Pick your Passion

What are you passionate about? You have to be passionate about something. What is it that brings out the best in you or the worst? If you watch the news, it isn’t difficult to find out what folks are passionate about: their causes and hobby horses. And sometimes those passions change depending on where we are in our lives.

My son is passionate about the environment and how the poor are treated. It doesn’t take long if you are around him to discover his views. Last week in discussion with my daughter, I discovered that she is passionate about using cloth diapers and has no problem telling you why she uses them and why others should as well.

It was Winston Churchill who once stated, “A fanatic is someone who you can’t change their mind and they won’t change the subject.” If someone was to classify you as a fanatic what would they say you were fanatical about? Politics? Sports? The environment? Your career? Your family? Not bad things, in many cases good things, but remember, Jesus told us to Seek first the Kingdom of God and all those other things would fall into place. But if you neglect the Kingdom, in the end you will lose it Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


What a crazy world that we live in. You ever feel like the Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”? You know the one, he’s always rushing this way and that looking at his watch and muttering, “I’m late, I’m late”. It seems that every hour of every day is filled to the limit with things that need doing and we never seem to have enough time to do it all. How often have you caught yourself wishing for more hours in the day or more days in the week so that you could finally catch up and finish everything that you are supposed to do? That wouldn’t do any good though, we all know Murphy’s law and some of us know about Newton’s law of gravity, but how many of us are familiar with Parkinson’s Law, first set forth in the middle of the last century, 1955, by C. Northcote Parkinson and it says:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

And so regardless of how much time you had available you still wouldn’t have enough. And if you were granted your wish of having an extra day in each week your stress level would simply be added to, because you would have one more day to try to jam too much into. Maybe instead we should wish for shorter days with fewer days in the week to limit our crazy schedules.

 Modern technology promised us that all of the new conveniences would save us time and make our lives easier, but in the workplace, computers, blackberries, and cell phones have increased the pace of our work rather then reducing it. At home dishwashers, washing machines, vacuums and microwaves have made life easier but to go back to Parkinson law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion. And so mothers’ lose the time they saved to schlepping the kids around to hockey, music and school activities. Even our kids are stressed out because so much of their time is scheduled and there is so little time to just be a kid, playing and allowing their imaginations to run wild.

It is a never ending circle that seems to escalate over time until finally, there is no more time. Henry Twells an English poet who lived in the 1800’s wrote:
When as a child I laughed and wept,
Time crept.
When as a youth I waxed more bold,
Time strolled.
When I became a full-grown man,
Time RAN.
When older still I daily grew,
Time FLEW.
Soon I shall find, in passing on,
Time gone.
O Christ! wilt Thou have saved me then?

 And it is into this crazy rushed world that we would like to re-introduce the fourth commandment which reads Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
The Sabbath, a day of rest seems to be an archaic today in the year 2010. You’re thinking “Well sure, that was fine for back then when people didn’t have as much to do, as far to go, but no sir not for 2010, in 2010 we need every hour of every day and every day of the week to get done what we have to get done.” And that my friend is a crock. Please remember one cardinal rule of life, “You do, what you want to do.” The fourth commandment was not given just for the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness, and it wasn’t just given for Jesus and his disciples and it wasn’t just given for John Wesley and the early Methodist’s in the 1700’s or and it wasn’t just given for your grand parents, the fourth commandment is as valid today as it was 30 years ago, 200 years ago, 2000 years ago or 4000 years ago.
God didn’t just give it annoy people or to mess up their plans for the weekend he did it because he knew what we are like. He knew that if he didn’t legislate a time out in our lives that we wouldn’t take one. A tree has to take a break, it can’t say, “you know I really should produce leaves all year round and fruit in January when it’s cold and miserable.” A bear doesn’t choose to hibernate or not hibernate, and what can you say about a cat. Nature has no choice it must take a break because that’s the way it was created. But people are different, we have our freedom and that is the problem. We can drive our bodies, minds and emotions well past the breaking point. We have the power of choice and because of that power we are always in danger of destroying ourselves for some false set of values. It might be work, it might be appearance, it might be the desire to be the perfect parent but in a combination it provides a deadly cocktail for burn out.
Because of this great hazard God gave us a great gift, the Sabbath day, a day set apart, the Lord’s Day, a day of rest and worship, relaxation, recuperation and joy. It is his gift to all of us, but it’s up to each one of us to decide whether or not we will accept it.
A lot of confusion, misunderstanding, dogmatism and hard feelings are generated by this commandment. Almost everybody uses it to prove some point of view. So let’s move very carefully as we explore what it means to observe the Sabbath today.
Now at this point we need to clarify that in the Christian church, in most cases, we do not celebrate the Sabbath. The Sabbath was the last day of the week; remember what we just read,
Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.
Our calendar has been changed so often through the years it’s really tough to dogmatically state without reservation what day the seventh day was, although some people try. However the seventh day of the week or the Sabbath has historically been celebrated from sun down Friday until sundown on Saturday. And in its original form it merely forbade the performance of work on the seventh day, it was set apart as a day of total rest.
And so our Sunday, which is the first day of the week, is not the historic Sabbath. But we are Christians not Jews; most of us aren’t even Christian Jews like the early church. I know that in our Christian vocabulary and in our hymns and poems we certainly use the word “Sabbath” as a valid figure of speech when referring to Sunday but we need to understand that the two are not the same.
The fourth commandment is the only one of the Ten Comandments that is not repeated anywhere in the New Testament, nowhere. Each of the other nine commandments are reiterated and often made even tougher in the New Testament, but not this one. There is no record of Jesus ever teaching anyone to keep the Sabbath. As far as we know, no apostle ever told anyone to observe it. In John 5:18 we are told that Jesus violated the Sabbath and in other stories we almost get the impression that he did so very deliberately.
But if the letter of the law, the seventh day Sabbath is not applicable to us today, certainly the principle of the Sabbath still is. Because it is grounded in the nature of God, in the nature of man and in the nature of creation.
Although the New Testament nowhere echoes the exact literal Saturday “Sabbath” command, it certainly reinforces the divine principle behind the command. That principle is that a specific and proportionate amount of time be set apart for rest and worship. That principle was not first laid down in the book of Exodus but in the book of Genesis, which tells how God himself rested after six days of creative labour. And even before the Commandments were given, earlier in the book of Exodus when God provide manna for the Israelites to eat, he told them to gather a double portion on the sixth day so they wouldn’t have to collect it on the seventh day.
The Christians of the New Testament soon discarded the literal Seventh Day, Sabbath but kept the Sabbath day principle. Instead of keeping the last day of the week, they began to keep the first day of the week, which we call Sunday. Why? Because it was recognized as being the day Christ arose from the dead. Paul follows 1 Corinthians 15 the great resurrection chapter with these words in 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.
And so Paul establishes a principle of a set time of the week when a gift is given to God. The first day of the week. And then in Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight. On the first day of the week they got together, listened to a sermon and took communion. Sounds like Church to me.
But it’s not enough to know where the concept of the Lord’s Day came from, we need to understand why the principle behind the Sabbath is still valid today. And we find the key in three spots in the scripture. The first is from the command itself. Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.
And so the first thing we need to discover about the Sabbath is that It Is a Day of Rest.
We live in a tired generation, we are chasing a brass ring that may never be able to be caught and we are willing to make way too many sacrifices for it, and we do sacrifice for it and it’s not necessarily a new phenomena listen to what Robert Louis Stevenson
wrote over a hundred years ago
“Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by neglect of many other things.”
Remember this song: (Play snip of Cat’s in the cradle). Every generation since 1973 that has heard that song understands that they are the child and then they grow up and realize they have become the father.
And so we become a busier and busier race of people, seriously how many of us turn our smartphone, blackberries and iPhones off other than to go to sleep. Or do you just turn the sound off?
The rest that God commands us to take allows us to step back from the arena of life and evaluate exactly what it is we are trying to achieve. Even from a purely physical perspective it has been proven that people cannot go on indefinitely without things starting to go wrong with their bodies, their minds and their emotions. I wonder what would happen to the mental health business if we just slowed down. God is basically telling us in the fourth commandment, “Take a break”
Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “I do not mean to make an idol of health, but it does seem to me that at least some of us have made an idol of exhaustion. The only time we know we have done enough is when we are running on empty and when the ones we love most are the ones we see the least. When we lie down to sleep at night, we offer our full appointment calendars to God in lieu of prayer, believing that God—who is as busy as we are—will surely understand”
But it’s not just a day of rest; the next scripture would indicate that there is more to Sabbath observance then simply staying in bed, sorry. Deuteronomy 5:15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

