That’s not space. . .

That’s not space, that’s just really high in the sky. . .  I was brought up watching Star Trek, watching them “Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  When I was 9, I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and when I was 17 I was introduced to the conflicts that were happening between the Galactic Empire and the rebels.  And I knew one day mankind would conquer space and explore the heavens,  and now after all these years we have the International Space Station, so cool.  But just the other day I heard on a news report that the International Space Station was 350 km above the earth.  350 km?  I never thought of it before but that’s just about the same distance as Halifax to Sussex.  If I could get my Smart Car off the ground I could be at the Space Station in three and a half hours.  That’s not space, that’s just really high in the sky.
Mankind thinks so much of itself and its achievements, we say “we’ve been to the heavens and there is no God.”  The reality is, with all that we have learned and all that we have accomplished we have barely touched the very edge of His creation.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Jesus said about. . . Fear

What Jesus Said About Fear
So, what are you afraid of? 
What it is that sends Goosebumps up and down your spine, brings your
heart to your throat and makes you want to throw up just thinking about
it?  Snakes, heights, spiders, enclosed
spaces? 
Back in the day one of my favourite shows was “Fear
Factor”.  I had to watch it alone because
Angela didn’t like it, but I loved it, probably a character flaw.  The show tried to make a comeback this past
year but didn’t seem to connect this time and to be honest I didn’t watch it
the second time around, maybe it lost its appeal or maybe those of us who
watched it just grew up. 
Was anyone else here a “Fear Factor” fan?  If you never saw the show, it would normally
begin with six contestants, three male and three female.  And it would appear that these contestants
had to pass through a whole series of interviews to assure that ugly people
didn’t get on the show.
And then for an hour these people would compete to see who
would win the $50,000.00 prize that was given away each week.  During the time I watched the show the
contestants were covered in tarantulas, jumped from helicopters, leapt into
space and were covered with snakes..  Add
to that they’ve eaten eyes, brains, bugs and body parts we don’t discuss in
polite company.  When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “The
only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 
He obviously hadn’t watched this show.
 
