The Price of Leadership

The Bounty has been lost. . . again.  I first heard about the problems the Bounty was having early Monday morning as the initial reports came out and I followed the progress of her loss and the rescue of most of her crew with rapt fascination.  It’s an interesting quirk of human nature that I seemed to feel worse over the loss of her two crew members than I did for the dozens who died in the Caribbean as a result of the same hurricane, but that is a “Penn” for a different time.  Charitably I will say that was the result of my time at sea.
The interesting thing for me is the people who were on dry land, often behind a desk who have questioned the decisions of Captain Robin Walbridge.  The tragic loss of the vessel and at least one crewmember will probably be laid at the feet of Captain Walbridge.How often do we hear the term “Captain error” or “Pilot error”?  And that is the price of leadership. 

Sometimes leaders make the right decisions and sometimes they make the wrong decisions, but we have entrusted them to make those decisions and until we have stood in their shoes we are only guessing at how we would have reacted.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

QRC- Intro

QRC Intro
They are
everywhere.  You can find them in
magazines, in newspapers, on bill boards, stores and restaurants.  You know what I’m talking about those funky
little square bar codes that are showing up everywhere.  They are called Quick Response Codes and they
were first developed by a subsidiary of Toyota in 1994 for use in their
manufacturing process. 
If you’ve
ever wondered what they are for you scan them with your smart phone or iPhone
and they take you to a website.   There
is one on the back of our bulletin that looks like this, if you scan it you go
to our homepage.
Now you
might be thinking “So what”?  And I
certainly didn’t see much use in it but this summer Angela was looking to buy a
new Kayak and while we were at one store they had a QRC on the tag on the
Kayak, I scanned it and there was everything I needed to know about that
Kayak.  And that is the one we
bought. 
What if
we had that type of resource for some of the things we face as Christ Followers?    Answers to questions we have and situations
we face?  Through the month of November
our series will be “QRCodes for Life” and we are going to look at where to find
answers to some of those challenges that we face. 
But to
start with, we have to be sure of the source. 
I mean if you were having headaches and there was a QRC for headaches
and you scanned it and it took you to “Billy Bob’s self-guide to brain surgery
and taxidermy” you would have second thoughts about using that as a guide to
diagnosis and treat your headache .  It
might say, “First you drill a hole in your head, then take a stick and root
around.”    
So this
morning we are going to look at the source of the QRC’s we will be talking
about over the next four weeks. 
You may
have noticed that in my messages I use a lot of scriptures, when I was in
college I read the words of John Wesley who said “I am a Bible bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.”  And I really didn’t understand what he
meant but I have come to understand, because I too am a bible bigot, I don’t think that anything I or
anyone else has to say has the potential eternal consequences of God’s word.
You don’t
come to church on Sunday Morning to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill
you come to hear from the Bible, the word of God the Holy Scriptures, so I
don’t want to take the time you have entrusted me with to let you know what I
think. 
And I
would be naïve to think that everyone agrees with me on the validity or the
value of this book. A number of years ago I was asked to take part in a debate
on CBC radio concerning the Oxford translation of the Bible.  This particular translation worked very hard
at trying to offend nobody. So they were very gender unspecific.  Now I understand some of that, he and her
become they, mankind becomes humanity or should that simply be hu-people-y.  I can even concede a little bit on us
becoming Son’s of God becoming Children of God, although socially and
culturally speaking, 2000 years ago being someone’s son was a whole lot
different then simply being someone’s child and was understood as such. 
But the
translation kept going, it removed any mention of the Jewish leaders asking for
Christ to be crucified instead it was simply the religious leaders. Because it
didn’t want to be anti-Semitic.  But
historically it wasn’t just any religious leaders who demanding the execution
of Christ it was the Jewish religious leaders. 
That’s not to put any blame of Jews who live today that is simply the historic
reality.  To deny that is akin to just
referring to the authors of the holocaust as political leaders and not
mentioning that they were German political leaders.
In the
Oxford translation the right hand of God was no longer the preferred place because
that would imply that left was wrong or bad. 
The parable of the blind guides was left out because it was offensive to
blind people, you get the gist.  And I
was asked to debate another pastor who thought the Oxford translation was the
greatest thing since sliced bread.  And I
challenged her saying that regardless of how you viewed the Bible it was wrong
to take that much liberty with it.  If it
was the word of God how could you make such radical changes, if it was just a
historical document how could you justify tampering with it or if it was only
great literature we wouldn’t change the wording of Shakespeare’s plays simply
to make them more appealing for today.
But to
her the Bible was just a book, a good book but just a book never the less.  And I couldn’t fathom how a pastor, a
minister could view the word of God as just a book.  What did she say when she stood up on Sunday
Morning?  What could she possibly offer
her congregation if it wasn’t from the word of God? 
And so in
the scripture that was read this morning Paul is writing a young pastor by the
name of Timothy.  Like 1 Timothy
this book is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed to the congregation of the
church it was addressed to the pastor of the church. We are reading someone
else’s mail. 
Paul is in prison in Rome facing execution and he’s
writing to Timothy in the city of Ephesus, which if we pull down our trusty map
is right here in what we now call Turkey. 
These are very close to the last words that Timothy would ever have from
his friend and mentor.  The letter was
written around AD 67 and Paul was writing to encourage Timothy and to remind
him of his calling.
And part of what Paul reminds
Timothy of is his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a
foundation established on the scriptures. 
And that goes back to the promise we are given in Proverbs 22:6 Direct your
children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.   
In other words parents do your best when they are little
and hope for the best when they grow up. 
And Timothy had that heritage, it would appear that his Mother Eunice
and his Grandmother Lois were followers of Christ and that they had brought
Timothy up in the faith.  Now understand
that these ladies came to their faith through a Jewish background and so that
is how Timothy would have been raised. The scriptures that he would have been
taught would have been the Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old
Testament, because for Timothy the New Testament was still a work in progress.
After He turned 13
the Rabbis would have felt that He was responsible enough to observe all the
mitzvahs, which were the divine commandments or meritorious acts.  As He grew He would have read the Talmud
which were the books of wisdom written by the Rabbis through the
centuries.  And in those books He would
have learnt things like “Never threaten a child, either punish him or forgive
him.” or “A child’s tears move heaven itself” or “Why was man created on the
last day, so when pride takes a man it can be said, ‘God created the fly before
you.’”  He would have learnt all these
things at the Heder or Hebrew school. 
Historians tell us that at a time when 90% of the world’s population was
illiterate, that every Jewish boy over the age of five was learning to
read.  And while most of us do our best
to struggle though with one language, Timothy was undoubtedly learning in both
Hebrew the language of his people, and Greek which was the language of the
marketplace. 
On His first day
of school Eunice would have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of
how sweet learning was and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey
and told Him, “The study of God’s word is sweeter.”  But Timothy’s education in the scripture would
have begun long before that, in his own home. 
But what are some of the things
about the scriptures that Timothy and we by default are reminded of here in
regards to God’s word.  2 Timothy 3:16 All
Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make
us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and
teaches us to do what is right.
First of all we are told that The Scriptures are Inspired by God 
This is the crux of the entire sermon.  If you can’t believe that this book was
inspired by God then what good is it for you? 
It’s not just another self help book, it’s not just another book on
morality, it’s not just another “Good Book”. 
This is the word of God.  And it’s
not enough to say “Well I believe that parts of the Bible are inspired.”  What parts? 
The parts that you agree with? 
The parts that make you feel good but don’t make you feel guilty?  Do you get your pick of the Ten Commandments,
so you’ll pick do not murder and do not steal but skip lying and adultery.  This book is either the word of God or it’s
not and if it’s not then why waste your time with it?
We hear the word inspired tossed around a lot these days,
artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, and interior decorators are
inspired.  But does that mean the same as
the bible being inspired by God? 
No.  In most cases when we speak
about someone being inspired it means they are very creative, that they are
able to draw some special inspiration from within themselves or from their
Muse.
But the thought of the original language in saying the
scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant God and
breathed, God breathed the scriptures into being.  As a matter of fact if you were to read 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version it
begins by saying All Scripture is God breathed.   You have 40 different human authors who put
pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book, and we believe that
they were inspired by God in what they wrote. 
I read a great analogy the other day. 
If you were a musician and picked up a trumpet and played it the music
would be created by your breath, the trumpet would simply be the tool, it would
be what turned your breath into a recognizable sound. If you then picked up a
tuba and played it would still be your breath but it would come out sounding
different, hopefully.  In the same way
the breath of God is played through various human writers in the Bible, same
breath but we hear it in different ways. 
So Moses writes different than David, who writes different than Amos who
writes different than Jonah, who writes different than Matthew.  But the initial inspiration or breath is from
the same source.
So it’s inspired, but why? 
Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of God just to have a good book
to read?  And it is great reading, there
is mystery and intrigue and romance and betrayal, poetry and songs,
inspiration, philosophy and theology all wrapped up in this book we call the
Bible. No it’s not just a good read there needs to be a purpose to our
reading. 
2
Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Teach
us What is True 
There has to come a
time when we ask: What is truth?  Is it
something that is defined by politicians? 
God help us if it is.  Or do we
leave it up to nine appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and by
default what morality is?  Can truth
change?  When the entire kerfuffle about
same sex marriage was going on I attended a public meeting about what the new
legislation meant, by the way I am opposed to same sex marriage as is the
Wesleyan Church, in case you needed clarification on that. I was in the meeting
and asked Geoff Regan what protection was in place for me as a clergy if I was
asked to perform a same sex marriage.  To
which Mr. Regan insured me that I was protected by the Supreme Court Ruling.  And so I asked if the Supreme Court ever
changed its mind.  And he said it
did.  Not much protection, but the point
being is that truth is not supposed to change. 
Jesus promised in John 8:32 “And you will
know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But how can the truth set you free if the truth
is ever changing and what is true today isn’t true tomorrow?  Jesus said in John 14:6 Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except
through me.
And we are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ
is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  So perhaps we could read that as:  The truth is the same yesterday, today and
forever.  And the Bible is where you will
find that truth.
So what else is the bible good
for? 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us
what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us
when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Teach
Us What is Wrong. 
It’s not enough
that we get our creed from the bible we also need to go to it for our
conduct.  It’s is the source of both our
belief and our behaviour. It should make a difference in how we live.  And if it doesn’t then there something
wrong.  Christians are referred to as
being born again, having a new beginning and being new creations.  That would signify new behaviour, how we act,
how we live, what we do.
Throughout the Bible our
behaviour is not taught to be a way to our salvation, as a matter of fact 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.
So our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but
our behaviour is dependent on our salvation. 
Does that make sense?  No,
ok.  You don’t become a Christian because
of what you do, but when you become a Christian that determines what you do,
there are specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t
do.  And they are found in the book.  We are not left  without guidance.
True story, this is too good to make up.  I was talking to a friend of mine one day and
he was telling me about how he became a Christian.  No church background, a friend of his
introduced him to Jesus, he had just started attending church.  His friend gave him a bible and he starts to
read it.  At the time he was living with
his girlfriend and one night they are laying in bed, he’s reading his bible and
comes to a word he doesn’t understand. 
So he turns to his girlfriend and says “What’s fornication?” Now if’n
you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside of
marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.
So he asks his girlfriend “what is fornication?”  and she replies “That’s what we do.” 
The scriptures tell us what is
wrong.  But more then that let’s keep
reading  2
Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is
right.
The Scriptures Straighten
Us Out,
So the next morning Bill moves out, if they were fornicating and
fornicating was wrong then he knew that he should stop fornicating.  Pretty simply right?  So what’s the problem?  And maybe that’s the reason we don’t read the
bible, because we don’t want to find out what we are doing wrong and what we
should do about that behaviour. 
When people talk about being
accepting of people they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness.  They remind us of the woman caught in
adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone
if they were without sin.  And then
people tell us how we should be like that accepting and forgiving of people
regardless of what they do or how they behave. 
What they forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had
left.  Do you remember?  Sure he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no
more.”
In other words stop doing what
is wrong.  Paul writes 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!  Not
only is there a new life but the old life is gone. 
And finally 2 Timothy 3:16 All
Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make
us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and
teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Teach us to do what is right.   Sometimes people say that the Bible is
full of Don’ts but there are actually more dos in the bible then there are
don’t so if you spend all your time doing the dos you won’t have time to do the
don’ts.  If you want some place to start
try Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control. There is no law against these things!