 It is a Day of Reflection. Not only does God call us to rest on a special day but he also calls us to Reflect on that day as well.

 In this scripture God is calling his people to reflect on how He had delivered them from the slavery of Egypt, but I would suspect that it would be fair to talk about how we need to reflect on how God delivered us from the slavery of sin.

 And so on that day it’s good to stop and reflect on what God has done and to give thanks. To gather with God’s people and celebrate his goodness. To pause and give a little back to God, our time our money our talents. People say “well I can do that without going to church.” Sure, but do you?

 When people do whatever it is that people do on Sunday morning do they really give time to God.

 Sunday is a day for God’s people to get together and to reflect and celebrate what He has done for us. We do that by singing his praise, by reading and hearing from his word, by lifting up his name in prayer and by giving to his work. In this case it’s Cornerstone.

 We had mentioned previously that it appeared that Jesus had a problem with the Sabbath, which isn’t exactly true, what he had a problem with was what people had done to the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
Throughout history the observance of the Sabbath or of the Lord’s Day has inspired two extremes. People have found ways to misuse this gift just as they’ve found ways to misuse the other gifts that God has given us. The first extreme are those people who have historically made Sunday into a day of gloom and depression instead of a day of joy and gladness. This is what had happened in Jesus day.
We are told that the scribes and Pharisees had counted 39 letters in the original language of the fourth commandment and multiplied 39 by 39 and came up with 1521 and that was the number of ways they had come up with to break the Sabbath. You weren’t supposed to work, so what was work? It was to carry a burden, so what was a burden and how far could you carry it before it actually became a burden? Let’s go back to the scripture that we started with: Mark 2:23-24 One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?” Did you catch that? They were breaking off heads of grain to eat? That would be like picking raspberries but technically I guess they were harvesting grain.
In John 5 we read the story about Jesus healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, do you remember who the story ends? John 5:9-10 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” He was carrying a mat, not moving his house.
We aren’t going to do the fourth commandment any favours when we turn it into something like “Thou shalt not enjoy life on Sunday.” Many people mean well, but we cannot make people, especially children; enjoy God by forbidding them to enjoy anything else on Sunday. Such a rigid observance of Sunday can become just as idolatrous today as it was in Jesus day and that is what he was warning us about.
But usually today that’s not our problem is it? Our problem today is probably the opposite extreme; we take a holy day and turn it into a holiday, a day of commercialized recreation, entertainment and profit.
Some of us have taken that passage where Jesus says that if your donkey or ox falls into a pit on the Sabbath that it’s all right to pull it out and have used it as an excuse for everything and anything on Sunday. The truth is though if we are careful and avoid pushing the ox in the pit on Monday through Saturday then we won’t have to spend Sunday pulling it out. And if your ox has a habit of falling into the same pit every week then you ought to fill in the pit or get rid of the ox.
How often do we say, “But I had to go to the store, or I had to buy gas on Sunday.” The proper term for that is poppycock. You don’t have to, you choice to. And when you see me at value food or Sobeys on a Sunday picking up something it is because I chose to be there. When we were pastoring in Truro we made a conscious decision that we would not do commerce on Sunday, period. We did not buy gas, we did not go out to eat we did not run to the store for a loaf of bread or a litre of milk, we did not go to Tims. And we survived. And not once did we starve or run out of gas.
People say that we needed Sunday shopping because there was no time through the week. When we were living in Brisbane, a city of almost 2 million people, the malls opened at 9 and closed at 5, except on Friday when they stayed open to 9, and they were closed on Sunday and we found the time to shop.
Like many things in life we either choice to do the right thing or choice to do the easy thing.
Exodus 23:12 “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.
It is a Time of Refreshment

According to the Bible, God created the Sabbath. It’s not just a day on which nothing happened, but God blessed it and made it holy. He paused and reflected on what he done. The bible tells us that God called the first six days “good” but the seventh day God called Holy. And it is intended as more then just a day of fun or rest. Within that day represents one seventh of our week and ultimately one seventh of our life. And when we slow down and rest and reflect on the goodness of God it allows us a time of refreshing. It recharges our batteries.
There are those who say they don’t need to go to church to meet with God, and some people try to rationalize that a Sabbath spent golfing, shopping or going to the beach as fulfilling the spirit of the Sabbath.
Golfers in particular plead their case by saying, “I do more real praying on the golf course then I do in church”. However, “Please God, give me a birdie,” is not recognized as part of any accepted liturgy, no does it substitute for a good worship service. Sure you might use his name while on the golf course but I don’t think that counts and more than likely goes back to our message two weeks ago on “Thou Shalt not Cuss”.
Exodus 31:17. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and was refreshed. Think about it, God stopped working and was refreshed. So what happens when we make the decision to slow down and stop working, not hitting the stop button, but just hitting the pause button for a period of time.
You see, the day of rest shouldn’t end when we walk out the door of the church. “Well, now I’ve done my duty and now I can get on with life.” The Sabbath wasn’t an hour it was a day. And if nothing else when we pause and reflect it will give us a new perspective on the rest of our days. It was Leonardo Da Vinci who said “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”
So what can we do on Sunday or what should we do? Good question
How about: Using it for family time (and family time is not watching your kids play organized sports, it’s not sitting in the living room with everyone on their own laptop, it’s not zoned out in front of the TV). Do you remember Sunday Dinners, not that they were necessarily relaxing especially for the cook, but why not make Sunday dinner a special time and an easy time, soup and sandwiches instead of a roast beef dinner.
I know it’s tough but try to make it a relaxing time, just try sitting back and doing nothing, close your eyes and take a break (Although not specified in the Scripture, a Sabbath nap is certainly a divine gift.)
We’ve mentioned it before but take time for Church, come together with other believers to celebrate God! And take some time for conversation with God.
And if it is your choice don’t work for wages on Sunday and don’t compete for awards.
For your sake, your family’s sake and for God’s sake, just take a break.


