A Healthy Heart

(Sound file of heart beat)
Your heart, do you ever stop and think about your heart? It’s pretty important. One of the pivotal points when you are expecting is when you can first hear your child’s heartbeat. And in all the murder and mayhem shows on TV what’s the first thing they do when they discover a body? Sure, check to see if there is a pulse, a heartbeat. Except on Bones, because then it’s pretty evident that the person is dead.
And so for many people life begins and ends with their heart. Hardly much bigger than your fist your heart will beat 60 times a minute, 3600 times an hour, 86,400 times a day. And that’s just one day, if you live to be 70 then your heart will have beat 25,550 days, do the math. Every minute of our lives the heart pumps over five litres of blood through our bodies, that’s over 300 litres of blood an hour, 7,200 litres of blood a day through a network of 96,000 km of arteries, veins and capillaries. And again that is just one day.
But if we move away from the physical it was B.C. Forbes who said “The size of your body is of little account; the size of your brain is of much account; the size of your heart is of the most account of all.” And that has nothing to do with the physical size of your heart. When you love someone you love them with all your heart and when they leave they broke your heart. If someone is kind compassionate and loving they have a big heart on the other hand if they are none of those they are heartless.
If you really enjoy the Big Apple you “Heart NY”.
Six verses into the bible when God looked at the world and how it had deviated from his will and his way we read in Genesis 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
And then the very next verse tells us the result, Genesis 6:6 So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.
This is week four of our health check series and this morning we are looking at “A Healthy Heart.” And this is important. The leading cause of hospitalization in Canada continues to be heart disease and stroke, accounting for 16.9 % of total hospitalizations. Heart disease and stroke costs the Canadian economy more than $22.2 billion every year in physician services, hospital costs, lost wages and decreased productivity. That’s 22.2 Billion with a B.
And Heart disease is the number one killer in Canada, approximately 30% of Canadians who die this year will die from a heart related condition. Every seven minutes someone will die from heart disease or stroke in Canada. From the time our first service began at 9:00 a.m. until our third service will finish at 3:15 this afternoon statically speaking heart disease will have killed over 40 people in Canada.
And there are some frightening statistics that point to the cause of Heart disease, I read this just recently.
The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Canadians or Americans.
So apparently it is speaking English that will kill you!!!
But the reality is that regardless of what language we speak most of us start with a healthy heart. Oh there are a few anomalies and sometimes you will hear of a child who has been born with a heart problem but for the most part we start with a healthy heart that will do what very few if any man made pumps could do and that is pump continually for up to a hundred years or beyond without having parts replaced.
So how does that relate to us individually as Christ Followers and collectively as his church? Well, the bible, the word of God uses the word heart hundreds of times from the first time it is mentioned in the book of Genesis until the last time it is mentioned in the book of Revelation. And very few of those instances refer to the organ that beats in your chest. Instead it refers to our love, our loyalty and our attitudes, both toward God and toward others.
So let’s start with: What Makes a Heart Unhealthy? Most of us have heard of Hardening of the Arteries but there is also a hardening of the heart and it happens as a result of the walls of the heart thickening. Eventually as the cardiac wall becomes thicker the heart muscles in effect become hard and unable to pump blood the way they are supposed to.
In the scriptures we read of people having a hard heart and that means that they are not responsive to God and his will. You might recall way back in the book of Exodus when Moses went to Pharaoh and demanded that the Israelites be set free from the slavery of Egypt that we are told that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he refused. Exodus 7:13 Pharaoh’s heart, however, remained hard. He still refused to listen, just as the LORD had predicted. Actually that is one of the stories that has confused me and I’m sure others have been confused as well because when the story begins God tells Moses Exodus 4:21 And the LORD told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go.”
And when I first read that, way back when I thought: “That’s not fair, God hardened his heart.” But then I went back further in the story and discovered God didn’t have to do much hardening. Listen to the beginning of the story Exodus 1:8-11 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labour. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
And the story continues in Exodus 1:13-16 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”
Not a nice guy. Augustine wrote “God does not harden men by infusing malice into them, but by not imparting mercy to them.” In other words Pharaoh had done so much wrong for so long and had rejected God for so long that the grace that would have soften his heart was not offered to him, and that is scary. But Pharaoh wasn’t the only one who is referenced as having a hard heart in the Bible.

