spiritual heritage and now it was just rubble.
They had never actually seen the Temple or the altar it housed themselves, but they had heard the stories and their parents
and grandparents delighted in telling them how glorious it was or had
been. On their trip back to Jerusalem they spoke
often of the day they would arrive and how they would be able to worship at the
altar that Solomon had built and dedicated to the Lord and how they would
finally be able to present offerings and sacrifices just as their forefathers
had done, but it was not to be. What had once been a beautiful tribute to the
God of Israel was now nothing, it was just,
just a mess.
never be restored to it’s former glory,
but the altar was the where the people directed their attention because it was
here that the priests offered the sacrifices to God. Sacrifices of wheat, oil and animals.
It was here that their sins were forgiven. And now it was gone. And so they started to work to restore and
rebuild the altar so they could once again make offerings to God. It was only
after the altar had been finished would they start the task of rebuilding the
What had happened to Solomon’s temple and the altar that it housed?
son of King David and Bathsheba. About 30 years later after the death of
Solomon Israel was divided into two sections,
the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom,
also referred to as Israel and Judah.
During the next 400 years the two kingdoms were alternately blessed and
brought under persecution depending on their obedience and faithfulness to
Babylon and the victors took the people of Jerusalem captive and transported
them back to Babylon where they served as slaves until Babylon fell to the
Persians around 538 B.C. Under the rule
of Cyrus the Persian the Jewish exiles were allowed to return to Jerusalem and
that’s where our story picks up. Just to
clear things up a little bit let’s pull up a map and take a look at where
everything was happening.
of Ezra which is 15th book of the bible. Written by the prophet Ezra around 440 B.C.
this book was originally linked with the book of Nehemiah in the Jewish
scriptures as a single volume. Why was
it written? Ezra uses the book to
contrast purity with compromise.
yeah the temple and the altar have been destroyed and now the first of the
exiles have returned to Jerusalem.
there were two altars mentioned. A small
altar just outside the Holy of Holy,
which was called the Incense Altar and it was here the Priest burnt incense
each day. And then there was a much
larger altar which was located at the entrance to the temple.
square and stood 15 foot high, just slightly small than the worship centre, if
you don’t include the platform and almost as high as the ceiling. It was constructed out of stone and covered
in bronze and it was here that offerings were presented by the priests to
God. And this was the altar that had
been destroyed and was rebuilt in Ezra 3.
not have an altar at Cornerstone, traditionally Wesleyan Churches do not have
altars. In the Catholic and Anglican tradition, the altar is where the Eucharist or Communion is
served from, what we might refer to
as the communion table. Some of you might know that Saint John’s
Anglican Church uses our building for their Wednesday morning Communion service
and they move the communion table up on the platform and it becomes the altar.
you will hear the rails at the front of the church referred to as the altar or
the altar rails and people are encouraged to come to the altar to pray and when
people are invited to come and pray for salvation that is called an “altar
call.” That is a good idea, but that
is a fairly recent term, that is to say in the last 150 years. It originated in
the camp meetings of the late 1800’s where people were encouraged to come to
the front to pray and they would kneel at the front pews. The front pews became
known as the mourner’s bench,
because people came and were remorseful about their sin. The mourner’s bench eventually became the
altar, but it’s not really the altar
that’s just what it’s called. How
confusing is that?
is no reference to the early church having altars,
altar rails, or altar calls. However we read this reference in Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which the priests
in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.
verses later we read Hebrews 13:12 So also
Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means
of his own blood.
further along this is written Hebrews 13:15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice
of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.
no longer need the priests to offer up sacrifices for us,
it’s been done. Our relationship with God is a personal relationship and that
is the altar at which we need to worship.
You can’t worship at my altar and I can’t worship at your altar.
like your altar had fallen into disrepair?
That your relationship with your Saviour isn’t what it once was? In the book of the Revelation Jesus is
addressing the church in Ephesus
and he says Revelation 2:4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or
each other as you did at first! They had lost their first love, their altar had fallen down.
And is there anyway to correct it or better yet keep it from happening?
something that happens all at once,
you know you wake up and think, “Wow, my altar has fallen down. That was kind of sudden.” Instead it usually happens gradually, a little bit of erosion at a time. Not a lot of people suddenly decide to just
walk away from their spiritual commitment.
