The Mystery of the Virgin Birth

The doctor turns to his patient after examining her and says “Perhaps you’d like to have your husband with you.” To which she replies “I’m not married”
“Well then maybe your boyfriend” the doctor says.
“I don’t have a boyfriend either.” The woman says.
So the doctor gets up and walks over to the window and just stands there. After a few moments the woman asks “What are you doing?”
“Well” the doctor replies “The last time this happened a star rose in the east and I don’t want to miss it this time.”
The “Virgin Birth” for two thousand years it has been the topic of debates, heresy and humour. It’s believed and scoffed at by millions, some who should believe it. It will be sung about in shopping malls, proclaimed on Christmas cards and talked about by little children.
Our theme this Christmas is “The Mysteries of Christmas” and one of the Mysteries of Christmas is the virgin birth. As a matter of fact it is the first mystery of Christmas.
David Jenkins (1925-, British ecclesiastic, bishop of Durham) Said ” I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if He wanted, but I very much doubt if He would.” Jenkins shouldn’t feel special, he isn’t the first to question the virgin birth, that would have been Mary, nor will he be the last but that doesn’t make it any less a reality. But even for those who believe it, it still remains a mystery.
The What
There was a sense of urgency that filled the country. A general expectancy was in the air concerning the long expected Messiah. Many Jews looked back to Old Testament Prophecy and in particular the book of Daniel concerning up coming events, and many of those people felt that the 70 weeks that Daniel Spoke of was an analogy, each day representing a year and so the 70 weeks actually meant 70 x 7 years, which for the mathematically challenged amongst us ends up as 490 years. Seeing that that particular prophecy was written around approximately 457 BC, they felt that the time was drawing near.
To say that the Jews were looking forward to the coming Messiah would be a little bit of an understatement. For 400 years foreign troops had occupied Israel and the feeling was that this Messiah would deliver them from their oppressors. And it was in this setting, this hotbed of expectancy that the scripture that Mike read this morning was set.
Luke 1:26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, The question is the sixth month of what, it wasn’t the sixth month of the year. Well if we had gone back a little further in the scripture we would have read the story of a Priest name Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth. They were an older couple who had never been able to have children, a tragedy at any point in history but certainly a double tragedy for a Priest of God in a society where children were considered to be a gift from God. And into the lives of Elizabeth and Zacharias came an Angel to announce that they would have a son who would announce the coming of the Messiah. Well it wasn’t long before Elizabeth conceived and six months after that miraculous event, another one is about to happen. Kind of an interesting note in the story is that Elizabeth had a much younger relative named Mary.
And so about six months into Elizabeth’s Pregnancy an Angel named Gabriel arrived in the town of Nazareth. Gabriel is actually mentioned six times in the Bible. Four of those instances were in the book of Daniel, it would appear that this was the Angel who revealed the prophecies of God to Daniel, and twice in the book of Luke where he first spoke to Zacharias concerning Elizabeth’s delicate condition and again here.
Just a thought but I wonder if maybe it wasn’t Gabriel at all but was Gabrielle? After all if you were God would you send a male angel to break the news concerning unexpected pregnancies? Just a thought.
And so the Angel came to Nazareth, which is a small town let’s pull up a map here. Nazareth is a small town that is located about 24 kilometres from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. 30 Kilometres east of the Mediterranean Sea and about 400 metres above sea level.
Here’s a picture of what Nazareth looks like today.
He didn’t just come to visit the town as nice of a town as it might have been but he came for a specific reason and the scripture continues. Luke 1:27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Here is one of the key doctrines of the Christian Church. Gabriel didn’t just come to anyone but to a young woman, specifically a young woman named Mary and even more specifically to a young woman named Mary who the Bible tells us was a virgin.
Now this isn’t the way you’d normally describe a person or either gender. You know “the other day I was in town to meet with Fred, he’s a virgin you know.” But here it was crucial to the story. Now the word that is used here in the original Greek did not have to mean virgin in the strictest sense. You will remember that the New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word that was used in this instance was  or which could mean a couple of different things, it could mean a virgin, or it could simply mean an unmarried woman or it could mean an unmarried daughter. The word itself doesn’t necessarily relate to a woman’s intimate experience with a man. If this verse stood by itself a much more accurate translation would be “a single young lady named Mary.”
The Huh?
The reason that virgin is used is because verse 27 cannot be taken in isolation it isn’t complete without the explanation given in verse 34 where Mary makes this statement
Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” More to the point, Gabriel had told Mary that she was going to have a son, and she said, “Hold on guy, there’s a small problem here and that is that I have never been with a man”
She was saying that she was a virgin. You know, if you can accept the resurrection of Christ, you should be able to accept the virgin birth of Christ. And if you don’t believe in the resurrection, then it really doesn’t matter if you accept the virgin birth or not. After all Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In other words if there was no resurrection you are backing the wrong horse.
And if she wasn’t a virgin then who was Jesus father? Joseph? I don’t think so, after all Joseph was a wee bit upset when he found out that his finance was pregnant. Do you really think that God would send his son to be born through immorality?
You have to understand the entire Jewish tradition of engagement; Mary and Joseph were in what was called the Betrothal period of their relationship. In that particular culture most marriages were arranged by the families back when the participants were only children. The philosophy was that marriage was far too serious of a endeavour to be left to the dictates of the human heart. And the last part of the engagement was the Betrothal, and it lasted for one year and was absolutely binding, the participants were considered husband and wife in all matters except they didn’t live together and the marriage hadn’t been consummated. The betrothal could only be broken through the formal proceedings of divorce and then only if one of the parties had been unfaithful. Which is what Joseph planned on doing in Matthew 1:19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
Now that may seem a little harsh but at this point in Mary and Joseph’s relationship Mary would have been legally committing adultery. The other option under Jewish law was that he could have had her stoned. I’m sure that Joseph felt more then a little betrayed at this point. But he too was visited by an Angel, and you thought your Christmas was busy. Listen to what happened in Matthew 1:20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Just some of the reasons why the term virgin should be used here instead of simply “Young Woman,” we’ll come back to it.
Luke 1:28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Think about it, the prophecy said that the Messiah would be born or a descendent of David’s. That would have encompassed thousands and thousands of families. And out of that vast number one young girl would be chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah. Mary’s life and reputation must have been beyond reproach, not just because she obeyed the law but because of her relationship with God. “The Lord is with you.” What a compliment. But the truth of the matter is that at this point Mary didn’t feel very complimented, if anything she was a little suspicious about who he was and what he was saying.