 When we think of Jesus and attributes used to describe him we think: gentle, caring, forgiving and loving. But very seldom do we think of the term angry, if we do it’s when he cleared out the temple of the money changers. But there is another time as well and that is in Mark 3:5 He (Jesus) looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. And that wasn’t the only case, throughout the gospels Jesus criticized people for having hard hearts.
But what does that mean, having a hard or hardened heart? Paul said this in the letter he wrote to the Ephesians. Ephesians 4:17-19 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles (unbelievers) do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
To have a hard heart means that you have closed yourself off from God, from his teachings, from his guidance, from his correction and ultimately from his Grace.
Jesus warns us about an unhealthy spiritual heart in Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And broadens that out in Matthew 15:19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.
Can it be changed? Yes. In the physical we are told that a change in life style and a change in diet can help restore a diseased heart and it’s just as radical in the spiritual sense. Both Jeremiah and Hosea offer the people of Israel similar advice Hosea 10:12 I (God) said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plough up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’ And in order to break though that hard heart it will require a conscious choice and it will require work, it’s not something that comes easy or without effort, if you’ve ever broken hard ground for a garden then you know exactly what I mean.
But often what is defined as heart disease doesn’t have anything to do with the pump itself but with the rest of the mechanism breaks down. Hardened or blocked arteries, clots, and leaky or faulty valves, the plumbing and the electrical.
So if that is what makes a heart unhealthy what is the alternative? What Makes a Heart Healthy? Physically your heart has one job and that is to move blood through your body. And it does that in a spectacular fashion. Your heart pumps on an average 70 times a minute, 4200 times and hour, 108,000 times a day, 36,792,000 times a year. And if you live to be seventy like some of our folks then your heart will have beat some 2,575,440,00 times. And you wonder why you feel tired.
And every time it beats it pumps 2 1/2 ounces of blood through 96,000 kms of arteries, veins and capillaries. And if we were to talk about how much that blood weighed, that is about 9 lbs of blood every minute, almost 550 of blood each hour, 6.5 tons a day, 2333 tons a year, that is 163,278 tons in a seventy year life, or 326,556,160 pounds. And if your heart is able to do its job then it is considered a healthy heart.
Spiritually there are all kinds of scriptures that define what a healthy heart is and does. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. And in his first letter to Timothy Paul defines one of his goals, 1 Timothy 1:5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. And so it would be fair to say that spiritually a healthy heart is a pure heart. Pure in action and pure in motive, that goes back to some of what we talked about in an unhealthy heart. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 15:19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. And Jesus warns us in Matthew 5:28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. That stuff doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a pure heart, does it. Remember James tells us in his letter that Salt water and fresh water can’t come from the same spring and grapes don’t grow on thorn bushes. Is your heart a pure heart? Not only in action but also in motive?
Solomon tells us in Proverbs 14:30 A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; . . . so a healthy heart is a peaceful heart, that probably crosses to the physical as well, if your spiritual and emotional heart is at peace it probably puts less strain on you physical heart.
In the book of Leviticus we are told Leviticus 19:17 “Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives.” And in the New Testament John reminds us 1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. Do you have a peaceful heart? It really is a choice, you will forgive or you won’t forgive, you will either harbour resentment in your heart or you will let it go. And those things aren’t feelings, they are actions, things you do.
David writes in Psalm 9:1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvellous things you have done. And in Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. So I think it would be fair to say that a healthy heart is a Praising Heart. It is a heart that gets its focus from praising God and looking outward instead of inward. A healthy heart acknowledges that all we have is from God and gives thanks for that. And we can think to ourselves “Well, really God knows I’m thankful.” But that isn’t the point, there is something about stating your thanks that makes it real, not necessarily to God but to yourselves. It is an acknowledgment in yourself that you are who you are and you have what you have not by chance or by accident but because God provides all things. We are told in Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Do you realize how incredible fortunate you are? And if you can’t think of anything to give thanks for than you definitely have heart problems.
So a healthy heart is a pure heart, a peaceful heart and a praising heart and Jesus sums all of that up in Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'” So bottom line is you know your heart is healthy when you Love God and Love others.
So that brings us to the last question which is How Do We Maintain a Healthy Heart? How do we keep our hearts healthy? The two major things are 1) What we consume, too much and the wrong type of food, excess consumption of alcohol and smoking. And 2) What we do and don’t’ do. Bottom line and you don’t want to hear it any more than I do is that we keep our hearts healthy by our diet and exercise.
People talk about a cure for cancer and yet heart disease kills more people than cancer and we have a cure. And sometimes it takes something dramatic to happen, a heart attack will often cause people to change their lifestyle but sometimes not. In the game called life there are no guarantees, skinny physically fit people sometimes die of heart disease but not as often as those on the other end of the scale.
If you want to reduce your chance of heart disease you will quit smoking, get your weight down to a healthy level and start exercising.
And in our spiritual life if we want to have a healthy heart it boils down to the same too things, what we consume and what we do. Pastor Jason spoke on having healthy appetites last week, what are you feeding your soul on? The things of God or the things of the world? Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. If we could do a spiritual echocardiogram on you what would we find hidden in your heart? Because what you feed on will dictate what is in your heart. You want a good spiritual menu? Try this for a suggestion, Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
So if the first step toward having a healthy heart is watching what we consume the second thing is what you do. Jesus talked about this as did the rest of the New Testament writers, your heart is evidenced in your actions. It’s not enough to say you love God and love others if that doesn’t affect how you live. Time and time again we read that a tree will be judged by its fruit and that salt water and fresh water can’t come from the same spring. James reminds his readers in James 2:15-16 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? And then if they didn’t get they didn’t get the point he adds James 2:17-18 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
What are your deeds saying about your love for God and for others? If people were going to judge your Christian heart by your appetites and your actions what conclusions would they reach? And trust me, people will judge your Christian heart by both your appetites and your actions.
The good news for your physical heart and for your spiritual heart is this: In most cases it’s not too late, if you make the decision to do the right things. The question is: Will you?

 

Oops

He was just doing what he was told to do. Who would have thought it could be so wrong? Apparently, two senior citizens from Britain were touring Germany when the GPS in their car told them to turn right, and they did, even though there was no road on their right to turn on to. Instead, the 76-year-old driver drove straight into the side of the village church, writing off their car and damaging the church’s foundation. A police spokeswoman commented, “They were confused and didn’t notice that the navigation system was faulty”. I guess there is the entire confused thing, but you’d think he would have noticed the church! The Bible tells us in Proverbs 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” The rough translation of that admonition is to pay attention to where you are going. And if you need some route guidance don’t forget Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” And while we trust His word will lead folks to church, we would prefer that they leave their cars in the parking lot.. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Way to go China!

Penn of Denn

Well, kudos to the Godless communists!  Last month government officials from China announced that they had shut down more than 60,000 pornographic websites and vowed to keep up their campaign against material deemed obscene.  Beijing has been running a highly publicized  battle against what was referred to as: smutty and lewd content overwhelming the country’s Internet and cell phones, threatening the emotional health of children.
I know there are all kinds of people who will denounce the move as government censorship.   So?  Wikileaks has already proved the existence of government censorship; this move at least is aimed at protecting children.
I read recently that the internet is made up of 30% retail, 30% porn and 30% lies, and we have provided our kids with a key to Pandora’s Box.  I fear for the generation whose moral outlook will be shaped by what is so widely available a mouse click away and whose relationships are defined by what pornographers have defined as normal. 
So, what is the answer?  It is the same as it’s always been. Society can’t be changed without people being changed.  Only God’s grace can change people but the church needs to be the messenger of that grace.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible


 

