Changing Afghanistan

Penn of Denn
90,000! That’s the number of leaked American military documents that were recently made public by “Wikileaks”, the online whistle blowing site. It will be interesting to see how the revelations from those documents impact the American and Canadian’s public support for the war in Afghanistan.

I’ve been torn on the issue for a long tim. On one hand, I hear about the difference Canadian troops are making for common people in that country, about women being granted rights that we take for granted, about hospitals and schools being built and the seeds of democracy being planted. But, on the other hand what happens when we leave? And we will leave. Nobody has ever won in Afghanistan Not the British, not the Russians and I don’t see that pattern changing. And it’s not like the enemy can be driven back home. They are already home.

Military action my change a lot of things, but the one thing it can’t change is human nature. The only thing that can change human nature is a new birth and the One who grants the new birth never indicated that it would be brought about through military might. And Jesus demonstrated that you can only change society by changing people. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Kingdom is like a farmer

When I was a ten or eleven years old my sister somehow conned my parents into buying a horse, it wasn’t long and one horse led to another and before you knew it I had been introduced to the concept of farming, at least in the sense that we had a small barn and livestock. When we moved to Hammond River, just outside of Saint John New Brunswick, my parents struck a deal with a local farmer that allowed us to keep our horse on his farm and in exchange my father sold my sister and me to him. Well not quite but at 13 it seemed that way. Murray boarded race horses and kept a few beef cattle and Dianne and I worked in the barns to pay for our horses being there. So for two years, until we sold our horses, we cleaned stalls and exercised animals, and in the spring we put up fences and in the summer and fall we brought in hay. And I discovered that I am way too lazy to be a farmer.
But in the eight parables where Jesus taught his followers about what the Kingdom of Heaven would look like he used the farmer not once as an illustration but three times . Two Thousand years ago farmers would have been a familiar site in Palestine, unlike today where our produce comes from all over the world then what the people ate was grown locally. And so even those who had no connection to the land didn’t have to look very far to see a man planting, weeding or harvesting his crop.
This is week six of our summer preaching series: the Kingdom of Heaven is Like. . . and we started with the premise that the Kingdom of Heaven is Like an Inukshuk. In case this is your first time out since June and you were wondering about the proliferation of Inuksuit around Cornerstone.
Because God’s Kingdom as manifested in the local church and the Christ Followers who make up the local church serve the same function in the world that the Inukshuk served in the Inuit’s world. To provide landmarks, direction and warning of dangers. And when the church is operating the way that it is supposed to operate and when Christ Followers are living the way that we are supposed to live then Christ can truly say: Now the People will know I was there.
Without the church, without Christians then the story of Christ would have just been an ancient myth but we make it come alive and prove the truth of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.
Seven times Christ begins a parable with the words The Kingdom of Heaven is Like. . . and once he begins by saying: The Kingdom of God is Like . . . And it is that reference, found only in the Gospel of Mark that we are looking at today. Debbie read it for us earlier, but let’s read it together.
Mark 4:26-29 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
You gotta love the Parables of Jesus at times, because they aren’t always as clear as some would have you believe. Sometimes he explains them and sometimes he doesn’t, sometimes they are self-explained and sometimes they aren’t.
And I’ve warned before beware of the person who says they have it all figured out, they might have it figured out but that doesn’t mean they have it figured out right, it just means they aren’t going to hear any other opinions.
Sometimes we hear something and we hear it wrong. One time Angela and I were in the car and a song came on from the seventies, perhaps you know it. (Play MP3 Intro to Rosalie) Written and recorded in 1973 by Michael Tarry, the song was a favourite of mine. So I was singing along and Angela said “What did you sing” so I told her “She was a belly dancer, with the grace of a duck She would dance up above in the other room.” She didn’t say it but her look said “You are an idiot” what she said was “The lyrics are ‘She was a ballet dancer. With the grace of a dove, She would dance up above in the other room.'” Wow, that made a lot more sense.
And so when we read a parable like this one, we have to ask: Is the seed the word of God and the harvest believers? Or is the ground the believers and the seed and harvest growth in their lives? Or is the farmer the believer and the seeds his influence in the world? Let’s go with the last one.
In Matthew 5 Jesus tells those who choose to follow him that they are to act as “Salt” and as “Light”. The one thing that salt and light have in common is the effect they have on their surroundings. If salt is added to something that is not salty that thing is flavoured by the salt. If it is dark, no matter how dark the dark might be light will make the dark less dark and there is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of even one match.
And Jesus left us here for a reason and that reason is that He expects his followers to make a difference and to have an impact on the world we live in. To act as salt and light in a world that needs both salt and light.
Listen to Jesus’ prayer for us from John 17:14-16 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.
Two thoughts there that I hope you caught. 1) We don’t belong to the world. 2) Jesus isn’t asking that we be taken out of the world. Sometimes as a pastor I have people who come to me, whining about how tough it is to be the only Christian at their place of work or in their class and they want me to pray that they get a job with all Christians or be put in a class with nothing but believers.
No that would be the equivalent of pouring salt into a box of salt or lighting a candle in the middle of the parking lot at noon time on a sunny day. And so here is the profound thought of the day, every one of us will have an influence on somebody.
We sow seeds of influence every day in our lives, seeds that will produce something and Jesus is telling us that if we profess to be Christ followers than we will be responsible for the harvest we produce. Actually we will be responsible for the harvest our influence produces whether we are Christ Followers or not. Every one of us would love to hear somebody tell us: “Because of something you did I am a better person.” Or to get to heaven and have someone come up and tell us “Because of your life I became a believer and I am here because of you.”
Not so much to hear someone tell us “I started smoking or insert your favourite bad habit here because of you.” Or “I rejected the claims of Christ because I didn’t see a difference in your life.”
It was Mahatma Gandhi who wrote “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” I wonder what difference it would have made worldwide if the church didn’t have to contend with the scandals that have encompassed the church and high profile Christian leaders who have been involved in high profile sinful behaviour. But more than that if Christ followers would just follow Christ.
And I know that I am constantly harping on the fact that you can’t excuse your behaviour because of what others have done, that you have to take responsibility for your actions and your choices but in the same breath we can’t allow ourselves to become an excuse for others.
And whether it is fair or not there is a greater responsibility for those of us who chose to claim the name of Christ. Mark 4:26-27 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens.