 Luke 1:29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

 And she had every right to feel that way. Angels visiting and bragging you up isn’t something that necessarily happens every day, at least not to me. Now maybe it’s just human nature but whenever anyone starts to lay it on quite that thick I want to know why, what have I done? What do they want? You know.

 Luke 1:30-33 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

 Wow, if Mary had been a little confused by the Angel’s initial greeting think of how she felt now. “Hey, don’t sweat it Mary, because God likes you, you are going to have a baby, and not just any baby, you’re going to have the Messiah!” That must have been reassuring. I mentioned earlier that there was an air of expectancy in the Holy Land at that time concerning the coming of the Messiah, but I’m not particularly sure that Mary thought he would arrive via her. And she airs what she thinks might be a minor problem, in Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

 There’s been a lot of speculation concerning Mary’s age, many people feel that she would have been a young teen perhaps 14 or 15 when this all developed, we don’t know for sure but we do know that she wasn’t naïve. She knew that it takes two to tango and she also knew that she hadn’t even been to the dance.

 The “Why”

 Now this goes back to what we had talked about before concerning the virgin birth. You see it had to happen this way, cause this is the way it was predicated. If you go all the way back to Genesis 3:15 after Adam and Eve had fallen, the curse that was pronounced on Satan stated that it would be the seed of woman who would bring about his ultimate defeat. Not the seed of man and woman. Just the seed of woman. And we know that Joseph couldn’t be the Messiah’s father because of a predication made several hundred years before the birth of Christ.

 You might recall that there are two separate genealogies listed in the Gospels for Christ, hopefully you’ll recall it, I preached on the genealogies in October. The first in Matthew is considered by most Scholars to be the lineage of Joseph; the second in Luke is the lineage of Mary. It’s kind of interesting. Don’t know if you’re into family trees or not. The Genealogy in Luke begins with Adam, the beginnings always a good place to start, while Matthew’s account begins with Abraham, who of course was the father of Israel. Both genealogies follow a common path from there to King David, kind of remind you of a Grand Manan family tree at that point, or family stick, or family wreath whatever it is that we have down there.

 But at David things veer off, one branch goes by way of Solomon, and one by way of Nathan. Thus they both link back to the David but by different routes. You still with me here? Ok, the reason I bring it up is because of two references, the first in Matthew 1:6-11 Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon. Amon was the father of Josiah. Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).

 That is only pertinent because of the second reference found in
Jeremiah 22:30 This is what the Lord says: ‘Let the record show that this man Jehoiachin was childless. He is a failure, for none of his children will succeed him on the throne of David to rule over Judah.’ This is the same Jehoiachin who is mentioned in Joseph’s family tree, so Jesus could not have been Joseph’s son because of that particular OT pronouncement. Did that make sense?

 The How

 The bottom line is that God’s son should have a special birth, and that was the virgin birth. That’s why the Prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 7:14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Now really, a young woman conceiving a child isn’t much of a sign, happens all the time. But this was a special child who would be born in a special way.

 The Angel didn’t want to leave any doubt in Mary’s mind though and so he told her
Luke 1:35-37 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

 What was he doing, he was summing up the entire story, who would be the father, the Holy Spirit, how? Through the power of the most high, who is the most High? Well the Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. So the Highest must be God. And how was this all going to happen, I love the last statement: For nothing is impossible with God.”
Interesting statement and often times we try to claim a promise that isn’t there. There is nothing that is impossible for God when it’s in his will, but he will not necessarily do the impossible just because we ask him to. Some things are not in his plan or are not necessarily in our own best interest, although we might think they are.
So put yourself into Mary’s spot, just for a moment. Your life is pretty much perfect, you come from a great family, you’re engaged to be married everything seems to be coming up roses. And then into this perfectly ordered world comes an Angel who says you’re about to become the mother of the Messiah, which is the upside because the downside is you’re engaged but not married. What would your reaction be? Probably not what Mary’s was Luke 1:38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her. Roughly translated into 2009 teen she said “OK.”

 If there is one thing to get out of this message today it is Mary’s obedience to and trust in God. Her reputation would be ruined; he life would be dramatically changed. Nazareth wasn’t a big place so it would have been hard to for Mary to keep her delicate condition a secret. Even though Joseph had his own visit I wonder if he ever doubted Mary’s fidelity?

 Trust doesn’t mean anything until it’s coupled with obedience. So where are you at? Are you trusting God? Taking it one step further are you being obedient to God?

Huh?

It’s a quandary; MacLean’s magazine recently highlighted a story entitled, “The New Canadian Morality”. It seems that Anus Reid Strategies sponsored a national survey last month, asking Canadians their opinions on 21 ethical questions. Angus Reid tells us that 60% of Canadians still identify themselves as Christians, which is interesting when you consider that the majority of these folks supported same sex unions, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, saw marriage as irrelevant and that animals were more deserving of protection than the pre-born or the terminally ill.

Now I understand that many people feel that one’s morality shouldn’t be forced on others (that is done every day, it’s called the law) but, on the other hand, those who describe themselves as Christians, are supposed to be something, Christ followers and are supposed to behave a certain way; follow Christ. Not sure that was the findings of the survey. It would appear in many cases, that being a self-identified Christian has little, if any, bearing on how you behave and what you believe. Which begs the question that Jesus asked 2000 years ago in Luke 6:46, “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’, when you don’t do what I say?” Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    
 

    
 

