Who is this Man? Resurrection Sunday

Who is this Man?:  Easter Sunday
(This message was written to pick up where the Good Friday
Message left off.  I started the service
with the section and then after worship came back to the point Who Do You Say I
am?)
It’s a brand new day.  The darkness of Friday has given away to the
bright light of Sunday.  On Friday they
had watched him die. On the Sabbath they had mourned his death.  And now the darkness gave way to light and
the tears gave way to laughter.  Because
on Friday Jesus had died, on Saturday Jesus was dead in the tomb.  But today is not Friday and today is not
Saturday.  today is Sunday and Today
Jesus has risen from the dead. 
If you had of asked any number of people in the darkness of
Friday afternoon: Who is this man? The answers would have been completely
different than the answers that you would have heard with the sun brightly
shining on Sunday.  Same man, same point
in time, completely different answers. 
But on Friday, those who would describe Jesus would say that
he was a heretic, that he was deluded, some would even say that he was innocent
but they would all agree that he was dead. 
Dead and buried.  They had watched
him die and they had seen him taken down from the cross and then they had looked
on as he had been laid in the tomb and the rock had been rolled into
place.  But that was Friday and this is
Sunday.
Perhaps the first open acknowledgment of who Jesus was came
from a most unlikely source and it happened not on Sunday but late on
Friday.  When Jesus had died on the cross
and the afternoon sky became like night and the earthquake shook Jerusalem we
hear this testimony from the man who oversaw Jesus death.  The man who only hours before would have
denied the very personhood of Jesus, he was just another in a long line of
people who Rome had decided shouldn’t live and the Centurion had made it his business to make sure that Jesus’
death would be painful and humiliating.
But something had happened and as he stood before the body
of the man he had killed a sudden realization came over him and we read in  Matthew 27:54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were
terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man
truly was the Son of God!”
It is interesting that in the Gospels we read that the first
to acknowledge Jesus at his birth as the Son of God were gentiles, the
Magi.  And here we read that at the end
of his life, that those who acknowledge him as the Son of God were gentiles,
the Roman Soldiers.  The sad thing about
this story though is that this is all we read about these soldiers.
There are commentators who would say that this was a point
of salvation for these men, but there is nothing to suggest that is the
case.  We don’t see them in the upper
room, there is no record of them on the day of Pentecost, and they never appear
in the narrative of the church.  But at
that point in time if you had of asked the soldiers at the base of the cross:
Who is this man?  They would have
replied: He is the Son of God.
It would appear that they had a head knowledge but that
knowledge never travelled the 18 inches to their heart to make them changed
men.  And there are those here today who
would acknowledge that Jesus was more than a man, that Jesus is indeed the Son of
God but have never let that knowledge change their lives.   And
they have never surrendered their lives to the risen Son.
We don’t know what happened between the time that Jesus was
laid in the tomb before the Sun sat on Friday and before it rose on
Sunday.  We have no account of what his
followers and families did during that time. 
What happened during those thirty six hours must have paled next to the
events of the day before and the day after. 
We may not know what happened
on Saturday but we do know what happened early Sunday morning. 
In Mark 16:9 we read After Jesus rose from the dead
early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the
woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.
The first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, this is the Mary
Magdalene who Dan Brown tried to turn into the Bride of Christ in the book “The
DaVinci Code”.  But that is fiction.  This is the Mary who tradition tried to turn
into a prostitute, but that is fiction as well at least we don’t know that it’s
fact. 
At different times in history Mary of Magdalene
has been identified as Lazarus’s sister, the “sinful” woman mentioned in Luke
7:32 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 that would be the entire “Cast
the first stone” story, but there is no evidence for any of those theories.
The longest description of Mary comes in Luke
8:1-3 where we read Soon afterward Jesus began a
tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News
about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with
some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them
were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife
of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were
contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
What do we know about Mary Magdalene? 
Grom that one passage We
know that she was from Magdala a village that used to exist on the shores of
the Sea of Galilee. We know that Mary followed Christ as a disciple,
that Christ had delivered her from seven demons, we don’t know what those
demons were and if anyone tells you what they were they are simply speculating,
read my lips we don’t know.  What we do
know is that it was a life changing experience for Mary.  Because she began to follow Christ, and she
began to financially support Christ.
And we know that she was the
first person to see Jesus after the crucifixion.  And if you asked Mary: Who is this Man?  I’m
sure that she would have responded “He
is the one who changed My Life” 
He’s
the one who set me free from my demons”
And in response Mary gave Jesus
the life that Jesus had given Mary. 
I would suspect that there are
many here today who could say the same, that Jesus changed your life and set
you free from the demons of your past. 
The question is, have you been willing to give Jesus the life that he
has given you?
The miracle of grace is a
changed life, that when we ask Christ to forgive us that he forgives us.  Over and over again the bible describes that
experience as a new beginning, a new life, being born again, become a new
creation.  And at that point we are given
the opportunity of a brand new life.  The
bible tells us to repent, that is to turn away from our old life, but that’s
not enough.  We are told to repent and
turn to God, that is: start a new life. 
Jesus delivered Mary from her
demons, whatever those demons were.  But
for her that was just the beginning,  the
beginning of a life following Jesus. 
Perhaps you think of a particular point in time when you “became a
Christian”, the day you asked Christ to forgive you, or the day you committed
your life to him.  But that should have
just been the beginning of your becoming a Christ Follower, when we actually begin
to follow Jesus.
Throughout the gospels there
are accounts of people delivered from their demons, people who were healed and
restored.  They each had an encounter
with Christ, as did Mary on the day he changed her life, but for Mary that was
just the beginning of a life committed to following the Jesus who had set her
free.  The same Jesus who offered Mary a
new life wants to offer you a new life. 
Mary accepted the gift, will you?
 But news of the resurrection wasn’t just for
Mary and the other women.  In Mark’s
account we read Mark
16:5-7
When they
entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the
right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You
are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is
risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell
his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.
You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
Did you catch that? 
The angel told the women “Go and tell his disciples, including
Peter.”  I don’t know if the apostles
decided that Peter no longer deserved to be a part of their group or if that
was a decision that Peter made himself.  But the messenger wanted to be clear that