Dead or Alive

Good, you’re sitting down, I have some bad news for you, some of you are dead. Now it’s not as bad as it sounds, it might be reversible, if we catch it in time.
The title and theme of our services from now until the middle of February is “Health Check” and our focus will be on our physical and spiritual health, because the two are really interconnected. In 3 John 1:2 the apostle John is writing to his friend Gaius and as part of his greeting he writes Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.
And often we err one of two ways, some folks focus on their physical bodies and ignore the spiritual side. They are concerned with making sure that they eat right, get enough sleep and get regular exercise but they never stop to think about the eternal. All of their energy is focused on the here and now and they miss the there and then. They obviously missed the bumper sticker that says “Eat right and exercise and die anyway”. They might give a nod to the eternal and make a token attempt at connecting with God but they can’t or won’t find time to actually develop a relationship with him. And if they spent half the time and energy on spiritual things as they do on their physical bodies I’m sure the results would be amazing.
Seriously what if we were as committed to finding time for God as we are finding time for the gym, or for walks. What if we were as concerned about our kid’s spiritual health as we are about their physical health, if church had the same priority in our lives as sporting events did? How would your children’s hockey, soccer, and baseball coaches feel if you treated practices and games the way some people, not you but some people, treat their kids church and youth group attendance?
But on the other side of the spectrum are the folks who get all spiritual and focus all of their energy on their spiritual development and ignore their physical bodies. They view what they have simply as a temporary container, just a vessel to house their soul during the time they are on this earth, and while they may not say it their lives are certainly testimony to their belief that it really doesn’t matter how they treat their body. And that belief certainly isn’t new as I mentioned last week the Gnostics were riding that pony two thousand years ago. The spirit was good and the body was bad, just a necessary evil to house that which was eternal.
But that belief is at odds with what Paul told the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
And then he tells them why 1 Corinthians 6:19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? So if our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit it sounds like something we should take care of. And some folks use that scripture to explain why they don’t smoke or drink but ignore it when it comes to basic maintenance of the temple.
Unfortunately, some Christians don’t view their bodies as a temple.
I was at a conference two weeks ago with 1700 of my closest friends and we were driving from the airport to downtown Jacksonville and suddenly my GPS said “Now take exit 334d on the left”. On the left? We were in four lanes of traffic and I knew that we were going to have to take exit 334d but who puts an exit on the left, unless you’re in Australia. And I looked back and there was a tractor trailer pulling up beside me and one of my passengers yelled “go for it, it’s a rental.” They were kidding, I think. Well the upside is we got to see a whole lot more of Jacksonville then we had originally planned.
But too many people view their bodies like they would a Budget Rent-A-Car and they see their salvation as the extra insurance you buy. If everything goes well, that’s fine but if not, well we paid for the protection. Instead we need to see our bodies not as a rental but as a keeper but it goes beyond that because our bodies are gifts from God. And often how we treat gifts is indicative of how we view the gift giver.
Some folks talk about when they get to heaven and are given a new body, a glorified body, but really if we haven’t done that good of a job with the one we have now, if’n I was God, I’m not sure I’d trust us with the upgrade.
In the scripture that was read earlier Paul compares our spiritual state with life and death and tells the Christ followers in Rome that they are either dead or alive, there’s no middle ground, and we know that. If you are almost dead you are still alive.
Dead is a word that we don’t often use in today’s society. The year Angela and I got married I had a summer job at the Sussex health center, and every once and a while you’d hear an airline voice say “Code 10, room 115, code 10 room 115.” Now if you worked there you knew that someone had died. Angela worked at the Kiwanis nursing home that same year and you’d think that with all those old people there that the occasional one would die. Uh-huh, not once, what did happen is that “they expired.” That’s right expired, come on parking meters expire, driver’s licenses expire, people die. With one exception, I will probably expire but it will only be because I forgot to mail in my renewal. People don’t even pass away anymore they just pass.
People die and it really doesn’t matter what we call it or don’t call it. But what is death what is dead, well glad you asked. Collins English dictionary death: dying, end of life, end, extinction, annihilation. But there has to be more to it than that.
Alice Thomas Ellis
said
Death is the last enemy: once we’ve got past that I think everything will be alright. And Robin Williams, wrote “Death is natures way of saying ‘You’re table is ready’.” I think we all share the sentiments of the tombstone that read “I expected this but not yet”.
Timothy Leary “How you die is the most important thing you ever do. It’s the exit, the final scene of the glorious epic of your life. It’s the third act and, you know, everything builds up to the third act.” And Elisabeth Kübler-Ross summed it up when she wrote “Dying is something we human beings do continuously, not just at the end of our physical lives on this earth.”
The words, death, dead or dying are mention 1238 times in the Bible, I know because I counted them. The question I need to ask today is this, are you dead? I mean really, if you are dead you don’t need health you need life!
You say, “don’t be foolish preacher, I aint dead.” For the most part we understand that. We know that you aren’t physically dead. But are you spiritually dead? Are you walking this old earth alive in the body but dead in the spirit?
That’s the question, but how do we find the answer? Well here are some hints that you may have passed.
1) Dead People Have no Appetite. When a man is dead, food no longer holds any interest for him. You can have filet mignon wrapped in bacon, stuffed mushroom caps, baked potatoes, sour cream and chives and fresh strawberries and cream and he won’t care. Dead men don’t have Big Mac attacks. They don’t crave for food. Pizza, ice cream, burgers, fries, not even Chinese food interests the dead man. While a man is alive he gets hungry on a regular basis, some of us more regular then others. The dead man though is unmoved by food.
One of the symptoms of the spiritual dead man is a lack of appetite for God. Now lack of appetite for God does not necessarily mean lack of appetite for church. The problem here is that many people get God and church confused. You can have an appetite for church without having an appetite for God. Your church appetite may be because you like the music, or perhaps the preaching, or because it is a social occasion, maybe it adds to your prestige. There can be many reasons why you like church and God may not come into the picture at all. No hunger for God indicates a lack of spiritual appetite, which is usually indicative of spiritual deadness.
One of the easiest ways to diagnose your appetite is by watching what you eat. I love pizza! I could eat pizza seven nights a week, and have the leftovers for breakfast. I have an appetite for pizza, I should have that type of appetite for fruit and vegetables, and even though I like a good crisp slightly tart apple I prefer pizza. Angela on the other hand is a chocoholic, loves chocolate, dark chocolate, light chocolate any type of chocolate. Our son, Stephen on the other hand is into very expensive seafood, lobster and scallops are his favorites, he doesn’t eat them because he’s a poor starving artist, but his dream is some day to be successful enough that they will be main stays of his diet. It’s very easy to tell what we have appetites for if you know us.