On Second Thought

I recently read that Gmail has incorporated a “Second thought” button into their toolkit. We are all familiar with the “undo function” in Word and PowerPoint, where you can undo your last action, but the Gmail application allows you to take back your words, if you are quick enough.

Once you hit Send in Gmail, you have thirty seconds, during which time, if you have second thoughts about the words you have written, you will be able to pull them back before they are gone forever. And in most cases thirty seconds is plenty of time to realize that you have said the wrong thing or maybe the right thing at the wrong time.

I want a second thought button in life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take back our spoken words as easily? How often have you spoken words you immediately regretted? If only you had a “Second thought” button to retrieve your words before they were able to cause irreparable harm and damage. But really, isn’t that why God created us with a brain? And if we actually stopped and thought before we spoke, there shouldn’t be any second thoughts. But that would be way too easy. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


A Sailor’s Tale

September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, honest it really is www.talklikeapirateday.com. And it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. This is the a repeat of the message I preached last time it fell on a Sunday. We started with a clip from the Veggie Tales Jonah Movie which I interrupted.

 That, not be the way it happened. And you won’t be getting far on yer voyage if you be learning your history from vegetables,

 Arrr mateys, shiver me timbers I have a tale to tell so settle down and pay me heed.
Me name is Omar and I be a sailor. It seems like I’ve always been a sailor, you might say I was born into it. You see me father was a sailor as was his father before him. So I am a sailor too, although not a very good one, I get a wee bit seasick if you know what I mean. But as long as I can remember there’s always been a deck moving beneath me feet. A sailor is what I’ve always been and a sailor is what I’ll always be.
When the Story began I was mate on a ship called The Wings of the Morning and a fine ship she was too, she had been built in Athens, on the shores of Greece and had beautiful lines and fine handsome rigging. A fine ship and she rode the waves, not rolling much, which was important to me, if you know what I mean.
We had been sailing the Mediterranean making stops along the coastlines of Greece and Macedonia as well as hopping amongst the islands. You know Crete and Cyprus. We were lying to in the port of Joppa while the Skipper was scaring up a cargo for us.
Joppa wasn’t a bad port to be tied up in as far as ports go, I’ve been in worse. It was in the country of Israel, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the water was crystal clear the sand was white and fine like sugar. The sights and the sounds of the market drifted down the streets to the wharves, the smell of fresh baked bread mingling with the smell of the tar that covered the pilings. The sun was bright and the women were beautiful. Arrr, I could have stayed in Joppa for a long time. But it was not to be. The Cap’n arrived and told us that he had found a cargo, that we would be taking a cargo of dates and olive oil to the shores of Tarshish. Tarshish, why Tarshish? There was no place further away then Tarshish. It was where the earth dropped off and even if you didn’t fall over the edge beyond Tarshish there were monsters and dragons and nobody who ever sailed beyond Tarshish ever came back. But that was where the cargo had to go so that’s where we had to go.
They gave me this thing and told me if I pressed the button it would show you a chart. Well shiver me timbers it works. This be Joppa, which is where we were and this be Tarshish where we were taking our cargo.
I put the boys to work loading the cargo and getting everything shipshape for the voyage when this landlubber showed up asking where we was bound for. I told him we were sailing to Tarshish on the tide. He asked if there was any way he could go farther then Tarshish, and I told him there were no further then Tarshish, that beyond Tarshish there be monsters and there be dragons and then you just fall off the end of the world. I mean you just have to look at the chart to see that it’s flat.
The lubber wanted to book passage with us and after talkin’ to the skipper we decided that would be alright and so I asked his name and he told me it was Jonah. For a moment I had some doubts about taking a passenger named Jonah, you see I have kind of a sixth sense, I don’t see dead people but sometimes things don’t feel right and this was one of those times. But a cargo is a cargo whether it be dates or people so we told the swabby to grab his kit and make hisself at home down below with the rest of the cargo.
Well we sailed on the tide and it was a beautiful moonlit night, the stars were bright and just enough of a gentle breeze to fill the sails, which was a good thing, if you know what I mean. And so for three days we sailed toward Tarshish and a beautiful trip it was turning out to be. It was not to last though, on the evening of the third day a storm blew out of nowhere and nigh on threatened to sink the Wings of the Morning.
It blew hard and it looked like it wasn’t going to let up so I ordered the men to throw some of the cargo over board to lighten the ship, better to arrive without dates and olive oil then to arrive without a ship, if you know what I mean. And as the men worked they cried out to their various gods and a lot of gods there were amongst the boys, but they must have been deaf gods because the storm didn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s no fun when you start you trip by sea and end up travelling by rail, if you know what I mean.
And then someone noticed that the landlubber wasn’t with us, the cap’n told me to find the bilge rat and get him to pray to his god as well. Alas we found him asleep in his bunk, asleep! The entire ship and its cargo were in danger of being lost along with all the crew and the scurvy passenger’s asleep. Know nothing fear nothing that’s what I say. So we woke him up, after all if the rest of us were going to be terrified then he should be too.
As the storm grew worse the Cap’n called a parley, that’s a French word you know, they invented mayonnaise the French did. And during the parley it was suggested that we cast lots to see who was to blame for the storm and you’ll never guess where the lot landed. That’s right with the Jonah fella, so we demanded that he tell us why the storm had come.
And what a tale he wove. He told us he was a prophet, from Israel, that be where Joppa is. And he said that his God commanded him to go to Nineveh and tell the people there that if they didn’t repent and turn from their wicked ways that God would bring Judgement upon them. Then I says “But Nineveh be in the middle of the desert, not in the middle of the ocean.” We’ll just pull up the chart again, here be Joppa where we be sailing from and here be Nineveh where the lubber was supposed to be. And suddenly it all became clear he was running from the God of Israel, oh that can’t be good. As Captain Solo would say “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Then he started rambling saying something about how he should have believed David and that he should never have tried to flee on the Wings of the Morning. And I said, “This be your fault, you bilge rat you, now stop your whinging and tell us what we have to be doing to make the storm stop.”