Martha: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

She was a little steamed, actually she was a lot ticked and who could blame her. Sure she had been the one who had invited the company over, but it wasn’t just her home, I mean her sister could do a little bit to help out. Instead she just sat there staring up at their guest as if it was the first time she’d ever seen the man, when the truth was they had practically grown up together. And so she walked a little louder, actually it was pretty close to stomping, and banged the pots a little more then necessary, actually a lot more then necessary and she sighed a lot and not little sighs either, these we full blown asthmatic sighs that were not to be missed. And yet they were missed, their guest continued to teach and her sister sat mesmerized, hanging on every word that he said. And Martha was a little steamed, actually she was a lot ticked and who could blame her.
Joel read the story earlier in the service. Mary and Martha were the sisters of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus and it would appear from different gospel accounts that Jesus spent a fair amount of time at their home. On this specific occasion Jesus was travelling past on one of his journeys and Martha invited him to come and stay with her family. When Jesus arrived he sat down and began to speak, we don’t know if he was teaching, or if he was telling them of his journey or just shooting the breeze. Whatever it was Mary was soon entranced with his words and sat at his feet hanging on to every word. If you ever saw the CBS mini series “Jesus” you might remember they actually portrayed Mary as having a crush on Jesus, and it could have happened. He was a likeable type of guy who obviously was well respected, had a trade and came from a good family. A girl could do worse then Jesus.
But the story really isn’t about Mary at all; it’s about her sister, Martha. It had been Martha who had invited Jesus into her home and she was bound and determined that everything would be perfect for Jesus. And so she began to fuss around, cleaning up and getting supper ready. At first it wasn’t bad but the longer she worked the more she began to resent the fact that her sister was just sitting there, doing nothing. And finally she couldn’t stand it any longer, in Australia they would say that she spit the dummy or got her knickers in a knot, and she blurted out, “excuse me, doesn’t anybody think this might be more then a little unfair, me playing Cinderella, while her highness sits on her duff and does nothing.” Or something to that effect.
And Jesus responded by saying “Martha, don’t sweat the little stuff, and this is all little stuff. Right now Mary has discovered what is really important, and I’m not going to put a damper on that.”
I wonder what Martha’s response was? It’s not recorded but somehow I don’t think she said “Oh I’m sorry Lord, I didn’t realize.” What can we learn from this? As I got into my message I realized that there could only be one title and it is
“Martha, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Let’s go back and look at the story, Luke 10:38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. And so we begin with
The Good. The good is what made Martha, Martha. We have talked in the past about spiritual gifts, that is to say the gifts that are given to each believer for the building up of the Kingdom.
Depending on who you talk to the list include things like, prophecy, speaking in unknown languages, healing, teaching and leadership. And right in the middle of all of that is the gift of hospitality, or entertaining. A very valid gift and a very important gift. It is referred to in scriptures like 1 Peter 4:9-10 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. As well as Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
And Hebrews 13:2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!
Do you remember that last scripture from the King James, it says: Hebrews 13:2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. When I first heard that I wondered who would want to entertain angels in underwear. Talk about strange mind pictures.
Martha Knew What Her Giftedness Was, And She Was Willing To Put It To Use. She was one of those people whose home was always open. As believers one of the most frustrating things in life can be trying to do things that we not gifted for, it goes back to the trying to put square pegs in round holes.
Now sometimes we can fill a temporary need, and that’s valid. But for the most part our place of service ought to be where we are spiritually gifted. When we find where that is, and then we exercise that gift we not only feel fulfilled we are fulfilled.
Mary Lou Retton said As simple as it sounds, we all must try to be the best person we can: by making the best choices, by making the most of the talents we’ve been given.
But spiritual gifts are more than simply talents, they are gifts given to Christians from the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of seeing the Kingdom of God grow. And every Christian has at least one spiritual gift, and most of us have several, some stronger, some not nearly as evident. That’s part of why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
But how do you find out what your gift is? One of the easiest ways is to take a spiritual gift inventory, it’s like a personality test except it helps us to identify our spiritual giftedness. If you interested let me know and I’ll get a copy to you. But many of us know what our giftedness is, because that’s where we feel comfortable.
One of the easiest ways to determine that is by asking two questions: 1) Do I enjoy this? and 2) Do I do it well? The first question can only be answered by you; the second question may have to be answered honestly by someone else. Notice that I said honestly.
Not like the train wrecks who get panned on American Idol then tell the judges: But all my friends say I can sing. And I can only think of a couple of explanations for that
1) Nobody in their life knows anything about music. And maybe there are some bizarre little communities out there where horrific singing is something to be admired and praised. I’ve never heard a hint of such a community and as strange as it may seem it be it can’t be as strange as the only other alternative and that is
2) People who say they love these folks would lie to them about their singing abilities setting them up for ridicule and humiliation. And they would probably defend their actions by saying they didn’t want to hurt their feelings.
I’ve been looking for a place to quote Red Green and this looks like the spot. Red Green says “You are not good at something just because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because you are good at it.”
For the church to function at its optimum level each believer has to be exercising his or her spiritual gifts. Paul uses the analogy of the body time and time again to describe the church, and for a body to operate the way it was designed each element does the work that it was designed to do. The nose smells, the eyes see, the ears hear. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and we are told that often if one part doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to that other parts take up the load. And so a blind person will have a heightened sense of hearing or smell to help offset the disability of not being able to see.
But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be and it’s not nearly as effective. In the same way when some believers don’t use their spiritual gifts to help the kingdom grow then the gap will have to be filled by someone else, perhaps someone who isn’t gifted there but is willing to help carry the load. But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be and it’s not nearly as effective. Think about what happens when things get mixed up and your nose runs and your feet smell.
If Cornerstone is going to be everything that God intends Cornerstone to be. And if we are going to impact the people that God wants us to impact. And if we are going to do all that God intends for us to do it will be when “We” not “Me” does it.
We’ve been here before but everyone here, everyone here has an ability, a talent a “something” that they could and should contribute to the Kingdom, and often as Christ followers we do it through the local church.
Do you ever stop and think about how many people are volunteering on a typical Sunday morning to make all this seem seamless. So that adults and children can be lead into God’s throne room? There are probably fifty people who will be involved in some way today between the two services. From nursery to greeting to making coffee and cleaning up afterwards to children’s ministry and platform ministry and in the sound booth. And there is something you could be doing and something you should be doing. You should have been handed a yellow form this morning and you should fill it out. On the front is contact information, if we get your email address you will get Cornerstone Connections each week so you will know what’s happening in the church. On the back is ministry information, and if you are honest than you know that there is someplace at Cornerstone that you can serve.
And so the good is that Martha knew her spiritual gift and was willing to put it to work. But like everything in life, balance is a wonder thing. Luke 10:39-40 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. . And it is while Martha is exercising her spiritual gift that she goes from the Good to The Bad. .
Martha had at least an elementary grasp of who Jesus was because she called him Lord. If she didn’t recognize him as the Son of God or the Messiah she at least identified him as being a teacher or a Rabbi, and we don’t have to look too far through the gospels to discover that Martha and her siblings were friends of Christ. I wonder why she invited him to their house?

 Was it just to eat or had she invited him to come so she could enjoy his company and to hear what he had to say. I would suspect that it was that the latter. I mean if she just wanted to provide him with a meal she could have given him five deanari and sent him to McMalaci’s or someplace.

