Strange attractions

Well, that is a little disturbing. Actually, it is very disturbing. But unfortunately, not unexpected. Since the news was released about Luka Magnotta’s murder and dismemberment of Jun Lin in Montreal, he has garnered literally hundreds of online fans. His largest fan page on Facebook has over 1400 members and that is just one of many. There are those who think that Magnotta has been hard done by–that he is either innocent or, because of mental illness, isn’t responsible for his actions.
Others have no doubt that Magnotta is guilty as sin, but they say they admire his style. One admirer wrote, “I like Luka Magnotta because he is inspirational, nice, and very, very good looking.” It would appear that Magnotta has achieved that fame that had eluded him for so long.
I suppose if there weren’t those who were attracted to the dark side, Satan would be very lonely. Some people are attracted to evil in the same way that moths are attracted to a flame. And often with the same results.
We can’t change what others are attracted to, but let’s be careful to set our minds on what is true and honourable, right and pure, lovely and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Did He Really Say That?

Man on the Street video about Jesus.
So who do you think Jesus was? And more importantly: who do
you think Jesus is today?   You obviously think something about Jesus you
are sitting in church on Sunday Morning. 
So who is Jesus for you?  Usually
Jesus gets good reviews, even when people don’t think he was born of a virgin,
or was raised from the dead or was the Son of God, they like the idea of Jesus
even if they aren’t entirely comfortable with all that is taught about
Jesus.  And because of that people
sometime try to redefine him into someone they can understand.   That is why Mikhail Gorbachev could say “Jesus was the
first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.”  And Mahatma Gandhi would write “A man who was
completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others,
including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect
act.”   Atheist Friedrich Nietzsche wrote “The word
“Christianity” is already a misunderstanding — in reality there has
been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross.” And John Lennon said
“Jesus
was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it
that ruins it for me.”
But who did Jesus say he was?  That is really the crux isn’t it?  Because it doesn’t really matter what people
say about Jesus, or how people define Jesus. 
What really matters is how Jesus defines himself.
In the scripture that was read
earlier Jesus makes a statement and a claim that was readily understood by
those who first heard it but sometimes causes confusion when it is read
today.  So this morning we are going to
take a look at John 8:58 Jesus
answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”   And some of you can’t get your mind
around that because you are so caught up in the obvious incorrect use of the
verb.   You are thinking “No, he should
have said ‘before Abraham was even born, I was!”  And that is because you are thinking that
Jesus was using “I am” as a verb when in reality he was using it as a noun.  How confusing is that? 
So let’s go back to the story
to find out what exactly was going on here.
There are a couple of key
thoughts that happen here in John 8. 
Jesus has been teaching the crowds and we read this statement in John
8:30
Then many who heard him say these things
believed in him.
That’s awesome, people are
believing in Jesus.  And for many
churches that is all they require that people believe in Jesus.  But Jesus wasn’t content that they merely
believe in Jesus, he seemed to feel that it was important that they believe in
the right Jesus.   He challenged them on
their beliefs.  And he does that
different times when he asked the Apostles “Who do people say I am?  And more importantly who do you say I
am?” 
And so after we read of the
many who believed in Jesus we see Jesus confronting their beliefs.  John 8:31-32 Jesus
said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you
remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth
will set you free.”
And this bothered them.  They immediately interject John
8:33
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they
said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set
free’?”  And they get angry, and
nasty.  They had assumed that their
religion would save them, they just wanted to add Jesus as a condiment.  They believed in the Jesus they wanted to
believe in, not Jesus as he defined himself. 
And so they get into this big discussion about his standing with Abraham
and he tells them John 8:56 “Your
father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was
glad.”
And that is more than they can
stand, that’s just madness and that’s what they tell him John
8:57
The people said, “You aren’t even fifty
years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”
Now if Jesus simply wanted to
talk about his pre-existence he would have said ‘before Abraham was even born,
I was!”  but that isn’t what he says,
what he says is John 8:58 Jesus
answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!”   And that is confusing for us but it
wasn’t confusing for those he said it to, because listen to their response. John
8:59
At that point they picked up stones to
throw at him.
It wasn’t because he had bested
them in intellectual debate, it was because of what he was claiming.  And they knew exactly what he was saying,
they weren’t confused at all.  They had
all been brought up in the culture of the Torah and the Old Testament, they
knew the story of Moses and how he had delivered the people of Israel from the
slavery of Egypt and they most certainly knew how God spoke to Moses from
burning bush.
Maybe you remember the
story.  How the Israelites had become
slaves in Egypt and how the Pharaoh had become worried that the slaves were
becoming too numerous and might rise up in rebellion.  So he orders all the boy babies that are born
to the Israelites be killed.  One Jewish
mother hid her baby boy in the bulrushes along the Nile River and it was there he
was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who named him Moses, and he is raised in the
Palace as the Grandson of the Pharaoh. 
Still with me?  When Moses was an
adult he discovers his heritage and one 
day he comes across an Egyptian beating an Jewish slave, he steps in and
while defending the slave he kills the Egyptian.  Facing possible murder charges Moses flees to
the desert where he is eventually called by God to go back to Egypt and rescue
his people.  If you don’t know the story
from the Bible you know it from the Disney film, Prince of Egypt, which has
more singing.  And at this point you may
be thinking, “Sure but what does this all have to do with people throwing rocks
at Jesus?”  We’re getting there. 
The way God speaks to Moses is
from a burning bush, and Moses isn’t sure he is up to the challenge, after a
little bit of back and forth Moses agrees to accept the challenge, but he has
one last question for God.  And we find
that question in Exodus 3:13 But
Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of
your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then
what should I tell them?”  Good  question Moses, and here is the answer to
Moses question and the answer to your question what does this have to do with
people wanting to stone Jesus. 
Exodus 3:14 God
replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has
sent me to you.”   And so when
Jesus said in John 8:58 Jesus
answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” He
wasn’t saying “I was around before Abraham was created”  he was saying “I created Abraham”.  And the people understood that in no
uncertain terms that Jesus was saying “I am God”.  And they considered that blasphemy and under
Jewish law the penalty for blasphemy was spelled out in Leviticus
24:16
Anyone who blasphemes the Name of the
LORD must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel.
It is interesting that these
are the same people who were there when this passage began, remember how they
were described?  John
8:30-31
Then many who
heard him say these things believed in him.   
Jesus said to the people who believed in him . . . They
wanted to believe in Jesus as a good man, they wanted to believe in Jesus as a
great teacher, or as a prophet, or as a healer and miracle worker they didn’t
want to acknowledge Jesus as God. 
And some things never change, a
few years ago a United Church minister in our community was quoted in the paper
as saying that: Jesus was a spiritual genius, like Mozart was a musical genius,
or Picasso was an artistic genius, but he wasn’t the son of God. 
Apparently Jesus thought he was
and apparently those he taught had no doubts about the claims he made. 
C.S Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity” “‘I’m ready to accept Jesus, as a great moral teacher, but
I don’t accept his claim to be God’. 
This is the one thing we must not say. 
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said
would not be a great moral teacher.  He
would either be a lunatic on a level with a man who says He’s a poached egg, or
else He would be the devil of Hell.  You
must make the choice.  Either this man
was and is the Son of God or else a Madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit
at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord
and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a
great human teacher.  He has not left
that open to us, He did not intend to.”
So Let’s start with this.  There
was a Jesus
You see even the most liberal amongst us aren’t willing to say
that there never was a Jesus.  That is
now beyond debate. 
This claim that Jesus did not really exist arose in the 18th
and 19th centuries but after  a hundred
years or so it has been almost universally refuted. There are very few scholars
who would attempt to seriously teach that today, the evidence just isn’t there to
support that position.
However, there are still many people in the world today who
buy into that view and some who even promote it.  But when you hear someone making this claim,
they are simply repeating what they have heard someone else say. They have done
no real research, they are simply parroting back something they have heard or