So I’ll tell you what, work on those nine and when you get them down pat let
me know and I’ll find you some more.

Here’s the secret if you want to know what’s in this book
then you have to read it.  It can’t just
sit there.  If you don’t have a bible I
would recommend the New Living Translation, if you can’t afford one let me know
and I’ll buy you one.

Every once in a while I read a quote and think; man I gotta use that.  Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38 years
of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England.  During the time he was there the church grew
to over 5,000 in attendance and he became known around the world for his
preaching and this was before television. 
And Spurgeon said once “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write
damnation with your fingers.”  I
hope that’s not true of you, let’s pray.

Shameful . . .

So, did you vote last week?  Probably not, since we were told that less than half those who were eligible to vote actually cast a ballot.  And if you fall in that category it is shameful and inexcusable.  People say “But Denn you don’t understand,  I didn’t know the issues or candidates.”  Well, whose fault is that?  Others say “I just didn’t have the time.”  Yet you had time for Facebook and television.  Still other’s maintain that it doesn’t make a difference. Well it most certainly does, just watch the news and see what happens when people can’t vote.  And in this election it was so easy to cast a ballot.  If you didn’t have a car, a candidate would have driven you, if you didn’t want to leave the house you could have voted online, if you didn’t have the interweb thingy, you could have voted by phone.  Shameful and inexcusable. 
But that is just my opinion.  The Bible never told us that we had to vote for those in power, but it did tell us to pray for those in power, regardless of whether you voted for them or not.  And if we don’t do that, not only is it shameful and inexcusable, it is disobedient.  Just saying.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

The Result of our behaviour.

