Don’t forget to Vote!

Well, have you made up your mind yet?  You’ve had five weeks to decide but I’d be willing to wager that you had your mind made up long before then.  As a matter of fact, I would suspect that there hasn’t been much done or said over the past five weeks that has had much of an impact on the decision that you had already made…… but then again maybe I’m wrong, it’s happened before.

I’m talking about the federal election of course.  You did remember the election, right?  I mean, how could you miss the signs, ads and television commercials?  So, after listening to all the hype and all the promises you now have to intelligently cast a ballot.  A daunting task to say the least, but it must be done!  Some people say that it doesn’t matter because no matter who you vote for a politician will still get in. 

But as a Canadian you have an obligation to vote. People around the world would die to have that privilege and when you give up your right to vote you give up your right to complain.  And as a Christ Follower, you have an obligation  to pray for your leaders, whether you voted for them or not. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Things He Heard
He was there on a whim. He didn’t have to be there, it wasn’t part of his job but he had heard that something was going to happen, got caught up in the moment and there he was. He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As the mob broke through the trees in the garden to surround the group of men he pushed through trying to get a look at the one the High Priest was demanding be arrested. He wasn’t a soldier or a guard; he was just a slave, a household slave of the high priest, one who served the will and whim of his master.
He was there when his master Caiaphas had expressed his concerns to his colleagues about this young upstart from Nazareth, he was there when it was decided that Jesus would have to be stopped, he listened in on the negotiations with Judas, when the price for the betrayal of Jesus was set at 30 pieces of silver.
And now he was there for the big finale, when the entire plan was to come together. But he was just an observer and he wasn’t armed. Why would he be? He was just a slave, not a soldier or a guard. And besides neither Jesus nor the men he travelled with had ever been violent, it was Jesus who told his followers to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek. And so it was a complete shock when suddenly the big burly fisherman pulled out a sword and started swinging.
He saw the flash of the sword felt the breeze as it whistled by his head and then the pain, he was almost blinded by the pain. He had never hurt so badly in his entire life; he put his hand to the side of his head to cover his hurting ear except there was no ear to cover. And he looked down and there it was, his ear lying on the ground. And he fell to his knees clutching with one hand at the piece of him that was no longer a piece of him while with his other hand he tried to stem the flow of blood. It hurt, so bad. He wasn’t aware of all that was happening around him, all he knew was he had no ear.
And then someone reached out and touched him, and it was so strange, the pain disappeared, just disappeared. One minute it was there and the next minute there it was, gone. And it was replaced by the strangest sensation; he couldn’t explain what he was feeling. And under the hand that still cupped the side of his head, the flow of blood was replaced with, with an ear. And he opened his hand that had clutched at his severed ear and it was still there, it was the strangest thing, he had an ear on his head and an ear in his hand.
He was just a bit player in the Easter story; he is mentioned once here, is referenced once more and then just disappears. Have you ever wondered about this man, identified only as “A slave of the high priest”?
For years I have wondered “What ever happened to him? Was his life changed forever or just for a moment?”
This incident is recorded in all four of the Gospels and is the last recorded miracle of Jesus before he was crucified. You know the time line, the Last Supper had already taken place, Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, had predicted Peter’s denial and Judas’ betrayal. Judas had left by himself and Jesus and the remaining eleven disciples have gone to the quiet of the garden and while Jesus prayed they slept.
And suddenly the quiet is shattered by the sounds of an approaching mob, the darkness is broken by dozens of torches and the small group is surrounded, Judas steps forward kisses Jesus on the cheek and one of the disciples lashes out with a sword and cuts off this man’s ear and Jesus reaches out and heals him, and by that I would presume he either replaced the ear with a new one or he reattached the old one, either way that is Uber Cool.
In all four gospels we are told that that the man was a slave of the high priest. But it is only in John we are told the name of the one who swung the sword and the one who lost an ear John 18:10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. And maybe you are wondering “Why would Peter do that?” Well personally I think it was an accident, I don’t think Peter meant to cut Malchus’ ear off, I think he meant to cut Malchus’ head off, but lucky for Malchus Peter was a fisherman and not a swordsman.
Remember it wasn’t that long before that Peter had vowed that he would be willing to die for Christ.
But it is only in the Gospel of Luke that we read: Luke 22:50-51 And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. If you remember your Introduction to the New Testament than you will recall that Luke was said to be a doctor and so it would be fitting that they one who had dedicated his life to the healing arts would be the one who would record this act of healing.
Perhaps in the excitement of the moment Luke was the only one who actually saw what had happened, or perhaps in the scale of the story the other’s had simply relegated it to a needless detail, to them it just wasn’t important enough to mention. But I would expect it was important to Malchus, after all it was his ear. But at that point he just drops out of the story, he is mentioned once more in the scriptures and that is only incidental. We read in John 18:26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
And that was it, nada, zip, nothing. We don’t see him again and we don’t hear from him again. Nothing, zip, nada. Malchus has this incredible life changing encounter with Jesus Christ and yet for all practical accounts he disappears from the story.
I’m sure that you can connect the dots and you understand that Because He Had An Ear He Heard That Jesus Was Crucified. We don’t know how big of an impact the crucifixion of Jesus had on the city of Jerusalem. We see it as being this incredible event that involved the entire city but probably not. Remember the Romans crucified people on a regular basis. The two men next to Jesus were just thieves but they were sentenced to die. It really wasn’t that big of a deal and there were no newspapers or local television coverage to advise people outside the centre of the city. I would suspect that there were probably those who knew Jesus who weren’t aware of the entire drama taking place on Golgotha that day.
But Malchus knew, he was there for the arrest and you can be sure that he followed the rest of the story. The death of Christ wasn’t just a story for the slave, it involved people he knew. His boss had orchestrated the entire event and he had come face to face with the one who was sentenced to die.
For most of us we know that Jesus was crucified and some part of us knows that was a bad thing but I don’t think any person in this room can fully comprehend the horror of that actual event. But Malchus knew, I’m sure that his boss Caiaphas was in the crowd that day to make sure that things went according to plan and if Caiaphas was there then his slave was there as well. And he heard the curses and he heard the nails being hammered home and he heard the screams of the condemned and the weeping of their loved ones.
He heard Jesus ask for water, he heard Jesus entrust his mother to the apostle John, he heard Jesus question God and he heard Jesus cry out “It is finished” and die.
And every person here today knows that Jesus Christ was crucified and died on a cross on Good Friday, there is no denying the historical accuracy of that statement. But the story doesn’t end there.
Because He had an Ear He Heard that Jesus was Buried. This wasn’t the natural conclusion of a crucifixion. Under Jewish law not even the body of a criminal could be left on a cross overnight but that law was more often than not obeyed in letter but not spirit. William Barclay writes in his Daily Study Bible “It frequently happened that the bodies of criminals were never buried at all, but were simply taken down and left for the vultures and the scavenging wild dogs to deal with. In fact it has been suggested that Golgotha may have been called the place of a skull because it was littered with skulls from previous crucifixions”
But that was not the case with Jesus, the question must have weighed heavy on the heart of Mary, what would she do with the body of her son, her home and his was still Nazareth which was a considerable journey from the capital of Jerusalem and the Sabbath was at hand with all the prohibitions on travel that came with it. . But a man named Joseph offered up his own tomb for Jesus to be buried in.
The story might have ended there but the priests, fearing that the apostles might steal Christ body in an attempt to fake his resurrection demanded that Pilate have the tomb sealed and a guard posted. And it was.
I wonder if at that point Malchus wondered why the one who had the power to heal his ear had been so powerless to prevent his own death?
But if he had any lingering doubts as to who Jesus truly was they were put to rest with the body of the carpenter. He might have been a good man, he might have been a great teacher, he might have been a miracle worker, , he might even have been a really good, ear-put-back-oner ,but he obviously wasn’t the son of God because now he was dead and now he was buried.
I don’t know how many times Malchus told the story about his ear that weekend. How often he told about the pain and the blood and that the miraculous healing but he certainly wasn’t prepared for what he heard on Sunday.
Because He Had an Ear He Heard that Jesus had Risen. The religious authorities were ecstatic.
The plan had come together just as they had envisioned it. Jesus had been arrested and with his death had been silenced, his apostles had scattered and his body had been buried. As a bonus the traitor Judas had returned the blood money in a fit of guilt. I am sure that Caiaphas and his cronies had been celebrating since the tomb had been sealed. But that was Friday and this was Sunday.
I suppose the resurrection could have happened quietly and beneath the radar but it didn’t. The priests were among the first to find out. The story is told in Matthew chapter 28. It’s early Sunday morning and the two Marys have gone to the tomb to finish the final preparation of Jesus’ body. But when they get there they discover they weren’t the first there. Matthew 28:2-4 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
Now you know the story. And if you didn’t know it before you arrived you heard it read for you earlier. The women are told that Jesus has risen and then they are greeted by the risen Jesus himself who tells them to go and assure the disciples that it’s going to be all right.
Now listen to this Matthew 28:11 As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. Wow, that must have been a downer. Talk about a swing in emotions. One minute they are on the top of the world and the next minute the world has crashed down on top of them. Because if the crucifixion and death of Christ had proved him wrong and proved them right the resurrection of Christ had proved them wrong and proved him right.
And as a slave of the high priest Malchus would have been right in the middle of the excitement. I wonder if he put his hand to his ear and considered the implications of what he was hearing.
What a roller coaster of emotions he had ridden over those three days. But here is the thing. We never hear from him again. Zip, nada, nothing.
You see, what he knew and what he heard wasn’t the important thing, the important thing was what he chose to do with that knowledge.
And we don’t know what his choice was. We don’t know if he chose to deny what he had heard and what he had experienced. Not all of it, just the miraculous parts. Maybe he had convinced himself that the wound he received wasn’t that bad and it would have gotten better by itself even if Jesus hadn’t touched him, maybe he was mistaken when he saw his ear severed from his head, maybe had just been a flesh wound.
And he wouldn’t deny the death and burial of Christ, he knew that happened, but the resurrection, that was a stretch. So maybe he had listened to the story of his boss and decided that the guards must have fallen asleep and the body of Jesus must have been stolen. Because the other option was just too enormous to grasp. And so he denied what he knew to be true.
Or maybe he didn’t so much deny it as simply ignored it. He had witnessed what had happened but he wasn’t ready to act upon it, he realized the implications that would go along with acknowledging that Jesus not only died and was buried but has risen from the dead. And if that was the case than everything that Jesus had taught and everything Jesus had said and everything Jesus had required would be true. And perhaps Malchus wasn’t ready for what that would mean in his life.
Because it would require a transformation, a total change in how he lived and how he loved. It would be almost like he had been born again. So perhaps Malchus wasn’t ready for that so he simply ignored it. And the further he got from the event the foggier it got, until he wasn’t even sure what had happened, and it very seldom crossed his mind.
Or Maybe He Chose To Act On It. Maybe what happened in the garden wasn’t a story in itself but was just the introduction to the story. Perhaps the slave of the High Priest became a child of God that day.
Remember John 18:26 But one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
Maybe John knew the story because the man who was there told his relative, the man whose ear Peter had cut off, and that man, Malchus had told John. Obviously John knew Malchus enough to know his name.
Maybe John knew the details of the miracle in the garden because he had heard it first hand from the one who had experienced the miracle first hand.
The truth is: We don’t know what happened to Malchus, he quickly steps in and out of the story, a simple footnote and all we can do is speculate. At least on this side of eternity. And really it doesn’t matter much.
But what does matter is that on this Easter morning is that each one of us is in the same place that Malchus was two thousand years ago. We have heard that Jesus was crucified; we have heard that Jesus was buried and we have heard that Jesus has risen. We have all heard that, but what you have heard isn’t the important thing, the important thing is what you chose to do with that knowledge. We can choose to deny it? Today will you leave Cornerstone thinking “Well it’s a nice story but that is all it is, a story.”?
Or maybe you will acknowledge that Jesus lived and died and rose again, but you aren’t ready to do anything with it. And so you will choose ignore what you know is true, and you will ignore what you know God is calling you to do. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day, or perhaps your plan is to sow your wild oats, pray for crop failure and when the time is right than live for God. But we are told in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of salvation, today, not tomorrow, not next week but today. Because James speaks the truth to us in the words he wrote almost two thousand years ago James 4:14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Time and time again Jesus echoes the words he spoke in Mark 4:9 Then Jesus said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
And so perhaps the reason you are here today is that not only have you heard about the resurrection, and you have understood the ramifications of the resurrection. That if the tomb was empty that you can’t deny it and you can’t ignore it because if the tomb was empty than Jesus was not simply a good man, he was not just a great teacher or a prophet he was indeed the Son of God. And so there are those here today who have not only believed in the resurrection but have acted on that belief.
Today we have come to not only celebrate the resurrection but to celebrate what the resurrection means for us. It means forgiveness, it means grace, it means a new life in Jesus. And that is open for each one of us today. As you celebrate this morning, I trust that you are celebrating the difference the resurrection has made in your life and if it hasn’t made a difference in your life it can.

