The Joyful Decision

To be like Christ, to be Christ like. That is the goal of most Christ followers, if you ask people who are serious about their faith where they want to go in their spiritual journey they will tell you they want to become more and more like Jesus. But what does that mean? One of my favourite descriptions of Jesus comes from his teen years, believe it or not, and is found in Luke 2:52 Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and all the people.

 In other words Jesus grew up and people liked him. Have you ever stopped and thought about the people in your life that you like? You know, people who are likable people that other people like to be around. People who attract people. Jesus was like that, he attracted crowds wherever he went even little kids liked him.

 And I think, in my humble opinion that people like to be around people who are happy and upbeat with a positive outlook on life. For the most part. And if you read through the gospels Jesus seemed to be that type of person, he touched people, he encouraged people and he made people laugh. Who wouldn’t want to be around him? So if you want to be like Christ are you the type of person that other people want to be around?

 For those who are guests this week I am part way through a seven week series that is based on Andy Andrews’ book “The Traveler’s Gift.” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the author or the book, or who haven’t been here for a while here is a quick update. Andy Andrews lived a normal middle class life until he was 19, that year his mother died of cancer and his father was killed in a car accident. And overnight he became homeless with an attitude. Andrews himself said “I took a bad situation and made it worse.” Within a couple of years he was doing odds jobs to survive and living under a pier. It was at that point in his life that a complete stranger challenged him about his attitudes and the direction his life was taking. This man whom he only knew as Jones encouraged him to read a series of biographies on famous people, Winston Churchill, George Washington Carver, Joan of Arc and others and seek what it was that successful people shared.

 From living under a pier Andrews went on to become a comedian, author and motivational speaker. I first heard him at a leadership conference in 2008 and went out and bought a copy of his book. Since then I have bought close to a hundred copies, some I have given away, others I have loaned out but the majority I simply acted as a broker buying in quantities for other folks. And on my book shelf I have an signed copy, right next to my signed copy of Yogi Berra’s book, “I reallydidn’t say everything I said.”

  The Traveler’s Gift is a novel about a man by the name of David Ponder. Ponder has arrived at a problematic spot in life, he has lost his upper management position and has a sick daughter, he is struggling with the hand life has dealt him when he is involved in a car accident and through means never explained to us he travels through time to meet with seven individuals who each offer him a gift, not a tangible gift like a puppy but a gift nevertheless.

 Ponder meets Harry Truman at the very end of the Second World War and the President tells him “The buck stops here.” And he encourages Ponder to accept responsibility for the choices he has made in his life. With that chapter I spoke about Adam and Even and their failure to accept responsibility for the choices they had made and I challenged each of us to realize that we are where we are in life because of choices we have made a various junctions in our lives. How we would study, where we would work, who we would marry, how we would spend out money. That if we are going to move on in life and take control over our future we first have to acknowledge that we had control over our past and stop blaming our parents, society and circumstances. That is “The Responsible Decision.”

 As our hero continues on in his story he meets King Solomon who tells Ponder that he must choose wisdom. And that week I preached on King Solomon and how when God offered him his hearts desire he choice wisdom. And I challenged you to seek wisdom, though the books you read, the people you choice to associate with, through prayer and the reading of God’s word, the Bible. That is the guided decision.

 Then Ponder finds himself at the Battle of Gettysburg where he witnesses the heroic charge of the 20th Maine at Little Round Top. Under the command of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine against all odds the 20th Maine defeat the superior forces of the 15th and 47th Alabama Regiments. A charge that altered the course of the Battle of Gettysburg and that historians tell us was the pivotal point in the US Civil War. And Chamberlain’s advice to Ponder? Choose action.

 My message that week focused on the story of Peter in the storm on the Sea Galilee, and how when he was confronted with Jesus walking on the water said “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” And how he alone among the disciples walked on the water with Jesus. The point of the message, choose action, take a chance take a risk and change your world. This is the Active Decision.

 Ponder is transported from Gettysburg to the deck of the Santa Maria, where he meets Christopher Columbus. For 19 years Columbus had suffered disappointment after disappointment as he sought a sponsor to pay for the trip that would prove his theory that that world was not flat but was indeed a sphere. And finally he found those sponsors in the form of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Columbus admonishes Ponder to not give up on his dreams, to hold firm even in the face of disappointment. Last week I took you to Joshua and Caleb and the disappointment they felt when the majority of the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land after escaping from Egypt. And I spoke about working through your disappointments and remaining committed to your dreams and visions. It was The Certain Decision.

 So where to next? Upon disappearing from the Santa Maria David Ponder finds himself in a small attic in Amsterdam in October of 1943. The Nazis are in control of the Netherlands and Jewish businessman Otto Frank, his family and four friends having been hiding from the Gestapo for over a year and half, food and clothing being provided by Frank’s secretary and husband.

 It is in this situation that Ponder meets 14 year old Anne Frank, who challenges him to choose happiness. Happiness! A strange direction from a 14 year old hiding from certain death. And yet there it is. In her diary, published after the war and after she died in a concentration camp a month before it was liberated by the Allies she writes “I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humorous side of the most dangerous moments.”