Well blow me down the swabby said that we needed to be throwing him into the briny deep if we wanted to be saved. Arrr I might talk like a pirate but I’ve never made a man walk the plank before and I wasn’t about to start with this Jonah fellow. So I yelled at the men to pull in the remainder of the canvas and break out the oars that we would turn the ship into the wind and hold her in place. But it was no use, the wind got stronger and the waves got bigger and I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sick anymore, arrrr I was too scared to be sick by now, if you know what I mean.
And I looked at Jonah, and I be thinking, if it works if we throw him over the side and the storm stops then we will have saved the ship, the rest of the cargo and all the men just by sending one disobedient prophet to Davey Jones Locker. And I realized how selfish and self serving that was; I knew that must be a way to save all of us, the ship and that mangy landlubber. There had to be a way I just had to figure it out, so I thought and I thought and I thought and while I be thinking the bosun and the rest of the hands threw him overboard.
And stove me in, it worked the wind stopped, just stopped and the waves stopped as well. In all me years at sea I’d never seen the waves just stop, the clouds disappeared and there was the moon filling the starlit sky. I yelled at the boys to throw the man a line before he became shark bait but suddenly the water erupted and a giant fish, or maybe a whale, it all happened so fast that it was hard to tell, just swallowed him right up. One minute he was there and the next minute there he was, gone, if you know what I mean. And there we were on the Wings of the Morning, alone on an empty sea with just the ripples on the water to show us where Jonah had been.
Arrr that should be the end of the story, but it t’wernt. A year later we be back in Joppa and one afternoon as I was making me way along the dock back to the ship I heard someone yell me name. I turned and looked and there was a man walking toward me, had a funny twitch, kind of like that fella Jack Sparrow and his skin and his hair seemed to be bleached and he had a pasty look to him. As he got close I thought that can’t be but it was, it was Jonah. I asked him, “What happened to you? We saw you get swallowed and then you was gone. Was it a whale or was it a fish? People will want to know” and he said “I don’t know they all look alike from the inside.”
He told me that he spent three days in whatever it be he was in, time he said he spent talking to God. Which seemed to me to be a pretty good thing to be doing if you’re in the belly of a fish, or a whale. And after three days the beast threw him up on a beach, I understand how the fish felt, Jonah didn’t much agree with me either. Must have been a shock to those on the beach. As he was laying there on the beach with sand in his ears and seaweed up his nose God told him to get up and go to Nineveh and preach his message. And smartly the lubber got up from the sand and marched himself to Nineveh, where he preached repentance and the entire crew of Nineveh repented and that’s the rest of the story.
It be a good story but unless we can learn something it’s only a story.
1) Ye can’t be running from God. Our first reaction when God asks us to do what we don’t want to be doing is to run and hide, and our first reaction when we are confronted with our sin is to run and hide. It goes all the way back to the Garden, not that I know much about gardens being a sailor and all. But the good book tells us that after Adam and Eve had done what they weren’t supposed to do, the good Lord came looking for them and then it says in Genesis 3:8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees.
I guess trees are good for something other then building ships. But Adam discovered the same thing that Jonah discovered and that is you might run but you can’t hide. And King David wrote in Psalm 139:7-12 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.
Arrr in the book of Hebrews God’s word be telling ye Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
All kinds of people have tried to run from God, perhaps ye be doing that today, but listen you scallywags you can’t be running from God.
2) Yer Disobedience be putting others at risk The boys on the Wings of the Morning had done nothing wrong, well maybe one or two of the lads had done some wrong things but it be Jonah who was running from God and it be his disobedience that put us all in danger. Ye not be knowing who your disobedience might affect and how.
Let me be telling you a sad story. It’s about a ship mate I once had, a man of the cloth, if you know what I mean. One day he leaves his missus for another swabbies wife. Before the summer had come and gone again his youngest daughter, she be but 17 and unmarried was with child and the older daughter all of 22 years had left her husband of 2 years and was carrying another man child. Ye see when their father ran aground on the rocks of disobedience he shattered their moral compass and they lost their spiritual direction. There were those who left his church and others who left their faith. And I be knowing that we all be making our own decisions to follow God or not, but we will also be responsible for the stumbling blocks that we put in front of fellow travellers.
It was Jesus who said Mark 9:42 “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. And when it comes to the end of the voyage there be those answering for the damage they did and be wishing that they was only being keelhauled or tasting the cat of nine.
When a marriage dissolves the fallout extends to the kiddies and grandchildren, yer ship mates are alienated and people are hurt, because of the disobedience of one or two. When God speaks to you about giving some of your treasure to his work and ye decline saying “It be my treasure” there are people that might never be reached because the booty wasn’t there and whose fault be that? Many of those who be making a sacrifice when they built this fine new vessel, weren’t doing it for themselves, but for others.
Before ye turn away from what the good Lord be asking of you or turning toward what he’s telling ye to leave alone ye best ask yourself “who else will this affect and how?”
Arrr ye not be travelling alone on this voyage and your actions will affect the others you sail with.
3) It’s never too late to be obedient When we tossed Jonah into the briny deep we figured the story was all over. But as that great philosopher Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over til it’s over.” And I be knowing that Yogi wasn’t a Pirate, he be a Yankee, but they lost the 1960 series to the Pirates, so if only then he probably wished he were a pirate. If you read the good book time and time again you see God giving people a second chance. Avast mateys, Moses, Noah, David, Samson, Peter and other’s too numerous to mention were given a second chance. The secret be repentance, being sorry for what you’ve done and be ready to correct it. And you need to do it smartly, don’t be waiting too long. Many a swaby who said they’d get it right at 4 bells went to meet their maker at 3 bells and never made it right, then it be too late. God may give us a second chance but it’s not worth anything unless we accept it. It would be like lost treasure
Perhaps ye be thinking, “I wish I could go back and start the voyage over.” Well you might not be able to start over but it’s never too late to start afresh. Jonah couldn’t rewrite the old story but he could write a whole new story.
I don’t know what fish you might be in the belly of today, but God can hear ye there. The secret? Jonah discovered the secret when he cried out in Jonah 2:7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.
Jeremiah was a prophet as well and he tells us in Jeremiah 13:16 Give glory to the LORD your God before it is too late.
Where be you at today? What is God asking you to do? Where is he asking you to go, what is he asking you to give? Ye be the only person who can answer for yourself, so I would tell you to make sure everything be shipshape in your life before the storms arrive.

Shiver Me Timbers!