read.  Because the truth is, there is
overwhelming evidence for the historic Jesus, both biblical and non-biblical.  And simply because you didn’t see it for
yourself is not a reason to believe. 
That’s like saying the Leafs have never won the cup, just because there
isn’t anyone here who was alive when it happened. 
There is Biblical
Evidence For Jesus’ Existence
The problem here is that some people
immediately tell you that you can’t believe the bible, their view is very
similar to the view of  “George
Gershwin” Song “Ain’t Necessarily So” 
“It
ain’t necessarily so No, it ain’t necessarily so These things that you’re
liable, to read in the bible. No it ain’t necessarily so”
So what are some objections to the validity of the
gospels? 
The Dating of the
Gospels. 
For some people they feel
that because we don’t have actual copies of a gospel account that was written
the day after the resurrection that information can’t be trusted. 
But that was a different time.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wouldn’t have
just opened their laptops and started to type out the story.  For that matter they wouldn’t have dug out
their lined notepads and ball point pens and started to write.  Writing material were very expensive and hard
to come by and so 2000 years ago people relied on what is called “Oral
Tradition”  that is the story was passed
on from one person to the next in community. 
And when we think of that today we think of the “telephone
game” you know where the first person in the group whispers something to the
second person, who whispers it to the third person and so on and so on until it
gets to the last person in the group and then everyone laughs over how much the
original has changed.  But this wasn’t
done in whispers this was done in community, where someone could challenge the
telling of the story and say “Wait that isn’t the way it happened.”
Anthropology has shown that ancient cultures could pass on
oral traditions without error.  It was
their way of preserving their history, their story and their culture and it was
very important that the story be told without error.  And that has become a lost skill because we
don’t need it anymore.  Like doing math
in your head.  There was a time that you
could add a string of numbers in your head and figure out your change because
you had to .  And so I could ask you to
add up 1 + 5 + 7 + 7 + 4 – 3  the answer
would be?  21.  Do you remember when you could spell words?
Correctly? Without spell check?  It’s a
lost art. 
And so in the same way we, through neglect, we have lost the
art of oral tradition. 
And in most cases we don’t negate a historical document
simply because it wasn’t written down at the time it happened. 
But the Gospels were written down, and they were written
down while the eye witnesses were still alive. 
When it comes to accuracy, when the oldest copies of N.T. books are
compared to today’s version, they proved to be 99.5% identical. Of the
0.5% differences, none had anything to do with doctrinal teachings
The Bias of the
Writers  
Some would say that we
can’t accept the bible because it’s biased. 
That it was fabricated by people who had a vested interest in the
story.  Well of course they were biased,
they were writing the story.  But all of
the gospels were written within the life time of eye witnesses.  There were lots of other people who could
write differing opinions, but we have none of those texts, nobody was saying
“Hey, this is wrong, I was there and that isn’t how it happened.”  And regardless of what some say there isn’t
any evidence that any of those texts existed.  There is no evidence of a grand conspiracy of
those dissenting views being tracked down and destroyed, regardless of what is
written in fiction.  The early believers
weren’t powerful, they didn’t have political sway or the resources necessary to
track down and destroy dissenting views.
These days when you get into discussion about the so called
“Lost Gospels or Gnostic Gospels”  and
there are those who want to tell us that these are a more reliable account and
they were banned by the church because of their dissenting views.  But that isn’t the truth, the four gospels
that we have were written by eye witnesses to the life of Christ, and were part
of an oral tradition that could have been refuted by other eye witnesses, but weren’t. 
Most scholars,
even liberal scholars, will concede
that the four Gospels which we hold to were in all probability written between
50 and 100 AD.  Those same scholars tell
us that the earliest of the Gnostic Gospels was written at least a generation
later and some of them as much as two to three hundred years after the event
and even after the early church had established the Canon of the scripture,
which is our Bible. 
To say the writers of the Gospels were biased because they
were eye witnesses is ludicrous.  It’s
like saying you can’t believe any of the accounts of Paul Henderson’s 1972
winning goal in the Canada Russia series because the people who report it were
all people who wanted it to be true.
Apparent
Contradictions 
This is one of those
catch twenty two arguments.  If every
account of every story in the four Gospels was identical then the critics would
charge collusion.  They would tell us
that this was evidence that the writers all copied from one common source and
therefore can’t be trusted.  But because
the accounts differ they tell us that these apparent contradictions are
evidence that the Gospel accounts can’t be trusted.
But are the contradictions really contradictions or simply
different people reporting the same thing as they saw it?  If you wanted to know the story of
“Denn”  you could talk to my mother, my
best friend, my wife and my kids.  And
the stories would all be a little bit different.  They each saw me in a different light.  Because my mother thought I was perfect and
never gave her any trouble, does that negate the stories that Reg could tell
about our teenage actions?  If Angela’s
accounts of Denn as a husband are different then Stephen and Deborah’s memories
of Denn as a father, which one do we believe?
I was at a debate this past year where they debated the
historical relevance of the Gospels and the skeptic would point to stories
being told with different details.  One
example that was used was the story of Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue who came
to Jesus for the healing of his daughter. In Mark and Luke’s accounts when
Jairus came to Jesus he told Jesus that his daughter was sick, it was only as
they made their way to the Jairus’ home that the servants came and told Jairus
not to bother Jesus anymore because the little girl was dead.  “But” said the skeptic “in Matthew’s account
we read that Jairus came and told Jesus that his daughter had died and begged
Jesus to do something.”  With a flourish
the man said “They both can’t be true.” 
And my thought was “What an idiot! 
Or course they can both be true.” 
If Matthew arrived part way through the story, just when Jairus had
heard the news about his daughter’s death, his account would have to be
different than those who had arrived 10 minutes earlier.   
When our kids were growing up Deborah loved big scary rides,
Stephen not so much.  So Deborah and I rode
the roller coasters while Angela and Stephen would do something else.  Same people, same trip, same visit to Disney,
different stories.  Does that make it any
less reliable?  
But we don’t only have biblical accounts of the life of
Jesus was have There is Non-Biblical
Evidence For Jesus’ Existence
as well. 
Mostly from the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, you have the documents
and writings of people who reference the life and death of Jesus: Clement of
Rome (c. AD 96), Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 107-110), Flavius Josephus (AD
37–100), Julius Africanus (c. AD 221), Acts of Pilate (c. AD 37?), Babylonian
Talmud (AD 70-200), Thallus (c. AD 50-100), Papias (c. AD 90), Quadratus (d. AD
124), Pliny the Younger (c. AD 61-112), Mara bar Sarapion (1st-3rd century),
Suetonius (c. AD 70-130), Justin Martyr (AD 103-165), Lucian (c. AD 125-180),
Celsus (c. AD 180), Tacitus (c. AD 56-117) and that doesn’t even account for
the Apocrypha & Gnostic writings.  To
have this many people referencing Jesus really is amazing. Because remember, at
the time not a lot of people knew about Jesus. Jesus lived and ministered in a
relatively localized area, in a rather insignificant part of the Roman Empire,
and was only a public figure for about three years. Yet we have a lot more
information about Jesus than most major public figures at the time.
According to historian Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, Professor
Emeritus of History at Miami University and an expert on first-century
Christianity, we could know over one hundred facts about Jesus without even
consulting the New Testament.   We could know that some saw Him as a miracle
worker, a healer, and the Messiah. We could know that He was executed by
crucifixion on a Roman-style cross. And we could know that even after His
crucifixion there were those who claimed He was still alive. The extra-biblical
sources contain an abundance of information about Jesus and treat Him as a real
historical figure.
And finally and most compelling There is the Evidence of
the Martyrs For Jesus’ Existence
The majority of the apostles died because
they were preaching in the name of Jesus and thousands of others in the first
fifty years after the death and resurrection were put to death because they believed
Jesus was a real person as well as the Son of God. To them, He was a reality, He
was a real breathing person who lived and walked where they lived and walked.
Many of them even knew Him personally.  
People will die for what they believe to be true, but nobody
will willingly die for what they know to be a lie. These martyrs would have
known the reality of Jesus.  Did they
believe Jesus was real? They certainly did. And their proximity to the time frame
when Jesus lived makes them prime witnesses.
There is no doubt in the minds of serious scholars that
Jesus Christ existed, that he taught, was revered and was crucified.  Over the next two months we are going to be
looking at what Jesus said about himself and what that means to each one of us
today.  Sure hope you can be a part of
our journey. 

