Who’s Watching the Garden?

Imagine if you will that you own a beautiful and lavish home, not a far stretch for most of us here who live in a style that the majority of the world can only imagine, but I digress. Imagine if you will that you owned a beautiful and lavish home, a home that you had designed and built yourself. You didn’t hammer every nail and lay all the carpet but you had watched and supervised and hammered the occasional nail and picked out the cabinets and the flooring and the colours. And you truly loved your home, I don’t know if there is a home as loved as the one you actually have a hand in building. But the day comes that you decide that for whatever reason that the time had come to become a landlord instead of a homeowner. Perhaps you had built a nicer home, or maybe you had moved to another location but for whatever reason you decide that you will rent out your beautiful home.
So you find a tenant, you check their references, discuss the terms of the lease, get your damage deposit equal to half of the monthly rent and sign the lease. As you are leave you tell the tenant, “Enjoy”.
The time finally comes that your tenant is moving out; perhaps you decide you want to live in the house again or maybe they are simply moving for whatever reason. So you come back to your house to move in and you can’t believe your eyes, your beautiful lavish home has been trashed, literally trashed.
There is garbage all over what had once been a beautifully landscaped lawn, the front door is hanging off the hinges, you go in and can’t believe what has happened to the house that you had designed and built with so much care. The hardwood floor is gouged and scratched, from the multiple cigarette burns it looks like it has been used as an ash tray, and your tenants had promised they didn’t smoke. If the bathroom had ever seen cleaner or a sponge it was only a passing acquaintance, you can’t even tell what the colour of the original fixtures were.
There are holes in the walls, the screens have been torn and it would appear that people had swung from the light fixtures. The house was permeated with the stench of garbage and filth and you knew in your heart of hearts that no matter what you did that your beautiful lavish home would never be the same again.
In anger you confront your former tenant and they look at you blankly as if they don’t see the problem and they tell you, “I was paying rent so I assumed I could do what I wanted. After all, wasn’t it mine as longer as I was paying you to live there?” You start to sputter, your eyes bulge out and homicidal thoughts race through your mind. You reach out to place your fingers around the neck of this inconsiderate lout when they say “But hey, you can keep the damage deposit.” And they walk away whistling.
How would you feel? Would you agree with them that they had indeed paid their rent on time each month and that by allowing you to keep the damage deposit that everything should be all right? By virtue of renting did they have the right to do whatever they wanted to while they lived in your home?
Of course not. There was a certain understanding either written or implied that they were not to intentionally damage your home and were to return it to you in close to the same condition that they had received it.
I don’t know how many of you know my son, he is a 25 year old artist, still at the idealistic age that he believes that he can change the world and a fervent environmentalist. A while back we were having a discussion; discussion is a good word, over big business, development, internal combustion engines and our society’s reliance on fossil fuels. And in the midst of one of his discourses he challenged me, his father, to take responsibility for the mess the world was in. Can you imagine? And then he said something to the effect of “You say you serve and love God but how can you allow them to do what they do to His creation?” I sputtered out a response and he replied by saying “Why don’t you use your influence to do something?” You can tell he is an idealist by assuming that I have that much influence.
Although on my bulletin board I have a quote by that great American philosopher George Carlin who said “I have as much influence as the Pope just fewer people believe it.”
My response was “Well I’ve preached on the environment.” To which he replied “Must have been after I left.” I didn’t even know he was paying attention. So I went back through my messages and sure enough I hadn’t, felt kind of bad. Then I discovered that I wasn’t alone. I am a contributor to a website called sermoncentral.com. It is a place that depending on your scruples you can use it to research messages or to plagiarize messages. I use it for research, my commitment to you is that other people may preach my messages but I don’t preach other people’s messages. As I told one colleague, some of us have to keep writing them if the rest of you are going to keep stealing them, but I digress.
So I went to Sermon Central and did a search in their data base of 150,000 sermons for environment and didn’t get any hits, I was a little disappointed, then I realized that I had spelled environment wrong. So I spelled it right and hit search and out of the 150,000 messages I got 12 hits and 7 of those sermons had titles like “Remaining Encouraged In A Discouraging Environment”, “How To Create A Safe Environment” and “How to Survive Working in a Hostile Environment”. Out of a 150,000 messages there were 5 messages on the environment.
Apparently most evangelical preachers share Dan Quayle philosophy, he said “It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”
So I got to thinking about our responsibility to God and the world he has allowed us to occupy. If we go back to Genesis 1:27-28 We read: So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” And in those two verses humanity became tenants in the beautiful home that God had created. And to quote Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility”.
Some people have developed an entire cult around the protection of mother earth, kind of an Eco-Theology and have begun to worship the creation instead of the creator, and that is wrong. Number 2 of the 10 commandments is given to us in Exodus 20:4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. Unfortunately for too many people the heavens, earth and sea have become idols. People miss out on the fact that there is a creator who is to be worshipped.
The opposite of that are those who believe that we have been given absolute dominion. In other words it has been given to us to use as we see fit and if that means that at the end of the game it is gone while so be it, after all we have been promised a new heaven and a new earth at the end of the story. They often will go back to the promise in Genesis 8:22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night. For them that is evidence that as hard as we might try to use it up or destroy it that the word of God promises that the earth will be around as long as we need it, and then who cares.
But really what does it say about our view of our creator when we are intent on destroying that which he created. My son is an artist through the years he has give me various pieces of art that he has created, and if I destroyed one of those paintings or ripped up one of his drawings because it was mine to do with as I like what would that say to Stephen? Would it say “I love you and appreciate what you have done for me?” I think not.
The third option is something called Creation Care, which sounds really cool but simplified it puts creation and the environment at an equal priority with the salvation of humanity. So when Jesus said in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. Now we usually understand that to mean: John 3:16 “For God loved the (people of the) world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” But this philosophy would say that this scripture is not to be seen the way we would traditionally interpret it But instead it should be seen more along the line of John 3:16 “For God loved the world (the earth) so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And with that it puts all of creation, all of nature, every species on earth on equal footing with humanity. And that’s not what we are taught in scripture. Let’s go back to the scripture that was read for us earlier Psalm 8:4-6 what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority.