Peter was to be included in the news of the resurrection.
I’m sure it didn’t take long for the news of Peter denying
Christ to make its way through the group, I’m just not sure who would have
known.  Perhaps John or one of the women,
but other than that we are told that all the other apostles had scattered and
hid.  Peter may have denied Jesus with
his words but the rest of them denied him with their actions.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
Peter had been one of the first to be called to follow
Jesus, Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, Peter was the
one who offered to die for Jesus and followed that up by cutting off the ear of
one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus. 
But that didn’t matter, because when push came to shove Peter blew it,
and that’s what we remember him for on that day.
When Jesus was taken away Peter followed from a distance to
see what would happen to his friend but three times he was confronted about his
relationship with Jesus and three times he denied that he even know Jesus.  Even to the point of cursing and swearing.  And if it wasn’t enough that he denied him in
front of strangers,  Jesus was led by just
in time to hear Peter’s last denial.
Imagine being at the darkest moment of your life and hearing
the person who you considered to be your closest friend denying that they had
ever met you.  Peter knew what he had
done and he left a broken man.
And we have no idea where he had been since then.  When those at the foot of the cross had been
named, there was no Peter.  When the
bible speaks about those who took the body of Christ down from the cross and
carried it to the tomb there was no Peter. 
Was he too humiliated by his failure to face his friends?  Did he find in their faces a painful reminder
of the Jesus whom he had denied? 
However on the first day of the week we find him back with
the other 10, perhaps it was a matter of seeking safety in numbers or simply
the fact that misery loves company.  But I
wonder if he had separated himself from the group even as they gathered in the
same room?  
But the news wasn’t just for the ten it was for the
eleven.  Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter.  Yes Peter, this news is for you as
well. 
And if you had of asked Peter:
Who is this man?  He would have told you:
He’s the One Who Gave Me a Second Chance. 
Have you ever felt that you have denied Jesus?  That he has given you the chance of a new
beginning, and like Peter you started well. 
But then something happened.  And
you feel that through your actions or through your words you have denied your
relationship with Christ.
Maybe a mistake, a slip or perhaps a conscience decision to
deliberately disobey but you feel that you’ve let him down.   Let me be clear today, the same Jesus who
offered Peter a second chance is offering you a second chance as well.
Like Peter you may think that he has written you off and
that he could never forgive you.  But
that’s not the case.  The same Jesus who
offered Peter a second chance wants to offer you a second chance.  Peter accepted the gift, will you?
When Jesus appeared to the
disciples, and to Peter there was one missing. 
We don’t know where he was, perhaps he was running an errand, or
visiting an old friend but the bible tells us in John 20:24-25 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),
was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the
Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his
hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
  And for the next two thousand
years Thomas would have a new nickname, the doubter.  But seriously we can’t know what the reaction
of the other disciples would have been if they hadn’t seen Jesus because they
had, you can’t say for sure whether or not you would have believed without
seeing because you weren’t there. 
Thomas’ life had been turned
upside down.  A week before he had
watched his teacher being swept into town on a wave of adulation.  Was this an indication of things to come?
Could Jesus be the one to bring Israel back to her former glory, to get rid of
the hated Romans?   And then Thomas
watched as Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified.  He had just gotten his head around the fact
that Jesus was dead and now everybody was saying that he wasn’t, that he was
alive and they had all seen him.  Well
everybody except Thomas, what was with that?  
Have you ever had times of
doubts in your Christian life?  If Jesus
really loves me then how come . . . ? 
And you can fill in the blank.  If
Jesus is really God then how come . . .? 
And you can fill in the blank. 
How come my kid’s sick?  How come
I lost my job? How come I lost my spouse? 
Why do I keep doing the things I know are wrong?
And then we feel guilty about
having doubts. 
I think if you asked Thomas: Who is this man?  He would reply He’s the one Who Understood my Doubts. 
Jesus didn’t write Thomas off because Thomas had doubts.  Instead he answered those doubts.  But not right away.  Listen to the rest of the story.  
John 20:26-28 Eight days later the disciples were together again,
and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as
before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he
said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into
the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my
God!” Thomas exclaimed.   Eight
days?  Wow, for eight days the other
disciples bubbled with excitement and Thomas simmered in doubt. 
But when Jesus showed up he
didn’t condemn Thomas for his feelings, he didn’t criticize him for “not just
believing”  Instead he said “You needed
to see to believe, well here I am.”
There are lesson there for all
of us this Easter, it’s all right to have doubts, that’s human.  But God doesn’t always work on our
timetable.  I’m sure that Thomas wondered
why he was kept waiting, the other ten had seen Jesus on resurrection
Sunday.  And we probably never understand
God’s timetable.
But the resurrection was as
real to Thomas in his time as it was to Mary and Peter in their time.  And because of Thomas we know that we aren’t
the first to doubt.  And because of Jesus
response we know that we won’t be condemned for our doubt if it leads us to
believe.
Because of the Resurrection we
can still answer the question: Who is this Man? 
By saying,   “He is the one who changed My Life, Who Gave me a second chance and who
understands my doubts.
Because here is the promise for
you today;  John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have
seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Closing of the service. 
So here we are.  Resurrection
Sunday 2013.  We have looked at the
possible answers that several people could have given to the question: Who is
this Man?  And in May and June we will be
looking at that question in depth as we look at how Jesus has changed the face
of the world as we know it.  But the real
answer to the question Who is this man? 
Cannot be given by Mary, Peter, Thomas or even Denn. 
Before the resurrection and before the crucifixion Jesus asked Peter and
the other apostles “Who do people say I am?” 
Their response is found in Mark 8:28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say
Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”   All understandable answers each
in their own way.  Now listen to Jesus’
response:  Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
You see folks it doesn’t matter
what or who others say Jesus is or was. 
All that matters today, for you is who do you say Jesus is?  Who is Jesus in your life.  He can change your life.  He can offer you a second chance.  And he can answer your doubts.  But only if you ask him to. 
If you were asked that question
today, Who do you say he is?  What would
be your response?  A historical figure, a
great teacher.  Maybe you would even say
with the Soldiers “He truly was the son of God.”  But he wants to be your saviour?  And only you have the power to make that
happen.   If you have never made the
decision to allow Jesus to change your life today is the day.  If you feel like you have let him down and
you need a second, or hundred and second chance today is the day.  And if you really want to believe, today is
the day.    

