A Life to Live

Luke 7:11-17

 It is a story told only in the gospel of Luke. Jesus is coming into the community of Nain and around him a crowd of his followers jostled one another to get closer to their friend and teacher. And as often is the case when a group of like-minded people gather together the sound of laughter rose above the sound of good natured conversation. They spoke of the miracles he had performed and of the lessons he had taught. It was a great day to be alive and those following Jesus were celebrating life.
Another crowd gathered together that day in the same town at the same time. But instead of celebrating life they were mourning a death. The death of a son, a brother a friend. A life cut short. And we don’t know if it was cut short by an accident or an illness. But we do know that however his life ended it ended too soon and however the young man’s life ended it was a tragedy. And that was not the way it was supposed to be, children are supposed to bury parents, parents aren’t supposed to bury children. But it happens; as a matter of fact the first death recorded in the bible was not that of a father but that of a son. It was not an older person it was a younger person. But that doesn’t make it any more right.
And so here we have a collision of two worlds. On one hand we have a group celebrating and on the other hand we have a group mourning. Laughter and tears. One group looking ahead to all the future holds and the other group looking back to the past and what it had held. We saw images of the collision in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Indonesia as one family would celebrate a lost loved one found safe while another family discovered that that their son, daughter, parent or spouse would never come home.
And I see it most times that I gather in a family home to prepare for a memorial service for a loved one, a collision of two worlds.
Most times when I’m with a family to discuss a memorial service to be held for a family member you will hear the sound of sound of laughter comes from the next room mixed with the sobs as folks talk about their father, mother, brother, sister or friend. Last week ago Angela and I were at an open house in the home of the daughter of one of the folks from our Berkeley service that had just passed away and again I noticed people smiling and chuckling as they remembered the life of their friend. A collision of two worlds, as we celebrate the life of a loved one and mourn their death at the same time.
And on that hot Palestinian afternoon so many years ago in the middle of the collision was Jesus. And we are told on that day that Jesus’ heart broke as he saw this woman who had already lost her husband and now had lost her only son. And so he did what he had only done twice before, he reached out his hand and spoke to the boy and told him to arise and he did. And through his touch and his words Jesus defeated death. But the defeat was only temporary because we have to assume that the time came that the young man closed his eyes for one last time and died, and the second time the preacher from Galilee was not there to bring him back.
It is interesting that in the three instances that are recorded of Jesus restoring life he uses the same method: he spoke to the dead person.
In the book of Mark we read about the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the climax came in Mark 5:41-42 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.
John records the story of Lazarus in John 11:43-44 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
And here Dr. Luke tells us Luke 7:14-15 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
And Jesus doesn’t only call dead people back to life; listen to the words of Christ to the church in Sardis Revelation 3:1 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” Now listen to what Christ tells the church in Revelation 3:2 “Wake up!” What is that line from the old hymn? “Wonderful words of life.”
By the very sound of his voice Jesus is able to conquer death, physical death and spiritual death and that remains true for each one of us, listen to Paul’s description of the last days, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. Cool.
But back to the story, you see there are only two things that we know for sure about this young man and those are two things that he shares with every person who has ever lived and who will ever live. The first thing we know is that he was born and the second thing we know is that he died and in the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die.
And every person in this room today has achieved the first part of that surety, we have been born, and at some time down the road each of us will experience the second part, we will die.
And there is absolutely nothing that we could do that would affect us being born, every once in a while someone will be past their due date and will say “This baby just doesn’t want to be born.” Doesn’t matter, it’s still going to happen eventually.
And for the most part most of us will cling to our lives but there is absolutely nothing we will be able to do to affect our dying. It was David Niven who said about dying “I won’t go, I’ll kick and scream and make a terrible fuss” But on July 29 1983 he still went.
I read recently the most important thing that will determine how long we will live is our genetics so we have to be very careful in who we choice to be our parents. You had no control over your life beginning and you will have very little control over your life ending but you have an amazing amount of control over what happens between those two points. You understand that the most important thing on our tombstones will not be the date we were born or the date that we die but the dash that separates them because that little dash represents our entire life.
It has been said that when we were born we cried and everyone else was happy and we should live in such a way that when we die everyone else cries and we are happy. It was John Wesley who said “The world can say what they like about us Methodist, but they have to admit: we die well.”
Today I challenge you to live in such a way that when you die not only will you die well but that you will cause a collision of two worlds where people will gather to laugh and celebrate your life and at the same time weep and mourn your death. So what is it that people should celebrate?
Philippians 1:11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
First of all I think People Should
Celebrate Your Life. This is a matter of character. When someone passes away one of the first reactions people have to the news of their death is a description of their character. “He was a nice guy, that’s too bad.” Or “What a jerk, he sure won’t be missed.”
And it’s not enough for you to be eulogized as a person of character, people are supposed to say nice things about the dearly departed. How often have you been told not to speak ill of the dead?

 I’ve performed more funerals in the past thirty years then I can count, and I have never heard a bad word said about the guest of honour. You’d think that I’ve only buried saints, and I can assure you that’s not the case. People even find nice things to say about jerks, but when they are mouthing the words people may be nodding their heads on the outside but they are shaking their heads on the inside.

 The preacher was waxing eloquently at the funeral as we are sometimes are wont to do. He described the dearly departed as a loving and supportive husband, a good provider and a wonderful and caring father. Someone who was loved and admired throughout the community. Finally the widow leaned over to her son and said “Go up and see if that’s really your father.

 Paul gives us some good advice in 2 Corinthians 6:3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.
The Guptill paraphrase is: live in such a way so people won’t have to lie at your funeral.
This encompasses a wide range of activities, your morals, and your ethics, how you treat your family, your friends, and your co-workers. How do you want to be remembered when you die? What is it that you would have them write in your obituary and carve on your tombstone?
Hopefully you won’t be like the politician who Mark Twain had in mind when he wrote “I did not attend his funeral, but I wrote a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
Psalm 112:1 Praise the LORD! How joyful are those who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands. . . 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.
Secondly I think People Should
Celebrate Your Legacy. Now I know all the clichés, that there won’t be a U-Haul following your hearse, and at the end of your life everything you’ve spent your life collecting will belong to someone else but understand that we are not talking here about your estate, because often that isn’t a reason to celebrate it’s simply a reason for your family to fight.

 It was Colonel Harland Sanders who said “There’s no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.” What you leave in the material sense may be celebrated while at the same time you might not be celebrated for leaving it.

 I’m talking about the difference you make in your life. What you leave behind is the change you’ve made in this world.

 I think that one of the saddest things that I see on a day-to-day basis are people who are just putting in time. They’re just here going through the motions. I mean they are here, they go to work every day and raise a family but the overriding goal of each day is simply to make it through to the next day. They lay absolutely nothing on the line, never take any risks, and never put anything back into life.

 I truly believe that even though we may never be another Da Vinci or Rembrandt, may never be a Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa that we were each put on this world to make a difference. We can help make an impact on our world, but only if we want to.

 I remember reading, “If you want to put your life into perspective put your finger into a bucket of water and then pull it out, that is the difference that your being here will make.” I am here to say, “That is wrong, wrong, wrong!” The world is what it is today not because of what society has done but because of what individual people have done. And every one of us has the potential to make a difference.

 Hopefully on the day that people gather to say goodbye to the mortal part of us they will talk about what we left behind in terms of making a difference of how the world or at least our world is a better place because we were here.

 What mark will you leave behind on your community, your church, your family? How will you make your world a better place? What will be your legacy?

 Theodore L. Cuyler wrote “You may not be able to leave your children a great inheritance, but day by day, you may be weaving coats for them which they will wear for all eternity.”

 Some people will come to your funeral because of how you lived and others will come because of what you left but the people you want to be there will be there for a deeper reason.

 Romans 12:10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.
People Should
Celebrate Your Love. John Donne wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” There are times when we want to subscribe to being an island when we want to hide in a hole and never come up but if our life is going to be all that it can be then we need to reach out to those around us. In each of our lives are other people, people with whom we have to coexist and to those people we owe a certain obligation, and that obligation is love.