You see the premise here right? The farmer scatters the seed and once the seed it scattered it begins to grow until it produces a crop. Now in theory the farmer is only supposed to be scattering good seed, in theory. You know what Yogi Berra said right? “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, in practice there is.” In theory the farmer is only supposed to scatter good seed, but the seed will grow whether it is wheat or weeds. So here is the question: What Seeds Are You Scattering? Because we are all scattering seeds in our lives and once they have been scattered they can’t be unscattered. My father used to tell me that everyone is good for something, even if it’s being a bad example. So let’s take a look at the type of seeds we spread in our lives.
Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
We Scatter Seeds With Our Actions Here is the scary thing, somebody is watching you. It might be your kids, it might be a friend, someone at work or school but someone is watching you to see how you act and behave in certain situations. Dwight L. Moody said “Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.”
If you are a Christ follower and people know it they are watching you to see how you respond to life and most people know or at least think they know how Christians should behave and that is based on Christ’s teaching. And for the most part people know what Jesus taught, at least in broad strokes. Love you neighbours, do unto others, turn the other cheek. What if people saw us act like that?
And for the most part people know the type of behaviour that Christians are supposed to avoid. They might not be able to quote Galatians 5:19-21 but most folks know that Christians aren’t supposed to live that way. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. And that’s why people can look at someone’s actions and say “And you call yourself a Christian” Because they know the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
They know that if you are a Christ Follower than you are supposed to be different from a Non-Christ Follower. That if you follow Jesus then you should reflect Jesus in your personal life, and your family life and your professional life. And so the assumption is if Christ hasn’t made a difference in how you behave that Christ doesn’t make a difference.
On the other hand David wrote Psalm 112:1 Praise the Lord! How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. And for the rest of that particular Psalm he writes about the impact that type of person will have and he ties it all up in Psalm 112:9 They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honour. Benjamin Franklin wrote “Nothing preaches better than the act.” And that goes back to what you are doing speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.
You understand that your kids will model their Christian behaviour and their commitment to the church on yours right? So if church attendance is a priority for you as a family than there is a good chance it will be a priority for them, on the other hand if Church is what you do if there is no hockey games, or it’s raining or if it seemed like the thing to do, well what goes around comes around. The same goes for your spiritual habits, your bible reading, your prayer life and your giving patterns, because in most cases more is caught than taught.
But it’s not just our actions, Jesus’ brother wrote in James 1:26 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.
We Scatter Seeds With Our Words The book of James contains an entire section warning us about the power of our words. And I don’t think that anyone would question that. But typical of being people we understand how other’s words hurt us but when it comes to our words we can’t understand why people are so sensitive.
Words are so powerful, James talks about them being like a spark that starts a raging forest fire. He writes that our tongues are like a tiny bit that when you put it in horse’s mouth is able to control an animal that outweighs you six to one, he tells us that our tongues are like the rudder on a ship, disproportionately powerful. And the problem is that once the words are out they are out, you can’t take them back and you can apologize for them, you can say you didn’t mean them but once they have been spoken there is no getting them back.
The old story is told about the Rabi in a small Russian town many years ago and a lady in the town had spread rumours about him, one day she realized that what she had done was wrong and came to ask his forgiveness and asked what she could do to make it right. He told her to take a feather pillow to the town square cut it open and shake the feathers into the wind and then return to him. She thought it was a strange request but agreed to do it. When she had completed her task she returned to the Rabi and asked if there was anything else she should do to which he replied “Yes, now go back and collect the feathers.”
And so we influence people by what we say. Do we build people up with our words or do we tear them down? Do our words encourage or do they discourage?
A disturbing trend, with Christ followers is there careless use of profanity and the Lords name. Don’t know if they think they are being cool or what but we need to be reminded of Matthew 15:11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” And not only does the use of profanity cause people to automatically deduct 50 IQ points from their opinion of you it always causes them to doubt your Christian experience. Because although most people in the world have never read the book of James the understand the truth of James 3:10-12 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
So what do we have so far? The things we say and the things we do, but there is one more thing to look at this morning.
Romans 14:17-18 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.
We Scatter Seeds With Our Attitudes As important as what we say and what we do is so is our attitudes. We can say and do all the right things but still have a stinky attitude toward life. We are almost like the little boy who was told to sit in the corner and as he sat there with his arms crossed he was heard to mutter, “I might be sitting on the outside but I’m standing on the inside.” You know how we say and do things.
We talk about having the joy of the Lord in our lives but look like we’ve been sucking lemons. Talk about trusting God but worry things to death. Talk about forgiveness but grant it grudgingly. Do you remember what you have been praying since you were a little kid, the line from the Lord’s prayer Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. We are asking God not just to forgive us but to forgive us the same way that we forgive others. And that might be a dangerous prayer for some of you.
Are we the type of person who sees a silver lining behind every cloud or a cloud in front of every silver lining? Are you the type of person that people want to be around or the type of person that people avoid?
If you are a Christ follower and people know that you are a Christ follower than people will assume that your attitude in life is determined by the Christ you are following. Remember he is supposed to make a difference in your life.
And I know that people either think or say “But that’s just the way I am, I’ve always been a melancholy person or I’ve always worried about things even as a child.” But it goes back to the fact that as a Christ follower we have experienced a new birth, we have become a new person, the new has come the old has gone. Time and time again the scriptures talk about a change that happens in the life of the person who experiences Grace.
As Christ Followers we have a responsibility to demonstrate Godly, positive, trusting attitudes and the result is:
Jeremiah 15:19 This is how the Lord responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!
Who are you influencing in your life? And what type of influence are you having?
Everyone’s perception of Christianity is coloured by the Christians they have met. Every person out there who is outside the Kingdom, when you say Christian they think of someone. And so if they think of you what is their perception of Christ and his Kingdom.