It’s the same in the intellectual & spiritual level as well, what are you feeding on. Do you have a desire to feed on the things of God? Where do you feed your soul? In front of the idiot box or reading God’s word? Now I’m not advocating throwing your television out but it cannot supersede the time you spend with God. When you are reading the bible you are feeding on the things of God, after all he did call it the bread of life.
Some people can’t figure out why they don’t grow spiritually, there’s a good chance that it’s because they don’t feed on the word of God. Back when computers were still in their infancy there was a term that said, “Garbage in, Garbage out.” And that applies to our spiritual lives as well.
If you are only being fed by American Idol, Dr. House and the Big Bang Theory you probably aren’t getting the spiritual nutrition that you need. If your view of the world is shaped entirely by McLean’s, The Evening News and CNN you probably aren’t seeing the world with God’s eyes. Do realize that at various times this year we will have a half a dozen different study groups happening at Cornerstone? Catering to virtually every group in the church, they are an opportunity to feed on the things of God. But just as other people can’t physically eat for you they can’t spiritually eat for you either.
Do you have an appetite for the word of God? Do you seek it out or do you find it boring? Do you feed on what God says or do you have no appetite for the things of God? No appetite means no life and that means that you are dead.
And even though you might fake your appetite God knows what it really is. I’ve obtained a reputation through the years as being a real coffee hound, someone who drinks a pile of coffee, (can you pile coffee). But I don’t really, I might drink two cups of coffee in the run of an average day, don’t drink any coffee at home and yet people perceive me to be big coffee drinker. Sometimes we can give the impression that we have an appetite for the things of God but it’s just an illusion.
2) Dead People Have no Activity. A strange thing about dead people is that they are usually very still. No matter that they had been quite active previously, when they die they have to stop, I mean they have no choice. That’s going to be the hardest thing for me when I die; it will take me three days just to get caught up with the work I have to do.
Dead people used to be normal, active people, but once they died they are become motionless. They are without activity. In the same way the spiritually dead person is usually without activity. Somebody else can lead a small group, work with the teens, help with the children’s ministry, work on activities, and serve on the Leadership Team.
Now it’s not that they are totally without activity, it’s just that they are just without kingdom activity. They find time for other activities, duties and functions but they never have time to work in the church, strange thing that. There’s room in their lives for the Lions Club the School activities and sports, but if you ask them to commit time to ministry, “Well Pastor, family comes first.” Well actually if the truth was known family probably comes twelfth after work, play, hobbies, school, sports, television, friends, yard work, the cottage, fishing, crafts and defleaing the dog. But God’s work definitely comes after family, regardless of what rank family actually is.
3) Dead People Have No Direction. Now that is really redundant because lack of motion translates so often into lack of direction. Dead people don’t have to know what direction to go in cause they aren’t moving, they are quite content to head in whatever direction they’ve been laid in.
Sometimes though we are moving but we’re not sure what direction we are supposed to be going. It’s like we’re all guys who don’t want to admit that we don’t know the way and we certainly aren’t going to ask for directions. But guess what? We have to.
Many people sense a lack of spiritual direction in their life but it’s cause they ain’t asked the way. If you want to know where God wants you to you gotta ask. And when you talk to God that’s called prayer. James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. A sign of spiritual deadness is a lack of spiritual growth or spiritual direction.
God does not direct the dead. Doesn’t have to cause they’re not going anywhere.
4) Dead People have No Love at one time those who are dead probably loved all kinds of people their friends, their family, those they worshipped with.
But when they died their love died with them. Dead people can’t express their love and neither do dead churches. The spiritual appetite, spiritual activity and spiritual direction, which we have seen is indicative of life, must ultimately produce Love. A love that touches people and communities for the lord Jesus Christ.
How is your love quotient? How do you exhibit your love to the people who surround you? And not only do we have to love people, but we need to tell people that we love them. We need to express our love now because there will come a time that we will be unable to express it.
In the Book of the Revelation, which is the last book of the Bible Jesus spoke to the Church in Ephesus. And He commended them for all they did and then he said this Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!
That’s not necessarily something I would want said about me or about this church. I truly believe that if we were to try and find a secret weapon for reaching people it would be love. Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek Community Church just outside of Chicago makes this statement. “If you create a loving community, first time seekers will sniff it and say “I want in.” Crusty old veteran believers whose hearts have shut down will warm up again. Arrogant people will have their pride melted.”
How do you measure up? Are you dead or alive? If there’s no appetite, activity, direction, or love then it’s probably time to take a spiritual pulse, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that you won’t find a pulse at all.
You have expired, deceased, passed away, you’re no longer with us, you’ve kicked the bucket, you’re done dead. You may not think so, but like Christ said in Revelation 3:1 “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.”
Well then if you’re dead then what do you need, well there are some who say all that people need is a good example, and there are those who do their very best to provide that good example for society. But let’s face it have you ever tried to be a good example to a dead person, it is really quite hopeless.
Oh no someone says what he really needs is encouragement. Now I think that encouragement is wonderful, enthusiasm is contagious. But you can never encourage a dead man to be anymore then dead. Others say “No, no it’s environment” but face it even if a dead man’s not in the funeral parlor he’s still just as dead. And education isn’t the answer, you can’t educate the dead, although some of my high school teachers certainly tried. But face it if a person is dead then their most pressing need is life. Very simple, when you are dead what you need more than anything is to be alive. The word life or live is mention 1414 times in the bible, that’s almost two hundred more incidence then death.
You say “Fair enough preacher I need life where do I get it from?” Good question and a question that was asked and answered two thousand years ago by Jesus, in John 11:25-26 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” And in John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. And again in John 6:48 Yes, I am the bread of life!
Life can only be given by the life giver and that is Christ. He gives life, not in teaspoons but in buckets, in 100-gallon drums. John 10:10 My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Maybe you are more familiar with it in the King James Version John 10:10 ” I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Now Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death. Now the question is are you dead? We all are or were, that is the wages of sin but that same scripture continues to say Romans 6:23 but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sin is death, God is life, and the choice is yours.