 And so today we look at the “Joyful Decision” in other word “Choose to be Happy” and I am sure there are people who are sitting here today who are thinking, “How can I choose to be happy? It is related to my circumstances.” In the novel Anne tells the traveler, “Our lives are fashioned by choice. First we make choices. Then our choices make us.” It was Abraham Lincoln who said “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

 But what does it mean to be happy? British Author Joseph Addison said “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” Which was repeated by Tom Boddett when he said “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world. Someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”

 Ingrid Berman said “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”
Daniel Boone said “All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife.” And Alan Alda said “It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.”

 But however you define happiness it is a decision you make. Leo Buscaglia states “Happiness and love are just a choice away.”

 So why choose to be happy? It will make you more successful. Don’t discount this. Do you believe that opportunities and encouragement come into your life through people? Andrews writes “People want to be around happy people—not whiners, moaners and groaners. Happy people get more opportunities because opportunities come from people, and people are attracted by happy people.”

 If you are happy, people will like you more and want to be in your company and that will provide you with more opportunities to be successful. Doubtful? If you were an employer and had to hire someone and you had two candidates who were equal in every way accept one was grumpy and negative and hard to get along with and the other one was happy and positive and easy to get along with, which one would you hire.

 If you were a call centre service rep who would you go out of your way to please the customer on the other end of the phone who is being a jerk or the happy positive polite person?
And it is good for you. Honest it is, and if you don’t believe me then listen to what Solomon has to say in Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
This has actually been substantiated through scientific research. Hey I mean Solomon knew it 3000 years ago, but we had to prove it before we would believe it was right. They have proven that laughter changes chemicals in our bodies and releases endorphins promoting a feeling of well being. It doesn’t even have to be genuine or spontaneous laughter, it can be forced of contrived laughter and it will still work. We’ve known the opposite for years, after all what does worry produce? Anxiety, sleeplessness, and large gapping holes in your stomach
So the question is how do you choose to be happy?
By Choosing to Not Complain. In every situation that comes your way there will be something to complain about, and whether you do or not will be your choice. Because complaining is an activity, just like watching TV is an activity or going for a walk is an activity.
So you ask yourself, what am I going to do tonite? And you decide that you are going to watch TV, so you settle down in your favourite chair and turn on the TV and decide what you are going to watch. And in the same way you can say, What am I going to do? And then you decide you are going to complain about things. Here is the great secret if complaining is an activity than like any other activity it is a choice, a choice you make or don’t make.
If you want people to enjoy being around you and present you with encouragement and opportunities than here is the secret, you ready, get a pen and write it down because it is important: Quit your whining. Francis Jeffrey said “The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.”
Here is an excerpt from Anne Franks’ diary “Mrs. Van Daan’s grizzling is absolutely unbearable; now she can’t any longer drive us crazy over the invasion, she nags us the whole day long about the bad weather. It really would be nice to dump her in a bucket of cold water and put her up in the loft.”
Too many of us echo the words of Joe Walsh in his song “Life’s been good to Me” when he writes. “I can’t complain, but sometimes I do.”
You know as well as I do that the more you complain about something the worse it seems to get. It’s like the tough piece of meat that the more you chew it the bigger it gets until it’s too big to swallow and too big to spit out and you don’t know what to do with it.
If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it. It is time we all learned the lesson that Paul speaks about in Philippians 4:11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. And remember: don’t complain that you aren’t getting what you want just be thankful you’re not getting what you deserve.
By Choosing to be Grateful This is the opposite of the first point. And like complaining gratefulness is an activity. It is something you choose to do, you look around you at what you have in your life and you can either choose to be grateful or not to be grateful, it’s as simple as that. Going back to the words of Paul again the Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a matter of fact almost every complaint can be turned into an opportunity to give thanks. Car won’t start? You should be thankful that you have a car that starts most of the time. Service slow in the restaurant? How about being thankful that you can afford to go to a restaurant in the first place. I remember when I was in college Dad was fishing at the time and was having his taxes done at the end of the year, this would be thirty years ago. And he was excited because he had to pay a considerable amount in tax and he told me “Do you know how much I had to make to have to pay that much in tax?”
We live in a blessed country, and the things we complain about the most are some of our greatest blessings, our health care, our roads, our politicians and the taxes we pay. Benjamin Franklin “Constant complaint is the poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.” And if you don’t believe me than plan on travelling with me to West Africa in January or with Robin Churchill the next time he goes to Haiti.
And don’t just have a grateful heart, have a grateful mouth as well. Take time to thank people for the things they do in your life and not just the “big” things. Don’t forget to thank the person at Tims who pours your coffee, or the person at Sobey’s who bags your groceries. When was the last time you thanked your garbage man? Do you realize what a mess we’d live in if it wasn’t for our garbage collection?
And show your gratitude to your family, your spouse and your kids. Thank them for what they do.
The last point is by far the simplest to implement and yet I think it’s the one that will benefit us the most, both internally and externally.
We become happy By Choosing to Smile. You understand the power of a smile, right? A smile actually has the power to make you feel better. Medical research has shown that smiling causes the brain to release endorphins, which is the chemical in our bodies that gives us a feeling of wellness and fights pain. As well research tells us that smiling increase your blood flow, reduces your blood pressure and lowers stress. And it doesn’t even have to be a real smile, you can trick your body simply by smiling.

