Go for the Gold: Hockey

Of all the events of the winter Olympics and there are 15 main events in all, plus their sub events, there is one event that seems to spark our country’s collective psyche like none other and that is the Men’s Hockey. You’ll recall that at the winter Olympics in Salt Lake the Americans chose their 1980 Hockey Team for lighting the flame and actually made a movie about that team winning the Gold at Lake Placid so I think I’d be safe saying that Canadians aren’t the only ones obsessed with hockey. Hockey was first introduced to the Olympics in 1920 and was won by the Canadian Team, of course. Canada continued to win every Gold until 1952 with the exception of 1936 when a British team made up primarily of Canadian residents born in Britain won the Gold. That all changed in 1956 when the Russians entered the games. And we went through a fifty year drought where we were unable to make it to the top of the podium. But of course that changed in 2002 when the Canadian Men and Women both won gold.

 The stereotypical Canadian is a Hockey Fan, we are supposed to eat sleep and drink hockey which isn’t always the case, not everyone north of the 49th is a Hockey fan. But here is a check list to find out if you are, ready you might be a hockey fan if:
You know you’re a hockey fan if…..
15. You punish your kids with “minors,” “majors,” and “misconducts.”
14. When you come to a traffic signal and the light turns red, you get really excited and start cheering.
13. You consider the Forum in Montreal a place of worship.
12. You keep a picture of the Stanley Cup in your wallet in front of the picture of your family.
11. Instead of duct tape, you use hockey tape to fix everything.
10. You call a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame a “pilgrimage.”
9. You think the Canadian National Anthem is the theme from “Hockey Night in Canada.”
8. You send Wayne Gretzky a birthday card, yet you can’t even remember your own family members’ birthdays.
7. All your kids are either named Gordie, Bobby or Wayne.
6. You went to see “West Side Story” because you thought it was about a game between Winnipeg and San Jose.    
5. When someone refers to “The Classics,” you think they’re talking about the Original Six.
4. Every time you hear a siren you wonder who scored.
3. Every time you see the name “Roy” you automatically pronounce it “Wah.”
2. Everything in your wardrobe is your team’s colors.
1. You think the proper way to spell the plural of “leaf” is “leafs.”
Most of the winter Olympics have at least a partial solo component, whether it be alpine or cross country skiing, speed skating or figure skating, but at its very heart Hockey is a team sport.

 Hockey games will never be won and lost on the strength of a single superstar. Probably the greatest example of that would be the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. Undoubtedly the greatest hockey player to ever play he led the Edmonton Oilers to 5 Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990. However as great as he was he was unable to deliver the cup to either LA or New York in the years to follow. Concerning Basketball Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
made this statement: “One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.”

And in Baseball it was Babe Ruth
who said “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” Although the sports are different the sentiment is the same: great individuals don’t win great, teams do. And so this morning we are going to look at the things we need to do together. Let’s start by making sure that we are all playing on the same team.
Three questions: Who’s your owner? Every hockey team has an owner, even in the Olympics where every thing is supposed to be non commercial and amateur there has to be someone who puts up the cash. That’s the sponsoring country. If you are a Christian you have an owner as well and it is God. The scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
So in order to be on the team God has to be your owner, is He?
Secondly Who’s your General Manager? You ever wonder what a general manager does? Collins English Dictionary defines Manager this way a Person who manages the affairs of a business, client, team etc. So at Cornerstone that would be our administrator Mike Kneebone, but in Hockey the General Manager is the man in charge of the Players. He recruits them and is in charge of their behaviour. Sound a lot like Jesus. 1 John 4:9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. In order to be on the team Jesus needs to be the manager of your life, is he in control of your behaviour?
Thirdly Who’s your Coach? If we go back to Collins English Dictionary for a moment we see Coach defined like this: coach, an instructor or trainers of athletes, singers etc.
Now if we go to the Bible Jesus said in John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
Is the Holy Spirit your coach, is he the one who is guiding you and instructing you?
So are you a part of the team? Ok, then let’s look at what being a part of the team entails.
The Team Has a Purpose The purpose of a Hockey Team is to win. To win the game, to win the series, to win the playoffs, to win the championship. In the case of our Olympic Hockey team the purpose is to win the Gold, not the bronze, not the silver but the Gold. They haven’t gone to Turrin for the trip, they haven’t gone to skate around the rink they’ve gone to win.
“Every time you put on a Canadian uniform and play for Team Canada, anything but gold is not acceptable.” Wayne Gretzky, manager of Team Canada.
The church has a purpose as well; Jesus told the Apostles what it was in 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.”
That’s the purpose of the church to bring people into the kingdom and make them disciples. That’s what we are supposed to be doing. As a local church we have a purpose as well, 1 years ago when this church was just a dream we developed a mission statement that says: Our Mission Statement: Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with the Living God and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.
That’s why Cornerstone Wesleyan Church was established 15 years ago, it’s why we are here today. That is our goal to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ, to introduce them to Jesus and to guide them into a holy life style. That’s why we exist that is our purpose and that is our goal. Anything less then that may well be admirable isn’t what we are here to do. Close your eyes for a moment. Work with me on this one ok? Close your eyes and now picture someone you know who doesn’t know Jesus. It might be a family member, or maybe a friend or a neighbour. Can you see them? Ok I’m going to pray and I want you to pray after me, you don’t have to do it out loud but pray. Father I thank you for the salvation your offer through Jesus, and I thank you for the guidance you offer through the Holy Spirit. Lord I bring my friend to you today. Help me to reach them for you. May my light shine bright, and may I have the courage to speak to them about you. In Jesus name amen. That’s why you are here as a Christian and why we exist as a church.
The Team Has a Strategy Hockey teams win by having a strategy as a team, they don’t just go out there and do something. Well some teams do that but the successful teams will have a strategy. When the players get on the ice they know what their coach expects of them and they will either play offensive hockey or they will play defensive hockey. The purpose of the first is to score as many goals as possible and of course the goal of the second is to prevent as many goals as possible. In the NHL this year according to industry sources, that would be my former assistant Greg Hanson, the two best offensive teams in the League this year are the Washington Capitals who lead the league with 243 goals followed by the San Jose Sharks. The best defensive team are the Chicago Black Hawks which has the fewest goals against with 141 the next best are the New Jersey Devils with 142 goals against. It’s interesting to note that all four of these teams are all leading in their respective divisions.