 
 

Swing of Emotions

Penn of Denn

Talk about a swing in emotions.  I have been working on two separate messages this week, one for Good Friday and one for Easter Sunday. A message of despair and a message of hope. A message of defeat and a message of victory. A message about the depths that man can fall and a message about the heights that God can lift us.  Two messages both need to be preached but truthfully I prefer Easter Sunday messages to Good Friday Messages. I know that without the crucifixion that we couldn’t have the resurrection, but still we killed Him!

He offered us life and we killed him, He came in love and we destroyed Him with hatred.  Good Friday? For who? Jesus? They nailed him to a cross. For humanity? We showed how depraved we really can be.  Good Friday, I think not. Black Friday? Maybe. Bad Friday? For sure.  Without Sunday Friday is a blot on the history of humanity. But Sunday changes all of that and turns despair to joy, defeat to victory.

We may not have been there on Friday but we are just as guilty. We may not have been there on Sunday but we are just as forgiven.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Out of the Mouth of a Fish

Peter just shook his head. That was all they wanted was money. Couldn’t they see the bigger picture? That there was more at stake then just money. They had just arrived back in town and before they could even get settled the church was there with its hand out. Well it wasn’t actually the church, but close enough. They wanted to know if Jesus had paid his share of the temple tax for the year. Well I don’t think Peter knew so he did what most of us would do, he bluffed. “Of course he has, what type of pagan do you think he is?”

 You see the tax had been established 1400 years before when the people of Israel were still in the wilderness and its purpose was to provide for the upkeep and maintenance of the tabernacle which was like a portable temple where the high priests performed the required sacrifices. And while the average Israelite probably never thought about it there would have been considerable expense in maintaining the Tabernacle.

 Traditionally there has been the tithe or the one tenth given to the Lord, began back with Abraham and continued throughout his family and descendants. However the people now were escaped slaves, wandering through the desert in search of the land that had been promised them, thus the name “The Promised Land.” And as escaped slaves wandering through the desert in search of the land that had been promised them they had very limited earning power, as a matter of fact they had no earning power. Therefore 10% of nothing was nothing and nothing wasn’t enough to maintain the tabernacle. What the people did have though was the accumulated savings that they had brought with them. And so a tax was levied on them, one half of a Shekel. This wasn’t a paltry sum in that day, but if they were going to maintain a place of worship then sacrifice was needed and they would have to give beyond what was easy.

 Once the people of Israel reached the Promised Land the tithe was reinstated, because now the people were farming, fishing and conducting business and the ten percent they gave back to God, notice that I said gave back because the presumption of the Jews was that all things came from God. Interesting comment don’t you think? The ten percent they gave back to God would pay for the ministry of the tabernacle and later the temple, would provide for the priests and all the other expenses that go with worshipping God.

 Now I’m sure that there were those in Israel who felt that they should be able to worship God for nothing, and while that is a neat thought it wasn’t all that realistic. The temple was a costly place to run. There were the daily morning and evening sacrifices which each involved a year old lamb. Along with the lamb were offered wine and flour and oil. The incense that was burned every day had to be bought and prepared.

 The temple itself was filled with costly hangings, not out of vanity but because it was seen as a way to tell God “This is how much we value you”. The robes the priest and high priests wore had to be maintained, and the priests had families to support and so they had to draw a salary. And so God’s temple was supported by God’s people, novel thought.

 Even after the tithe was reintroduced though the temple tax continued to be paid, and unlike the civil tax which was paid with some grumbling this one was usually paid quite willingly and was almost seen as a patriotic exercise as it remembered the people’s deliverance from Egypt.
And so the tax continued to be collected for fourteen hundred years until this story was recorded. The tax continued to be collected until the temple was destroyed by the armies of Rome in 70 AD, and at that time the Roman Emperor Vespasian decreed that the temple tax should still be collected and used to finance the temple of Jupiter in Rome.

 However by the time of Jesus not everyone was happy paying the taxes. As a matter of fact some nationalist and zealots refused to pay the taxes as long as Jerusalem was occupied by a foreign army, in this case a Roman Army. And so the tax had become an issue of religious commitment vs. national commitment.

 The real question was whether those who questioned Peter were really interested in getting the temple tax or if they were setting Jesus up? Did they want their half shekel, which was the equivalent of two days labour or were they testing Peter to find out where Christ loyalties lay? We will never know, but we do know that probably the reason that Peter was asked was because he owned the house that Christ was staying in, at least that’s a pretty fair assumption seeing we are told elsewhere in the Gospels that is where Jesus stayed when he was in Capernaum. We do know that this story probably happened right around this time of year because the tax was collected on the first of the month Adar, which is March on our calendar.

 And so when Peter was asked “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” (Notice how the question was formed in the negative?) Peter immediately states “Of course he does.” And then he went to ask Jesus if he had paid the temple tax. But even before Peter can open his mouth to ask, Jesus begins to teach him.

 “Say Peter, what do you think, who do kings tax, their own family or commoners?” I wonder if Charles pays tax? Jesus knew that and Peter knew that and he said so Peter said “the commoners?” I couldn’t find that out, but I discovered this about the Queen. On the official website of the Royal Family I read this “In 1992, The Queen volunteered to pay income tax and capital gains tax, and since 1993 her personal income has been taxable as for any other taxpayer.”
And Peter responds “Well that is a dumb question the reason that Kings charged taxes was to help support their families” And Jesus said “my point exactly, the King’s children are free.” You understand what he was saying at this point right? The tax was for the temple, and time and time again the temple is referred to in the Bible as the House of God. 1 Chronicles 9:26 The four chief gatekeepers, all Levites, were trusted officials, for they were responsible for the rooms and treasuries at the house of God.

 Ecclesiastes 5:1 As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God.

 1 Chronicles 6:48 Their fellow Levites were appointed to various other tasks in the Tabernacle, the house of God.

 So the tax was for the temple, the temple was the house of God, you still with me? Ok, do you remember in Luke chapter 2, Mary and Joseph have taken 12 year old Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover? And on the way back to Nazareth they realize they’ve forgotten Jesus back in the big city. And they rush back and discover that he is in the temple confounding the priests with his knowledge. And do you remember what he told his parents? No? It’s spelled out in 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?” Ahhhh!