Silly Talk

Have you ever noticed how many accident reports on the news end with the words “alcohol may have been a factor”? Especially in the summer time. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t really seem to concern folks. If every weekend there was an accidental gun death there would be a national campaign to ban guns. If every weekend someone died as the result of a particular make of automobile we would demand that that automobile be taken off the road, not to mention the millions spent on an enquiry.

Last October everyone was in shock when a young folk singer was killed by coyotes. There was a demand that those coyotes be hunted down and destroyed and that the provincial bounty be reinstated on the animals, and that was the only recorded death by coyote in Canada, ever! And yet when we hear “alcohol may have been a factor” it doesn’t seem to register at all. There is no call to track down those who provided the alcohol, or those who encouraged the person to drink.

No one seems to connect the dots. Maybe if alcohol is a factor then maybe alcohol is to blame. But that’s just silly talk. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

4 The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Fishing Net

It seems strange to mix the sacred with the everyday, to describe the eternal with the ordinary, the infinite with the finite. And yet that is exactly what Jesus did when looking for a way to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven, a treasure in a field, a merchant looking for a pearl the tiniest of seeds growing exponentially larger. And now he looked across the beach as the fisherman who called Galilee their home cast their nets artfully across the water.
“Look” he says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like fisherman.” Not! This is the first time that I’ve preached on this passage but I have read it time and time again. And I could have sworn that the Kingdom of Heaven was like a fisherman. Funny that, probably because I had been a fisherman it made perfect sense to me. But Jesus didn’t say “the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fisherman” instead what he said was Matthew 13:47 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that is thrown into the water and gathers fish of every kind.”
This is week five of our summer series The Kingdom of Heaven is Like. . . And we are looking at the 8 times that Jesus begins a parable with the words the Kingdom of Heaven is like
A parable of course is a brief, succinct story that delivers a moral lesson. You might be thinking that sounds like a fable, true but if you pause and think about fables for a second you will realize the main difference between a parable and fable is that a parable usually uses people as an illustration whereas a fable often uses talking animals as the illustrative point, crows, foxes, hares and tortoises.
In their broadest form a parables have been called extended metaphors, which is completely different than a mixed metaphor where you start with one premise and end with a unrelated premise. For example those of you who are old enough might remember Zapp Brannigan from Futurama who once said “If we can hit that bull’s-eye then the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards… Checkmate.”
And if we combined the different instances where Christ began a statement with the words the Kingdom of Heaven is like . . . and tried to make sense of; a treasure being like a mustard seed or a pearl being like a fishing net we might think Christ is mixing his metaphors but instead he is drawing a much larger picture using parables that are not only metaphors but also similes. You remember what a simile is right? A comparison using “like” or “as”.
You have probably noticed the inuksuit around the property as well as on the banner over the worship centre door, on your bulletin and this wonderful creation on the platform. That is the very type of thing that Jesus would have tied in to his discussion of the Kingdom if he had been teaching in Nunavut instead of Palestine. In June we started our series with the statement, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk.” And we looked at how the Inukshuk illustrates how we were to function as God’s Kingdom on earth, first it was used by the Inuit as a landmark in the Northern terrain that was devoid of landmarks.
It wasn’t possible to give directions by physical characteristics in a land that had very few physical characteristics, there was no oak tree to turn left by. So an inukshuk would be constructed at a point that was being marked. Travel until you come to the Inukshuk made of eight stones.
And so as we live out the Kingdom of Heaven here we are to be moral landmarks in a culture devoid of moral landmarks.
Don’t you hate getting directions from people who have been in an area a long time. “Just drive down til you come to the house the Miller’s used to live in and turn left, then drive past where the old oak tree was, the one that was hit by lightening and they had to cut it down a few years ago.” Unfortunately as the church compromises and believers look more and more like everyone else those moral landmarks are sometimes like the old oak tree that was cut down, what used to be.
And the Inukshuk was used to provide direction, when you get to the inukshuk made of eight stones follow the short arm until you come to a small inukshuk that looks like a seal. And the church, functioning as our part of the Kingdom is to provide direction to our culture. In the Old Testament we will find statements like Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. But the church is here to provide direction, to say this is the way to go if you are looking for God, and this Jesus is the way if you are seeking eternal life.
We are told that another function the inukshuk performed was to act as a warning, perhaps to warn the people that the ice was thin and dangerous or that polar bears frequented a particular area. And the church is here to warn people, about the consequences of their behaviour. Often times the church and Christians are seen as neigh Sayers and negative Nellies who want to ruin peoples fun, but the reality is that God’s rules were put in place to protect us and to protect others. And the present state of the family and society is simply us reaping what was sowed when it was decided that the church and Christianity was irrelevant and people began to do what was right in their own eyes.