 Most of us have a spouse, many of us have children at home, all of us have friends and each one of those relationships require one essential ingredient and that is love. Now not necessarily the same type of love, that is impossible. You don’t love your children like you love your parents and you don’t love your friends like you love your spouse. But in our lives there is to be reciprocity. Just as we are to make a difference in our world we are to make a difference in the lives of people we share our life with.
Do the people in your life know that you love them? I mean without guessing. Is your love revealed through your words? Through your actions? Ultimately it will be the greatest thing you leave in the hearts of your family and friends. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. In the end they may talk about your faith, they may remember how positive you were in life but the thing they will cherish more than anything will be the love you had for them.
Don’t leave with people having to guess if you loved them. Back in the early nineties Reba Macintyre had a song out called “The Greatest Man I never knew’
And it’s not just the love we have for our family that will be celebrated but the love we had for our God and our church. You understand at the funeral of a Christian the talk shouldn’t be about their theology but about their love. Remember the words of Jesus in John 13:35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
But if you want people to celebrate your love when you are gone you will have to demonstrate that love while you are here. And so your life should be celebrated but we all know that isn’t the entire story.
The shortest verse in the bible is recorded in John 11:35 Jesus wept!

On that day, when those two worlds collided there was not only a celebration of life, there was also a mourning. So People Should
Mourn Your Death. You see the old must die and the young may die. We will all die; every person here today will die, unless the Lord returns first. Death is the only thing humanity has in common besides birth.
And even though we know that death is inevitable it doesn’t make it any easier, regardless if it happens when you are 29 or 99. Perhaps you’ll recall the shortest verse in the bible, which is John 11:35 Jesus wept! That was at the funeral of his friend Lazarus, the very same Lazarus whom he raised from the dead just a few moments later. And in the story that was read it says in Luke 7:13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. And then Jesus reached out and touched the boy and raised him from the dead.
So why do we mourn? If we believe in eternal life, that those who have embraced Jesus Christ will live forever with their Creator and Saviour without pain, without sorrow, without grief why do we cry? Because. We weep for our loss, we weep because we will miss our friend, our child, our parent our spouse. We weep for the hole their death has left in our lives. And that’s all right, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
So remember the way you live and love today will determine the script on the day you die. Will people celebrate your life and mourn your death? Only you have the power to assure that they do.
I know some people don’t like going to funerals and so I leave you with the words of my favourite philosopher Yogi Berra, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” When you have a chance to go to a friend or colleague’s funeral make every attempt to make either the service or the visitation beforehand. It’s not for the dearly departed but for those they have left behind. So that those who have lost their loved one will be reassured that their mother, father, brother, sister, child or friend had an impact on their world and the people they knew and interacted with.

Sorry for What?

Russell is sorry. Well, that’s nice. Not! The disgraced former Colonel finally broke his silence on the last day of his trial to tell the world how “indescribably ashamed” he was concerning his actions. Indescribably ashamed might cover the disappointment that he caused for his family and the Canadian Forces. Indescribably ashamed might describe emotions at the pictures of him posing in lingerie that were shown in the media around the world, but it really doesn’t cut it in regards to his actions as a murderer and sexual predator.

If Russell Williams hadn’t been caught, I am very sceptical that Jessica Lloyd would have been his last victim. So the question is, did he “deeply regret” what he did or was he just sorry he got caught? We’ll probably never know. But unless a switch was thrown in the past few years that turned him into the monster he was, I would suspect that Williams is guilty of crimes that we will never know about.

On a smaller scale, how often have we committed actions that we are sorry for only because we have been caught? You understand, whatever it is that you are hiding, whether actions or attitudes, God already knows about it.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Three Temptations

 Forty days, in the wilderness. Forty days, not four, not fourteen but forty. And all he took with him was what he was wearing. He wasn’t part of a tribe, had nobody to build an alliance with, it was just him, a rugged terrain and God. What did he eat? Did he hunt, or fish, he didn’t do either, because he didn’t eat. For forty days he fasted and prayed and at the end of that time he faced his foe. This would either be the beginning or it would be the end. And this is one view of how it happened. (Video clip from CBS mini-series Jesus)
One of the central pillars of our faith is that fact that when Jesus walked this earth he was 100% man and 100% God, that is he had both a human nature and a divine nature. And a part of that is the belief that even with his human nature that he never sinned. But just because he never sinned doesn’t mean he wasn’t tempted. And it’s not just my opinion the Bible says Hebrews 2:17-18 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
The story is told in the fourth chapter of Luke. It was at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, he had just been baptized and went into the desert for forty days and during that time he fasted. And at the end of the forty days Satan came and tempted him.
So, the question is: was Jesus really tempted? There are some who say that even though the temptation was real in the sense that it actually happened, that because Christ was 100% divine that he wouldn’t have given into the temptation. If that is the case then he wasn’t a 100% man and that’s part of the mystery of the incarnation. My own theory is yes the devil tempted Christ, and yes it was a temptation. I read a great explanation from Alexander McLaren who wrote “As a true man, he could have been truly tempted; as perfect man suggestions of evil could not arise within, but must be presented from without.”
So, because Jesus not have a sinful nature to tempt him those temptations had to come from an outside source, in this case Satan.
It was at this point that Jesus would have to make a decision how he would do his work. God was saying “Take my love to the people of the world, love them, die for them if you have to, but conquer them with your unconquerable love.” Satan on the other hand was saying, “Take the power that you have and demand the submission of mankind, win the world through might and force.” And so Jesus had to decide that day, would he follow the way of God or the way of Satan.
Well we have the benefit of the book and we know that Jesus didn’t give in to Satan, that he didn’t sin. And this morning we are going to look at the story and discover what we can learn about being tempted and defeating temptation.
Every person here is tempted in one way or another, that’s part of being human. And every one of us will respond to temptation in only one of two ways. We’ll either give in or we won’t. It’s as simple as that. No in between, no ambiguity here, it’s either yes or no, win or lose. When I first became a believer my Dad told me, “Sin is black or white; grey is just a colour of paint.” That might be a little simplistic but it certainly applies to temptation. It’s unfortunate that too many people’s strategy of dealing with temptation is easy, they simply give in and get on with. They are a lot like Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Let’s start this morning by looking at The Three Temptations. Earlier I said that we are all tempted in one way or another. And we are, and our temptations are all different, what tempts me may not tempt you. But there is a common thread that runs through all of our temptations. When I was in Bible College I took a course called Pastoral Management, and it was taught by Rev. Charles Grant. Charles told us as a class that in our ministry we would find ourselves tempted by one of three things, “The Gold, the glory or the girls.” I thought that was fairly original but it wasn’t really. A few years back a Wesleyan author by the name of Keith Drury wrote a book called Sex, power and money, and that was no more original than the gold, the glory or the girls.
Luke 4:3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”
1) We Can Be Tempted By our Appetites

This one goes back a long way, to the very first temptation recorded in bible, right before Eve ate her family out of house and home. You remember the story, God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and they had complete freedom to do anything they wanted, except they could not eat from the tree of Knowledge. They could have cut it down and used it for fire wood and been done with temptation once and for all, but they didn’t. And when she was tempted listen to the direction the temptation went.
Genesis 3:6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Now we aren’t talking about appetite here in the sense of a Big Mac a large order of Fries and a shake. No this is the temptation to satisfy our physical desires, even when we know that it is wrong. Every one of us will be tempted at some time or another through our appetites. It may not be hunger it may be your sexual appetite, it might be an addictive substance, or it might simply be the appetite to have more, whatever the cost.
And those temptations normally are more powerful when we are hungry for whatever it is that Satan is tempting us with. Satan knew that it wouldn’t have done much good to tempt Jesus with bread when he had just gotten up from a feast and so he waited until he had gone without food for forty days.
When I talk to people who have committed adultery they usually say that there was something missing in their marriage, sex, intimacy, acceptance and that is what they were tempted to find elsewhere.
Of course the power of temptation is multiplied because our society has reverted back to the philosophy of ancient Rome that said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Or perhaps it’s the philosophy of the not so ancient 60’s that said “If it feels good; do it.”
But the question is: Why do we do things when we know they are wrong? Why do we watch movies that we know Christ wouldn’t approve of, why do we listen to music that flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches, why do we cultivate relationships that we know are dangerous? If you were to answer honestly it would be because we enjoy those things and those people. We are seeking to fulfill the appetite of pleasure. Even when we know that to do so is to be disobedient to what God wants in our lives.
What Satan was asking of Jesus seemed relatively harmless; just turn the rocks into bread. What could be wrong with that? Nothing in itself, but Jesus knew that wasn’t what he was supposed to do. And ultimately that’s how we need to view things, is this what God would have me to do? And if we are going to do that than we need to believe that God has the very best at heart for us, and he isn’t just a Grinch intent on taking all the pleasure out of life.
Luke 4:5-7 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
2) We Can Be Tempted By Power