Over the past four weeks I’ve been speaking about what Jesus
said about our behaviour, and if you were looking for a specific list of what
we can do and can’t do you’ve been disappointed.    Jesus didn’t provide a detailed list but
instead insisted that our relationship with God would lead to proper
behaviour.  And he did provide some
warnings telling people that there were certain behaviours that would indicate
that there were problems with that relationship, and even indicated that people
who exhibited those behaviours weren’t in a relationship with him, regardless
of what they might claim.
The problem with lists is that if anything falls outside the
list we assume that behaviour is alright. 
And so we hear people who are involved in behaviour who are saying “Well
Jesus didn’t say anything about . . .” 
And you can fill in the blank.
And so Jesus painted a picture with broad strokes, a picture
of people who respected and loved God and one another.   When Jesus was looking for a metaphor to
describe those who behaved this way he reached out to and latched on to an unlikely
pair.  Jesus told those who followed him,
that their behaviours would make them like Salt and Light.  And while they might seem confusing to us to
those he was talking to it was probably an “Ahhh!” moment. 
We don’t know exactly who all had gathered around Jesus to
hear him speak that day, but we have some hints.  Back at the beginning of the chapter, when
this day began, you might remember we were told in Matthew
5:1-2 One day as he saw the crowds gathering, Jesus went up on the mountainside
and sat down. His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.  Did you catch that, Jesus saw the
crowds gathering but he went up to the mountainside and his disciples gathered
around and he began to teach them.
So it was not crowds of semi interested people who had
gathered around, it wasn’t the uninterested who were listening to the message
that day it was people who were seeking the truth, who had already in some way
committed themselves to following Jesus. 
Now we don’t know who all was there that day but we were
introduced to four of them not long before Jesus began to teach and it was the
four fisherman, Andrew, Peter, James and John. 
Four fisherman and I’m pretty sure that they were the ones who had the
eureka moment when Jesus talked about Salt and Light. 
Salt and light, that was something they knew about because every
night they made their way safely to shore by following the lights set out for
them and every day they took the fish that they hadn’t sold fresh and they
covered them in salt to preserve them for the next day.  And so when Jesus looked out at his disciples
and said “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world”
Andrew and Peter and James and John all looked at each other and went “Ahhh, salt
and light, that’s cool.” 
But here we are two thousand years later and instead of
saying “ahhhh” we saying “Huh? Salt? Light?”
So what was it that Jesus was trying to say?  What was it about salt and light that Jesus
was trying to convey to those who sat around him on the hill that sunny
Palestinian afternoon?  And what is his
message for us 2000 years later.  What
was it about salt and light that should be evidenced in those who have chosen
to follow Jesus Christ?
The First thing is that Salt
and Light Are Distinctive. 
I’ve
never heard anyone say “Hey what’s that strange taste”  when they try something that is salty,  It is very distinctive and defining, salt is
not confused with other flavours, you don’t hear people say “You know it’s
either salt or vanilla I’m not sure which.”
You might hear someone say “that is really salty” or “This
needs more salt” but for the average person they don’t confuse the flavour of
salt with other flavours.
It is the same way with light, you might hear someone say
“What is that light?”  but you never hear
about light “Is that a light or a . . .?” 
I’m not even sure what you might possibly confuse a light with, perhaps
a reflection but that is still a light of sorts.
And so Christ is telling those who gathered to hear him that
day that if they chose to follow him they would be known as his followers, there
would be something distinctive in their lives that people would know that they
were a Christ follower.  A number of
years ago someone was telling me about a person who worked in the same office
as they did.  “We’ve worked together for
years” the person told me “And I just found out they are a Christian, isn’t
that funny?”  No actually it’s kind of
sad.  We are not called to be the same as
everyone else we are called to be different. 
Different in our perspectives, different in our behaviour,
different in our morals.  People should
be able to tell by your language that you are not like everyone else.  By what you laugh at and don’t laugh at.  When they are telling you about the weekend
they had and you tell them that you worshipped the God of creation on Sunday.  When they make sexual suggestive remarks and
you don’t reply in kind.
People shouldn’t wonder about your faith it should be
evident in your life you shouldn’t have to wear a sign that says “Look at me I
follow Jesus”  instead Christ’s presence
should be evident in your life.  Paul
writes 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!  And in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Everyone who belongs to Christ will be
given new life.  People ask you
all the time “Is that a new car?”  “Did
you get a new house?”  “Do you have new
glasses?” in the same way when you become a Christ Follower people should be
asking “Is that a new life you have?”
Do you remember from watching Sesame Street “One of these things is not
like the others, One of these things just doesn’t
belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my
song?”  If you are a Christ follower and
you are in the company of non-Christ Followers you are the thing that is not
like the others, or at least you should be
When Jesus was praying for his followers before he went to
the cross, praying not just for Peter and Andrew, not just for James and
Nathaniel, but for Denn and for Mike and for Sherry and Heather and for all the
people who would ever follow him, he prayed 
John 17:15-17 I’m not asking you to take them
out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong
to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your
word, which is truth.
Did you catch that? 
They do not belong to the world any more than I do.  If you are a Christ Follower, and you’ve
probably figured out if you’ve been around Cornerstone for any length of time I
use that term more than Christian because Christian is just way too generic in
2012, if you are a Christ Follower then it is because you are following
Christ.  It’s not because you attend
Cornerstone, that doesn’t make you a Christ Follower, it’s not because your
parents or your spouse follow Christ, that won’t cut it. 
Jesus told us 2000 years ago John
12:26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants
must be where I am. And the Father will honour anyone who serves me.
If we were going to the same place, and you wanted to go but
didn’t know the way you could follow me. 
And that would entail . . . following me.  And maybe when we got out on the highway you
decided that I was driving too slow for your preference or maybe you didn’t
like the colour of my car or whatever and you decided to follow someone
else.  You would no longer be following
me, no matter what you said and if you ended up in a different place then you
intended that would be your fault not mine. 
As a Christ follower you are to follow Christ, not Mohammed,
not Buddha, not Confucius and certainly not Denn.  Dad often reminds me of the Tombstone
somewhere in the US
that has as the epitaph
Pause, stranger, when you pass me
by,
For as you are, so once was I.
As I am now, so will you be.
Then prepare unto death, and follow
me.
And someone had scratched on it:
To follow you I’m not content
Until I know which way you went!
As Salt and light are distinctive if we are followers of Christ
we will be distinctive because we will be like the Christ we follow. 
Salt and Light Serve a Purpose.  A number of years ago I preached a message on being the salt of the
earth and mentioned several purposes that salt was used for 2000 years ago. Salt
was Essential for Health
Salt is essential for the well-being and
indeed the very existence for those living in very hot climates.  It is necessary for proper body metabolism,
that is the normal retention and exchange of fluids between cells. 
When the body begins to lose moisture and salt content
through perspiration, then the life process become threatened.  In fact if the salt isn’t replaced then death
may occur. 
So when Christ
commends us as salt he is commanding us to contribute to the health, vitality
and well-being of society.  Too often we
hear the phrase “society is sick” and well that may be true, the Christian
church must realize that one of the reasons we are supposed to be here is to
keep society healthy.
Salt Was Used to Preserve This was probably one of the most important functions of salt in
Christ’s day.  In the hot weather of Palestine, before
refrigerators or coolers the only way to keep the meat or fish you didn’t need
today from going bad was to salt it.  Now
I don’t mean a little bit of salt I mean lots of salt.  And through this process of salting
putrefaction was kept at bay.
When I was growing
up from time to time we’d have salt fish, because that’s what my parents grew
up eating on Grand Manan.  To prepare the
fish you’d soak it all day, change the water a few times and then boil it, and
then when you ate it you kept a glass of water handy because it was so
salty.  There was no doubt in anybody’s mind at all that there was some salt in that
fish.
That is the way we
are supposed to affect society, they can soak themselves in sin, they can try
to boil us out but if’n we are doing what we are supposed to be doing then we
should permeate society so even with a casual taste Christianity is the
prominent flavour.  Instead we have become
like those new potato chips that are lightly salted.  When you first taste them you’re not sure if
they have salt on them or not.
The only way we are
going to preserve this old world is to pack it in salt, and we’ll never do that
as long as the salt is content to be in the salt shaker.
Salt Was used for Seasoning 
Historians tell us that the food of Jesus day would have been very
bland.  In our gastronomical
experimentation we have lost sight of what it must have been like.  If we look at many of the third world
countries even though they may not be on a starvation diet their sustenance
comes primarily from rice or grain.  Meat
and fish is a real treat.  When I was in Africa the primary seasoning was salt, unlike the
Maritimes where it’s Ketchup. 
Christ’s diet would have required salt to improve its
flavour.  And so if we are to be the salt
of the earth part of our purpose is to add flavour to the world, to make it
more palatable.  Over the past two
thousand years the church has helped improve the flavour of the world through
art, music and literature.
Salt
Was Used for healing
 