 You say, “what if I don’t feel like smiling?” Smile anyway; my philosophy when it comes to smiling is “Fake it til you make it.” If I’m not happy I still try to smile when I’m around people. And you realize the power of your smile? Smiles are contagious so when you smile others smile and that release endorphins in them, making them feel better. You literally have the power to change someone’s day and that may change their life.

 That’s part of why I use humour when I preach, I want people to feel better when they leave church than when they arrived and if I can get you to laugh and smile you will.

 I think Jesus smiled a lot, why? Because people wanted to be around him, because little kids wanted to be around him and I don’t think that would be the case if he had of been a scowler.

 Andy Andrews says “Your smile is your calling card. It is the most potent weapon you have. With your smile, you can forge bonds, break ice, and calm storms. Use your smile constantly. The power of who you are is revealed when you smile.”

 So where are you at today? Are you ready to choose to be happy? Let’s read this last scripture together, making it our closing prayer.

 Psalm 9:1-2 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.


It seemed like a good idea

I read a great news article a while back. A man in Kansas City, by the name of Wesley Fitzpatrick, applied for a temporary restraining order against a female whom he said was stalking him. Fitzpatrick claimed that she was making him, “scared and depressed and in fear of my freedom.” The restraining order was granted by the judge, but later rescinded when Mr. Fitzpatrick showed up to ask that it be made permanent. It was then that the judge discovered the so called “stalker”, was actually Fitzpatrick’s parole officer and her “stalking”, was simply her fulfilling her lawful supervision. Not only was the restraining order cancelled, but Mr. Fitzpatrick was arrested for having failed to keep his appointments with his parole officer. I thought to myself; this guy has more nerve then a toothache.

I have met people who have sought to get a restraining order against God. His presence makes them feel guilty and in fear of their freedom, but it’s not because of who He is, it’s about who they are. But as Fitzpatrick discovered, a restraining order won’t work and in this case the punishment for not keeping your appointment with God, is more then you will want to pay. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