Who is this Man? Good Friday

Who is this Man:  Good Friday
Who is this man?  As
the crowd roared, the question was asked by many; who is he? What has he
done?  What will he do?  To some it was important to others it was
secondary, after all the religious leaders had spoken and now this man stood
before them. 
Would he be a history changer, or simply a historical foot
note?  Nobody knew the answer to those
questions but many wanted to know: Who is this man?
That was the question being asked just a little over two
weeks ago as the Catholic church elected their new Pope.    Who is Jorge Bergoglio? Or as he is known
now: Who is Pope Francis?
And we ask the question a lot in life; Who is this?  And it is a pretty good question.  We ask it all the time, when we are looking
for a doctor, a mechanic or a dentist. Who is this?  When election time rolls around and we are
electing a MLA, a MP or a Counsellor. 
Who is this?  When a friend is
setting you up with a blind date you want to know: Who is this?  When you daughter brings a boy home: Who is
this?
And it was a question that was asked over and over again on
that Friday Afternoon almost two thousand years ago: Who is this Man?  Who was this man they arrested?  Who was this man they tried?  Who was this man they sentenced and who was
this man they killed?
The question was asked by many and I think if you asked them
at the end of the day on Friday, when the sky had gone black and Jesus had been
laid in the tomb that most, if not all of them, would have an answer for
you. 
The end story had been put into play by the religious
leaders of the day.  There are those who
would blame the Jews and others who would say that we shouldn’t even hint that
the Jews were responsible.  But like most
truth’s the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  Were the Jews responsible?  No. 
Jesus was a Jew, his parents were Jews, his followers were Jews.  Very clearly Jesus had said that he had come
to the Jewish people that they had to hear the good news before it could be
given to any others. 
To blame the Jews of today is absurd, they weren’t there and
many of their ancestors were those who heard and listened to Jesus.  I don’t believe in the inherited guilt that
people seem so anxious to wallow in today. 
However we can’t deny the fact that those who were
responsible for the eventual death of Jesus were the Jewish Religious leaders
of his day.  Not the Roman religious
leaders, not the Greek Religious leaders but the Jewish religious leaders. 
Why?  Because the
Jewish religious leaders saw Jesus and his teaching as a threat to all that
they held near and dear.  And so if we
were to ask them:  Who is this Man?  The
Religious leaders
of the day knew who Jesus was; he was a heretic, a false
teacher and a false messiah. 
They had a firm grasp on the Jewish religious establishment
of the time, they made the rules and they controlled the temple and they
collected the money.  And this young
upstart was threatening that. 
He talked about prayer as if anybody could just talk to
God.  And then why would the people need
priests?  He said that all of the
religious laws and regulations could be boiled down to two, just two!  Love God and love others.    And if that was the case why would the
people need the Sadducees to make sense of the volumes laws that governed the
lives of the people?   
And he claimed the authority of God himself, the authority
to forgive sins, the authority to heal the sick the authority to cast out
demons.  And that was not his authority
it was theirs and they weren’t going to simply let this Jesus take what they
had inherited from their fathers, and grandfathers and great-grandfathers.   
And he challenged them, he called them hypocrites and
fools.  Accused them of being more
concerned with the law than with the souls of people.   But he
didn’t understand, that it wasn’t just about God, the Romans expected the
religious leaders to keep the people compliant and complacent.  And if religion couldn’t or wouldn’t do it
then the force of Rome would have to.
And so they called him a demon
and a false teacher, they tried to expose him for the trouble they knew he was,
and when he wouldn’t incriminate himself we read in Matthew 26:65-66 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show
his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all
heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He
deserves to die!”
And so they arranged for one of his followers to betray him
and they arranged for Pilate to try him and they arranged for Rome to kill
him. 
And if you asked the religious leaders: Who is this
man?  They would reply “He is Trouble”.
If you asked the Roman
Soldiers
who Jesus was they would tell you they didn’t know and they didn’t
care.  They were just doing their
job.  They didn’t have an opinion, maybe
he was innocent and maybe he was guilty, it didn’t matter to them.  He might be the Jewish Messiah but what would
that matter to them, we aren’t Jewish. 
He might be the king of the Jews but they were Romans and Romans have no
king but Caesar. 
And so in order to deal with what they would do to this man
Jesus they depersonalized him, and so when they beat him they were beating
nobody, when they mocked him they were mocking nobody, they shoved the crown of
thorns on nobody’s  head and they gambled
for nobody’s clothing and finally they nailed nobody to a cross.
Because if Jesus was a somebody, an anybody then there would
be the guilt over what they had done. 
And so to them he was a problem to be dealt with and orders to be
followed.  Who is this man?  What man?
And then there was The
Crowd,
When I think the crowd that had gathered that day I picture a huge
gathering of people, almost a mob.  A
group of angry villagers armed with torches and pitchforks and then I realize
that was from Frankenstein.  But still I
see the mob as a mass of humanity, gathered to condemn Jesus with their jeers
and demands to release the criminal Barabbas.  
And that may be more connected with the movies of Jesus life rather than
the reality of the gospels.  Granted the
Bible does refer to a crowd but how do you define a crowd? 
Was it a dozen people or a hundred people?  We don’t know but what we do know is that
they were hostile to the claims of Christ. 
Often preachers, including myself, have talked about the fickleness of
the crowd, how these may have been some of the same people who only a week
before had greeted Jesus with Palm branches and shouts of Hosanna, but we don’t
know that. 
We don’t know how many of them there were and we don’t know
who they were, all we know is that over and over again they are defined as “The
Crowd”  and the dictionary simply defines
crowd as a
large number of persons gathered closely together; throng: 
There have been suggestions that they may have been gathered
together by the religious leaders to lend credence to the leader’s demands, but
also that they may have simply been people who gathered whenever there was a
“Something” going on. 
We are told that For a time, during the French Revolution,
that executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great
crowds of spectators.  Perhaps
crucifixions attracted the same type of people. 
We don’t know, what we do know is that the crowd, whatever
the size and make up, could probably have swayed the opinion of Pilate that
day, but they didn’t.  Instead they
demanded the release of Barabbas, a man identified as a criminal and a
murderer. 
If you had of asked the crowd:  Who is this man?  They would have told you that he whoever he
was that he was a less viable option than Barabbas.  That if they had to cast their allegiance at
the feet of one man that day that it would be the man who was attempting to
change the world through violence, not through love.
The man who will go down through history as the man who
killed Jesus was Pontius Pilate, the
Roman’s man in Palestine.  And it was to
Pilate that the religious leaders brought Jesus for judgment.  They may have had the will to kill Jesus but
they didn’t have the authority.
And Pilate didn’t want to. 
He could find nothing in Jesus’ words or actions to justify capital
punishment.  And so he shifted the
responsibility to Herod and that didn’t work, Herod just   handed Jesus back to Pilate.  He tried to placate the crowd by having Jesus
scourged but they didn’t want a beating they wanted a crucifixion.
If you were to ask Pilate: Who is this man?  He may very well of used words like
misguided, or misdirected, but he never thought that he was guilty.  As a matter of fact time and time again he
told the crowd that he could find no reason to crucify Jesus.
But ultimately it was politics.  Pilate had made a number of decisions which
had created friction between the religious leaders and himself and he needed to
mend some bridges.  I’m sure that Pilate
would have been familiar with the Latin phrase “Quid Pro Quo”  which roughly translated means “I’ll scratch
your back if you scratch mine”.  And so
he relented and sentenced Jesus to death on the cross.
But ultimately his answer to the question: Who is this man?
was best summed up by the inscription that he had nailed to the cross on which
Jesus would die.   The sign read “Jesus
the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”  And
while he may be remembered by history as the man who crucified Jesus he was the
only one that day who acknowledged Jesus for who he was.
If Pilate was known as the man who killed Jesus he is still
slightly less reviled than Judas the
man who betrayed Jesus.  What would have
caused Judas, one of the twelve, one of Jesus’ closest friends to have turned
Jesus over to the authorities to be killed? 
Well, there have been several theories as to what caused Judas to do
what he did.  Some of have suggested that
he was a thief and Jesus was about to reveal that.  Others feel that perhaps he was frustrated
because Jesus didn’t seem to be interested in being the Messiah who wold
overthrow the Romans.
For many, they believe that Judas did what he did out of
greed.  He did it for the money.  He probably would have denied that, but you
know what they say, when anyone says it’s not about the money, it’s about the
money.  One commentator estimated that
the thirty pieces of silver would have been worth close to $1,600.00 today.  Not a bad piece of change for an evening’s
work.  Sometimes money talks so loud that
it can’t be ignored.
More likely than not though, Judas never intended for Jesus
to die that day, instead he hoped to force his hand, so that when he was
betrayed he would use his power to liberate Israel.  If that was the case then what a tragedy
Judas witnessed when he saw he plan fly all to pieces.
And if you asked Judas “Who is
this man?”  I think before he betrayed
Jesus he would have said “He is the hope of Israel” or  “He is the Messiah and he will deliver
us.”  I think that Judas had high hopes
for Jesus and for what he could do.  But
after the betrayal, when he saw what had happened to his friend and teacher we
read that he went back to the priests and throwing the money he had been paid
on the ground declared Matthew
27:4
“I have
sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”
And then at the foot of the cross you would find a group of
women weeping, but the heart break on the face of one was the sorrow that can
only come when a parent loses a child. 
There was only one person who was there for the birth of Jesus and his
death and that was his mother Mary.    And if you were to ask Jesus’ mother: Who is
this man?  She might shake her head and
talk about the confusion that she had in her heart. 
We don’t know at what point Mary showed up in this final chapter
of her son’s life, we don’t know if she witnessed the mockery of the trial, we
don’t know if she watched in horror as the skin was stripped away from his back
in the flogging.  We don’t know if she
cringed as the crown of thorns was jammed on his head but we do know that she
was at the foot of the cross and that she watched her son die. 
She watched what had happened but it didn’t make sense.  Like the Apostles she had seen the miracles,
she had watched him feed the thousands with a few rolls and a couple of small
fish.  But it was more than that; she had
been there at the beginning. 
He was not just “This Man” he was her son.  And she knew how her son had been conceived,
she knew how her son had been born and she knew the promise that she had been
given concerning her son. 
He would save the world. 
His father was not Joseph the Carpenter his father was God
the creator of all things. 
And as the tears ran down her cheeks I’m sure she was crying
out to the Father:  “This wasn’t how it
was supposed to end.  He was supposed to
save the world not die on a cross.  How
could you allow this to happen?” 
(We closed the service with Brad Paisley and Sarah Evans
singing “New Again”)

You are praying for what?

I was talking to a friend the other day and they told me that they were praying that they would win the Rav 4 that Tim Horton’s is giving away. I would suspect that they aren’t the only one who is praying that their Rim will be the lucky one. The percentage of Canadians praying increases by 63.2 % during Roll Up the Rim (I made that up.)