  2000 years ago there wasn’t a drug store on
every corner.  If a soldier was hurt in
battle, if a farmer was gored by a bull, if a child fell down and scraped his
knee there was a common treatment.  The
wound was bathed in salt and water.  And
it proved to be an excellent sterilization agent.  As a matter of fact it’s still used in many
countries today.  When I was in Bible College
our school nurse had served for forty years as a missionary nurse in Africa and her solution for most medical problems was to
gargle with salt water. 
The church of Jesus Christ
needs to have a healing ministry in today’s
world, and not just spiritual healing either but physical and emotional healing
as well.  There needs to be a ministry of
reconciliation.  We need to help in the
healing of broken bodies, broken hearts, broken homes, and broken hopes and
dreams. 
Light serves a purpose as
well.  And this was a picture that these
fishermen would understand
Light Attracts
Peter and Andrew and the boys fished at night
because during the day the fish in the Sea of Galilee stay close to the bottom
where it’s cooler but during the cool of the night they come close to the
surface and the guys would have kept a lit torch aboard their boats to draw the
fish even closer.  You ever turn your
lights off on your porch in the summer time because it attracts moths?  15 Years ago when we first moved into
Kingswood our son Stephen had fallen asleep watching TV and had the outside
light on and the front room light on and someone who was lost deep in the bowels
of Kingswood came to our door at 2:30 in the morning looking for directions,
why?  Because they saw our light.  When we are the light of the world we will
attract people to Jesus, that’s part of what we are supposed to do. Remember
what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 4:19 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish
for people!”  and Paul writes in Ephesians  5:8 For once
you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as
people of light!
Light Guides When fishing at night these men would have someone on the shore
light and tend a fire that would guide them back to shore in the dark.  If salt preserves then light points, not to
itself but to a path.  If you were to
follow the beam of a light house or a buoy you would be in serious trouble
because you’d eventually run into it. 
People are looking for the light that the
Christian provides, but it shouldn’t lead a person to a particular doctrine or
person instead it needs to lead past the person to Jesus.  And so we need to be a light for the non-believer,
the pre-Christian. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:16 In
the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone
will praise your heavenly Father. 
I remember when I was fishing with my dad
sailing into Yarmouth in the fog, I can’t
remember sailing into Yarmouth
without fog but that’s a different story. 
And we’d use our radar as much as we could but we would put a man out on
the bow to keep a look out for the light from the buoys.  The pre-Christian may be directed toward
Christ by the Bible or a T.V. Evangelist or a book but the Gospel has to come
to life in the light of a believer. 
I knew the facts of salvation, but it
wasn’t until I saw the reality of Christ’s changing power in the life of my
best friend that I was willing to trust Jesus with my life.
A Light Dispels the Darkness  Here
is the reality, it doesn’t matter how dark it is light will always
prevail.  If we could seal off this room
completely from any outside source of light it would be very very dark, or as
my Daddy would say “Darker then the inside of a cow’s belly.”  I’m assuming that he was just guessing on
that and wasn’t speaking from experience. 
But as dark as it might be that darkness would be dispelled by the flame
of a single match.  John wrote of Jesus
in John 1:4-5 The Word gave life to everything that
was created, and his life brought light to
everyone. The light shines in the
darkness, and the darkness can never
extinguish it.
Adlai
Stevenson wrote of Eleanor Roosevelt “She would
rather light candles than curse the darkness, and her glow has warmed the
world.”   We need to show the
light of Christ to the world, and as society becomes darker and darker the need
will be greater and greater for us to shine with the light of Christ.  And as futile as it might seem remember John 1:5 The light shines
in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
And then Christ gives us two warnings. Matthew 5:13 & 15 “You
are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can
you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as
worthless. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a
lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
3)
Without Their Purpose They Have No Value 
If salt isn’t being salt and light isn’t
being light then they are valueless.  But
here is an interesting thing salt can never be anything but salt.  It cannot become less salty and light can
never be anything but light, it cannot become less lighty.  And I know you are thinking “But Jesus
said”  I know what Jesus said but Salt is
always salt and light is always light. 
Salt cannot stop
being salt.  Salt in itself cannot become
less salty.  Salt is salt is salt.  It does not become less salty, the only way that
salt can lose its saltiness is by contamination.  When other elements are mixed with it, so
there ends up being less salt and more stuff. 
Christians become less salty the same way, when we become contaminated
by other things.  And we become less like
Christ and more like the world.
Every Christian will
be a witness.  They will either be a
witness to the changing power of Jesus Christ or against the changing power of
Jesus Christ.  And it is a sad commentary
about human nature that the negative witness will have more impact than the
positive witness.  It’s like the pastor
who told a colleague “I have 800 members in my
church”  “How many are active?” his
friend enquired.  “All of them” came the
reply “600 are active for the Lord and the rest are active for the devil”  You’re going to be salt for one or the other
and only you can decide.
And while light will
always be light it can be hidden either partly or completely and then it can no
longer do its job.  And we cover it up by
not acknowledging the light, never acknowledging our relationship with Jesus or
by allowing our light to become filtered through our actions or the company we
keep.  2
Corinthians  6:14 Don’t team up with
those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness?
How can light live with darkness?  The light may still be there but it’s no longer serving its purpose
because of the dark lenses it is being seen though.
So how about it this morning, are you
having a positive influence on the world around you because of your
relationship with Jesus Christ?  It’s not
an option, it is a requirement for being a part of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus didn’t say you might be salt or you may
be light, he said if you are following Him that you will be salt and light. 

Going Up?

Faster than the speed of sound!  This week, Austrian extreme athlete, Felix Baumgartner, became the first human to break the sound barrier.  Well, the first human to break the sound barrier without an airplane. 
“Fearless Felix” jumped from a capsule that more than 38 kilometers above the earth and before deploying his parachute he reached a speed of 1,342.8 km/h, which broke the sound barrier — 1,200 km/h.  Baumgartner’s jump broke the previous record that had been set in 1960 by US Air force Colonel Joe Kittinger.  Which was the year I was born. 

Very few if any of us will ever have the chance to break the sound barrier, at least not on the way down but maybe on the way up. The word of God tells us that someday the church, the bride of Christ, will disappear in the twinkling of an eye to be with Jesus. We don’t know if it will happen in our lifetime or not, but it might, and the question always has to be “Will you be ready to go?”  And going up will be even cooler than coming down, and so I leave you with this thought, “I trust that I’ll See you there or in the air.”      Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Warnings and Early Warnings