A Healthy Body

So, how do you feel about your body? Strange question isn’t it? Most of us would rather not think about our bodies and if we do we probably don’t think very complementary things. It’s too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall. Bumpy, lumpy or just plain ugly kind of like the guy who was so ugly when he was a kid that his parents took him everywhere they went so they wouldn’t have to kiss him good bye. At least that’s the way we think about it.
But is that fair? Over the next six weeks I want to focus on our bodies. And you might have assumed that knowing the title of this series is “Health Check” and our focus is 3 John 1:2 Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is.
There are times that we try to separate our bodies and our souls but in John’s letter he ties them together, they are both part of the package. It was the heresy of the Gnostics that said the body was evil and simply an imperfect prison for our souls.
Instead we need to view our bodies as a gift from God, that’s why Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:27 Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.
What a statement. You, you are the Body of Christ.
Pretty awesome isn’t it? Look around you; each one of you makes up a part of the body of Christ. As Paul reached out to find a simile to adequately describe the church of Jesus Christ the one he came back to time and time again was the comparison between the church and a body.

 In Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians Paul makes over 30 references to the body of Christ. Those of us who are familiar with the Bible tend to skip over things like that without really taking the time to think about it. We all know what a body is, after all each one of us occupies one every day, but do we really take the time to look at these vessels that we reside in and see where the similarities are between this which is flesh and blood and the church of Christ?

 The first thing we need to recognize is that the analogy of the body applies to two definitions of the church. Yes it does refer to the church universal. That is the great all encompassing group of Christians throughout the world who call themselves by so many different names. So Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is part of the same body as the Rock Church, Temple Baptist, Emmanuel Bapist, Hills Christian Life Centre in Sydney Australia and Makena Wesleyan Church in Sierra Leone.

 However, the local church, Cornerstone Wesleyan Church also needs to be viewed as the body of Christ. But why? Why did the Apostle Paul chose to use something as imperfect as our material body to illustrate something as mystical as the church of Jesus Christ?

 William Barclay sates “There is an “I” a personality which gives unity to the many and varying parts of the body” This is a hand and this is a hand and that’s a foot and there’s another foot and here’s a head and they’re all separate, but “I” Denn brings unity to make all of those things part of my body.

 Barclay goes on to say that what “I” is to the body, what Christ is to the church, it is in Him that all the diverse parts find their unity. Alone you are just a Mike, a Heather, an Angela, a Jim , a Matthew. But add Jesus Christ and you become a body. Christ is no longer in the world, he no longer has a physical body and so if he wants a child taught in Junior Church then he needs someone to teach. If He wants someone touched in compassion then He needs to use our compassion and if he needs to cry then He needs our tears.

 And so we are His body, but the question remains what is his body? 1 Corinthians 12:12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ.
1) We have something in common. Each part of your body has something in common and that something is you! Your leg doesn’t belong to one person and your arm to somebody else. This is Mike’s arm and Jason’s leg.

 Instead each individual part of the body has “you” in common, you are the common denominator that ties everything together. In the same way the church of the body of Christ has a common focal point and that is Jesus Christ. Recognize that the church doesn’t belong to everyone here. If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as Saviour then you are not a part of the body of Jesus Christ. The very word “Church” in the original Greek was “Ek-Klay-See-Ah” which means “Called out ones”. From that point of view we realize that just because you attend a church doesn’t make you a part of the Church. Just because you go watch a hockey game doesn’t make you a hockey player. Just because you go into a garage doesn’t make you a car, go into a big garage become a big car, go into a little garage become a little car. If a cat had kittens in the oven they wouldn’t be cookies. Would they?

 And so in the same breath just because you attend a Christian church doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian and only Christians truly belong to the body of Christ. So if it isn’t church going that the various parts of the body have in common, and if going to church doesn’t necessarily make you part of the body how do we achieve it? Good question.

 Paul gives us the answer in the opening lines of this letter
1 Corinthians 1:2 I am writing to God’s church in Corinth,

(that’s the primary address, now he narrows it down a little bit) to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. (which simply means those set apart for holy use) . He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. That is who is part of the body. And the Bible tells us that the path to becoming a Christian is relatively uncomplicated. 1) Confess your sins 2) Repent or say you’re sorry 3) Believe in faith that He will forgive your sins.

 1 Corinthians 12:14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.
2) We are all different. The diversity of the body is something beyond debate. No two parts of the body are identical, not only are your hands and feet different but your left hand and right hand are different. I have a cousin who has one blue eye and one brown eye. And we look at our bodies and we marvel at the God who has created this phenomenal piece of equipment.

 We have ears that hear, eyes that see and feet that walk. And none of us object to that. When was the last time you said, “Boy I wish I could see with my toes, or smell with my ears” Nor do we say, “I wish I was a big foot or a very large eye.” Diversity isn’t just an accidental attribute of the body it’s all part of the divine nature that designed you. And yet all too often we try to make every member of the body of Christ identical.

 We even get to the point that instead of viewing our local church as the body of Christ we view it as only one member of the body of Christ. If we carry that to the extreme then we end up with churches that instead of being bodies are just collections of the same body part. And so in churches that are very caught up in social concerns we’d see row after row of bleeding hearts. And churches that are focused on evangelism
would be full of beautiful feet. In churches where worship is the primary focus there would be pews full of uplifted hands. And of course if we looked into the churches where the visible gifts are prominent we’d see row upon row of tongues.

 And that isn’t’ a body is it? I mean a body isn’t made up of a whole bunch of tongues, or feet, or hands, or eyes or ears but instead it’s made up of a combination of each of the parts of the body, one of this, a couple of these and some of those. You see even though God insists on unity he complicates the matter by also insisting on diversity.

 God didn’t make us identical at the first birth and I don’t think he intended to make us identical at the second birth. To listen to some people all Christians ought to look alike, dress alike, think alike, have the same haircut, read the same translation of the Bible, enjoy the same type of music and raise their children the same way.