Walking the Wire

What were you doing Friday night?  A lot of people were watching Nik Wallenda walk across Niagara Falls on a wire. Pretty impressive. I don’t want to rain on Nik’s parade, but I have always been a fan of the Great Blondin who made numerous walks across the Falls in the mid 1800s, including once pushing a wheelbarrow and once carrying his manager. Now, I understand that the Great made his journey across the gorge and not across the precipice of the falls, but he did it on a rope not a wire, carrying his manager and not wearing a harness! Still, I didn’t take my eyes off the screen at all during Wallenda’s 26 minute journey.
At the end of the walk, Nik commented that he had done what nobody else had done. And he was correct–nobody had ever done that, ever. That night, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. with the thought that when I got up in the morning I was going to do what nobody else had done, ever: I was going to live Denn Guptill’s life on June 20, 2012. . . something nobody had ever done, ever.  
Every day each of you will get to do what nobody has ever done before, so do it well.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

God was His Father, But Joseph Was His Dad

(Video for Luke I am your father)
“I am your father”  probably one of the greatest scenes in movie
history. For most of us we know who our dad is, or at least we assume we
do.  My father used to tell me that I
belonged to the Milk man in Chatham NB, he said that he became suspicious when
we moved 300 kms away and had the same milk man.  But if you have ever met Burton Guptill you
would have no doubt at all that he sired me.  
The funny thing is that a number of years ago an elderly lady at the
Berkeley looked and me kind of thoughtfully and that then said “You remind me
of a milk man I used to know.” 
Luke thought he knew who his
father was, but obviously he was wrong. 
That is if Darth Vader could be trusted. 
Come on, the guy had just hacked off his own kid’s hand. 
Most of you
are familiar with the story that was just read from the book of Luke.  The majority of the commentators agree that this was a pivotal point in Jesus’ life.  It was here that God interrupted his son’s
childhood and said “Jesus, I am your father.” 
And  it was at this point that he
became aware of who he was and the task that lay before him.  There are all kinds of stories, legends and
tales of Jesus as a child but this is the only biblical account of Jesus’
childhood.   Up to this account the sum
total of what we know about the Jesus as a child is summed up in these words in
Luke
2:39-40
When Jesus’ parents had fulfilled all the requirements of the law of the
Lord, they returned home to Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew up
healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was on him.
We don’t know all of the intricacies and mechanics
that went into God becoming man but somehow I doubt if he had a full awareness
of who he was before this stage.  If he
was to truly experience what it was to be fully human what do you do that with awareness
that you are God at the age of three? 
Seriously, most three year olds already think they are god, for them the
shock would be discovering they weren’t God.
And it is in
the book of Luke that we find the only accounts of Jesus as a child and in one
of those short snippets we read about the time Mary and Joseph lost their
oldest kid.  I’m sure that Mary and
Joseph told the story of their trip to Jerusalem on many occasions, recounting
the horror of that day.  With the passing
of time it may have become something they could laugh at, but at the time it
was no laughing matter. 
The story
starts in Luke
2:41-42
Every year
Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was
twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual.
Culturally
we are told that it was required by Jewish law that every adult male who lived
within 20 kms of Jerusalem should go to the temple in the capital city for the
Passover celebration.  It was also
decreed that under Jewish law that at 13 a boy became a man.  So this was a very special occasion for
Jesus.  We know that this wasn’t the
first time that Jesus had been in Jerusalem for the Passover, but it would be
the last time he would celebrate the feast as a child and I’m sure he was
looking forward to next year. 
The Passover
celebration lasted for several days and culminated in the Passover Feast; it
was the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith and was a major celebration.  Mary and Joseph and their family would have
been there with friends and extended family from Nazareth and we are told that
they weren’t traveling alone but with a group. 
Those in the
know tell us that in all probability the women and children would have
travelled as a group and the men would have travelled as a group.  You only have to go to a social function
today to realize that things haven’t changed much.  We are also told that the women and children
would have left earlier in the morning and travelled slower while the men would
have left later but travelled faster, and everyone would have ended up at the
destination around the same time.
Because of
Jesus’ age he could have travelled with either group, he was really neither
fish nor fowl.  Young enough to still
travel with the women and children if he wished but old enough to tag along
with the men.  And that is where the
trouble began, because it would appear that when Joseph got ready to head out
with the men he assumed that Jesus was with his mother, while Mary had assumed
that Jesus would follow with the men and older boys.  One Sunday when we were pastoring in Truro I
was getting ready to lock up the church and go home when I realized that I had
an extra toddler.  Her folks had come in
two vehicles and the both assumed that the other one had Keely.   And
you know what happens when we assume right? 
That’s right sometimes we are
wrong.
Luke 2:43-45 After the celebration was
over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His
parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other
travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him
among their relatives and friends. When they couldn’t find him, they went back
to Jerusalem to search for him there.   Can
you imagine the panic?  The finger
pointing?  The fear?  Mary and Joseph would have split up and began
canvasing all of the other groups.  Who
had seen Jesus?  Where and when?  By the time they had finished it was very
apparent that no one had seen Jesus at all through that day.  When they couldn’t find him we are told they
left the group and headed back to Jerusalem on their own.  But how would they find him?  They came from the little town of Nazareth
and Jerusalem was the largest city in the country.  Perhaps not Toronto size but certainly the
task before them was daunting.
And so they
hunted, they went back to their accommodations and Jesus wasn’t there, they
went to where they had eaten and Jesus wasn’t there, they looked up the new
friends they had made during the days they had been celebrating and no
Jesus. 
We aren’t
told but we have to assume they went to the authorities with no results and
checked whatever served for emergency health care to see if a twelve year old
boy had been brought in, but to no avail. 
We don’t know if Mary and Joseph had brought their other children back
to Jerusalem with them, or if they had sent them ahead with family members but
when it seemed that all the avenues had been exhausted we read this Luke 2:46 Three days later they finally
discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening
to them and asking questions.
We don’t
know what took them to the temple, if they were looking for Jesus or if in
desperation they returned to the centre of their spiritual lives to pray for
their son and to seek comfort from their God. 
Whatever it was that took them to the temple took them to their
son.  Isn’t it always the way, you find
what you are looking for in the last place you look.  Which is one of the dumbest things people
say.   Just once wouldn’t it be nice to
hear someone say “Yep I found it in the third from the last place I looked.  I had a list of places I needed to look so
even after I found it I just kept right on looking.”
In this case
it kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if they had of gone to the
temple to ask for prayer before they looked all over Jerusalem.   But Mary and Joseph were like most of us, we
try to do it on our own first and only after it becomes apparent that we can’t
do it do we ask God for help.
I wonder
about the range of emotions that Mary and Joseph must have felt when they saw
Jesus there right as rain in a conversation with the teachers of religious
law?  From “I can’t believe you are all
right we were so worried about you.” To “What were you thinking, your father