I know that God cares about us and the Bible even tells us that he cares about the sparrows, and I know that God answers prayers. But seriously, how many Ravs would Tim Hortons have to give away?

I realize that God has an infinite ability to answer prayers, but I sometimes wonder if believers have a limited ability or desire to pray. And if that is the case, maybe the reason some folks find it hard to pray for the safety and salvation of their loved ones and for their church is because they’ve spent all their prayer resources on Tim Horton cups, sports teams and weather.

I don’t want you to stop praying, but maybe we need to refocus our prayers where they have eternal consequences and not just winning a truck that we did nothing to deserve.

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Doctor is In. Who is Speaking into Your Life?

The Doctor is In
I don’t know if Lucy is anyone’s favorite character in the
Peanut’s universe.  But the reality is
that we all either know a Lucy or are a Lucy and if you are a Lucy there is
really no way to see that as complimentary. 
Lucy is not a nice person, she calls Charlie Brown a “Block
Head” torments her little brother Linus and endeavors to belittle Snoopy.    Lucy was first introduced in 1952 and soon
became a popular addition to the cast, maybe because she is so easy to dislike
and I think anyone who grew up with a big sister could probably identify with
her little brother Linus’s view when he said “Big sisters are the crab grass in
the lawn of life.”
Lucy’s full name of course is Lucy Van Pelt and she has two
younger siblings, Linus of the blanket and Rerun their baby brother.  The only time it seems that Lucy is
vulnerable is when she is mooning over Schroeder and we are never sure if it’s
true love or because of her belief that musicians make lots of money.   Let’s take a brief look at the life of
Lucy.  (Video)
In the same way that Schroeder is associated with his piano,
Linus with his blanket and Snoopy with his dog house Lucy is identified with
her five cent advice.  She is never
overly sympathetic nor does she sugar coat her advice, instead she bluntly
tells her clients what she thinks they need to hear, whether it is in their
best interest or not.  And she truly
believes that her clients need to accept her judgments and face up to their
problems.
And that might seem a little simplistic but then again they
only paid five cents for her help.  And
as a friend of mine is fond of saying “Don’t you hate when you get what you
paid for?”  But regardless of how
unhelpful and potentially devastating Lucy’s words are to Charlie Brown he
continues to seek out and pay for her advice.   
He continues to allow her to speak into his life and to a certain degree
control how he sees himself.  (Peanuts
strip)
Now Lucy wasn’t the only one who spoke to Charlie Brown and
offered him advice, there were others who offered helpful suggestions like
Linus, those who offered encouraging words, like Peppermint Patty and those who
offered love and hugs like Snoopy.  And
yet time and time again Charlie Brown found himself listening to the negative
natterings of Lucy.
Each one of us has someone who will speak negatively into
our lives.  It might be someone who we
work with or someone we live with, but as long was we allow them to continue to
do that we aren’t doing ourselves any favours.  
Now I understand that we can’t banish those people from our lives,
although. . . but we can decide how much we allow them to influence us. 
In the scripture that was read earlier we discover a man by
the name of Nehemiah who had various people speak into his life, so let see
what we learn from the book of Nehemiah.
It goes without saying that Nehemiah was a little
confused.  There were some people who
loved him and others who hated him. He thought he was doing a good thing, a
necessary thing, even a God thing, but obviously there were those who
disagreed. 
Nehemiah was one of the Jews living in exile and was in the
service of the King of Persia a king by the name of Artaxerxes. 
His life had been very comfortable, he had a great job, a
nice place to live and job security for as long as he lived. You see he was the
King’s cupbearer, which doesn’t seem to be much of a job today but then it was
very important.  In that day and age
Kings lived under the constant threat of assassination. 
Therefore, if you were a smart king, you had a cupbearer
whose job it was to ensure that your cup was not hazardous to your health.  He carried that cup with him everywhere he
went, it never left his sight and he could always reassure the king that when
his drinks were poured that there would be nothing wrong with the cup.
Now the only drawback with the job was that Nehemiah
always  got to have the first drink out
of the cup, just in case.  But being an
optimist Nehemiah’s outlook was “so far, so good.”   Nehemiah had it made, and he knew it.
And then one day his comfortable little world was disrupted
when his brother showed up after having been away for a while. They were
sitting down having a Tim’s and Nehemiah asked Hanani how things were going in
the old home town, not really expecting an answer or at least not an honest
answer.  But Hanani obviously chose being
honest over being polite because he said “You know brother, it stinks,
Jerusalem is in ruins, the walls around the city have collapsed and everyone is
just kind of moping around. It’s really kind of sad.”
And for some reason something clicked with Nehemiah, he had
no real connection to Jerusalem, his grandparents had been brought to Babylon
as slaves sixty years before and Jerusalem was no more tangible then was the
far side of the moon.  He had heard about
it before, he even knew that it had been destroyed and left in ruins, but it
had never been real before.  And now for
whatever reason it broke his heart.  And
the more he thought about it the more it bothered him, it began to gnaw away at
his very being and eventually he began to mope around and it wasn’t long before
the king noticed that something was bothering Nehemiah.  After all Nehemiah was a constant fixture at
the king’s table, he was always there with the king’s cup. 
Well it didn’t take much prompting from the king before
Nehemiah poured out his heart, telling his boss the entire story, how Jerusalem
had been left in ruins and that it was breaking his heart. The king asked what
he wanted to do about it and the words he spoke almost came from their own
volition.  He wanted to return to this
city he had only heard of and do the impossible, he wanted to rebuild the walls
and rehang the gates.  And amazingly
enough the king agreed and that is where we began our story. 
If you remember your Old Testament history, you do remember  your Old Testament history don’t you?   So,
the Babylonians had conquered Israel in 586 BC and had taken the residents of
Jerusalem into captivity.  Persia in turn
conquered Babylon in 539 BC and later allowed the Jews who wanted to return
home.  Some chose to remain because
Babylon had become home.
So what’s up with Nehemiah? 
Well throughout the story we run into a multitude of different
characters, each who has his own agenda and who affect Nehemiah and his quest
in different ways.  As I read through the
book I realized that the same is true with us as well, that none of us function
in a vacuum, in isolation. We all are surrounded by people, for good and for
bad.  It was John
Donne who wrote “No man is an island entire of
itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” So,
who are some of the people that Nehemiah comes in contact with and what effect
do they have on our hero?
 1) His Sponsor  At some point
or another we are all going to need a sponsor in our life.  Someone who believes in us and is willing to
go to bat for us. This is the person in your life that you could call at 3
o’clock in the morning and tell them you need a thousand dollars and they would
write you a cheque or go to the bank machine and get the money.  This is the person in your life that you could
tell your deepest darkest secret and they wouldn’t walk away.  You can call them your sponsor, or your mentor
or your best friend.   You know what they
say “Friends help you move but best friends help you move bodies.”    In
the Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell writes “To be someone’s best friend requires a minimum investment of time. More than that, though, it takes emotional energy. Caring about someone deeply is exhausting.”
In Nehemiah’s case this was the
King.  He not only believed in Nehemiah
and Nehemiah’s dreams but he wanted to be a part of them and he didn’t just pay
lip service.  When he asked Nehemiah was
bothering him and Nehemiah told him listen to the King’s response, Nehemiah 2:4 The king
asked, “Well, how can I help you?”
Now it’s easy to ask that
question but where the rubber meets the road is when a person tells you how
they can help.  “How can I help
you?”  “Well I’m glad you asked, you
could do this and this and this.” What now? 
I guess there’s one of two things that will happen, either it will get
done or it won’t get done. Listen to what happened in this case, Nehemiah 2:8 . . .  And the king granted these requests, because
the gracious hand of God was on me.
Sometimes you don’t even have to ask, when Angela’s dad
passed my best friend drove up from Yarmouth the next day to be with us, didn’t
ask if he could or should he just did it.  You probably don’t have too many of these
people in your life because it requires such a commitment, and you probably
can’t be this type of person to many different people for the same reason.  Which is probably what Thomas Fuller meant when he said “If you have one true friend you have more than your share.”
But Nehemiah wasn’t able to
fulfil his dream with just the King. 
He also had 2) His Supporters   When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he spent
the first three days scoping out the situation and then he approached the local
leaders and told them what God had laid on his heart for them to do.  You might say that he cast the vision for
them.  And listen to their response back
to him, Nehemiah 2:18 . . . They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” but
that wasn’t all the scripture also says, it goes on to say: So they began the good work.
Throughout the book of Nehemiah
you read about people who helped to rebuild the gates and the walls surrounding
Jerusalem.  Eliashib helped rebuild the
Sheep Gate, the sons of Hassenaah repaired the Fish Gate,  Meremoth repaired one section of wall and
Jedaiah fixed the next section.  It was
Hasshub who rebuilt the Tower of the Ovens. And how would you like to have been
Malkijah who got to repair the Dung Gate. 
And then there was Shallum, listen to what he did, Nehemiah 3:15 The Fountain
Gate was repaired by Shallum, the leader of the Mizpah district. He rebuilt it,
roofed it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Then he repaired
the wall of the pool of Siloam near the king’s garden, and he rebuilt the wall
as far as the stairs that descend from the City of David.
Wow! Talk about overachievers.
If we are going to accomplish everything we need to do in
this life we are going to need supporters, they may not be there at 3 o’clock
in the morning with a thousand dollars but they will be there to help.  And if you are going to make an impact in the
lives of those around you then you need to be willing to help when they need
it. 
3. His Critics Here’s the reality folks if you ever say anything or
attempt anything worthwhile you will be criticized for it.  And we can’t understand that.  I mean why would people criticize you for
doing something good?  Nehemiah must have
wondered that himself.  All he was trying
to do was rebuild the walls of the city, what could people possibly find wrong
with that?  And yet they did.  Listen to the word of God, Nehemiah 4:1-2 Sanballat was very angry when he
learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the
Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does
this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can
build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they
actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and
charred ones at that?”
Nehemiah should have paid attention to Robert Kennedy who said “One-fifth
of the people are against everything all the time.”   We don’t know for certain exactly why
Sanballat was so upset with the rebuilding of the temple but some scholars have
said that he was the Governor of Samaria, which is the area to the North of
Jerusalem and felt that Nehemiah was encroaching on his territory.  Whatever the reason we find Sanballat
surfacing time and time again throughout our story trying to turn the people
against Nehemiah. 
How do you answer critics? 
Good question, I have been pastoring for over thirty years, which isn’t
all that long is you say it quick, and believe it or not there have been a few times
that people have criticized things that I’ve said and things that I’ve done.
Actually there have been more then a few times. 
And there are a couple of things that I remember when  Abraham Lincoln was
President he said “If I were to try to read, much
less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for
any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I
mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s
said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten
angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” And the
Greek Poet Epictetus wrote “If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself,
if it be a lie, laugh at it.”
 