Power, the rest of the temptation that Eve faced was power. Genesis 3:5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
To be just like God, people are still trying to be like God. What Eve was after wasn’t knowledge it was power. Satan was offering Jesus the power of world dominion without the sacrifice of the cross.
People are too willing to pay whatever price they need to in order to achieve the power they crave. They will sacrifice their morals, their ethics, their integrity. James Byrnes former Secretary of State wrote “Power intoxicates men. When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power, he seldom recovers.”
Most of the problems in today’s world are caused by a quest for power. Read the papers. What is it that the Israeli’s and Palestinians are fighting over? Land, no they have land they are fighting over power, who will be in charge. Radical Islam is fighting for control, they want the power that comes with being in control. The Taliban wants to be back in control in Afghanistan so they will have power over the people and will be able to demand they do it their way.
We have been undulated with reports of Russell Williams crimes in Ontario but Williams’ crimes weren’t about sex they were about power.
Luke 4:9-11 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'”
3) We Can Be Tempted By Fame

“Just think Jesus, all you have to do is one little circus trick and everyone will know who you are and they will bow down and worship you. Again, no harm no foul, the angels will protect you. So if you jump off the temple walls, everyone will see that you don’t get hurt.”

 This is also the temptation of pride, Madonna made this statement “I won’t be happy till I’m as famous as God.” She’ll never be as famous as God, but I would suspect that she has done some things in the quest for that fame that has dishonoured God and Madonna. Don Johnson may have been thinking of Madonna when he said “Once you become famous, there is nothing left to become but infamous.”
And you’re thinking, Denn that isn’t a problem for me, I know that I’ll never be famous so it’s not a temptation. Sure, but have you ever considered fames little brother, popularity.
When I was in school I was both unpopular and popular, and trust me popular is better, but it’s not worth selling your soul for. Don’t give into the temptation of doing things just to fit in with the crowd. Because when the time comes to pay the price for the compromises that you make the crowd will be nowhere around.

 

The Gold, the glory and the girls, Sex, money and power or Appetites, power and fame. Call them what you will but time and time again it’s the same three that will cause you to stumble.

 

3 Strategies of Winning

 Use The Book God has given us guidelines for living, they are contained in the bible. Time and time again people choose to consciously disobey his word, and then blame God for the mess they are in.
Three times Satan tempted Jesus and all three times Jesus responded by saying “The Scriptures Say.” And gave a response to the temptation out of the word.
In Psalm 119 David asked Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? And then he answers his own question By obeying your word.
Two verses later he adds to it by saying Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
The bible will only do any good if you know what is in it. It’s no good to wave it around and say, “Somewhere in here it says something that’s helpful” You need it hide it in your heart. You say, “But Denn I’m no good at memorizing scripture.” Just read it, and read it and read it. Make it a part of your day. If you don’t have a bible reading plan you can find one for your computer, you iPhone, your blackberry or you can do it the old fashion way.
Devotional books are wonderful but they are no substitute for reading God’s word. David didn’t say “I have hidden “The Daily Bread” in my heart, or I have hid “The Upper Room” in my heart, or I have hid the latest Christian best seller in my heart. Read the book.
Don’t Underestimate Temptation. Remember what you pray in the Lord’s prayer, Lead me not into temptation. Too many of us are like Mae West who said “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” We say we’re resisting but we’re not putting up too much of a fight cause we’re afraid we’ll scare it off completely. But it’s not a game, and it’s not some little pet that you can take and play with and put back. The Bible says the Devil is like a lion, and it means a full-grown nasty beast. Not a cute little cuddly thing.
Story is told about a man who came in from the dessert to visit his cousin in the city. As he made his way toward town he came across a railroad track. He had never seen a train before so he didn’t know what the track was and decided it was just an easy place to walk, and so he did. He didn’t get very far when a train came charging down the track after him. He heard the whistle and turned just as it hit him. Well luckily it didn’t kill him just banged him up real bad. When he got out of the hospital his cousin took him in and the first night decided his country cousin could use a cup of tea and he put the kettle on to boil. Well you know what happened. Buddy’s sitting and the tea kettle starts to whistle, he jumps up grabs a base ball bat, rushes out to the kitchen and beats the tea kettle to pieces. His cousin follows after him and says “What did you do to my kettle?” To which came the response, “Oh sure they are cute when they are little, but let them grow up and they can kill you.”
That’s the reason why in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns us not only to avoid committing adultery but to avoid even thinking about committing adultery.
Jesus’ brother James hit the nail right on the head when he wrote in James 1:14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
Scottish writer Margaret Oliphant Said the same thing, “Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.”
Don’t go looking for temptation and don’t under estimate them. You’ve heard me say it over and over again; “Sin will always take you further than you want to go it will always keep you longer than you want to stay and will always cost you more than you want to pay.”
Claim the Promise Here’s the most important thing I’m going to say today, learn this scripture, memorize it and believe it with all your heart.
1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
You can win, you don’t have to lose. The promise is here in the book, and we don’t debate the book. I couldn’t help myself, or the temptation was too strong, or the devil made me do it are cop-outs. The Bible, the word of God promises us that we can win over temptation. Let’s read it the promise together but this time let’s personalize it 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in my life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, he will show me a way out so that I can endure.
God has promised to show you a way out, so your part is to look for hat way out.
But remember if you are going to master temptation then first you are going to have to let God master you and what happens then? Listen to the result in Luke Luke 4:14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Double Down

Penn of Denn
Let’s see…… Should it be the miners in Chile or the monster in Belleville?  Decisions, decisions, decisions.  Sometimes there are just too many good news stories to pick from.  I know! I will write about the one everyone is talking about. It’s been on the television news, online and in the papers. The commentators have called in experts to weigh in on the topic and there have been passionate opinions on both sides of the issues.
That’s right! The KFC “Double Down.”  If you haven’t seen or read a story about this topic, it is a sandwich sans the bread.  Two deep fried chicken breasts cradle two strips of bacon and two slices of cheese. 
What can be said about a society that makes a major news story out of a chicken sandwich?  What surprised me was the number of people who were willing to express an opinion having never experienced the “Double Down.”  Kind of like the people who have strong, negative opinions about Christianity and the church without any first-hand experience, and that isn’t fair to the sandwich or the church.
So my commitment to you is not to form an opinion about the “Double Down” until I’ve actually tried it.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Losing Jesus

So, where were you when you lost your kid? Seriously, if you have children you’ve lost one at some point or another. And if you haven’t lost one yet you will. Maybe it was in a grocery store, or on a street, at Disney Land or perhaps at church. But you remember the moment when panic set in and you realized that you didn’t know where your child was.
When I was little my mother looked on the street from our apartment and thought “I wonder what type of mother would let their toddler in diapers wander down the middle of the street.” Then it dawned on her that she was that type of mother and I had escaped again. Once when I was locking up the church in Truro I realized that I had an extra three year old with Deborah. Kellie’s parents had arrived in separate vehicles and when they left they both thought Kellie was with the other one, it wasn’t until they got home that Ron and Kim realized they had misplaced their youngest.
Our moment came in Arlie Beach in Queensland Australia. Arlie Beach is about a 12 hour drive from Brisbane where we were living at the time, it is a beautiful little resort town on the very edge of the great barrier reef and it is full of strange people.
We had spent our day on the reef, first on a semi-submersible and then snorkelling and scuba diving on the reef itself. It was a full day. When we got back to town and had supper we were visiting some of the shops and Angela and I split up and it was only when we got back together that we realized that we had our nine year old but we didn’t have our six year old, again with the “I thought she was with you” discussion. Panic ensued as we started to retrace our steps looking for our “baby”. We eventually found her back at the dive shop we had visited earlier looking at pictures from our dive. She assumed that we would come back, if not for her at least for the pictures.
And most parents have a similar story, perhaps more dramatic perhaps less but you know that sudden hollow feeling in your stomach.
For the next six weeks we are looking into the book of Luke, which is the 3rd book in the New Testament. The Author of course is Luke; some of these are just too easy. Luke was probably a gentile Doctor and he also wrote the book of Acts.
The book was written somewhere between AD 59 -63 and was actually written to a man named Theophilus, who was likely either a new believer or someone seeking to know more about Christ. Interesting name Theophilus, it was my great grandfather’s name but more than that in the Greek it meant Lover of God. And the reason for the book, to explain to readers that God’s love was meant for the entire world.