“You know I don’t think I’ll be a Christ Follower anymore, no particular reason, I just think I’ll stop
believing.” That’s not the way it
happens, altars don’t just fall
Neglect. Like most relationships, our relationship with God requires a
commitment. If you tried to sustain a
marriage relationship without putting any time or effort into it what would
happen? What do you mean you’ve tried
because you neglect to spend time together.
And regardless of what the old maxim says absence doesn’t always make
the heart grow fonder, instead
absence sometimes makes the heart go wander.
listen to one another. Neglect
communication and you neglect the relationship and it won’t be long before it’s
in ruins. Why? Because without communication we don’t know
what the other person is looking for,
what their expectations are and where they want the relationship to go. So instead of their being a relationship you
simply have two people occupying the same space but going in separate
directions. And while that is the way
too many marriages end up that’s not the way most marriages begin.
with each other all the time? You would
talk for hours about nothing, just
to talk to one another. And then after
you were married there seemed to be more and more outside activities, children,
work and friends. Pretty soon the energy
and time you had for one another was being spent on others and there wasn’t any
time or energy left for the relationship.
And one day you wake up and you don’t know the person who’s sharing your
bed and your life.
that he offers and we are so keen. We
want to be in church every time the door opens,
we’re reading our bibles and spending time in prayer. We want to tell everyone about the wonderful
change that has taken place in our lives.
and perhaps it’s work that keeps you away on Sunday or the kid’s hockey games
or maybe it’s just life. By the time the day is done you can’t find time to
study your bible or to pray and you don’t want to hear the “all you have to do
is get up an hour earlier” line because you’re not getting enough sleep as is.
and prayer is what you do when you need help or when the kids are sick or you
might get down sized at work, and
you know you have a bible you’re just not sure where it is.
Christ is nothing but a pile of rubble.
British Author Owen Felltham said “Negligence is the rust of the soul,
that corrodes through all her best resolves.”
And the Bible tells us in 2
Chronicles 29:11 to not neglect our duties and in Nehemiah 10:39 not to neglect God’s house and in 1 Timothy 4:14 to not neglect our
spiritual gifts and in Hebrews 10:25
to not neglect meeting together as believers.
we’re not paying attention but sin is a conscious decision. It happens when you as a believer decide that
even though you know that you shouldn’t take part in a particular activity. Even when you are fully aware that it is
wrong and is diametrically opposed to God’s will and God’s word you are going
to do it anyway.
led us astray. That’s what Adam and Eve
did, you remember the story. God had
given the first couple everything their hearts could desire and in exchange
asked for one simple thing, obedience.
You can do anything but you can’t eat from that tree. And sure enough, fruit cocktail for lunch. And when God confronted them Adam said “It
was the woman you gave me.” That was a
twofer, blamed Eve and God in one breath.
And Eve not wanting to be outdone pointed her finger at the devil and
said “It was the serpent” And the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.
want to and because we make a choice to be disobedient. And the same as sin put a barrier between the
first couple and God sin puts the same barrier between us and God.
beyond your disobedience. If you are
stuck in your spiritual life you might want to take a look at what it is that
has become a road block. Maybe it’s a
relationship that needs fixing, maybe it’s a point of integrity that needs
correcting, maybe God is asking something from you that you aren’t willing to
words in the book that bears his name James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not
do it. Have you had a discussion
where God has asked you for your time or your talent or your money and you’ve
said no? James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not
disobey God you put a wall up between you and God. Listen to what God says in Deuteronomy 31:18 At that
time I will hide my face from them on account of all the evil they commit by
worshiping other gods. And those other gods don’t have to be little
idols, they might be the gods of pleasure, or the gods of career and
advancement or the gods of money and gain.
God won’t let you move ahead while you are disobedient and you are too
committed to just turn your back and walk away from God and so there you are
stuck and miserable. And you cannot
worship God while you in that position.
Your altar has been torn down and it’s nobodies fault but your own. Eric Butterworth
defined sin as “SIN: Self-Inflicted Nonsense”
to surrender to his will, become
obedient and get back on track.