And so Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:47-51 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that is thrown into the water and gathers fish of every kind. When the net is full, they drag it up onto the shore, sit down, sort the good fish into crates, and throw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the godly, throwing the wicked into the fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand?” “Yes,” they said, “we do.”
And so Jesus was telling those who heard him that day: look at how your everyday life points to the Kingdom of heaven. So what do we learn from the lesson of the net?
Matthew 13:47-51 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that is thrown into the water and gathers fish of every kind.” The first thing we discover about the net is that It Was A Purposeful Net It had a purpose, it wasn’t just any old net it was a fishing net. You ever wander down on a wharf and see piles of nets that are no longer used? Nets with no purpose, maybe someone will come and get them and use them to hold the peas up in the garden or as a back drop to practice golfing but at that particular point in time they have no purpose, they are just occupying space.
The kingdom of heaven is not simply like a net it is like a net with a purpose, and it’s purpose was to catch fish. There was no ambiguity about that, no doubt about what it was to do. It was designed for that purpose and it was used for that purpose. The shape of the net, the size of the mesh, the weights around the edge, the tether that held it to the fisherman were all there for a purpose, so it could catch fish. In a pinch perhaps you could use just a plain ordinary net to try and catch fish, but it would never be as effective and perhaps you could use the fishing net for other purpose, perhaps catching cats, but it would never be as effective at anything else as it was at catching fisth.
And that is the reality of life, you will never accomplish everything you are intended to accomplish without a purpose to your life. Thomas Carlyle wrote “The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder — a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.”
And so we need to ask ourselves “What is our purpose? Why are we here? What do we want to accomplish in life?” You do have a purpose don’t you? A goal, as a parent, as a Christian, as a human being? I am a contributor to an online service that provides sermons to pastors as a resource. It is a place that depending on your scruples you can use it to research messages or to plagiarize messages. I use it for research, my commitment to you is that other people may preach my messages but I don’t preach other people’s messages. As I told one colleague, some of us have to keep writing them if the rest of you are going to keep stealing them, but I digress. When you are doing your contributor profile on sermon central one of the questions they ask is “What would you like written on your tombstone?” Good question, perhaps one we each need to ask ourselves.
It was Dwight L. Moody who said “Give me a man who says, “This one thing I do,” and not, “These fifty things, I dabble in.”” It is the athlete who has a purpose who ends up on the podium. Not in the past winter games but in the 2006 winter games I heard a Canadian athlete say “I don’t expect to finish in the top three but if I could place 11th or 12th I’d be happy.” And my thought was “Lady why are you even there? I hope my tax dollars didn’t pay for your trip.”
Life is changed by people with a purpose, and the Kingdom of Heaven has a purpose: To introduce people to Jesus. What is the purpose of Cornerstone? To help depopulate hell.
Do you know what your purpose is? Have you ever sat down to decide your purpose in life? Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica 1 Thessalonians 2:4 For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.
And if you asked others could they tell you what your purpose is? When Paul was writing to Timothy he makes this comment 2 Timothy 3:10 But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance.
And people will know our purpose not by what we say but by what we do. Author Leo Buscaglia wrote “Each of our acts makes a statement as to our purpose.” In other words it’s not what we say we will do that makes a difference, it’s what we do.
Matthew 13:47-51 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that is thrown into the water and gathers fish of every kind.”
It Was a Net Used for Its Purpose Not only was it a fishing net, it was a fishing net that was thrown into the water. Not only did the net have a purpose it was used to achieve that purpose. There are all kinds of people and institutions out there who if you asked them what their purpose was could tell you. My purpose is to make the world a better place, our church’s purpose is to reach people for Christ, our company’s purpose is to build a better widget, but they don’t actually do anything to accomplish the purpose. Washington Irving wrote “Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.” The difference I guess is whether you take the next step and actually do something to achieve your purpose.
I’ve talked to pastors about where they want to see their church in five years and they draw a great picture of what they would like to see their church accomplish, the live that are touched and a community that is impacted. And then I ask what they are doing to accomplish the purpose and they get that deer in the headlight look.
I know a man that talks passionately about the environment but the moment I ask him what he is doing to improve things the conversation stops. He has a purpose but he’s not all that useful.
Some people have no idea how to achieve their purpose have never connected the next dot, they are just content to talk about what should be without moving to the next step of what could be.