 What about when Jesus returns to Jerusalem as an adult and he enters the temple to find merchants and money changers have filled the outer courts, and have turned the temple into a carnival like event. Do you remember what he said as he turned tables upside down and freed animals and scattered coins across the pavement? John 2:16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Ahhhh!

 What Jesus was asking was: “Should I pay tax to support my Father’s house?” And then just as quickly he said, “But let’s not offend them, let’s pay the tax.”
And that’s where the story gets really interesting because Jesus tells Peter to go down to the lake, throw a line in the water and catch a fish. I’m sure that Peter is thinking “Ok, I come to tell him about the tax and he tells me to go fishing.” But Jesus wasn’t finished, “and as soon as you catch a fish, open its mouth and there will be a coin that will be enough to pay the temple tax for both of us.”
Cool. But the story ends there, it doesn’t tell us that Peter goes fishing, catches a fish and finds a coin in it’s mouth, and it doesn’t tell us that Peter went fishing caught a fish and there wasn’t a coin in it’s mouth. And it doesn’t tell us that Peter went fishing and caught nothing but a cold. It doesn’t even tell us that Peter didn’t go fishing at all, it just stops.

 Another one of those heaven questions right?
So what do we learn?
1) Church Has Always and Will Always Cost Something. It would be really nice to think that God’s church would never have to worry about money. But that’s not the way it is. As long as the church is on this earth there will be expenses. There will always be cost for the physical building in our case it’s the mortgage and utilities, snowplowing and lawn mowing etc. If you own a house you know that it’s not free. There will be salaries that have to be paid. I bet you thought I worked for nothing right? Wrong. The Guptill’s have to eat, and need a place to sleep, and have to have cars to drive, just like real people. And so as much as I’d like to work for nothing it’s not going to happen. And the neat thing is the Bible says I don’t have to. 1 Timothy 5:17-18 Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!”

 And well Cornerstone Wesleyan Church doesn’t have all the fancy tapestries and altars that the temple had we do have video projectors and computers, pianos and drums and sound systems and all the other things that are part of the worship experience today, and they all cost money.
Then as I already mentioned there’s mortgage payments, utilities, material for children’s church, licensing fees for the music, not to mention the governments share and the denominations share, and toilet paper, let’s not forget the toilet paper. So understand that when I preach on money it’s just a statement of reality.

 2) God’s People Are Called To Respond To the Need
And just as 2000 years ago God expected his people to provide for his house and those who minister there, he still expects it today. When the tax for the temple was first established and then when the tithe was used for the temple it wasn’t expected to come from the Amorites or the Hittites, or the Jaborites or it was expected to come from the Israelites. They were God’s people and they were expected as part of their remembrance and thanksgiving to God to provide for his house.
When Jesus walked the earth, the reason they approached Peter about the temple tax was he was a Jew and it was still up to the Jews to support the temple. It wasn’t up to the Romans or the Samaritans or the Greeks it was up to God’s people to provide the funding for God’s house.
And in 2011 the story remains the same it’s not up to the Government to fund churches nor is it up to those who never attend Church, it’s up to God’s people. It’s not an admission charge, it’s not a tip for a good service, it’s acknowledging that God is our God and that we are his people and sometimes it’s giving beyond what was easy.
And you may have noticed that we don’t do fund raising in the church for the general fund, there are no raffles, no bingo, no bean suppers, we just have an offering box in the back, just like they had in the temple, remember Mark 12:41-42 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

 You know the story, and how when Jesus saw what had happened said Mark 12:43-44 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

 3) God Has Already Provided. There has been a lot of debate through the years over just how the story ended. Some folks maintain that Peter did what Jesus asked him to do, that he went down to the lake, threw his line into the water, caught a fish, found a coin and paid the taxes. That would be cool, and it could have happened. But the bible doesn’t tell us it did happen. Most people can tell of a time when God miraculously provided for them. And he does that, it might not be as dramatic as finding a coin in a fish’s mouth, but money has come from an unexpected source and your need was met, someone offered to fix your car for nothing, your neighbour was replacing their appliances, and gave you their old ones which worked and you were able to replace your fridge that didn’t.
There is another school of thought that says that wasn’t what Jesus really meant. Don’t you love it when people say that “What the Bible really means.” Just a hint on communications here, doesn’t have anything to do with the sermon but consider it a bonus. “If you always find yourself saying, “In other words.” Start using other words.” That was free.
Back to the message, some people think that Jesus was just telling Peter that he could find what he needed in his work. Peter was a fisherman, just as his father had been a fisherman. And Jesus was saying “Peter you have the ability to pay the tax, go catch a fish and sell it, it will be like you found the money in its mouth.” And while that isn’t what Jesus said to Peter, it sounds like something that Jesus would say. He had an incredible sense of humour and irony. If you don’t believe that then you haven’t read the gospels lately and listened as Jesus drew word pictures about blind men leading blind men, about camels leaping through the eyes of needles and a man straining a little fly out of his glass of water and then drinking a huge hairy two humped camel without noticing. Don’t try to turn Jesus into an always serious, never laughing humourless individual. Because that wasn’t who he was.
Back to the sermon.
How often has God provided for us and for the church through who we are? We say “where would we ever find the money to give to the church?”
For seven of the first 10 years that our church was around I worked outside the church to keep it afloat. For five of those years I was a freelance writer for a half a dozen magazines. You might have read my stuff long before you started coming to Cornerstone. So, when we needed to cut expenses and I was wondering where we could do that Jesus said “Denn go to your computer and open Microsoft Word, and if windows doesn’t freeze up then you will find a dollar there.” And Angela teaches piano and so Jesus says to her, “Angela go to your piano and lift the lid, and there you will find the money.” And for a mechanic he might say “Lift the hood of that car” and for someone in the insurance business he might say open that actuary table.
And while Jesus commended the widow for giving out of her poverty, if we were honest that isn’t what Jesus is calling us to do. I’ve heard people say that the church shouldn’t ask for money. And I agree, the church shouldn’t have to ask for money. But I’m coming at it from a different direction then they are. They mean that the church should never do anything, never attempt to change anything never have an impact on the world. As a matter of fact, what they mean is that the church shouldn’t exist. What I mean is that if everyone who is a part of God’s church did what God called them to do financially our concern wouldn’t be where to get the money but where to spend the money.
And so where are you at this morning? This is the third week in a row I’ve spoken about stewardship in my message, although it probably seems like the thirtieth week. And last week and the week before I asked that you would pray and consider two things. 1) Easter Offering 2) Step Up Sunday. And perhaps you’ve asked “God where will it come from?” And my question is; where is he telling you to look?

You Will Get Caught

I read an article the other day that R & B singer Rhianna was mortified that nude pictures that she had sent her boyfriend, had surfaced and ended up on the internet. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind that having nude digital pictures floating around was a bad idea?

It’s not unusual to hear in the entertainment world that a celebrity has been embarrassed by pictures or video from their past. So why in the world would Rhianna think that her embarrassing pictures would remain private?

How often do people deceive themselves into thinking that they can do whatever they want to do, and that nobody will ever find out? But nothing remains a secret; nothing. The Bible teaches and life reinforces the reality that you will get caught. And if you get to the end of your life thinking you got away with it, remember the words of Jesus in Mark 4:22 “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.”

The change that Christ makes in our lives is not just in the things that people can see but needs to be a change in the secret areas of our life as well. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


 

Cain and Abel

So here we are. Week two of Money Month!  In case you weren’t here last week or if you are new to Cornerstone I made a decision a number of years ago that instead of responding to financial crisis in the church by preaching on them that I would take one month each year and develop a theology of giving.  That if you could handle me preaching on stewardship for three or four Sundays each April I would leave you alone the rest of the year. 
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking “Why do you have to speak about money at all?”  Because it’s an important topic.  Moses spoke about it, David spoke about it, Solomon spoke about it, most of the prophets spoke about it, the New Testament authors spoke about it and Jesus spoke a lot about money.  How we make it and how we spend it .  So we can’t arbitrarily not speak about it.   I guess in the truest sense a church could operate without money, if you were willing to meet in your living room and not have a paid pastoral staff, but I think to truly worship God there would need to be a financial element, even if it meant you gave to give it away.  Because from the very beginning of time worship has contained an element of sacrifice. 
And really it’s not about money it’s about how we deal with our money, and our time and our talents.  Jesus told us in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  And basically that means that our treasures, whatever they might be, are a barometer of our spiritual condition.  That if we want to see what is important in someone’s life than we need to look at what their treasures are, what they do to obtain their treasures, what they do with their treasures after they have them and where they keep their treasures.
So our theme this month is “Treasures of the Heart” 
So we are going to start by going back, way back, back to the beginning of the story of man. 
The scripture that was read this morning is a portion of a full passage about faith, and the heroes of faith as recorded in the Old Testament.  A veritable “Faith hall of Fame”, you had to be pretty special to get into this group.  And in particular we are looking at the first inductee.   Hebrews 11:4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
Maybe you know the story and maybe you don’t, so let’s highlight it for you. 
It’s a story of two brothers,  Cain the older brother was a farmer, he toiled in the dirt and raised crops, his younger brother, Abel, was a shepherd, and he raised sheep.  And by all indications they were good at what they did.  They were the first children of Adam and Eve after they had been expelled from the Garden for disobeying God. 
Now I know everyone is sitting there thinking “I wonder who they married?”  Well we really don’t know do we?  Maybe God created more people, that would be an interesting theory wouldn’t it.  Bible doesn’t say Adam and Eve were the only, just the first?  Or the other option is that Adam and Eve had more children and the siblings married each other.  You understand that there were no genetic flaws at the point in history; they were only one generation from creation, no time for the gene pool to get a little murky.  The reason that siblings marrying one another has been prohibited through the years is that there are all kinds of problems associated with their children, but that close to creation there were no genetic problems that would be amplified in that situation.  It will be interesting to see what happens in our culture when a brother and sister want to get married.  What would societies’ answer be?  “It’s wrong.”  And the response would be “But who says it’s wrong?”  That was just an aside.
So where were we?  Oh right, the two brothers and they both offered a sacrifice to their God, we don’t know exactly what all their sacrifices involved or didn’t involve. The writer of Hebrews makes this statement: Hebrews 11:4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.