Video from (Peggy’s Cove)
If you aren’t familiar with the video shot, then I’m not
sure what to say.  I took that a month
ago while we were on our annual pilgrimage to Peggy’s cove, and while I
preparing to take some of these phone photos I noticed the lady down on the
rocks.  If you were watching carefully
you  were aware of just how close she was
to the edge of the water.  Now realize
that in order for her to get to the spot where she was standing that she would
have had to pass one of these warning signs, and have ignored the older less
politically correct signs that are scattered around Peggy’s Cove.  32 clicks to make a clue and she didn’t have
a click.
I don’t know if you could hear on the video but a couple of
people who walked behind me commented on the fact that she was on the dark
rocks.  That means rocks where the waves
have been recently. 
Perhaps if you had of asked her she would have told you that
she knew exactly what she was doing, that others may have been swept off the
rocks at Peggy’s Cove but that wasn’t her intentions.  If you had questioned her common sense
perhaps she would have told you not to judge her, that she knew what she was
doing and the signs were for others who weren’t nearly as intelligent as she
was. 
She may have even suggested that the signs weren’t binding,
they weren’t the law that they were merely suggestions and that if she had of
followed the suggestion then she wouldn’t have been able to get the photographs
that she wanted to.
Now to be fair I was shooting video that I thought I would
be able to sell to the Television News if anything went awry.  But seriously I was watching because I knew
that if something happened that someone would have to do something, I’m not
sure if I would be prepared to jump in the water after her, but I could
certainly yell for help. 
And she was not only placing herself in danger but was
putting others in danger because someone would feel obliged to jump into the
water after her.  And if they failed to pull
her to safety or recover her body then her family would insist that society, in
the form of the coast guard and local fisherman should place themselves at risk
and spend vast amounts of money to recover her body.  All because she refused to heed the warnings.  And then some nitwit would suggest that we
fence all of Peggy’s cove to prevent it from happening again. 
Which goes to prove the truth of Billy Sunday’s statement
“Sin can be forgiven, but stupid is forever.” 
About the same time in the news was the story of Maria
Pantazopoulos, the thirty year old bride who drowned during a photo shoot near
Dorwin Falls in Quebec.  And that was a
tragedy but it was preventable.  Her
family has suggested that there should be barriers to keep people away from the
water because the warning signs are not enough. 
Others have suggested that there be regular patrols or that life
preservers be installed along the water edge.
How about this for a suggestion?  Pay attention to the warning signs?  Just a thought.   I don’t
want to negate the tragedy of Pantazopoulos’ death, but there were warning
signs posted. 
And I completely agree with warning signs in areas like
this. When there is danger we should know about it.   And if
there weren’t warning signs it would be irresponsible.  That’s why we have warning signs.
Now some warning signs are just dumb, like the label on a
bottle of peanuts warning people that it might contain peanuts, or the
hairdryer warning stating that it should not be used while sleeping, the label
on the iron on transfer that says “Do not iron while wearing shirt”. 
This warning I like, it was on the back of a truck operated
by a septic tank cleaning company and it said “Warning this truck may contain
political promises.” 
But there are warnings that
must be taken serious.  The past couple
of weeks we have been talking about “What Jesus Said about Our Behaviour”  and I would suggest that when Jesus spoke
about our behaviour he was posting warning signs.  Signs that warn that certain behaviours can
hurt us, physically, emotionally, spiritually and eternally.    
In the scripture that was read
earlier Jesus warns people about those who exhibit evil behaviour.  A very similar list is given by Paul in
Galatians and that list concludes with these words Galatians
5:21
. . . Let me tell you again, as I have
before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of
God.   That my friends is a
warning. 
But a warning at that point is
like a warning at the edge of a cliff: If you jump off this cliff you will
die.  Or perhaps even a warning half way
down the cliff:  If you have jumped off
this cliff you will die.  A little late
perhaps. 
But what can we do to prevent
us from getting to that spot?  In the
Lord’s prayer Jesus teaches us to pray Matthew 6:13 And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the
evil one.  I wonder what a
difference it would make in our lives if we prayed that before we got out of
bed each morning?  And meant it? 


But let’s go back a little bit earlier in the Sermon on
the Mount to see the various “Early Warning” signs that Jesus’ posts for those
who would choose to follow him. 
We’ve talked before about how Old Testament laws were laid
down for a nation to keep it from deteriorating into moral decay, and rotting
away from the inside.  The concepts that
Christ goes on to deal with here were meant to hold the moral fabric of Israel
together.  They are the essence of the 10
Commandments, and seriously if our Country lived by those rules Canada would be
a much better place to live.  
But Christ goes on to say that
believers, Christian, those who would follow Christ had a much higher calling
then to simply obey the law, and so he tells us how to avoid getting to those
dangerous spots.    Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not
murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 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.
The Warning is Don’t Kill, The Early Warning is Don’t Hate 
The law says you shall not murder.  That’s cool, in order for society not to
destroy itself it needs to respect life from conception to natural death.  When we decide that life at any point on the
time line is any less or any more valuable than at any other point then we are
opening doors better left closed.   A
society that permits the sacrifice of its unborn children for convenience and
economic benefit will eventually permit the same for the elderly. 
And while respect for life is a wonderful concept for
society as a whole the believer is required to go a step further and along with
not kill they must not even hate.  And
that can only happen with the help of God. 
Jesus knew that the action begins with the thought and so he
warns us to not even start down the path that leads to the cliff.  It was Poet Audre Lorde who warned us  “Hatred is a death wish for the hated, not a
life wish for anything else.” 
Jesus understood the power of hatred and anger, how it
consumes other emotions.  When we look at
social unrest and the violence it so often breeds in most case it begins with
anger and turns to hate. 
You all know what is meant by the phrase “If looks could
kill.”
And what is true in society is true in personal
relationships.  And even if that anger
doesn’t result in the killing of a person, it kills a relationship.  And slowly it destroys the person who
hates. 
Sometimes you hear in the news about someone who takes the
life of another and it seems like it is a spontaneous act, a crime of passion
something that happens in the heat of the moment but in many cases there is an
underlying anger at play.   Paul nailed
it when he warns us in Ephesians 4:26-27 And
“don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you
are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
So Jesus warns us to nip that anger in the bud.  Don’t let anger steal your joy.   And that’s not always easy, but try this: If
there is someone in your life that you are angry with try praying for them, not
praying about them but praying for them. 
It’s not easy but try it. 
If the prohibition against murder is paramount in protecting
society the next command is fundamental to protecting the family.  And so Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:27-28 “You have
heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say,
anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with
her in his heart
The Warning is: Don’t Cheat, The Early Warning is: Don’t Think About it
But as with murder,  adultery very
seldom does just happen.  This command of
Jesus actually covers two of the Ten Commandments.  The first of course is the seventh
commandment, you must not commit adultery, but then Jesus draws on the tenth
commandment as well, You must not covet. 
You must not want what isn’t yours. 
In 1977 Conway Twitty had a number one hit with the song “I’ve already
loved you in my mind.”  Stayed at number
one for 11 weeks and that’s where adultery begins, in our mind.  The problem today extends beyond coveting our
neighbours spouse to all that is served up on television, movies and the
internet.  It is fixating on how green
the grass looks on the other side of the fence to the neglect of our own grass.
 And by the way if your neighbours grass
looks greener than yours it might be because he takes better care of his grass.
Just saying.
And you know what I’m talking about, you know what you
can’t watch or can’t read and places you can’t go. 
Every once in a while we hear about someone who cheats and
we think, “Wow, that came out of nowhere.” 
But 2000 years ago the Roman Satirist Juvenal observed that “No one every
suddenly became depraved.”
Now I’m sure that there are some folks who are sitting
there thinking, “Don’t worry Denn, I’ve got it all under control.”  No you don’t! 
Proverbs 6:27-28 
Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Can he walk on hot
coals and not blister his feet? By the way that was a rhetorical
question and Solomon wasn’t really expecting an answer.
So what is the solution? 
In the computer world you used to hear the phrase “Garbage in Garbage
out.”  The secret is to control what goes
into your mind and your heart, and only you can do that.  Your TV has a remote, you can put the book
down, you can turn the computer off.  And
you can follow the advice of God’s word, 
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your
thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and
admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
The next warning goes hand with the previous one.
Matthew
5:31-32
“You have heard the law that says,
‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’
But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful,
causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also
commits adultery.
The Warning is: Divorce Formally, The Early Warning is: Make Divorce Hard The Old
Testament recognized that the marriage was both sacred and binding The Prophet
Malachi wrote in Malachi 2:16 “For I hate
divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. . .
Now that’s fine in theory but it didn’t work well in
practice.  One of the major problems of
the time was that woman weren’t viewed as people nearly as much as they were as
things.  And so when a man didn’t want
his wife anymore he simply showed her the door. 
Well you can well imagine the effect that this would have on society and
so the law brought about a proper procedure to deal with the situation and
again it was a law for unredeemed people.
Do you remember Deuteronomy 24:1 “Suppose
a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something
wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends
her away from his house.
The big debate with the Jews was what was meant by the
term “Does not please him”  the most
conservative teachers said that it meant adultery, or he discovered that she
wasn’t a virgin when they married. 
Others said that it meant that she made her husband unhappy in some
ways.  It could be that she couldn’t have
children, that she was disobedient, that she was a nag or burnt dinner or that
he had found someone that he preferred over her. 
It was this second more liberal view that was held by the
majority of the Jews at the time, at least the majority of the men.  And so if the wife displeased her husband
then he gave her a writ of divorce that said Let this
be from me your writ of divorce and letter of dismissal and deed of liberation,
that you may marry whatever man you wish. 
This was the law for society and remains so today, if you cannot
live with your spouse and you aren’t a Christian you don’t simply desert them
you go through the necessary actions and paper work and make it official.  This rule was there to protect the
institution of marriage, to provide a waiting period so to speak, to make it a
little more difficult than simply walking away.
When you hear about people and their starter marriages you
know that they have already planned their exit strategy.  If your list of why your marriage could end
contains more than a couple of reasons you are setting yourself up for
failure. 
It was Zsa Zsa Gabor who said “Getting divorced just because you
don’t love a man is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.”
And so Jesus tells us warns that unless we view divorce as
a worse case option it will become way too easy and that has proved itself true
in today’s society. 
Matthew
5:33
“You have also heard that our ancestors
were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make
to the LORD.’   Matthew 5:37 Just
say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the
evil one. The Warning is: Don’t Lie, The
Early Warning is: Be People of Integrity
Again the Old Testament
contains laws concerning oaths, that simply means promising to do
something.  The result was that people
felt that they only time they had to be complelty honest was when they had
taken a vow.  This law was to make sure
that the word of people would be binding, essentially it was speaking about
verbal contracts. 
Two things brought swearing to a head during the time of
Christ, the first was taking oaths on frivolous things, and we do that today
don’t we, “Honest, I swear, I was in the line at Tim
Hortons for 20 minutes”  The
second problem was even worse and that was evasive swearing.  People had decided that some oaths were
binding and others weren’t.  So if you
made an oath on God’s name it was binding, but if you swore by heaven, or earth
or Jerusalem then it was less binding. 
The thought being that if God’s name was used then he became a partner
with you in the statement.  Just a little
pet peeve here, I think that some people, believers included, use the name of
God much too lightly and I don’t just mean cussing, I mean when we use God as
an exclamation in our Conversation. 
Saying “Oh my God” is misusing the name of God, as is typing OMG.  To keep it simple the only time you should
use the word God is when you are talking about Him or to Him.  By the way that was free.
Jesus recognized that an unredeemed society needed to have
something to govern them other than their innate honesty.  Order cannot be maintained without some kind
of legal mechanism to insure that promises would be kept.
But Jesus told those who followed him that they should be so
honest, so filled with integrity that no one would ever think of questioning
their word.   If we are to tell the truth
in big things then we will need to tell the truth in little things.  A half-truth is a whole lie.   To quote Don Galer, “Integrity is
what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.”
There is nothing more damaging to the reputation of the
Kingdom then Christians who don’t keep their word and aren’t people of
integrity.  When Churches don’t pay their
bills, when those who profess to follow Christ are less than honest it not only
drags their name through the mud it does the same for Christ. 

