Missing your Turn

Did you hear the one about the two pilots who missed the airport? No, it’s not a joke, it’s a news story. Last week, a Northwest Airline plane, en route from San Diego, flew past its destination city of Minneapolis and it wasn’t until it was over Eau Claire, Wisconsin, more than 160 kilometres beyond Minneapolis, that the flight attendants alerted the pilots that they had missed their exit. Oops! While there has been some speculation that the pilots were asleep, they maintain they were simply engrossed in conversation and weren’t paying attention . . .to their instruments, the repeated calls from the control tower or the bright lights of Minneapolis. Don’t know which would be worse.
But if we are honest, we’ve all done it. Maybe not in a plane, but we’ve all been caught up in the moment and missed an exit, a turn or a driveway and really it’s just a matter of degree.
What is infinitely worse, is when we become so caught up in life, that we stop paying attention to God and end up missing what He has in plan for us and for our lives. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.



The Crumbs the Dog Got

He was her last hope. She had spent months going from doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist only to be told the same thing, “I can’t do anything, I’m sorry.” She had tried every kind of alternative medicines, herbs, health food and vitamins and none of it worked. As much as she tried, as much as she did her daughter remained the same, and he was her last hope.
She had heard so much about the one from Galilee, heard about his healing, heard about his compassion, and heard about his love. Not only was he her last hope, he was her only hope. And so she sought out the one she had heard so much about and when she saw him all of her emotions rushed to the surface and she broke out of the crowd shouting to the master and pleading with him to help her daughter. But he just ignored her. And so she kept it up, crying out and pleading with Jesus until finally in frustration the apostles went to him and said, “Lord this woman is really getting on our nerves why don’t you get rid of her.” And so finally he turned and told her “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
That wasn’t exactly the response that she had expected, where was the compassion, the caring, the love? And so she pushed on hoping that maybe she could find what everyone had talked about. She fell to her knees in front of the one called Jesus and begged him “Lord, help me!” She was so sure that he wouldn’t turn her down, how could he possibly deny her when all she wanted was that her daughter be healed. And so when he opened his mouth she knew that he would agree but instead he said, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
This incident in Jesus life is snuggled in between his walking on the water and his feeding of the 4000. In Verse 21 of the scripture that Shane read this morning we saw that Jesus left Genesserat and went to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon. The cities that are referred to here are in what is now Lebanon and what was then known as Phoenicia. There is the only recorded incident of Christ travelling outside of the Holy Land and into Gentile territory. The story is recorded in Mark chapter 7 as well and Mark makes the observation that Jesus didn’t want people to know where he was. He was kind of on a retreat
It’s interesting to watch as Christ isolates or attempts to isolate himself from people and things in order to commune with God, his father. And this is what Jesus does, leaving the arena of action, to go to a place where he was simply another man, attempting to ease the building pressures which have come to bear upon him.
But it doesn’t work because even here, in these great cities of commerce with all the hustle and bustle and decadence that often accompanies urban life a whisper starts about this man Jesus. Jesus who makes the blind to see, Jesus who makes the lame to walk, Jesus who makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. This Jesus who calls himself the Messiah, who confounds the authorities and controls nature. And as the rumours begin to be whispered up and down the streets of Tyre a Cannonite woman, who Mark said was a Greek, a Syro-Phonecian by birth heard them.
And as this woman, a mother heard the stories of a man who could make a withered hand straight, who could make leprous skin like new she began to think and dream and wonder. “Here is a man who can heal my little girl; here is someone who can take away the pain and the anguish. This man Jesus, he might be the one, he’s my last hope.” And somehow in that milling throng of humanity she discovered where this Jew from Nazareth was staying and she made her way to him and cried out saying Matthew 15:22 . . ., “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.” Now we don’t know exactly what was wrong with her daughter, we may never know but we do know that she attributed it to demon possession. At first she got no response from Jesus and so she pleaded even more and that got some action. From the apostles, the compassionate bunch they were, “Get out of here, you’re bothering us.” And Jesus turned to her and explained how he had been sent to the people of Israel, but she wasn’t going to be put off and so she fell to her knees pleading with him to help her. This mother who had come to plead for the life of her child wouldn’t be put off that easily. Again he explained that his mission was first to the Jews but it’s how he said it that confuses some people.
What he said was Matthew 15:26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Words that could have gently explained the situation or needlessly hurt. Have you ever noticed that the contents of the message are not necessarily as important as the way you convey your message. You can say “sure”, or “sure”.
My father told me that when he and his twin were growing up that their grandfather used to call them idjits. He’d say “You’re both a pair of idjits and you’ll be hung for horse thieves before you’re sixteen.” But Dad told me “Most of Grampy Guptill’s old age cheque was spent on us.”
Jesus could have spit the words out , “It isn’t right to take food away from children and feed it to the dogs” But I think there was a glitter in his eyes and a lilt to his voice as he told her it’s not good to take food away from children and feed it to dogs.
Was Christ testing the faith of this concerned mother? Was he seeing just how far she would go for her daughter? Let’s look at his words and what the original language can tell us.
When Christ starts by telling the woman that “it wasn’t right” to give the children’s bread to the dogs, he is trying to explain why his ministry was limited to the Jews at that time. It wasn’t because he was a racist or a bigot. He didn’t have something against Cannanites, it was simply that an effective start had to be defined.
There was a time in discussing ministry the term your wedge or my wedge was used fairly frequently. The analogy of course comes from the wedge that is used to split wood. The part of the wedge that is most effective is the sharp edge at the bottom. The focus of the wedge is very narrow and that allows it to penetrate the wood. If you turned it around and tried to use the blunt end it would prove to be very ineffective. In ministry you find the thing that you can use most effectively to reach people and you refine that edge and sharpen that edge. You don’t ignore other aspects, but your focus is on your wedge.
It’s the same with our personal lives and talents and gifts.
The wedge of Jesus’ ministry was his reaching the Jews. Because he had fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament relevant to the coming Messiah his message would be more easily accepted by the Jews than the Gentiles. Their acceptance would then become the width of the wedge which would finish the job. You with me? Jesus was simply saying “this is the most effective way for me to accomplish the task set before me.”
He continues by saying Matthew 15:26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children . . .” The word children is used hundreds of times in the Old and New Testament and it’s primary function is to describe the Jewish people as “God’s Children”. The food he speaks of is more properly translated bread and the bread he speaks of is himself. You might recall that time and time again he refers to himself as the bread of life.
And so it is the children of God or the Jews, who the bread of life, or Jesus was promised. And because of that it wouldn’t be practical to give the bread to others. His next words are the ones which would appear to be less then kind, as a matter of fact they almost sound nasty. Matthew 15:26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
And yet these are the very words that this frantic mother grasps and holds on to like a life ring. We don’t see or hear these words in the same light as she did because we’re not hearing them as she heard them.
Throughout the Bible the word “dog” is used to describe someone or something undesirable. In the book of Revelation Chapter 22 verse 15 there are a whole list of folks who will be outside the gates of heaven. Revelation 22:15 Outside the city are the dogs—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshipers, and all who love to live a lie.
And right at the beginning are “The DOGS”, kind of sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
You see 2000 years ago most dogs weren’t pet’s but were dangerous strays who roamed the streets, feeding off the trash and whatever or whoever else they could find. The word used most frequently in the New Testament was a Greek word, which is fitting seeing the New Testament was written in Greek. The word was κύων