The Certain Decision

Have you ever been disappointed with the way things are turning out but still certain of where you are supposed to be going? Joshua and Caleb followed Moses out of Egypt along with the rest of the people of Israel and during that time they had watched God provide for them time and time again. It was God who parted the Red Sea so they could escape from the Egyptian army that was hot on their trail. And it was God who miraculously provided food for them to eat and water for them to drink. During the day God guided them with a column of smoke and at night God provided a pillar of fire, the ultimate GPS. They were there when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai and now God had brought them to the very edge of the land He had promised them, all they had to do was go in.
Perhaps you remember the story, 12 men were sent into the Promised Land to bring a report back to the people of Israel and what a report they brought, Numbers 13:27 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. The fruit that they were showing off was mentioned earlier in the story in Numbers 13:23 When they came to the valley of Eshcol, they cut down a branch with a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs. Those are big grapes, even if it was a preacher telling the story and you had to divide by seven to get a realistic size they were still big grapes.
And so the spies brought back this report to Moses and the people of Israel, and I’m sure that people were over the moon and then the spies add these words. Numbers 13:28 But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! Later in the story they would expand on that statement and say Numbers 13:32-33 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”
And when everyone weighed in it was the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity, to borrow a phrase from Spiro Agnew, who actually borrowed it or bought it from his speechwriter William Safire, who won the day and it was decided that it was too dangerous to go where God was leading them. The disappointment that Joshua and Caleb felt on that day must have weighed them down and crushed their spirits. And for just a few minutes this morning I want to focus on Joshua and Caleb. After all I’d be willing to wager that nobody here can even remember the names of the other ten. So why waste our time on people we can’t remember.
So, it’s been a couple of weeks since we last looked at the Traveller’s gift so let’s come up to speed. After hearing the author Andy Andrews speak last year I got a copy of his novel the Traveler’s Gift. The book chronicles the journey of David Ponder who travels through time to meet with seven individuals who each offer him one principle to live by. The book is sub-titled Seven Decisions that determine Personal Success.
And so the first week we looked at Ponder’s visit to Harry Truman who encouraged him to choose the responsible decision and understand that he was responsible for where he was in his life. It was then that we looked at the story of Adam and Eve and we learned that we need to accept responsibility for the choices we have made in life. And we need to realize that if we are going to move on in our lives we can no longer blame our parents, our friends or our circumstances.
The next week we looked at the time Ponder spent with King Solomon who told him he needed to choose wisdom, this is the guided decision. And we looked at the need to pursue wisdom through reading books, yes books, not magazines, newspapers or blogs but good old fashioned books, through the wisdom of those who have something to offer us and through prayer and reading God’s word.
From Solomon’s temple Ponder found himself transported to July 2, 1863 at Little Round Top. It is the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg and Ponder meets Colonel Joshua Chamberlain a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine, who is commanding the 20th Maine a volunteer unit in the Union army. And it is from Chamberlain that Ponder learns the lesson of the active decision. If we are going to succeed in life we will need to do something, it is not enough to simple have great ideas unless we are ready to put those ideas into action.
And from Gettysburg Ponder travels back almost three hundred years to receive his next lesson, from . . . Christopher Columbus. For nineteen years Columbus had sought someone to sponsor his quest, his vision and belief that the world was not flat as believed by most but instead a sphere, and finally after meeting disappointment after disappointment King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain sponsored the expedition that would open up a whole new world to the people of Europe.
And what does Columbus tell Ponder? “Most people fail at whatever they attempt because of an undecided heart. Should I? Should I not? Go forward? Go Back? Success requires the emotional balance of a committed heart. When confronted with a challenge, the committed heart will search for a solution. The undecided heart searches for an escape. Indecision limits the Almighty and his ability to perform miracles in your life. He has put the vision in you — proceed! To wait, to wonder, to doubt, to be indecisive is to disobey God.”
And so today we look at the “Certain Decision”. If there is any one thing that seems to prevent us from moving forward it is disappointments. “I tried and it didn’t work, so why bother trying again?”
Let’s go back to the heroes of my message Joshua and Caleb; these two guys were so excited about what the future held in store for them and the nation of Israel. They had seen the Promised Land, walked across it lush plains and tasted its fruit and now they were watching it slip from their fingers.
When Angela and I were first married, late in the last century, we owned a couple of kittens. And one day the male, Mick, discovered a balloon on the floor of our living room and he started playing with it. He would bat it and then chase it across the carpet, he was having a ball. Now I knew what was going to happen, but having a slight nasty streak decided to let things progress on their own. Well eventually Mick cornered the illusive beast and pounced with every one of those needle sharp kitten claws extended. And with a bang his prey disappeared. The bang set him back a bit but the look of disappointment on his face when his plaything disappeared was so sad.
Joshua and Caleb had had their balloon burst, they were disappointed as they watched their dreams feel apart. You’ve been there you know what I’m talking about. At some time or another in your life you have had dreams come crashing down. Perhaps it was a job or promotion that didn’t materialize like you thought it would, or a dream that you’ve never seen fulfilled. Maybe it was just a delay or maybe it was a complete stop.
I am convinced the more vivid the vision the greater the disappointment should the vision fail to materialize. Author Eric Hoffer said “Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” Bankruptcy of the soul, if you’ve felt it you know how apt that description is. I’m sure that there were others in Israel who were disappointed as well but because they hadn’t been so passionate about the dream the disappointment wasn’t as crushing.
We’ve all had disappointments, in our education, our careers, our marriages and our spiritual lives. But how we deal with our disappointments will determine whether they destroy us or make us stronger.
1) Disappointments Are Only Delays. Who says that every setback has to be final? Even though Joshua and Caleb could not enter the promised land right away they did eventually get there. And it was just as beautiful as they had remembered it.
Even though you may not be able to enjoy the taste of victory today doesn’t mean you won’t tomorrow. You may have to reshuffle your plans, you may have to rearrange your priorities, but disappointments don’t have to be final. The anticipation can be as much fun as the arrival. That delay may give you the extra time you need for more planning.
2) Disappointments are Educational Many times we can actually learn from our setbacks. I never make a mistake that I don’t try and learn something from it. And I am convinced that we never learn nearly as much from our successes as we do from our failures. Now I know that it’s a lot more fun to learn from out success, but we don’t learn as much.
As many mistakes as each one of us makes, as many disappointments as we experience in our lives it would be one of the greatest wastes of resources in the world if we failed to learn from those mistakes and disappointments that come our way. Sometimes the delays that we experience provide time for reflection and self examination and in that it provides us with a learning opportunity.