 I would last about 27
seconds on the show.  I am terrified of
heights, scared to death of snakes and really my idea of exotic foods is
putting onions on my hamburger.  So what
are you afraid of? Now don’t tell me “nothing”; an article in one Medical
Journal stated “The man who knows no fear is not only
a gross exaggeration, he is a biological impossibility.”   You know that’s the truth with “Fear
Factor”  All you have to do is watch
their faces to understand that in many cases it’s not a matter of not being
afraid as much as it is a matter of conquering your fear.  And sometimes it’s fear that does the
conquering.
Fear will always be with us, it’s one of the base emotions
along with hunger, love and hate, and it’s not just limited to the human animal
but is instinctive and crosses throughout the animal kingdom.  You might even say that fear is a gift from
God, it keeps us alive.  Leonardo Da Vinci made this comment, “Just as courage imperils life; fear protects it.”
It is fear that keeps you from driving 200 km/h on a back
road, or stepping off a twelve story building. 
This is not an unnatural or unhealthy fear.  Of course you can overcome this, jumping out
of an airplane with nothing between you and the ground but a square of silk and
a bunch of strings should inspire fear, but skydivers overcome that.  Race car drivers have learned to overcome
their fear of speed.  On fear factor
contestants regularly are able to overcome their natural fears.
We’ve all
met people who are afraid of something and yet they have risen above their
fear. Those in the know tell us that 30% of the population are afraid of
flying, and yet many of those people will fly when they have to.
Flying does
not bother me in the least bit.  I used
to say that I had never been afraid in a plane that I have been flying or that
anyone else has been flying.  And then I
flew in Africa.  I forget what the
official name of the airline was but I will never forget that one national told
me that it was known unofficially as “Coffin Air”.  But even with that experience I still find it
difficult to understand the fear of flying. 
On the other hand Angela hates to fly, if it was up to her we would
drive everywhere we go, regardless of the distance.  Luckily there 
was an Ocean between here and Australia. 
Every year we fly south, she doesn’t like it but she does it.  She is able to overcome her fear in order to
do something she wants to do. 
But friends
I have a confession to make, I don’t like snakes.  Which is not surprising because my father is
terrified of snakes.  In one article
I read about fears and phobias states: “Many people suffering from a specific phobia have
at least one phobic parent.”  I
would agree, Dad passed that on to me and 
when it comes to snakes I am a coward, and I don’t mean a little bit
afraid I am terrified of snakes. 
25 years ago Angela and I went to Florida on a vacation,
during a trip we visited a place called Gator Land, I wanted to Go because
that’s where part of the Bond Movie, “Live and Let Die” with Roger Moore was
filmed.  Angela wanted to go because in
the brochure it said that you could have your picture taken with a four foot
boa constrictor and that type of thing shakes Angela’s tree. I mean she could
hardly wait to hold that monster.  Well I
laid awake most of the night before struggling with my fear of snakes, I had been
preaching about conquering your fear back in Truro and it was time for me to put my money
where my mouth was, so to speak.
On the screen you will see a picture of Denn with a four
foot boa constrictor wrapped around my neck. 
Yes I know the collar is up on my leather jacket, but the snake is still
there.  I am still terrified of snakes,
scared to death, but I have conquered the fear, it will no longer rule my
life.  If you were to bring a snake up to
me I could touch it, I could even hold it, but I ain’t ever gonna like it.  Which worked out well because if I hadn’t
gotten that fear under control I might never have moved to Australia where
they have 7 of the 10 most poisonous snakes in the world.  Which by the way if you haven’t heard our big
snake story, on one of our trips we ran over a snake on the road.  I know that’s not all that unusual, however
the reason we ran over this snake was because it was stretched across both
lanes of the road. Not a word of a lie.
We are told that the four greatest impelling motives in life
are fear, hope, love and faith and we are also told that the greatest is fear,
that it’s first in order, first in force and first in fruit.  Not in everyone of course, but in the
majority of people.  And the Bible talks
about fear, the word fear is mentioned 266 times and the word afraid is
mentioned 223 times.  The first time fear
is mentioned is in Genesis 3:10 and the last time it’s seen is Revelation 19:5.
So what did Jesus say about fear?  Well if you read through the Gospels you
discover that 15 times Jesus tells people to not be afraid.  Now he doesn’t tell people to be foolishly
fearless, but he does tell them to not be afraid of certain things. 
Luke
12:7
And the very hairs on your head are all
numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock
of sparrows.  And so Jesus begins
by telling us Don’t Be Afraid to Live  I’m sure that you understand by now that
you can become so busy making a living that you never actually take time to
make a life. We can become so caught up in the minutia that we miss out on the
bigger picture. 
At some point we have to come
to the place that we realize that we matter to God, that God loves us and wants
the very best for us.   We can choose to
trust God with our lives or we can choose to worry about everything in our
lives, but we can’t do both.
And all too often the things we
worry about only exist in our minds and often take on a life of their own.  And so we don’t do the things that we want to
do because we are so consumed with the consequences.  We don’t go places because we are afraid to
fly or take a boat, we don’t do things because 
there might be consequences, we don’t enjoy the today because we are so
consumed with what might happen tomorrow.
I
love the story of the Bishop who had this irrational fear that his legs were
going to become paralysed.  One night
while he was at a dinner party he reached down and pinched his leg, when he
couldn’t feel anything he exclaimed out loud, “Just as I feared, total
insensitivity below the waist.”  The lady
sitting next to him responded by saying, “If it’s any comfort your grace, the
leg you pinched was mine.”  I mean face it people the very least we can
do is make sure that we are pinching our own leg.
Don’t be afraid
to live.
Mark
5:36
But Jesus overheard them and said to
Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” Don’t Be Afraid to Believe  This
is one of the great stories in the New Testament.  Jairus is a leader in the local synagogue and
when he hears that Jesus has come to his community he tracks down the teacher
and falls at his feet, we can pick up the story in Mark
5:22-23
Then a leader of the local
synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his
feet, pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said.
“Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”
 And as Jesus makes his way to Jairus’
home he encounters and heals a women who has been sick for twelve years.  I’m sure that as Jesus interacts with the ill
woman that Jairus is shifting from one foot to the other, bouncing up and down
and muttering under his breath, “come on Jesus, come on, she’s been sick for
twelve years another few hours won’t make a difference, you can come back, my little
girl is really sick.” 
And then a message came for
Jairus, “It’s too late, your little girl is dead.”  “Dead, how could she be dead, she was just
sick.”  That’s not the way it’s supposed
to be, children are supposed to bury parents, parents aren’t supposed to bury
children.  And yet it happens.  I have buried far too many children in my
ministry, and from my perspective one would be far too many.  But it happens, and Jairus must have been
absolutely devastated when it happened to his child.   And then Jesus looks at him and says “Don’t
be afraid.  Just have faith.”    This man had faith enough to track down
Jesus, this man had faith enough to ask Jesus to heal his daughter.  Now Jesus was asking him to simply have a
little more faith.
And if you don’t know the story
Jesus arrives at the home and sure enough the little girl has died he sends
everyone out of the house and with the girl’s parents and Peter James and John
he stands at the edge of the bed and calls out to the child, and she opens her
eyes and lives and Jesus gives her back to her parents. 
“Don’t be afraid to believe
Jairus.  The worst has already happened,
your little girl has died, what will it cost you to believe?”  What is there in your life that God is
calling you to believe him for?  What
miracle do you need?  Don’t be afraid,
only believe.
 Too often we are like the boy who read in the
bible that if you have enough faith to believe that you can say to the mountain
“be moved” and it would be moved.  So he
looked out a pile of dirt in the back yard that his parents had asked him to
move and he closed his eyes and prayed, “Pile of dirt be moved.”  And he waited and then opened his eyes and
there the pile was, still there.  And the
little boy said “Just like I thought, it’s still there.”
How often do we pray, not
believing?    Don’t be afraid, only
believe.  Because faith will never ask
more than that you believe. 
Matthew
8:26
Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid?
You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and
suddenly all was calm.  Don’t be Afraid to Trust  This is another one of my favorite
stories from the Gospels.  To put things
into perspective here, it has been a full day, Jesus has taught the Sermon on
the Mount, heals Peter’s mother in law as well as the centurion’s servant.  People are still gathering around to hear
from the one who is being touted as the Messiah, God’s chosen one and so Jesus
commands Peter and the boys to get the boat ready and they set sail across the
Sea of Galilee.  Jesus fall asleep in the
boat and half way across Galilee a sudden storm blows up.  Now understand these guys aren’t in a large
enclosed vessel, it was probably  a small
open sail boat that was overloaded with the thirteen of them on board.  A description of what is happening is found
in Matthew 8:24-25 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking
into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up,
shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
And that’s where are scripture
comes in Matthew 8:26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little
faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was
calm.   You understand that they
were confident that Jesus could do what had to be done, they woke him up so he
could save them.  But they were still
terrified.  They didn’t just say “We’re
going to drown”  they started by saying
“Lord, save us!” 
Jesus was with them when they
started out and the sea was flat, Jesus was with them when the wind started to
blow up and Jesus was with them in the midst of the storm.   And there are all kinds of lessons we could
learn here, but the one that fits with this message is that even in the midst
of the storms we can trust Jesus.  There
are no promises in the scriptures that the Christian life will be without
storm, but there are all kinds of places where we are promised the presence of
God. 
One of my favorite promises in
the bible is found in the Old Testament Isaiah
43:1-2
But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD
who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for
I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go
through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of
difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
It’s easy to trust in God when
the sun is shining and all is well in the world, but what about when it
isn’t?  If you know the rest of the story
after Jesus calms the sea we are told that the Apostles were amazed because even
the wind and waves obeyed him.  A lesson
they could never have learned on a beautiful serene day.
Don’t be afraid to trust
him. 
Luke
5:10-11
His partners, James and John, the
sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid!
From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they
left everything and followed Jesus.
Don’t be Afraid to
Follow   
I would suspect that there
are people here today who Jesus has called to follow him but there is something
holding them back.  In the spring of 1979
my best friend decided that I should become a Christ Follower.  He had taken that step nine months before and
now he decided that I should.  He put
into play everything he had learned at Bible College, told me the difference
that Jesus had made in his life, led me through the plan of salvation, asked me
if I was ready to accept Christ as saviour and Lord of my life and I said
“Nope.” 
I’m sure that wasn’t the answer that Reg was looking for, he
had shown me all the scriptures the book had said to show me, he had asked all
the questions the book had said to ask me, and now all that remained was to
lead me through the prayer that was spelled out in the book, but I had said no.
 And in his frustration Reg deviated from
his script and blurted out “What are you so afraid of?”   And I said nothing, it’s just that. . .  and I listed out a whole list of reasons why
I couldn’t or wouldn’t become a Christ Follower at that particular point in my
life. 
And over the next several
months we would revisit that conversation, and I would say no and Reg would ask
“What are you so afraid of?”  And I would
insist that I wasn’t afraid of anything, but . . . And then one night Reg
convinced me to go to church with him, and so I did, what could it hurt.  And I reached down and picked up the bible
that was in the back of the pew and flipped it open randomly, I didn’t know
that there were different types of bibles and I certainly didn’t know that some
bibles had the words of Christ in red, all I knew was when I opened that bible
that night in Red letters in the middle of the page was Matthew 8:26 And he saith
unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”  And for the rest of that service I struggled
with that question.  “Why are ye
fearful?”  I was afraid I wasn’t good
enough and wouldn’t be able to fulfill the expectations I had of what a
Christian should do and shouldn’t do.  I
was afraid of losing control.  I was
afraid that I wouldn’t have any more fun. 
And that night I realized that
part of following was trusting.  And so I
did.  On September 2, 1979 at First
Wesleyan Church in Saint John I decided to follow Jesus, and I’ve never
regretted it.  He has taken me places I
would never have gone, he has allowed me to meet people I would never have met
and has allowed me to do things I would never have done.  And in the end he has promised me an eternity
with him.  Do you remember that old
Toyota advertisment, “Who could ask for anything more?”  
So, where are you at this
morning?  What is it that Jesus is asking
you to trust him with?  What is it that
Jesus is saying to you:  Do not be afraid
to. . .   
Let me leave you with the words of Jesus, his promise to you
for today, May 27th 2012,  John 14:27 “I am leaving
you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the
world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