kyōn , koo´-ohn and it means “Dog or Hound”
In this story though both in Matthews account and Marks account Jesus uses a different word, he uses the word κυνάριον— , koo-nar´-ee-on which means a little dog, or a puppy. You see even though most dogs of that day were dangerous strays or work dogs, the very wealthy families of the day kept small lap dogs as pets.
Now I don’t know if it was something that this woman heard in the voice of this Nazarene Carpenter or something she saw in his eyes but there was something that caused her to push on and she said, Matthew 15:27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” She didn’t get argumentative, she didn’t deny what he had said was true, instead as Martin Luther said, “She caught him with his own words.”
The woman simply claimed her rights under the conditions that he had set down. She didn’t demand a spot at the table, she didn’t want the children’s portion instead she was content to accept her place in the household that she had been assigned. But she wanted the privileges that went along with that position.
How many people here own a dog now or have owned a dog at some time or another in their life. Then you know the cardinal rule of owning a dog, which is “If it falls on the floor then it belongs to the dog.”
When I was growing up we owned a mutt named Spike. And my Dad always bragged on how good Spike was, how Spike would never take any food that he hadn’t been given. Point in fact. One night when I was 16 or 17 I had been asked to pick up a box of meat from a cousin of ours who had just done in a cow. I brought the meat home and got ready to go out and forgot the meat on the kitchen floor, in a box, with the dog. Mom and Dad got home and the meat was still intact, the dog hadn’t touched it. Spike was such a good dog, you could leave treats on the coffee table and never have to worry about the dog getting into them, Spike was a great dog.
One Christmas a couple of years before Spike went to doggie heaven my father was standing in the kitchen looking over the half wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. As he watched Spike came into the living room, carefully looked around to make sure he wasn’t being watched, obviously not too carefully because he missed Dad. And then very deliberately he stuck in nose in a bowl of chocolates rooted around until he found one he liked and ate it leaving all the rest. Aren’t you glad you never visited our house during those days and ate chocolates?
Our dog was not one of the children, but he was a member of the family and as such he had certain privileges, and one of those privileges were the crumbs that fell from the table.
This would appear to be the only time in the Bible that someone came out of one of these verbal jousting matches with Jesus, where they had the last word. Christ was a pro at this. Throughout the gospels we see him turn questions and statements around to his advantage. It would seem at least in this instance that he was bested and he seemed to enjoy it.
The response that Christ gave, the healing which Christ performed would indicate that he agreed with the woman and awarded her with what to the children may have appeared to be crumbs but to her, it was a veritable feast.
So what does the story tell us?
1) The Person of Her Faith The woman started with a head knowledge, she knew who Jesus was in her head. Matthew 15:22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
At that point she had no claim on him when she approached him as the Son of David, because she wasn’t a daughter of David, it would be like you as a Canadian appealing to Barack Obama, there would be no obligation for him to hear you or to respond to your request.
The woman had heard about this miracle man, this wonder worker who was a Jewish teacher and that was how she approached him.
When you come to Jesus without a relationship it doesn’t matter if He is God, he is not your God. And too many people view Jesus as did the woman, she knew he was supposed to be able to perform miracles, she knew that he could help her but she didn’t know him.
And today it’s the same way there are people out there who have no time for God until the kids get in trouble, or they get sick or they lose their job and then they come with cap in hand looking for a miracle. Jesus is just another genie in a bottle.
But somehow it changed for this woman, somehow it went from a head knowledge of “I know what you are” to a heart knowledge, “I know who you are”, because we read in Matthew 15:25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
He was no longer simple a wonder working healer, she came to him and worshipped him for who he was, “Lord”.
2) The Persistence of her Faith. So, she has found her way to the one called Jesus and his disciples rebuff her. She finally pushes through and makes eye contact with the one she came to see and he tells her that she’s not a Jew and he has come for the Jews. She pushes on an continues to plead and he makes the remark about it not being right to give the children’s bread to the dogs. I don’t know about you but I’m really no good at stuff like that, when someone says no I usually say “Ok” and leave it at that, but not this woman she just won’t give up, she was undiscouragable.
William Barclay states . “So many people, it has been said, pray really because they do not wish to miss a chance. They do not really believe in prayer; they have only the feeling that something might just possibly happen.” But for this woman it was her only hope and she wasn’t going to let go.
3) The Product of her Faith Most people think that the product of this woman’s faith was her daughter’s healing. Matthew 15:28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. But you understand that this woman was not the only woman with a sick child in the area. It is a reality, Jesus heals but it is also a reality not always. If Jesus always healed I wouldn’t have to wear glasses, I wouldn’t have a lisp and I wouldn’t be allergic to cats. And you are thinking “But those aren’t important things” “Well maybe not to you.” But I love cats and hate glasses.
If Jesus healed all the time people wouldn’t die. We know that but we want to choose who God will heal and who God won’t heal. I wonder how it would change our prayers if we knew that there were a finite number of healings and if God healed you then someone else wouldn’t be healed. Or more personally if God healed you than he wouldn’t heal someone you loved? It continues to go back to the question isn’t “Why me?” it’s “Why not me” and you realize that we are healed many times in our life that we never give God the credit for. 300 years ago I would go through life with fuzzy vision because there would be no glasses.
The medication that you take without thought either has kept you alive or improved the quality of your life and it probably wasn’t available a century ago. Defibrillators, neo-natal care, dialysis, chemo-therapy every hour of everyday people are healed. It isn’t that we want healing it’s that we want immortality and that is not ours to have, not on this side of death’s door.
The real product of this woman’s faith was God’s Grace, God’s favour. And that is available to everyone of us and while it may not guarantee us life it does guarantee us eternal life.
It is a grace that transcends the physical that doesn’t end when our life ends.