And then we have Genesis 9:2-3 All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.
Face, it if God hadn’t wanted us to eat cows he wouldn’t have made them taste so good. Although I think deer hunting would be a lot more fun if the deer got guns as well.
So I think I lean more toward a Global Stewardship model. This is where we are not only in charge of our environment but have a responsibility to respect it. Carl F. Henry once offered this sage observation: “Scripture does not set forth specific lines of ecological action, which may vary with time and place. But it does adduce fixed principles that indicate that God was not content to create a chaotic wasteland but rather a habitable universe and that he expects his designated stewards to maintain it that way.”
Let’s go back to Genesis 1:27-28 We read: So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” The word that people try to define is translated “Reign over” in the NLT and ‘Rule over” in the NIV in the KJV it is translated “Have Dominion over” in the original Hebrew it is רָדָה or rādâ and it can mean any or all of those things. The interesting thing is that is the same word that is used in Psalm 72:8 May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Or maybe you are more familiar with it in the old King James Version Psalm 72:8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. It was from that scripture that the name The Dominion of Canada came from.
And so the scriptures do not lay out specific guidelines for how we are to protect our earth, thou shalt not drive hummers and thou shalt separate thine garbage. The implication is there that if we are to be it’s ruler we are to be a benevolent ruler. And the question might be: why? And the answer is: because it’s not ours. Never was and never will be we are merely tenant, some of us might have a longer lease than others but ultimately it will all go back to the owner. God.
And so we should take care of it for Our Own Sake. For a minute let’s go back to our original analogy, a house. If you don’t take care of the house you live in eventually it begins to affect the quality of your life. The roof begins to leak, the wind blows through the cracks, insects begin to breed and take over. After all bugs love dirt and damp. You ever watch the program Extreme Makeover? Some of those homes are poor and spotless; you can tell that the occupants take pride in what little they have. Others are dives, dumps and it has nothing to do with the fact the folks are poor and hard done by they just don’t care. I think they should do another program called Extreme Makeover: Two Years Later, and see what those new big beautiful homes look like.
We need to take care of this planet because we have to live here, that’s the bottom line, we have to drink the water and we have to breathe the air.
And if that isn’t enough, if it sound slightly self serving to just do it for our sakes we need to do it For Our Kids Sake Going back to our original analogy if you knew that the house you were living in you kids were going to live in and their kids were going to live in would it make a difference to how you treated it? If you knew that you weren’t just responsible for the house while you occupied it would you take better care of it?
People are always commenting on higher rates of cancer and Alzheimer’s today then there used to be and they may very well have a point. And I wonder if it has to do with the amount of garbage that was dumped into the environment over the past century? Those of you old enough will remember what happened with the “Love Canal” in Niagara Falls NY, and closer to home the Sydney Tar Ponds and even closer with the Halifax Harbour. And while we can’t change the past hopefully we can change the future.
Bacteriologist Rene Dubos said “The most important pathological effects of pollution are extremely delayed and indirect.” We are not just poisoning this generation but also the next one. Most of us are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and well being of our children and grand children. But are we willing to change how we live. And I know pollution and disregard for the environment isn’t a new problem and we’ve come a long way from open sewers and garbage in the streets and if you don’t believe that than travel with me to Africa or with Robin and Beth to Haiti. But we still need to get better at doing better.
And finally we need to change how we deal with the world For God’s Sake If we go back to the original analogy of the house someday the owner is going to want it back and what will we say? I mean seriously what will we say? Each of those species that humanity has driven into extinction God created for a purpose and with the same thought he put into you. Every river that is now clogged with garbage and chemicals was created pure and pristine. It goes back to how we treat the creation is a reflection on how we view the creator.
And maybe part of the problem is when we lost sight of the command in Genesis 1:27-28 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” The command was to fill the world not just the cities.
American author Henry Miller wrote “What have we achieved in mowing down mountain ranges, harnessing the energy of mighty rivers, or moving whole populations about like chess pieces, if we ourselves remain the same restless, miserable, frustrated creatures we were before? To call such activity progress is utter delusion. We may succeed in altering the face of the earth until it is unrecognizable even to the Creator, but if we are unaffected wherein lies the meaning?”
So what am I calling you to do? Just be responsible, separate your trash, don’t litter, personally I think people who litter should be publicly flogged but that is just me. Choose wisely. I’m not the greatest environmental example but we do drive small cars that get great mileage, I think hummers and escalades are just dumb, sorry if you drive one but they are. We have water savers on our showers, I try not to idle my car like I used to, we have programmable thermostats and have been replacing our lights with CFLs, little things can make a big difference.
Do I believe the ice caps are melting and the polar bears are drowning, not sure. I do know the past few winters haven’t been any warmer nor have the summers.
Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg and I read this in a recent article he wrote “Over 30 years ago Roger Pocklington approached me about weather conditions in eastern arctic Canada. Roger was an oceanographer studying water temperatures from Newfoundland to Bermuda. He reported they were falling. He was welcome at conferences because it fit the consensus of the day, global cooling. Temperatures in eastern arctic Canada had declined for over thirty years and resulted in a cooler Labrador Current. Colder denser water was pushing farther south. We determined this would impact the cod fisheries of the Grand Banks, but nobody would listen. Roger was also ignored because he continued to record and report cooler temperatures but the politics of climate change had switched to global warming.”
So what I’m saying is this, we are only tenants and managers and we are ultimately responsible for how we treat what has been given to us. And it was Albert Einstein who said “It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.”
Time and time again in the New Testament Jesus tells us parables of servants who were trusted with money, talents and properties that acted foolishly and wasted that which they were entrusted with and in each case they were condemn. Not excused not commended but condemned for not doing the best with what they were given by their master. Interesting.