 And it is in the book of Luke that we find the only accounts of Jesus as a child and in one of those short snippets we read about the time Mary and Joseph lost their oldest kid. I’m sure that Mary and Joseph told the story of their trip to Jerusalem on many occasions, recounting the horror of that day. The story starts in Luke 2:41-42 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.
Culturally we are told that it was required by Jewish law that every adult male who lived within 20 kms of Jerusalem should go to the temple in the capital city for the Passover celebration. It was also decreed that under Jewish law that at 13 a boy became a man. So this was a very special occasion for Jesus. Perhaps it wasn’t the first time that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, but it would be the last time he would celebrate the feast as a child and I’m sure he was looking forward to next year.
The Passover celebration lasted for several days and culminated in the Passover Feast; it was the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith and was a major celebration. Mary and Joseph and their family would have been there with friends and extended family from Nazareth and we are told that they probably didn’t travel alone,
Those in the know tell us that in all probability the women and children would have travelled as a group and the men would have travelled as a group. You only have to go to a social function today to realize that things haven’t changed much. We are also told that the women and children would have left earlier in the morning and travelled slower while the men would have left later but travelled faster, and every one would have ended up at the destination around the same time.
Because of Jesus’ age he could have travelled with either group, he was really neither fish nor fowl. Young enough to still travel with the women and children if he wished but old enough to tag along with the men. And that is where the trouble began, because it would appear that when Joseph got ready to head out with the men he assumed that Jesus was with his mother, while Mary had assumed that Jesus would follow with the men and older boys. And you know what happens when we assume right? That’s right sometimes we are wrong.
Luke 2:43-45 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Can you imagine the panic? The finger pointing? The fear? Mary and Joseph would have split up and began canvasing all of the other groups. Who had seen Jesus? Where and when? By the time they had finished it was very apparent that no one had seen Jesus at all through that day. When they couldn’t find him we are told they left the group and headed back to Jerusalem on their own. But how would they find him? They came from the little town of Nazareth and Jerusalem was the largest city in the country. Perhaps not Toronto size but certainly the task before them was daunting.
And so they hunted, they went back to their accommodations and Jesus wasn’t there, they went to where they had eaten and Jesus wasn’t there, they looked up the new friends they had made during the days they had been celebrating and no Jesus.
We aren’t told but we have to assume they went to the authorities with no results and checked whatever served for emergency health care to see if a twelve year old boy had been brought in, but to no avail. We don’t know if Mary and Joseph had brought their other children back to Jerusalem with them, or if they had sent them ahead with family members but when it seemed that all the avenues had been exhausted we read this Luke 2:46 Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions.
We don’t know what took them to the temple, if they were looking for Jesus or if in desperation they returned to the centre of their spiritual lives to pray for their son and to seek comfort from their God. Whatever it was that took them to the temple took them to their son. Isn’t it always the way, you find what you are looking for in the last place you look. Which is one of the dumbest things people say. Just once wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone say “Yep I found it in the third from the last place I looked. I had a list of places I needed to look so even after I found it I just kept right on looking.”
In this case it kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they had of gone to the temple to ask for prayer before they looked all over Jerusalem. But Mary and Joseph were like most of us, we try to do it on our own first and only after it becomes apparent that we can’t do it do we ask God for help.
I wonder about the range of emotions that Mary and Joseph must have felt when they saw Jesus there right as rain in a conversation with the teachers of religious law? From “I can’t believe you are all right we were so worried about you.” To “What were you thinking, your father and I were worried sick.” To “You are going to get the spanking of your life when you get home young man.”
It appears it was somewhere in the middle, you understand that we are just getting snippets of the conversation, we are hearing the high points not all the minutia that actually makes up a conversation, so we hear Luke 2:47-48 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” That’s a good motherly response, lead with guilt. And we can read it any number of ways because we don’t know the tone of voice that Mary used, the volume of her words, the look on her face or whether she was hugging Jesus or shaking him.
And he responds by saying Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” It might be blasphemy, and you might want to stand back in case the lighting strikes, but reading that I think I would have reached out and slapped the kid. Arrrggghhh. And I have never hit either of my kids in anger, although there have been times.
Most of the commentators agree that this was a pivotal point in Jesus’ life, that it was at point that he became aware of who he was and the task that lay before him. There are all kinds of stories, legends and tales of Jesus as a child but this is the only biblical account of Jesus’ childhood. Up to this account the sum total of what we know about the Jesus as a child is summed up in these words in Luke 2:39-40 When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
We don’t know all of the intricacies and mechanics that went into God becoming man but somehow I doubt if he had a full awareness of who he was before this stage. If he was to truly experience what it was to be fully human how do you do that with an awareness that you are God at the age of three?
Do you remember the clip I showed from Bruce Almighty last Sunday, when God is explaining the rules that will go along with the power he is giving to Bruce? Rule number one was “You can’t tell anyone you are God, trust me you don’t want that kind of attention.”
And so it was here that in whatever fashion for whatever reason the switch was tripped and Jesus became aware of his destiny. Had Mary and Joseph forgot the wonder of his birth, maybe the everyday had caused them to lose sight of the eternal and suddenly Mary and Joseph were reminded of who their son truly was, not the son of Joseph creator of tables and chairs but the son of God, creator and master of the universe. I wonder if for Joseph he suddenly remembered “That’s right I’m not his father.”
As William Barclay tells us in the Daily Study Bible “Here we have the story of the day when Jesus discovered who he was.”
Adam Clarke adds to that in his commentary “According to the Jewish canons, it was the age at which they were obliged to begin to learn a trade.” And so it would appear that Jesus had chosen his path, listen to the statement that Jesus made Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” That Jesus had chosen his path and was beginning to learn his trade and it ultimately would have nothing to do with carpentry.
But this morning I don’t want to focus on Jesus discovery instead I want to focus on the question “How do we lose Jesus?” Because we all know people who had a close personal relationship with Christ but now they don’t, and the question is: How does that happen? And maybe you are in that position yourself, you are sitting there today thinking, that’s me I used to have that relationship but now it’s different, what happened?
Some thought on losing Jesus, would apply to Mary and Joseph and might apply to you or someone you know.
1) It Was Not Intentional There is nothing to lead us to believe that this was part of the plan.
I don’t think that Mary and Joseph sat down and planned how they would ditch the kid. “Ok Mary, you sneak out with the other women and the kids, and then when Jesus is looking for you I’ll slip out the back door.” I don’t think it happened that way, I think that it was a total shock at the end of the day when they suddenly realized that Jesus wasn’t with them.
When we lost Deborah in Arlie Beach it wasn’t intentional, we didn’t plan to lose her and she didn’t plan to get lost but she did.
And in the same way I don’t think that anyone becomes a Christ follower thinking “someday I won’t be this close to Jesus, someday Jesus will no longer be a part of my life.” That’s not to say that along the way some people don’t make a conscious decision to walk away from Jesus and his teachings, but that wasn’t part of the plan from the beginning.
So what happened?
I think Busyness Played a Part. It was a crazy morning, Joseph was trying to get things organized for the trip and Mary was trying to round up the kids. They weren’t busy with bad things or evil things they were just busy. And to be fair their busyness had a lot to do with good things, they had been in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover that was good. Joseph needed to get back to the carpenter’s shop and perhaps as he walked with the other men he talked business and found new customers, that was good. Mary was tending to the children and enjoying being with her friends those were good things. But in their busyness they lost sight of the fact that with every step they were moving further away from their first born.
The urgent often distracts us from the eternal, we become caught up with the here and now and lose sight of the there and then. We become so busy with life and all that involves that we lose sight of God. He takes a back seat to career, and sports and school and holidays and yard work and and and. Not bad things but we can become so busy that we miss the important things. My Daddy used to say, “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”
Which is why Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Slow down, take a breath, look around and find Jesus.
I think Carelessness Played a Part Perhaps they were seeing Jesus in a different light than how they had seen him previously. He wasn’t a little boy any longer he was growing up and taking on more responsibility for himself and his younger siblings.
And they had never lost him before. But a year ago they were paying more attention to the whereabouts of their son; they made sure they knew where he was and who he was playing with. A year ago they would have been certain of his location and wouldn’t have simply assumed that he was with the other parent. It might not be flattering but they had become careless.
And to a certain degree if we look at times that our children have gone missing it has been through carelessness. Things distracted us and it’s been awhile since we checked on them and then there they were gone.
When we were getting ready to move to Australia we knew that we were going to be going through a number of busy airports with a three year old and a five year old so we decided to take precautions. So we bought wrist leashes, not a big deal now but twenty years ago more so. And to get the kids used to them we started using them in the mall, Stephen figured that since he was on a leash he should bark, which led to interesting conversations. And some old folks actually criticized us for putting our kids on a tether, but we never lost them.
If we were honest when we discover that Jesus isn’t where he used to be in our life it can often be traced back to carelessness. Do you remember in the book of Revelation John is reading letters to the seven churches of Asia that he had received from Christ in a vision. And to the church in Ephesus these scary words are written: Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” In the NKJV it reads this way, Revelation 2:4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
The Christ followers in Ephesus didn’t love Christ the way they once had and that happens, if we were to be truthful today the flames of that love might not be as hot as they once were. And that happens for the same reason it happens in other relationship, we take ourselves for granted and get careless. We do things that we would never have done when we were dating or courting or in the first few years of marriage.
And in our relationship with Christ, when we first started to follow “The Jesus Way” we were hungry for his word, wanted to be in church at every opportunity, wanted to be around other Christ followers and wanted to talk to Jesus on a regular basis. But then life stepped in and we became careless in our church attendance, our prayer life our bible reading and who we were spending our time with. And before long it could be said about us as it was about the Peter when Jesus was on his way to the cross, Matthew 26:58 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance . . .
But no matter the reasons ultimatly what happened that day in Jerusalem was a Result of Choices they Made Mary and Joseph probably wouldn’t think that way; they would say they didn’t choose to lose Jesus but they did. Because they chose to assume that Jesus was with them, because they made the decision to not check with the other person.
Listen up, this is important. Just because it wasn’t an intentional decision on their behalf it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t Mary and Josephs’ fault. It doesn’t matter how you slice it they were the adults and he was the kid, they were supposed to make sure that he was with them. It wasn’t the twelve year olds job to make sure he was where he was supposed to be, it was the parents.
We live in a society that we like to think that some things aren’t anyone’s fault, that’s just the way it happened. I heard someone talking about a car accident their daughter had and another person asked “Whose fault was it?” to which the first man replied “It was nobody’s fault, it was an accident.” It might not have been intentional, it may have been an accident but it was still someone’s fault. Unless the ground in front of her suddenly opened up and swallowed her car or a meteorite landed on top of her car it was probably somebody’s fault. You see, I think that we get faultless and blameless mixed up.
For example, I tend to be a bit of a klutz, if you had invited us over for tea and cookies and served me tea in your great grandmother’s fine china and I accidently set my cup too close to the edge of the coffee table and it fell on the floor and broke you might say it was nobody’s fault but that would be incorrect. I might be blameless in the sense that I didn’t mean for it to happen but it was still my fault for putting the cup too close to the edge. And to a certain degree if you knew me you would have to say you were at least partially to fault because you didn’t serve me out of plastic or stainless steel.
If your relationship with Jesus isn’t what it used to be it is because of choices you have made and decisions you have made on how to lead your life and what would be a priority for you. I love the story and tell it often about the old farmer and his wife driving along in the pickup and she asks “How come we don’t sit all cuddled up like we used to?” To which the farmer replied “I ain’t moved.”
And here is the reality, if you find yourself further away from Christ than you once were, he ain’t moved.
Jesus didn’t run away from Mary and Joseph, he didn’t leave them behind they left him behind.
And now here is the good news, You Can Choose to Come Back to Jesus Mary and Joseph could have chosen to keep going. They could have rationalized that it was too much of a problem to travel back to Jerusalem; they were already too far away to go back, it wasn’t that far to home, Joseph had business he had to attend to at home and besides they had other kids.
But they didn’t choose to leave him behind they went back to find him. And it took time and energy and tears but they found him.
What will it take for you to get back to where you were in our relationship with Christ? To rediscover your first love? I don’t know, but you do? Like any relationship your relationship with God requires work and effort the question is: is that a commitment you are willing to make? And only you can answer that question.
But here are a couple of suggestions, the best place to find Jesus is still in His Father’s house, that would be church. Take time to talk to him, that’s prayer and let him talk to you, that’s reading His word. A good place to start would be to re-familiarize yourself with his story by reading along with us in the Gospel of Luke.