Affair Proofing Your Marriage

I don’t think any of us would doubt that Jesus had a strong view on marriage. We often think that divorce is a recent innovation but rules and decrees guiding how couples should split up are more common in the bible than how they should hitch up. You would be hard pressed to find guidelines for what a wedding should look like in the bible but you only have to go four books in to find the guidelines on how a marriage should be ended.
And two thousand years ago there were some of the same concerns about the sanctity of marriage whether or not divorce and marriage split ups were becoming way too prevalent as there are today. And so in the scripture that was read earlier Jesus was asked what his views were on the subject. Now understand that the Pharisees really weren’t interested in Jesus opinion as much as they were looking for a reason to attack him.
But Jesus took a strong stand, much stronger than the church takes today and that is a sermon for a different day. And his answer is recorded in Matthew 19:4-6 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. “They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’ And he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
God put them together and nobody should split them up, nobody. But as strong as the bond of marriage was for Jesus he saw one exception and that was given in Matthew 19:9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.” Now some people see this as a loophole and others see this as an exception but I think Jesus saw very clearly that nothing could break the covenant like a physical betrayal, that a couple’s commitment to one another was declared null and void with the act of adultery.
The Bible, the word of God takes a very dim view of adultery, as a matter of fact adultery didn’t have to be specified as a reason for divorce in the Old Testament. Because in the Old Testament the punishment for cheating was death by stoning and there was nothing to prevent a widow or widower from remarrying. I’ve said before that while it may not have been a deterrent, it sure cut down on repeat offenders. A view obviously shared by Loretta Lynn who said “My attitude toward men who mess around is simple: If you find ’em, kill ’em.”
Some recent studies indicate that 50% of married men and women will have at least one extramarital affair during their marriage. Think about it, that’s 50 out of 100, 10 out of 20, 1 out of 2 married men and women will cheat on their respective spouses. Hilda Houlding co-ordinator of the Calgary Family Service Bureau, made this comment “An affair is often an attempt to find a little bit of paradise on the side, pursuing the belief that if one just finds the right sexual partner there will be instant happiness and everything will fall into place. An affair is often able to fulfil this myth, until itself becomes a relationship that has to be worked at and looked at in a long term light. Seen in this way “paradise” soon becomes a prison”
I’m old enough to remember when Gary Hart had to withdraw as a US presidential candidate because there was speculation about an extramarital affair, and I remember the late 90’s when it seemed that America was quite willing to accept the fact that not only was their President an adulterer but was a serial adulterer.
Today adultery has become almost common place, not only has it reached almost crisis proportion out there, but the crisis has spread into the church as well. That which was almost unthinkable in the church thirty years ago has become all too common.
Keith Drury is an Author and Professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, listen to what he wrote, “The devil is a liar. No one falls in this area without believing some of the Devil’s lies. God tells the truth. His word is light, not darkness. The Devil may be multiplying his attack on Christians because he has access to modern weapons like, TV, movies, videos, sexual advertising, cable and satellite TV. He serves these stimulants daily in the living rooms of the average Christian, especially those who ‘watch TV to unwind.””
Too often when talking to people whose marriage is in trouble they want to tell me what the other person is or isn’t doing. If I speak to someone who becomes involved with someone else, by the way having an affair is just a gussied up way of saying committing adultery, they tell me if their partner had of done more of this and less of that then they wouldn’t have had to look for love in all the wrong places. And as much as I wish I could give you a list of ways to keep your spouse from cheating on you I can’t. And there isn’t anything you can do, legally anyway, that would absolutely guarantee that your spouse will always be faithful. How often have you heard of a marriage that seemed perfect and yet one or the other partner broke their marriage vows? I’ve spoken to people whose partner cheated on them and they’ve said “I thought everything was going great, I thought we were happy.” And I’ve even spoken to some people who have cheated on their spouse who said “I don’t know why I did it, everything was going great and we were happy and I just wasn’t thinking straight.”
So here’s the bottom line: if we are going to be faithful in our marriage it’s going to be up to us. If you came today to discover how to keep your spouse from cheating on you, surprise. You will never be able to control your partner’s faithfulness, but you will always be responsible for your side of the relationship. How do you do that? Good question. The answer of course is that we work at it. Grab your pen, cause here are eight suggestions for affair proofing your marriage.
1) Don’t Start Anything. Sounds simple doesn’t it. That fact of the matter is that adultery is one of those things that start innocently enough. A mutual attraction to a neighbour, co-worker, or even someone you go to church with. You both understand each other so well. You have so much in common with one another and you enjoy those quiet moments you have together. They seem more eager to listen to you then your spouse does. Soon there are those special little words that are spoken softly between you. The little pats, a gentle squeeze of your arm, a meaningful glance, a lingering gaze, a quick hug, a short embrace, and eventually you have been led down a path you never intended to walk.