Look Up, Way Up!

Did you see the space station fly overhead last Tuesday night? It was really cool! It was a gorgeous night; not a cloud in the sky, a zillion stars overhead and right on cue, the International space station arrived chasing the shuttle across the evening sky.

As Angela, Ruth and I stood staring up at the night sky, marvelling at the sight, a teenager came shuffling up the road, hoodie up, eyes down and ipod turned up. Wanting to share the experience, I pointed into the sky and shouted, “look the space station!”

The kid lifted his head and looked at me like I was a doddering old fool and I am by no means doddering and then resumed staring at the ground and kept right on shuffling.

I thought: how often are we so consumed with the ordinary, that we can’t lift our eyes to heaven? I’m assuming, that whatever the kid was listening to could have been paused and he would have been rewarded with a sight that he might never see again. His loss, but what do we miss while we are plugged into work or worry or whatever and don’t take the time to hit pause?

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


It Was a Cushy Job.

Comfortable, Challenged

 It was a cushy job. And he knew it. It was probably the best job in the kingdom and he was well aware of how lucky he was to have it. Work wasn’t always easy to find especially when you were a foreigner. Most of his friends worked as labourers, and in unskilled positions. Even those who had followed a professional pathway found a lot of doors closed because of their race or religion.

 There had always been those barriers, and stumbling blocks but he had risen above then. Pulled himself by his own boot straps so to speak and made good. A real rags to riches story. And he never let a day go by without thanking God for being where he was.

 It was a cushy job. And he knew it. It meant that he didn’t have to work in the hot sun, that he never had to worry about going hungry or having no place to sleep at night. It meant security for his family; it meant having a comfortable place to live, and plenty to eat. And he really didn’t relish the thoughts of disrupting his life at all. It was a cushy job. And he knew it and he wasn’t going to let anything ruin the good thing he had going.

 His name was Nehemiah, and the bible tells us in Nehemiah 1:11 that he was cupbearer to the king. And while that might not mean much to us, it meant a lot to Nehemiah. You see it really was a cushy job, he did exactly what his title implied he did, and he carried the king’s cup. In a time when kings were deposed in a much more permanent way, then what happened to Stéphane Dion there was always a fear that one might find oneself drinking strychnine wine. Thus you had a cupbearer whose job it was to ensure that your cup was not hazardous to your health. He carried that cup with him everywhere he went, it never left his sight and he could always reassure the king that when his drinks were poured that there would be nothing wrong with the cup.

 Now the only drawback with the job was that Nehemiah always got to have the first drink out of the cup, just in case. But being an optimist Nehemiah’s outlook was “so far, so good.” Nehemiah had it made, and he knew it.