In 1990 we uprooted our family and moved from the booming metropolis of Truro to Brisbane Australia with a population of 1.75 million people who all drove on the wrong side of the road. Now not being one to shun a challenge we immediately made plans to drive into the centre of the city, actually the plans had already been made for us but we were game to try. So armed with our trusty refer-dex, which was simply a fancy name for a book of street maps we ventured into the valley, as downtown Brisbane was called. And it was there that I discovered the benefits of stop signs and red lights. Although they did slow me down they allowed me to sneak a look in the book and find out where we were. Because with traffic going in all directions I needed the opportunity to stop and get my bearings. Sometimes the disappointments in our lives are stop signs that allow us to get our bearings. And sometime they prevent us from continuing in the wrong direction.
It is only when you can’t learn or are unwilling to learn from life’s disappointments that they become failures. And when we stop we need to look at what we have experienced and ask the big question; Why? What caused this to happen? Can I correct it? If it can be corrected then do it. Maybe the reason you didn’t get that job you wanted was that you showed up in ratty clothes needing a haircut and mouthwash, you can learn from that experience and change things for a more favourable outcome. Or perhaps you wanted to play basketball in the NBA but you’re only 5’2” then you might want to look for a different calling, because some things you can’t change.
3) Disappointments Are Times of Adjustment Too many times life becomes boring and routine. We are in a rut and we all know what a rut is right? Right, a rut is simply a grave with both ends kicked out.
Day after day we do the same thing. Day in and day out we are content to simply continue doing the familiar. And it’s only when disappointments come that we look at these experiences and re-evaluate the way we’ve been doing things. Some of our greatest moments happen because we are forced out of our pattern of repetition by a disappointment.
Eight years ago we had a series of events that resulted in a down turn in the attendance and revenue at Cornerstone, it was a disappointment for me. In order for us to continue we decided that the best option was for me to look for an outside source of income. That was a disappointment for me; I didn’t really relish the thoughts of having two jobs. However due to those circumstances I was approached by an editor to do some writing and I ended up writing for six different magazines. That year I was also offered a position as adjunct faculty at our Bible College in New Brunswick and now I teach a course every other year and I discovered that not only do I enjoy teaching at the college level, but I’m not bad at it either.
I’ve been looking for a place to quote Red Green and this looks like the spot. Red Green says “You are not good at something just because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because you are good at it.”
The disappointment that led to those offers wasn’t fun I did not enjoy it one little bit, but the adjustments that we made as a result have been a real bonus for Denn.
At the time of a disappointment it’s always wise to examine the events surrounding the disappointment and see if you need to make adjustments. Many churches and pastors have chosen to accept disappointment as the norm, rather then changing traditional behaviour. Anytime we begin to fail in evangelism, in seeing people won to Jesus Christ, in attracting people to our church we need to stop and ask: Why? Tradition is good as long as tradition is effective. And it doesn’t have to be old to be tradition. Cornerstone has only been around for fourteen years but we already have our own traditions.
It is an unfortunate that many people through the years have gone to hell because ineffective church programs have become sacred cows. And there are times we need to discover that sacred cows make the best hamburgers.
Every program, every custom, every tradition and every facility must be examined from time to time to make sure they are still doing the primary function and objective and that has been, and should remain to be glorifying God and bringing a lost and dying world to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
And sometimes it takes a disappointment in a program before we make a change. And sometimes it takes a disappointment in your job for you to evaluate your position and your performance. And sometimes it takes a disappointment with your children to adjust your child rearing techniques.
We have to be able to recognize those disappointments and instead of whining, adjust.
4) Disappointments are Pace Setters. Often after a professional athlete has injured them self they return to their sport too soon only to discover that the injury still hurts. Although the pain is a disappointment it is essential to set the proper pace for the athlete’s development and complete healing.
At first they are disappointed because their fastball isn’t as fast as it used to be, their slap shot isn’t a hard as it used to be and their jump shot isn’t as high as it used to be. But it will essentially through time and care eventually heal to pre-injury capabilities.
But sometimes there is a physical healing but not a mental healing. When I was a teenager I owned a horse, a fact of which my daughter constantly reminded me of usually with words like “How come I can’t have a horse you used to?” To which I reminded her that my horse was a free horse, at least that was the initial cost, as my father is fond of reminding me. The reason Extra Time was a free horse was because he was a standard bred race horse who had been hurt. In 1972 his best time was 2:08 for a mile but during a race he stumbled and fell and pulled his chest muscles. The vets claimed that he was completely healed but he never got his speed back. Why? Because he had been hurt and was afraid he would get hurt again. Sound familiar.
Sometimes we get hurt emotionally or spiritually and we never get over the disappointment and we don’t ever grow any further.
In the growth cycle of a church, they usually grow, plateau, grow, plateau and so on. Plateaus will always be disappointing and sometimes if not corrected will become a downward trend. But the reason that churches plateau is that it’s pace setting. If a church grows too fast for too long they get out of balance and become top heavy with new Christians. But after a church takes the time to disciple and assimilate those people they are ready to grow again. What was a disappointment actually helps in their growth.
5) Disappointments are Necessary I love good weather, hot and sunny is perfect for me. The year we moved to Australia we had 93 days without seeing a cloud. I thought I was in Paradise. The result of that beautiful weather? The grass got brown, the flowers died, the water supply got low, the farmers of Queensland weren’t nearly as impressed with the weather as I was. Nature cannot survive as we know it without rain.
In the 1970’s there was a song out the lyrics were “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden, along with the sunshine there has to be a little rain sometimes.” And such is life. For total complete full development we need to have different types of experiences come our way. There is no way we can exhibit the fruit of maturity in our life without the rain of disappointment. A land without rain is called a desert.
Some of life’s greatest virtues: faith, hope, patience and perseverance only come our way through disappointment. Only then will you discover that every problem has a solution. Only when you have met with disappointment and overcome it will you develop the ingredients in your character to seek a solution instead of being perplexed by the problem.
6) Disappointments are Normal Don’t take disappointments personally. Our normal reaction is “Why?” or “How could this happen to me?”
When things go wrong it doesn’t mean that God’s out to get you. That’s life, disappointments happened. But disappointments do not have a negative or a positive impact in themselves. Instead it is our reaction to those disappointments that make them either negative or positive.
2 people can have exactly the same disappointment and end up with two completely different outcomes. It is how we handle our disappointments that will determine our success. Some people are motivated by Disappointments; others are destroyed by their disappointments. How you act and react to life and it’s many disappointments usually indicates who you are and what you can become. Henry Ward Beecher stated “Ones best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” You don’t have to guess how he dealt with disappointments.
I wonder if Mario Andretti the race car driver ever had to face disappointments? I wonder if he ever lost a race? Listen to what he said “Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”
How do you view disappointments? As stepping stones or as stumbling blocks? Do they strengthen your faith or weaken your faith? Do they draw you nearer to God or push you farther away from God? The choice is yours and yours alone.
Let’s go back to our story Joshua 1:2-3 God said “Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you.”
I don’t know what disappointments you are facing today but I’d like to pray for you.