What’s Good for the Goose. . .

So apparently, what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.  Less than a month ago the eyes of the world were focused on the pastor of a small church in Florida who announced plans to burn copies of the Qur’an on the anniversary of 911.  You might recall the furor raised when Terry Jones announced his plans.  There were threats of violence from Muslims around the world.  Riots overseas resulted in deaths that were attributed to Jones’ plan.  President Obama weighed in, asking Jones to reconsider and governments from around the world implored Jones to reconsider.  And he did.  Not one page of one Qur’an was burned.
In a recent news article I read that Muslims in southern Malawi have been burning bibles in protest against their distribution by Gideon’s International.  You probably didn’t read that because it didn’t really make the news.  The press hasn’t put pictures of those responsible on the front pages of their publication. It hasn’t been a topic at the UN. I don’t know if even one government official has noticed and if they have, if it crossed their minds to say anything.
I guess in the end the world expects more from Christians, as they should. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

God Answers Prayer, But Not Always God Answers Prayer, But Not Always

Lends a whole new meaning to “I’m praying for you” doesn’t it?
Prayer helps us feel closer to God, more connected to the church and extremely guilty if it is perceived that we don’t do it enough or correctly. And this is one of the verses that is often claimed as a promise for praying Christians: James 5:16 The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. And no matter what translation you read it in it is just as powerful, the King James Version says James 5:16 The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
While the New International Version reads: James 5:16 The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
And it my opinion that this is the one of the most encouraging verses for praying Christ followers and in the same breath one of the most discouraging verses for praying Christ followers.
Encouraging because it truly is a great promise, listen to it again: James 5:16 The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. If you are a righteous person and if you pray earnestly your prayers will have great power and produce wonderful results. And we have all heard incredible testimonies about the answer to prayers, people healed, love found, employment gained, children saved, football games won.
Obviously those who prayed were righteous people who prayed earnestly.
But what about when people aren’t healed? When love is lost, a job can’t be found, children continue to wander and the football game is lost? What then? What does that say about the person who prayed? Are they not as righteous? Are their prayers not as earnest because the results are not wonderful and not powerful?
This scripture came to mind a couple of weeks ago in a matter of answered prayer, and because I’m older than dirt I remembered it in the King James James 5:16 The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. And as I thought about it and celebrated it I realized that James didn’t finish the thought, what he should have written was James 5:16 The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, but not always.
Now before you get out your torches and pitchforks in an effort to run me out of town you need to recognize two things. The first is “You can’t” and the second is that I’m right. Because no matter who you are, no matter how righteous you might be, no matter has fervently you might pray, not all of your prayers have been answered. And if you were feeling particularly honest then you would admit that you don’t always understand why not and sometimes you get a little cranky about it.
If we are truthful, there have probably been times that you felt like David when he wrote in Psalm 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief.
And if the truth be known you don’t need a sermon on how to pray, you’ve got that figured out. You might not feel comfortable praying when other people are around or praying out loud or in in public but you have no problem praying and you know how to pray, it’s just talking to God, even if it’s as simple as “Dear lord I pray his radar wasn’t turned on, or help my baby get better, or let me win the lottery.”
And we know why we pray, we pray when we feel helpless and when we can’t do it ourselves. So we know the why and the how of prayer. Sure we might need to be reminded that prayer is supposed to be an ongoing conversation with God and not simply a shopping list of things we want, that it should include some thank-yous along with the pleases. But for the most part we all know how to pray. Maybe we don’t do it enough but most of us do it, even if it’s a prayer like Jacob Astley’s “O Lord! thou knowest how busy I must be this day: if I forget thee, do not thou forget me.”
So here is the question, why aren’t some prayers answered? One source I read listed a number of reasons for unanswered prayer in our lives and his list looked something like this:
1. Lack of Fellowship with God and His word
2. Not seeking to please the Lord
3. Unconfessed Sin in One’s Life
4. Improper Motives
5. Not asking in God’s will
6. Don’t know how to pray
7. Lack of Faith
8. Misunderstanding of Faith
9. Wavering faith
10. Failure to apply spiritual Authority
11. Lack of Perseverance
And well those are undoubtedly reasons; I don’t think it’s super productive to tell people “The reason that your prayers aren’t being answered is you. You have no faith, or the wrong faith or you’re just plain sinful.” “Well thank you very much.”