 But as so often happens the good soon eclipses the best. And so in an attempt to be the best hostess that she can be, to provide the cleanest possible house, and to make the best meal she can, she neglects the very reason she’s doing it. Have you ever done that, invited company over and by the time the evenings over, the dishes are done, the kitchen’s cleaned up you realize that you didn’t get to spend anytime with your company.

 There was a couple in our church in Australia who had this hospitality thing down pat, if you stopped there to say hello or to pick up your kids there was a pretty good chance that you would end up staying for a meal. Nothing fancy, just put some more water in the soup, but they were some of the best times we had. We have known other people who wouldn’t think of having you in there house unless everything was perfect, nothing could be out of place and the meal, it had to be a five star event, which inevitably meant that you never got invited to their house, or if you did you didn’t get to visit they were way too busy getting ready for you to actually have anytime for you.

 Martha Was So Caught Up In Serving Jesus That She Didn’t Take The Time To Know Jesus. And that doesn’t just happen when we are beating around the kitchen. We can take course after course, read book after book, go to seminar after seminar and never take the time to actually sit at Jesus feet and build a relationship with Him. And to be truthful Jesus probably would have preferred a tuna sandwich and Martha’s company to the fancy meal she was so busy preparing.

 What is it that distracts you from getting to know Jesus better? What keeps you from having the relationship with Jesus that you would really like to have? What would it take for you to slow down and sit at His feet and listen to what he has to say?

 But the bad wasn’t bad enough.

 And so Martha is busy being the hostess with the mostess and before long she notices that she’s doing all the work, which knowing Martha was what she wanted but she wanted it on her terms. You understand there’s a difference between doing everything after someone has offered to help and you’ve turned them down, and doing everything and nobodies even offered. And it would appear that Mary hadn’t even offered, she just plopped down at Jesus feet and became engrossed in what he was saying.

 The text tells us that Mary wasn’t helping but neither was Lazarus, or any of the disciples. Sometimes we overwork our volunteers because nobody else steps up to the plate. And maybe they offered and Martha turned them down, after all it was her house and her kitchen, but maybe they were content to just sit back and enjoy the service they were getting and it didn’t even cross their minds that they could help out.

 And that goes back to the Sunday morning thing, we come in take a bulletin from a greeter, drop the kids off in Nursery or Jr. Church, come out and grab a coffee and then we go in and enjoy the worship, without ever thinking “I wonder how I could help out.”

 And Martha was not in the least bit impressed. But she couldn’t really lash out at Peter and James and John and the other nine so she lashed out at her sister.

 Luke 10:40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” And this is where things get Ugly This is the part where we say that Martha spit the dummy. If you close your eyes you can almost picture her standing there, a tea towel over one shoulder, a smudge of flour on her nose and her hands on her hips. She’s not a happy camper.

 A couple of warnings here. First: Martha Was Insisting That Mary Share Her Spiritual Gift. I mean after all if she had the gift of hospitality than everyone should the gift of hospitality. But that isn’t the way it works, but often we can get caught up in thinking that. Especially with gifts like mercy, or intersession, that is the gift of prayer or the gift of helps.

 We kind of feel like: if I can pray for four hours than everyone ought to be able to pray for four hours. And if there’s nothing I love more then doing hospital calls then everyone should feel that way. When I was in Truro I had a retired gentleman in my church who worked as my lay assistant helping with visitation. And it was nothing for Don to visit 4 or 5 hundred people during the year, yes that’s right four or five hundred people, people who were in the hospital or nursing homes or were shut ins.

 And he did it so well, the gift of mercy was right up at the top of Don’s gift blend. Don lived to call on people, But he never tried to make me feel spiritually inferior because I didn’t have the spiritual gift of mercy in the same way he did.

 Secondly Martha allowed herself to be consumed by bitterness. I’ve said this before you will never, ever be responsible for another believer’s behaviour but you will always be responsible for your own. Martha wasn’t responsible for what Mary was or wasn’t doing. But when she allowed envy to rear its head she became responsible for that.

 I don’t think it was so much that Martha wished that Mary would do what she was doing. I think that Martha was envious of what Mary was doing, but instead of asking herself “Why aren’t I doing that?” She found it easier to attack Mary, not for what she was doing, I mean how can you condemn a person for listening to Christ, but instead for what she wasn’t doing. But that wasn’t the issue.

 And Jesus recognized that, listen to what he says Luke 10:41-42 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 What was the one thing that Mary had discovered that Martha hadn’t? I don’t know it doesn’t tell us, but somehow I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with his words in Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. What is your primary concern? And if someone was to define your spiritual walk, where would it end up. I trust that your desire is to serve him. To exercise your spiritual gifts.

Tearing down the Walls


Well, they tore it down! I wanted to tear it down in 1988 and Joe wanted to tear it down in 1995, but this week they tore it down.

For a hundred and forty years, it had been a part of the ecclesiastical landscape of Truro. For fifty-five years, it had been Pleasant Street Methodist Church and when the United Church was formed, the church was torn down and the Sunday School wing was sold to a small group with a big vision and Pastor Fred Strickland started the Pleasant Street Gospel Mission and the Sunday School wing became a church. Twenty years later, another small group with a big vision bought the building and Pastor Norman Trafton started the Truro Reformed Baptist Church, which became Truro Wesleyan Church and finally Central Nova Wesleyan Church. In 1988, while I was pastoring, we built a new worship centre and the church became the Sunday School wing again. For a hundred and forty years, that white framed building witnessed baby dedications and funerals, weddings and baptisms and this week they tore it down. But, be assured they didn’t tear down the church, just the building where the church met. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

    
 

    
 

Mission Statement of the Church

It was almost as if it had never happened. Almost as if it had been a dream, a bad dream, but just a dream.

 Everything was exactly the way it had been before. Jesus spoke about the kingdom, they walked everywhere they went and did lunch together. It was hard to believe that a month before they had watched as the Romans had nailed their teacher to a cross and left Him to die, only five weeks had passed since Jesus had been raised from the dead. You would have thought that the events of the Easter weekend would have made some kind of impact on his little band of happy followers but apparently not because it would seem that it was “Business as Usual”. It was almost as if it had never happened

 
 But then after 40 days of miracles, and teaching Jesus has this to say to His followers: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them. With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’
You are witnesses of all these things.
Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.
Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. 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.”