 In other words those people think that all Christians ought to do things one way, and you know what way that is don’t you? That’s right their way. But let’s just stop and think about it for a minute and let’s be honest, do you really think that we need another you? We certainly don’t need another me. Amen.

 So then not only are we all the same and not only are we all different, but we are all essential to the well-being of the body. Paul personifies the parts of the body his letter to the Corinthians and all the various parts of the body get together and have a grip session. 1 Corinthians 12:15-17 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

 In the church we do the same thing, someone says “Because I can’t preach like Denn I’m not a part of the body, and because I can’t sing like Jason I’m not part of the body or because I can’t play piano like Eileen I’m not part of the body.” But we don’t just need preachers anymore then we just need soloists. When you think about it we need teachers and we need prayer partners, and we need people with big hearts to love and with long arms to hug.

 It’s kind of interesting to note that the foot compares itself with the hand and not the eye. And so we become prone to envy those who surpass us a little, instead of those who are obviously in another class altogether. And because of that I would be more likely to contrast my preaching to Lennett Anderson then to Billy Graham. And I have found that vocalists usually are envious of another singer in their own local church rather than Taylor Swift or Nelly, who are obviously in a completely different class.

 Paul is very adamant that each of us in our diversity plays a vital part in the body of Christ. After all if you were just like me, we wouldn’t need one of us, would we?

 1 Corinthians 12:20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.
3) We Need To Be Heading In the Same Direction And so we as face this paradox of being so dramatically different, we see the marvellous problem which confronts the church of Jesus Christ and that is how to preserve our diversity well maintaining our unity.

 It would be relatively easy for us all to be different; most of us are quite different as is. And I’m sure that if we really wanted to and if we tried really hard that we could be fairly united. But to be different and united at the same time, well that seems to pose a difficulty that we’re unable to overcome.

 But if we look at the original analogy we see that this isn’t just possible with our physical bodies but essential. I can be scratching my head with my hand, walking across the floor with my feet, seeing with my eyes, hearing with my ears and smelling with my nose all at the same time. The secret to keeping the Body of Jesus Christ that we know as Cornerstone Wesleyan Church on the right path is that we must be seeking the same goal. And hopefully that goal is to reach people and introduce them to Jesus.

 If your left foot wanted to go one place and your right foot wanted to go another place you’d be in a real predicament, wouldn’t you. But we say I’m going to walk over there and the instructions leave our brain, travel through the central nervous system causing each of the required body parts to work as required to take us on that trip.

 In the same way the church determines the direction that God wants us to go and each of us as a part of this particular body move in unison toward that goal. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work in theory.

 The year was 1994, it was the State of Origin, not to be confused with the state of Oregon. The state of Origin is considered to be the best Rugby tournament in the world, each year for a best of three series professional rugby players in Australia return to the state where they began their professional careers. Either New South Wales or Queensland, the score is 12 to 10 for NSW and there is one minute left in the game, the first minute of the video is just for fun, but watch what carefully when the music ends. (Video) I do not know how many times I have watched that play and still marvel at the team work that went into it.

 If we are going to achieve our goals as a church then we are going to have to play together, and that goal better be to share Christ with a lost community and to reach out and love people with the love of Jesus Christ.

 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

 4) When One Part Of The Body Hurts, The Whole Body Hurts.
One of the biggest problems in some churches is that they just don’t care about one another. May I again draw your attention to the core values of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, these are those things that during the planning stages of Cornerstone we said these are the non negotiable, 5) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to showing Christ’s love to those who attend in practical and tangible ways. We need to be there for each other people. We need to care about one another. Some are easy, providing meals to a family for a week after a baby is born, that’s an easy one, a no brainer. Some are a little tougher, when someone has a terminal illness being there for them and their family. Or when a couple is going through a divorce, how can we be of help then? We’d better figure it out.

 Sometimes I think that we are so focused on heaven that we lose sight of those around us. When someone stumbles we need to stoop over and help them up not scramble over them in an effort to get to heaven. Sometimes Christians act as if sin is contagious and instead of trying to restore a brother or sister who has fallen in sin we avoid them as if they had the plague. We may not amputate a wounded member of our church family, but if we don’t administer first aid and just ignore it, in time it will die and fall off.

 This is not survivor, we are not supposed to vote people off the island.

 What happens when a part of your physical body gets hurt? If you hit your thumb with a hammer what happens? Well actually several things happen all at once. Your mind registers pain, tears come to your eyes, you grab said thumb with your other hand and you commence to jump up and down while words rush forth from your mouth. The nature of those words being entirely dependent on your present spiritual condition.

 What happened? Even though it was just one very small, very insignificant part of your body that was hurt, many other parts of your body became involved in an attempt to lessen the pain. And so when one part of the body of Christ hurts it is each of your responsibility as additional parts of the same body to help lessen the pain.

 It may be hurt that comes with the death of a loved one, divorce, a lost job, your children or betrayal. It may be that they have given into temptation and need to be loving restored to the body. The responsibility lies not only with the pastor, or with the Leadership Team, or with the person next to you it lies with you.

 So where you at? so the question has to be what role will you play? What member of the body will you become? What function will you perform? How will you help to make the body what it ought to be?