I want a Submarine

I want a submarine.  Which is bizarre since I have never really wanted a submarine, except when I was 12.  But I want one now.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or even yellow, any old sub will do as long as it floats when it is supposed to and doesn’t float when it not supposed to. 
So what has brought about this sudden desire to become a submariner?   My recent discovery that the U.S. congress has told me that I can’t.  It seems in 2008 Congress passed a law making it illegal for me, Denn Guptill, to own and/or operate a submersible or semi-submersible vessel on the high seas, in international waters outside the normal territorial jurisdiction of the United States of America.  Can you imagine?  Who do they think they are? 
Often our response to God’s laws is just as silly and irrational.  If God says we can’t do it then by golly  we’re going to do it, even when we know that God puts those guidelines in place for our own benefit and safety.  Who does he think He is?  God of course, and we are supposed to obey Him because we love Him. 
But back to the point, does anyone know where I can buy a sub?  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Jesus Said About . . . Hate

If we were to ask you to name the opposite of a particular
word it would be easy, right?  Up,
down.  Right, left or right, wrong.  In, out. 
Black, white.  Happy, sad.  What about love?  You are thinking that would be easy, hate?  Maybe anger?   American psychologist, Rollo May stated “Hate is
not the opposite of love; apathy is.” 
Perhaps, but most of us don’t struggle with apathy.  But if I was a betting man I’d be willing to
wager that there are folks here today who struggle with hatred and anger.  You only have to turn on the news to discover
that we live in an angry world, a world that is more often than not defined by
hatred rather than by love.
Riots, wars and persecution are more often the fruit of
anger rather than apathy.  The news talks
about hate crimes or sometimes you’ll hear that someone has been accused of
committing a crime of passion, but that passion is the passion of anger.
Two weeks ago I spoke about how carelessly we use the word
love, we love this and we love that.  But
obviously there are different degrees of love because we don’t love our
children in the same way that we love our favorite TV show, we don’t love our
spouse like we love pizza.  Or at least
I’d hope not. 
And we carelessly use the word hate in much the same way, I
hate brussel sprouts, I hate “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, seriously I find
it disturbing that people enjoy watching the misfortunes of others, I hate rap
music, I hate anchovies on my pizza, I hate when you do that.  And some people might add, I hate that person.  On Monday morning after I started work on
this message I came out of Tims and someone had snugged up close to my Smart
Car, come on it only takes a half a parking spot people, and my first response
was “I hate when people do that.”  But do
I really?  Sure it bugs me, but does it
make me wish ill on the person who did it? 
And for many people hate and anger are intertwined.  And they excuse it.  “That’s just the way I am.  I’ve always been angry, it’s the way I was
raised, my parents were angry people.” 
Or they blame other people, “I wouldn’t get angry if they didn’t act
that way.”  “They deserve my
hatred.”  “They hate me.” 
But while it may be true that you’ve always been an angry
person you don’t have to remain an angry person.  It may be true that you were brought up in an
angry household that doesn’t mean you need to continue the cycle.  Do you want your children to be angry hateful
people?  Do you want them to use the same
excuse that you use?  “My father, or my
mother was an angry person, they taught me to hate.” 
You know my philosophy of choices.  We are what we choose to be.  We do what we choose to do.  And we are a product of our choices.  We are where are today as a result of choices
we made yesterday. 
And some people find that a discouraging thought, but it is
really liberating because when we accept that we are where we are today as a
result of choices we made yesterday then we can determine where we will be
tomorrow by the choices we make today. 
Emotions are a part of who we are, two weeks ago I spoke
about how we were created as emotional beings. 
But listen up we will either control our emotions or they will control
us.  And there is no place that is truer
than when it comes to our anger and our hatred. 
Today you will have the opportunity to choose to not be angry any
more.  Because as pithy and clichéique as
it might be:  Today truly is the first
day of the rest of your life.  
And this is important.  Listen to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 5:22 But I say, if you are even
angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,
you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,
you are in danger of the fires of hell. Wow.  Let’s read that again.  Matthew 5:22 But I say, if you are even
angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,
you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,
you are in danger of the fires of hell.
It was Martin Luther King Jr. who
said “Hatred
paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
In the book of Luke Jesus not
only told us not to hate, but he told us to turn that hate around.  Listen to his words in Luke 6:27 “But to you who are willing
to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.” And
then he goes on to the entire discourse if someone strikes you, turn the other
cheek.  If someone asks for your coat
give them your shirt as well.  If a
person demands that you go a mile, then go two. 
 Have you ever noticed how the
words of Jesus have become part of our everyday language?  Turn the other cheek.  He would give you the shirt right off his
back.  He’s always willing to go the
second mile.
Hate and anger are dangerous emotions.  They alienate people, they hurt people and
when you hate, when you get angry it reduces you.  It makes you less of a person and it negates
the power of Christ in your life.  (marvin
the martin video)  Anger is really only
funny in cartoons, in real life it is scary it’s frustrating and it is
demeaning.
Why do we hate?  If you were to ask someone why they hate
another person you would probably get as many different answers as there were
people you asked.  But when it is boiled
down to the core people all tend to hate for the same reasons.  They might dress it up with other words and
reasons but ultimately you can probably find the root here. 
Some people hate
because they have been hurt.
  They
feel that they are responding in kind to the way they have been treated. At
some point in their life they feel that they have been wronged.  And in many cases they have been.  Life and people can be cruel.  And so people respond with hate and with
anger.  Perhaps it was a physical hurt,
someone bigger and more powerful than you physically hurt you.  Or worse maybe it was someone you trusted, a
parent, a sibling, a spouse a neighbour. 
You would never have expected it of them and they hurt you and took
advantage of you, maybe took your innocence.  
Or perhaps it was an emotional hurt, you believed them and
they lied to you, you trusted them and they betrayed you.  Or maybe they hurt you financially, they
stole from you took your money or took your stuff.  But whatever it was and however it happened
they hurt you.
And so you hate them. 
And you would hurt them back if you could, but you can’t.  Either because you are incapable of it, or
simply because you know that society frowns on that type of thing.  And so you seethe in anger and marinade in hate. 
And it was wrong, there was no reason for them to hurt you,
you weren’t to blame, no matter what they say. 
But understand this; as long as you hang onto that hate they will
continue to hurt you.  It will consume
your days and it will steal your nights. 
 They will have reduced you to
their level as you relive the hurt and as you think of ways you can hurt them