 Often Robert Kennedy is quoted as saying “You see things: and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why Not?'” Actually it was his brother Ted Kennedy who remarked in the eulogy he delivered at Bobby’s funeral “Some saw things the way they were and asked ‘why?” Bobby saw things the way they could be and asked ‘why not?'”

 But it was actually first said by George Bernard Shaw who said almost fifty years earlier “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

 But it’s not enough to dream unless you are willing to take the next steps. A purpose in life is wonderful but if you aren’t willing to do something to achieve that purpose you will just be frustrated. Again to quote the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle “The purpose of man is in action not thought.”
And we don’t know how the net was thrown; the story doesn’t tell us what technique the fisherman used. Was the net thrown underhand or overhand, was it drawn up quickly or slowly?
We are told that this would have been a familiar scene along the shores of Galilee, where fishermen cast their nets from the shores into the shallow water or from their small vessels into the deeper waters but the goal was the same in both instances, to catch fish.
Sometimes in the church we get so caught up in how things are done we miss out on why things are done. We stand back and say, “Well we’ve never cast the net from a boat before, we’ve always done it from the shore, if we start using boats it’s a hard to say where it will end up, it’s a slippery slope” Or “I don’t think it is proper to throw the net underhand, it should always be thrown overhand.” But to quote Chinese revolutionary Deng Xiaoping said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice.” Let’s never get so caught up in technique at Cornerstone that we miss out on what we are supposed to be doing. And that is casting our net and being fishers of men.
Let’s make sure we not only have a purpose but that we actually do something, anything to achieve that purpose.
Matthew 13:47-51 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that is thrown into the water and gathers fish of every kind.”

It was a net that accomplished something. It Was a Productive Net. We have the net, it is a fishing net, then the fishing net is thrown into the water and now we see it doing what it was designed to do, It’s catching fish. We could have the first two but without the conclusion of the verse it is all in vain, it was merely an exercise in futility.
If a net isn’t productive, if it doesn’t achieve its purpose then you need to find out why not. Are there holes in the net? Are the weights in the wrong place? Is the mesh too large or perhaps too small? Perhaps it isn’t the net’s fault but the fisherman’s fault. Maybe they don’t know how to throw it or once they have thrown it don’t know how to pull it back. You’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Or the great statement “If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got.”
The year I graduated from high school I went fishing with my Dad and his twin brother and seven other guys on the Rali 2 out of Paspébiac Quebec. We started off mid water trawling but soon the boat went into dry dock and was converted into the largest herring seiner on the east coast. We had a purpose, to catch lots of fish and make lots of money. It might not have been a high and noble purpose but it was what it was. And we had the tools and equipment to do it, and we were diligent in doing what we had to do. Night after night we would be out with the fleet, we would find the school of fish on the fish finder, we would set our net and we would pull them back full of nothing. What we called water sets. It was a little frustrating; actually it was a lot frustrating. And we started analyzing what was happening, why weren’t we achieving our purpose? And we discovered that when the sonar, the fish finder had been installed the sensor had been put in backwards. Seriously, I kid you not, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment pointing the wrong way.
And so when we were getting ready to set our nets on the fish that we thought were in front of us they were actually behind us. Now we could have left it as it was and continued to set our net in the wrong spot and grumbled about not catching any fish, instead so we fixed it, it was that simple and we started to achieve our purpose.
If we faithfully do our part then the Kingdom of Heaven will be productive, it will produce results and those results are better people who will in turn change the world. Ultimately if the church is not productive, if the church, not just Cornerstone, not just the Wesleyan Church, but the Church with a capital C doesn’t is not productive it will cease to exist. And if local churches aren’t productive, no matter how they justify it and rationalize their lack of growth they will cease to exist.
A couple of quick thoughts to finish
Neither the Net Nor The Fisherman Had Any Control Over The Fish That Entered The Net
We are not charged with determining who should or should not be reached for God, and really not all that sure we would be qualified to make that decision. Not sure I would have been seen as a great catch, matter of fact I showed up at the Bible College the day after I became a Christ follower and they weren’t sure what to do with me. There I was, right off the boat, literally right off the boat, less than a week before I was fishing herring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence had only been in a Wesleyan Church twice as an adult and now here I was with hair down to my shoulders wanting to enrol in Bible College. Sure am glad that President Mitchell at Bethany didn’t think he was in charge of deciding what fish should be kept and which should be tossed away.
And finally The Net Was Useless By Itself, It Needed The Fisherman. Each of us needs others to accomplish our goals and our purposes, unless your purpose is to be a hermit. And if Cornerstone is to accomplish its purpose it will only be as we all work together to accomplish that purpose. There is something that you can do to help us fulfill the purpose that God has set before us, the question is: Are you willing to do it? Will you be a part of the team or just one of the spectators? So let me finish this morning with Paul’s request for the church at Philippi and my request for the church at Cornerstone:
Philippians 2:2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