Well the story continues, the scriptures tell us that God found Abel’s offering acceptable but didn’t accept Cain’s.  And that ticked Cain off, and he reacted by killing his brother.  Took him out in the field and attacked him and stole his life. 
Now we don’t know if that was the intent all along or if things just got out of hand.  Maybe he just planned on laying a good whoopin’ on his little brother but hit him a little too hard. “I didn’t mean to hit you that hard bro, come on get up.  Come on Able this isn’t funny anymore, no more fooling around, Ok?” 
In thinking about it I kind of lean toward that theory I think it was an accident, Cain wanted to hurt Abel but I’m not convinced that he wanted to kill him.  After all Cain’s punishment was banishment and I’m thinking that had his actions been pre-meditated with malicious forethought and planning that God being a just and righteous God would have demanded a greater punishment.  It is interesting in the first case of murder in the bible capital punishment wasn’t demanded.

So what is it we learn from this story?  Let’s go back to the original story in Genesis 4:3-4 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD.   It Started With Greed  If you wonder why Abel’s gift was more acceptable the answer lies in that verse.  And it is summed up in this one statement:   Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  We don’t know what Cain gave or didn’t give maybe it was brussel spouts, which would explain a lot.   It’s not so much what was said about Cain’s gift but what was said about Abel’s gift that explains what happened.  Listen to the full account,  Genesis 4:3-4 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock.   
Cain brought some of his crops, Abel brought the best of the first born lambs. Some. . . The best of.  Did you catch it?
You see ultimately when it comes to our giving we are concerned with one of two things.  Either we are wondering what we are going to be able to give or we are wondering what we are going to be able to keep.  Abel gave the best, Cain kept the best. 
Collins Dictionary defines Greed: Excessive Desire, especially for wealth or food.
American Psychologist Erich Fromm said “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
But not everyone agrees, Ivan F. Boesky said “Greed is all right, by the way … I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.” And Donald Trump said “The point is that you can’t be too greedy.”
On the other hand one of the things that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for was greed.  And when he was describing sinful behaviour listen to what he clumped greed together with in Mark 7:21-22 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  Wow, if you are known by the company you keep greed isn’t keeping very good company..
And listen to this warning that Jesus gives in Luke 12:15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”   Which is diametrically opposed to the philosophy of the world today that says “The man with the most toys when he dies wins”  Which by the way truth in advertising should insist that it read “The man with the most toys when he dies, is still dead”
 So with all due respect to Donald and Ivan maybe greed isn’t all right.  But it’s something that most of us have struggled with, that ever-consuming quest for more.  After all most of us would agree with Woody Allen when he said “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”
And that is why Jesus warned us that Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  Once you decide what you want, it’s only a matter of time that you have figured out what you are going to have to give to get it.
Let’s go back to the story.  Genesis 4:4-5 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
What started as greed It Turned Into Envy.  You understand that Cain had the choice of how much he gave to God.  And it was because he made the choice to only give a little that his gift was not accepted.  So it was the result of his own actions that he became bitter.  It was his choice to give what he gave and it was his choice to react in the way he reacted.
Although it doesn’t say in the story I’m assuming that Cain had it within his grasp to give a gift that would please God and that he would have known what that gift should be.   God would never ask for something we were incapable of providing or would never ask us to guess what it was he required.  So who was to blame for what Cain gave?  Cain!
But Cain blamed his brother.  When Abel gave a more acceptable offering and was counted as righteous because of that Cain became envious of what Abel had received and that was God’s approval.  The produce he had held back was no longer enough, now he wanted the favour that his brother was shown.
When you stop and think about it this was heredity at work.  Do you remember what caused Adam and Eve to sin and rebel against God?  Sure you do. They rebelled because they wanted what did not belong to them.
We are told in the account in Genesis that Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly want and they could do whatever they wanted to do except for one thing, they could not eat from one tree.  They could do anything they wanted to with the tree.  They could look at it, they could touch it, they could climb it, they could chop it down and burn it, but God had told them very specifically in Genesis 2:16-17 But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
Pretty plain, pretty clear, no ambiguity there, this is what you must not do.  And when Satan came along to tempt Adam and Eve, what ploy did he use.  Sure, in Genesis 3:4-5 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “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.”
What was he saying?  He was saying “Don’t you want what God has?  If you just had what God had, then you’d be really happy.  Right?”   Look across the Bible what is it that gets people in trouble?  Wanting what somebody else has.  And it’s not just a matter of wanting something like the one they have, it’s wanting what they have, so they can’t have it anymore because it’s yours.
We could go through example after example in the Bible, Jacob wanted Esau’s inheritance and he was willing to cheat and lie to get it.  Joseph’s brothers wanted the love that their father bestowed upon Joseph and they were willing to kill him or sell him into slavery to get it.  David wanted Uriah’s wife Bathsheba and he was willing to kill Uriah to get her.  The religious leaders who had Jesus executed didn’t do it because of what he did, they did it because of what he had.  He had the power of God, and he had the ears of the people, and if the high priest couldn’t have what Jesus had then he couldn’t have it either and so they killed him.
Think of any of the crimes and atrocities that have been committed throughout history, they happened because somebody wanted what somebody else had.  Why do so many people in the world hate the United States?  Because the US has what they don’t have.  And it’s not just the nice cars and big TV and fancy houses. It’s the freedom and the peace and the ability to say what they want about the leaders and not end up in jail or dead.
There is a story told about Abraham Lincoln walking down the street with his two boys, both of who were howling to beat the band.  A friend happened along and asked Lincoln, “Abe, what’s wrong with the boys?”  “What’s wrong with the boys?” came his reply, “The same thing that is wrong with the world.  I have three chestnuts and they both want two.”
And Cain was warned about the consequences of his envy  Genesis 4:6-7 “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
God was telling Cain that if he continued down that road that there would be consequences.  We know that nothing good can come from envy, it eats you up, you hate your friend because they have what you want and hate yourself because you don’t have what they have.  Nothing good can come from envy. 
It was Confucius who said  “A person is born with feelings of envy and hate. If he gives way to them, they will lead him to violence and crime, and any sense of loyalty and good faith will be abandoned.”
So let’s continue with the story.  Genesis 4:8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
And what started with Greed led to Envy and It Ended in Murder  Now that is the extreme,  but it didn’t have to be murder, it was the willingness to do what was wrong.  Do you remember Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:10 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.
I know Cain didn’t kill Abel over money but it began with stuff.  Maybe it makes more sense this way 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of stuff is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving stuff, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
It was because Cain wanted to keep more of stuff for himself that he gave less of his stuff to God.  And it was that decision that led Cain to envying his brother, and eventually it was that envy that caused him to murder his brother.  And we don’t know how long of a period that was over, it’s a fairly tight narrative but we don’t know if it was days, weeks or months from the beginning to the end.
Only you know what you would be willing to pay to get more stuff or to keep the stuff you have.
I have referenced this before, In 1990 James Patterson and Peter Kim wrote a book based on extensive surveys of the American Public, the book was called; “The Day That America Told The Truth.”  Questions were asked concerning a wide range of topics from morality to work to family life.  The results are really quite surprising.  And while it’s easy to write off the results as being American I’m sure that many of the results would have been the same on this side of the 49th.
One of the questions asked was “What would you be willing to do for Ten Million Dollars?”  A follow up survey was done asking about 5, 4, 3 and 2 million dollars and the results remained fairly consistent.  It was only under $2 million that they began to see a falloff in what people would do. So it would appear the price for many Americans was $2 million.  Out of the ten questions asked 2/3 of the respondents agreed they would be willing to do at least one, and some several of the deeds.  What were they? Would abandon their entire family 25%, Would abandon their Church 25%, Would become prostitutes for a week or more 23%, Would give up their American citizenship 16%, Would leave their spouse 16%, Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free 10%, Would kill a stranger 7%, would change their race 6%, would have a sex change operation 4%, or would put their children up for adoption 3%.
1 Timothy 6:10 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.
You say that you have no interest in a million dollars, come on?  At least be as honest as Mark Twain who said “I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”
This story is a warning about how we view our stuff, and what it does to our attitudes and behaviours. 
So what made Abel’s offering more acceptable?  His attitude. His motives.  His desire to please God.  The same thing made Cain’s offering less acceptable.  His attitude. His motives.  His desire to please Cain. 
What  do our offerings say about us?  About our God?  About our relationship with God?