 Now just a word of warning, don’t go looking for that particular conversation in your Scriptures cause you won’t find it. At least you won’t find it exactly like that because that is a compilation of the recollections of those who heard Jesus last statement. Just as each of you will walk away from the sermon this morning remembering certain things I said each of those at the ascension of Christ remembered what to them appeared to be the most important parts of Christ’s last class with them. Those fragments by the way are found in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-19, Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:8-9.

 It is out of this particular conversation that Matthew gleaned what we call the great commission, now I know that for those of you in sales your idea of a great commission is 25% of the Gross and while that is a great commission it is not the Great Commission. This is in reality the mission statement of the early church. You know what a mission statement is right, it is when you have boiled the purpose of your life or the life of your church down to a concise statement of purpose. At Cornerstone we can tell you that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exist to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit. That is our mission statement. The mission statement of Christianity is this “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.”

 That my friends is why Christians are left in the world, to fulfil that mission statement. You see if Cornerstone Wesleyan Church does not reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit, then we have failed to do what we set out to do. Our mission statement does not say that Cornerstone exist to provide Wesleyans with a place to worship in Hammonds Plains, nor does it say that we exist to have this beautiful building or that we exist to do what other churches in the area are already doing or that we exist so that our people can have a pastor call on them when they are feeling in need of company. The reason that we are here, our passion, the all consuming reason we exist is to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit. That is why we are here and if we don’t accomplish that, then we have blown it and might as well turn this building into a furniture store or a car dealership.

 I have said that to say this: The greatest measure of our success is how well we fulfil our mission statement. And a mission statement is really just your vision set down on paper. And just a word to the wise here, the vision has to be from God, too often churches use vision in much the same way that a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support then for illumination. A vision or mission statement is not for the express purpose of supporting what we are doing now, instead it is a reflection of what God wants us to be doing and sometimes there is a difference. Our measure of success will be whether or not we are fulfilling our mission statement.

 But it’s more then that for you and for us because along with the mission statement that we have for our church is Christianity’s mission statement which was laid down by our Lord, Jesus Christ in His last public address to his followers: “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.” If we are not doing that then we have failed.

 1) What It Is

There has to be a reason why the church is here and why the Lord leaves us in the world after we get saved. I mean lets think about it, the world is cold and uncaring, full of pain and grief and heaven has none of that. The old song is right when it say “Heaven is a wonderful place full of glory and grace.” And so isn’t that where we really ought to be? But that isn’t where we are. So, why are we here and not there? Well Jesus offered a couple of suggestions in his teachings when he told the disciples in
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth.” He added to that in the next verse when He said Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world.” And so we are told that we are to be an influence in the world, both preserving it and flavouring it as salt and lighting the way brightening it as light. But there has to be more to it than that. In John 20:21 Jesus, tells His disciples why they are being sent out “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” So we are being sent by Christ in the same way that Christ was sent by the Father, and what was that, To keep people out of hell, right? 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.

 Winning the lost is the bottom line that’s why we are here, that ought to be the mission statement of every Christian and every Christian Church, to reach the lost. The problem though is that the main focus of the church and of Christians is not the lost, it’s the found. You say that’s not true preacher, oh no? Open the cheque book of most evangelical churches and see where the money is spent. Open the calendar of most Wesleyan Churches and see where the time is spent. Is the majority spent on reaching the lost or on making the found more comfortable? Do churches expect their pastors to spend the majority of his time and effort on the sinners or on the saints? It’s easy to say we have a commitment to winning the lost but our beliefs are confirmed by our actions not by our words. In other words my friends, talk is cheap.

 Sometimes I get the impressions that most Wesleyan’s don’t really believe the Bible. I mean we are supposed to, the discipline tells us that we believe the Bible, our preachers tell us we believe the Bible from the pulpit, and when we compare ourselves to the liberal churches we tell other people that we believe the Bible, but personally I think that we are lying.

 Has anybody seen the movie “Schindler’s List”? The plot is about a German industrialist during the Second World War who saved a pile of Jews from the concentration camps and certain death. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save them then they were destined for the gas chambers. His mission was to save Jews from a certain death.

 20 or so years ago when Air Florida flight 90 flew into a bridge and crashed into the Potomac River a man named Arland Williams jumped into the February chilled waters and saved five people from drowning. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save them then there were destined to drown. His mission was to save people from drowning.

 2000 years ago Jesus Christ came to this earth, lived 33 years, took the sins of the world upon himself and died on a cross. Do you know why he did that? Well he was convinced that if he didn’t save the world then they were destined for hell fire. His mission was to save the world

 Today most Christians are concerned with themselves and most churches are concerned with keeping Christians happy. And do you know why? Because they are not convinced that the people of the world are destined for hell. You say that’s pretty harsh isn’t it preacher. No if I wanted to be pretty harsh then I would say that Christians are convinced that those people are going to hell and that they just don’t care and that would make them monsters.

 
 2) Where It Happens

 Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Basically that means “here there and everywhere. Too often we qualify the word missions by adding either foreign or home to the beginning of it. But the church only has one mission and that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.

 We have an obligation to reach people where ever there are people. Jerusalem was where there were at, that’s Hammonds Plains, the HRM, in all Judea meant in their entire country, Samaria was the place next to Judea where the people were a bit different but a bit the same, maybe that is another province or across the line in Maine and of course to the ends of the earth covers everyone else. That means that we have an obligation to reach our next door neighbour, to reach the guy across the street, to reach the lady on the other side of town, to reach Jim Oullette in Saint John New Brunswick, Stuart Thomas in Grand Manan New Brunswick and John Kennedy in Brisbane Australia.

 And it needs to be intentional. It won’t just happen. If you don’t plan a way for it to happen then don’t count on it happening.

 At Cornerstone reaching the lost is a priority, not just in Hammonds Plains which is our Jerusalem, but also in our Judea, our Samaria and to the very ends of the earth.

 One thing that we did when Cornerstone was in the planning stages was to list our core values. Those are the principles that our church was founded on, there are seven and we live and die by those seven core values, they are non negotiable and they are what Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is all about, if you like our core values you’ll like us, if you don’t like our core values then perhaps you’d feel more comfortable in another church. Three of the seven core values are

 1) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to the reaching of pre-Christians through relational evangelism. Evangelism is and will remain a priority.