The Blame Game

The Blame Game. We’ve all played it from one time or another, trying to pin the reasons for our bad behavior on somebody else. It’s my parent’s fault, my friend’s fault, society’s fault; it must be, because I’m not to blame for how I behave.

Gabrielle Nagy has taken it to the next level and has blamed Rogers Communication for the breakdown of her marriage and is suing the telecommunication company for $600,000.00

It seems that Nagy had a cell phone in her maiden name and the company inadvertently included the bill with the family’s cable and internet bill and her husband noticed hours of phone calls to one number. Mrs. Nagy explains, “He called and found out about my infidelity from the horse’s mouth.”

So, she’s suing. Makes sense. Obviously the failure of her marriage had nothing to do with the fact that she had been sleeping with another man for a year and everything to do with an administrative error on behalf of Rogers.

We might not take it to the same extreme but anytime we seek to blame others for our sin, we relinquish control not only of our past but also our future. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Pearl

He had it all, at least on the surface. A good business, a fine family, status in the community. He had everything it would appear, but not quite enough. Some men craved after gold or silver or jewels not this man. Those things were all so cold and inanimate, forged and moulded deep inside an unfeeling earth. Instead he sought after pearls. Those beautiful gems which began their existence as a simple irritant, a piece of grit or sand buried deep in the mantle of an oyster. And then a miracle, slowly ever so slowly the oyster began to secrete nacre, the very substance that made up its shell. One layer was added to the grit, and then another and another until finally a lowly piece of sand had become one of the world’s most beautiful gems.
Pearls, they were almost a gift from God, well almost; they still had to be paid for. And then one day he found it, the most incredible pearl he had every laid eyes on. Everything about it was perfect, the size the shape the colour, everything was perfect.
He had to have it, it had to be his. And so he sold everything that he had so that he could purchase this one exquisite pearl. Was he happy? We don’t know but this little story was told by Jesus in Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”
This is week three of our summer series “The Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .” We started with the statement that the Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk. Just in case you were wondering about all of the inksuit around and in the church campus. And so we discovered that the Kingdom of Heaven shared characteristics with the Inukshuk. The Inukshuk was a memorial maker and the Kingdom of Heaven is here to remind us that Christ was here. The inukshuk provided landmarks in a barren land devoid of landmarks and the Kingdom of Heaven, manifested through the church provides moral landmarks, the Inukshuk pointed people in the right direction and as a church we are to point people to God and ultimately heaven. And the inukshuk would act as a warning to travellers about dangers they might encounter. And the church is to warn people about their behaviour and attitudes.
Jesus looked around at his surrounding and compared the Kingdom of heaven to everyday things that his listeners would understand. The fact that Jesus used a pearl as an illustration for the kingdom of God might be lost on us in 2010 but it was an illustration that would have struck home with the men and women who made up Christ’s world.
You see pearls were valued not only for their monetary worth but also for their aesthetic qualities. For their beauty and because of that many of the people who bought and collected pearls did so just to have them, not as an investment, not as something to be bought and sold. Instead they were seen as something to be held and admired.
And so for a few moments this morning I want to look at this merchant who was so intent on having a pearl like no other pearl that he had ever seen.
1) He Was Dissatisfied With What He Had
Often times we think of dissatisfaction as a negative, we see someone who grumbles about everything they have, about everything that happens to them and we think, this person is dissatisfied with life.
But when you stop and think about it every discovery, every advancement, every achievement that man has made has been because he was dissatisfied with the status quo.
Because Thomas Edison was dissatisfied with reading by candle and we have electric lights, Alexander was tired of Mrs. Bell yelling at him to come home so we have telephones. Because John Wesley was dissatisfied with the Anglican Church’s response to slavery, poverty and child labour we have the Wesleyan church. If it weren’t for dissatisfaction we’d still be living under trees, dressing in fig leaves and eating cold food. It must have been dissatisfaction that drove people to try cooking their meat.
Was it that Roger Bannister was dissatisfied with just being another runner that lead him to break the four minute mile? Could it be that Wayne Gretzky was dissatisfied with being just another hockey player that led him to break every record and earn every title in the NHL with the exception of most valuable goalie?
The hero of our story was not a shopkeeper; the Greek word would indicate that he was a wholesaler, a trader on a large scale. It was probably dissatisfaction that took him from selling fruit door to door, to owning his own stall, to trading in goods from all over the world and now he was seeking the perfect pearl. Perhaps he was seeking the largest pearl in the world. By the way the largest pearl out there that we know of is from a giant clam and it called the Pearl of Allah., it weighs 6.8 kilos and is worth approximately $40,000,000.00 And in 1999 Osama Bin Ladin made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase it as a gift for Saddam Hussein. Or perhaps he was looking for a pearl that was simply perfect, this is a Melo Pearl, comes from a giant sea snail in the south china sea. We don’t know but we do know that he was dissatisfied with whatever other pearls he had.