Don’t start up the ladder of affection with anyone other then your spouse. Did you hear that? Don’t start up the ladder of affection with anyone other then your spouse. Listen to what Solomon reminded us of three thousand years ago, Proverbs 6:27-29 Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished.
Words from a man who knew what he was talking about considering that he was the result of the adulterous affair between his father, King David and Bathsheba. If you are involved at any stage of affectionate expression with anyone other than your mate than you are playing with fire. Stop. Turn around and turn back. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends with members of the opposite sex, but you know what I’m saying.
Sue Johanson who hosts a show on WTN says: “You can’t say, ‘I didn’t know what would happen.’ That’s a crock. You knew with the sweaty palms and sweaty pits. You knew with the long gazes. You made the decision not to decide and you let it just happen.” If you are climbing the ladder of affection, then get down, right now, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are in control. The best time to stop disobedience is today
2) Listen To Your Spouse This one is especially for you guys. God seems to have given women the special ability to identify a strange woman on their turf. Don’t write off spousal comments as jealousy, and even if at this point it is innoncent, it may not appear that way to them, and you can stand the warning.
If your spouse questions your relationship with someone of the opposite sex pay attention, they may notice a come on before you do. Twenty years ago Angela warned me about a woman I was working with outside the church, it was only when I stepped back and looked that I was able to see what Angela had been seeing. How’d she know, beats me, maybe God told her. I’m really not all that sure, but I’m really glad I listened to her.
3) Tell On The Other Person. If someone begins to quietly come on to you, then fink on them. Tell your partner that very day, don’t wait until tomorrow to see if it happens again, tell your spouse before you go to bed. Your spouse is supposed to be the most important person in your life, let them help you deal with the problem. Sometimes it’s an ego problem. It’s been so long since anyone flirted with you, you had forgotten how good it felt, and besides it’s not like it’s hurting anyone, and you wouldn’t think of taking it any further. Stop it. The both of you are in this marriage together and both of you need to learn to protect your relationship with each other and with God. Do it and do it fast. Tell your spouse if you suspect anyone; don’t play his or her game. The quicker you realize that you are in this together trying to protect your marriage the better.
4) Don’t Spend Time Alone With The Opposite Sex.
Keith Drury has this to say to Pastors “He who meets another woman alone in private hath no brains!” Don’t place yourself into a situation where there is temptation or where temptation can be acted on. It’s surprising how many martial indiscretions and outright adultery has sprung out of relationships established on the premise of “giving spiritual help” or “sharing our problems together” Hah! Do you remember what Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:13 And don’t let us yield to temptation. Only sometimes we don’t need a whole lot of leading do we? We can do a pretty good job of finding temptation all by ourselves.
When I talk to teens and young adults about their dating habits I often warn them to stay out of situations where they are placing themselves into areas of greater temptation. Parking on lonely country roads, being home together when there is no one else around. There are some areas that are danger zones not only for teens but also for adults, and we need to recognize them and stay away from them. “The person who meets with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse alone in private, hath no brains.”
5) Drink From Your Own Spring. Proverbs 5:15 Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. It has been said that the best defence is a good offence. Though it’s not a guarantee, “Keeping the fires hot at home,” is a good defence against temptation. That has always been the case check out what Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago, in a letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 7:2-5 But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The CEV says don’t refuse, the NIV translates it don’t deprive each other and the authorized version tells us not to defraud each other. And that’s what happens when you provide a dry or boring spring at home. Hey guys and girls, sex wasn’t the devil’s idea it was God’s and sexual fulfilment in marriage is God’s plan.
But listen up; don’t allow Satan to suggest that any lack of fulfilment in your marriage justifies a little sin to make up for it. It don’t, never has, never will. Didn’t for Charles and Diana, didn’t for Bill and Hillary, and won’t for you.
On the other hand if’n you’re not providing a spring to be drunk from at home and your spouse goes looking for a drink elsewhere, while they aren’t justified you are not entirely without blame. And the spring isn’t’ just a sexual one, make sure that your spouse wants to spend time with you.. If you are negative and miserable to be around your spouse might very well find someplace else to go. One Colorado psychologist’s summary of more than a decades work counselling “The other woman” argues that the common trait that the “other woman” all share is being a good listener.
6) Be Aware of Emotional Adultery This is one of the first steps up the ladder of affection. Beware of getting emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse. I know that I’m sounding a bit extreme but affairs start in mostly innocent situations. Emotional attachments can lead to explosive situations where temptations come crashing in with unexpected force.
Emotional relationships often develop into something more and end up in disaster. And even if they don’t lead to sin, they can hinder your own marriage relationship. If you are getting your emotional needs met somewhere other then home than you are leaving a gap in your relationship with your spouse. And that includes relationships that develop online.