There will always be critics, realize that and get on with
doing what God wants you to do.  Even
Jesus who was born perfect and lived perfect had critics. 
The next group that Nehemiah
had contact with were his critics squared. 
4. His Enemies  The critics
said nasty things about him, and spread rumours about him but it was his
enemies that wanted to do nasty things to him. 
Listen to the story in Nehemiah 4:11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s
happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”
That’s pretty serious stuff, and as Henry Kissinger said “Even a paranoid can have enemies.”  But Nehemiah wasn’t going to be put off by threats;
he stationed guards whenever he had people working on the wall, he told them to
keep a watch out and to be careful. 
In our spiritual life we have
enemies, those who not only want to see us fail but actually try to make us
fail.  You know what I’m talking about,
they try to persuade you to abandon your faith to compromise your morals and to
deny your God.  
Our greatest enemy is Satan, he
wants to leave your spiritual life in ruins and he will use any means possible
to do it. 1 Peter 5:8-9 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He
prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm
against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers
and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you
are.
And like Nehemiah the only solution is to be on guard. 
Nehemiah could never have accomplished what he did, even
with the King’s help and his supporter’s help in the face of his critics and
his enemies if he was functioning in his own strength but he wasn’t. 
5) His God  From the very
beginning the dreams and desires of Nehemiah came from God. And God helped them
do what people said they would never be able to accomplish on their own.  Nehemiah 6:15-16 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days
after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about
it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done
with the help of our God.
When you set out to do something great for God, understand
that will not exempt you from criticism or from the attacks of the enemy.  When I first went into the ministry when
people criticised me or attacked me personally I would wonder whether or not I
was doing the right thing.  But then I
realized that people were being saved and lives were being changed and I
couldn’t make everyone happy but I had a moral obligation to make God
happy.   
That is the secret for your
Christian life for the life of our church to make sure you are doing what God
wants you to do. To play to an audience of One. 
Because if God is on your side then you are on the winning side.  Listen to Romans
8:31
What shall we say about such wonderful
things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
So where are you at today, and who are you allowing to speak
into your life?  There are people who you
can’t banish from your life but you can minimize the effect their words have on
your life.  

First Day of Spring and Other Fallacies

Spring is here, spring is here, spring is here. I figure maybe if I use the word spring enough that maybe spring will come and warmer weather will spring forth, flowers will spring up and springs will thaw out. I just looked outside and it seems to be working.  In anticipation of  Old Man winter showing up on the first day of Spring,I was asked why I couldn’t do anything about the weather and I said that I was in sales not management. (I know it’s not original, but it’s still funny.)
I’m pretty sure that they taught us in grade two that March 21 was the first day of spring; which makes me wonder what other important stuff they misled me about.
If there is one thing I’ve learned after living in four countries on three continents is that you can’t trust the weather.  One thing I’ve learned after having served the Lord for over thirty years is that you can always trust God. He loves us, cares for us and has only our very best interests at heart. Regardless of what it’s doing outside you can always rest secure on His promises.  And that ought to add a spring to your step even if the weather doesn’t. 
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Good Ol’ Snoopy

My favorite
character in the Peanuts world has to be Snoopy and as a kid I couldn’t
understand why the strip wasn’t called “Snoopy” instead of “Peanuts”, I assumed
that he was the main character and the rest of the cast were just supporting
actors. And we all have favorite Snoopy moments and characters.  Perhaps Snoopy as Joe Cool, or a lawyer or a tennis
ace, maybe it’s Snoopy as the leader of the Beagle Scouts.
The most iconic of
course is Snoopy as the World War I ace gunning for the elusive Red Baron.   And that was made even more popular with the
two songs “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” and then “Snoopy’s Christmas”, both of
which went to the top of the charts in 1966 and 1967. 
Snoopy decorates his
doghouse for Christmas and wins, he organizes a hockey game for his pal
Woodstock on his water bowl, complete with a Zamboni.   He walks on his hind legs at time and
dispenses advice to those who will listen. Robert Short who wrote the book “The Gospel According to Peanuts” back in the sixties had this to say about Snoopy: “Snoopy is a typical Christian, a flawed character who is nonetheless good: He is lazy, he is a ‘chow hound’ without parallel, he is bitingly sarcastic, he is frequently a coward, but he is ‘a hound of heaven.’”