back. 
It was Booker T. Washington who wrote “I will not
permit any man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.” 
So what is the solution? 
Most of us know the Lord’s prayer, if only in passing, many of us could
recite by rote, and because of that we don’t really hear the words we say.  But when Jesus told the apostles “This is how
you should pray”  it was new and fresh
and revolutionary.  And so they didn’t
just skim over the words, they thought about them and so when they heard Jesus’
words in Matthew 6:12 “Forgive us our sins, as we have
forgiven those who sin against us.”  They
were able to form in their minds a mental picture of who it was that they
needed to forgive and why they needed to forgive and it wasn’t easy.  I’m sure it were these words that Peter was
thinking about when he came to Jesus in Matthew 18:21
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who
sins against me? Seven times?”
 What makes me think
that as Jesus had been teaching Peter had been stewing.  Thinking about something someone had said
about him or did to him, perhaps more than once.  Maybe five time or six times and he was getting
tired of turning the other cheek.  And to
be truthful if this was more than a hypothetical situation and Peter had
already forgiven the person multiple times he was a better person than most of
us.  But he wasn’t ready for Jesus’
answer Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus
replied, “but seventy times seven!     
Jesus was telling Peter the same thing that Author Isabelle
Holland reminds us of today  “As long as
you don’t forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy a rent-free space in your
mind.”
And you may be thinking, but how can I trust them
again?  This isn’t about trust it is
about forgiveness.  And those are two different
issues.  Forgiveness is about the past,
trust is about the future. Sometimes we hear people say “you haven’t forgiven
if you haven’t forgotten.”  That isn’t
true. 
When we have been hurt by someone, emotionally, physically,
spiritually it hurts and will often leave a scar.  With forgiveness the hurt will go away but
often times the scar will remain.  If
someone takes advantage of me in a business deal, I can forgive them but I
would be silly if I allowed them to do it again.  Goes back to “Fool me once shame on you, fool
me twice shame on me.”
And if they broke the law they need to be accountable to the
law even if you forgive them, you can forgive them for what they did to you but
it is not in your power to absolve them of criminal behaviour.
And often it is the person who did the hurting who equates
forgiveness with forgetfulness.  The
person who breaks their wedding vows is hurt because their spouse doesn’t trust
them.  Duh.  The abusive parent can’t understand why their
relationship with their kid can’t be the same as other parents and kids have, even
after they’ve been forgiven.  Because the
scars are still there. 
You don’t forgive for them, you forgive for yourself, you
forgive to free yourself from the chains of the past and the prison of
hatred.  They may have stolen your past
don’t let them steal your future as well. 
And don’t forget, forgiveness is not a feeling it is an
action. 
Another reason people hate and get angry is Because Of Envy.  We hate people because they have what we
don’t and that makes us angry.  The 99%
weren’t angry because they have so little, they still have more than the
majority of the world.  No they were
angry because the 1% have so much more than they have.  With Nova Scotia Power seeking another price
increase the anger that comes out isn’t whether or not the increase is
justified it seems to be directed at the fact that Rob Bennett, the President
of Nova Scotia Power will make $1.1 million this year.    And you understand that if Rob Bennett
didn’t take a nickel of salary this year it would reduce your power bill by
less than a penny a day.  Thirty cents a
month.  But I understand your
frustration.  To think that the executive
who runs the utility that puts power in every one of our homes, every day, who
employs thousands of people and is responsible to keep the entire grid on track
is paid the same as a 24 year old hockey player from Hammond Plains is paid to
play a game.  Inconceivable. 
And so people hate those who are more successful than they
are, and hate those who have more money than they do.  Why do so many people around the world hate
the United States?  Because Americans have
so much more than they do.  They are
envious. 
It was Jerry Lewis who said “People hate me because I am a
multifaceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius.”   And probably because he’s so
humble. 
We think of envy as being kind of harmless but Jesus lists
envy along with theft, adultery and murder. 
In Galatians when Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature envy is there
along with idolatry, drunkenness, and selfish ambition.    In
his letter to the Romans Paul writes of every kind of wickedness and there is
envy on the list.    We mentioned earlier
that we don’t forgive for the benefit of those we are forgiving, in most cases
they couldn’t give a rip.  We forgive for
us.
In the same way most of those we envy it doesn’t bother
them.   Rob Bennett 
doesn’t lose sleep knowing that people envy his salary.  It was Herodutus, the Greek historian who said “How much
better a thing it is to be envied than to be pitied.”
The reason the Ten Commandments warns us to not covet, or
envy, the reason Jesus calls it sin, the reason Paul refers to it as wickedness
is not because of the damage it does to those we envy, but because of the
damage it does to us. 
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 so a step toward not hating is not envying.  And the way to not envy is by learning to be
content and that comes when we learn to be thankful for what we have.  The old hymn says “Count your blessings, name
them one by one, Count your many blessings see what God has done.” 
The third reason people hate is Because of Ignorance  People
hate other people because they don’t know better.  Because they have allowed themselves to be
swayed by the thoughts and hatred of others. 
And this is the cause of most of the hatred in the world.  It is so easy to hate people we don’t know.  The reason that the German people could be complicit
in the death of six million Jews in the holocaust was they had been told they
should hate them, and so they did.  The
reason for racism is that people are ignorant about other people and believe
what they are told. And so for far too many years African Americans weren’t
allowed in the same schools, restaurants, rest rooms and churches as their
white counterparts.  Why?  Because of ignorance.   And so the militant factions of Islam can raise
up suicide bombers because they convince them that those they are attacking
need to be killed and they shape ignorance into hatred.
And the antidote to ignorance
is truth.  As Christ Followers Jesus
promised us in John 8:32 “You will know the truth, and the
truth will set you free.”  There
is no good reason to hate someone.  If
you must hate then hate injustice, hate racism, and hate poverty. 
In our ignorance we hate those
who are different then we are and yet Paul reminds the early Christ Followers
in  Galatians 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free,
male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Let’s go back to where we began
Matthew
5:43-44
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate
your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
Don’t waste another day or
another ounce of energy on anger and hatred. 
You can’t change the past but your choices today will and can change
your tomorrow.  If you have anger issues,
if you have problems with hate then I want to pray for you right now.  And I want you to know that while you might
not be able to control those emotions by yourself you can control them with
God’s help.  Because anger and hatred are
not habits, they are not personality traits they are sin. 