and I were worried sick.” To “You are going to get the spanking of your life
when you get home young man.”
It appears
it was somewhere in the middle, you understand that we are just getting
snippets of the conversation, we are hearing the high points not all the
minutia that actually makes up a conversation, so we hear Luke 2:47-48 All who heard him were amazed
at his understanding and his answers. His parents didn’t know what to think.
“Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I
have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”  That’s a good motherly response, lead
with guilt.   And we can read it any
number of ways because we don’t know the tone of voice that Mary used, the
volume of her words, the look on her face or whether she was hugging Jesus or
shaking him. 
And he
responds by saying Luke 2:49 “But why did you need to
search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”    Based on the fact that he was going on 13 he
probably rolled his eyes, it might be blasphemy, and you might want to stand
back in case the lighting strikes, but reading that I think I would have
reached out and slapped the kid. 
Arrrggghhh.  And I have never hit
either of my kids in anger, although there have been times. 
And so it was here that in whatever fashion for whatever reason the
switch was tripped and Jesus became aware of his destiny.  Had Mary and Joseph forgot the wonder of his
birth, maybe the everyday had caused them to lose sight of the eternal and
suddenly Mary and Joseph were reminded of who their son truly was, not the son
of Joseph creator of tables and chairs but the son of God, creator and master of
the universe.
I wonder if for Joseph he suddenly remembered “That’s right I’m not his
father.”  And I wonder if his mind rushed
back to that day more than 12 years before when his fiancé told him that she
was pregnant, and the child was not his. 
If he remembered the visit from the angel who confirmed Mary’s story, of
the wonders of the birth in the stable, of the visiting shepherds with their
story of celestial choirs and the wise men bearing gifts and their story of the
star in the sky. 
Could it be that 12 years of the ordinary had crowded out and eclipsed
the wonder of Jesus birth?  If the
mundane had caused Joseph to forget the miraculous? 
At some point in time at the temple God had looked down and said “Jesus,
I am your father.”  And throughout the
gospels Jesus refers to God as “My Father in Heaven”. 
There was no doubt in Jesus’ mind that his father was God, but I think
in every practical way his Dad was Joseph. 
If there had been a Father’s Day 2000 years ago it would have been
Joseph who got the card  
Joseph Trusted God  We are looking at the story from this end
and there are still people who call the virgin birth into question.  I mean there are so called Christians and
even so called Christian Churches who say the Virgin birth didn’t really
happen, that it isn’t really important that we believe it.  What a crock, I don’t know if that’s a
correct theological term or not, but if can’t believe that Jesus was born of a
virgin what can you believe about Him? 
But they say, “that’s impossible!”  Of course it’s impossible, that’s the entire
point.  If you’re going to believe that
Jesus was divine then you’d better believe that he had a divine beginning. 
But there are people today, who
even though they have the gospel account, even though they can read that Jesus
lived died and rose from the dead, can’t believe that he was born of a
virgin.  Think about poor Joseph.  The girl he planned on spending his entire
life with tells him “I’m going to be a mom, but you’re not going to be a
dad.”  What do you say?  I can’t say with a hundred percent certainty,
but I would suspect that I’d be close to 99.99 % certain that nobody here today
would have believed Mary’s story.  And if
you would, I have a lovely bridge I’m trying to sell, goes between Dartmouth and
Halifax.  And not only would you get a
nifty bridge but people would pay you to use it.
Mary would always know that she
had been a virgin.  She knew exactly what
she had done, and what she hadn’t done, she wasn’t naïve, when Gabriel told her
that she would have a son she responded in Luke 1:34 Mary
asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
But Joseph, all he had to rely on
was the word of Mary, and the word of an angel. 
And it would appear that the angel was the turning point.
I’m sure that Joseph must have
thought, “I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, I’m not even sure that I’m
happy about it, but if it’s of God then count me in.”  Mary wasn’t the only one that had to put up
with the whispers and snickers about her situation.  Joseph was the one who would have gotten the blame.  What a heel couldn’t even wait ‘til they were
married.  The women would have looked
down their noses at him, and the guy’s would have joked about him.  And what would Joseph have said, “Look it’s
not like that at all, she’s still a virgin the child is the Holy Spirit’s.”
And you can just imagine the guys
“sure the Holy Spirit got Mary pregnant, nod nod, wink wink, now Joseph thinks
he’s God.”
And yet as far as we know once
Joseph was visited by the Angel he never doubted the parentage of Jesus. 
God Trusted Joseph  Think about it, just for a minute, put
yourself in God’s place.  You’re going to
come to the earth as a helpless child, you are going to be raised and fed and
nurtured by two humans, just plain ordinary peoples.  Who are you going to trust to do the job? I’ve
been a parent for twenty eight years and I’m not sure that I would trust me
with the responsibility.  It was Samuel Butler the English writer who wrote “Parents are the last people on earth who should have
children.”
One of the first indication of
the type of man Joseph is when Joseph first gets the news that his fiancé is
pregnant, the story is found in Matthew 1:19 Joseph,
her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he
decided to break the engagement quietly.
He could have had her killed, it
was certainly an option as laid down in the Old Testament, probably wouldn’t
have been the first time it happened, and probably wouldn’t have been the
last.  Even if it doesn’t happen today
the temptation is there, Loretta Lynn made this
statement “My attitude toward men who mess around is
simple: If you find ’em, kill ’em.”
Still happens in other countries,
sometimes hidden in the international news you will see that a woman in a Muslim
country has been executed for adultery.  Never
a man, only the women, perhaps men don’t commit adultery in those countries.
He could have done that, but he
didn’t.  He also could have made a public
spectacle out of Mary, he could have told everyone that he knew that she had
slept around on him, could have dragged her into the middle of town, humiliated
her and demanded that the engagement be called off.   No instead he decided to break the
engagement quietly and the thing that is most telling about his character are
the words so as not to disgrace her publicly.  Even at the lowest point in his life,
when Joseph thought he had been betrayed by the girl he loved he was still a
man of character, and he still put Mary first.
Joseph also brought his son up
in a Godly home.  Remember our
story?  Luke 2:41 Every
year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival.
.  It was the desire of every devout Jew
to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem,
but it wasn’t always easy, so most people didn’t make the trip.  But we are told that Mary and Joseph made the
trip every year.  If we were to pull up
the map again, here is Nazareth, where Jesus
lived with his parents, and here is Jerusalem,
that’s a distance of about seventy miles that’s further then from here to Truro.  And there wasn’t just Mary, Joseph and
Jesus.  We are told in the scriptures
that there were at least two brothers and at least two sisters, and they didn’t
have a magic wagon to go in, they were on foot. 
Most of us would find it
inconvenient if we had to drive to Truro for a Christmas Eve service, but
Joseph felt that it was important that he celebrate Passover in Jerusalem with
his family. 
Jesus life as a child is pretty
much a mystery to us except for the story about the Passover celebration in
Jerusalem, but we are told this in Luke 2:52 Jesus
grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
A pretty good report.  And Joseph had to take at least some of the
credit.  Jesus may have been the son of
God but it was Joseph who raised him. 
And maybe Jesus would have said with Michael
Jordon “My
heroes are and were my parents. I can’t
see having anyone else as my heroes.” 
We all know that God was Jesus’
Father, but let’s not forget that Joseph was his Dad.  And just as God entrusted Joseph with his son,
he entrusts each parent here with the children you have been given. 