 1) He Was Comfortable

 It’s very easy to get comfortable in this life, and very easy to get comfortable as a church. You’ve seen those churches that get settled into their little niche, the offerings are holding steady, the preachers doing alright, the building is almost paid off, why rock the boat. They’ve gotten into a rut, and you know as well as I do what a rut is? It’s just a grave with both ends kicked out. They are comfortable but they really aren’t doing anything for the kingdom, all they are doing is putting in time.

 When Apple computer’s co-founder Steve Jobs approached John Sculley vice president of Pepsi about coming on board with Apple as chairman of the company he asked him the question “Are you content to spend your life selling fizzy water or do you want to change the world?”

 And so we have to ask ourselves do we want to spend our life playing church or do we want to change the world. Do we want to stay comfortable? Right now we have moved into the comfort zone. We have been in our new building for almost four years, as a matter of fact four years ago on this date the building looked something like this and on this date four years ago the number of people who worshipped with us that Sunday was 38. We are known and respected in the community; we are seeing new people come out on a regular basis. We can settle back now we have it made.

 It was a cushy church and they knew it. It’s easy to get comfortable, I’ve told you this before but in one of my previous churches we had a man who was a very Godly man, and yet when we talked about building he was opposed because we had enough room in the church for everyone who came. And he couldn’t understand why parking needed to be expanded; after all he had a parking spot. He didn’t realize that you would never need the space you didn’t have.

 And then one day, into Nehemiah’s comfortable little life came an interruption. His brother had just come back from Jerusalem and in passing time Nehemiah asked in Nehemiah 1:2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. He was just passing time, you know you run into somebody from the old home town and you say “how’s everybody doing?” You don’t really care but it is the proper thing to do. “Hi, how are you? Oh really and everybody in the old neighbourhood? Good, good.” You know how it’s done but this time instead of hearing that everything was going just fine he was in for a shock because what his brother told him was Nehemiah 1:3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

 2) He Was Challenged Now to be frank that wasn’t what our hero wanted to hear, he wanted to hear that everything was going alright. But that wasn’t the story. In fact the story was just the opposite, things were going rotten. And that got to Nehemiah, he may well have been living in exile, and living the life of Riley, so to speak, but he was still a Jew at heart and Jerusalem was still his spiritual home, and to hear about the tragedy surrounding those who had chosen to return to Jerusalem broke his heart. His reaction is recorded in Nehemiah 1:4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

 Nehemiah was upset, the news shook him, probably if he had of stopped to think about it before he would have realized that was what was happening but he had never stepped out of his comfort zone before long enough to be concerned about anything except for his own welfare.

 And then God intrudes into our comfort zone to remind us that there are men and women, boys and girls out there who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and that they are going to die and go to hell, and then he has the nerve to remind us of Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 And so we discover that we aren’t alone in our cushy little church, playing religion and having a good time, but that we have a purpose for being here. You see the very things that make our church comfortable make our church grow. We’re not here simply as a comfort club for the saints we are here to make a difference. The greatest definition I’ve ever seen of Christians was given by the religious leaders in Thessalonica who dragged the Christians to the city rulers and in Acts 17:6
we read the charges “Paul and Silas have turned the rest of the world upside down, and now they are here disturbing our city,” they shouted. When was the last time our church was referred to as “those who have turned the world upside down?” And we need to grasp the reality of hell, and the reality of eternal damnation and that there are men and women, friends and relatives, spouses and children who are destined for a Christ less eternity. And when that happens then like Nehemiah we will sit down and weep, we will fast and mourn.

 And so in his concern Nehemiah began to pray and began to ask God, “Why don’t you do something?” But the problem didn’t go away, and it weighed down Nehemiah’s spirit, and this normal happy go lucky guy began to look down and act down, until even his boss noticed that this wasn’t the same old Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 2:2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”
Hey Nehemiah what’s wrong? How come you look like your puppy died? And Nehemiah explained the entire thing to the king, because when you are concerned about something you like to spread the concern around. Maybe you think that the load will lighten if you make some other people feel guilty as well. And so Nehemiah poured out his heart to the king. And the king did something totally unspiritual; instead of asking “what is God going to do about this?” he asked “What do you want me to do about this?”

 And so Nehemiah gave a typical Christian response and said “let me pray about it.” As if he hadn’t already been praying about it for five months. And so while the scriptures don’t give us a complete description of the conversation that Nehemiah had with God we can only presume that it went somewhere along the lines of “God, it’s me Nehemiah, ah look the king wants to know what he should do about Jerusalem. It’s like a real answer to prayer; you know when I prayed that you would call up somebody to fix the walls around Jerusalem. I’m really glad that you answered the prayer, so like what do you want the king to do? You want him to give me some time off? Sure like I could always use a vacation but what do you want the king to do concerning the walls of Jerusalem? You want him to give me some time off so I can go and fix the walls surrounding Jerusalem. God, that isn’t what I had in mind when I prayed that you would call somebody to fix the walls. I mean like what’s wrong with my brother Hanani? Like here am I, send Hanani. Oh, you want me huh?”