 But without getting personal there are some reasons for unanswered prayer and some things we need to understand about prayer and also about limits that God places on prayer. Now I know that we like to think that the power of prayer is unlimited, and in theory it is. But remember the words of Yogi Berra who said “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.”
But for all practical purposes there are limits on prayer that are imposed by God himself.
And there are things we need to understand
We Need to Understand that God Has a Plan. At this point we could say that prayer is limited by God’s will, but we all have different ideas of what God’s will is, so let’s stick with understanding that God has a plan for this world.
God’s design for this world is that we would accept him as our Saviour and so when we die we will live with Him for all eternity. From time to time I hear people talk about healing and occasionally they will say that God wants everyone to be healthy and within certain limits I still believe that.  However, the bible does say in Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment. People do not live forever, that’s a plain and simple fact of life, and because of that we shouldn’t be surprised when prayers for healing are not always answered.
I believe in the power of God to heal, and I know that God does heal people, but I also know that not everyone is healed. And people die, Jesus died and was raised to life again.  Our hope is a resurrection hope, that’s God’s plan for the world and our prayers are limited by God’s plan. That doesn’t mean that you don’t pray for healing, but pray knowing that God is in control.
When I was younger I thought that when you prayed for healing and added “If it’s your will” that it was just a cop out, that by adding that disclaimer you could always fall back on the “Well I guess it just wasn’t God’s will.” But as I gotten older and perhaps wiser, depending on who you talk to, I’ve come to understand that ultimately God knows what he’s doing, even if we don’t understand it or agree with it. And I’ll talk about that later.
We Need to Understand that God Designed the World A pastor came into his church one day and noticed a boy at the front praying, he went over to comfort the child and when the boy was done the pastor asked him, “I know you were praying but why did you keep repeating Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo?” To which the boy responded, “I just finished my geography test and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.” Probably not going to happen. There have been times that I’ve prayed for 48 hour days and unlimited energy so that I could accomplish all I wanted to do. But the sun still set at the usual time and I still needed my rest. Step off a building you will get hurt, because gravity isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law.
God created this world with certain laws in effect. We need our rest, and we need the universe to be a stable place to live.  Design and order are necessary.  I know that in the book of Joshua, Joshua prayed and God made the sun stand still but when we pray for such things we must know that we’re praying for a miracle.  And a miracle doesn’t require God to violate a “natural law” so much as it requires God to violate the consistency of the universe. Psalm 104:19 You made the moon to mark the seasons and the sun that knows when to set.
Prayers for God to move outside of those boundaries affect the very course of nature.
We should not be surprised when our prayers for miracles sometimes go unanswered.  
We Need to Understand the Primacy of Free Will Who watched the movie “Bruce Almighty”? If you didn’t watch it you probably still know the premise. Bruce Nolan, played by Jim Carrey, is a reporter in Buffalo New York who is constantly gripping about how God treats him, so God, played by Morgan Freeman gives him his power, temporarily, to see what it is like.
Here is the scene where the rules are explained: (Clip from Bruce Almighty) You got that right? Don’t mess with free will.
God didn’t violate your free will to force you to become a Christian and he won’t violate the free well of others to force them to become a Christian. Nor will God force people to give up alcohol or drugs or a destructive lifestyle.
The greatest gift that he ever gave us was the freedom to make choices for ourselves and he isn’t going to take that gift away from someone else simply because you pray for it, no matter how noble your motives are. We should not be surprised when some of our prayers for others go unanswered. 
Now if you’ve ever asked me to pray for the salvation of a loved one, I will pray for their wisdom, I will pray that God’s brings people into their path who will share a positive witness, I will pray that you become a better example of Christ’s love and that you will have the courage to share Christ with your loved one, but I will not pray that God will make them a Christian.
Nor will I pray that God will make them stop drinking, or smoking or cheating.
We Need to Understand That We Are Not the Only One Praying How should God decide whose prayers to answer.
During the Stanley Cup I wonder how many Flyers fans were praying as compared to the number of Blackhawk fans? Do we presume that more Chicago fans prayed then Philadelphia fans? And what does it say about the prayer life of “Leaf” fans?
Probably the great example of this is weather. How many people pray for specific weather requests? We are probably all guilty of that aren’t we? Lord let it be a nice day for my wedding, let it be a nice day for the picnic, let it rain for the crops and snow for the skiers.
What would happen if God granted everyone’s weather requests?   Can you imagine it?  I mean the weather would have to be different about every hundred feet!  It would have to be rainy in this field and it would have to be sunny out behind this house.  It would have to be twenty eight degrees down Main Street and there would have to be a ten foot pile of snow in every child’s back yard!  It would be ridiculous!  And we shouldn’t be surprised that isn’t how things work!  The Bible tells us that God is concerned about us as individual people but it also tells us that God is concerned about nations and groups of people and on some level that means God has to be concerned about all of us together.   
If you remember in Bruce Almighty, Bruce answers everyone’s prayers with a collective yes and everyone wins $17.00 in the lottery. But that wasn’t what they were all praying for.
And some of those prayers are selfish. If you are praying that you will get that great job you are praying that someone else won’t. If you are praying that someone you know gets into surgery sooner because of a cancellation what are your prayers saying about the person who had to cancel? And where will they go in the line-up. And what are we praying when we are asking for an organ donation for someone.
We Need to Understand That God is Probably Smarter Than Us Outside of the limits that are on prayer we also need to realize that God created the universe and most of us have a hard time putting our kids toys together at Christmas. This would lead me to believe that God is smarter than we are. Often prayers aren’t answered because it wouldn’t be in our best interest. Just for a minute ask yourself what would happen if every prayer you had ever prayed had been answered. Who would you be married to, what would you be doing for a career, where would you be living. Sometime we just have to believe that God knows best. Maybe St. Teresa of Avila had it right when she said There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers. Which is very similar to the words written by Garth of Oklahoma who said “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers, Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Have you ever made a purchase or decision that you regretted soon afterwards? You know, buy a computer or phone and the upgrade comes out the next week. Start dating Mr. Right and then meet Mr. Right 2.0. Jump at a job opportunity and the company folds a month later. Order the burger and then see the nacho’s at the table next to yours.
Sometimes God is waiting for even greater things for you, more than you can imagine right now.
What should we do when our prayers aren’t answered?
That wasn’t all that helpful was it? Learning why our prayers might not be answered. So what do we do when the sick friend or loved one doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and the wayward child still hasn’t come back to God. Does the fact that there are limits on our prayers mean that we should just give up? By no means. Here are a few suggestions.
1.  Be Patient
First of all and maybe most importantly, be patient.  Many of the things that we pray for we expect to happen overnight. “Lord teach me to be patient” we pray one evening and expect to have the patience of Job by daybreak! Be patient! Just because it didn’t happen today doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen tomorrow, or next week or in a year. A request delayed is not a request denied.
2.  Trust God
     Be patient but also trust God’s wisdom.  Every child knows that there are times when parents say “no” and that there are demands that parents don’t fulfill.  When it looks like a prayer isn’t being answered don’t get your knickers in a knot!  God hasn’t fallen off His throne.  The angels sent to guard you didn’t take a wrong turn on the trans-Canada and wind up in going to Florida for the winter. Whatever is happening for whatever reason God knows. Trust His wisdom and goodness. I always go back to a story I heard years ago. Two women were talking and one say “Maybe God will be good and will heal your little boy.” To which the second responded and said “God will be good whether he heals my little boy or not.”
Can we trust the wisdom of God even when it runs contrary to what we think should happen?
3.  Ask Why or Why Not 
If a prayer isn’t being answered and God knows why and what’s happening then we should also ask for some insight.  We’re often told “don’t question God.”  True, it isn’t healthy to doubt God’s intentions, but often I hear this kind of thing said of situations when we should ask God.  If God knows then we might stand to learn something if we ask.
What if we stopped and asked, “God why didn’t I get that job?” or “God why don’t I have a relationship right now?”  
Think about a child who begs continually to eat sweets. What would happen if they asked why? Think of what they might learn about nutrition and discipline and about always getting what we want!  Think of how much more they could know than that “mean old mom won’t let me have what I want.”  
It’s the same way with God.  When we don’t get what we ask for it’s a good idea to ask for more information.
4.  Keep Praying  
     Perhaps the best thing we can do when a prayer goes unanswered is to continue praying. Keep praying!  But remember prayer isn’t just asking. It’s a conversation. Sometimes we see God as a giant vending machine, you put in a prayer, pull out a healing, stick in a prayer pull out a solution.
Have you ever had someone in your life that every time you see them they ask for something? Gets a little annoying doesn’t it. Sometimes prayer is just talking to God, telling him about your day and thanking him for all he’s done for you.
It’s easy to get discouraged when a prayer hasn’t been answered. It gets hard to keep praying when we don’t see direct results, but we ought to keep praying because the Bible and our experience both tells us that God answers prayers.  Every time we pray there is the real possibility that God will do something about our request.
Be patient! Trust God’s wisdom and goodness!  Ask Why!  Keep Praying!
And as Jesus said John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
And Jesus still reminds us of that promise 2000 years later.