Growing Older, but not Gracefully

I thought I was going to have to pick Angela up off the floor as she was laughing so hard. She was really enjoying herself at my expense. We were shopping and the clerk at the check-out asked if I was a senior. Hello! So I replied “yes, I’m ninety-two.” Which I thought was an indirect way of saying “NO I’M NOT A SENIOR YOU NINNY.” She gave me the discount.  In retrospect, I suppose I am a lot closer to sixty-five than I am to eighteen.  Well maybe not a lot closer  but definitely a little closer.  It’s funny though, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was a teenager, but becoming a senior seems like a long way off. Which is all a matter of perspective.
Now I understand what James meant when he wrote; For your life is like the morning fog – it’s here for a little while and then it’s gone.  I trust that none of you are putting off decisions until later….. it’s later already. Which is why the Bible says “Today”, not tomorrow, “is the day of salvation.” Not that the cashier’s comments bothered me……. much.  You’ll have to excuse me for now, I need to look for my Grecian Formula.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

A Hooker for Mom of the Year

Last week we started looking at:  What Jesus Said About our Emotions, and we’ll
be coming back to that next week, this week is all about mom. 
If you were looking for a contestant for “Mother of the
Year” this mom probably wouldn’t have made your list.  She was just a hooker, a lady of the
night.  And normally we wouldn’t even
consider her to be in the running for “Mother of the Year” but then again, it’s
not “Wife of the Year” we are looking at, it’s “Mother of the Year” and the two
aren’t always the same.  Maybe you know
the story, maybe you don’t.  We don’t
know a whole lot about her, we know that she was a prostitute; we know that she
lived with at least one other prostitute, we know that she was a new mom and we
know that she had a major problem. 
It seems that both the heroine of our story and her roommate
gave birth at the same time, which was probably an occupational hazard of their
particular profession. And they both had sons. 
One morning shortly after the boys were born it was discovered that one
of the children had died in the night. 
The cause given was that the mother had rolled over and smothered
him.   It’s here that the story gets a
little confusing.  The mother with the
dead child claimed that it wasn’t her son, that her colleague had switched the
boys in the night after the accident. 
The other mother protested her innocence and maintained that she had
done nothing wrong and that the children had never been swapped.
One of these women was lying; both could not be telling the
truth.  People do that you know, they
lie.  Honest.  I’ve been in the ministry for a hundred
years, well maybe not quite a hundred years but over thirty years, and I’ve
seen people lie.  I have sat down with
couples in marriage counselling and she has said black and he has said white,
and to look at them you swear they were both telling the truth, and yet they
couldn’t be. 
I’ve heard her say “He does this vile thing” and him say “no
I don’t, never have.”  And I just shake
my head. 
They sound like a couple of kids, “Did too” “Did Not”, Did
too” “Did Not”, “Did too”. 
And so we have a problem, who is telling the truth and who
is lying?   The story is found in the Old
Testament book of 1 Kings, David has died and Solomon his son has become king
of Israel. 
Tamara is going to come to read the story for us, and I’m going to ask that you
stand for the reading of God’s word. 1Kings
3:16-27
(Scripture Reading)
To put this story into context
we need that understand that shortly after Solomon had become king, he went to
a place called Gibeon to offer a sacrifice to God and while he was there he had
a dream where God appeared to him and offered him anything he wanted. Anything.
Suppose God appeared to you and made you the same offer.  “Say Bob, you can have anything you want, you
name it and it’s yours.”  What would you
request?  A better job, a bigger house, a
nicer car?  More money, a happier
marriage, there are probably a dozen good requests that you could make, all
valid choices.  But listen to how Solomon
responds in 1 Kings 3:9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your
people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself
is able to govern this great people of yours?”
Of all the things he could have
asked for he asks for wisdom.  Maybe he
didn’t need to ask for wisdom, maybe he was already wise because listen to how
God answers his prayer, 1 Kings 3:12-13 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise
and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I
will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in
all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!
You gotta love that.
And so Solomon
goes back to Jerusalem
and throws a feast for his entire court. It’s not long after that the two
prostitutes show up with this compelling problem. This is to be the first test
of Solomon’s wisdom.  It is an
interesting enough story that it has been used at the Harvard School of Law as
a case study. 
So what can we learn from this story and from this mother?
1) She was Willing to
be Persistent.
I wonder how many different avenues this woman how already
exhausted? Did the two women work for the same madam or pimp?  Had she asked them to intervene?  Had she gone to the local authorities?  Perhaps the magistrate?  Had they all given her the same answer,
“There is nothing we can do, how are we supposed to know which one of you is
lying?”  How often had she considered
giving up, just throwing up her hands and saying “It’s no good, I’ll never have
my child back.”? And if she had of done that what would the result have been?
Her child would never have been returned, she would have gone through the
remainder of her life full of self-doubt and self-loathing.  For the rest of her time on earth she would have
been plagued with “What if” and “if only”
And yet deep down inside she knew that somewhere there would
be someone who would listen to her, that somehow the truth would come out.  Most of us will go to extremes for our kids,
we drive them back and forth to music lessons, soccer, hockey, baseball,
hockey, school events, dances, did I mention hockey?  We want our kids to have the very best and we
are willing to persevere to make sure they get the very best.
And we don’t give up on them, we want them to do the very
best they can do in school, in sports, socially.  And we push them and encourage them,
sometimes we berate them.  But we do it
so they will achieve and be the very best that they can possibly be, although
sometimes I wonder if we are pushing them to be the very best we should have
been or could have been. 
And we try not to give up, even though at time that would
appear to be the easiest thing to do. As parents we are supposed to be the ones
that know the benefits of perseverance, they are children we are adults. 
They can’t see the end result; they think we are just being
annoying when we continue to pester them about doing their homework, and
practicing their piano and brushing their teeth.  But we know that in the end those are the
things that will make the difference. That when they are adults and have an
education, can play the piano and don’t’ have to keep their teeth in a glass
they will thank us. 
And it’s not something that we do once, you know in grade
one your kid comes home, you say “Don’t forget to do your homework.” And that’s
the last time you have to mention it.  And
every parent here knows the truth of Margaret Thatcher’s statement when she said “You may have
to fight a battle more than once to win it.” This woman was willing to
go the second mile and the third mile and the fourth mile, even if it meant
that she, a prostitute, would have to make her way to the throne room of the
King of Israel, the spiritual leader of the nation to plead her case.
As parents we all know the need to persevere in the things
of the world, school, sports, music, but how about the spiritual?  Are we willing to go the limit to make sure
our kids are in church, go to youth group and are involved in spiritual things  After all if they blow their education they
can go back for upgrading, if they don’t learn piano oh well, they probably
won’t make it to the NHL anyways and they can always wear dentures, but
eternity is forever. And remember you may have to fight that battle more than
once to win it, but it needs to be won.   
I don’t know what Robert Strauss
was referring to but he could have been referring to parenthood when he said “It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when
you’re tired, you quit when the gorilla is tired.”