Late Night Phone calls

The phone was ringing and it was 4:45 in the morning! You know that if you get a telephone call at that hour it can’t be good news. Nobody calls you at quarter to five in the morning just to say hello or to tell you that you’ve won the lottery….. in which case it would be a wrong number at our house. We have had people call at that hour to say G’day, but that was because they were confused about the time difference.
It is amazing how many thoughts can go through your mind between the time the phone first rings and when you finally pick it up.  Within seconds, you have considered every possible tragedy that might have necessitated someone calling you at that horrendous hour, because you know in your heart of hearts that it has to be bad news.  In our case whoever was calling hung up as I answered the phone. The caller ID showed it was a payphone.
I wonder if our prayer lives are reflective of early morning phone calls in that they only happen when there’s a problem.  God wants us to bring Him our troubles, but I’m pretty sure He wants to hear the good news as well.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Jesus Said about Self Love

This is week five of our “What Jesus Said About Emotions”
series. And emotions are a part of each one of us.  God created us as emotional beings, within
the first three chapters of the story we watch the first couple as they
experience loneliness, joy, love, envy, fear and shame. 
And we are all to some degree emotional people, some more so
and others to a lesser degree but we all feel and experience emotions.  Or at least we are supposed to.  And so when I started the series the first of
May there were probably weren’t any surprises. 
And the first four messages were pretty easy to figure out.  Week one was “What Jesus said About Love”,
week two was “What Jesus Said About Hate”, week three was “What Jesus Said
About Fear” and then last week we looked at “What Jesus Said About Joy”.  And those were easy, you knew what was coming.  We should love, we should be happy and we
ought to avoid hating people and feeling afraid.   No big surprises there.  Those of you who grab the note taking guides
off the information table could have probably filled in the blanks
yourself. 
Next week we are making a shift, we are going to start our
Series on “What Jesus said About Himself”, and through the summer we are going
to look at all the “I Am” statements that Jesus made, you know: “I am the
vine”, “I am the Light of the World”, “I am the Bread of Life”  etc. etc.
But this is the last week of our series on emotions.  I thought about preaching on envy, worry or depression
and any one of those would have been good topics, relevant subjects.  And to a certain degree we have touched on
those a little bit in the first four messages. 
When I spoke about anger I mentioned that we often became angry because
of envy, we become angry because others have what we don’t have.  When I spoke about fear we touched on worry,
and how that eventually produces fear and last week I spoke about Joy and to a
certain degree the flip side of that is depression. 
So where are we going
today?  Today I want to focus on “How you
feel about yourself” and so this morning we are looking at “What Jesus said
about Self Love.”  And that one isn’t so
easy is it?  There are probably those of
you who are thinking “Well we aren’t supposed to love ourselves, didn’t Denn
pay attention to the scripture reading? 
Love God and Love others.”    And for many that is the bottom line, it
should never be about self, that’s why we are taught to be selfless not
selfish.  It’s why within the church we
find those who celebrate the Mother Theresas in life and scorn the
Madonnas.  Theresa is celebrated for not
thinking of herself while it is felt that Madonna only thinks about herself. 
But is that what Jesus really taught?  Did he teach his apostles to feel nothing but
scorn for who they are and what they are? 
There are certainly those out there who would suggest that.  Anyone who watched or read “The Da Vinci
Code” remembers the villain of the piece was a monk named Silas, who was part
of a Catholic organization called “Opus Dei” Probably the most disturbing
images in the movie and the book revolved around Silas punishing himself, first
with the cilice, a small chain with inward pointing spikes worn around the
upper thigh for up to two hours a day and secondly through flagellation that is
whipping himself with a whip called a discipline.  And while “The Da Vinci Code” was fiction and
the portrayal of Opus Dei was somewhat less than accurate there have been
Christian factions through the centuries who have promoted very similar
philosophies.  And those practices were
designed to remind people of how unworthy there were in the eyes of God and how
unworthy they should consider themselves in their own eyes. 
And I would challenge
that.  Let’s listen to Jesus words
again.  Mark 12:29-31 Jesus
replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD
our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is
equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is
greater than these.”   
A little
background here, Jesus had begun the day teaching the crowds who had gathered
and was interrupted first by the Pharisees and the Herodians who challenged him
with questions about taxation trying to trap him.  And then it was the Sadducees who wanted to
debate his views on the resurrection of the dead.  Now one of the teachers of religious law asks
Jesus “Of all the commandments which is the most important?”  And Jesus reaches back into the Old Testament
for his answer. The first part of his answer comes from Deuteronomy
6:4-5
“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.  And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  And then he adds to that  Leviticus 19:18 “Do not seek revenge or
bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I
am the LORD.”
And this is the first time we see
these two commandments tied together. 
And because they are the words of Jesus, and because he identifies them
as being so important we work at it.  We
really try and make an effort to Love God and  Love Others. 
And we focus on the part about
“Love the Lord your God”  and “Love your
neighbour” but the how we are to love is defined along with the who we should
love.   You are to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all
your mind, and all your strength.  And
you are to love your neighbour how?  “As
yourself”.   It was Sebastien-Roch
Nicolas De Chamfort who said “If you must love your neighbor as yourself, it is
at least as fair to love yourself as your neighbor.”
Some people spend so much love on
God and others they have none left for themselves
And like math if one part of the formula is flawed the whole
formula is flawed.  From my experience in
life I have discovered that people who don’t love themselves have a hard time
loving others, and that people who don’t love themselves don’t accomplish very
much and people who don’t love themselves have a hard time with grace because
they can’t understand how much God loves them. 
And frankly I think we do ourselves and our God a grave
disservice when we can’t find it within ourselves to love His greatest
creation.  Time after time the scriptures
