adams tells us “Fortify yourself with a flock of friends! You can select them at random, write to one, dine with one, visit one, or take your problems to one. There is always at least one who will understand, inspire, and give you the lift you may need at the time.”
I remind people to make sure there is at least one person they could call at three o’clock in the morning to post bail for them. Surround yourself with friends and family who can help you hold it together.
Aristotle reminds us “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.” But as much as they might want to help they will only be able to if you let them.
The next thing they did was Acts 27:17-19 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind. The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.
They lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship. They knew they couldn’t control where they were going but they could do what they had to slow it down and regain some control. Sea anchors are usually like canvas bags that you toss overboard and they increase the drag of the ship, they won’t stop you but they will slow you down. And if you don’t have the right thing than you need to use the next best thing. The night we lost our engines off of PEI on the Rali II we had been mid water trawling, and that meant we pulled a large net behind our vessel that was held open by large metal wings, that were called doors, and we dropped those overboard on cables to increase our drag so we wouldn’t be blown ashore.
When the storms of life come upon us it is a good time to slow down and re-evaluate our lives. God’s word tells us: Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God!” Sometimes we are moving so fast that we miss the lessons that God has for us. Get into God’s word, find time for church, take time to pray, cast out those sea anchors that you need to slow down your life. Take time to think and re-evaluate where you are.
During that time we can see what course corrections there might need to be made when the time presents itself.
Acts 27:17-19 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind. The next day, as gale-force winds continued to batter the ship, the crew began throwing the cargo overboard. The following day they even took some of the ship’s gear and threw it overboard.
Then the crew began to lighten the ship by throwing the cargo overboard. They had to decide what was important, right at that point in time and what was peripheral. It might have been important at one time and it might be important again at another time, but right then at that particular point in time it was a hindrance and it had to go.
There may have been others who would have disagreed with them, to some people the cargo may have seemed important, like to the people who owned the cargo, but they weren’t there and at that point in time it wasn’t their decision to make.
Another story, my family used to own a 42 foot cape islander, named the Narcosis, that had been converted to a pleasure boat that they used on the Saint John River system. Angela and I honeymooned on the Narcosis. On our first day we sailed into a little cove and dropped anchor so we could enjoy the sunshine. Who would have known that there would have been that much tide 50 kms from the Bay of Fundy.
When we went to continue our journey we discovered we were aground. And we spent most of that night aground waiting for high tide to arrive at 4:30 or so in the morning. As we approached high tide we put the anchor, the propane tanks and anything else we could in the dingy to light our load. When we were afloat again we pulled the dingy back alongside and loaded stuff back aboard.
When you are facing storms in your life there may be things that have to be ditched, at least for the time being. If you are between jobs and struggling financially you may have to re-examine your budget and see where you can trim fat, do you need cable, high-speed internet, two cars? Is it essential to eat out as often as you did, maybe this year it isn’t essential that you belong to the gym and that your kids play hockey. Those things may have been important at one time and they might be important again, but right now? Perhaps not so much.
Are you struggling with health issues? Than maybe your focus needs to be getting better and that may mean curtailing some of your volunteer activities or not doing some of those things that “Others” think you should do.
Are there problems with your marriage? Than you probably need to focus on that for the time being, it should be a primary responsibility. Other relationships may need to be put on hold for the time being, other activities may have to become secondary.
Word of caution here, make sure that what you are offloading is peripheral; this wouldn’t be a good time to ditch church or your scripture reading or your time with God. I’m assuming that they didn’t throw stuff like their food and water over board or the sails they would need later.
Here is the addendum to this message. You may not be in a storm yourself but you probably know someone who is going through a storm. This scripture gives us an example of what to say and what not to say.
Acts 27:21 No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, “Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. Paul should have been slapped. Nobody needs to hear “I told you so” when they are going through the storm, they might need to hear it later but they don’t need to hear it right then.

 But he does redeem himself in the next verse Acts 27:22 But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. Be an encourager; let them know that you are there and that you care.

 I don’t know what storm you may be going through right now, but I would like to pray for you.

 
 
 

It’s about the Fruit

Penn of Denn

Well, it has been a disappointing couple of weeks. Not anything earth shattering, but still. . . First Mel Gibson announced that he was divorcing his wife of 28 years and that his Russian girlfriend was pregnant.

Then singing sensation Susan Boyle, of Britain’s Got Talent fame, goes ballistic and cusses out a couple of reporters. And that lady has a potty mouth. I can’t believe she used that same mouth to kiss her mother.

Now celebrities fornicating and cussing isn’t anything new or surprising, but both of these folks were fairly vocal in talking about the importance of the church in their lives. Now I know some of you are thinking: Don’t judge people Denn. But Jesus did tell us that we would be able to identify a tree by its fruit. He reminds us in Matthew 12:33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” If that is truly the case, those trees aren’t looking so hot.

Just a reminder that ultimately people will believe what we do, not what we say. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.