 Every dollar spent, every staff person hired, every program instituted will have to answer the question how will this reach the lost. That is our Jerusalem

 3)
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church
is committed to reaching the lost and will make tithing our general offering to world and home missions a priority. We are already Supporting Kerry and Carol Allison in the Ukraine, Carl and Mya in Haiti, Robin White in Japan as well as supporting the work in both Suriname and Ghana. As well as Darren and Janel Clark with their new church in Charlottetown. That is our Samaria and the very ends of the earth

 6) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to planting additional churches. We have assisted in planting one new church here in the HRM and one in Charlottetown and some day we are going to take an active role in starting a new church in the Elmsdale Enfield area. That is our Judea

 The vision has to be bigger then these four walls, it has to be bigger then Hammonds Plains and it has to be bigger then Nova Scotia or the Canada. And it has to be bigger than home missions or foreign missions, what it needs to be is a vision to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.

 3) Who Is Supposed To Be Doing It? If we were to look at who was there on the day of the ascension we would discover the eleven remaining apostles, but the great commission had to have been for the entire movement at that time, it wasn’t enough for those eleven to be committed to evangelism without the rest of the group being committed as well.

 The great commission is meant to be a mission statement for all of Christendom. It doesn’t matter what Christians call themselves, whether it be Wesleyan, Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever they have a common mission and that is, that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded. For Christianity to survive, Christianity has to be committed to the mission of winning the lost. When we stop making disciples and baptizing people then at that point the Church will begin to die, and will die within one generation.

 But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of Christianity; it needs to be a burning passion for the Wesleyan Church. Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our denomination will become just another empty shell in the ecclesiastical wastelands of our country.

 But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of the Wesleyan Church it needs to be for this church right here. Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our church will become just a social club, we’ll be like the Lions or the Rotary Club. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Lions or the Rotary club it’s just that they are not the body of Christ and we are, or at least that’s what we are supposed to be.

 But the great commission has to go beyond simply being for this Church it has to be for you. Without the desire to win souls what do you become? What does it say about you as a person if you aren’t willing to put yourself out just a little bit to ensure that someone that you care about doesn’t end up in hell? You see everything boils down to our responsibility. If we aren’t committed to the mission, then our local church won’t be and if the local churches aren’t committed to the mission than the denomination won’t be. And if the denominations aren’t committed to the mission than Christendom won’t be. Maybe we need to adopt the adage of salespeople who say “If it’s going to be it’s up to me”

 The problem is that even though most Wesleyan Churches are sound evangelically they are sound asleep evangelistically. And I’m here today to say, “That ain’t the way it’s supposed to be!” Our main purpose for being here is very simply to depopulate hell. Somehow we need to get a grasp of the reality of hell fire and realize that those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are destined for a Christless eternity and will be tormented forever. Do you believe that, do you believe that people today, people we know and people we don’t know will suffer for eternity because we didn’t do anything to prevent it. There are times that I think most Christians take Mark Twain’s position on heaven and hell when he said, “I don’t want to express an opinion. You see, I have friends in both places.” but we have to express an opinion because that is part of the deal of being a Christian.

 It would be so much easier to convince people of the value of evangelism if the Bible said that the only way that you would get into heaven is if you brought somebody with you, but it doesn’t. However listen to the words of Christ in John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”
You want to be loved by God and by Jesus? Sure you do. Well here’s the ticket all you have to do is to obey Christ’s commands and one of those is 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.”
If that was a command of Christ and we don’t do it then John 14:21 says that means that we don’t love him, and only those who love Christ are loved by the Father and only those who are loved by the Father are going to get in.

 There is a story told about when Calvin Coolidge
was Vice President of the United States. One day the Vice President was presiding over the Senate, one Senator angrily told another to go “straight to hell.” The offended Senator complained to Coolidge as presiding officer, and Cal looked up from the book he had been leafing through while listening to the debate. “I’ve been looking through the rule book,” he said. “You don’t have to go.” Friends we need to be in the business of telling people that we have checked the rule book and they don’t have to go.”

 
 4) How Are We Supposed To Be Doing It? The power of the Holy Spirit is the means, the method is not defined. Deng Xiaoping said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.” When we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives neat things happen. The Bible tells us in: Mark 16:17-18 (Jesus Said) These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

 Now some people get really caught up in those particular things, but they are simply indications of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who minister. It is a promise of enablement and protection. When Kerry and Carol minister in Ukraine they speak in a new tongue because their mother tongue is English. When Medical missionaries minister in a hospital in Sierra Leone and Haiti aren’t they placing their hands on sick people to heal them? I don’t think that you ever have to worry about me picking up snakes, but I was convinced that the drinking deadly poison was a direct reference to Australian Coffee.

 Sometimes we get so caught up in how we should do it that we never do it. What should the church look like, what should the church sound like, what songs should we sing, should we have pews or chairs. Let me share with you my new favourite quote Thomas Jefferson said “In matters of style swim with the current in matters of principle stand like a rock.”

 Do you remember when Nike used the phrase “Just Do It.”? I would like that to be my message to the church, “Just Do it” Listen again to the promise of Christ in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 There are two things that happen when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, two evidences of his presence. 1) We receive power 2) We will tell people about Jesus. If our lives do not exhibit power and we are not witnesses than it would appear to be very obvious that the Holy Spirit has never come upon you.

 As far as evangelism on a personal level that is all of our responsibility, you can no more shirk that than you can walk past a drowning man and not throw him a rope. But on a broader spectrum there are those who God has called to reach people where you can’t. Let’s face it, realistically we can’t all move to Newfoundland to plant a church, you can’t move to the Ukraine to help Kerry and Carol Allison to minister to street kids or to Haiti to help Carl and Maya in the Work there. But that doesn’t remove the obligation that God has placed on you to reach the lost in those places, it simply changes how you can do that.

 Instead of going to the Ukraine, or going to Haiti or going to Newfoundland you help Kerry and Carol, Carl and Maya and Darren and Janel to go. Even though you can’t be there your prayers can be there. You may not be able to say, “Here am I send me” but you can say, “Here I am, let me help send others.

 Let’s not forget our mission statement “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.”

Grampy?


Bizarre. It seems like only a little while ago I was in high school wondering what I would be when I grew up. And apparently according to the phone call I received the other day the answer to the “what am I going to be” question is . . .a grandfather. Some- one asked if I still thought of my daughter as a little girl and there are times I still think of Denn as a little boy.