Green Eggs and Ham

 This should have been posted earlier it was preached on March 7th, 2011
(Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 1-16)
Do you know the story?  I bet you do.  It’s one of Dr. Seuss greatest works.  “Green Eggs and Ham”.  You know I hate that book.  Didn’t always hate it though, no sir when I was a kid I loved Green Eggs and Ham, and when Stephen was born I promised myself that I’d buy that classic for my children, and I did.  And my kids love it and I have read it to them let’s see, at last count, 3,123,789 times approximately.  And I have come to hate that book.
“Green Eggs and Ham” was published in August 13, 1960, exactly 2 months after I was born.   Written by Theodor Geisel, who we all know as Dr. Seuss.  Actually we pronounce it wrong, what we refer to as Seuss, was his middle name and it’s German.  A friend of Seuss’s Alexander Liang wrote:            You’re wrong as the deuce
                        And you shouldn’t rejoice
                        If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.
But finally Seuss gave up went with the flow and he started pronouncing it the way everybody else did and Dr. Seuss was born.
The book came about when Geisel’s editor wagered him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words.  And he did and it has gone on to become the third bestselling children’s book of all time.
You know the story.  Sam keeps trying to get his friend to try green eggs and ham.  Would you eat them in a box?  Would you eat them with a fox?  And at every rejection he tries something new.  And his friend keeps saying, no, no, no I don’t like them, until finally it would seem that Sam has tried everything because his friend says: (Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 46-50)
Read
My eyes were opened almost 20 years ago when we went on vacation to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Deborah was allowed to take some books for bed time stories and you guessed it she took Green Eggs and Ham.  And so as I settled down one night to read my daughter this childhood classic I saw something that I had never seen before.  If Sam had of been your typical Christian from you typical church than when his friend said, “I do not like them Sam-I-Am, I do not like green eggs and ham.” then Sam would have said, “OK.  No problem” and that would have been the end of the story. Sam would have happily gone on his way and his friend would never have experienced the joy of eating green eggs and ham.  But no, Sam wasn’t content to take no for an answer.  Luckily for his friend, Sam wasn’t like a typical Christian in a typical church; he wasn’t worried about offending his friend or driving him away.  All he knew was how important it was that his friend make the decision to try green eggs and ham.
Now I am not trying to trivialise this sermon, but think about it, if a character in a Dr. Seuss story book knows the importance of being persistent when trying to convince someone to try something new, how come we don’t?
Well needless to say I determined that if I ever got a chance to start a church from scratch it would be firmly grounded in the principles of Green Eggs and Ham.  About this time you must be getting ready to lean over to your spouse and say, “I knew it was a cult Margaret, let’s get out of here”   Just bear with me OK? What can we learn from Sam-I-Am this morning, March 6, 2011?
1)  We Need To Care About People.  Sam I Am wanted his friend to try green eggs and ham.  Why?  Because he liked his friend and he felt like his friend was missing something in his life, in this case it was green eggs and ham.  But he cared enough that he not only asked his friend but he continued to ask his friend.  His friend mattered to him.  Cornerstone Wesleyan Church needs to put people number one.  We need to care that people need Jesus or they will go to hell, in essence
2) We Need To Be Convicted Of The Validity Of The Gospel.
That’s always the kicker isn’t’ it?  Just how convinced are we that this book is true?  How convinced are we that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned?  If what this book says is true, then those who accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives will spend eternity with God.  But by the same token those who don’t accept Jesus Christ as the Lord of their life will spend a Christless eternity in torment.  Now I realize that heaven and hell can be a little abstract to grasp, but somehow we as a church need to become convinced of the value of Jesus Christ in the lives of people, not only for the here and now but for the there and then.  And once we become convinced of that then we have to be ready to communicate that to people in a culturally relevant way.  That is culturally relevant to this area, in March of 2011.  And that can be tough, after all if it was easy every church would be doing it and they’re not.  Too many churches are sound evangelically and sound asleep evangelistically.
If we believe the reality of hell and according to the word of God hell is a reality, then we should be heartbroken over the fact that we have friends and family who will in reality be tormented for eternity.  That’s what the book says and we don’t debate the book.  Did you know that the Bible speaks more about Hell then about heaven?  Listen to how Jesus describes it in Mark 9:48 as a place where ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’ 
and in Matthew 18:9 Jesus speaks of the Fires of Hell and again in Matthew 13:42 And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Are we as convinced of the reality of Hell as Sam was convinced of the value of green eggs and ham?  And if we are then the next question has to be: are we that convinced that Jesus is the only solution to the reality of hell?  There are not many ways to heaven, there are not several ways to heaven, there are not even two ways to heaven.  You can’t get there by being good, or by being sincere, following Buddha won’t get you there, following Mohammed won’t get you there, as a matter of fact Jesus said 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 friends that is not being narrow, that is being scriptural.  And until we understand that we will never see the need to tell people about Jesus. Cornerstone Wesleyan Church wasn’t planted so that we could have a Wesleyan Church in Hammonds Plains, we came here to help depopulate hell.  Now along with being convinced of the validity of the Gospel  3. We Also Need To Be Convinced Of The Value Of our Church
Have you ever heard how people talk after they have seen a movie they really liked?  Or have discovered a musical artist that they really liked, or found a great new restaurant?  You can’t shut them up; they want to let everyone in on this wonderful secret. 
I am convinced that we have a pretty good thing starting here.  And notice that I said starting even though we’ve been in Bedford/Hammonds Plains for sixteen years we are only just beginning.  Probably one of the speeches that will go down in history is Martin Luther King Junior’s speech “I have a dream.”  I love that speech not just for the content but for the sentiment, friends I have a dream, a dream of a church where people are valued for who they are, a dream of a church where that is committed to the reaching of the lost. A dream of a church that will be innovative and relevant, a church that will be bold and exciting. The poet W. B. Yeats wrote But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet;  Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.  When we started Cornerstone we started with a dream, and we still have a dream and so I ask you; tread softly because you are treading on my dreams.
Can you see that church with me, can you dream that dream with me.  Can you see this building full of people who will dream that dream with us, people that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church has introduced to Jesus?  Can you see a church that reaches out to help other churches dream, to help other churches reach out?  Can you see a church that touches people at their point of need whether it is spiritual, emotional or physical?  In 1845 the Southern Baptist Church was formed and a plaque was placed to commemorate the event and this is what it said about the founders, “Men who see the invisible, hear the inaudible, believe the incredible, and think the unthinkable.”  We need to  see the invisible, hear the inaudible, believe the incredible, and think the unthinkable.
Can you see it?  It will only become a reality when we are ready to invite people out.  Just about everyone here is here because someone invited you?  We need to see the value of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, not just for us but for our friends, for our family, for our neighbours.  Who do we invite out.  There are four types of people in our world, in a very simplified sense.  Out of those four groups we are really interested in two of them.  Those four groups are a) The Churched believers, pretty basic.  These are people who have committed their lives to Jesus and are regularly involved in a Bible believing church, that is a church that believes and practices John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” 
The next group are b) The churched unbelievers, these are those who haven’t made a commitment to Christ but who attend a Bible believing church on a regular basis.  Those first two groups of people are great to have as friend, it’s super to be with them, but to be truthful they already have a church home.  It’s nice if they come out to a special service or two but I’d like to see them fit into their church home.