Penn of Denn
Arggh, shiver me timbers! September 19th be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and bilge rats from all four corners of the globe will celebrate by talking like Long John Silver and Jack Sparrow. I wouldn’t be lying, would I? For nigh on ten years land lubbers have been talking the way it was intended for them to talk.  And it not be act like a pirate day, only talk like one.
The day was started as a lark by John Baur and Mark Summers in 1995 (It became International in 2002) and has captured the imagination of people around the world. For more information, you can check out their website at www.talklikeapirate.com   I continue to be amazed with what can happen when someone has a vision and is committed to seeing it succeed.  
Now, you might not think that “Talking Like a Pirate” is all that noble of a vision, but that is probably because you didn’t think of it.  But, just imagine what could happen in your life and in the lives of those around you if you became that committed to the success of whatever it is that is important to you. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Thou Shalt Not Cuss

It really annoys me when I hear cussing in public. It’s like they are not only rude they are stupid as well, they don’t seem to understand that their conversation can be heard not only by the people they are talking to but by everyone within earshot.
Kind of like when restaurants used to allow smoking, it didn’t matter where you were in the restaurant you had to breathe other people’s poison.

And it’s not like you are eavesdropping, you are just sitting having a coffee, trying to enjoy a meal in a restaurant or standing in line for groceries and you hear language that used to be considered not appropriate for polite company.
And it’s not that I am a prude and haven’t heard those words. As a young teen I spent a lot of time around barns and when I was 15 I went to work with my dad on the tugboats out of Saint John New Brunswick and hanging around with sailors it didn’t take long before I had pretty much heard any words that I might have missed in high school.
And so if you take the time I spent on Tugboats, and oil tankers and Fishing Boats and the little bit of time I spent with the Military Police in the Reserves I think I’ve heard it all.
And through the years I’ve kind of developed some personal thoughts about people who use that type of language and I have discovered a few things about people who use vulgarities and blasphemies.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:17-18 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you.
It is a reflection of Who We Are for the most part we would like to separate those words from how people who matter see us and view us. That’s why people apologize for their language when they find out what I do for a living. It’s why people in most cases don’t use language like that in front of their mothers. Because they know that it will cause people to think differently about them.
And when the language slips out they try and excuse it or justify it, “That’s not really what I’m like, I don’t know where that came from.” We are like the Greek poet Euripides Who wrote “‘Twas but my tongue, ’twas not my soul that swore.” But you can’t draw that line of distinction and yes my friend, regardless of how you want to colour it, it was your soul that swore. You might not want to admit it but what is in the well of your heart will eventually show up in the bucket of your mouth.
Your language says a lot about you, the use of obscenities don’t require a lot of imagination or a lot of intelligent. When you stop and think about it, for the most part obscenities deal with bodily functions or body parts and don’t really require a lot of imagination and while I’m not necessarily comfortable hearing them I’m not personally offended, after all they aren’t usually swearing at me.
My dad put it in perspective for me a long time ago when he told me that “obscenities are the refuge of illiterates and children.” Which kind of echoes the words of William Ward who said “Profanity is the use of strong words by weak people”
And you know what? When I hear someone cuss I automatically make value judgements about them, I know it’s not right but I immediately put them into a stupid category, not necessarily uneducated there are a lot of educated and seemingly intelligent people who talk as if they had been to hell for a post-graduate course with the devil as their speech instructor, but they sound stupid. George Washington said “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
So why do people do it? I don’t know. But I here are some ideas: “Ten Reasons People Swear.”
10) It makes my mother proud
9) It proves I’m a grownup
8) It demonstrates that I have self control
7) It is an indication of how clearly my mind functions.
6) It makes my conversation pleasing to everybody.
5) It leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind as to my good breeding.
4) It impresses people with my education
3) It is an unmistakable sign of culture and refinement.
2) It makes me the type of person people want around their children
1) It is my way of honouring God
Regardless of the reason you might cuss, as a Christ follower here is a reason to not cuss. The word of God tells us in 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.
But our language is not just a reflection of who we are.
Exodus 20:7 “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. It’s a Reflection of How We View God
When I hear people use obscenities it bugs me and I’m annoyed, it’s like they are polluting my hearing space. But it’s different when I hear God’s name being misused. That makes me cringe inside, because then it becomes personal, they are talking about my God, my Saviour. The sad thing is that society as a whole and even Christians seem to feel just the opposite. They feel like blasphemy isn’t as bad as some other words. I don’t know how many times someone’s told me about a movie and I’ve asked the question, “How’s the language?” And I’m told that “Oh there isn’t any foul language in it” and then when I see the movie I discover that there are very few obscenities but the Lord’s name is misused time and time again. I’ve mentioned to believers about this movie or that movie that I’ve pushed the stop button or walked out on because of the language and they’ll say, “Well it didn’t have this word or that word in it.” And they are right, but the Lord’s name was misused frequently and the sad part is that even believers have become immune to hearing it.
And we shouldn’t be immune to it. It should bother us when we hear our God’s name misused. And there are several different ways that it can be misused. The first of course is the one most of us think about when we hear this commandment and that is when God’s name is used as a profanity. Video clip, From Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
You ever want to do that to someone? That kind of hits home with me. When I was ten or eleven, you know the age trying to be more grown up then you are, I tried out one of the new words that I had heard in the schoolyard on my parents. I very casually slipped it into a joke I was telling them, trying to appear a little more mature. I was spanked as a child, probably not nearly as often as you might think, but I was spanked and I don’t recall any specific spankings that I received. I do however remember the consequences of my actions that day. And it was very similar to what happened to Indy.
So the question is why? Why is this command here? we know the what; Don’t misuse God’s name, but why? Shouldn’t God be bigger then being offended by name calling after all what were we taught as kids, Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me. You have to understand how much more there is to this then simply the name of God, which by the way we don’t have. When the Old Testament was written the Gods of the surrounding countries all had names but the Jews wouldn’t even speak the name of their God.
When we think of God in the Old Testament we think of the name Jehovah, but the Jews spelt it YHWH, try pronouncing that. And even then they wouldn’t use it verbally instead they would refer to him when they spoke as “Ha Shem” which literally means “The Name”.
Often in the Bible, the names used for God are revelatory of His character. God is revealed to us in Scripture by His names. They show us His nature.