And it was Julie Andrews,
who said “Perseverance is failing 19 times and
succeeding the 20th.” I think it was Suzanna Wesley, John and Charles
Wesley’s Mother who had nineteen children, twelve of whom live. Once she was
telling one of her children something and someone said “That is the tenth time
you’ve told that child that.” And Suzanna replied, “And if I’d only told them nine
times, I would have wasted my time.” You understand what she meant right?  It might be the next time that sticks.
2) She was willing to
Make Sacrifices
Here was a woman who was willing to give up everything for
her child, her time, her pride and even her child.  We all know that raising kids require
sacrifice, right?  Financially you all heard
how much it costs on an average to feed, clothe and educate your children. An
article in US News started off this way “To examine in coldly economic terms a
parent’s decision to have children is widely thought to be in bad taste. A
child, after all, isn’t precisely akin to a consumer product such as a
dishwasher, a house, a car, or a personal computer–any one of which, of
course, is cheaper to acquire and usually easier to return.”  According to money sense magazine  the cost to raise a child to the age of 18 is
$243,660.00 and that doesn’t include the price if you kids get really serious
about their sports or hobbies, that assumes you have health insurance for
dental, prescriptions and glasses and it doesn’t include their post-secondary
education. 
That’s a small bungalow, somewhere, or ten Harleys, 1.2
Mercedes SL550 convertibles, or staying with the fine German Engineering ragtop
theme, 12 Smart Convertibles.  And that’s
before they go to college. But of course the sacrifices don’t end there.  We make sacrifices of our time, or our
energy, and for the most part they think you enjoy getting up at 5 a.m. to get
them to hockey practice and that you enjoy waiting up until midnight or later
to make sure they get in safe and sound. And for the most part we are willing
to make those sacrifices.
And it’s those sacrifices that make us parents; South
African Writer Nadine Gordimer said “There is no moral authority like that of sacrifice.”  And Mothers you know that,  how many times have you used sacrifice as your
moral trump card?  “After all I’ve done
for you, carried you for nine months I was as big as a house, my feet swelled
up like bedroom slippers, and do you want to see my stretch marks? And then,
and then, you want to break my heart, well go ahead.”  There well may be folks here today because
mom played the guilt card. 
But this woman was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,
she was willing to give up her child. She would give up her opportunity of
being a mother in order for her child to live. 
That’s what set her apart from the other woman, with the other woman it
was all about her. 
I have a cousin who became pregnant when she was a teenager,
in Australia we’d say she fell pregnant, which always caused me to have all
kinds of weird mental pictures, opps, thump, “Dear I think I’m pregnant.”  Anyway, when my cousin was still in High
School she gave birth, and gave the child up for adoption to a Christian couple
who couldn’t have children. She felt that as much as she wanted to keep her child
that they would have more opportunities with that family.
That’s not always the case, sometimes single moms make the
sacrifice of raising a child by themselves because they feel that it will be in
the best interest of the child. My mom was a teenaged mom, and she didn’t do a
half bad job with my sister and me, then again my sister is in and out of jail
all the time, well actually she works for the corrections department but I like
my story better.
Oh and when you make those sacrifices so they will be better
scholars, better hockey players, better musicians don’t forget to make some
sacrifices so they will be better people, better Christians. Like getting up on
Sunday Morning so they are in church, getting them out to youth events, paying
for them to go to Christian rallies and Christian Camps. 
We have literature on the back table about Caton’s Island
which is second to none when it comes to summer camping programs. You say “Denn
we can’t send them to hockey camp, music camp, computer camp and a Christian
Camp” Yeah you’re probably right, so you figure it out.
3) She Was Willing To
Go To A Higher Power
Here’s the question, do you take your kids to a higher
power?  Not to the king but to God?  Do you pray for your children, over your
children and with your children?  I have
a confession to make, we weren’t very good at “Family Devotions” I hope that
didn’t just destroy your image of the perfect pastoral family.  We’ve tried, and we would do it for a while,
read scripture and pray together, but then it would get tough, we couldn’t get
everyone together, we were tired and I know that was no excuse.  And I know that doesn’t happen with anyone
else, but boy it was a struggle for us.
But we do pray for our kids,
Angela prays for them when she has her quiet time with God, I pray for them
when I have my quiet time with God and we pray for them together.  And here’s something we did, I’m not
bragging, don’t get me wrong this is just something we did. Every day when our
kids went to school they knew that they were not stepping out through that door
until I placed my hand on them and prayed for them.  When I wasn’t home Angela did it.  We thanked God for who they are, we asked God
to protect them and be with them, and we asked God to draw them closer to
Him.  It wasn’t always an eloquent
prayer, sometimes it was a rushed prayer, but we prayed for our kids every day
from primary to graduation.
You do not have what it takes
to be a parent, but God does and he can give it to you.  If you aren’t praying for your kids then you
need to start and at the same time pray that God will make you a better parent.
James the brother of Christ tells us in the letter he wrote, in James 1:5 If you need
wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke
you for asking.   And what parent
doesn’t need wisdom?
The question has to be:
Why?  Why was she willing to be
persistent?  Why was she willing to make
sacrifices?  Why was she willing to go to
a higher power?  Because she was a mother
and She Wasn’t Willing To Lose Her
Child. 
There are probably many of
you here today who have come at the request of your mother for the same
reason.  And probably husbands who are
here to appease their wives on Mother’s Day. 
And here is the truth boy and girls, the reason your mother is so
concerned about you being in church is she doesn’t want to lose you. 
The thought of being separated
for eternity from the ones she loves is almost unbearable for her.  In many cases it is mom who first embraces
Jesus as her Lord and she wants to pass that gift onto the ones she loves.  Kids if you have never chosen to follow
Jesus, husbands if you aren’t Christ followers then it is breaking the heart of
your mother and your wife.  She knows the
reality of 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.
The reason that your mom
pesters you about church and your faith and reading your bible, the reason she
is willing to make sacrifices to get you here, the reason she lays awake at
night and prays for you is because she loves you.  And just like the mother in this story, she
doesn’t want to lose her children, or her husband.  Your mother could have written the words from
3 John 1:4 I
could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the
truth.
And so part of why your mother,
or your spouse was so insistent about you coming today is because they are
hoping I will tell you what they want to tell you and that is this:  They don’t want to lose you, they don’t want
to go to sleep each night wondering where you will spend your eternity.  And they want so bad for me to tell you what
Peter told the crowd outside of the temple gate in Jerusalem  Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins
may be wiped away.   If you are
here today and you have never chosen to follow Jesus it is just that easy.  Repent is what you do, it’s when you stop
following your desires, it’s when you turn away from the world and in doing
that you turn to God.   It is the
decision that you make to commit your life, your past and your future to Jesus
Christ.   Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved
you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a
gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so
none of us can boast about it.
Are you ready to take that step today.  It really is win win, you get a gift from
God, because his word tells us that the gift of God is eternal life, and in the
process you give your mother a gift that she has only dreamed of. 

They will know we are Christians by our. . .