Emotional attachments are explosive, they can cause someone to fall in love with or they can cause you to fall for someone else “who seems to understands me so well” or they can cause such deep emotional bonding that you find it impossible to walk away. If you are bonding emotionally with someone other then your mate then walk away from it before it ruins you.
7) Get Control Of Your Thought Life. Long before an affair happens physically it happens mentally. Listen to the words of a Minister who ended up with a ruined marriage and a ruined ministry after a one night stand “adultery isn’t something that happens with the act — it happens months beforehand. It’s an attitude. You disconnect yourself from the person you’ve said you’re spending the rest of your life with.” Those thoughts may differ whether you’re a man or a woman. With men they are more apt to be sexual fantasies with a woman romantic fantasies but if they involve someone other then your spouse they are wrong, wrong, wrong.
You say “But they are only thoughts” sure they are, that’s why Conway Twitty wrote in one song, “We’re not exactly strangers you and I, because I’ve already loved you in my mind.” And why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And I don’t think it would be unfair to the scriptures to say Matthew 5:28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a man with lust has already committed adultery with him in her heart.
If you are keeping pure actions toward someone, and have not uttered even the slightest words of attachment, yet you are guilty of impure thoughts, then you are perching on a precarious cliff which leads nowhere but over the brink into deeper and deeper violations of God’s law.
Who do you think you are? Do you believe that you will be the first to escape God’s law? Do you think that you can play with fantasy fire without burning your soul? Do you truly believe that you can keep God’s anointing on your life even as you dwell on thoughts of disobedience? I’m not talking about temptation here, you will probably never escape that in this life. I’m talking about wilfully dwelling on impure thoughts, about thinking about them on purpose, playing and replaying them over and over again in your mind like a video tape. That my friends is sin.
There is incredible power in the mind, power that can be focused on good or on evil. Bring your thought life into captivity, before it brings you into captivity. Find out what triggers those thoughts and starve the source, it might be certain people, times, memories, places, television shows, movies or websites. Jesus said in Matthew 5:29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Now we’re not into self mutilation, but there may be some areas of your life that need to be poked out, for your own protection and the protection of your marriage.
8) Recognize That You Will Get Caught. This is the bottom line people, you will get caught. Are you involved in a suspicious relationship right now? Maybe nobody knows about it. It’s a secret. You may think you are getting away with it. Satan is telling you that you will never get caught. You believe that you are the exception and you are wrong. You will get caught. Satan is a liar, and the word of God is the ultimate truth and it says in the Bible, the word of God in the book of Numbers 32:23. . . and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
Sinners have always believed that they could get away with sin. From day one they believe that. Adam and Eve believed it and they got caught. Cain thought he got away with murder and he got caught. Rebecca and Jacob thought they had deceived everyone but they got caught. Joseph’s brothers thought they had committed the perfect crime, but they got caught. Moses thought he’d buried his sin in the sand, but he got caught. Achan got caught, Saul got caught, David got caught, Jonah got caught, Anianas and Sapphira got caught, Jimmy Swarggart got caught, Gary Hart got caught and so did Bill Clinton, a couple of times. Well you know what Billy Sunday said, “Sin can be forgiven, but stupid is forever.” It’s simple, sinners get caught.
Do you really think that you can get away with a little sin? What makes you think that you will do what others haven’t? Do you think you can break God’s universal laws of life and get away with it? Do you think that you will be the first person who gets away with sin. Friend you will be like ever other sinner throughout history, you will get caught.
How? I don’t know, maybe the other person will get a case of the guilts and confess, it’s happened before. Or maybe someone else will tell. You think that nobody knows? When you are sinning Satan tricks you into believing that you are invisible, you’re not. Someone will see you. Or maybe the burden of guilt will get so great that you will confess. You may even get away with it for awhile. If you do, than you will get more and more bold in your sin, and that in itself will make the sin so obvious that you will eventually cause yourself to get caught.
The devil promises you all the kingdoms of the world, if you will simply bow down and worship at his altar of impure desires. But you can’t have it all. God says that your sin will find you out and you will have to pay the price, and God is the truth.
You cannot make your spouse be faithful, but you and only you are responsible for how faithful you are going to be in your marriage.
As serious as physical adultery is, and it is serious, there is a game that is even more dangerous then that. There may not be anyone here today who is cheating on their spouse, but I’m sure there are those here today who are cheating on God. Yep, the bible talks about us being unfaithful to God. As a matter of fact there is an entire book of the Bible which compares those who aren’t in step with God to a cheating spouse. Maybe you know that you have wandered away from God, you maybe you’ve never made the commitment in the first place. But there is only one who can make it and only one who can keep it and that is you. God has already made it clear that he is going to be faithful In the book of Hebrews 13:5 it says God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