He is El Shaddai, the Strong One. He is El-Elyon, God Most High. He is El-Olam, the Everlasting God. He is Jehovah Jirah, the God Who Provides. He is Jehovah Rophe, the God Who Heals. He is Jehovah M’Kaddesh, the God Who Sanctifies. He is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace. He is Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness. He is Jehovah Shammah, the God Who is There. He is Jehovah Nissi, the Lord Our Banner. And He is Jehovah Roi, the Lord Our Shepherd.
But today we simply call Him God and so that is what is relevant for us today.
If you remember the Ten Commandments you might recall that the second commandment was concerned with making idols and the reason that was forbidden was because Idols reduce God. You take the Master and Creator of the Universe and reduce Him down to an inanimate object made of stone or wood. And while making Idols certainly reduces God, misusing his name also reduces Him. You see, any time that we diminish and trivialize the name of God by making it lower and less respected we reduce the glory of God. And that’s true even if it isn’t a conscious act.
You ever play King of the castle when you were a kid? You remember it might have been on a hill or a big snow pile and you’d wrestle with the other kids to stay on the top and be King of the Castle, while the other kids would be the dirty rascals. Now it would have meant nothing if there had of been nobody at the top of the hill to push off, if you could have just waltzed up the hill without any effort. The game is in pushing the others out of the way and taking the high ground yourself.
People are doing exactly the same thing when they misuse God’s name. God is recognized as holding the high ground. So if people want to show how important they are then they “shove” God or Jesus off the high ground so they can occupy it themselves.
They are saying, at least subconsciously, “I’m better then God”. What do I mean? Simple, when someone makes a statement like “God-damn you” they are saying “I have enough power over God that I can command him to do something and he will do it. He is my personal Genie.” You never hear someone say, “Bob-damn you” or “Sue-damn you” why not? It doesn’t have the same effect when the name is someone on the same level or lower then you.
The effect that the person is aiming for is to impress people with how important they are; they can even order God around and order Him to do their bidding.
In the same way when someone tries to make a dramatic statement they invoke the name of our Lord, it’s not uncommon to hear the name of Jesus Christ on lips of non-believers. Yet you never hear “Tom Brown” or “Mary Jones” used in the same way. Why? Because it would be less impressive, less dramatic and less powerful. And besides they are trying to make an impression, “look at how powerful I am, I can use the name of God whenever I want and He won’t do anything about it.” Again it may be consciously or subconsciously.
Or maybe the reason isn’t malicious it’s simply ignorance. This individual trivializes the name of God without even thinking. In fact most people who use the Lord’s name in vain through profanity do not even think about what they are doing. They are not intentionally cursing God. Their words are not directed either to God, or about God. Many of these people are not even aware of their profanity. Their profanity is simply a habit pattern for their speech. They’ve grown up with it. Perhaps their parents cursed, or their friends cursed. The use of profanity has become part of their speech. They are ignorant as to what they are doing, they are probably unaware that this issue really offends God; I mean God takes it fairly serious. The entire commandment reads Exodus 20:7 “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
Did you catch that? “The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” Maybe not today, but God will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. And God is no man’s debtor.
It’s a Reflection of a Believer’s Ignorance
If the only time I heard God’s name being taken in vain it was by someone who didn’t profess to follow Christ it wouldn’t be so bad.
When I hear a non-Christian misusing God’s name it bugs me, when I hear a Christian misuse God’s name it really bugs me. “Surely you can’t be serious Denn? How would a Christian misuse God’s name? They don’t cuss.” No they don’t use it as a curse word or a swear word but they bandy it around as if it were just another collection letters. They trivialize God’s name.
Last Sunday Angela and I were grabbing a coffee at Tim’s before we went to the service at the Berkley and a group of church ladies came in from another evangelical church and within the first minute that they were there I am sure I heard “Oh my God” used six times. By the way just typing OMG doesn’t make it any better.
And that is not uncommon among some believers, you’ll hear them say “God this, or God that” or “Oh my God”. Listen up, if you use God’s name and you aren’t speaking about God or speaking to God then you are misusing God’s name. It is not just a word, it’s not a word that we use to emphasize a point it is a holy word, which names a Holy God. It was the poet William Cowper who wrote “It chills my blood to hear the blest Supreme rudely appealed to on each trifling theme.”
It’s also a misuse when you carelessly say things like “God said” you better make sure that he did. When a person is anointed for healing and the person who is praying for the sick person makes a cavalier remark like “God has healed you” they better make sure that He has. When we tell people “God wants me to do this, or this is God’s will” you’d better make sure that you’re not just using God’s name to justify what you want to do. Don’t confuse God’s will with your will that you’ve stamped God’s name on. When I was in Bible College it wasn’t unusual to hear God’s will invoked as a reason for someone to break up with their boy friend or girl friend.
It’s not just a command about the way we speak, it’s also a commandment concerning the way we live. When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a follower of Christ, you are in effect taking his name. And when your life does not reflect your commitment as a Christian then you are misusing his name. When you call yourself a Christian then live like the devil what does that say? What are you doing to the name of Christ with the way you are living?
This morning each one of us who takes on the name of Christ needs to examine our lives, we need to search our innermost heart, our deepest motives and our attitude toward other people. Then we need to ask ourselves this question; can God sign his name to our lives? We need to look at our daily schedule, our routine, and our priorities and ask; can God sign his name to that list? Then we need to look at our physical life, at our bodies, the temple of the Holy Spirit. The instrument of your personality for sin or for righteousness.
What do your activities, recreation, sex life, service, work, diet, fitness maybe even the way you drive your car say about the one whose name you carry? Can God sign his name to every activity of your physical temple?
The list is almost endless isn’t it? Does God co-sign His Holy Name in your cheque book? What about your home, your habits, your moods, your manner how about your disposition?
How about your marriage, do you remember the opening line of your wedding ceremony? No? It probably went something like this, Dearly beloved; we are gathered together in the sight of God, and in the presence of these witnesses. It was in the sight of God that you promised to love, comfort, honour and keep your spouse. It was to God that you promised to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do we part. According to God’s holy law.
What about when you stood in front of God and dedicated your children to him, promising to guide their feet to the sanctuary and to teach them early the fear of God, or when you stood as a new church member committing yourself to the vision and dreams of this church. How about the hundred of promises that you’ve made to God through your life? “God if you’ll do this I promise I’ll do that, or I promise that I’ll stop doing something else.”
Can God sign his name to your life? Does your life honour his Holy name? If so then you are keeping the third commandment. If not then you need to say, “I’m sorry”. And maybe we need to make Colossians 3:17 our guide, you remember what it says?
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.