Now historically the church has played a defensive game, we try to prevent the devil from scoring goals. In the church in society and in the world as a whole. But I’m here to tell you today that was not the strategy that Christ mapped out for the church, he did not expect us to play a defensive game he expected us to play an offensive game. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said . . . I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
Now we all know the scripture, and there are some things that we can learn from it. Jesus builds the Church and it’s his church. That’s elementary but sometimes we forget it. Unfortunately it’s the last part of the scripture that we get wrong, and not just a little wrong but totally wrong. What happens is more often then not we take this as a promise that the church will be able to stand against hell. But that’s not what Jesus was saying. Gates are not offensive weapons, you don’t attack with gates, you defend with gates. You see Jesus is not saying “Hey guys when Hell attacks the church, the church will be able to stand” No, what he’s saying is “Hey guys when the church attacks hell, it won’t be able to stand.”
This is Jesus church do you believe that? And its purpose here is to depopulate hell, and it’s time that we as a church stopped taking the defensive and began to play a more offensive game in order to win. We can’t simply wait for people to come to us; we need to be going to them. How do we do that? It needs to start out personally, it goes back to who did you picture in your mind? Who was it that you prayed for? And now ask yourself, “What can I do to reach that person?”
We all have a job to Do? In hockey you have a goalie, 2 defence men, 2 forwards and a centre. Each player plays a specific position and performs a specific task. For example the goalies job is to keep the puck out of the net, his job isn’t to put the puck in the other net it’s very simply to keep the puck out his net. Very seldom do you find a goalie scoring a hat trick; if you do it might be indicative that the defence on the other team wasn’t doing their job. And being goalie is a very important job, but not everyone can be goalie and not everyone wants to be goalie, listen to what New York Rangers goaltender Gump Worsley
said in comparing the profession of goaltending with other popular jobs: “The only job worse is a javelin catcher at a track-and-field meet.” And Jacques Plante the first NHL Goalie to wear a mask asked “How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?”