The Active Decision

 The entire world just disappeared. One minute it was there and the next minute, there it was gone. Well not really but it seemed like everything else had ceased to exist, and all there was left was Peter, the sea and Christ. It had started off as another boat trip across the Sea of Galilee for the twelve while Jesus stayed behind, it was a beautiful evening, with a star filled sky and then bang, a storm blew up from nowhere. What was it that Yogi Berra said, “It was like deja vu all over again.” Peter remembered another boat trip across the same stretch of water when a storm had blown up and threatened to swamp their boat. The difference being that this time there was no Jesus to stand in the bow and rebuke the wind.

 And so the disciples desperately struggled against the storm as they made their way slowly across the lake. A short trip soon turned into an epic journey. The daylight had fled in the path of the impending night and the sunset had been a crimson slash across the western sky ushering in a heaven like black velvet studded with chips of diamond. But soon the stars were hidden by an increasing number of clouds and the wind whipped the shallow depths of Galilee into a boiling cauldron of froth. They were bow into the wind and it seemed that every metre had to be fought for and bought with a price. But they had been through worse and survived, after all they made their living on the sea, but it was a lot more fun without the gale force winds.

 Then it happened they’re struggling at the oars, they’d had to pull the main sail down to keep it from being torn to shreds, and somebody said “what is that?” Well talk about freak city. There was somebody walking out there. No there couldn’t be he had to be in a boat, nope there wasn’t any boat, “it’s a ghost” somebody yelled, and well there wasn’t a great deal of time for consultation it would appear that was the consensus. What next? First they were battling for their lives in a storm, now they have a ghost walking on the water? When Peter had said earlier “cheer up, things could be worse” he didn’t entirely expect things to get worse. Well there was only one thing left to do. So they did it, they screamed, in fear. But a familiar voice came across the water saying Matthew 14:27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” It was Jesus, and I’m sure that Peter was thinking “I hate it when he does stuff like this” I kind of like the N.K.J.V. translation here because Jesus say’s “be of good cheer”. Oh, no problem. We’ve been in a storm that been threatening to sink us for the past seven hours, we’re wet and we’re cold, and now out of nowhere a dude walks across the water and says “hey guys cheer up” not a problem. But then he qualifies his first statement by adding, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Pretty stiff translation if you ask me, picture a carpenter saying “take courage! It is I. don’t be afraid” how about “hey guys, it’s me and I’ve got everything under control”

 Well I don’t know about the rest of the disciples but Peter believed him because he stands up and shouts into the wind, Matthew 14:28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Tell you what that is a Peter statement if I ever heard one. Well you know the rest of the story don’t you, Jesus says “yes, come,” and Peter crawls over the gunwales of the boat puts one foot on the water, not in the water but on the water, tests it puts his other foot on the water and starts to walk toward Jesus. I wonder what he was thinking. There’s spray blowing in his face, the waves are slapping against his legs and he’s – walking – on – the – water. Hot diggity dog, walking on the water, he can hardly believe it, everything else seems to disappear except for Jesus and the sea and him.

 Now personally I think the devil showed up about that time and whispered in Peter’s ear, “hey dummy, you can’t walk on water you’re going drown.” if Peter was like the majority of commercial fisherman and seaman that I know he couldn’t swim, and had a fairly healthy respect and fear of the sea and suddenly he realized that people don’t walk on water, people walk under water and so the bible tells us that he began to sink, and that’s where we come in.

 We are now week three in our series on the Traveler’s Gift. If you haven’t been with us for the first two weeks or if you have a really short memory let’s come up to speed. I read the book last year, and it became one of my favourite books. The author Andy Andrews is a PK, which is a term affectionately applied to preacher’s kids, we have several in our congregation. When Andrews was 19 years old his mother died of cancer and his father died in a car accident, in his own words “I took a bad situation and made it much worse.” Within two years Andrews was homeless and living under a pier. It was there that he started reading biographies of men and women he admired and asked the question “Is life just a lottery ticket, or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” And he came to the conclusion that there were 7 decisions that successful people made that impacted their lives.

 He later wrote the novel “The Traveler’s Gift”, where the hero of the story David Ponder visits with 7 historic figures who each provided a gift in the form of a letter to Ponder. The first gift was from President Harry Truman who encouraged Ponder to accept responsibility for the choices he had made in his life. It is the responsible decision or understanding that we are where we are in life because of choices we have made. Clear back to the choice you made in grade school to work hard at your school work and pay attention or not.

 The second gift came from King Solomon who encouraged our hero to choice wisdom. And so last week we looked at where we receive wisdom from. From books, from others and from God. It is the guided decision.

 And in a flash, David Ponder leaves Solomon’s throne room and appears on July 2, 1863 at Little Round Top. It is the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg and Ponder meets Colonel Joshua Chamberlain a 34 year old school teacher from Bangor Maine, who is commanding the 20th Maine a volunteer unit in the Union army.

 Two years previous we are told there had been over a 1000 men under Chamberlain’s command when they left Bangor Maine. But by 1863 the numbers had been reduced to a few hundred who had been commanded to hold the line at Little Round Top against the advancing 15th & 47th Alabama regiments. After repelling the advancing Alabamian’s five times there were fewer than 100 left with Chamberlain, and they were without ammunition. Some of his junior officers recommended surrendering but Chamberlain had been told how vital that position was to the Union defence. And so he commanded his men to fix their bayonets and he led the charge against the enemy position. And the remaining 80 members of the 20th Maine, armed only with bayonets captured over 400 heavily armed confederate soldiers.