Well, it would appear that young William Swinimer has become something of a folk hero in the Christian community.  You would think he had been burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his faith instead of being asked not to wear a T-Shirt that some might feel was offensive.  Obviously nobody in the Christian community would feel it was offensive, but what about the other 85% of the population? 
The T-Shirt in question states “Life is wasted without Jesus” and Swinimer fought the good fight and the school board relented and said he could wear the shirt.
I wonder about the reasoning behind the shirt?  Was William wearing it to lead people into a relationship with Christ?   In one interview Swinimer stated, “ I have my rights as a Canadian citizen”.  If that is really the case, then this isn’t about Jesus it’s about rights.  And Jesus talked about grace, and sacrifice and love, but he never mentioned rights. 
What the decision means is that Christians have won the right to offend, but we have also won the right to be offended. 
Bottom line is this, Jesus told us that the world would know we followed Him by the way we loved, not by what we wore.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Jesus said about Love

Last month our focus was “What
Jesus Said About Money” and money is something that affects all of us in one
way or another.  Some of us because we
have it and others of us because we don’t. 
And last week at the end of the series we had Step Up Sunday and we
asked folks to make a financial commitment for the upcoming year.  And many of you took the challenge and
committed to increase your giving over last year, thank you so much. 
Now we are going to take a wee
bit of a turn, over the next month and a half I’m going to be looking at “What
Jesus Said About Our Emotions”.  And we
are all emotional creatures.  Some more
so than some but we all have emotions.  And
sometimes it makes us question one another when others don’t feel like we
feel.  And so questions are asked like
“Do you have to be so emotional?” or the converse “Don’t you have any
emotions?”  And the answers are “yes” and
“no”. 
For those who wear their hearts
on their sleeves they do have to be so emotional, that’s the way they are
wired.  And for those who don’t show
their emotions all the time, that doesn’t mean they don’t have emotions they
just don’t show them. 
People who have no emotions are
sociopaths, they don’t love, they don’t grieve, they don’t feel joy or
sorrow.  But that isn’t the way it is
supposed to be, we were created as emotional beings.  From the very first stories of creation we
see Adam and Eve as creatures of emotion.  
God created man, but then said it was not good for man to be alone.  So there was the emotion of loneliness, then God
created woman and the man felt joy, and probably other emotions too but we
won’t get into that.   They ate the
forbidden fruit because of envy, they wanted what they didn’t have and what God
did, then after they realized they had been deceived by the devil they felt
afraid, and when they were confronted over their behaviour they felt guilt and then
shame. 
And it is emotion that moves us
to action, whether good action or bad action is up to us but action nevertheless.  It was Carl Jung who said “There can be no transforming of
darkness into light, and of apathy into movement, without emotion.”
So from now until the middle of
June we are going to be looking at “What
Jesus Said About Emotions” 
Love, anger,
joy, fear and self-esteem.  Because we
can’t ask Jesus to be in control of our lives unless he is also in control of
our emotions.   We can’t just box that
area of our life up and call it out of bounds to God.  We can’t tell God “You can have control over
all areas of my life except for my emotions.” 
We can’t declare our emotions “out of bounds” or “off limit” to his
Lordship.   We can’t justify how we feel
about things and how we react to things as simply “The way I was made” or the
“Way I was born, I can’t help myself.”
Remember
when we commit ourselves to a life of following Jesus that he defined it as
“Being born again”, so while we may justify our behaviour as “the way I was
born”  it doesn’t have to be part of your
new birth.  And the excuse of “I’ve always
been like that” doesn’t cut it in light of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who
belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has
begun!
So, where
should we start?
Almost thirty years ago Tina Turner
had a hit song with “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”  In the case of Christianity love has
everything to do with it. 
Christianity was birthed in love
was shaped by love and continues to be defined by love.  But what is love? 
If you asked a dozen people what
love was you would probably get a dozen different answers.  And most of those answers would relate to how
someone feels about someone else.  It was
Woody
Allen who said “I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love
or I had smallpox.”  And so for
most of us love is a feeling, an emotion and it’s hard to control or harness
our emotions.  And that’s why people can
fall in love with someone and then fall out of love with the same person.  And so if we don’t have an emotional bond
with someone than we don’t feel that we can love them. 
We bandy the word love around like it’s just a collection of
letters but it is so much more than that.  
And you will hear people say they love this or they love that.  But they can’t really love a reality show the
same way they love their mother.  They
can’t love pizza the way they love God. 
The Greek language however has several different words that
are used to convey love for different things. 
First there is Eros, which is a sensual love, a passionate love.  So my love for Angela is Eros.   The next form of love was Philio and
this is the warm fuzzy feeling we have for those nearest and dearest to us.  It is Philio that I feel for Reg Thomas who
has been my best friend since 1974.   This is friendship.  Have you ever wondered why Philadelphia is called the city of brotherly
love?  Then there is Storge, and
this is affection, what you feel for your family members.  This is the emotion that I feel for my
parents and my children. 
When Jesus talks about loving my neighbour, and loving other
Christians and loving my enemies he doesn’t expect me to love them like I love
Angela, or Reg or Stephen and Deborah. 
Instead he uses the word Agape.  And agape is less a feeling of the heart and more
a feeling of the mind.  It is as much an
act of the will as it is an act of the emotions.  It is a choice we make.   It is why Jesus can tell us to love our
enemies.  It is a conscious action,
something that you decide to do and something that you cannot do without the
power of the Holy Spirit in your life. 
Remember the sum of Jesus teaching is to Love God and to
Love Others.  Which is why when there is
a disaster, on the other side of the world, happening to people we don’t know
and might not like if we did know them Christian relief organizations are there
firstest with the mostest.  And you have
to wonder what would happen if everyone lived by those principles?
It was Napoleon Bonaparte who wrote “Alexander,
Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we
rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire
upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”  And the foundation of Jesus’
teaching?  Love for God and Love for
People.
So it goes
back to: what is love?  And I think we
all know what love is supposed to be but that seems way too hard so we try to
define what love is and what love isn’t. 
Do you
remember the story of the Good Samaritan? 
Do you remember how it started?  A
man came to Jesus and asked the question Luke 10:25 One day an expert in
religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher,
what should I do to inherit eternal life?”   And so Jesus said you know what you
are supposed to do, what is it the Law says? 
And the man replied by saying Luke 10:27 The man answered, “‘You must
love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength,
and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”   
Simple
enough right?  That must be what Jesus
thought because he replies by saying Luke 10:28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”   Simple, right?  Apparently not because in the next verse we
read Luke 10:29 The man wanted to justify his
actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”   And that’s when Jesus told the story
of the Good Samaritan ending with the question Luke 10:36-37 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man
who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed
him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”  Simple, right?  Obviously not as simple as one would think
because throughout the New Testament love is constantly being defined, spelled
out and clarified. 
Jesus told those who choose to
follow him in John
14:15
“If you love me, obey my commandments.”
  So
what are those commandments?  Luke 18:20 Jesus
said “But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must
not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not
testify falsely. Honor your father and mother.’”
And so Jesus told us that You Love People By Not Doing Things to Them  This is probably the easiest way to