 Thanks to Keith Drury for a lot of the ideas in this message.

Pastoral Job Descriptions

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; actually, it was Fredericton in 1985, but it seems like a different time and a different world. I was a young pastor, attending one of my first annual Pastors retreats with Wesleyan pastors from around the Atlantic District. It was an open forum and various pastors were lamenting not having written job descriptions in their churches, complaining about the unwritten expectations their churches and parishioners had for them. After this went on for awhile, a short man with a gravely voice, a British accent and shock of white hair stood up and said, “My job description comes from Acts 6:4, to give myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Then he sat down.

Walter Fernley seemed ancient and wise that day. I attended Walter’s funeral this week. His legacy to me has been whenever I have felt overwhelmed during the past 24 years by what I have to do, I think back, hear a gravely voice with a British accent reminding me, “My job description comes from Acts 6:4, to give myself continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.



Stop means Stop

Well, that was embarrassing. After almost stopping at a stop sign in Kingswood the other day, I came to a complete stop for the mountie who waved me down. He sauntered over to the car, while I sat wondering what the fine was for running a stop sign, although in my defence it was more creeping or rolling a stop sign. The officer was very pleasant, said he was there to remind people that we were supposed to stop at that particular sign. I smiled and assured him that I would remember next time and then it happened . . . I had hoped it wouldn’t, but it did.
He didn’t write a ticket; I should have been so lucky. No, he asked me how things were going at the church; he recognized me. That was embarrassing. Normally I like being recognized and talking about Cornerstone, but not necessarily while breaking the law. We chatted for a few minutes, he wished me a pleasant day, reminded me again about stopping at the sign and left.

It’s never pleasant being caught while doing wrong, but the truth is we get caught every time we do wrong, if only by ourselves. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


Righteous is as Righteous Does

 Have you ever done the right thing only to take it on the chin. Either the person you did the right thing for reciprocated in the opposite fashion or in performing the good deed you ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. You know you give someone a ride home and on your way back someone runs a red light and you’re in an accident. It goes to prove the validity of Clare Boothe Luce statement “No good deed goes unpunished.”

 Most of us are familiar with the Beatitudes, you know the sayings of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount. And we find them comforting and inspiring. We love to hear that the poor in spirit and meek will be blessed. That God looks with favour on those who are humble and those who pursue justice. And who wouldn’t agree that the pure of heart and those who seek peace deserve a special place in heaven.

 There are organizations and groups who use the beatitudes as their guidelines and principles. The beatitudes have ended up on posters, bookmarks and mugs. But usually they stop before they get to the end. Because while we understand all that Jesus said about the poor in spirit, and the pure of heart and the peace makers the eighth beatitude isn’t nearly as easy to comprehend as the first seven. Compared to number eight the first seven are down right self explanatory.

 Matthew 5:10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. It’s like karma in reverse. Not only does Christ say “Happy are those who are persecuted” but he adds “Happy are those who are persecuted for doing right.” Now I think there is only one thing that would bug me more then being persecuted for doing wrong. Hey, we may know that we need to be punished but we don’t have to enjoy it, do we? What would really bug me is being punished for doing good. It would be one thing to get a speeding ticket for speeding but a completely different thing to get a speeding ticket because you were rushing someone to the hospital.

 Thank you very much we certainly appreciate the wonderful job you’ve done, off with your head. Doesn’t make much sense does it? Not only is the basic principle of unjust persecution causing happiness confusing the very idea is downright bizarre.

 But isn’t it the person with the lofty ideals, high principles and fine behaviour who draws the applause from the world? Think about it, a number of years ago at Madam Tussauds Waxwork museum, in London, 35,000 international visitors were asked over a 10 year period to name the people they admired most in history, the top five choices were, 1) Winston Churchill 2) Joan of Arc 3) Jesus Christ 4) John F. Kennedy and 5) Robin Hood. Doesn’t that prove that society recognizes and heaps honours on those who serve its causes and contribute to its welfare? Isn’t that the tenant of the Canadian dream, do right and you’ll be rewarded for it? Just think about Albert Swetzer, Mother Theresa, and Florence Nightingale. It’s a long way from Canada to Australia but every September Aussies around the country laced on their sneakers for the Terry Fox run.

 Our world revolves around those who do good and seek peace right? They are the ones who receive the rewards and accolades? Sure just ask Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Joan of Arc, Jim Elliot and Yitzac Rabin. And yet many of us still feel that if we are good enough and kind enough and loving enough long enough that the whole world will hug us. And it’s a real shock to discover that just ain’t the way it is.