 Chamberlain would later remark “Later, I felt sorry for my men. Their leader had no real knowledge of warfare or tactics. I was only a stubborn man, and that was my great advantage in this fight. I had, deep within me, the inability to do nothing.”

 We are told by historians that Chamberlain’s actions were key in the Union army’s victory at Gettysburg and that Gettysburg was the turning point in the War Between the States and all because Joshua Chamberlain refused to give in and instead took action. And so today we look at “The Active Decision”

 Matthew 14:24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.

 1) The Situation Everyone one of us finds ourselves in perilous situations from time to time. In Joshua Chamberlain’s case it was a battle he could not win, in Peter’s case it was a storm over which he had no control. I don’t know what your storm is and maybe you are not in a storm right now, but you have been in the past or you will be in the future. We need to realize that storms will come in each of our lives whether we are Christians or not, storms of illness, unemployment, financial set back, martial strife or death. Christ never promised us that our life would be a stroll in the park.

 Some of those storms are brought on by ourselves. If Jonah had of been obedient then he would never have ended up in his particular storm. If you smoke and end up with lung cancer you have no one to blame but yourself, don’t stand demanding “God, how could you do this to me?” You cheat on your spouse and they leave you, that’s a storm of your own making. You don’t do your job right and get sacked. We need to recognise that some storms are our fault; nobody is to blame but us.

 Some storms are caused by Satan, take for example in Job 1:19 the storm that killed job’s family was directly attributable to Satan. The mobs that attacked the early church in the book of Acts, the crucifixion of Christ all storms caused by the devil. But sometimes we give the devil too much credit and we credit him with things that just happen. A family that I grew up with lost their nine year old son when a mud bank where he was digging a cave collapsed on him, you lose your job because of a poor economic climate in the country, you or a loved one gets cancer. We need to realize that sometimes bad things just happen and that is just the way it is.

 Some storms come from God or he sends us into them. In John’s account of this story he tells us a little bit about what went on before Jesus sent the disciples out in their boat. In John 6:14-15 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

 Perhaps Jesus knew that the disciples would spend the night talking about what it would be like if their boss became king, and if that was the case then just maybe they were being kept busy in the storm to get their minds off those things. Sometimes a storm is our safest place because it demands all of our attention, and energies, and keeps us from giving into temptation. My dad told me about being in a little fishing boat as a teenager with his father when a sudden storm blew up, he was bemoaning the fact that they had to be at sea and how much nicer it would be on land and my grandfather told him “oh you wouldn’t want to be ashore now, it’d be too dangerous a tree could blow over and kill you. No we are much safer here.”

 And sometimes it takes a storm for us to step out of our comfort zone and do something great.

 And so there they are, in the storm, alone and struggling for their very lives. Their thoughts probably went back to the last time this happened. Maybe Andrew said “hey guys, do you remember back in Matthew 8:23 when this happened and Jesus stopped the storm” and they reminded him that was fine but where was Jesus now. And so the discussion went, made up of little jerks of conversation between waves. Maybe they decided that they must be out of the will of God, because that’s they only time that bad things happen to believers is when they are out of the will of God or when there is unforgiven sin in their lives right? Hardly. But the question must have been in their hearts if not on their lips, “where is he?”

 Well when Mark wrote his account of the story he added this insight, Mark 6:46-48 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them,

 Must have been one of those God things, because it was dark and they were in the middle of the lake. I mean the Sea of Galilee isn’t that big but it’s still between four and seven miles to the middle depending on where you stand, not many people have that kind of eyesight. They may have thought that they were alone but he was there all along. And when the storms come in our life we’re not alone either. But sometimes it seems like Jesus waits until the night is at its darkest to show up, and maybe it is, or maybe we’ll never know how dark the night might have got if he hadn’t shown up, or maybe it was simply because he doesn’t always follow our timetable that it seems like he’s not on time. How often are we guilty of praying “Lord grant me patience and grant it now”?

 Whatever the reason it wasn’t until the fourth watch and that’s between three and six in the morning that Christ finally got to the boat. And were they thankful? No they freaked. I’m sure that they wanting rescuing, but they wanted to be rescued their way. They saw Christ walking on the water and they thought it was a ghost. Now I realize that it’s very easy for us to laugh and say “a ghost, how silly can you get?” I don’t know I think I’d have some serious doubts if I saw somebody walking on the water in the middle of a storm.

 Matthew 14:28-29 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.

2) The Action

 Can I ask you a question? Sure I can, after all I’m up here right? When was the last time you took a risk? Any risk, outside of driving in the city? When was the last time you took a business risk? When was the last time you took a personal risk? When was the last time you took a spiritual risk? When was the last time you got out of the comfy little boat that you call life and took a risk? You probably used to do it a lot more when you were younger didn’t you? It seems like the older we get the more comfortable the boat seems and the more dangerous the storm looks. But life is about taking risks, it shouldn’t be about playing it safe. After all the secret is not who gets the most years in their life but who gets the most life in their years. Maybe Charles Lindbergh said it best when he made this statement, “I decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary lifetime. . . Who valued life more highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or the misers who doled it out like pennies through their antlike days”.