The bible doesn’t use a sports team as an analogy, but Paul tells us the same thing using the body as an illustration Romans 12:4-5 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
In Hockey the players know their positions and know that’s what they are supposed to play. In the church we need to learn that. Everyone of us has a position to play on the team. Bob Russell was the Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky, a church that he began pastoring right out of College when it had 50 people attending; now it has in excess of 17000 people worshipping on Sunday Mornings. Russell says all he expects out of his people is 3 hours a week. An hour of worship, you’re doing that now. An hour of discipleship, that’s small groups. And an hour of ministry. Sounds pretty simple. Everyone in the church needs a ministry, a job to do. Think about it, if you’re at a hockey game and all you’re doing is watching, you’re not a player you’re a fan. You’re not part of the team you are part of the crowd. So we all need a job, and there are all kinds of jobs to do in the church. On the back table are information sheets, which by the way if you’ve never filled out you probably need to. On the back of those sheets is a listing of most of the ministry opportunities at Cornerstone if you can’t find anything there that fits you there’s a blank spot at the bottom. We need your contribution, and more importantly you need a ministry.
We need to play as a team On a good team if a player makes a mistake usually the other players don’t skate over and say “Way to go bonehead.” At least they shouldn’t, instead they should be there to say, “Hey, next time.” When a team starts fighting and bickering and complaining then it’s just a matter of time before they lose their focus on what they are supposed to be doing. When Patrick Roy was traded to Colorado from Montreal it wasn’t because he was a rotten goalie it was because he kept whining about the management of the Habs and constantly complaining. In the church it’s the same way, when Paul wrote to the Christians who were part of the church in Corinth, he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 13:11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.
That’s a promise for every church including Cornerstone; Encourage each other, live in harmony and peace. Then the God of Love and peace will be with you. Do you know what the difference is between the NHL and the WWF? In the NHL the fighting’s real. But at least they fight with those on other teams not with their own players.
We need to build one another up, to encourage and protect one another to live in harmony and peace. When one of the team is hurting then we need to be there to comfort them and protect them. Jean Perron
used to play for Montreal and he once made this statement “This type of injury is very painful. Especially when it hurts.”
Sometimes in hockey people get hurt, honest, really it happens. And when it does the other players try to protect the hurt player and when he gets back to the bench the other players are concerned about his injury and the trainer does what he can to ease the pain. Sometimes in the church people get hurt as well, and when that happens we are supposed to protect them and we are supposed to be concerned and take care of them and do what we can to ease the pain. That’s part of being a team, that’s why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
Team is often defined as Together Each Accomplishes More What we can’t accomplish as individual Christians we can accomplish as a church, but only when we work as a team.


The Blame Game

Oh, stop it already. I was reading my online news the other day and couldn’t get over the number of times the word “blamed” was used. A sixty-year-old schoolteacher, who stabbed a man in the throat, blamed the attack on stress he suffered from high school students making fun of his last name. A truck driver, whose rig crashed into a parked car, blamed the accident on the chilli he was eating while driving. And an actress, who recently underwent 10, yes 10, cosmetic surgery procedures in one day, blamed criticism over her looks, as the reason for the excess.
It kind of reminds me of the story of the Garden and all the blaming that went on between Adam and Eve. I think the Devil was proud of the part he played. And yet the truth remains, that it’s only when we accept responsibility for the choices that we made in our past, that we can take control over our future.
So, before we start trying to point the finger at others for what happened yesterday, instead let’s choose to move ahead, with God’s help, and make better decisions tomorrow.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Leaving Childish Things Behind

Can you remember being a kid? Can you remember the thrill of each new morning and the wonder of each new day? Can you remember when a week seemed like an eternity, and it was a lifetime between Christmases? Can you remember nursery rhymes and fairy tales, and thinking that all stories had a happy ending and the world was full of handsome princes and beautiful princesses? Can you remember when your father seemed like the smartest man in the world and your mother the most beautiful woman? If you close your eyes and let your mind drift back what memories come to you from your childhood. I can remember riding my bike with David Fader when I was ten, and playing softball with Rob Courtier when I was eleven. I remember my dad taking me out into the surf off of Barcelona when I was seven. And having my mother all to myself when I was five. I remember wanting to grow up tomorrow and never wanting to grow up at all. Can you remember being a kid?

 If we share nothing else in this life we have shared childhood. Before culture bends us and shapes us and pushes us into our particular mould we are children. Rich, poor, black, white, in Canada or Australia or Ghana or Afghanistan children are children are children it is our one common and shared experience. We may end up in different places but we all started at a common place and that was birth.

 Indeed it was such a natural starting point that when Jesus was looking for an analogy with which to explain the new life of the Christian to Nicodemus in John chapter three he latched onto that common shared experience and told that teacher of the law, “you must be born again” . You must start over; begin fresh, experience a new birth. And the Apostle John said in
John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. children of God, not teenagers of God, not adults of God but children of God. The scriptures tell us we must start over, be born again, become as children, but what are children?

 Well Lionel Kaufman said “Children are a great comfort in your old age, and they help you reach it faster too.” Someone else stated that “a boy is noise covered in dirt” Kate Wiggins said “Every child born into the world is a new thought of God, an ever fresh and radiant possibility.”

 One proverb summed it up when it said “There is only one pretty child in the world and every mother has it.” and in 1675 Lord Rochester wrote “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children, now I have six children and no theories.” my favourite is “A baby is a small member of the home, that makes love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, the bank balance smaller, the home happier, clothes shabbier the past forgotten and the future worth living for.”