That’s Stupid

Penn of Denn
People who call themselves Christians can be so stupid at times. Have you heard about the church in Florida that is planning a Qur’an burning? Seriously, the Dove World Outreach Center church is planning a “Burn a Qur’an Day” to commemorate the 9th anniversary of 9/11. Seriously!
The pastor, Terry Jones, has been advised by authorities that his bonfire will have repercussions around the world, inciting Islamic extremists and endangering Americans in Islamic countries, but he refuses to back down. Jones claims the Qur’an is an evil book that contradicts the Bible. If that is his criteria for burning books then he’d better build himself a bigger fire.
That is the same mentality that burnt witches and burnt crosses, they rationalize their actions but in the end, they besmirch the name of Christ and his church.
Jones has apparently never read Voltaire who wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Or for that matter Jesus who said, “Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” I don’t know the Jesus that is worshipped at the Dove World Outreach Center but he sure doesn’t look like the one I read about in the Gospels.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Those Who Accept the Kingdom are like. . .

I have a confession to make and I hope you don’t think less of me after I’m done; That’s right I love country music. I love listening to the new artists like Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Dean Brody and I love listening to the outlaws from the seventies like Willie and Waylon and Merle Haggard and I even love listening to people like Mel Tillis and Buck Owens, George Jones and Dolly Parton. And my parents are to blame, it’s the only think I blame them for, and that’s because I grew up on Country music. My folks listened to Country and Western and until I received a portable record player as a gift when I was eleven or twelve I listened to what they listened to, bizarre concept isn’t it? There were no iPods, no mp3 players, no diskmans, no walkmans, no boom boxes. But at least we didn’t have to crank them. And so for my formative years if there was a record on the hi-fi, we had hi-fi back then and they were furniture. So if there was a record on the hi-fi there was a pretty good chance that it was Johnny Cash or Farron Young, Patsy Cline or Jim Reeves
Now when I became a teenager my listening became a little more colourful, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple. Did the Kiss thing and Alice Cooper, Trooper and BTO, but deep down hidden in the secret place of my heart was this love for country music. When I was in high school the radio station in Saint John CHSJ played country for two hours in the afternoon between 2 and 4 and my best friend hated driving home with me because you know the rule, my car, my radio.
Now all that being said a few years ago I was watching a biography on Jim Reeves. Reeves was a major player in country music scene in the 1960s until he was killed in a plane crash in July of 1964. My folks had a couple of his record so he is what I would call classic country. And in the biography I was watching the comment was made about the problems he had being accepted into the country music scene because he used horns and violins. Violins, not fiddles but violins in his music. And that just wasn’t country.
The funny thing is that some of the country music celebrities who were remembering Reeves as such an innovator and saying what an impact he had had on the genre were some of the old guys that I have heard dumping all over new country. And that isn’t unique in Country music, listen to the old rockers talk about the new music, listen to the old actors talk about the new breed of actors, or for that matter listen to older Christians talk about what they think of the church today, of the music, the way people don’t dress up today to come to church and after they get there they drink coffee in the sanctuary.
This is the tenth and last week of my Summer Preaching series, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .” and since the middle of June my preaching has focused on the eight parables that Jesus began with the words “The Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .” And we’ve travelled the roads of Palestine together as Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven to those who followed him using every day events to illustrate these eternal truths. A farmers spreading seed in a field, men picking grapes in a vineyard, a woman kneading bread in the kitchen, a fishing net being thrown into the sea. And through it all we have watched the Kingdom as it was planted, was cared for and flourished having an impact locally and globally.
And we started the series with an Inukshuk. Anyone want to buy a used Inukshuk? My first message was “The Kingdom of Heaven is like an Inukshuk” and it was based on a couple of premises. The first being that the Inukshuk would have been just the type of thing Christ would have used as an illustration had he been teaching in the Far North instead of the Middle East. Not many wheat fields, mustard plants or vineyards in Nunavut. But the primary reason for the Inukshuk would have been that it would be very easy to see how the characteristics of the Inukshuk are characteristics that we should see exhibited in Christ followers as they live out the Kingdom of Heaven here and now.
And in case this is the first time you’ve been out, or if like me your memory is getting shorter and shorter we’ve talked about how the Inukshuk provided landmarks in an environment where there were very few natural landmarks. In the same way the church is to provide landmarks in a culture where there seems to be very few moral landmarks. By the way, that is not necessarily unique to our time and culture almost three thousand years ago this was written, Judges 17:6 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.
The second thing the Inuit relied on the Inukshuk for was to point them in the right direction, and we in the church are to point the way to God and heaven. And the third function the inukshuk served was to warn people of danger and the church still needs to be telling the world that there is a heaven to be gained but also there is a hell to be shunned.
So here we are at the end of the trail, and this parable does not reveal more clues about the Kingdom of Heaven, instead this tells us about the person who has embraced what Jesus has already taught about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Six of the eight parables that begin with the words “The Kingdom of Heaven is like. . .’ are contained in Matthew 13, and at the end of the chapter Jesus ties the entire package together with a bow when he says in Matthew 13:51 Do you understand all these things?” “Yes,” they said, “we do.”
And we have to assume they had caught what he had taught. Jesus’ intent was to make the things of God clear, Christianity was not one of the mystery cults shrouded in questions and hidden behind riddles. And Jesus seemed to make that assumption that they did indeed understand because he moves ahead saying, Matthew 13:52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”
It is easy to dismiss this as simply referring to teachers and preachers. The various translations “Teachers of religious law” or “Teachers of the Law” or “Scribes” And that is always part of the issue of understanding the exact meaning of something written to a different culture in a different time.
For example, if I was telling you about a person who worked on a ship and referred to him as a stoker, you might know what I meant, that they were part of the engine room crew. But would you actually know what a stoker did? The term is still used sometime but it is totally irrelevant. Because the term originally referred to the crew member who shovelled coal into the coal fired steam engines of ships from a 150 years ago.
And so if we go back to the original language, do I bore you when I do this? The word that Jesus actually used in the Greek is γραμματεύς Grammateus, gram-mat-yooce and it meant either Scribe or Town Clerk, now we can probably safely assume that Jesus didn’t say Matthew 13:52 Then he added, “Every town clerk who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”