Which might explain Snoopy’s desire to write a book on Theology. Here are some highlights from Snoopy’s life. (profile video)

And everyone takes
it in stride that perhaps this is normal behaviour for a dog, except of course
Peppermint Patty who refers to Snoopy as “That funny looking kid”.  And at least once Charlie Brown says his wish
is “To just have an ordinary dog, like other people!’’
But what fun would that be?  Snoopy shows up in the third Peanuts strip
that Charles Schulz drew and through the years we discovered a few things about
Snoopy.  We all know where he came from, Daisy
Hill Puppy Farm.  If you paid attention
to the strip than you know that we have been introduced to four brothers, a
sister, both parents and a nephew.
And a little known fact, Charlie Brown
was not Snoopy’s original owner.  That
would be a little girl named Lila whose family adopted Snoopy but discovered
their apartment was no place to raise a beagle, especially one as eccentric as
Snoopy and so they returned him to Daisy Hill where Charlie Brown obtained him
as a “used dog”.
The debate has raged for years over what
type of dog Snoopy actually is but he was called a beagle throughout the strip
and with the one exception of when he told Charlie Brown “I ain’t no
stupid beagle!”, he even identified himself as a beagle.    
But the question
still remains “So what?”  What is it we
can learn from Snoopy? 
Well here is a
shocker, Snoopy wasn’t really a famous flying ace, or a tennis pro or Joe Cool,
anywhere other than his mind.  Snoopy was
a dreamer.  He knew he was a dog, but
those other things were what he dreamed he could be. 
In the scripture
that was read earlier we discovered another dreamer.  His name was Joseph, and the Bible miniseries
on the History channel skipped him completely but you really can’t understand
the story of Moses without the story of Joseph. 
And when we first
meet Joseph he is just a kid.  A kid who
had dreams A kid who was loved by his father and a kid who was loathed by his
brothers.  Perhaps you know of him?  
Joseph’s father
Jacob, who would be Abraham’s grandson, had settled with his family in Canaan
which is now part of what we think of as Palestine. A part of Jacob’s immense
family was seventeen year old Joseph. 
Now to be real frank with you
Joseph wasn’t the most popular member of that family, at least not among his
siblings.  And there is good reason for
that listen to how the Bible describes the relationship between Joseph and his
father Jacob, Genesis 37:3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children
because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a
special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe.
Now sometimes we do that with
our kids, now I know that we claim that we don’t play favourites but reality
says that there are times that one or another of the kids is more lovable then
the others.  But listen to Genesis 37:4 But his
brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of
them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
You see that was the
fatal mistake that Jacob made, it wasn’t that Jacob loved Joseph more than all
the other sons.  Unfortunately my friends
that is a failing of the human condition, We may try to love all of our
children equally but everyone knew that my parents didn’t.  I know that my parents loved my sister more than
me.  It’s funny though because she knows
that her parents loved me more than her. 
Oh well.
The fatal mistake
here was made when Jacob let everyone else including his other children know
that Joseph was the favourite.  The coat
of many colours may have been a neat idea for a musical but it was really dumb
for fostering sibling unity.  Now Joseph
didn’t help the matter when he told his brothers about the dream where they
were all subservient to him.  Talk about
how to win friends and influence people. 
I bet it was Joseph who wrote the sequel to that book, you know the one
called “How to win back the friends I’ve already influenced”  And so on that day as Joseph’s brothers saw
him coming across the field toward them he was not the most popular person in
their world.  As a matter of fact he
probably didn’t make the list of the top 100.
Now with that in mind how do
you think they welcomed him.  What tone
of voice did they use.  Excitement?  Awe? 
Respect?  Not.  Dollars to donuts their words were dripping
with sarcasm.  But I like their
words.  It says something about young
Joseph, with a different tone of voice I can’t think of a greater
compliment.  Genesis
37:19
“Here comes the dreamer!” they said.
If I could sum up
the single most important difference between successful people and
non-successful people it would have to be the ability to dream.  The ability to see things the way they should
be or could be.  A couple of weeks ago I
mentioned one of my favorite quotes and that was from George
Bernard Shaw who said “There are those that look at
things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and
ask why not?”   That quote was used by Ted Kennedy when he
eulogized his brother Bobby Kennedy in 1967, but the sentiment is the same no
matter who said it.
I have spent the
past thirty two years pastoring local churches and I’ve become more and more
convinced that the secret to the success of churches is to have a dream, to
dream of where we can go, how high we can fly and what we can do.  Over the past years I’ve been asked by
different people to account for the growth of the churches that I
pastored.  In each instance I’ve searched
my ministry for some indication of what I might have done to accomplish what
had been accomplished.  Was it my preaching?  Hah, I could wish.  Was it my visiting?  Hah you could wish.  But what was it?  I think I nailed it down, if I was to be
asked today to account for the numerical growth of Truro Wesleyan Church, North
Point Wesleyan Methodist Church and Cornerstone Wesleyan Church I would respond
“A Dream”
If I could tell you
the most important thing that you need to have to make it today it would be a
dream.  More important than education, as
important as education is.  More
important than good health, as important as good health is.  More important than popularity, as important
as popularity is. 
People with a great
education will become failures without a dream. 
People who are in splendid health will fail without a dream.  The most popular people in the world will
become failures without a dream.
I would suspect as
different as they might be that most everyone here today has a dream, or
dreams, dreams about where you want to go, what you want to see, and the things
you want to accomplish.  Don’t sell them
cheap.  Don’t mortgage your dreams and
don’t tie them down.  Dreams are a part
of what keeps you young, you become old when you give away your dreams. 
So, why are dreams
so important? 
1) Without Dreams
There Can Be No Change.
 If necessity is the
mother of invention then dreams must be the father.  You will never see it in your hands until you
first see it in your head.  It’s true
with people and it’s true with churches. 
We won’t accomplish anymore at Cornerstone
Wesleyan Church than what we can dream of. 
In other words if we can’t see it then we can’t have it.  God knew that and so that is why he said in
the book of Joel 2:28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my
Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men
will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.
That particular prophecy was
fulfilled in Acts 2:17 ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon
all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see
visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
What that tells us
is that the church of God cannot exist without God sent dreams.  Because dreams are indicative of the presence
of the spirit.  No Spirit, no
dreams.  No dreams, no spirit.  When you see a church whose only commitment
is to keep the doors open.  A church
where there is no vision for reaching the lost, no vision for changing the
world, then you have found a church that exists without the spirit.  It’s a church in name, a church in
organisation maybe even has a church building but it isn’t a church.  It’s a religious social club, nothing more,
nothing less.  When churches become
content to simply hold their own then they become losers.
Every church needs
to ask itself the question, “What does God want us to
do?”  I would suspect that the
answer will be a dream, a dream that touches men and women, boys and
girls.  A dream that touches those who
know Jesus personally and a dream that touches those who have never ever met
Jesus at all.
Reality is that