However there are still two more groups of people out there, c) The Unchurched Unbeliever, Willow Creek Community Church calls these folks unchurched Harry and Mary, Saddle Back Community Church calls them Saddleback Sam and Sue.  At Cornerstone Wesleyan Church we call them; our neighbours.  These people have never made Jesus the manager of their lives and don’t have a church home.  Oh they might have a church they go to at Easter and Christmas but the other fifty Sundays of the year they’d just as soon go fishing or watch TV or sleep in.  It’s these people who need to be shown the validity of the Gospel, doesn’t’ matter who they are, whether they are a friend, family or the guy you work with, they need to establish a relationship with Jesus Christ or they are going to hell, pretty sobering thought isn’t it?
The last group of people out there are d) Unchurched Believers.  They have made a commitment to Christ, they are going to heaven, but they are not worshipping on a regular basis with a group of believers in a bible believing church.  How come?  I don’t know.  Maybe they were introduced to Jesus outside the church and have never found a church that they felt comfortable in, or maybe they’ve just moved here from somewhere else.  Or maybe they have been hurt, either intentionally or unintentionally in their last church, spiritual abuse is unfortunately a reality, and they haven’t found a church where they can be loved and accepted. 
These people have already discovered the validity of the gospel but they haven’t yet learned the value of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.
Everyone of us knows someone who fits into one or the other of those last two categories.  People who are either Christians or pre-Christians but who have no regular church home.  They are the people who need us and who we need to love.  They are the people that you need to tell about Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.  Why? 
Because you have something to offer them and it’s a whole lot more valuable then green eggs and ham.  It’s the salvation that only Jesus Christ can offer and it’s a loving church family, a church family called Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.
4) We Need to Be Rigidly committed to flexibility.  As I read Green Eggs and Ham I thought “Hey this guy just doesn’t give up” You won’t eat them with a fox then will you eat them in a box?  No then how about with a goat, uh-huh then on a boat, in the dark, on a train, in the rain.  Sam I Am must have figured that eventually something would click even if his friend ate them just to get him off his back.
I want this church to be rigidly committed to flexibility.  We will do what ever it takes to reach people with the word of God.  If I have to get someone up here to juggle chainsaws and spit fire then that is what I will do.  Although with my coordination I can assure you that it won’t be me.
Right now we are trying to provide the very best that we can with that menu we offer, don’t like our music then maybe they’ll like the preaching, don’t like the preaching then maybe it will be the excellent job that Marilyn and her crew does with the kids.  If that doesn’t appeal maybe it will be a social event that we plan, or the Great I Hate Winter Beach Party or the Super Bowl Party, maybe it will a Christmas Eve service that we are planning even now, or maybe Easter Sunday, what if we gave out roses on mother’s day and new cars on Father’s Day.  And not everything will work and we’ll learn from our mistakes and go on, it was Mark twain who said, “The man who picked the cat up by the tail learnt 40% more about cats then the man who didn’t.”  Well, we are going to pick the cat up by the tail and we may walk away with some scratches but we will learn what works and doesn’t work.
Denn you’re cheapening the gospel by relying on the spectacular?  You mean like Jesus did when he healed the lame, made the blind to see and fed the five thousand?  We will do anything except compromise the word of God.
Do you feel like we need a ministry to three legged, left handed bald people?  Drop by the office and I’ll buy you a coffee and maybe we can figure out how you can start a ministry to three legged, left handed bald people.  Notice that I said “how you can start” ownership is the key to effective ministry.
One of the biggest mistakes the church has made in it’s past has been the refusal to change.  A pastor friend of mine got in trouble with a lady at his church when they put carpet down in their worship centre.  It was blue carpet and every one knows that church carpet is supposed to be red.  Billy Graham tells a story about a young pastor who wanted to leave his mark on his first church so he recommended that they buy a chandelier for the sanctuary.  One of the men in his church said “I’m against it and I’m against it for three reason.  The first is that there aint nothing in the Bible about them there chandeliers, second we haven’t got anybody in the church who can play one and thirdly what we really need is more light in the sanctuary.”
There is nothing sacred about how a church looks, there is nothing sacred about whether we sing hymns or choruses, there is nothing sacred about whether we have prayer meeting, bible studies or discipleship groups.  There is nothing sacred about whether the pastor preaches expositional messages or topical messages.  We will use whatever techniques we need to see this area won for Jesus Christ.  But we will not compromise the message.
The Moncton Wesleyan Church Manifesto says, “We might have our personal preferences about a big church or a small church, a formal service or an informal service, a long service or a short service, gospel music or liturgical music, fiery preaching or quiet preaching.  However, if those preferences dictate which church we attend and support, then we can never experience God’s greatest blessings, because our motives are selfish.” Is it any wonder that Moncton Wesleyan is the one of the largest Church in the Maritimes?  And if you’d rather go to a church that caters to you as a Christian and your musical taste and taste in sermons then to a church which is intent on introducing people to Jesus then Cornerstone Wesleyan church ain’t for you.  I’d rather start with twenty people committed to our dreams and mission statement then with 200 people who just want to play church.
The word of God is unchangeable, the message of the gospel will be uncompromised, but we need to present the message in such a way that it will reach the people of our community, today March 6th 2011 not 1971, not 1981 or even 2001 but 2011 the challenge will be for us to be able to present the gospel in such a way that the message is fresh in 2012 and 2013 and 2014.  The concept isn’t new, listen to what Paul who was one of the greatest preachers of the church in the New Testament had to say when he wrote in his first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth  in 1 Corinthians 9:22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 
5) We Need To Be Persistent In Our Invitations.  Wasn’t Sam I Am great? Talk about not giving up.  He obviously hadn’t heard the admonition, “If at first you don’t succeed try ,try again, but don’t make a complete fool out of yourself.”  If you were to look in the dictionary under persistence you would find a picture of Sam-I-Am.  If we are going to see people come to our church through our invitations then it will be because of persistence.  Just because somebody can’t come out to church the first time you ask doesn’t’ mean that they won’t come the next time you ask, right?  I mean maybe their hair really did fall out after the hot oil treatment.  We’re not asking them to cut off their arm we’re just inviting them out to church.  And in most cases you need to invite people cause they aren’t going to invite themselves, your neighbour probably won’t be driving down the street this week and say, “You know I ought to go to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church on Sunday.” 
Sometimes we even have an open invitation, when someone says, “Someday I’d like to visit your church.” Do you know what they are saying?  Here is the translation, people; I will say it slowly so you catch it, ready? What they are saying translated into English is; “Please invite me to a service.”
You say but Denn what if I drive them away, where are we going to drive them to, Hell number 2.
That’s why we are in this building, it may not be a white church with stained glass windows, but it is a building that will assist us in meeting our goals of winning people to Jesus Christ. 
And you was built because people believed the dream, the fifty people or so people who made up Cornerstone at that time as well as the donations that were made to our building fund from as far west as BC and California, as far south as Florida, from the Midwest and from Australia. Why? Because they believe in our vision and our commitment to reach the people in our community.
Mission Statement
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit. 
Or the shortened version Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians.  Or the concise version Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to help depopulate hell. And that will not happen until each of you has embraced that mission statement as well.  If that isn’t why we are here, if we are not committed to reaching the lost, if the only reason we are here and the only reason we have built is to have a church to attend then we might as well close the doors.  And if that isn’t what you want to do as a congregation then let me know and I start sending out my resume.
But you know how the story ends don’t you?  (Read from Green Eggs and Ham pages 53-62)
And if we do our part some day we will stand in heaven and someone will come up to us and thank us for being convicted of the validity of the Gospel, convinced of the value of Cornerstone and persistent in our invitations.