 But I know as well as anybody that children aren’t as good as they used to be. I mean they certainly aren’t as polite and well mannered as I was as a child and my parents let me know that my behaviour wouldn’t be tolerated when they were children and I’m sure that my grand parents must have told my parents the same thing. One writer summed it up when he wrote, “Our youth love luxury, they have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect for their elders and would rather talk then exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, talk in front of company, gobble their food and terrorize their teachers.” Of course that was written twenty three hundred years ago by Socrates.

 But whatever else we agree on or disagree on we are on common ground on one area is that the natural thing for children to do is to grow up. Most do, some don’t. But they are supposed to. Indeed when Paul chastened the early Christians his complaint was that they were still infants in Christ.

 Why was that a complaint? Because for all the good points that children have they also have their faults. A good majority of those faults are excusable in children but intolerable in adults. I’m sure that your children some times exhibit behaviour that you would be disappointed in if they behaved that way as adults. Whether good bad or indifferent there are characteristics in children which are not normal reactions in adults. And there are characteristics in new Christians good, bad and indifferent which are not normal reactions in mature Christians.

 The believers in the Corinthian church are referred to on at least two separate occasions as spiritual infants by Paul. In both instances the Corinthians are urged to mature, to put childish things behind them and to grow up. What are some of the areas that we need to change in our physical life and spiritual life as we mature?

 1) Babies Are Short Sighted At birth we are told a newborn’s point of focus is eight inches. Just about the distance to mom’s face when the baby is nursing. It’s not that the child wouldn’t like to see further, but it can’t. It’s natural sight is limited to that distance.
Often new Christians can only see from day to day or from Sunday to Sunday. They can’t see the big picture. But as children mature they are able to focus on objects further and further away until their eyes are able to focus on objects at any distance. As Christians mature they need to be able to see beyond next week, they need to be able to determine where they want to be in their spiritual life a month, a year or ten years from now.

 Just as most of us plan our lives and set goals in our personal and business affairs we need to do the same in our Father’s business. When do you want to have read your bible through? When do you want to have developed a consistent prayer life? When do you want to become a soul winner? The reason we establish goals is to establish direction. Once you know where you’re going you can establish which direction you need to head. If you want to go to the Rockies you don’t start by getting on a boat and sailing east. In your personal life and in you spiritual life costly mistakes can be made without careful planning.

 That’s why Yogi Berra said “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

 2) Babies Can’t Tolerate Solid Foods. You know babies have a very interesting diet, milk. Boring but hey that’s not their fault, they’re just babies and they can’t tolerate solid foods I’m sure that they would like to chow down on a big Mac or Whopper with cheese but they can’t. The interesting thing is that mother’s milk or formula will provide everything infants needs right now to grow.

 New Christians need what Paul and Peter call spiritual milk. They need to focus on the gospels, on reading Mark and John. Those books provide everything a baby Christian needs to grow. But you put a new Christian in Revelation or Ezekiel and you are going to have one confused believer.

 Now the teen guys in the church are different then Grace. They can eat almost anything and depending on how hungry they are they will eat almost everything, if you don’t believe that than come on out tonite to the Super Bowl party and watch them graze. If all you gave your teenagers was milk you would have one sick kid. As parents we know that as our children mature they need a more varied and solid diet. Why then is it that so many Christians refuse to take in anything but milk?

 People say things like “I don’t want to get into that because it involves doctrine.” or ” I don’t know anything about theology, and it’s beyond me.” But think about it if God didn’t want us to have it then he wouldn’t have put it into the book. This is the greatest best seller of all times. It has suspense, crime, romance, international intrigue, mystery, philosophy, poetry and prose. You need more then simply John 3:16 to get through your spiritual life.

 As you mature you need the meat of the word. How much of the bible do you know. After all you are betting your eternal life on the validity of this book. Have you studied it? When I preach do you take notes? Are you involved in a bible study? Do you get involved in “Discover the Word”?

 Reading a selected verse each day won’t help you learn the bible anymore then opening a math text book and reading one equation each morning will help you to learn math. Or opening one of Shakespeare’s plays and reading a passage every day will teach you much English. If you are going to grow and mature in your Christian walk you will have to learn what God’s word says for you. Remember what Paul tells us in
Hebrews 5:13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.

 3) Babies Need To Be Catered To. An infant can do absolutely nothing for themselves nothing. You need to feed them, change them, bathe them, carry them, pick them up and put them down. They are totally helpless, and without parental attention they will die. But you know there comes a time when mom and dad have to let go and let the child do things for themselves. No honest, you really do have to let go.