The warning is when you have taken a vow don’t break it, the early warning is
live such a life of integrity that breaking your word would never be a
consideration. 
Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match
the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not
resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other
cheek also.
The Warning is: Limit Revenge, The Early Warning is: Learn to Forgive  Where his listeners would have heard this
would have been in Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 and Exodus 21:24.  This is the oldest law in the world, “an
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. 
That law was referred to in the ancient world as Lex Talionis (lex
talin-o-nis), but it might have been more aptly referred to as the “law of tit
for tat”  It appears in the earliest code
of law and that was the code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian King who lived
1800 years before Christ.  The main
principal is clear; if a person inflicts an injury then he would receive the
same treatment.
There are some who would call
this harsh and blood thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for
two reasons:  The first is that it
limited Judgement, if someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t
knock out all of his.  Secondly it took
judgement away from the individual and gave it to society.  Probably the greatest example of the why and
how of this law was capital punishment. 
If someone killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was
their punishment, you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their
spouse.  This type of law was indicative
of the society in which Christ lived.  It
was very much a retaliatory society. 
And it still is through much of
the Middle East, Iran does it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it,
Libya does it and if you want a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just
watch the Jews.  But then again we
support Israel so when the do it we don’t call it terrorism.
If’n you want to stomp out evil
by stomping out the evil doer then the law of Moses is fine.  But if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage
the sinner then you need a completely different approach.
The law tells us to react in
kind, and that suits our human personality. 
We are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close
minded to the close minded.  But Christ
isn’t content with those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same
way as the world.  Instead of reacting in
kind, he commands us to react in contrast. 
If we are going to change the world it will happen through forgiveness, It
was Martin
Luther King Jr. who wrote “That old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves
everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” 
If you don’t forgive when
you’ve been wronged eventually it will consume you and turn you into a hateful
resentful person.  And that isn’t who
Christ called people to be.
And finally Jesus sums up his
teaching but stating, 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! When the overriding
motivation is displaying the love of Christ the rest of the pieces will fall into
place.  When you seek to love others in
the way that Christ loves you then you won’t have to worry about whether you do
this or don’t do that. 

Happy Thanksgiving


So, how was your Thanksgiving?  We had a full house this year. My folks were here from Saint John, our daughter and her family we up from Shelburne,  and we had some time with our son and his girlfriend in the Valley on Saturday.  We did the traditional feast on Monday and will eat leftovers for a good part of the week.  Thanksgiving was good, and we had a riot with the grandkids.  But it was a busy weekend, with a trip to the Valley on Saturday, three services on Sunday and the feast on Monday. I wonder how much time I really had for giving thanks.  And I have much to be thankful for, especially as I look around at the rest of the world, and I don’t just mean material blessings.  I love my wife and I love my life and there’s a lot to be said in that statement.   Often though I take those things  for granted, or worse, take them as my due.    
I’m not going to make promises about how next Thanksgiving weekend will be less rushed because  it won’t be.  But I am going to try really hard through the year to say “thank you” more to my family, my friends and my God. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Follow Me