Company We Keep You’ve all seen the
T-shirt that says “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you have to work with
turkeys.” It’s hard to maintain a vibrant healthy spiritual life when you’re
always hanging out with people who are indifferent to the claims of Christ or
worse are hostile to the claims of Christ.
with sinners and was even called a friend of sinners.” That’s true, but remember they weren’t his primary
relationships. Jesus’ primary
relationship was what he had with the disciples,
and Jesus motives for hanging with the grotty people was so they would stop
being grotty people. What are your
villainous company, hath been the
spoil of me.” And the bible says in Psalm 1:1 Oh, the joys of
those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
you find that you are doing more of what they do then less of what you should
be doing and one day you look and can’t find your altar.
if’n you find that your altar has been torn down,
through neglect or sin or bad company can you rebuild it?
can. And what is the secret? Ezra 3:3 Even though the people were afraid of the local residents,
they rebuilt the altar at its old site.
Rebuild Your Altar on the Old Foundation
the church in Ephesus? Revelation 2:4-5 “But I
have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at
first! We already looked at that part, but it goes on to say Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the
works you did at first.”
been torn down or has fallen down then you need to rebuild it, not on a new foundation but on that original
foundation and not by yourself but with God’s help. 1 Corinthians 3:11
For no one can lay any foundation other than
the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
foundation? It is the foundation of
repentance and forgiveness. The
foundation of faith and grace. The foundation
of His word and Prayer. The foundation
of obedience. The foundation of fellowship with other believers and regular
foundation? If not it can be.
and that was virtually unheard of in the time and society she lived in.
Remember this was 2000 years ago in a culture that was slightly male centered;
actually it was very male centered. Females weren’t exactly chattel but they
weren’t exactly equals either. And here was a woman who was not identified by
whose wife she was instead she was identified by what she did. She wasn’t Lydia Bob’s wife she was Lydia
from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth.
destiny. It was the Sabbath and Lydia
had gathered with a group of women to pray at the edge of the river that flowed
past the city of Philippi, if we pull down our trusty map here we discover that
Philippi, which was named after Phillip the father of Alexander the Great, was
located here in what we know as Greece and this is actually the first place
that the Gospel was preached in Europe, and it would appear that Lydia was the
first convert in Europe. We are told
that she was from Thyatira, which is across the Aegean Sea in what we now know
as Turkey. And we know that she was a
specialized merchant, she sold purple cloth, a cloth that was worn by royalty
and the wealthy families. The city of
Thyatira was famous throughout Asia for the purple dye they produced and Lydia
had obviously capitalized on this and was now marketing her fabric in Europe
using the city of Philippi as her base.
companions had come after leaving Asia.
As was their tradition they immediately sought out the closest Jewish
community to teach about Jesus. In this
case there was no synagogue in town, probably because the Jewish community wasn’t
large enough, instead the people gathered alongside the river on the Sabbath to
pray and worship together. And this is
where Lydia first encountered Paul and consequently encountered Jesus.
First of all Lydia was in the The
Right Place I know that we can meet
God anywhere. That we can worship God on
the golf course or at the hockey rink or fishing on the lake. We can but we don’t. If God’s name is used on the golf course, it’s
normally not in positive way, not to say it couldn’t be.
church. That’s why the Israelites had
the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem. God knew the value of there being a spot
where you could leave the world outside for a little while and focus on God.
of the first issues is often finances. I
love the cartoon where a man is telling the pastor at the door, “Pastor I’m
glad you don’t know where the money is coming from for the new building, for a
minute I was afraid you wanted to get it from us.”
of God would pay for the house of God.
on Faith” and the precedent for that offering was set in the Old Testament
where we see how much the people of Israel contributed to make the tabernacle
and temple a reality. And when the time
comes for phase two the money won’t come from some magical pot it will come
from those who call Cornerstone their church home.
space is one of the reasons why we built this building. Now you know and I know
that the church is not a building it is the people in the building, but if you
were to ask any one of the people who worshipped with us during the ten and a
half years we met at the Lions Den or Empire Theatre in Bedford I am sure they
will tell you this is different. And
different in a good way. And there are
those of your who have met God here and have been changed, it is the right
place. King David wrote in Psalm 55:14 What good
fellowship we enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.
building but they were at a spot that they had set aside for prayer and
worship. They weren’t there fishing, or
swimming or boating they had gone to the river to seek God, the commentators
tell us that in cities and communities were there was no Synagogue that it was
not unusual for Jewish worshippers to find a place close to the water to meet
with God. Here is a photo of the actual
river where this happened.
all been there, perhaps you’ve been in church a hundred times but then it
happened, you knew the time was right. I
don’t know how many times my best friend has spoken to me about my need for God
but it was on September 2nd 1979 at 8:15 p.m. that I met with God
and he forgave my sins. It was the right
Spurgeon was a London Preacher in the late 1800’s and he had this to say
was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right
time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the
handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot.”