 Christians, that is new Christians, need to be guided through their early life by the hand. Somebody more mature in the Lord needs to disciple them and help them. But there comes a time when baby Christians have to start doing things for themselves. Too many Christians are quite content to be spoon fed on Sunday and allow the pastor to run interference for them keeping an eye on them to keep them out of trouble.

 But there comes a time that we have to say it’s time to fly on your own, time to sink or swim, time to fish or cut bait. Talk about a medley of metaphors. But the fact remains that you cannot be nursed forever in your Christian walk. Christ even tells us that we will be identified by our behaviour or as he puts it in Matthew 12:33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. And the only person who can produce fruit for you is you. I can’t, the only person who can is you. And you can only do that when you take responsibility for your own Christian walk.

 4) Children Can Be Critical And Uncaring. The cruellest people in the world can be children. They have this uncanny knack for singling out the one who is a bit different and then watch out. Whether it is weight or colour or a handicap, children can be some of the most malicious and cruel creatures on the face of the earth.

 Even Christian kids, check out the Christian schools, youth groups, Sunday school. There are the in kids and the out kids, the popular kids and the unpopular kids. And life isn’t much fun when you are outside the circle for whatever reason. If you’re not good at sports, if you don’t have the right clothes, or toys, or hair cut.

 Wouldn’t happen with adults would it? Well maybe, but not in a church would it? Why is it that there are churches that people never go back to because they don’t feel welcome? Is it because they can’t break into the family? When service is over do you speak to all the visitors or are there some that you don’t feel all that comfortable with and really wouldn’t be that comfortable if they were in the church.

 James talks a little bit about that in the letter that bears his name. We are noted for being a friendly church. But it won’t take much change for that to end. It’s easy to just talk to our friends, after all it’s been all week and we haven’t seen them and we have so much in common and they are friends. Each one of us needs to be intentional about saying hello to people on Sunday morning. There should be nobody who looks like a wall flower standing by themselves off to one side.

 You ever watch how kids can be the best of friends one minute and not talking the next because of some slight either real or imaginary. Never happen in a church right? How about when a brother or sister stumbles and falls? What is our first reaction? Do we stoop to help them up or do we stand over them and shake our heads.

 Our task isn’t to be harsh and critical it’s to encourage. Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

 5) Children Can Be Selfish. Most children for at least part of their lives are mainly concerned with the one person who occupies the centre of the universe and that is them. An action can be wrong for the rest of the world but if it benefits that one child hey they’ll vote for it every time.

 When you ask a child to do something how many times do they ask: “Why?” And what they mean is “what’s in it for me.” How about around the church, in all the areas there are to serve are you serving? On the back of the connection cards there are areas in which you can serve, which ones are you involved in? What could you do at Cornerstone, greet people at the door? Help in the Nursery, or in Jr. or Children’s Church? Read scripture or pray in the morning service.

  I guess the question is this: if Cornerstone is your regular church home and you aren’t doing something to serve here, how come? Does your tithe come off the top or the bottom of your salary is it a sacrifice or whatever is left on Sunday? Hey I’m only asking the questions. When you are asked to serve in the church is your first thought; how will it fit into all my other commitments? Pastor I just haven’t got time with all my other commitments. I thought that Christianity was a commitment. I hope that Cornerstone is a commitment.

 You ever stop to examine your motives and why you do things? It’s something each of us has to do, are we doing it to benefit me and mine? Are we looking out for number one, hey that’s what we are told to do isn’t’ it? In his book “Improving Your Serve” Chuck Swindoll talks about going on a canoe trip and how he made sure that he and his son had the best seats in the van, and when they got to the launching place that they had the most experienced guide and the best canoe. It was only on reflection that Swindoll realized just how unchristlike his actions had been. All too often we are guilty of looking for the best seat, the best parking lot and the best deal for ourselves. Doesn’t sound much like Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other. When the church decides to go in a particular direction are you usually for it or against it? Why? Is it based on what is best for me and mine or what is best for the kingdom? Looking out for number one isn’t Christ’s policy it’s the world’s policy and supposedly we aren’t of the world.

 These are some of the childish things that we need to put behind us. Some of the things that Paul warned us about. He said it was time to grow up, how about it how grown up are you in your Christian life? Are you further along then you were last year, are you growing or are you just stagnating? Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

 In my next message we will be looking at some of the childlike things that we need to keep as Christians. Things like love, trust, faith, dreams, vitality, life and honesty. Those are the things that we had better not lose or we’ll be the real losers.