What Jesus Said about Our Behaviour:  Follow Me
Last month I received an email from a man who is planning on
carrying a cross across Nova Scotia.  He
didn’t tell me how big the cross was going to be but I’m assuming that it isn’t
going to be a small cross.  And to tell
the truth I’m not sure what I think about his project, if indeed I think
anything about it, kind of ambivalent for me.  It really doesn’t affect me one way or
another.     
I’m sure that his intentions are good and there will be
those who think that he is committed and others who think he should be
committed. 
Our topic this month is “What Jesus said about our
behaviour”  and you might be wondering
what a man carrying a cross across Nova Scotia has to do with that topic, bear
with me.  In both Matthew’s and Mark’s
gospel accounts we see Jesus’ ministry begin with the same two commands.  First he tells people in Mark 1:14-15 . . . Jesus went into Galilee, where he
preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he
announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the
Good News!”  So, the very first
thing that Jesus command us is “Repent and believe”  And that is awesome.  This is the Cornerstone of our faith,
repent:  That is acknowledge that you are
a sinner and be sorry for that and not just a little sorry, but sorry enough to
want to stop that behaviour.  And then
believe the good news.  What is the good
news?  That when we repent of our sins,
that in the eyes of God our sins are forgiven. 
And repentance isn’t “I’m sorry because I got caught”.  It is an acknowledgment that your sinful
behaviour has been an offence to God.   
William Barclay writes that this command to repent
was a command to  “Turn from your own ways,
and turn to God. Lift your eyes from earth and look to heaven. Reverse your
direction, and stop walking away from God and begin walking towards God.”
That is the same message that
Peter preached after Jesus had been crucified and after Jesus had been raised
from the dead and after Jesus had returned to the Father.  On the day of Pentecost Peter preaches and
when he is done those in the crowd ask him “What should we do?” and we read in Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your
sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you
have received forgiveness for your sins.”   And then later Peter proclaims in Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn
to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
So the first thing that Jesus said about our Behaviour is that It Will 
Involve a Decision to Leave the Past
And maybe you are thinking, “What does that have to do with
the guy with the cross?” 
Patience, we will get there.
If Jesus first command was to
repent then what was his second command? 
Mark 1:16-18 One day as Jesus was walking along
the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a
net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them,
“Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left
their nets at once and followed him.
If Jesus’ first command was for
people to draw a line in the sand to delineate the past from the future  his second command was to step over that line
and to leave the past behind.  And so he
called Peter and Andrew to follow him, and then he called John and James to
follow him, and then he called Philip to follow him, and then he called Matthew
to follow him.  And he is still calling
people to follow him today. 
And that was the beginning of
Christianity.  Up to the point Jesus was
just a lone preacher calling people to repent, it was when Andrew and Peter put
down their nets and followed Jesus that it went from a sermon to a
movement. 
But what does it mean to
follow?  We really don’t need to bring up
a dictionary definition of follow, you understand that.  Follow isn’t a complicated word, it has no
deep hidden meanings, it’s not rocket surgery. 
If you are going to follow someone you follow them.  If we were heading to the same place and I
told you to follow me you would know exactly what I meant. If I wasn’t going
that way but knew how to get there I could give you directions and tell you to
follow the directions.  Dorothy and her
friends understood that they would find their way to the Emerald City if they
followed the yellow brick road. 
And when Jesus extended the
invitation to follow him people knew what that meant.  And sometimes they did and sometimes they
didn’t.  A minute ago I read the account
of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew.  Jesus
said “Come, follow me.”  And the bible
records that they left their nets at once and followed him.  And for the next three years they went where
he went and they listened as he taught and they watched as he performed
miracles.  
When Jesus called Matthew the
tax collector he said “follow me” and we are told that Matthew got up from the
tax collector’s booth and followed Jesus. 
But not everybody responded in
the same way.  Do you remember the
scripture that we started with last week? 
Don’t feel bad I had to look it up as well, it was a story told by Matthew
about a young man who came and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal
life.  And Jesus told him to obey the
commandments, and the man asked “Which one?” and Jesus highlighted five of the
Ten Commandments, Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not lie, do not steal
and honour your parents.  And I’m sure
that there are some folks here today who were checking the list off in their
minds and figure they have those five covered. 
Then Jesus adds another commandment “Love your neighbour as
yourself.” 
And then we read Matthew 19:20 “I’ve obeyed all these
commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”  The guy must have been thinking, “Wow,
I’ve got it made, I’m in.”  And we read
Jesus reply Matthew 19:21
Jesus told him,
“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money
to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” And
that was the deal breaker.  You see
Andrew and Peter, James and John left all that was important to them, they left
their fishing boats and their livelihoods, Matthew left behind a corrupt and
very lucrative profession as a tax collector. 
What Jesus was asking of the young man wasn’t unique, it was what he had
asked of others, “Leave yesterday and follow me into tomorrow.”  And they others did.  But listen to what happens in this story Matthew 19:22 But when the young man heard this,
he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.
Do you see what happened
here?  We often focus on what the young
man wouldn’t give up but have you ever stopped and thought about what he did
give up? 
This man had the opportunity to
become the 13th apostle! 
Jesus said “Follow me” and the man said no, he went away.  He traded away forever for a handful of today.
The second thing we discover
about what Jesus requires of us is that It
Will Involve a decision for Today
The command to follow is still a command
to follow.  He may not be asking you to
sell everything and give it to the poor but he is still asking you to leave
whatever it is that ties you to the past. 
And there are those here today who have already accepted his invitation
and those here today who have already rejected that invitation.   And maybe for what would appear to be very
valid reasons. 
There is a story told by Luke
of another person that Jesus called to follow him, Luke 9:59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The
man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”   That sounds like a reasonable request,
but listen to Jesus’ response Luke 9:60 But
Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to
go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Wow, that sounds a little
harsh.  The man’s father was dead.  Or was he? 
Again sometimes it is a mistake to look at Palestinian words from 2000
years ago with 2012 Canadian eyes.  It
has been suggested by a number of scholars that the man’s father wasn’t dead
that instead this was a common expression that simply meant that until a
person’s father died that there were responsibilities and obligations that
needed to be met.  And if you wanted to
share in the inheritance then it would be wise to be there until the end.
And so if that is the case,
this man wasn’t saying that he would follow Jesus tomorrow, he was saying he
would follow Jesus when it was convenient.  
Maybe you’ve had that very discussion with Jesus, where you’ve said
“Maybe next week” or “Maybe when I’m older” or maybe you are simply saying
“After I’ve done what I want to do.”  You
know that your behaviour doesn’t fit with those who have chosen to follow
Christ and so you’ll wait.  And that decision
might be admirable in some ways it can also be dangerous, because we don’t know
what tomorrow holds.  Pick up any
newspaper and you will read of people who died yesterday who fully expected to
be alive tomorrow. 
Now here is a deep truth, you
might want to write it down so you don’t forget, ready?  You can’t call yourself a Christ Follower
unless you are following Christ.  And if you don’t believe
me then listen to Jesus: John
12:26
“Anyone who
wants to be my disciple must follow me . . .”
And for some of you, thus endeth the lesson. Because until you obey
Christ’s command to repent and follow him you are under no obligation to follow
his teachings.  These are the only two
requirements that Jesus makes of people before they step over the line of
faith. 
Sometimes I think the church has been a lot more interested in getting
people to act like Christians then to actually be Christians.  So unless you have repented and have chosen
to follow him your behaviour is irrelevant in the eternal scheme of
things. 
Oh you should obey the commandments that Jesus reminded the rich young
ruler of, don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, honour your parents, don’t lie
and don’t steal.  But that is for the
sake of protecting society and really has nothing to do with your soul.  It will make this world a better place while
you are alive but won’t really have an impact on what happens after that. 
And here we must be clear, the
commands of Christ,  what he tells us
from this point on about how to behave only applies to those who have chosen to
follow him.  And some of you are still thinking about the guy who is going to carry
the cross and wondering what it has to do with the message.   Well it doesn’t really, sorry to disappoint
you but Jesus did say in Mark 8:34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If