 You ever have discussions like that with God? “Hey God why don’t you call somebody to do this?” And the next thing you know he’s saying “Hey no problem, go for it.” “Hey God the church needs x amount of money to relocate, or for a new copier or there is a need for volunteers with the kids or the youth, or whatever, could you please provide it? And he says “I have provided it, now you just have to give it or do it.” “No God, you don’t understand, I wanted somebody else to give it, and somebody else to do it.”

 But Nehemiah bit the bullet and went back to the king and told him Nehemiah 2:5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”
3) He Was Committed I like Nehemiah’s vision at this point, notice he didn’t say he wanted to go look at the wall, or he wasn’t going to pray over the wall, he wasn’t even going to look to see if it could be done. He said that he was going to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, plain and simple.

 “Hey Nehemiah, you ever consider that the job might be too big for you?” “Maybe. But it’s not too big for me and God.” We need to realize that as Christians we don’t function alone, remember Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Doesn’t say “I can do everything by myself” nope, it says Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
And we have to realize that in this life God doesn’t expect us to operate as the Lone Ranger. As God asks us as individuals and corporately, that is as a group to do things, we need to realize that he will never ask us to do anything that he won’t provide us with the ability to do. And so Nehemiah decides that he’s off to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem.

 Now even though Nehemiah had this incredible vision of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and even though Nehemiah had this incredible faith in believing that he could rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And even though Nehemiah seemed to set out to do a seemingly impossible task he was realistic in his goals. Nehemiah 2:6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.

 The bible doesn’t tell us at this point how long Nehemiah set down but if we are willing to jump ahead a bit into Nehemiah 5:14 we discover that all up it took Nehemiah twelve years to complete his task.

 Nehemiah didn’t really plan on doing the job in a week, or a month or even a year. He realized that he had to set a realistic goal. God does perform miracles, there is no doubt about that, and the fact that Nehemiah was able to reconstruct the walls of Jerusalem at all was a miracle, but God often uses men, and women and the talents that they have to perform his miracles.

 As we look at where God wants Cornerstone to be and to go over the next few years we need to not only look at what God can do, but what God can do through us. How much are we willing to do to see the task completed? Nehemiah surrendered twelve years of comfort, twelve years of his “cushy job” twelve years of his life. And because of that willingness God was able to perform a miracle through Nehemiah’s life.

 How willing are we to allow ourselves to be used for miracles? How often are we willing to pay the price? We set the goals, we dream the dreams, we see the visions. But are we willing to go to the mark and say; “Here I am God, I am willing to do whatever go wherever and give however much you ask.” But you know what they saying “When it comes to giving, most people will stop at nothing.” What would happen if we exhibited that desire and commitment in our Christian faith? Miracles? Undoubtedly.

 And so Nehemiah packed up everything he had, piled it on the back of his camel, checked out his BCA (Babylonian Camel Association) road map and struck out across the desert toward Jerusalem. When he got to Jerusalem he looked at the rubble surrounding the gates and walls of the city and after surveying the damage he called a general meeting of the people and told them what God had laid on his heart.

 You gotta realize that God had made it Nehemiah’s vision and Nehemiah’s dreams but he had to share them with the rest of God’s people. God very seldom reveals his will to committees directly. Usually God reveals his plans, and dreams and visions to a leader and it is up to that leader to convey those dreams, plans and visions to God’s people. Throughout the bible we see that principle illustrated, whether it was with Abraham, or Gideon, or David, or Solomon, or Moses, or Daniel. God spoke to an individual and through him the dreams became a reality.

 God lay’s visions on my heart for this congregation and it is up to me to share those visions with you. But don’t feel bad because they didn’t start with you, that doesn’t make them any less yours. It was David’s dream for the tabernacle, and it was Solomon who built it, but it couldn’t have been done without the help of every person that contributed financially, or gave of their time, or of their talents to see that building completed.

 When Nehemiah had shared the burden on his heart to the people of Jerusalem, they responded in Nehemiah 2:18 by saying “Yes! Let’s rebuild the wall!”

  We have just such a challenge ahead of us today. Four years ago when we were getting ready to move into the building I had a couple of concerns 1) How would 40 people pay an $8,000.00 a month mortgage and 2) How pathetic would 40 people look worshipping in this worship centre?

 Over the next year or two we are going to be facing new and bigger challenges. In the past three and a half years the size of our congregation has quintupled, is that a word? If we quintuple over the next 4 years we would be trying to figure out what to do with over 1200 people. But even numerically if we were to grow by the 200 people that we have added since 2005 we would have close to 450 people on a Sunday morning. And if that is going to happen it will require sacrifices on all of our part. How many services will we have to have in order to grow to that point? The two we have now and . . . I don’t know a Saturday evening service? A Sunday evening service?