speak of God’s love for us.  He loved us
so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son for us.  And then we have the audacity to challenge
that love and negate that sacrifice by scorning ourselves and demeaning
ourselves.   
In the story of creation, after God had created the world,
after he had cast the milky way into the evening sky, after he separated the
day from the night and set the eagle free and designed the giraffe, then he
created man in his own image and said “This is Good”. 
Throughout the Gospels Jesus takes the time again and again
to remind his apostle just how much God cares for them and loves them, and over
and over he challenges people to love their neighbours, but not just love them
in some undefined nebulous manner but to love their neighbours as they love themselves.  And those have to go hand in hand.  You can’t love yourself more then you love
those around you but you shouldn’t love yourself less either.  I love what Whoopi Goldberg  said “I’ve learned to take time for
myself and to treat myself with a great deal of love and respect `cause I like
me…. I think I’m kind of cool.”
Through the years I have met literally thousands of people,
we all have.  Think of the neighbours you
have had through the years, the roommates, the friends, even family that have
drifted in and out of your life.  The one
constant is you, you will always have to live with yourself, and so it really
is in your best interest to learn to love that person that you are going to
spend the rest of your life with.  It was
Kurt
Vonnegut Jr. who said “There’s only one me, and I’m stuck with him.”
So why do we find it so hard to love ourselves? 
1) We Listen to
Others 
Some people have spent their
lives being minimized by others.  They
have listened to other’s telling them they don’t measure up.  Perhaps it was their parents, who spoke those
cutting words, “You’re slow” “You’re stupid” 
“You’re fat”  “You won’t amount to
anything”  “Why are you like that?”  “Why can’t you be like your brother, sister,
friend.” 
Or maybe it was the
other kids at school or maybe a spouse. 
They have been run down and bullied by so many they believe the lies
that have been told.  But you need to understand
critical people are usually little
people, I don’t mean little physically I mean little emotionally, and little
spiritually and they are trying to cut you down to their level  because it is a lot easier to bring you down
then to pull themselves up. 
And then we grow up and society bombards us with its
definition of success and beauty.  And we
don’t realize that so much of what society and the media presents is simply an
illusion, but when we don’t measure up to their standards we find it hard to
love ourselves.  I’m sure most of you
have seen this clip that was presented as part of Dove Soap’s campaign about
beauty.  (Dove video clip)
And then when we accept God’s grace and begin to follow
Jesus the devil starts to whisper in our ear, “You’re no good”  “Remember yesterday”  “You’re not worthy”.  But the word of God tells us that the devil
is a liar.
Nobody can steal your self-esteem without your
permission. 
And as destructive as it can be to listen to the voices of
others there is something even more destructive. 
2) We Listen to
Ourselves 
We all talk to ourselves.  Not in the crazy, conversational way, well
maybe that way as well.  It was Franklin P.
Jones  who wrote “One advantage
of talking to yourself is that you know at least somebody’s listening.”
You talk to yourself all the time; you just don’t want to
admit it.  As you are listening to this
message you are talking to yourself.  You
are saying “Let’s see if I understand what Denn is saying.” Or you are saying
“Is he serious?”  Or “We have company
coming at 12, I hope Denn keeps it short.” 
We talk to ourselves all the time, about what we see, and what we
experience.   Sometimes it is simply
reporting the facts but often it is editorial, we are telling ourselves how an
experience makes us feel. 
And the words we speak to ourselves have an incredible potential
to shape who we are.  There is very
little in life that bothers me as much as hearing someone indulge in negative
self-talk.  “I am so clumsy”, “ I am so
stupid”, “I will never amount to anything.” 
And these words become self-fulfilling prophecies.  You literally speak them into
fulfilment.  
Denis Waitley, author of Seeds of Greatness wrote  “There is no opinion so vitally important to
your well-being as the opinion you have of yourself.”  And too often we are guilty of telling
ourselves things that we would never tell someone we love, we criticize and  we speak critical words, we cast blame and don’t
accept any excuses.  And like hearing it
from others it’s very difficult to rise about those criticisms. 
What is the Solution to Loving Ourselves?
1) We Listen to
Others
  If you have to listen to
someone then listen to your fans.  Listen
to those who speak goodness into your life. 
And when someone compliments you for something accept it.  Don’t minimize it, don’t negate it.  “Oh really it was nothing” “Yeah but I’m not
as good as so and so”  
Listen to the word of God, Psalm
139:17-18 “
How precious are your thoughts about me,
O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the
grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” 
It was Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who said “If God had
wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.”  And that was echoed by Minnie
Smith  when she said “I am as my
creator made me and since He is satisfied, so am I.”
Over and over again Jesus reminded his followers how much he
loved them and how much God cared for them and that goes for you as well.  You are God’s greatest creation.  David writes in    Psalm 139:13 You
made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my
mother’s womb.  You
are a masterpiece of the almighty God. 
You are not an accident, you are not a oops in the grand plan, you are
an intentional creation of God.  He made
you who you are and he made you what you are.
Think about it
you are a walking talking miracle, only God could have made you what you
are.  Engineers have never been able to
come close to devising a machine equal to God’s supreme achievement, you.  Is it any wonder that David wrote in Psalm 139:14 Thank
you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how
well I know it.
You are not a mistake, or a goof or an
accident, you are a divine creation, spoke into being by the same God who
fashioned the great barrier reef who moulded the Rocky Mountains with his
hands, scooped out the grand canyon with his fingers and cast the milky way
into the night sky.
To question the creator or to belittle
his creation is pretty close to blaspheme. 
Maybe you are thinking “But preacher I’m not very tall, or very athletic,
or very pretty, and I can’t play Guitar like Jason or dance like Denn”.  Have you ever watched God doodle in the
evening sky with a sunset.  And as you
stood there and marvelled at the masters hand in nature, do you ever shout to
the heavens.  Hey, you could use a little
more purple in the back and the oranges aren’t quite as bright as they could
be. 

Every one of us is as unique as a sunset, and each one of us is precious to God
because of our uniqueness, because he is the one who made us unique.