Well it’s 2011, who would have thunk it. And I would suspect that there have been a pile of New Year’s resolutions made in the past 2 days and if the truth was known there have probably been a pile of New Year’s resolutions broken in the past 2 days.
We have probably all verbally or silently, publicly or privately resolved to do something different this year then we did last year. Some will finally decide to give up the demon tabbacy, other’s myself included have decided to do battle with a more acceptable vice and that is food. You ever notice that the Christian argument against smoking and drinking: they are addictive and harm the temple of the Holy Spirit, ie our bodies, don’t seem to hold water for gluttony. Interesting.
You say Pastor the reason I’m overweight is that I have a glandular problem. Me too, if you consider the mouth a gland. Actually I decided a long time ago that I’m not overweight I’m under tall so my New Year’s Resolution is to get taller in 2011.
So what are your resolutions for 2011? Big, little, practical, impractical, what have you decided to change about your life in the next twelve months? On December 31st of this year will you be the same person you are now? A better person? Or a worse person? Will you have won a victory over some area of your life or will you have gone down to defeat? I want to go on record right now as saying I believe you can do it. And I know that you are sitting there thinking “But Denn you don’t even know what I’m struggling with.” You’re right, I don’t, but I know my God and I know that he can give you victory. Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are a partner in faith with the Almighty God?
Do you remember what Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37? That’s right, Nothing is Impossible for God. “For nothing is impossible with God.” And if no thing is impossible with God then all things will be possible with God.
When Paul wrote his letter to the early believers in Philippi this is what he told them Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It doesn’t say “I can do some things” or “I can do the easy things” or “I can do certain things.” What the word of God says is “I can do everything.”
Perhaps as we step into a new year you need to apply those words to your particular situation. Perhaps you need to write down
“I can quit smoking with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can lose weight with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can stop being negative with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can learn to love the unlovable with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can become a stronger Christian with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
You know there are a lot of things in life that are impossible, there are a lot of things in this life that you will never be able to accomplish by yourself, but when God is your partner nothing is impossible.
Each year we resolve to be better parents, better spouses, to give up this and start that but how about making a commitment to walking deeper with God? To becoming better and stronger Christians?
Perhaps by December 2011 it could be said of you as Paul said of the believers in the city of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
You understand that when we read the section of the Bible called the epistles, which means letters that we are in fact reading other people’s mail. This section begins with the book of Romans and continues through to the book of Jude. It’s made up of twenty one books and represents at least five writers; I say at least five because there is some debate over whether Paul wrote the book of Hebrews.
And so Paul begins this statement with these words: You excel in so many ways: Paul is writing to the believers in the city of Corinth, which if we bring up a map we discover was located in what we now know as Greece, which is funny because back then it was Known as Greece. And even though the letter was written specifically to the believers in that church 2000 years ago because God in his infinite wisdom included it in what we now call the New Testament it applies to us as well.
Paul has just finished a litany of praise for the churches in Macedonia which were just north of Corinth. He talks about how even though they were going through some tough times they were still joyful, that even though they were poor that they were very generous. He tells about what great people and terrific Christians they were. And I’m sure that those reading the letter were yeah, yeah, yeah. Macedonians this and Macedonians that. Have you ever been in a situation like that? Standing and listening to how great somebody else is. Feels great doesn’t it?
It’s probably a character flaw of mine, because as much as I like to hear positive things about people when it drags on and on inside I’m thinking “Yeah whatever.” And here’s Paul laying it on with a trowel about how good the churches in Macedonia are. “Wow guys you would really like them they are a great bunch of Christians, you couldn’t help but love these Macedonians.” And probably the Corinthians are thinking, “yeah, right I’m sure.”
It was in 1988, I had just performed a funeral for a church member the day before and I was out for coffee and ran into a friend of mine from the church, he sat down and ordered a coffee and said “You did a good job yesterday on the funeral” I thanked him and then he added, “Let me tell you about the best funeral sermon I ever heard.” And before he starts he realizes what he just said and quickly adds “you probably don’t want to hear about it.” He was right.
Well it would appear that Paul suddenly realizes that he’s been going on and on and he switches gears and says: You excel in so many ways. What a compliment, the word that Paul uses here in the original language literally means to super excel or to excel to the point of flowing over. We’re not talking about almost enough or even barely enough or a bare minimum instead Paul is talking about having so much that you are unable to contain it and it runs over the top.
When Christ promised the believers in John 10:10 that we would have life and have it abundantly he used the same root word that Paul uses for excel. Here were Christians who didn’t want just enough to get by, they wanted it all and they more than excelled in what they had. Is your Christian walk one of fullness or do you feel like your spiritual gas tank is permanently on empty?
One of my bad habits is running my car on empty. I think it’s a throw back to my student days when it was a necessity, “yeah put in 2 bucks and check the oil would you.” Can any of you actually remember seriously buying two dollars’ worth of gas let alone having someone else pump it for you? And all the time my gas gauge is on empty I wonder: “Am I going to make it or will I run out of gas? Just one more errand and then I’ll go get gas, if I can make it.”
But when you are running on empty you’re never really comfortable, never really sure that you will have enough to last you. When your spiritually gas tank is on empty you never really have the joy you are supposed to have as a Christian. You are never really convinced that you are where you are supposed to be spiritually.
But after the car has been tanked up and I’ve given a little bit of my thirty dollars to the service station owner, and a little bit of my thirty dollars to Ultramar and a little bit of my thirty dollars to some prince in the middle east or Alberta. and a whole lot of my thirty dollars to Mr. Harper and Mr. Dexter I don’t have to be concerned about running out of gas because my tank is full. Now the neat thing about filling your spiritual tank is that God comes to you. And so in 2011 my aim is to excel, no to super excel in spiritual qualities. I want so much of the Lord that I’m like the old lady who said “I can’t hold much but I can overflow plenty.”
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
In 2011 I want to Excel in My Faith
The first thing that Paul said the believers in Corinth excelled in was their Faith. Now in the New Testament faith is used to mean one of two things. The faith that I most often preach about is faith the way that it’s defined in Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
And I love to preach on a seeing faith, of a believing faith of dreaming God given dreams and believing in faith that no matter how big those dreams might be that they can be accomplished through our God.
That is the first type of faith that is commonly mentioned in the New Testament, but that isn’t how Paul was using the word faith here. Instead Paul was using the Greek word Pistis which referred to a conviction of religious truth. It is simply the depth of belief that you have in what you believe. Paul was saying “You excel in the belief of your salvation and the truth of the Gospel.” We would say that these people were well grounded in their faith. When I was a teenager my parents made sure that I was well grounded several times, but that has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. We Need to Excel in our Faith.