 So the first thing you need to know is: We Will Be Persecuted Because Of Who We Are

 After all we have to recognize that if society, and society is just made up of people, and people is people is people. If society could persecute and eventually murder Jesus Christ, the son of God, than the same society will ultimately persecute those who follow Jesus and call themselves by his name.

 If Jesus suffered what he suffered at the hands of mankind, then it would be absurd for us to expect to escape. As a matter of fact Christ didn’t leave his disciples in the dark; he discussed in great detail what they could expect. He told them in John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.”

 Bet that’s not your favourite passage of scripture, I’d even be willing to wager that you forgot it was in the bible or you don’t think it should apply to you. Now we have to realize what Christ is saying and that is that everyone who calls themselves by His name will eventually suffer persecution. That is inevitable, so if we are going to have to suffer the key question is: what are we going to suffer for? Something that won’t cause happiness or something that will make you happy?

 We Will Be Persecuted Because Of What We Do

 Jesus states that happiness happens to those who suffer for the right reasons. In other words since we are going to suffer anyway, than it ought to be for the right reasons. Now if you suffer persecution because you are odd, strange or absurd in your conduct then it probably won’t cause happiness.

 Christians aren’t called to be exhibitionist; we weren’t called to stand out by our appearance but because of our actions. Some Christians call attention to themselves by outlandish behaviour or bizarre conduct but when they attract abuse by their absurd lifestyles they act outraged. But really aren’t they just getting what they deserve? After all Daniel may have been in the Lions Den, but he wasn’t pulling any tails. I don’t think that Jesus was calling us to look for persecution, but I think he was telling us that there’s a pretty good chance it will find us without any help at all.

 In his book “Salt for Society” Phillip Keller states “Christ called us to be gracious in spirit, humbled in heart, easily entreated and disciplined to do his will in the world with mercy, peace and good will.” Jesus didn’t say blessed are those who are persecuted for absurdity sake, but blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Or again happiness happens to those who suffer for the right reasons. And what are the right reasons? The one thing that Jesus kept going back to: the Kingdom of God.

 Persecution that comes from our attempts to establish the kingdom bring happiness because they aren’t in vain. But when we think about it we really have it easy today. Historically Christianity affected every area of a person’s life, from their work to the social life to their family life. In the generation after Christ’s death and resurrection believers literally lived in fear for their lives. Each year citizens of the Roman Empire had to pay tribute to the Emperor by offering a pinch of incense and saying “Caesar is Lord.” After you made the statement you were free to do whatever you wanted. The problem was that the early Christians refused because of their belief that only Christ is Lord and because of that their lives became very cheap.

 Those who belonged to the early church were often burnt at a stake, wrapped in animal skins and thrown to wild dogs or tortured on racks. The physical suffering they endured is beyond our imagination. If we were undergoing the same sort of persecutions today Christians would have to wear labels that said “Health Canada has determined that being a Christian is hazardous to ones health and well being”

 We might not be tortured or killed in Canada in 2009, but persecution still exists for Christians. Even if it’s the way we are depicted in the media and on television. Even if it means that you can’t advance in your career because of the moral high ground you have claimed. Even if it means you are ostracized from your peers because of your stand. Why? Why are Christians still persecuted today? Why are those who live righteous lives so often wronged? Why is it that though out history the Cains continue to attack the Abels?

 We Will Be Persecuted Because Of What They Do Josh Billings was an American humorist in the 1800’s and he said “It is a statistical fact that the wicked work harder to reach hell than the righteous do to enter heaven.” Not only do they work harder to reach hell but they work harder to justify their behavior, and don’t appreciate criticism.

 1) Good and Evil are mutually exclusive Truth and deception cannot coexist anymore then decency and degeneration, or right and wrong, or light and darkness. The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?
2) The evil person, the wrong doer, the decadent individual always feels threatened by the righteous.
And the easiest way to stop feeling threatened by something is to eliminate it. And so those who are evil attempt to eliminate the righteous through outright attack, abuse or condemnation. Why do they feel threatened? Because if you live your life the way it’s supposed to be lived than your very life is a rebuke to those who don’t. Because they know that’s how they should be living their lives but they have a whole range of excuses of why they can’t live that way. It’s too hard, I can’t do it but nobody else can do it either so why worry? And then someone else does it. Hebrews 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

 3) There Are Many People Who Aren’t Good Moral Righteous People. Regardless of what people say we don’t live in a Christian country, believers are in the minority, as a matter of fact with less then seven percent of the population attending evangelical churches we don’t even come close.

 God’s people are in the minority, facing an unfriendly majority. Now the average man on the street isn’t overly hostile to the church as much as he is apathetic. As long as the church feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and doesn’t rock the boat everyone is happy as can be. But when the church begins to do what it was called to do, and that is to challenge the world and it’s behaviour that’s when the world begins to get upset.

 And it’s at this point that we will be persecuted whether we deserve it or not. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. The world loves having the church as a lap dog, but let the puppy show it’s teeth and see how long before it’s in the backyard on a chain.

 The more godly and more righteous we are the greater the chances are that we will be abused and persecuted. Joseph was dumped in a well then thrown in prison, Elijah was hunted like an animal, Daniel was thrown to the lions, Stephen was stoned to death and Jesus was hung on a cross to die. As a matter of fact Christ warns us in Luke 6:26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. How are men speaking of you these days?