 You say “Preacher Peter really didn’t take a risk” oh really? Bet the other eleven guys thought he was taking a risk, notice that they didn’t get out of the boat.

 Every note worthy contribution every made to society has started out as an action and ultimately was a risk. Beginning with Adam and eve deciding that maybe cooked meat might not be so bad and trying to figure out how to go about harnessing fire, right up to and including space travel and beyond. Human progress entails risk taking. It’s easy to play it safe, but it’s not profitable. Peter wasn’t the only person in the bible to take a risk. Think about how different our bible would be if Abraham had said no when he was asked to leave everything he had to pursue the vision of a great nation. That’s a risk when you are told that you will be the father of a nation when you aren’t even the father of a child.

 What would have happened if Noah had of decided to play it safe and not become a boat builder in his old age? And if David decided that tending sheep had a better future then fighting giants? What if Daniel realized that it was safer to obey the king’s command then to pray? And if Mary had of told the angel that she really wasn’t interested in being a teen age mom because she didn’t want to take the risk? What if Jesus had of come to the conclusion that there was a brighter future in being a carpenter then being a messiah? Or if he hadn’t wanted to take the risk of coming to earth at all?

 If the apostles had of decided that it was too risky to leave Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit had come, would we still be painting our bodies and living in trees? If Columbus hadn’t taken a risk on the earth not being flat would England and Europe be very crowded now and the North America still belong to the original owners. If Luther hadn’t taken a chance would we all still have a pope? If Wesley hadn’t taken a chance would we still have an archbishop?

 If Henry Ford hadn’t taken a risk would we still be riding horses? If Edison hadn’t taken a risk would we still be reading by candles? If Alexander Graham Bell hadn’t taken a risk would we be living without the telephone?

 The face of the earth and the scope of human history has been changed by those who were willing to get out of the boat. Now I know that we can’t all be Fords and Edison’s but everyone of us has the ability to change our world. Every one of us has the ability to leave a mark with our life. I remember reading once “if you want to put your life into perspective put your finger into a bucket of water and then pull it out, that is the difference that your being here will make” and I am here to say that is wrong, wrong, wrong. The world is what it is today not because of what society has done but because of what individual people have done. And in doing it they have had to get out of their boat and walk on water.

 Matthew 14:28-31 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

 3) The Consequences You understand that it was only when Peter took his eyes off Jesus that things got out of hand. The tight rope walker Tino Wallenda said “When I walk the wire I must concentrate definitely on the other side. I keep my eyes straight ahead. If I start to look over to the audience or watch somebody underneath me there is a good possibility I could lose my balance.” In life we need to keep our eyes on the goal and in our Christian walk we need to keep our eyes on Christ. It’s when we start watching people that we loose the balance we need to keep going. And so Peter starts to sink and I love what he says, “Lord save me” no fancy prayer there. “Oh great and awesome Lord, creator of all things, that which is in the sea and that which is above the sea, I beseech thee to reach forth thy almighty hand and save this unworthy yet needful sinker” the man would have drown if he had of prayed like that.

 Now notice that Jesus took time to save the sinker before he rebuked the doubter. Didn’t point a finger of accusation instead he extended a hand of assistance. Take that as an example and when a brother or sister in our congregation begins to sink, for what ever reason, don’t stand there and criticize, help them.

 When Jesus said “O you of little faith” he was acknowledging that Peter had some faith. Peter was ready to do something great with Jesus. And he did he walked on water. I don’t know how far he walked on water but it doesn’t matter what matters is that he walked on water.

 But understand this: before he sank he did what no other man had done before and what no other man has done since he walked on the water. And after Jesus reached out his hand, well he had to get back to the boat somehow so I suspect that he walked back. And all in all I think that if I had my druthers I’d druther be a wet believing Peter, then a dry doubting Thomas. And Peter was never rebuked for trying.

 Are you ready to take a risk? To live life the way that Christ intended it? Remember 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.

 Can you honestly say that you have been living your life to the fullest? You need to take life by the throat and make an impact. Your goal isn’t to live long it’s to live, it’s not how many years you get in your life but how much life you get in your years. Don’t listen to the whines of those who have settled for a second rate life and want you to do the same. It is up to you to make the choice, will you choose to act or to stand still and watch life go by? Let me close with a quote by Thomas Jefferson who said “I’m a great believer in luck; and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”



Penn of Denn

Last Friday morning, I heard a radio newscaster state, ” The world is mourning the loss of the king of pop!” Wow, I thought, I must be a horrible person, if the entire world was mourning the death of Michael Jackson and I wasn’t feeling bad at all. So I checked with friends in the States, Australia, Ukraine and Ghana and they assured me that they weren’t in mourning either. So I guess it wasn’t the whole world.

We mourn those who have made a difference in our lives, those who we will miss because they are gone. While there are many friends and family members who will rightfully mourn the death of Jackson, to say that complete strangers will mourn him is a little bizarre. Their lives were the same on Friday, as they were on Thursday. They didn’t get up and wonder how they would face life now that Michael was gone.
It’s amazing how we cheapen words and emotions.

Our emotional capacity is not infinite and if we expend it mourning people who have no direct connection to our lives, I wonder what we will have left for those who matter in our lives? Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.