The second step to learning to love ourselves is to 2) We Listen to Ourselves Let’s go back
to Denis
Waitley again “Your mental picture of yourself is the key to your healthy
development.  You are the writer,
director, and star of either an Oscar wining epic or a Grade B movie.  Who you see in your imagination will always
rule your world.”
If you make a mistake then tell yourself you will do better
next time, when you do something well congratulate yourself on it.  Cast a vision for your future and remind
yourself of that vision.   You should be
your own greatest fan and you need to tell yourself how much you appreciate
you, because if you don’t nobody else will. 
And again I believe this is a choice we make, when you catch
yourself being negative stop and turn it around.  And maybe you are thinking, “I don’t think I
can do that, I don’t think I can speak positively about myself.”  Well then take it one step at a time and remember
what your mother taught you, if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything
at all.  But please, please, please, don’t
minimize the power of self-talk.   It is
not touch feely, it’s not psycho- babble, it’s not New Age gobblegook it is a
reality.   You will be what you tell
yourself you will be.    Nobody else has
the right to talk down to you and neither do you.  We try to speak words of encouragement into
the lives of those we love, and if we are supposed to love ourselves then we
need to let our words demonstrate it.
And finally here is the crux of
the message, if we are going to love ourselves then it will start to  happen when we 3) We Forgive Ourselves  Often
the reason we don’t love ourselves is because of something in our past.  Something we have done, or think we have done
and we need to forgive ourselves.  You
cannot continue to define yourself and judge yourself through the lens of
yesterday.   I don’t know what it is that
makes you think you are a terrible person but if God has forgiven you then you
need to forgive you.   And if you haven’t
asked God to forgive you yet that is the first step.  We read in Acts 3:19 Now
repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.   Let’s read that together,  Acts 3:19 Now
repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.  So what happens when you repent and
turn to God?  That’s right your sins will
be wiped out.  Listen to what King David
wrote in Psalm 103:12 He has removed our sins
as far from us as the east is from the west. 
If God wipes out our sins, if God removes them as far as the east
is the from the west then we have no business dredging them up. 
You can’t change the past and
you shouldn’t be defined by your worst moment. 
If you can truly believe today
that God, the creator and master of the entire universe is able to love you
then please make the effort to love and respect yourself.
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus
replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD
our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is
equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is
greater than these.”   

Bizarre? Maybe not

It’s been a bizarre couple of weeks, with stories in the news about the Cannibal Zombie in the Miami area, a gunman opening fire on shoppers in the Eaton’s centre in Toronto, body parts being mailed to the Prime Minister and yet another murder here in Halifax.  It leaves people shaking their heads and asking, “What is the world coming to?”
But the world isn’t coming to any place that it hasn’t already been.  You only need to study history, recent and ancient, to discover the depravity of mankind and to see that mankind has never been able to change on their own.  We talk about changing people by changing society but that is only putting a coat of whitewash on the problem.  The problem is sin, the problem is people’s disconnect with their Creator.  The problem in AD 2012 is the same as the problem was in 1012 BC in the book of Judges, and that is that everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.  Our society needs to discover the solution isn’t to ignore God and His teachings, it needs to embrace God and His teachings.  Which is why Jesus told us the greatest command is to love God and to love others.     Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Jesus Said about Joy

Does anyone remember Balki’s “Dance of
Joy”?  A few people, does anyone remember
Balki and his cousin Larry?  The sitcom
“Perfect Strangers”?   Does anyone know
what I’m talking about?  I feel so old.  And so for all of you who missed this great
theatre from yesteryear, here is the dance of Joy in its purest form?
Here we are, week four of our series
“What Jesus said About Our Emotions”. 
Since the beginning of May we have looked at what Jesus said about Love,
Hate and Fear.  This morning I want to
look at what Jesus said about being “Happy” about being joyful. 
And I know that sometimes, especially
in church we try and separate those things and we say that happiness is tied to
our outward circumstances while joy is an inward condition.  Even to the point while I was putting this
message together that one commentator I read stated that the root of Happy is
“Hap” the same as “happen” which shows that it is a result of what happens in
our life. I rolled my eyes, decided that I wouldn’t embarrass him by posting
his name and picture.   
But for most of us that’s a really hard
distinction.  If we don’t feel happy we
find it difficult to say that we are actually experiencing joy at that
particular point in our lives.  “I am so
miserable, but deep down I am full of joy.”  
I have met people through the years so have testified to having the “Joy
filled life” but they look like they fell out of the cranky tree and then got
beat with a grumpy stick.  They don’t
look like happy people and most people wouldn’t say that they were filled with
joy either. 
And I know the line; well I’m just not
very demonstrative, that’s just the way I am, I’m smiling on the inside.  Perhaps some of you who were brought up in
Sunday School are familiar with the song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,
If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, If you are happy and you know
it and you really want to show it, if you are happy and you know it clap your
hands.”  I’m not sure that we need
to walk around clapping or doing the Dance of Joy, but on the other hand I
don’t think that Christians should go through life in a permanent grump,
looking like they’ve been sucking on lemons.  If you are happy at some point it might be a
good idea to notify your face.
Jesus told his followers there should
be times they “Leap for Joy”, he said they should be “Filled with Joy”, that “Their
sadness would be turned to joy”.  He said
they would have “Abundant Joy” and that nobody would be able to “Steal their
joy”.   And time after time Jesus told those who chose
to follow him to be happy. Not just joyful but to be happy.  And he seemed to indicate that it was
something that we could control, that it was a choice we could make. 
So
what is happy?  It was Abraham Lincoln
who said “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
But
what does it mean to be happy?  I guess
it depends on who you ask.  British
Author Joseph
Addison said “Three grand essentials to happiness in this life are
something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”  Which was repeated by Tom Boddett
when he said “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world.
Someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” 
Ingrid Berman said “Happiness is
good health and a bad memory.”  Daniel
Boone said “All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good
wife.”  And Alan Alda said “It isn’t
necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.”  It was William Lyon Phelps who said  “If happiness truly consisted in physical ease and
freedom from care, than the happiest individual would not be either man or
woman, it would be, I think, an American cow”
But
however you define happiness you need to understand that happy is something you
can decide to be.  Remember you will
either control your emotions or your emotions will control you.  It was Leo Buscaglia 
who wrote “Happiness and love are just a choice away.”
So why should
we be happy? Well Jesus said in John 15:11 I
have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your
joy will overflow! So I guess the short answer is that
it Being Happy is What Jesus Desires for
You. 
Apparently Jesus wanted his
followers to be happy, he said that he taught us what he taught us so that we
would be not only be filled with joy but that our joy would overflow and affect
other people.  Wow!  Stop and chew on that for a while.  Your joy will overflow, you will not be able
to contain your joy, people will think of you as a happy joy filled
person.  It’s unfortunate that if you
asked people outside the church to describe Christians that joy probably
wouldn’t be the first thing that sprung too mind.
Mark Twain once
gave a description  of a gentleman he
knew.  And it fits t a T some Christians
that I’ve met since I’ve been in the ministry. 
None of them here.  Now if’n you
haven’t smiled in 30 years and have the disposition of a hound dog nuzzling a
porcupine I’m really not talking about you, and if you think this description
fits someone you know don’t look around because someone might be staring at
you!  Twain described the man as “A solemn,
unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg that looked like he was waiting for a
vacancy on the Trinity.”          
Some Christians
look like they fell off a church.  You
ever see the gargoyles that hang in Churches in Europe? But that isn’t what
Jesus wanted for his followers.    
When Jesus was
praying in the Garden, just hours before his betrayal, his arrest and his execution
this was part of his prayer.   John 17:13 “Now
I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world
so they would be filled with my joy.”  One
of the last things on Jesus mind before he would go to the cross was his desire
for us to be filled with joy. And that should be
reason enough. But in case you need more here are some other reasons why we
should be happy.
Being Happy Will Give You a Better Life  Don’t discount this.  Do you believe that opportunities and
encouragement come into your life through people?  Andy Andrews writes “People want to be around happy
people—not whiners, moaners and groaners. 
Happy people get more opportunities because opportunities come from
people, and people are attracted by happy people.”
If
you are happy, people will like you more and want to be in your company and
that will provide you with more opportunities to be successful.  Doubtful?  
If you were an employer and had to hire someone and you had two
candidates who were equal in every way except one was grumpy and negative and
hard to get along with and the other one was happy and positive and easy to get
along with, which one would you hire?
If
you were a call centre service rep who would you go out of your way to please
the customer on the other end of the phone who is being a jerk or the happy
positive polite person?  If you want good
customer service then be polite and be happy.