 So that leaves us with the definition of Scribe, but what was a scribe? Well originally the scribes were the people who copied the texts of the Old Testament. When you stop and think of it that makes sense, there were no printing presses so everything was written out by hand, it was very time consuming and very exacting, and it was checked and double checked to make sure that nothing was altered.
Eventually when people had questions about the scriptures they went to the “Scribes” for their answers. By the time of the New Testament the word scribe had kind of morphed into meaning: learned teachers and authoritative leaders. They were primarily drawn from the priests and Levites, but there were also common people who were called scribes. Remember in the Christmas story when the wise men appeared before King Herod and he wanted to know where the Christ Child would be born we read this account Matthew 2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So that being said, Jesus was simply preparing his followers for a role that they would assume, and each one of us as a Christ follower fills this role, people are learning about Jesus from our words and from our actions, that’s kind of scary isn’t it? And so before you can instruct you have to be instructed, before your lips can speak knowledge your head must contain knowledge.
I remember a conversation I had with a barber who led a church in his home, and I have no problem with people that do that. However in our discussion we happened upon the topic of the length of hair that was appropriate on a man, don’t know why the topic came up but it did. And he told me, “Well Jesus had long hair” And I was intrigued because I tried to use that with my father when I was a teen to no avail. The closest I got to success with that was when I reminded Dad, “Jesus had long hair” to which he responded “Yes and he walked everywhere he went.”
So I asked the barber, “How do you know Jesus had long hair?” to which the man, who taught people the bible in his home responded “Because he was a Nazarite and they weren’t allowed to cut their hair.” Now the man was half right, Nazarites weren’t allowed to cut their hair, Numbers 6:2 & 5 “If any of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, “They must never cut their hair throughout the time of their vow, for they are holy and set apart to the LORD. Until the time of their vow has been fulfilled, they must let their hair grow long.
The problem is that as far as we know Jesus wasn’t a Nazarite, he was a Nazarene and the reason he was a Nazarene had nothing to do with a vow he took he was because he came from the town of Nazareth. And this man was teaching people about Jesus.
So let’s go back to our scripture, Matthew 13:52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” The message is a paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, and I love the way Peterson writes this Matthew 13:52 (the Message) He said, “Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”
So what can we learn from this parable?
There is Junk and there are Gems Each one of us is a mixture of our past and our present. We all come to where we are via different routes and through that process we collect stuff. Stuff that is a result of what we have done and what people have done to us, but inevitably it has been the result of choices we made.
We’ve been through this before but before we can take control of our future we need to accept responsibility for our past. Notice that I didn’t say take the blame simply the responsibility. Every choice we make and have made in our life has shaped and will shape who we are. The choice you made when you were a child to pay attention in school or slack off, to hang out with good kids or bad kids, the decision of which university to go to, what job you would accept, who you would date and who you would marry, whether you would be a spender or a saver. We are who we are because of choices we have made.
Teens this is one of the most important things you will hear me say so listen up, the choices you make in your life right now will dictate who you will be in the future, so choose carefully.
And as a result of our choices our life is like the junk drawer in your kitchen. How many of you have a junk drawer? Sure it’s the place where you put stuff that you aren’t sure where to put it. And once in while you go through the drawer and discover stuff that has value and stuff that is junk.
So each of us today has junk in our lives and gems in our lives.
We Need to Ditch the Junk. Jesus doesn’t say this but it is certainly implied. If it is the gems that are brought out and used than implicitly what aren’t gems aren’t used. Not everything in your past are gems. Each one of us has in our life junk, hurts, habits and hang-ups. The result of what others have done to us and what we have done to others.
If we have been hurt by someone we need to forgive them and get on with life, and remember forgiveness is not an emotion it is an action, it is not something you feel it is something you do. And there is nothing in the bible that would indicate that someone has to ask for your forgiveness in order for you to forgive them. And in a lot of cases they don’t even know they hurt you, and you grumble and stew about it. Remember how Jesus taught us to pray Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And at the end of the Lord’s prayer Jesus adds this warning, Matthew 6:14-15 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
And if you are the one to blame then you need to go to the other person and make it right. Matthew 5:23-24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
And maybe the junk in your life has nothing to do with other people, maybe it is habits that you have that you can’t seem to get control over or mistakes and choices from your past that you can’t seem to forgive yourself for. Understand that as a Christ follower when you asked Christ to forgive you he forgave you. King David had that figured out when he prayed in Psalm 51:7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. And if God, the creator of the Universe, master of all things, holy and spotless and pure can forgive you, what makes you think you are so special you can’t forgive yourself?
And it’s not just the past you need to examine; if you are a Christ follower the one you are following has certain expectations about how you behave and how you speak today. Jesus reminds us in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” That’s one of those verses that shouldn’t need a whole lot of explanation, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room there. John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” If we take time to examine our lives today, are there behaviours that you know don’t belong in the life of a Christ follower? Habits and attitudes that you need to ditch if you are truly going to be obedient to Christ?
And it is the same in the church, just because it worked yesterday doesn’t mean it will work today. And some things that were gems yesterday are junk today. The bus ministry that churches used incredibly well in the 1970’s would never work today. Imagine if you will going door to door in Kingswood to let people know that on Sunday a used school bus driven by a stranger would be by to pick up their children to take them to a church they had never attended. But it worked back then. Churches used to hold special meetings twice a year and fill their churches every night for a week. Of course there was little or no tv, kids weren’t involved in a dozen different things through the week and the special meetings were the biggest show in town.
A number of years ago I heard a Baptist preacher by the name of Ed Stetzer say “We sacrifice our children for our traditions.” Let’s be careful that the things that we value from the church of yesterday don’t become idols that we are worshipping today instead of Christ.
But that being said let’s go back to the original scripture again Matthew 13:52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”
So along with the junk that we need to ditch We Need to Save the Gems Some times we are like the old time Country singers who thought Jim Reeves had no place in country music because he used horns and violins. And those folks need to be reminded of the truth of Philippians 3:13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. We can’t live in yesterday and we can’t saw sawdust, yesterday has been here and it is gone.
But there is another temptation and that is to think that only the new is worth anything and anything older than last week has no value. While there are things that we need to move past when we become Christ followers that is not to say that there is a line that is drawn in the sand and everything on the new side is good and everything on the old side is bad.
The apostles were all Jews, raised and steeped in the Jewish faith and Jesus was telling them to remember the things they had been taught about God and his commandments and to incorporate them into their new lives.
Jesus never commanded us to forget all we knew before we met him, instead we are to see that knowledge and experience in a new light and use it to serve him. Everyone one of us brings something to the table when we choose to follow Jesus. Our gifts, our talents and our experiences, and they are incredibly valuable if they are used right.
Again be wary of those who counsel people in their church to cut all ties with their past. There are gems to be saved.
And there are Gems from the church’s past that need to be saved and used. Just because it was used yesterday doesn’t mean it can’t be used today. And the church has 2000 years of history and knowledge to draw on. How many people either read the Da Vinci Code or saw the movie? Sure, it was touted as being this new discovery that would threaten the church and why hadn’t we been told anything about these things before? You ever watch or read legal thrillers when a lawyer objects to a line of questioning and says “That question has already been asked and answered.” Well, all of the questions raised in the Da Vinci code have been asked and answered over the past two thousand years.
The one thing I remember from my grade ten history class was the statement the my teacher made on our first day when he said “Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.” I thought it was original with Mr. Seeley but he was referring to what is sometimes known as “Santayana’s Law of Repeating Consequences.” Which came from Spanish Poet George Santayana’s statement “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Later I came to understand the truth of Friedrich Hegel’s statement “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”
So my challenge to you this week is to look for the gems in your life, the gems from yesterday and the gems from today and gather them together to be used for the Kingdom today and tomorrow, it was Hubert Humphrey who said “Our greatest songs are still unsung, our greatest days are ahead of us.”


Oops, or something like that. If you’ve been following the local news you’ve probably heard Irving Oil mentioned a time or two lately. In early August, they discovered their high-test gasoline wasn’t actually high test, so for a week they sold it at the same price as regular. Then they discovered the problem had been an ongoing one and they began issuing a 3 cent a litre refund to drivers who had purchased the premium brands since January 1. Now they have determined that the issue may date back to early 2008 and affected not only Irving gasoline but other brands that buy their gasoline from the Irving refinery. Oops!

I don’t use premium gasoline but if I did I would be a little ticked and a 3 cent a litre refund wouldn’t impress me much. After all, if I wanted to burn regular gas I would have bought regular gas.

But in the long term it really won’t matter much. What will matter more will be those who have bought into the Devil’s lie that what he has to offer is better than what God has to offer, and at the end of the day when people find out he lied there will be no refund, or even an apology. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.