A grandfather? Grandfathers are old men who wear cardigans and smell musty. When did that happen? And where was I when it happened?

The Bible tells us that our lives are like a mist, here for but a short time and then gone. And it’s true. I blinked and my daughter was on her way to becoming a mother.

Someone said that grandchildren are God’s reward for letting our children live and I’m about to find out.

Both of my Grandfathers passed away while I was still a child, so I don’t have strong memories of them but my goal is for Grandpa to be one of my grandkid’s favourite people. And if that involves spoiling them, then so be it.

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

    
 

    
 

On This Rock

Twenty years ago I read a statement in the “preacher’s magazine.” And it said, “The church is like Noah’s ark, if it wasn’t for the judgement on the outside, you’d never be able to stand the smell on the inside.” I chuckled, I wrote it down, I filed it, but later I went back and read it and got angry. If that’s the church I thought, if the only reason we stay in it is to avoid the judgement on the outside, then not only are we cowards but we are hypocritical cowards. And while some may feel that we need to accept the smell on the inside, I don’t.

 At the time you may recall it seemed like evangelical Christianity was a target in the media every other day, the church has been called to be many things, and to do many things, but it was never, never, never called to be a failure.

 Christ told peter, “you are the very first to acknowledge me as Christ, and so you are the very first person in the church, and the church will be built upon my name and it will stand forever.” And friends listen up, when the church becomes corrupt, and when the church becomes a failure, and when the church begins to stink, you can be assured that what you’re smelling rot, isn’t what Christ established. Instead it is just another human institution that has gone bad, and that needs to be purged.

 This morning we are going to look at five critical characteristics about the church.
Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 1) The Church Is A Divinely Appointed Institution.
    

 The church was not established by man, not by Peter, or Constantine, or Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, or Wesley, or Guptill. The church has been established by Jesus Christ. The church is a divine institution. The problem is that all too often we get the church confused with the church. We get mixed up. A building may be a church building but it is never the church, I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by well meaning people, “How do you feel now that you have a church?” and my response is “We’ve had a church since 1995 now we have some place to put it.”

 You folks are the church, but not all of you and you’re not all of the church.

 Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, Full Gospel Church, Emmanuel Baptist church, The Rock Church, Stoneridge Fellowship are all man made, human inspired institutions. And God uses them, and works though them. But the church, the body of Christ is instituted, ordained, and approved by Jesus Christ. Paul refers to Christ as the head of the church and later talks about the church being the body of Christ, in the Revelation John refers to the church as the bride of Christ. And the New Testament reiterates time and time again that the church belongs to Jesus Christ.

 God has used men through the years in guiding the direction of his church but don’t be deceived, it is still God’s church. When the Roman Catholic Church stopped serving God’s purpose he rose up the reformers and men like Luther, Calvin and Zwingli saw his church go on. When the Anglican church of the 1700’s became cold, detached and uncaring men like Wesley and Whitefield were used to see God’s work continue. When the Methodist church in the states chose to bask in their new found respectability rather then defending the abolitionist movement of the early and mid 1800’s Oange Scott was willing to be used. And out of the willingness came the Wesleyan church. And friends if we ever get to the point where we are more concerned about us, and more concerned with how people see us and view us, and respect us then we are with doing the job God set before us then God will call men and women out of the Wesleyan church to get on with the job.

 Acts 2:41-42 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. 2) The Church Exists To Strengthen Believers.

 The primary purpose of the early church was not evangelism, you did not bring your friends to a church meeting to get them saved, within the context of the church it is doubtful that you would ever hear an evangelistic message and very, very doubtful that an altar call would ever have been given, let alone done to forty seven verses of just as I am.

 The early church was to provide strength fellowship and education to those who knew Jesus Christ as lord and saviour. Evangelism was carried out beyond the four walls of the church, regardless of whether those four walls were real or imaginary. The believers brought their friends and family to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and then and only then did they bring them into the church family. I mean you gotta understand that going to church wasn’t the “thing to do” during those first years, it was not appropriate social behaviour, as a matter of fact church membership often resulted in an invitation to dinner with the lions.

 What then was the purpose of the church? Well the description of the first church in acts 2 says that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And so it would appear that the first priority of the church needs to be education in general and the education of the saints in particular. Every person in this auditorium needs to be learning something, you need to know more scriptural, theological and doctrinally truths today then you did yesterday. People tell me, I’m not into doctrine; I just want to learn the bible. Listen up, you may not be into doctrine but the bible is. The bible is doctrine, the bible is theology, and if we are going to mature in the lord, then we will need to get into the word of God.

 And while we can’t limit our spiritual education to what we learn in church it’s a good place to start. It may come as a shock to some folks but this is not the only service that Cornerstone has. We offer Discover the Word small groups and at various time we offer courses like Christianity 101, Lights Camera Jesus, different courses on parenting and marriage. We will be offering a course on parenting teens in the New Year. And yet most of us are content to be here on Sunday Mornings and only when that doesn’t conflict with other things on our calendar. What would happen if you only ate a third of your meals? Went to work a third of the time? Went to school a third of the time? Or only took a third of your medicine? You’d never receive full benefit would you?

 Our small groups not only offer bible study and prayer but they supply one of the most vital needs of Christians today and that is Christian fellowship. The purpose of the church is to help strengthen the saints.

 God knows nothing of solitary religion, that’s why Jesus appointed 12, and the spirit came to 120 in the upper room and 3000 were added after Peter’s first sermon at Pentecost. Christ knew that we would need one another and that is the reason for the church.

 Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 3) The Church Exists To Make Life On Earth A Little Better

 Two thousand years ago salt was used primarily for two reasons, to preserve and to season. And while preservation was the most critical in a practical sense the flavouring benefits of NaCl or sodium chloride can never be underestimated.

 A number years ago a buddy of mine spent a couple of months in Zambia, in Africa. And he told me that the staple food there was called nsima. For breakfast you got nsima, at lunch you got nsima, for supper you got nsima, great heaping piles of nsima. And what you ask is nsima, nsima is ground maize and water, and John said that it tasted like a cross between oatmeal and wall paper paste. And there was no milk for it, and no cream for it and no sugar for it. And my buddy said that the only way that you could make it taste any better was by adding salt. And I remain convinced that without the Christian church that this world would be much like nsima, flavourless and dull.