And Being Happy Is Good For You.  Honest it is, and if you don’t believe me
then listen to what Solomon has to say in Proverbs
17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s
strength.

This
has actually been substantiated through scientific research.   Hey I mean Solomon knew it 3000 years  ago, but we had to prove it before we would
believe it was right.  They have proven
that laughter changes chemicals in our bodies and releases endorphins promoting
a feeling of well-being.  It doesn’t even
have to be genuine or spontaneous laughter, it can be forced of contrived
laughter and it will still work.  We’ve
known the opposite for years, after all what does worry produce?  Anxiety, sleeplessness, and large gaping
holes in your stomach

So the question has to be:  What are
some of the things that we need to do to become a happy person?

We Become Happy By Being Content.  In every situation that comes your way there
will be something to complain about, and whether you do or not will be your
choice.  Because complaining is an
activity,  just like watching TV is an
activity or going for a walk is an activity. 

So you ask yourself, “what am I going to do tonite?”  And you decide that you are going to watch
TV, so you settle down in your favourite chair and turn on the TV and decide
what you are going to watch.  And in the
same way you can say, “What am I going to do?” 
And then you decide you are going to complain about things.   Here is the great secret if complaining is
an activity than like any other activity it is a choice, a choice you make or
don’t make. 

If you want people to enjoy being around you and present you with
encouragement and opportunities than here is the secret, you ready, get a pen
and write it down because it is important: 
Quit your whining.  Francis Jeffrey said  “The tendency to whining and complaining may
be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.”

Too many of us echo the words of Joe Walsh in his song “Life’s been good to
Me” when he writes.  “I can’t
complain, but sometimes I do.” 

You know as well as I do that the more you complain about something the
worse it seems to get.  It’s like the
tough piece of meat that the more you chew it the bigger it gets until it’s too
big to swallow and too big to spit out and you don’t know what to do with it.

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the
time to do something about it.  It is
time we all learned the lesson that Paul speaks about in Philippians 4:11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have
learned how to be content with whatever I have.   And remember: don’t complain that you aren’t
getting what you want,  just be thankful
you’re not getting what you deserve.

We
Become Happy By being Thankful 
This
is the opposite of the first point.  And
like complaining gratefulness is an activity. 
It is something you choose to do, you look around you at what you have
in your life and you can either choose to be grateful or not to be grateful,
it’s as simple as that.  Going back to
the words of Paul again the Bible tells us in 
Ephesians 5:20 And give thanks for everything to
God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a matter of fact almost every
complaint can be turned into an opportunity to give thanks.  Car won’t start? You should be thankful that
you have a car that starts most of the time. Service slow in the restaurant?  How about being thankful that you can afford
to go to a restaurant in the first place. 

We live in a blessed country, and the things we complain about the most are
some of our greatest blessings, our health care, our roads, our politicians and
the taxes we pay.  Benjamin
Franklin  “Constant complaint is the
poorest sort of pay for all the comforts we enjoy.”  And if you don’t believe me than plan
on travelling with me to West Africa next January.

Matthew Henry was
a Bible Scholar from the 1700’s who once was accosted by thieves and relieved
of his wallet.  This is what he wrote in
his diary concerning the entire incident, “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second,
because, although they took my wallet, they did not take my life; third,
because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because, it
was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

And don’t just have a grateful heart, have a grateful mouth as well.  Take time to thank people for the things they
do in your life and not just the “big” things. 
Don’t forget to thank the person at Tims who pours your coffee, or the
person at Sobey’s who bags your groceries. 
When was the last time you thanked your garbage man?  Do you realize what a mess we’d live in if it
wasn’t for our garbage collection? 

And show your gratitude to your family, your spouse and your kids.  Thank them for what they do.

The last point is by far the simplest to implement and yet I think it’s the
one that will benefit us the most, both internally and externally.

We Become Happy By Being Happy

 You understand the power of
a smile, right?  A smile actually has the
power to make you feel better.  Medical
research has shown that smiling causes the brain to release endorphins, which
is the chemical in our bodies that gives us a feeling of wellness and fights
pain.  As well research tells us that
smiling increase your blood flow, reduces your blood pressure and lowers
stress.  And it doesn’t even have to be a
real smile, you can trick your body simply by smiling. 
You say, “what if I don’t feel like
smiling?”  Smile anyway; my philosophy
when it comes to smiling is “Fake it til you make it.” If I’m not happy I still
try to smile when I’m around people.    
And you realize the power of your smile? 
Smiles are contagious so when you smile others smile and that release
endorphins in them, making them feel better. 
You literally have the power to change someone’s day and that may change
their life.
That’s part of why I use humour
when I preach, I want people to feel better when they leave church than when
they arrived and if I can get you to laugh and smile you will. 
I think Jesus smiled a lot,
why?  Because people wanted to be around
him, because little kids wanted to be around him and I don’t think that would
be the case if he had of been a scowler. 
Andy Andrews says “Your smile is
your calling card.  It is the most potent
weapon you have.  With your smile, you
can forge bonds, break ice, and calm storms. 
Use your smile constantly.  The
power of who you are is revealed when you smile.”
So where are you at today?  Are you ready to choose to be happy?  You say but I don’t feel very joyful.  I believe that joy is a conscience
decision.  It is something deliberate
that we decide “I will have joy.”  We all
know that when we are happy on the inside that it causes us to smile. But
social scientists have discovered something really neat, they have discovered
that if we smile that it makes us happy on the inside.  Try it, smile, you are feeling better all
ready.
I’m not trying
to put anyone on a guilt trip about their emotions, I know that we go through
seasons in our life where being joyful is very difficult if not
impossible.  Jesus wasn’t happy all the
time, we are told that there were times that he cried in grief, there were
times he was angry, there were times he was frustrated but those can’t be the
emotions that control our lives. 
Things may be
tough right now but it will pass, honest. 
Every night has a dawn, every storm has an end, every mountain has a
crest.  King David struggled with
depression throughout his life, just read the psalms, but he also had a grip on
this joy thing.  Listen to what he wrote
in Psalm 30:5 Weeping
may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.   In the scripture that was read earlier
Jesus told his disciples John 16:22 “So
you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no
one can rob you of that joy.”  There
will be times in your life that won’t be joyful, happy times, and God never
intended for you to put on your happy face during those times.  When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.  Solomon wrote in the Ecclesiastes 3:1& 4 For
everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  . . A time to cry and a
time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
Let each one of us learn to laugh,
learn to rejoice always and remember when you’re laughing to learn to laugh at
yourself, because as John Powell “Learn to laugh
at yourself and you’ll never ceased to be amused.” If your joy is
based on circumstances this morning then you need to give your life over to the
Lord and let Him place His joy within. 
Remember, When you were born, you cried
and everybody else was happy. The only question that matters is this: When you
die, will YOU be happy when everybody else is crying?” 
Here is your
promise for today, Romans 4:7-8 “Oh, what joy for those whose
disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for
those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.”