Oh, the places you’ll go

This didn’t get posted but was from March 20th.
Read Pages 1-17
What a great book. Here is a confession; I had never read this book before I decided on the series. The other three I had read or had read to me as a child and read them to my children but not “Oh the Places you’ll go.” I had quoted from it but never actually read it. What a great read, I have already read it to our Granddaughter I think everyone who has a kid should have this book in their library and read it to them.
Oh the places you will go was first published in January 1990, making it the last book published before Dr. Seuss’s death on September 24, 1991 at the age of 86. You may or may not know that Seuss, Theodor Geisel was married twice but never had children. He has been quoted as saying, “You have ’em; I’ll entertain ’em.”
Oh, the places you’ll go! Is written in the second person and uses the future tense to describe what life will be like for the main character, a young boy simply identified as “You”. And it really nails it, the ups and downs, the choices that will be made and what life will be like.
One source indicated that the book has become a popular gift for graduates and that sales spike in the spring of each year to about 300,000 copies.
You don’t have to be around Denn very long to come to know that I am a firm believer that we are the sum result of the choices we make. We can make excuses, we can cast blame, but ultimately each one of us is the result of the choices we make in this life.
Our future life started being defined by the choices we made as a child, would we be a good student or a bad student? Who would our friends be? Would we choice the easy way or the right way? Those choices would set us on a path that would ultimately lead us to today. For better or for worse.
It is not a matter of accepting the blame it is simply a matter of accepting the responsibility. Because here is the very essence of what I am saying: If the choices you made yesterday brought you to where you are today. Then the choices you make today will take you to where you are tomorrow. Which means that you have control of your destiny.
Or as William Ernest Henley wrote “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
The story of Joseph is a story of choices, and had Jacob sat down and read his son “Oh, the places you’ll go!” when Joseph was a boy then Seuss’ tale would have seemed prophetic later in life. Because there were times of success, and times of failure, and times of waiting.
The story of Joseph is so familiar that we sometimes never see the roller coaster ride that Joseph was on. His life was a series of disasters and blessings. Some were the result of bad choices he made, and some the result of good choices he made, but they were all the result of his choices. The last thirteen chapters of Genesis chart the life of Joseph, the boy with the coat of many colours.
The story begins in Genesis 37 when Joseph was seventeen, and looking at it as a simply a human story, after all God isn’t even mentioned in that chapter, it is a most unpromising start. Hardly the type of beginning that you would expect for one of the greatest civilisations in the history of mankind. Genesis 37:3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe.
You have to realize that the secret to the entire story is in that last line So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. This was the flowing robe worn by a VIP who did no manual labour. If anyone in the family should have been privileged to wear such a robe it should have been Reuben, the eldest not Joseph who was practically the baby of the family. And the foolishness of Joseph’s father destroyed any chance that Joseph may have had for a normal relationship with his brothers.
Now to be really frank I don’t like Joseph at this particular juncture in history. I think that he was an immature obnoxious little pup and had I been one of Joseph’s eleven brothers I probably would have voted with the majority and been done with the problem once and for all. “That’s a terrible attitude Pastor, after all Joseph was a man of God.” True and as he matured that became evident, but in the beginning he was just annoying.
Let’s look at some of the things that came Joseph’s way and some of the choices he made, how they affected his life and how they apply to our lives.
1) He Chose to do What Was Wrong. There are a couple of things that the Bible records that might help us understand what was going on in the heads of the ten boys who decided that life would be a whole lot easier to live without little brother around. In Chapter 37 verse 2 we are told how Joseph had been tending his father’s flocks with his brother and brought back a bad report about them. Now we don’t know what Joseph finked on the others about, maybe it was important, maybe it wasn’t important maybe he was just being a kid brother. The Bible doesn’t mention what the others had done or even hint that they had done anything. But I can’t imagine that he endeared himself to his siblings over that little incident. And then he had a dream of how his brothers would all bow down to him. Now having the dream is one thing but Joseph rushed right out and told the guys, and then couldn’t understand why they weren’t as excited as he was, as a matter of fact it says in Genesis 37:8 . . . And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.
If ’n that happened to me I think I would have kept my mouth shut after the first incident. But no he has another dream and in this one his parents bow down to him as well as his brothers and do you think that the thought even crossed his mind “you know, the other guys might not be thrilled to hear this.” No instead he rushes right off to let them in on the good news. Just goes to prove the validity of Billy Sunday’s statement “Sin can be forgiven but stupid is forever.”
And so one day Joseph is sent by his father to make sure the other brothers are doing their work properly, and we know that Joseph wasn’t planning on getting into it himself because he wore his fancy duds, you know the coat with the flowing sleeves, ideal work clothes right. And when his brothers saw him coming they decided that they had had enough of little Joe, and we read in Genesis 37:19-20 “Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”
Well had that been the end of the story it certainly would have played havoc with story time in Sunday School wouldn’t it? Instead Reuben gets an attack of conscious and tells the others that they shouldn’t actually kill Joseph instead they should toss him down a well and let him die of natural causes, like starvation or thirst. He actually planned on coming back to rescue Joseph later but while he went walk about the other nine got a streak of capitalism decided to make some lose change and sold Joseph to some slave traders. Joseph was about to learn the truth of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, when Kipling writes: “If you can dream and not make dreams your master: if you can think and not make thoughts your aim.”
Sometimes we bring persecution upon ourselves because we chose to do wrong things. Joseph wasn’t being picked on because he was righteous; he was being picked on because he was being a righteous pain in the neck.
Sometimes I think that because Jesus said in Luke 6:26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets. Some people think that they need to be unlikeable to get into the Kingdom of God. The secret though is that persecution should be for righteousness sake not because you deserve it the Lord told us in Matthew 5:10-11 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.
And while murder is never justifiable we do need to realize that Joseph was the author of his own misfortune in round one. Sometimes we don’t need to look any further than the mirror to see who’s to blame for what’s happening to us.
2) He Chose to do What Was Right. Joseph does get more likeable as the story goes on. You’ll recall that when he gets to Egypt that he is sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s attendants and various job advancements came his way until he had worked his way up the ladder until he was head honcho in Potiphar’s house. Everything went well during this time and it would seem that anything Joseph touched turned to Gold, it got to the place that the Bible tells us in Genesis 39:6 So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat!
The young arrogant upstart had made something of himself, perhaps all he needed was humbling, perhaps if Daddy hadn’t made so much out of him out of him when he was a kid and played him as an obvious favourite then maybe he wouldn’t have needed humbling. I do know though that it often takes something to make us humble. We don’t usually become humble just by being told to be, and if we do our “humility” is usually unreal.
And so there Joseph is, a good job, a great future, the word tells us that he was well built and handsome, it looked like he had the world by the tail, until things took a turn for the worse.
 Potiphar’s wife decides that she wants young Joe and so she tries to seduce him, and he won’t be in it. His master has trusted him with everything and he’s not about to betray him by sleeping with his wife and he tells her that. Well you gotta give the lady credit she was persistent and she approached him day after day with the same proposition. A very clear case of sexual harassment, of course if he had of spoken out it would have been very doubtful that anyone would have believed him being a man and all.
So that’s when it happened, one day Joseph was attending to his duties around the house and nobody else was there well let’s listen to the word of God, Genesis 39:12-20 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. When she saw that she was holding his cloak and he had fled, she called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said. “My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” She kept the cloak with her until her husband came home. Then she told him her story. “That Hebrew slave you’ve brought into our house tried to come in and fool around with me,” she said. “But when I screamed, he ran outside, leaving his cloak with me!” Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.
Doesn’t sound right does it? But I would be willing to wager on the same outcome if it happened today. Joseph had to have known the outcome the first time he said no. After all what is that saying about a “woman scorned”.
Sometimes Joseph made the right choices and they worked out for him and sometimes he made the right choices and they didn’t work out, but that didn’t make his decisions anymore right or wrong.
And so the roller coaster continued, from favourite son to slave, from favourite employee to convict. What was it that Kipling wrote, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”
Most of us know the rest of the story, how after Joseph had been in prison for a while he became a trustee and proving how valuable he was to the warden he was put in charge of virtually the entire prison system. During that time he interpreted a dream for a man who was the chief cupbearer to the Pharaoh the man was released and after two years spoke up for Joseph who was released from prison and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. In his new position he was able to plan ahead and save Egypt from a famine and then had the opportunity to save his family when they suffered reversals because of the famine as well. How did Joseph handle his setbacks? Good question.
3) He Chose to be Faithful. Whatever Joseph was as a teenager his adversity had turned him into a man of God. On four separate occasions the Bible says “The Lord was with Joseph”. Nobody else in the Scripture gets that type of acknowledgment. We see his commitment to God when Potiphar’s wife makes her advances and Joseph stands firm for righteousness by saying in Genesis 39:9 How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”
Joseph knew what was wrong even when it would appear in his best interest. The laws of God were deeply ingrained in his heart no doubt laid there by his Father’s teaching. He called the action what it was “Wickedness and a sin against God” he didn’t try to justify it or rationalise it, after all the master’s wife would be a valuable friend indeed, she might even be able to secure his freedom for him. He knew it was wrong, he didn’t call it a failing or an illness or a mistake. He knew the truth of Jerry Garcia’s of the “Grateful Dead” words, who said “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”
King David realized the value of having the laws of God etched deep into your being when he wrote Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
. When I was in high school in one of our classes we talked about “Situational Ethics”. What would you do if you were in this situation or that situation? But our commitment to God can’t just be dependent on the circumstances around us.
Too often the message is preached today that if we are righteous and dot all our i’s and cross all of our t’s then everything will be alright. And if things go wrong and if there is illness or set back or problems then it is because there is sin in our life. That isn’t true.
Even when Joseph was in prison the Bible records that “the Lord was with him”. The problem with the name it and claim it philosophy of Christianity is that it make God into some type of celestial Santa Clause or divine genie who makes all of our hurts go away and if the hurts don’t go away and if we have problems then God must not be happy with us. If our salvation and obedience to God was assurance of leading a life without trouble or problems then we would have to bar the door of the church to keep the converts away. It also doesn’t explain away the fact that not all Christians enjoy the privilege of living in a first world country. What do you do with the devout believer in Sierra Leone, or Haiti who doesn’t have enough to eat let alone everything he could possible desire? How do you explain Job who was a Godly man with ungodly troubles?
Joseph remained faithful through it all both in the good and in the bad. And sometimes it’s harder to serve God when everything is going good then when things are bad. Major Alistair Smith of the Salvation Army made this statement concerning the Early days of the Salvation Army, “The world threw bricks at us then. Now they throw bouquets. I sometimes think that the bouquets do us more harm then the bricks ever did.” I believe that will be true of the Wesleyan church as well, as we become more and more respectable in the eyes of the community the easier it is to compromise our message for popularity. Let’s keep our eyes on the cross in the good times and the bad.
4) He Chose to be Persistent. He obviously knew the truth of Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
The secret of that passage is in the last five words, “If we don’t give up”. If we give up we don’t get nothing, Billy Sunday the pro baseball player turned evangelist summed it up by saying “Stopping at third adds no more to the score then striking out.” lot of truth in that. Kipling wrote If you can watch the things you gave your life to broken, and stoop and build ‘em up with worn out tools.”
How about it? Can you stick with it? I love the poster that has the picture of the cat hanging on the end of a rope and the caption says, “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
When we lived in Australia Stephen and I were coming back from soft ball practise one evening and as we drove home we could see a storm just ahead of us. Even though we were only getting a few drops of rain the storm loomed like a curtain in front of us. When we finally hit the squall it was pouring rain, the wind was blowing and there was a bit of hail. The wipers could hardly handle the rain it came down so hard. And as we got a little ways into it we saw a man pull over to the side of the road to sit the storm out. He had obviously driven as far as he was willing to go and you couldn’t really blame him could you? The ironic thing was that he was within a hundred yards of driving out of the storm. Because he stopped, he had to wait until the storm had gone by him again, and because he was obviously driving faster than the storm he would have ultimately caught up with it yet once again.
You got storms in your life? Don’t stop, don’t give up, seven times in the Revelation Christ gives promises to His church, but in all seven instances the promise is preceded by the thought “to those who are victorious” In the King James it reads “To those who overcome” In other words it isn’t how you start but how you finish that counts.
Sometimes life may be like a roller coaster with all its ups and downs but there is one more similarity and that is it isn’t safe to get off until the end of the ride.
When should Joseph have given up? When he was tossed in the well? When he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife? When he was thrown in jail? When he was forgotten by the cup bearer? When he became governor?
So let’s take a look at how the story ends.  (Read last two pages of book)