 Persecution today may not mean being thrown to the lions but it is still around. It may affect you in your work, your social life, and your family. If you’ve been there you don’t need me to explain. And so the beatitudes end the way they began with the promise of receiving the kingdom of God.

 It is here that something strange happens, Christ does something that he hasn’t done in the previous eleven verses; he repeats himself. Every other beatitude is mentioned only once but listen to verses eleven and twelve Matthew 5:11-12 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

 Now I wonder why Jesus felt it necessary to repeat that last thought? I wonder if maybe it was for the same reason that we sometimes repeat ourselves, because we think that what we’re trying to communicate is important. We don’t want folks to miss what we’re saying. But again the emphasis is not on what others are saying about you nearly as much as why they are saying it. Christ specifically said Matthew 5:11-12 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” Did you catch the important part? What they say has to be false, if they say you’re a phoney and you really are a phoney you’re not going to get a blessing.

 And Jesus said when this happens, don’t be discouraged, don’t be frustrated, don’t get angry and upset, instead he says Be happy about it! Be very glad! the NJKV says Be exceedingly glad. Why rejoice? For three reasons, the first is It Means You are Doing Something For God. If you’re being persecuted because of Christ it is indicative that you are doing something for Christ and the enemy considers you a threat. Charles Spurgeon was a great preacher in England 150 years ago and he said “The best evidence of God’s presence is the Devil’s growl.” Does Satan consider you a threat? When was the last time you heard him growl?

 The second thing that we need to rejoice about is that The Story Is Not Over Yet. Matthew 5:11-12 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” A couple of thoughts on this, the first is that God is no man’s debtor and the second is that not all of His debts are settled this side of eternity.

 Ray Stedman tells the story of an old missionary couple who had been working in Africa for many years and were returning to New York City to retire. With no pension and broken in health, they were discouraged, & fearful of the future.

 They happened to be on the same ship as Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from a big game hunting expedition. they watched the passengers trying to glimpse the president, the crew fussing over him, and the hoopla that accompanied the president’s entourage.

 But no one noticed them. The missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everyone one makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”

 At the dock in New York a band was waiting to greet the president. The mayor and other important people were present. Reporters were there to fill the papers with news of the event. But the missionary couple slipped off the ship unnoticed.

 That night, in a cheap little apartment the man’s spirit finally broke and he said to his wife, “I can’t take this; God’s not treating us right, it’s not fair.” His wife suggested that he go into the bedroom and tell the Lord how he felt, so he did. A short time later he came out of the bedroom and his wife could tell just by looking at him that something had changed. And so she asked, “Dear what happened?” “The Lord settled it with me” he said “I told him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. and when I finished it seemed as though he Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, “But you’re not home yet”

 The third reason we need to rejoice is laid down in the thought Christ ends on “And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” You’re in Good Company. This isn’t a matter of “Misery loves company” but simply an acknowledgement that you aren’t unique and being picked on.

 Probably the question asked the most often when we suffer or wake up in the morning with a cold or go through persecution is “Why me?” And the answer is the same for all of the above “Why not?” The deeper answer to the first and the second is “because we are people”. And we live on a fallen earth where tragedy and suffering happens. And the answer to the third is “because we are God’s people” And don’t look around and say “well so and so doesn’t have any problems.” You will never know the problems and suffering that go on behind closed doors.

 In 28 years of pastoral ministry I have discovered that public personas don’t always tell the whole story. Sometimes it’s because people are ashamed of their problems and sometimes it just that they are private people and don’t feel the need to advertise their suffering.

 So here is a thought and a promise to finish this morning: the thought comes from Mark Twain who said “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

 And the promise comes from the Old Testament book of Isaiah where God promises his people, you, this Isaiah 43:2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.

Biblical Political View?

Interesting, I read an article the other day, that said in a recent survey taken in New Jersey, 8% of respondents thought Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ and 13% were undecided. Interesting, even if the article isn’t true. I would suspect that if you took a similar survey in Canada, about Prime Minister Harper, there might be many different words used to describe the Prime Minister, not all of them flattering, but I am doubtful that the word Anti-Christ would enter the conversation.

I am also fairly certain that there were people who thought George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, could also fill the position of the Anti-Christ and equally certain that thought never crossed the minds of Canadians concerning previous Prime Ministers. Although my father thought Trudeau was of the devil, or maybe it was a communist, either way in the seventies, the two thoughts were synonymous.

I find it kind of interesting that two countries that share so much in common, could differ so much in how they view things and people. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing. After all, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


The Best Laid Plans

So I flew to Indianapolis, a couple of weeks ago, for a meeting at the Wesleyan Church Headquarters. It was a perfect day for flying and we arrived fifteen minutes early and as we taxied up to the terminal, I was already planning the most effective way to use my new found quarter of an hour. Then an announcement came over the P.A., advising us that an employee had fallen at the entrance of our plane and we would have to wait for the paramedics.

Thirty-five minutes later, we deplaned. My hotel was less than fifty kilometres from the airport, but because of an accident, the trip took an hour and eighteen minutes. So instead of arriving at my room fifteen minutes early, I got there over an hour late. What was it that Burns wrote of Mice and Men?

That evening, when I was telling Peter Moore about my series of unfortunate events, he wondered where I would have been in relation to the accident without my delay at the airport.

And again, I was reminded of Solomon’s words in Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.