After I graduated from Bible College Angela and I moved to New York and one morning after a major windstorm we looked out our back window and there was a great big spruce tree laying across our back yard. Now when that tree was standing it was tall, strong and majestic. It looked like nothing could knock it down. But when it had fallen down you could see that the roots were only about six inches under the surface in a sandy soil. The tree hadn’t been grounded well and the only reason it had stood so long was that the wind had never hit it from that direction before. But the day the wind blew hard enough and blew in the right direction down came the tree.
Christians aren’t always grounded deep enough, some people put their faith in the good things that happen to them as a Christian. “Why since I have been a Christian everything has been just peachy keen. My marriage has improved, I got promoted, my children always behave and never talk back and we have more money then we’ll ever need and Jesus is a wonderful God because he has made our life wonderful.”
And then one of your children arrives home and informs you that you’re going to be a grammy or grampy and you haven’t even gotten used to being a daddy or mommy yet and another kid winds up in jail, you lose your job and end up in the hospital and now things aren’t wonderful anymore and you start to question the reality of God.
Or you have your roots set in Jesus Christ because Denn Guptill preaches that you should and you have the utmost faith in Denn Guptill and what he says. And then he runs off with all the money in the building fund and buys himself a motorcycle, a really used motorcycle there’s not much in the building fund right now, and your faith is shattered.
It bugs me when a scandal happens with a major church figure and someone says “My faith has been destroyed.” If that’s all it took to destroy your faith then you didn’t have that much to destroy. You ever talk to backsliders, you know someone who used to serve God but doesn’t now. And they usually can pinpoint at what moment they walked away from God, and often it’s because a Christian disappointed them in some way.
That big old tree stood in our back yard for a lot of years before the wind blew just hard enough from the right direction. If you roots are shallow then Satan knows how the wind needs to blow to bring your faith crashing down. The old hymn says “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
Apparently some people have a belief in God but not the faith to back it up. R. Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller said “Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.”
The second thing that Paul commends the Corinthians for excelling in is in their speech
Now there’s one thing most of us don’t lack in and that’s words. But that isn’t what Paul is talking about here, and he’s not saying they have good preachers. What Paul is talking about here is not the quantity of speech it is their purity of speech. It is a speech that builds up and doesn’t tear down, it is a speech that is full of love and encouragement, not jealousy or maliciousness. 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. In 2011 I want to Excel in My Speech
Controlling our tongues is probably one of the most difficult things that most of us endeavour to do, and it is probably a commendable resolution for 2011. Listen to what James the brother of Christ writes in his letter James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
How many people here have ever said something they later regretted? I have and there are people in this world that I will never be able to minister to because of something I’ve said. And I will be held accountable for that. James goes on to write James 3:10-11 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water?
You can’t stand and sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” and then go home and talk about what a dummy the preacher is. You can’t testify to the wonderful love of Jesus in your life and go home and run your spouse or children down. We need to heed the advice of Mark Twain who said “Keep your words sweet because you never know when you might have to eat them.”
The scriptures tell us that everything should be done in love, it could very well say let everything be said in love. As a matter of fact it does in Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
When you excel in speech does it make people better or bitter? Do your words draw people closer to God or push them further from God? It’s your choice.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. The third thing that Paul commends these believers for was their knowledge. The knowledge that Paul speaks of here is head knowledge, something acquired something learnt. These people were knowledgeable about their faith.
In 2011 I want to Excel in My Knowledge Our greatest failing as evangelicals is a lack of sound biblical knowledge. If I was giving a course in Remedial Nuclear and Molecular Physics and you only came to half the lectures and never opened the text outside of class what type of mark do you think you would get? You would fail.
Most of us will be in serious trouble if God pops a surprise Biblical Knowledge quiz on us when we get to heaven. And I know that some of you are thinking, “But Denn Bible study comes hard for me.” I’ve got news for you; Bible study comes hard for me too and if the rest of this bunch was honest you’d find out that it comes hard for most people. And I’m pretty sure that anyone who has an education especially a post-secondary education would concur that there is very little in this life that we don’t have to work at learning.
I went to college with a fellow who was asked to leave Bethany in his second term because of his grade point average. At college a 4.0 was an A, a 3.0 was a B, a 2.0 was a C. Just to stay you needed a 2.0 and in the ministerial program you needed at least 3.0 in your major courses This fellow was from Louisiana and I asked a friend of his where’d Vance go, and this was his response. “Vance, Vance, Vance’s grade point average couldn’t have got him arrested for drunken driving.” I said “So what’s he doing now?” and he replied “He’s a fuel injection for Exxon” “Really” “Yeah he’s pumping gas”
Now Vance wasn’t a dummy but he wasn’t willing to do the work to get the knowledge. I saw some talented young men and women leave college because they thought that if God had called them to the ministry then he should unscrew the top of their heads, pour the knowledge in, screw it back on and turn them loose on the world. Well God called me into the ministry and there were times that I was wading around waist deep in Systematic theology that I wished he had called me to be a fuel injection specialist. Gaining knowledge may not be easy but it is essential. Nobody can learn for you except you. God doesn’t expect you to have a doctorate in theology and biblical knowledge but he does expect you to learn to the very best of your abilities and talents.
It’s unfortunate that Christians are like everyone else in the world 5% think, 15% think they think and 80% would rather die than think. In 2011 let’s make every effort to excel in knowledge.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. The next thing that Paul talks about is Their Enthusiasm
In some translations the word that is used is diligence and earnestness and they probably capture better the intent of the original language. Christianity was not a game to these believers, they didn’t go to church because it was the right thing to do or they were afraid of what people would think if they didn’t. By embracing the claims of Christianity the early believers were forfeiting their right to worldly happiness. Their work, their homes, their belongings, even their families and lives could be demanded of them by the Roman Authorities because of their alliance to Christ. In 2011 I want to Excel in My Diligence
Maybe the reason we sometimes fail to be as diligent as we ought to be in our Christian life is that our faith cost so little. If we could no longer claim what we give to the church as a tax deduction we’d cry persecution but there are still countries in the world where believers lose their freedom and their lives just for being Christians. In 2011 let us be resolved to become more earnest in our faith.
And finally Paul thanks the Corinthians for their love.
The word that Paul uses here for love is the Greek word Agape which means an unconditional love. 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. In 2011 I want to Excel in My Love God doesn’t want us to love people because they deserve it he just wants us to love them.
If God had waited until we deserved his love before he sent His Son, we’d still be waiting. And the scriptures are filled with admonitions for us to love .
John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.
1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 John 2:9-10 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.
So in 2011 let us resolve to overflow with Faith, pure speech, knowledge, diligence and love.