every church is but one generation away from extinction.  Without a dream, without a vision for
tomorrow this church will be dead in forty years, why?  Because most of us will be dead within forty
years, now that’s a cheerful thought isn’t’ it? 
And so unless we continue to plan and dream and hope for the future we
might as well close the doors today and save ourselves forty years of grief and
frustration.
It’s only as we visualize
this church as continuing to win people to Jesus Christ will it actually
happen.  Nothing, nothing at all has ever
been accomplished that was not first dreamed of.  The realities of today are the dreams of
yesterday.  And the realities of tomorrow
will be the dreams of today. 
It is easy to settle in and say
“We’ve got it made as a church”  But that
isn’t the dream.  The dream is reaching
people who are unchurched, de-churched and pre-churched?  That was that dream 18 years ago at the birth
of Cornerstone and it is the dream today. 
Can you dream of the day that two services won’t hold all the folks who
call Cornerstone their spiritual home? A day when three services are full of
people who have found a church home and found a relationship with God.  A dream of the day that we begin construction
on a brand new worship centre to hold those people?  And some of you are asking “Is tht
possible?” 
In the past 8 years Cornerstone
has grown by 700%  and if that happens over
the next eight years we would have over 2000 folks worshipping at Cornerstone,
that would pretty well pack her out, don’t you think?  Can you believe in the impossible?  Can you believe the word of God, because it
says in Luke 18:27 He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with
God.”
I have said before that under my leadership Cornerstone
Wesleyan Church will never worship at the shrine of church growth.  But I trust that if we do what we are
supposed to do then the church will grow. 
What about our
personal dreams?  Have you read your old
high school year book recently?  How you
doing on your dreams?  Maybe they have
changed over the past twenty years, there’s nothing wrong with that, unless
they have died completely, and that is a tragedy.  There was a song out once that proclaimed “dreams never die, just the dreamer” but in reality dreams do die, and it’s not long after the dream is
dead that the dreamer begins to die, not physically but emotionally and
spiritually.  When we lose our dreams we
lose, period. 
The world as we know
it has been shaped by dreams.  All of the
great achievements were once considered to be impossible.  And a man with a dream is a lot more powerful
than a man with the facts.  After all,
facts said that electric lights were impossible, but Edison’s dreams made them
a reality.  Facts said polio was
inevitable, but Jonas Salk’s dreams developed a vaccine.  Facts said that man would never fly but the
Wright brother’s dreams gave them wings at Kitty Hawk.  Facts said that a man couldn’t run a mile in
less than 4 minutes but Roger Bannister’s dream proved that it could be done.
By the way the 4 minute mile is now the standard of all male professional
middle distance runners.
Whatever your
personal dreams are don’t let them go and don’t let something as trivial as
facts stand in your way.  Some of you
have had dreams to build your own company or to write a book or provide a safe
house to get girls off the street of Brazil. 
For others it has been to get more education, to raise a family and to
excel at what you do.  How do you want to
change your world?
2) Dreams Allow Us to Leave
the Past 
  Time and again I discover two things which
hinder us in our personal growth.   1) We
waste our time dwelling on the failures of yesterday.  2) We waste our time dwelling on the
successes of yesterday.  Listen up,
yesterday is gone, finished, done.  In
his letter to the church in Philippi Paul wrote in Philippians
3:13
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have
not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking
forward to what lies ahead.
You cannot relive
the successes of yesterday anymore then you can change the mistakes of the
past.  Remember “Yesterday
ended last night.”  All you have
is today and tomorrow.  It’s not that
yesterday is bad or evil; sometimes we get that impression, if it is in the
past then it isn’t any good and sometimes we swing to the other extreme.  It is only good if it was in the past.  Not so on either count, if it is in the past
it is unchangeable and to dwell on it is to waste precious time.    It was Thomas
Jefferson  who said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of
the past.”  Focus your dreams on
tomorrow and don’t live in yesterday. 
Don’t look back,
look ahead to what you can see accomplished. 
What can God do for you?  As much
as you can dream, that’s how much.
Where do you want
your church to be in five or ten years? 
Don’t know?  Don’t care?  You’d better know because that’s where we are
heading. 
The question that
you need to ask yourself over and over again is this “What
are my dreams?”  And when you get
a grasp on your dreams then start sharing them with other people.  Why? 
Because it makes you accountable for your dreams.
You should be
excited about this.  You can’t do
anything about yesterday, try as you might it is beyond your control, and the
time spent in yesterday is wasted.  But
tomorrow is yours.  Tomorrow belongs to
the dreamers. 
3) Dreams Alone Are
Never Enough
I love the
positive thinkers, and I love the possibility thinkers.  I don’t think that there are any of us who
wouldn’t personally benefit from reading books by people like Norman Vincent
Peale, Robert Schuler, Dennis Waitly and John Maxwell.  My only problem is that sometimes they leave
you with the impression that all you have to do is dream. 
My favourite story
is about a man who saw an empty lot he knew he had to have it.  It was the only break in a forest of brick
and mortar and he knew it would be his own personal oasis.  And so he scraped and saved and he saved and scraped
until the day came that he bought it. 
Then he stood back and saw just exactly what he had bought; a small
rubble strewn piece of property deep in the heart of the city.  What little green that had managed to survive
amongst the garbage was the very worst kinds of weeds, sturdy and
stubborn. 
The lot became his
dream, his hobby and his all consuming passion. 
Every spare moment he had he spent there, carting away rubble and
garbage.  Levelling the hard ground and
tearing up weeds.  Finally it
happened.  He had achieved the first part
of his dream.  The lot stood barren and
flat devoid of any living thing, it was a beginning. 
As ferocious and
ruthless as the man had been in getting the lot to this stage he now became a
gentle nurturer.  He broke the ground by
hand, tilled in fertilizer and then carefully chose the flowers, trees and
bushes that would make his dream a reality. 
With the care of a
mother for her children he dug each hole and placed the plant in, then gently
packed the soil back with his hands. 
Then he watered them and talked to them. 
He kept the weeds and birds away until one day it was his, a piece of
Eden standing in stark contrast to the dark and dreary man made cliffs that
rose around it.  The flowers exploded in
a prism of colour, providing a respite from the concrete desert surrounding
them.
One day as he stood
admiring his garden a stranger happened by and commented, “That sure is a
beautiful garden the Lord has given you” 
“Yes it sure is” replied the man, “but you should have seen it when the
Lord had it by himself.”  Any dreams we
have for Cornerstone no matter how good, no matter how noble, no matter how
spiritual will not happen without commitment on our behalf.
If your dreams are
going to come true then it will your responsibility to make them come
true.  You see a dream which does not
result in action is nothing much and an action which doesn’t come from a dream
is nothing at all.  That old saying of
the salesman may be trite but its true when they say, “If
it’s going to be it’s up to me.” 
Nobody else is
responsible for making your dreams into realities.  Your dreams are the beginning of your success,
but a dream alone won’t guarantee success. 
Without dedication to your dream, without work, without sacrifice,
without commitment, that dream will never be anymore then a dream.   The man who wants
to do something finds a way; the man who pretends that he wants to do something
finds an excuse. 
What will you have to do to make your
dream a reality?  What will we have to do
to make Cornerstone’s dreams a reality? 
Listen to the  dying words of D.L.
Moody to his sons, “If God be your partner make
your plans big”