Treasures of the Heart

Here we are, April.  At Cornerstone, as most of you know, April signifies the end of our church year and the beginning of a brand new church year and financial year.  If you are wondering why April and not December there are probably a couple of reasons.  And if you are really interested give me a call sometime and we’ll chat about it.
I made a decision ten years ago that instead of preaching about stewardship in response to some financial crisis in the church that I would begin to develop a theology of giving at Cornerstone and methodically preach on it each year as one church year came to an end and another one began. It also allows us to address the issue of year end finances and new year finances together.  So here we are.  April, or money month as it’s been dubbed by some.
Now I understand that not everyone enjoys it when the preacher preaches on money, don’t feel bad, most preachers don’t enjoy it when the preacher preaches on money.  But I have discovered that most people don’t mind, they understand that if they are going to enjoy having a building to worship in, with heat in the winter and cooling in the summer, if they are going to enjoy the benefit of having a pastoral staff then somewhere along the line it will have to be paid for and paid for responsibly.
And all the expenses at Cornerstone are paid by those who attend here and who give sacrificially.  And some folks think “Well there are others who can afford to pay for it.”  Regardless of our circumstances giving costs something, every dollar that someone chooses to give to God’s work could have been spent or invested elsewhere, but a choice was made. 
But the issue isn’t what others are doing; the issue for each one of us should be what we are doing.  Throughout the Bible from the very first book God’s people were called to make giving a part of their worship, because God knew that something that costs you nothing is worth exactly what you pay for it.
And we appreciate those who sacrificially give to God’s work here at Cornerstone and with a $275,000.00  a year budget it really does require effort from all of us.   There is no one person who can or does underwrite Cornerstone.
So the message today begins with a little history lesson.  Cornerstone had its beginning 17 years ago this summer. Angela and I and our two children, who were 10 and 7 at the time, had returned from Brisbane Australia and under the sponsorship of the Atlantic District came to Bedford to start a new Wesleyan church. 
The financial commitment from the denomination was $10,000.00 American which was to be used to buy equipment, supplies and advertising and provide some training.  And back then $10,000.00  American was about 14 grand Canadian.  And from the District we were on a three year plan where the first year we would receive $30,000.00, year two we would receive $15,000.00 and year three we would receive $7,500.00 and then we were on our own.   And from that funding we needed to pay my salary, office expenses, phones, advertising and facility rentals. 
So as you can probably guess part of my responsibility was to raise the extra support we would need. So, our first year in Bedford I would meet people through the week and try to convince them to join us on this grand adventure and on the weekends I would travel throughout the Maritimes and Maine and beg.
 Well, the churchy term was to do deputation, and I called it my “Dog and Pony show”, but the reality was that every week would see me in a different church and sometimes two different churches with my cap out asking for money and prayer support.  And some I did very well at, and some, well not so well, not even sure if it paid for the gas to get there.  I wore out a car that first year, it was not unusual for me to put a 1000 or more km on my car each weekend.
But I had an interesting conversation with an old Wesleyan preacher by the name of A.D. Cann on one of those trips and by old I mean old.  It was at First Wesleyan in Fredericton, I had spoken there in an evening service toward the end of Denn’s magical mystery tour. 
We actually were worshipping together as a church by that time, so one  Sunday I had preached at our service and then I jumped in my car and drove to Fredericton for the six o’clock service.
After I had finished speaking Rev. Cann approached me at the door and told me that I was making a mistake when I stressed having prayer partners over giving partners.  You know in my appeal I would let people know that as important as having their financial support was that what we really needed was their prayer support.  
I guess I hadn’t expected that from someone like A.D. Cann.  He saw by my confused look that I just didn’t get it, and so he said “Remember what Jesus said, Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Rev. Cann went on to tell me that most people got that scripture mixed up and would say “that where your heart is there your treasure would be also.” And then he told me “People might say they are praying for you but if they aren’t supporting you financially they probably won’t have a passion or a reason to pray for you.  But if they are supporting you they will be praying for you, even if it’s only when the write the cheque each month.”
And I thought “Darn, why hadn’t I heard that at the beginning instead of the end of this process.”
You heard that scripture read for you this morning, it is a part of Jesus’ greatest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount and it is just one of the many places that Jesus talks about our money, how we earn it and how we spend it. 
So that will be our theme for this month, Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. Or simply put our theme is “The Treasures of the Heart.”
2000 years ago people weren’t a whole lot different than they are today; they were concerned with where they would live, what they would eat what they wear and at the end of the day whether or not they would have a little extra to put aside for a rainy day.  Every day they got up and went to work in order to meet those basic needs of their lives, and Jesus was speaking to those needs and those concerns when he warned people in Matthew 6:19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  And two thousand years later those things we collect still are in danger of rotting, rusting or being ripped off.  And with the stock market we could add just plain disappearing. 
But that isn’t what Jesus is warning people about, if you want to make faulty investments that is your choice.  If you want to collect shoes, cars or billy goats that’s up to you.  But if you profess to follow Christ, if you profess to be a God lover then Jesus is telling you to make sure that your love for stuff doesn’t take the place of your love for God.  And in the final measure, the number of shoes, cars or billy goats that you have will be irrelevant. Jesus is telling us that if you want to take peek into a man’s soul you just need to take a peek at his treasures. 
But it’s not as simple as just looking at a person’s net worth, it’s the motives that drives them.  How often have you heard people say “Jesus said that money is the root of all evil”?  Nope not at all, Jesus never said it.  What they are alluding to is a paragraph written by Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Now listen to the rest of the paragraph: And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.   Get it?  It’s not money it’s the love of money, and poor folks can fall into this trap as easily as rich folks can.
And so Jesus advises us to store our treasures in heaven and as a result that is where our loyalties and priorities will be.  He tells us that what we are doing with our treasure, no matter if it’s a big treasure or a little treasure will be indicative of deeper more important matters in our life.  And maybe you are sitting there thinking to yourself:  “Self I am glad I don’t have to worry about this because I don’t have any treasures.”
Well compared to some of our neighbours we may not have much treasure but globally we are obscenely wealthy.  A couple of things to think about 20% of the world’s population lives on $1.00 a day, another 20% live on $2.00 a day.  20% live on more than $70.00 a day and the other 40% fall somewhere in between.  8% of the world’s population own a car.  The combined income of the 477 wealthiest people in the world is greater than the combined income of half the world.  Did you catch that 477 people are richer than 3.25 billion people combined.  
 And so Jesus gives us direction in determining where our treasures are being invested.
When I started studying this scripture I completely missed the first point.  Jesus talks about having treasures in heaven and then he immediately segues into Matthew 6:22-23 “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”  And then he segues back otthe money again.   I was confused, what do your eyes have to do with your treasure?  Why would Jesus stick a completely different thought into this series of thoughts on where our treasure is?
And then it hit me:  What if this isn’t a different thought?
We Can Determine where our Treasures are by What We Are Looking At:   Here is a deep thought, you don’t have to have a treasure for it to be your treasure. Something can take a priority in your life long before you actually obtain it.  Those who would guide you to success would encourage you to cut out pictures of those things that you dream about and put them on your fridge, or the mirror of the medicine cabinet where you can see them every day and visualize them as yours.  But they aren’t yours and simply looking at them won’t make them yours, but it might make you bitter because you don’t have them. 
I heard a married man defend his girl watching habits once by saying “Just because you are on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”  But if you’ve ever been on a diet you know the worst thing you can do is look at the menu.  You might go into the restaurant with the very best of intentions, a grilled chicken breast, a baked potatoes and asparagus, and then you looked at the menu.
That’s why Jesus warned people 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. Because that is what happened to King David way back in 2 Samuel 11:2 Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. I’m assuming that the accidental view turned into something more prolonged because it wasn’t long before we read that David asked his servant to find out who she was and we are told in  2 Samuel 11:3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” And it wasn’t long after that he had invited her to see his etching and then the bible records that they slept together.  David was a married man and Bathsheba was a married woman, just not to each other.  There wasn’t anything David could do about his first glimpse of the beautiful Bathsheba, but he didn’t have to look again. 
It was earlier in David’s life that he wrote in Psalm 25:15 My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies. And if he had kept his eyes on the Lord he would have kept the rest of him out of trouble.
What is it that you are looking at? 
This isn’t so much a warning about having as a warning about wanting.  Because ultimately if we want it bad enough the question will be asked, what are you willing to do to get it?  What price are you willing to pay?  And it becomes a never ending quest for more.  What I call: the Cult of the Next Best Thing.  A bigger house, a better car, more pleasure.  And what you would be willing to do for it.  That’s why one of the Ten Commandments warns us about wanting what our neighbour has.  Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”
If you went to Sunday School as a child perhaps you sang the chorus.  “Be careful little eyes what you see.”  And that warning is a valid today as it was way back in Sunday School. 
And Jesus continues by saying Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
We Can Determine Where Our Treasures Are By What We Serve.  What is it in your life that has your priorities?  What has your focus, your passion?  I used to tell people that I could tell what their priorities were by looking at the two most important books in their life, their cheque book and their date book.  Well we don’t have cheque books or date books anymore, we do it on our pc’s but the principle holds true.  You can tell what is important to you by how you spend your money and how you spend your time.
What would you be willing to do to maintain your life style?  Your salary?  Do you remember the warning that we read earlier from the book of Timothy 6:10 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.   They were willing to give up the eternal for the temporal.  You understand that at the end of your life all that you will hold in your hands is who you are, not what you had.  Thirty years ago Bob Dylan wrote the song “You gotta serve somebody.” And you will choose what or who you are going to serve.  And what will they pay?  Will it be in things that will rot and rust, or will it be in currency that will last forever. 
Where will you invest the treasures of your heart? 
It is getting close to Easter and the story that is told in Matthew 26:14-15 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.
And there have been all kinds of theories about why Judas betrayed Christ.  Some think he betrayed Christ because of political motives; he had originally followed Jesus thinking that Jesus would establish an earthly kingdom and he became impatient and was trying to force Jesus’ hand.  Others would say that it is much simpler than that Judas did what he did for the money, and we are told that the thirty pieces of silver that he was paid would be worth over $1,600.00 in today’s currency, not bad for an evening’s work.   
But whatever reason there was something in the story that was more important to Judas than his relationship with Christ.  That’s where his treasure was and that is where his heart was.
On the other hand was the story told in Luke 7:37-38 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.
In a similar story in the book of Mark we are told that the jar of perfume was worth a year’s salary.  It was probably her savings and maybe it was part of her exit strategy out of her life.  Undoubtedly it was all she had and yet in Jesus she saw someone who was worth everything and more.  We don’t know the entire back story but at that point we do know where her treasure was and where her heart was.
And so Jesus is asking: Where do your loyalties lie?  Who or what are you serving?
And then Jesus tells the people who followed him that day, Matthew 6:25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
We Can Determine Where Our Treasures Are By What We Worry About.  What are your concerns in life? What keeps you up at night? Do you worry about how much money you make or don’t make?  Do you worry about keeping the stuff you have and do you worry about getting more stuff?  Jesus wasn’t telling people that what we eat, what we wear and where we live isn’t important in our life, just that it shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life.   
Because if we go back to Jesus initial statement Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  If your treasure is in the stock market you will be thinking a lot about the stock market and watching it go up and down.  If your treasure is in the bank you will be thinking about the bank and the interest rates they are paying.  But if your treasure is in heaven than you will be thinking about heaven.
But the reality is that most of us didn’t need to hear this message because we know exactly where our treasure is.