define love and the easiest way to display love.  Love does no wrong to others. 
We have all heard about the
Hippocratic Oath, even if we don’t know what all is in the Hippocratic Oath,
and what we do know is delivered through television and is wrong.  We hear TV Doctors say “remember what it says
in the Hippocratic Oath “First do no harm”” 
but that isn’t in the Hippocratic Oath, that is just an old Latin
saying. 
The Hippocratic Oath is the Oath historically
taken by Doctors and it was written by a Greek Doctor named Hippocrates 400
years before the birth of Christ.  And
the first part of the oath states:  I will
prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my
judgment and never do harm to anyone.
So really if we took a similar
oath to never harm anyone we would be well on the way to being a loving person.  A good part of Love is not harming
people.  Physically or emotionally. 
When Paul was defining love for
the early Christ Followers in Rome he reached back into the Ten Commandments
and pulled out four of the last five commandments Romans 13:9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must
not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such
commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbour as
yourself.”  So from this reference
anyway love seems pretty simple.  You
demonstrate your love to your spouse by not sleeping around on them.  You show you love to your annoying neighbour
by not choking them to death while they sleep or poisoning their
strawberries.  You show your love to the
rich man down the street by not stealing his shiny new car.  And you do this by not coveting what doesn’t
belong to you, not his wife, not his life and not his possessions.    
But when you stop and think about
it, if that is all there is to loving someone all you would have to do is avoid
them.  If you have no contact with people
then you will not steal from them, lie to them, murder them etc. etc. 
By that definition of love the
first two men who came upon the traveller in the story of the Good Samaritan
loved the man, because they did not kill him, they did not steal from him or
lie to him or rush home to sleep with his wife.
So the most loving people in the
world would be the hermits who retreat from society, and maybe that’s why they
do it.  It’s just easier to be nice to
people when there are no people around to annoy you. 
But for most of us that’s not an
option.
So in the real world our love
is not only defined by how you don’t behave, more importantly it is shown by
what we do do.  Luke 6:27 “But to you who
are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.”  And so Jesus told us that  You
Love People by Doing Things For Them 
If
it was just in not doing bad things then we could love our enemies by ignoring
them, but Jesus actually tells us to do good to those who hate us.   Probably the greatest definition of love
written is in 1 Corinthians 13 and this is what Paul writes 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own
way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It
does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love
never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every
circumstance.
This is how we show love in the
everyday, nitty-gritty world we live in. 
This is how we display the love we show to our family our friends and
the strangers we come in contact with every day.  Maybe it could simply be redefined as
respect. 
It is more about what you do do
than what you don’t do. In this case love becomes work.  It goes beyond avoiding a problem and it
corrects the problem.
It is love that forgives, it is
love that goes the extra mile, it is love that prepares meals for Ronald
McDonald House, and love that puts on work clothes and helps clean up the back
yard at Phoenix house or helps paint rooms at Adsum house.  It’s love that writes the cheque for World
Hope or World Vision when there is a need on the other side of the world.
And it’s the little things,
holding the door for someone when you go into a store, from my vantage point at
Tim’s I am amazed at how few people exhibit even that basic common
courtesy.  Giving someone a break in
traffic, giving the homeless guy a buck and not lecturing him on his behaviour,
how about giving someone a smile.  Carol
Burnett said that her philosophy in life came from Beverly Sills who said “I’m not always
happy, but I always try to be cheerful.”
It’s easy to
love those who love us, Jesus tells us that in Luke 6:32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for
that? Even sinners love those who love them! Hitler probably loved his
mother. 
But this
isn’t about loving the high profile sinners, the Paul Bernardos in life, or the
crazy pig farmer from BC, well it is kind of but that is pretty abstract. 
This is
about demonstrating the love of Christ to those we come into contact with every
day, the staff at Tim Horton’s, the homeless guy on the street, the person you
work with, your spouse and your kids. 
How about
the parent who abused you?  The boss that
passed you over for promotion?  The bully
who picks on you?  What about the jerk
that cuts you off in traffic or has 12 items in the 10 item express lane.   
Luke 6:33-35 And if you do good only to
those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!
And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get
credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your
enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then
your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as
children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and
wicked.  Not just avoid doing them
harm but do good to them.
That’s
tough, and it will be a choice that you make, you will either do it or you
won’t do it.
Lets’ go
back to the scripture that was read earlier, where Jesus told his apostles John 13:34-35 So now I am giving you a new
commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each
other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my
disciples.”
And finally Jesus
said Your  Love Defines Who You Are  People will recognize you by what you do
and don’t do.
Jesus told
us that when people see our love they will know that we belong to him.  Do they? 
And John writes in 1 John 3:14
If we love our Christian
brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a
person who has no love is still dead.  And Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:8 Most important of all,
continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
And I know
as Christians that we blow it from time to time and there are always people
around to point a finger and say “and you call yourself a Christian”.  And that’s good because we need to be
reminded occasionally that we do call ourselves Christians and with that comes
responsibilities. And the greatest responsibility that we have as a Christ
follower is to demonstrate his love through the way we live.  “Your love will prove to the world that you
are my disciples.” 
Because
ultimately Jesus said that people would know that we follow him, not by our
wealth, and not by our theology, or by the translation of the Bible we read, or
the church we attend or the T-shirt we wear but by the way we love.  And you say “that sounds hard.”  It is hard; if it was easy everybody would be
doing it. 
So the
bottom line is this “If people had to guess who you were following by your life
and your behaviour what would their first guess be?”
Every one of
us is older today then we were yesterday, and yesterday is gone, you can’t
change how you loved people yesterday but you can decide how you are going to
love them today and tomorrow.
And so I close with the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 
“Love is a force that enables you to give other things. It is the
motivating power. It enables you to give strength, freedom and peace. It is not
a result; it is a cause. It is not a product, it produces. It is a power, like
steam or electricity. It is valueless unless you can give something else by
means of it.”
 

Changing Speed Limits

“If higher speed limits are set, people will simply not be exceeding them as much.”  That is the rationale behind stop100.ca, a group that is calling on the Ontario Government to increase speed limits to as high as 130 km/h.  A spokesman from the Ontario Transportation Ministry stated that in 2008, speed contributed to 21% of highway fatalities and the department has no interest in changing the present limits.
Stop100.ca says that their goal isn’t to increase the speed that motorists presently drive, it is simply an attempt to de-criminalize the way people already behave.  Their rationale is :If most people break the speed limit, then  the speed limit must be wrong.  However Ontario Transportation maintains “Experience in other jurisdictions generally indicates that fatal collisions can increase with higher speed limits.” 
We see  in society the behaviours that fifty years ago would have been considered wrong, have gradually been accepted and now are considered normal.   
That has happened in the church as well.  If people couldn’t or wouldn’t live up to the standards set by the Bible, the church simply lowered the bar.  But the Bible warns us in   Proverbs “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”   
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.