 We are here partly to make life on this old terrestrial ball just a little more flavourful. And we have! During the past two thousand years the church of Christ has been in the forefront of the battle to make the human existence just a little bit better. Throughout history when hospitals were established it was the Christian church, when schools were established it was the Christian church, when lepers colonies were established it was the Christian church, staffed by Christian men and women. In is no coincidence that the dog that is famous for rescuing lost travellers in Switzerland, the Saint Bernard, is named after a clergy man.

 Do you remember in the early 80’s the press played up the aid provided Ethiopia by rock groups who participated in band-aid, and USA for Africa. And the organizer of the event Bob Geldof was knighted for his part. Remember. What the press failed to mention is that the Christian church was there firstest with the mostest through groups like World Vision and World Hope and Compassion. But why wasn’t that news, because it’s expected of the church.
And twenty five years later when the rockers are all back to their hedonistic, self indulgent life style the church is still in the trenches providing aid. Geldof released a song in the nineties called the “The Great Song Of Indifference” and some of the lyrics said: “I don’t care if the Third World fries It’s hotter there I’m not surprised Baby I can watch whole nations die And I don’t care at all.” I know Geldof was using satire to make his point but here is another point, the church cared then and still cares today. When I was travelling in Africa when I saw groups that were making a difference the vast majority of time they were faith based Christian groups.

 We fail to remember that the church was responsible for the end of child labour in England, and the end of the slave trade in the western world, and the feminist movement neglects to mention that it was the evangelical and holiness church that were in forefront of the women’s rights movement at the turn of the century and the Wesleyan church today is on the front lines fighting to stop human trafficking.

 Making the world a better place to live in not just a part of the history of the church, it needs to be our mission both for today and tomorrow. Individually we do it by following Christ’s admonition in Matthew 19:19 Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ” Each one of us needs to reach our in love to those who surround us, the world is full of hurting people, and you shouldn’t have to look very hard to find one.

 Corporately as a local church Cornerstone Wesleyan Church will do it by following Christ’s admonition in Mark 12:31 T ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ The church needs to continue to look beyond it’s four walls to see where there is a need to fill. Whether it’s through foreign missions, or Operation Christmas Child, Harvest for the Hungry, Ronald McDonald House, Operation Happy Feet or supporting the Gideon’s we have been put here to make this world a better place.

 As a denomination we do it by following Christ’s admonition in Luke 10:27 “Love your neighbour as yourself.”and the Wesleyan church again does that through relief work, world missions, home missions, and such ministries as the orphanages, senior citizens facilities and schools that we run as a denomination.

 Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” 4) The Church Exists To Be An Example.

 If salt was used to dispel blandness, then light is used to dispel darkness. We are here to provide a light for a world cloaked in darkness. People would say, “Well you’re not doing a very good job of it.” Au contrar, I think that we are doing an excellent job of it.

 Sometimes when people asked what I do when I tell them they immediately bring up some of the scandals that have been in the news lately. I’m going to start telling people I’m in insurance, fire insurance.

 Anybody here ever have a non-Christian friend wag that stuff under your nose, what about this and what about that.

 But do you know why the world makes such a fuss over those incidents? Because they make the world look morally alright, the world could say “oh yeah, well what about. . .” But they forget that for every scandal you hear about there are millions of Godly men and women, who live holy lives day in and day out and who show the world for what it is, bad to the core.

 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. How does Paul say that Noah condemned the world? By his righteousness. Because the dark doesn’t look to bad until you light a candle. And the deepest, thickest darkness cannot cloak the light of a single candle.

 There needs to be a standard, if you are not going to measure something that is 300 mm long, it is not that long, nor is it that long it is this long because this is 300 mm long. Hebrews 12:14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.. And in John 13:15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. And Stanley said of Livingston, “If I had been with him any longer I would have become a Christian and he never spoke to me about it.”

 Ezekiel 16:2 “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable sins. 5) The Church Is Here To Confront Society.
    
Ezekiel 16:2 should be the watch word of the Christian church. We are not in a popularity contest, Jesus did not put on this earth to become little Miss congeniality, respectability isn’t supposed to be the mission of the church, instead we are to stand tall in a corrupt and decaying world, and proclaim righteousness and decry unrighteousness, even if it don’t make us real popular.

 Abortion is killing babies, it’s not removing foetal tissue, it’s not terminating pregnancies, it not getting rid of a growth and it should not be legal and the Christian church needs to stand up and say “stop the killing.”

 Homosexuality is sin, not an option, not an alternate life style, within the context of the Word of God, and it is called sin. Human rights, nuclear armament, world hunger, AIDS, human trafficking

 The church needs to use its voice. And if the world is going to take us serious then it needs to hear more then simply Jesus loves you. It needs to hear about the love of God but it also needs to hear about the wrath of God. At some point the church will have to decide if it is going to be a compass pointing in the right direction or if it’s going to be a weather vane pointing wherever the winds of society say it should point. Let’s never forget Proverbs 14:12 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

 We weren’t called to be popular but we were called to be faithful to the entire word of God.

 It was the Scottish poet James Thomson who said ” I think a bishop who doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good bishop.” And Denn Guptill who paraphrased it to say ” I think a church which doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good church.”

 And remember the words of Christ in Matthew 5:11 “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. He didn’t say if but when.

 We don’t have to look very far to realize that as a local church and as a denomination that if you don’t stand for something then you will fall for anything. No I don’t agree with the man who compared the church to Noah’s ark, and I don’t think the smell is all that bad on the inside. And I know what God knows and that is this that ultimately the church will be triumphant, because Christ told us the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and the failings of some Christians certainly won’t bring the walls down around our ears.

 
 

Say What?


Interesting. Last week, I received a newsletter in the mail from a local real estate agent; that’s not interesting, that’s just life. What was interesting, was a comment made in an article on Canada’s economic recovery. The article said and I quote, “the real estate market has made an almost Lazarus like recovery.” Interesting.

I wonder how many people reading the article knew what a “Lazarus like recovery was”? Perhaps they thought it was a real estate term or an economic indicator.

It continues to amaze me, the biblical references I find or hear in everyday life: from people’s prodigal sons and daughters, to the blind leading the blind. People may not know that those sayings and a plethora of others had their origins in the Word of God, but they have become part of our everyday speech, although this was the first time I had heard the Lazarus reference.

The promise of God is that His word will always bear fruit. So maybe someone in the community will be intrigued, will track down the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and will meet a Saviour they never knew, all because of junk mail. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.