 At what point will we have to bite the bullet and think about expanding? Don’t tell anyone but we already have at least a tentative concept for an expansion and Jason and I have already spoken to a planner with the city.

 Because what are the options? How many service are feasible and practical. You understand that right now I preach at the 9:00 and the 10:30 and then in the afternoon Angela and I go to the Berkeley and do a third service. Some people are opposed to the church growing, they are afraid we will get too big or will lose our sense of family. So what is the alternative? Do we just put up a sign that tells our community “We are full, so just go away”? And if we believe what we say we believe about peoples need for Jesus would be basically be saying to the community “We are full, so you can go to hell.”

 But if we are committed to reaching our community and touching as many lives as God allows us to touch then eventually we will have to expand. And when that happens the question will be how much are we as a congregation be willing to sacrifice to make that a reality?

 But whatever we decide the bottom line is still, Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.


Save a Life. . . or Two

Penn of Denn

Did you hear about the homeless man in Winnipeg, who jumped into the Red River and saved a drowning victim? Twice! It seems that Faron Hall was on the riverbank last week, when 19 year old Tara Beardy began to struggle with the current after diving into the eight metre deep water. The woman’s cousin, who was unable to swim, realized that she was in trouble and tried to rescue her, but drowned in the attempt. Although Hall was able to rescue Beardy, he wasn’t able to save 32 year old Chris Harper.
It was just this past May, that Hall was involved in a similar incident and was honoured by Mayor Sam Katz after saving a drowning teen. On hearing about the most recent incident, the mayor commented, “To save one person in your lifetime would be a remarkable thing to do, to do it twice within the period of a few months, that’s just … what can you say?”

You may never be able to save someone from drowning, but every one of us, as Christ Followers, has multiple opportunities to plunge in the river of everyday life and save someone’s eternal life, if only we are willing. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


Find Time

Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you been?
“I have been to London to visit the queen”
Pussy cat, pussy cat what did you there?
“I frightened a little mouse right under her chair”

 You ever think about it? Here is a cat that has been given probably the greatest opportunity of his life, the chance to see the queen. To enjoy all the privileges of meeting monarchy. Now I don’t know your opinion of the royal family but most of us are curious enough by nature to jump at a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth and all her children, even if it is morbid curiosity.

 So here is our pussy cat, who for brevity sake we shall call PC. PC has gone to London to see the Queen and when he gets there from his commentary we discover that instead of making the most of the time he had with her he did a very common and instinctive thing. He chased a mouse right under her chair. Not a bad thing, not an evil thing, but given the circumstances probably not the best possible use that he could have given to his time. And yet I am sure that if you spoke to PC that he would tell you that right then that had seemed to be the thing that should be done. After all he was a cat and the mouse was a mouse and tradition, duty and obligation would say that there was indeed some urgency required if he was to catch the mouse.

 And so the tyranny of the urgent took over and robbed PC of his entire purpose of going to see the Queen. From his brief account of his visit this would appear to be the sum total what happened in his encounter with royalty. Not that he did anything wrong, but he sacrificed the best possible use of his time to satisfy his preconceived idea of the necessary.

 I wonder this morning how many of us could testify to having wasted precious moments with the necessary when much greater opportunities lay at hand.

 Let me start with three premises that you may or may not agree with and that is your prerogative completely. The first thing is this; you will always find time to do the things that you want to do. You can believe that or not but at least think about it. When I was in Bible College I could never find time to study, I used to lament about there not being enough hours in the day, sound familiar? Right but I could always find time to take Angela out, or to go to a hockey game, or read a good book, or play monopoly with Peter Fuller, Jeff Turcotte and Allan Mullen until three o’clock in the morning. But there never seemed to be enough time to study.

 The second thing is that you have the same twenty four hours in your day as everybody else, the same twenty four hours that Steven Harper has in his day and Barak Oboma has in his day and they both have countries to run. God doesn’t give some people thirty hour days and other people ten hour days, everyone of us gets twenty four hours in our day, and every hour has sixty minutes in it, and every minute has sixty seconds in it. We all get the same amount of time in our day, but each one of us will determine how we are going to spend those hours.

 Somebody once said “We waste our time as if it were as worthless as money!” You can always make more money but when time is gone it’s gone forever.

 The third is this you cannot make time. All you can do is find time. Time is already made and we can’t make any more of it. All we can do is prioritize how we use time. Each Monday morning I receive an email from Roy Williams who runs an ad agency in Texas; awhile back I received this missive. What would you create if you were given 250, 14-hour days to do it? Would you write a book or screenplay? Study a complex concept? Become fluent in a foreign language? Build a ship in a bottle? It’s been estimated that the average man will spend, in his lifetime, about 3,500 hours shaving. That’s 250, 14-hour days. 