Don’t Judge Me!

Do you watch, “Dancing with the Stars”?  A couple of weeks ago we accidently happened to catch a snippet of Michael Bolton in his last performance.  My thought was, “As a dancer, he’s a pretty good singer.”  Which says something for me because I quote the statistic that, “4 out of 5 people who fall asleep while driving are listening to Michael Bolton at the time”, but that’s a different story.
Well, the judges were underwhelmed with Bolton’s performance and expressed that opinion with judge Bruno Tonioli, stating that it was the “worst jive” he had seen in the 11 seasons of the show.  Apparently Michael was hurt by the comments because he is demanding a public apology and insisting that Tonioli be reprimanded.  For what?  Bruno didn’t besmirch Bolton’s character, he didn’t question Bolton’s integrity, he simply commented on his dancing.  Which is what he’s paid to do. Good work if you can find it.
When you comment on someone’s behaviour not being in line with biblical standards, often you are told not to judge people.  But like Bruno, we should be able to judge behaviour without making it personal.  If someone isn’t dancing right how will they know unless someone tells them? Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

How’s Your Mud?

When I was a teen we lived just outside of Saint John New Brunswick in Hammond River and when I needed to think or just find time alone I would go down to the river, find a big rock and just sit and enjoy being next to the water. And it seems that it has always been like that, as a kid when I spent my summer vacation on Grand Manan you could often find me along the rocks of Swallow Tail or down by the edge of Pettes Cove enjoying being next to the water.
There just seems to be something refreshing and renewing about being next to water, we try to get out to Peggy’s Cove each year and our vacation times always end up somewhere around large bodies of water. I can’t even imagine living somewhere without quick access to the ocean.
It had been a rough couple of days for Jesus. He had been preaching to large crowds and families were bringing their sick children and parents to be touched and healed, I can only imagine the amount of emotional energy that it must have cost Christ. In the third chapter of Mark we are told Mark 3:20 One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. Jesus was riding this huge wave of popularity; you gotta love it when you are loved.
But not everyone was happy with what was happening. Jesus had to deal with the scribes and Pharisees, that seemed to be an ongoing battle, but this time they didn’t pull any punches. In Mark 3:22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”
And you kind of expect that, everything Jesus taught threatened the status of these leaders, he was shaking up the status quo, leading people into a closer personal relationship with God which bypassed the religious establishment of the day. And really Jesus was able to give as good as he took, what with referring to the religious establishment as hyrpocrite, snakes and white washed tombs. It wasn’t entirely a one way street.
But what must have really hurt Jesus was his family’s reaction in Mark 3:21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. Ouch, that’s gotta hurt, when those who love you and are closest to you dismiss you as crazy. What is the line Sheldon uses in the Big Bang Theory, “I’m not crazy my mother had me tested.” Apparently that didn’t apply here.
But you can kind of understand his families feelings, Jesus had given up the security of the carpenter’s shop to become an itinerant preacher, itinerant is a fancy word for homeless. He had found an entirely new circle of friends, including 4 fishermen, a tax collector and at least one zealot, and a zealot was only half a step away from being a terrorist. And then not being content to simply preach feel good messages it appeared that he was willing to take on the entire religious establishment all by himself. Might sound a little crazy, but they didn’t have to mention it in public. Maybe it was this incident that caused Jesus to say later in his ministry Matthew 10:36 “Your enemies will be right in your own household!”
And so he has gone to the edge of the sea of Galilee, presumably to re-charge his batteries, in Matthew’s account it tells us Matthew 13:1 Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. But it appears the crowds have followed him and they begin to press in to hear him preach until finally he borrows a boat, maybe Peter’s or John’s, and turns it into a floating platform preaching to the crowds on the shore. And, as he does so well, he points his audience’s attention to the everyday and then uses it to direct them to the eternal and he begins to teach them using a parable, and a parable is simply an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus started with the here and now and used that to explain how to get to the there and then. In this case it was a man sowing seeds in a field.
We do need to note a couple of things here at the very beginning. The only responsibility that Jesus laid on the sower was that he sows the seed. The sower received no credit for the seed that grew nor any condemnation for the seed that didn’t grow. All too often we lay the responsibility for the fruitfulness of the see at the feet of the sower. If a church doesn’t grow it’s the preacher’s fault, if people aren’t saved it’s the preacher’s fault, if the church splits it’s the preacher’s fault.
But if we listen to this parable, it would appear that if the seed is the word of God and if the sower is the servant of God then his singular responsibility is to sow the seed.
And in the case of the farmer, we know very little about how he went about his task. Traditonally we are told that he would have worn a bag of some kind filled with seed and would have walked some type of pattern through his field broadcasting the seed by hand. Perhaps he did it in a very traditional method, up one row and down the other or perhaps he tried some new techniques and added a little variety to the pattern he walked or a little pizzazz to the way he threw the seed. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t know, Christ didn’t spend very much time on the sower at all. He is dismissed in a sentence and a half Mark 4:3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. So presumably he did what he was supposed to do. If he had of walked up and down the rows and not thrown any seed at all I am sure that Jesus would have mentioned it, had he sown something other than the seed that he was supposed to be sowing that would have come up as well.
And just as the farmer discharged his obligation by simply sowing the seed the preacher’s duty is to preach the word. And some do it in a very traditional method and some add a little more pizzazz to the task, but the important thing is that they do it.
And the second thing Jesus did not blame for the lack of fruitfulness was the seed. It was the same seed that was sown on the hard ground, the thorny ground and the good ground. Just as the sowers responsibility was to be a sower the seed was responsible only for being the seed, nothing more and nothing less. The only thing that was different in the four cases was the ground the seed fell on.
And so Jesus told the crowd the parable of the Sower and the Seed and then he changed the subject and went in a different direction. It was only later in the day when it was just the master and his students that he took the time to elaborate on this particular parable. And that’s where we come in, because the explanation is as valid today as it was two thousand years ago. And we each find ourselves somewhere in Jesus’ explanation.
If you were to investigate the different ways that people have responded to Jesus over the years you would get as many answers as there are people. But if you took the time to examine those responses you would find that you could narrow all of those responses down to the same four pictures that Jesus drew on that day for his followers.
And I know that all generalities are wrong but I would suspect that everyone here falls into one of those categories as well. So the question today isn’t “What is the response of others to Jesus?” instead it has to be “What is my response to Jesus?” What has your reaction been to the claims on Christ on your life, because if you have heard the word of God then you have responded, one way or the other.
Mark 4:4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.
Those Who Are Hard on the Outside In the Holy Land during the time of Christ the fields were long and narrow and between each field was a right of way, a path that was used by farmers on both sides. And it was on this pathway that the first seed fell.
It is interesting to note that this was very same fertile ground that made up the field, it was not rocky or stony, but because of constant pressure of people walking over it day after day it had become packed down and rock hard, and as the sower scattered his seed some of it was broadcast across these right-a-ways and just lay on top of the hard soil, providing a buffet of seeds for the birds.
And so Christ tells us in Mark 4:15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. And so the hard ground represents the man with the closed mind. Now let’s make one thing clear, we are all close mind over some things. Now personally I like to think I’m only close minded when I’m right, but that’s just me.
Billy Graham told the story about the young preacher who want to make an improvement in the sanctuary of the little church he was pastoring in so he approached the board and suggested they buy a chandelier. Well one old fellow stood up and said “I’m agin it, and I’m agin it for three reasons. First there aint nothing in the bible about them there chandeliers. Second there ain’t nobody in the church who can play one and third what we really need is more light in the sanctuary.”