any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take
up your cross, and follow me.”  And
so the third thing Jesus tells us about our behaviour is that  It Will
Involve a decision for Tomorrow.  But understand when Jesus told us to take
up our cross he wasn’t actually telling us to take up a cross.   We seldom think of someone carrying a cross
today, and if we saw someone actually carrying a cross we’d think it was a
little, ah what is the word?  Oh yeah
weird.
But two thousand years ago the
metaphor was a lot clearer then it is today. 
When we think of the cross and the crucifixion we think of an isolated
event in history, the day they crucified Jesus. 
But the crucifixion of Jesus wasn’t all that special of an event in
Palestine 2000 years ago, I don’t know if it was an everyday event but it was
certainly a common event.  And so when
Jesus said “You must take up your cross, and follow me”  people immediately visualized someone
carrying a cross.  But what did that
mean?  Well, the only real knowledge that
most of us have of crosses being carried goes back to the Easter story when
Jesus carried his cross from Pilate’s court to the hill on which he was
crucified.  And since Jesus used this
metaphor as an integral component of our behaviour let’s park here for a couple
of minutes and see what it entailed for Christ and therefore for those who
would choose to follow him.
And this wasn’t the only place
that this thought is used, Jesus said in Matthew 10:38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of
being mine.  And then the metaphor
is expanded in the letters of Paul, Romans 6:6 We
know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might
lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
And again in Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus
have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and
crucified them there.
So what does it mean as a
Christ follower to take up your cross and follow Jesus.
1) Carrying Your Cross means Surrendering Your Will  This is probably the most difficult thing
for us to get our heads around.  Becoming
a Christ follower means that you follow Christ, that you allow him to show you
where to go and you follow those directions. 
Before I made the decision to
follow Christ the biggest issue for me wasn’t how my behaviour would have to
change, I knew that there were certain life style choices that I had made that
I would no longer participate in as a Christ follower.  It 
wasn’t how my behaviour would change it was why my behaviour would
change.  And that was because I would no
longer be following Denn I would be following Christ.  That my prime obligation would not be whether
or not my life style choices would make Denn happy but whether or not my life
style choices would make Jesus happy.
And I was probably different
than most of you in the fact that I didn’t like being told what to do by
anyone, not even God.  But if you are
going to follow Jesus than you have to realize that you can’t follow him and
follow the world, you can’t follow him and follow culture, you can’t follow him
and follow your own desires or ambitions.  
Jesus is saying when you pick up your cross and start on this adventure
you are giving him control over your life. 
And that isn’t always easy, which leads us to the next point.
2) Carrying Your Cross Won’t be Easy 
In the literal and physical sense carrying a cross was not easy
task.  We are told that historical that
Jesus probably didn’t carry the entire cross through the streets of Jerusalem
as is portrayed in most religious art, but instead probably only carried the
cross piece which was called patibulum and would have weighed around 100 lbs or
45 kg.  Jesus had been up all night, he
had suffered a scourging at the hands of Roman soldiers and now he was required
to carry this 100 pound piece of rough lumber in the heat of the Palestinian
afternoon.  At this point in history that
probably isn’t going to happen to you, but as a Christ follower you will have
to make choices in life that aren’t easy if they are going to be pleasing to
God. 
Choices as a I mentioned before
that will involve lifestyle choices, should I do this or not?  Would this action or behaviour please God?   Choices that involve saying the right thing
and doing the right thing, even if the face of opposition .  Choices that involve how you spend your time
and how you spend your money.  It’s not
always easy. 
Jesus didn’t say “You can’t be
my follower unless you go for a walk in the park” He knew it wouldn’t be easy
to live a righteous life in an unrighteous world.  The decision to follow Jesus 2000 years ago
meant that you might lose your family, your livelihood or your life.  In some countries of the world today it is
still a reality.
But understand, following
Christ might not cost you your life, or your family or your job. . . but it
will cost you something.
3) Sometimes You’ll Need Help
With Your Cross 
If you know
the Easter story then you know how Jesus came to the place that he just
couldn’t carry the cross any further. 
The emotional and physical strain became too much and either he couldn’t
carry the cross at all or he was slowing the procession down and so the
soldiers reached into the crowd and randomly picked out a man to carry the
cross for Jesus.  We don’t know a lot
about Simon, the man chosen to help Jesus. 
We know that he was from Cyrene, which was a country in Northern
Africa.  Perhaps he had saved up so one
day he could celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem, or maybe he was simply a
tourist or a merchant who was in Jerusalem that day purely by happenstance.
It is interesting that when we
read Marks account it says this Mark 15:21 A
passerby named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the countryside
just then, and the soldiers forced him to carry Jesus’ cross. (Simon was the
father of Alexander and Rufus.)  The
fact that Mark names the children of Simon would indicate that the early church
knew who they were.   Now let’s skip over
to the book of Romans
16:13
Greet
Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and also his dear mother,
who has been a mother to me.   Same
Rufus?  We don’t know.  And Simon was one of those names that there
are different derivatives of, much like my name is Denn, D.e.n.n.  But I was named Dennison, in school they
called me Denny and when I went to College I chose to go by Den and when we started
Cornerstone I added the extra “n”. 
One of the derivatives of Simon
is Simeon and we read in the book of Acts 13:1 Among
the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas,
Simeon (called “the black man”), . . . Maybe Simon from North
Africa.  It’s amazing how a chance
encounter with Jesus can change the direction of your life
But that was a tangent, what is
important at this point is that Jesus needed help and he was given it either
willingly or unwillingly by this stranger.
There will be times in your
Christian life that you will realize that carrying your cross is really really
hard.  Maybe it’s things you are called
to do, or not do.  Maybe it is simply the
strain of doing the right things, the strain of being loving and forgiving in a
world that isn’t.  And you think I just
can’t do this anymore.  But you don’t
need to quit, you need help.   And there
are those who would say you just need more of God’s presence in your life, but
sometimes you need someone with skin on them.  And I’ve said it before, Christianity was
never meant to be a solitary religion. 
Develop those friendships and relationships so when the time comes there
is someone there to help you with your burden. 
 Harvey Mackay wrote a book a
number of years ago about networking and the title is relevant for each one of
us today, it was called “Dig Your Well Before You are Thirsty.”
And finally  4) There is an End to the Journey 
For Jesus the end wasn’t pretty but there came to a time that
he no longer carried his cross, he was crucified on it. That probably isn’t
your fate.
There will come a time that you
will no longer have to carry your cross, perhaps that particular season in your
life will end, the person who you are called to love and forgive will move
on.  Maybe a temptation will be removed,
or a situation will resolve itself.  But
often times something else comes along, this is just part of life.  And the promise for the Christ Follower is
rest and glory in the presence of the Christ we follow.
And we are not only called start
the race well we are called to finish the race well. And so to finish this
morning, two quotes. 
Contrary to popular opinion it
was not Yogi
Berra who said “It’s not over ‘til the fat lady sings.”  But it was Yogi Berra who said “It ain’t over
’til it’s over”.  And perhaps more
relevant it was the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Galatians in Galatians 6:8-9 . . .those
who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So
let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap
a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Only you know where you are on
that time line.  Do you need to
repent?  Do you need to follow
Christ?  Or do you need to pick up your
cross?

It’s Just a Matter of Time

The Toronto District School Board insists that it’s not endorsing polygamy.  In a recent promotion to help prevent “gender-based violence”, the school board’s website has a poster with the message “Love has no gender” in white capital letters surrounded by various hearts containing stick figure people.  In one of the hearts, there is an image of a man with two women; in another, two women with one man. 
Sounds like polygamy to me, but apparently not, at least not according to the school board.  “First, the board does not support polygamy,” said TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird. “The images in question were meant to support an individual’s right to choose whom they love, regardless of gender. For example, the reason for depicting two women and one man was meant to show that a person can be attracted to more than one gender.”  That clarifies their stand, it would be wrong for a man to have a relationship with two women but all right for a woman to have a relationship with a man and a woman.  
It’s good to know that those who educate children would never endorse polygamy but have no problem endorsing bisexuality.  But really, polygamy is only a matter of time.    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.