Did you ever notice that the only one of the Seven Dwarfs who shaved was Dopey? This ought to tell us something. 

Each of us has ambitions, dreams and goals we would pursue “if only we had the time.” But we do have the time. We’re just doing something else with it. Like shaving.” 

Williams goes on to say: “When I’m on the road, the two questions I’m most often asked are, 
1. “Where do you find the time to write all those books?” and 
2. “Why do you wear pullover shirts and slip-on shoes and always look like you need a haircut?” No one has yet figured out that the second question answers the first.”

 Williams isn’t trying to convince us to all stop shaving, whatever it is you shave, instead he’s simply illustrating that time is about choices.

 I read prolifically, it is not unusual for me to read a couple of novels a week. And people ask “How do you make the time for that?” I don’t make the time for it, I find the time for it. If I find myself with a minute or two free I pick up a book, when other people watch television I read, while I watch television I read, I have been known to read at red lights. If I have an appointment with you for a coffee and you are late, I read, if I have an appointment to meet you at your house and I am early I will sit out in the car and read. I find the time to do what I love to do.

 Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for every thing in our life. That may seem like a simplistic approach in the crazy world we seem to live in but the word of God tells us that there is time for us to do everything necessary in our life. All we have to do is decide what is important enough for us to find time for. Too many of us are like the lady who had a poem on her refrigerator, some one asked her what it was and she said, “It represents how I need to re-evaluate my life, it starts “Lord, slow me down . . .” but I haven’t had time to read the rest of it.

 Every one of us receives an equal amount of time; the only difference between us is how we choose to spend it. Each week brings us 168 hours, no more, no less, 168 golden hours. We will spend approximately 56 of those hours sleeping, 28 hours eating and attending to our personal needs and another 40 to 50 hours a week earning a living. And that leaves us 30 – 40 hours a week that we get to choose what we want to do. Like our old friend “pussy cat pussy cat” we often permit the urgent things to crowd out the important things in life.”

 How often have you felt like you were madly spinning the plates that make up your life, your work responsibilities, your family responsibilities and personal responsibilities as fast as you can in an effort to keep everything moving, until in exhaustion you just can’t keep the effort up any longer and your world comes crashing down.

 Even our kids are getting stressed out by trying to do too much. Awhile ago one of Angela’s Piano students, a girl probably ten years old at the time told Angela once that she was tired of doing so much, her parents had her enrolled in numerous activities and she looked at Angela and said “I just want to play with the kids next door.” Do you remember that? Just playing with the kids next door? That’s what kids used to do, when we were kids our parents didn’t have us enrolled in a dozen different things there was time in our lives to just play with the kids next door. So what do we do?

 1) In this hurry up world that we live in You Need To Find Time For Yourself. At first glance that seems like a pretty hedonistic statement and I know that some would tell you that we spend too much of our time already for our own benefit and that isn’t what I mean at all. God has made a big investment in your life. He’s made you special. And in creating you and not just making you mundane and ordinary but making you an individual statement of his divine wisdom he has said, “I’m giving you seventy years, more or less and it’s up to you to make an impact on this world.” He felt you were important enough to create you, and you know that God don’t make junk, so don’t blow it.

 I don’t mean that we need to spend time working for ourselves I mean we need time that we are alone with ourselves. In John 6:15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

 There were times in Jesus ministry when he felt the need to be all alone. There are times that we are told that he spent this time alone in prayer but there are other times such as the one above where it just tells us that Jesus went off by himself, no family, no friends no pressing crowds, just Jesus.

 I realise that the reason a lot of people prefer not to be alone is that they don’t like the company. There are those who don’t like themselves very much and so they tend to shy away from spending much time with themselves. So we don’t spend enough time celebrating our specialness. But in this hurry up world we sometimes need to just step back out of the picture and re-examine our life, our goals and where we are heading. There are times that we need to reflect on who we are, and how special we are in the eyes of God.

 a) Find Time To Improve Yourself. Nothing is perfect in the rough. A scraggly old tree can make a beautiful piece of furniture. A piece of dull yellow rock can become an exciting piece of Gold jewellery. A glittering chunk of quartz can become the Hope Diamond. Each one of us is an unpolished diamond, do you believe that? Do you believe that you are special? You owe it to yourself and more importantly you owe it to God to see yourself improved. There is so much to learn in this great world that God has given us.

 Find time to improve yourself through knowledge, you know what they say, “Nobody can call you an old dog as long as you’re learning new tricks.” And along with learning Find the time to perfect that which God has already given you. If you sing you need to be the best singer that God can make you. The same goes for preaching, I hope that I am a better preacher then I was last year. What gifts and skills has God given you? Each of us has been given something special and unique from God it’s up to us to do the best that we can with it.

 b) Find Time To Enjoy Yourself. An anonymous friar in a Nebraska monastery wrote the following late in life I’m sure most of you have heard it: If I had my life to live over I’d like to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual trouble, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones. You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter that I have. If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I would pick more daisies.