Each one of us has to push on. It’s not enough to merely exist. If we are going to please God we need to continue to grow and stretch in our personal walk with him, in our spiritual life and life in general.
But preacher Paul said in Philippians 4:11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. True but it was also Paul who in 1 Corinthians, 2 timothy, and Hebrews 12:1 called our Christian life a race. And if you are going to race effectively then you won’t be content to come in last. If that was the idea that Paul was trying to convey then he would have called our Christian walk a stroll through the park.
Throughout the New Testament we are exhorted to grow in our Christian faith. To not be content with the milk of the word but to strive for the meat of the word. We seek to become better in our work; we seek to become better in our hobbies and play, we need to become better in our spiritual life.
But it’s not just a personal thing our church needs to be dissatisfied with where we are at any given time. It’s not enough to be able to say, “Look at us we’ve grown from thirty to a two hundred and thirty.” “Look at our band” “Look at our church”. I think, I’ll rephrase that, I know that we need to understand the validity of Amos 6:1 What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem, but listen to it in the NIV Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are complacent in Zion,
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church needs to be on the cutting edge of ministry and that means we need to be dissatisfied. Dissatisfied with the number of people who come to know Jesus Christ as a result of our ministry, dissatisfied with the number of lives we touch, dissatisfied with what we are doing for God today. And we need to seek to do more.
When we get complacent with our ministry, when we stop being innovative we won’t simply stop growing we will stop impacting our community for Christ. When we look around and say this is all we need, then we’ll never need more. When we decide that this building is all we’ll ever need for a building then we’ll never need more. We will never need the space we don’t have.
2) He Had A Dream not only was the merchant dissatisfied with what he had he dreamed of what he could have. It has been said that if we never build castles in the air that we will never build anything on the ground.
Edison had to dream of electric lights before he could invent electric lights in fact Edison had a goal to invent one major invention every six months and one minor one every ten days. When he died he held 1092 U.S. patents and over 2000 foreign patents. Alexander Graham Bell had to dream of the telephone before he could invent the telephone, Gretzky had to dream of the goal that would break Gordie Howe’s record before he actually shot the puck and scored the goal. How many times had Bannister broken the four-minute mile in his dreams before he actually did it? How many nights did that merchant sit pouring over his collection of pearls dreaming of that one perfect pearl that would be worth as much as all his treasures combined? Could he see that pearl? Could he almost reach out and touch it?
Do we dream of what Cornerstone can be? Do we dream of how God can use us to impact our world? How big are your dreams for our church? Cornerstone Wesleyan Church will become what our dreams allow it to become! God gave Moses a dream of the Promised Land, God gave David a dream of a temple, and God gave Paul a dream of reaching the gentiles. What dream has God given you?
But preacher we pay you to dream, I agree, I think one of the most important parts of my job is to dream, when people ask me if I have a job description as lead pastor I tell them: Yes, to preach and dream. And I do it, I see where we can be, what we can do. But you have to dream as well, you need to catch the vision of tomorrow, not just the memories of yesterday. Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better then the history of the past.” As we stand and look ahead to our future I challenge you with the last words of D.L. Moody to his sons, “If God be your partner then plan big.”
Because to quote John Maxwell, “You don’t wax a rent a car, you drive it hard and return it dirty.” Because as long as it’s just my dream it won’t amount to anything. It’s not until we all embrace it will we be willing to do whatever it takes to make the dream a reality. Which leads us to 3) He Was Dedicated To That Dream The merchant wasn’t content to simply dream about the pearls, he went looking for them. The Greek word means to seek with desire, not simply glancing about but diligently seeking to find something. It was his life, his world. Unlike the man I spoke about last week who found his treasure in a serendipitous manner, this man was on a quest.
Just as the athlete lives for the race or the game, this man lived to find pearls. He worked to make a living but work wasn’t his life it simply made it possible to follow his dreams, to find his pearls. Every one of us needs to find that dream, and if we are Christians then it had better be God’s dream for our life or it will be a dead end dream. It would be a shame to finally get to the top of the ladder and find out it was up against the wrong wall. And once we have that dream then we will need to pursue it with every bit of energy that we can muster.
If we are going to see our dreams fulfilled then we need to set them as a priority. If Cornerstone is going to be the church that God wants it to be then it will need to be a priority in our life. Now I know that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church will not and should not be the number one priority in everyone’s life that needs to be God. And the number two priority in our lives will really need to be family. But somewhere at the top of the list of the priorities of our life will have to be the local church.
That may seem hard for you to grasp, but remember that God anointed the local church as his vehicle of change in this world and he expects his people to support the church.
We need to be committed to the dream of seeing Cornerstone be as much as God would have it to be. And I believe that God has great things in store for this church and these people. Bigger things then most of us could possibly conceive. Edison worked for 13 months on the filament for his electric light, and had over 14,000 failures behind him before he was successful. How many times do we try before we quit? Do we have the dedication necessary to do great things for God?