Well about some things it really doesn’t matter if you are close minded, whether you drive a Ford or a Chev, whether you vote liberal or conservative, in a hundred years it won’t make any difference. But to be close minded when it comes to spiritual things can have eternal consequences.
It happens at times that the path to the human mind has been trodden down as hard as the paths in those fields.
Alexander MacLaren was a Baptist preacher who lived a hundred and fifty years ago and he explains it this way, “They have been trodden by the heavy baggage wagons of commerce, the light cars of human pleasure, the merry dancers and sad funeral processions have all used that way and each footfall has beaten the once loose soil a little firmer.”
It is a fact of life that we are made insensitive to the Gospel by the effects of necessary and often innocent things.
The urgent has robbed us of the eternal and so we say “I will get to it, in just a minute, tomorrow, next week.” And while we wait the seeds of God’s word lie exposed and vulnerable and listen to the warning of Jesus; Satan will come and take it away. Jesus doesn’t mince words here, Satan is waiting to discourage people from accepting the grace of God and the salvation of Christ and the most effective way is to steal the seed before it can penetrate the heart.
As you drove away from Cornerstone last Sunday morning what did you take with you from the message? Can you remember the scripture I used, the main points or a key thought? Or were they snatched away. You know how it happens. 1) An immediate argument in the car right after church about where to go for dinner. 2) Lots of activities, appointments and busyness on Sunday afternoon. 3) Preoccupation with a problem at work, school or home. 4) A personality conflict with another church member or one of the staff 5) Irritation because of how far you had to park from the front door or because we didn’t sing your favourite song, the music was too loud or too quiet and on and on ad nausem.
And the story continues: Mark 4:5-6 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.
Those Who Are Hard Inside This kind of makes me think the story was written about Halifax or at least Kingswood. The picture that Christ draws here is soil that looks and is fertile, there just isn’t that much of it.
And when the seed falls in this soil it quickly grows under what seems to be optimum conditions. It is almost forced to grow in a soil that is warmed by the heat absorbed by the rock and the nutrients that have soaked into the shallow layer of topsoil. And yet because the roots can’t penetrate any deeper than the rock these plants that literally spring forth from the ground die in the heat of the sun.
Christ explains the application in Mark 4:16-17 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. These are the folks that the gospel only penetrates emotion deep. Just as the seed finds a receptive home in the rock warmed shallow soil these people often seem very receptive to the gospel. Perhaps they’ve been on the search for truth or maybe it is the result of some emotional upheaval in their lives. Maybe the high of a marriage or the birth of a child or maybe the low of a marriage suddenly ending or the death of a family member or friend. Whatever the cause the emotions make the heart fertile ground for the gospel. But the rock that lies just beneath the surface is often the rock of an unrepentant heart.
And so they quickly and gladly embrace the promise of heaven, prosperity and abundance of life they never grasp the concept of “Take up your cross” or “Repent and turn to God.” They see Christ as a fire escape from hell but not as Lord of their lives. Because the roots of the gospel message have been unable to entwine itself around their hearts these folks are not able to stand in times of adversity.
How do you get the roots to take hold? By changing the composition of the rock beneath the surface. By getting to know your bible, by reading it, attending services to hear it taught by hanging out with other Christ followers.
Every once in a while at the tail end of a hurricane one of the big evergreens on our property will blow over and they pull the roots out of the ground, they are thirty foot tall but their roots are only appear to be inches below the surface and so when the wind blows strong enough from the right direction down they come. And sometimes that happens with people, they have a surface faith but it hasn’t really penetrated deeper than that.
Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.
Those With Other Stuff This seed wasn’t sown on the hard soil of the path or for that matter on shallow soil covering rock, instead it landed in rich fertile soil, but in this rich soil lay the remnants of the thorns that had once grown there.
And as the rain and sun caused the wheat to begin to grow the thorns grew along with them, eventually depriving the good seeds of those things they needed to survive. If the thorns had of been torn out of the ground and eradicated in the first place instead of simply being ploughed under it wouldn’t have been an issue, but they weren’t
And so Jesus tells us in Mark 4:18-19 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. Of all the analogies this one scares me the most, not only does the seed germinate but it grows and matures as well. The people who are represented in the first two groups would appear to have never truly embraced salvation and all that goes with it. They are rootless and they were fruitless. They never really take off, at the very most they are a flash in the pan. And it’s fairly obvious that the last group, which we will talk about in a few minutes, are truly born again, submissive, active and productive, but frankly this third group concerns me.
It would appear that these folks were truly touched by God, they grew and were right on the verge of producing fruit when all of a sudden their progress came to an end. Why? What happened?
Because as Jesus tells us, thorns grew up around them, thorns which suffocated the normal healthy growth of the plant.
And what do those thorns represent? Listen again to Christ, Mark 4:18-19 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And Jesus doesn’t say that these things might cause problems or that they might hinder our progress as Christ followers he tells us they will crowd out his word.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
The worst part is that most of us never realize that we are being choked until we have been choked.
There are three things that Jesus warns us about, 1) The Worries of this Life We become so caught up in the everyday worries of this life that we have no room left in our lives for the things of God. Instead of trusting in him we try to work out all of those details ourselves. Remember the word of Jesus in Matthew 10:29-31 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. We get to the point that we are harassed by anxiety and harried by the everyday and have no time for God.
The second thorn that Jesus talks about is 2) The Lure of Wealth I love the way the King James phrases it Mark 4:18-19 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. The lie that if you are only rich enough and have enough stuff then everything will be all right. The bible never condemns being rich. But it does warn us that when either money or the desire for money takes first place in our lives away from Jesus we are skating on thin ice. Which is why Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
And sometimes we rationalize our quest for riches by saying that it really isn’t all that important to us like author Joe E. Lewis who said “I don’t like money actually, but it quiets the nerves.” Actually it was also Lewis who said “It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, as long as you’ve got money.”
And I know there are folks out there that try to justify the lure of wealth by saying that when they are finally where they need to be they will be able to give to God’s work. I don’t believe it, if you aren’t doing it now with what you got you won’t do it later when you’ve got more. If you can’t give 10% of a $100.00 it’s doubtful you will give 10% of a $1000.00
And then the third thing that Christ warns will choke our Christian experience is The Desire For Other Things I call it the cult of the next best thing. Those that have motorcycles call it bigger bike disease, those with water craft bigger boat disease, those with travel trailers well you get the picture. We want bigger homes, nicer cars, larger salaries more prestige. And there is nothing wrong with aspiring to better things in life, until it becomes an all-encompassing passion. And then it becomes a picture of discontentment. We are never happy with what we have and it becomes the plague of pursuit, always pushing, straining, stretching, relentlessly reaching while our minds become strangled by the lie, “Enough just isn’t enough.”
If those thorns are choking out your Christian life they need to be dug up and eradicated. It’s not enough to simply bury them. Kind of like the old guy who used to testify in church and say “I’ve gotten caught up in the web of sin again” and finally another old feller had had enough and he shouted “Kill the spider”
And then Jesus tells us the rest of the story,
Mark 4:8
Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Those Where it Stuck This is what we’ve been waiting for and what the farmer was expecting when he sowed the seeds. A crop. It’s not enough for one seed to produce one plant that would just be a waste. The fruit of the apple tree isn’t apples it’s more apple trees.
And Jesus explains in Mark 4:20 that he’s not talking about wheat.
And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!
That my friends is you, because in each one of us comes growth, maturation, and finally reproduction. When we talk about the purpose of our church is to help depopulate hell what we are saying is we are here to reproduce and to make more Christ Followers. So where you at, how’s your mud. As we stop and pause to remember it is time to ask ourselves what has the seed of God’s word produced in our lives?