The week before Paul wasn’t there, a week later and he wasn’t
there but that day he was. If Lydia had
decided to sleep in that morning, or go to the flea market, or mow the lawn or
spend the day at the beach she would have missed it. But it was the Sabbath and she had gone to
meet God and she did.
book of Jeremiah
29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for
you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you
a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look
for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
him, is that today? Only you can answer
that question but Paul would probably tell you the same thing he told people
2000 years ago in 2 Corinthians 6:2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the
day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, God is ready to help you right now.
Today is the day of salvation.
You have no idea what will happen in your life when you leave this
service this morning. There is no better
time then now.
at the right time, she made The Right
Decision. I truly believe that Lydia
was being wooed by God, that she was being pursued by the Hounds of
Heaven. Paul spoke and she heard with
her ears but God spoke and she heard with her heart. The Bible says that she was a worshiper of
God. Scholars tell us that meant that
she was a gentile who recognized the God of the Jews but hadn’t actually
converted to Judaism. She knew of God
but she didn’t actually know God. There
are people like that here today; you’ve come to worship a God you’ve heard of
but that you haven’t actually met. You
are in the right place at the right time, but you have yet to make the right
day, Acts 16:14 One
of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth. She was
a worshiper of God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she
accepted what Paul was saying.
First of all Paul was preaching.
That’s what I do, I preach and I love to preach, I was called to preach
and it is who I am. When people ask me
what I do I prefer to tell them I am a preacher over a pastor or minister. When I was nineteen I preached my first
sermon and my Pastor was a man named Jack McKenzie and after the service he
came up and shook my hand and said “You did a good job preacher.” Thirty-three
years later whenever I see Jack he calls me “Preacher” and that is the greatest
compliment I ever get.
Lydia’s life. The second thing that
happened was the Bible tells us that the Lord opened her heart. She did not open her own heart. Her prayers
didn’t do it; Paul didn’t do it. God did
it. But it still wasn’t enough, the
puzzle still wasn’t complete.
phrases of our team is “In theory” but it was Yogi
Berra who said “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice
but in practice there is.”
statement “And she accepted what Paul was saying.” She still had to make the decision, God may
have brought her to that place next to the river, he may have brought Paul at
that specific time, he may have opened her heart, but she still had to make the
else can do it for you.
And finally she made The Right
Response (at this point those who are being baptized can go and get
The first is we were told that she was baptized. I am sure she asked Paul “What now, what is
my next step?” And he would have said “You
need to be baptized.” And she probably
looked down at the river and said “Ok.”
And she was baptized. That was
a Christian and you were baptized and there was all kinds of symbolism wrapped
up in that. It was a public statement,
you were saying “Look everyone I am a Christian and I want everyone to know.” It was illustrative of the washing away of
your sins and of you becoming a new creation.
It was an outward sign of an inward experience.
the book of Acts:
8:12 But now the people believed Philip’s
message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus
Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized.
8:36-38 As they rode along, they came to
some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be
baptized?” He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water,
and Philip baptized him.
22:16 And now, why delay? Get up and be
baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on the name of the Lord.’
them to be baptized? Because they
remembered the words that Jesus told the apostles Mark
16:15-16 And then he told them, “Go into all
the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes
and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be
resurrection of Christ but in another sense it is indicative of our new
lives. We die to our old lives and are
buried and then we come out of the grave as a new person. It wasn’t the baptism that did the saving
but it is indicative of our obedience. Christ commanded us to be baptized as
believers and so anything less is disobedience.
The bible also tells us that it is illustrative of Jesus death and
resurrection. In Colossians 2:12 we read Colossians 2:12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And
with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of
God, who raised Christ from the dead.
was that she invited Paul and Luke and Silas and whoever else was with them
back to her place for a meal, what happened on the inside that day was
evidenced by her actions. She wanted to
be with other believers. We are told in
be eager to practice hospitality. You
should want to be with other Christ followers
and not just on Sunday.
without it causing an outward change.
People ought to say “There’s something different about you now.” The first evidence was her obedience, the
second evidence was her love, and that’s what Jesus meant when he said in John 13:35 Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Today we have a number of people who have experienced the forgiveness of
Christ in their lives and they are testifying to that inward transformation by