4) He Was Determined To Make That Dream A Reality not only was the merchant dedicated to that dream but he was willing to do whatever had to be done to see that dream fulfilled. In his case it meant financial sacrifice, the scriptures tell us that he sold everything that he owned in order to buy that pearl. Nothing worth anything comes for nothing. You hear that Nothing Worth Anything Comes For Nothing.
Everything in your life worth anything at all will cost you something. Your marriage, your children, your job, your dreams, your church and your faith. Each of those things will require a sacrifice on your behalf. Some of those things cost money, a financial sacrifice; others require a sacrifice of time and commitment. But just as the merchant was willing to give his all we need to determine just what we are going to give our all for. Jesus tells us that thing worth dying for is the kingdom of God in our life, salvation and doing the will of God.
What do we give to God? Roger Bannister was up every morning running when his friends were sleeping, he put hours and days and weeks and months of work into his goal of breaking the four-minute mile, what have you sacrificed for God?
We see men and women literally surrendering the pleasures of this life to excel at sports, or business, or the arts. What would happen to the cause of Christ if we were willing to do that for the kingdom of God? Roger Bannister said “The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.” What will you win?
As Cornerstone moves ahead it will require more sacrifices on each of our behalf. If this church is going to be what God wants it to be it will cost something. It will cost the status quo, you may like the church just the way it is, but as we grow we will change, just as a child changes as they grow. It will cost our time, time to teach, time to serve, time to work in the nursery, time for the praise team to practice. It will cost our feelings because some people don’t like growing churches, especially if the church they attend isn’t growing and they will say things like “at Cornerstone they compromise the message” or “they are only concerned about numbers” or “they are only providing entertainment”
It will cost our pride as during our change and growth we sometimes take paths that you don’t agree with or don’t like. And those times will arise, and unless those areas are in direct contradiction to the word of God we expect you to be big enough to not grumble and complain and pout. We will always try to listen to different points of view but we won’t be able to make everyone happy all the time.
And yes it will cost money, like the need to move into a bigger home as your family inceases we will need to expand as the Cornerstone Family expands.
When you first get married a one bedroom apartment works fine but as children come you need more space. And for a while you make do and stack kids but eventually the time comes.
And the second service and eventually third service will be us stacking kids, but eventually the time will come that we will need to expand into a larger worship centre.
I love the cartoon where the man is coming out of church and says to the pastor ” well preacher I’m really glad that you don’t know where the money’s coming from, for a moment I was afraid that you wanted us to give it.”
God provides for his work through the giving of his people. And often he provides for us so we can provide for the needs of the church.
What Cornerstone Wesleyan Church can do is limited only by our dreams and our determination and dedication to those dreams
5) I struggled with the last point; I thought I had it figured out that in the end He Was Delighted. . . For A While But if he was he was only delighted for a short while and then he would have been looking again for that pearl that was just a little bit nicer than the one he had. That is our humanity. And in each area of our life, satisfaction leads to complacency that will ultimately lead to stagnation.
In our spiritual life we need to be walking closer and closer to God. There is no such thing as arriving until we arrive in heaven. Remember 1 John 1:7 (NKJV) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we do what? If we sit in the light? If we stand in the light? If we sleep in the light? No! If we walk in the light, as we move as the light moves, if we continue to grow, and mature and be obedient.
So what is the answer, well the man was delighted but he never lost his dream of the perfect pearl at Cornerstone if we continue to seek God’s will, if we continue to do what God wants us to do, and we continue to do it to the very best of our ability we will continue to grow. We have said before that we will never bow down to the idol of church growth, that we will never chase our tails trying this program and that program. But we will seek to present the Gospel in a positive way, that we will seek to provide the very best worship environment that we are capable of, and that we will love another with the love of Christ. And if we do that we will grow. When our goals are met, then we need to dream some more and set some more goals. And those dreams and those goals need to come from God and God alone.

Off to see the Queen

Penn of Denn
Pastor G, Pastor G, where have you been? I’ve been to Halifax to visit the Queen. Pastor G, Pastor G, what did you there? . . . Well, I didn’t chase a mouse right under her chair and I have no idea how the silly cat got past all the security in the first place.

In spite of my misgivings about the event, it was kind of cool; I wore a suit! And a tie!! And nobody was being married or buried. The things you do.

This past week, I was invited to a reception “in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen of England.” It was a small intimate gathering. Not! A couple of thousand people showed up. In the midst of all the pomp, the one thing that surprised me was how little the Queen is; she’s just a little bit of a thing.

Most of us will go through life without meeting earthly royalty, but every day, we are invited to stand in the presence of the King of the Universe. And we will accept the invitation or reject it, but when we see God, we marvel at how small we are. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.