 2) Find Time for Others Even though it is important that we find time for ourselves we need to realise that we aren’t’ alone in this world. Nearly four hundred years ago John Donne wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main” there are times when we want to subscribe to being an island when we want to hide in a hole and never come up but if our life is going to be all that it can be then we need to reach out to those around us. But in each of our lives are other people, people with whom we have to coexist and to those people we owe a certain obligation, and that obligation is time.

 Most of us have a spouse, many of us have children at home, all of us have friends and you cannot maintain a relationship without putting in a certain amount of time. And if you add to the responsibility of our family and friends the responsibility that comes from the gospel toward total strangers then we realise just how large those responsibilities are.

 a) Your Family Needs Your Time. Marital and parent child relationships must be the most neglected relationships in the world. If we want a productive garden you don’t just plant it and leave it, you water it, weed it, fertilise it, nurture it, in other words you spend time with it.

 But how often do we enter into a life long commitment with one another and then try to grow and sustain our marriage on 15 or 20 minutes a day? Successful marriages don’t just happen; they require hard work and time. I don’t mean time that you spend with each other I mean time you spend together; don’t confuse the two of them.

 You and your spouse can sit on the same coach in the same room watching the same program on the same television or surfing the net on your laptops and still not be together. You might as well be on separate planets for all you get out of that togetherness. You are in your marriage because of a choice, you said I do, and they said I do, and when you did then you were done and now you need to work to make it work. Invest some time in it and make it a viable relationship.

 Find time to talk, Find time to pray together, in talking to couples this seems to be one area we all have problems with but I am convinced that it is essential in binding a Christian marriage together. And find time to be alone with one another. It’s scary when you meet couples who for twenty years have never had anything in common but their children. They have never spent any quality time together without at least one kid. Now I know it’s easy to get up on our sainthood pedestal and proclaim to the world what great parents we are but when the kid’s are gone and they will eventually be gone, will you know each other as someone other then mommy or daddy?

 But that’s not to say that we don’t give our kid’s any of our time or attention. When you don’t attend to the garden of your children then you shouldn’t be disappointed at the end result.

 Now I’m preaching to myself here because there were times that I got my priorities mixed up and thought that Cornerstone was more important then Stephen and Deborah, and it wasn’t. And your livelihood should never take premier place in your life either. To paraphrase Jesus Christ what profiteth a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his children.

 b) The World Needs Your Time. There are so many opportunities to minister to people but ministry always entails a commitment of time. Ministry doesn’t happen in 2 minute slots. You cannot touch people the way that Jesus Christ touched people without investing some of your time in them. There is no such thing as instant ministry, and there is no such thing as instant compassion or instant love or instant understanding. Jesus invested three years in the apostles’ lives and in reality invested thirty three years of his life for every one of us. If we are going to follow the example of Christ then you are going to have to give time to hurting people.

 Maya Angelou writes “Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence — neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish — it is an imponderably valuable gift. Each of us has a few minutes a day or a few hours a week which we could donate to an old folks home or a children’s hospital ward. The elderly whose pillows we plump or whose water pitchers we refill may or may not thank us for our gift, but the gift is upholding the foundation of the universe.”

 And Jesus said “What you did for the least of these you did for me.”

 3) Find Time In Your Life For God. If by chance you were to neglect time in your life for yourself or for others it would affect the quality of the time you spend on this terrestrial ball. However if you neglect to make time in you life for God it will affect your quality of life for eternity.

 a) Find Time To See God As Your Creator. This old world didn’t happen by accident and you are not a mistake. You are part of the broad scheme of the universe. You need to realize that God is not just some impersonal force out there but has a very deep interest in your world and your life. God took time out of his schedule to hand mold you, to make you who you are and what you are. He took the time to colour your eyes and to form your frame.

 David wrote in Psalm 46:10 be still, and know that I am God! as you take time to look around, to gaze at the stars, to stand in the shadow of the mountains or to look out over the ocean let your mind reflect on the fact that it didn’t just happen like that. That there is a design and there is a plan.

 But in all reality we need to see God as more then creator, b)
Find Time to See Him as Your Saviour. All too often when we get spinning all the plates in our lives, we feel like we can’t handle even one more plate, and as we look at Christianity it seems like it will be the plate that will bring them all down. That is because we confuse religion with Christianity. Bill Hybels stated once that he spells religion d o, but that he spells Christianity d o n e.

 You see the reality of the gospel is laid down in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
How long does it take to form a relationship with God? As long as it takes to ask him, to acknowledge that we can’t do it on our own and to ask him to do it for us. How long will it last? Well in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Don’t put it off in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.