#blacksmoke #pope

Is it just me or is there more hype this time over the choosing of the Pope than in the past?  Every time I turn on the television or pick up the paper there seems to be another story about the conclave and the possible successor to Pope Benedict.  It must feel good as a Catholic to have so much positive press for a change.
Of course, in Canada there is much abuzz about the possibility of a “Canadian” pope and certainly Marc Ouellet’s name has been bandied around as a possible front runner.  I would think talk of front-runners kind of negates the role the Holy Spirit is supposed to play in the process.  But then again I heard the same thing the last time the Wesleyan Church was electing a General Superintendent, on a much smaller scale of course.
The interesting speculation is whether the Church electing a pope from Quebec would have any impact on the secularization of Canada’s most secular province.  I think God is hearing a lot of strange  voices because if you watch TV it seems that everyone in Quebec is praying for Cardinal Ouellet’s appointment.
But seriously, if they won’t go to church for Jesus they probably won’t go to church for Marc. 
        
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

When I think of Charlie Brown one of two images immediately
comes to mind.  And maybe it’s the same
with you.  It’s either the scene of
Charlie Brown staring forlornly into the tree that has once again eaten his
kite or it’s Charlie Brown lying flat on his back after Lucy has pulled the
football away at the very last minute as Charlie has attempted to kick it. 
And I would suspect that whatever image you have of Charlie
Brown it has something to do with defeat or failure.   Perhaps as he stares at the Christmas tree
that he has brought to the pageant, the one everyone laughs at.  Or maybe it’s the futile crush he has on the
Little Red Headed Girl, and she doesn’t even know he exists.  Or perhaps it’s the sight of Charlie Brown
standing in the rain all by himself on the ball diamond. 
Charlie Brown’s creator Charles Schulz wrote “Charlie Brown
must be the one who suffers, because he’s a caricature of the average person.
Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning. Winning is great,
but it isn’t funny.”   
Here are some highlights from Charlie Brown’s life.  (Video Clip)
Schulz was asked if, for his final Peanuts strip,
Charlie Brown would finally get to kick that football after almost fifty years
of trying. His response: “Oh, no! Definitely not! I couldn’t have Charlie Brown kick
that football; that would be a terrible disservice to him after nearly half a
century.” Yet, in a December 1999 interview, holding back tears, he
recounted the moment when he signed the panel of his final strip, saying, “All of a
sudden I thought, ‘You know, that poor, poor kid, he never even got to kick the
football. What a dirty trick — he never had a chance to kick the football!’”
In the Old Testament there is an entire book written about a
man who made Charlie Brown’s life look like a walk in the park, pulled out
football and everything.  His name was
Job and the book is found in the Old Testament. 
If you have your bible with you then you can find it by going to the
middle of your Bible which should be Psalms or Proverbs and then turning toward
the front. 

Schulz even gives a nod to the book of Job in the Peanuts cartoon. 

(Charlie Brown: Nine home runs in a row! Good grief! What can I do. We’re
getting slaughtered again, Schroeder. . . I don’t know what to do. Why do we
have to suffer like this?

Schroeder: ”Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

Charlie Brown: What?

Linus: He’s quoting from the Book of Job, Charlie Brown, seventh
verse, fifth chapter. Actually, the problem of suffering is a very profound
one, and . . .

Lucy: If a person has had bad luck, it’s because he’s doing
something wrong, that’s what I always say!

Schroeder: That’s what Job’s friends told him. But I doubt it. . .

Lucy: What about Job’s wife? I don’t think she gets enough
credit!

Schroeder: I think a person who never suffers, never matures.
Suffering is actually very important.

Lucy: Who wants to suffer? Don’t be ridiculous!

Schroeder: But pain is a part of life, and. .

Linus: A person who speaks only of the “patience” of Job reveals
that he knows very little of the book! Now, the way I see it. . .

Charlie Brown: Good grief! I don’t have a ball team. I have a theological
seminary!)

Job was the righteous man’s poster boy, the Bible tells us
that He was blameless, a man of complete integrity, who feared God and stayed
away from Evil.  And just to top it off
we are told that he was the richest man in the area.  But these aren’t the things that made Job
famous, and we’ve all heard of Job, even if you don’t know the story of Job you
probably have heard the expression, “The patience of Job” an expression that
was most often used in reference to my Mother’s dealing with her youngest son.
But you have to know the story to understand the
reference.  Now the first part of the story
is a little confusing, I don’t understand it, and really can’t explain it.  It would appear that one day the angels
appeared before God reporting on what they had done and Satan shows up.  During the ensuing conversation God questions
Satan on his activities and Satan responds by saying Job
1:7 . . . “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going
on.” 
And at that point God draws Satan’s attention to his servant
Job and how righteous he is, and Satan says “sure, and why wouldn’t he serve
you?  You have always protected him, and
his property.  Everything he touches
turns to gold, take away his possessions and I can guarantee that he will curse
you.”
Now what I don’t understand is why at this point God agrees
to allow Satan access to Job, someday I might understand it, but right now I
don’t.  A long time ago I discovered that
God is way up there and I’m way down here and I can’t understand everything
that God does, but that’s ok, because if I could understand everything about
God he wouldn’t be much of a God.  After
all I can’t even understand woman.    But
that is what happens. 
Not very long after this conversation Job is at home when a
servant arrives telling him that his enemies have raided the farm stolen his
oxen and donkeys and killed all his farm hands. 
Just then another messenger arrives and says “you’ll never believe what
happened boss, fire fell from the sky and burned up your sheep and shepherds”
And a third guy arrives on the scene to inform Job that all his camels have
been stolen by raiders from the north.
Now you gotta admit at this
point Job seems to be handling it pretty well, until the fourth messenger
arrives to tell his boss that a powerful wind hit the house where his children
were celebrating with their oldest brothers and there have been no survivors,
all ten children have died.  It was at
this point that Job broke down in grief. 
But even with that listen to what he says in Job
1:21
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s
womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the
LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!”
Did you catch that?  If you missed it the bible sums it up in the
next verse by saying Job 1:22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Let’s
read it again just in case you didn’t catch it the first time.  Job 1:22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. 
Well someone must have come along and said “Cheer up Job,
things could be worse” cause he cheered up and sure enough things got
worse.  Kind of reminds me of what Poul Anderson said
“I have
yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in
the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
Up to now the tragedies happened to the things and people surrounding
Job but not Job himself, and Satan told God, “Well sure, he can still praise you;
he still has his health, let me take that from him.”  And again I don’t understand it but God
agreed, saying “Just spare his life.” 
Now personally I think Satan underestimated Job as a parent, I think
that the death of his children would be a far greater tragedy then mere
physical discomfort.  But Job became
covered with boils from head to foot, yuck. 
But you know Satan had some
smarts because of all the things that Job lost, Satan left him with his
wife.  You say “Denn, that’s just nasty.”  Not so, listen to the comfort that Job’s wife
offered in Job 2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your
integrity? Curse God and die.”  “Why
thanks babe, I love you too.” 
And so for the next forty or so
chapters we read how various friends came and the discussion they had
concerning the tragedies that had befallen our hero. If you don’t know the
story they try to convince Job that it’s all his fault and he probably deserves
everything that has happened to him.  If
you’ve ever heard someone called “Job’s comforter” this is where it comes
from.  If you’ve ever been called “Job’s
comforter”  it’s not a compliment.  But through it all, Job remained true to
God. 
And we struggle with bad things happening to good people and
I’m sure that sometimes Charlie Brown wondered why bad things happened to
him.  When Schulz died Henry Allen of
the Washington Post wrote a piece in memory of Sparky and as part of his
reflection he said “It’s not so much that bad things happen to good people in
Peanuts. At least in the Bible, God is testing Job. In Peanuts, bad things
happen for no reason at all.”
In one strip Charlie Brown, say: “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and
I ask, ‘Why me?’ Then a voice answers, ‘Nothing personal. Your name just
happened to come up.’”  You ever
feel like that?
So this morning, for a little while we are going to look at
suffering.  Why does the football keep
getting pulled out and why does the tree always eat my kite?
1) Stuff Happens   Because you are a member of the human race
you will have troubles, you can’t get around that.   We live in a world that has been corrupted
by evil and because of that bad things happen. 
 If we go back to the verse that
Schroeder reference in the strip Job 5:7 People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from
a fire.   Without wanting to sound
really cynical, it shouldn’t surprise us when we have problems it should
surprise us when we don’t.
Bad things even happen to
believers.  It would be neat if becoming
a Christian exempted you from all hurt and heart break, you’d never get sick,
never become unemployed never lose a spouse or a child, but that ain’t the way
it happens.  The bible is full of examples
of bad things happening to good people. 
It would be nice if our
salvation was a passport out of suffering and tragedy.  What a great outreach.  We could put a sign up “Become a Christian
and escape life’s problems”, we’d have to bar the doors to keep people out, but
that’s not the way it happens, sorry.
Jesus brother James wrote a
letter to the early church and he said James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy. He didn’t say if trouble comes
your way, he said when trouble comes your way. 
And Jesus himself said in Matthew 6:34 “So don’t
worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble
is enough for today.” Did you catch that? Today’s trouble is enough for
today.
C.S. Lewis kind of summed it
up when he said “We were promised sufferings. They
were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’”
And no it isn’t fair, there are times that life isn’t fair,
but we live in a world that has been corrupted by sin, and stuff happens.  Little stuff and big stuff.  But you’re probably doing alright compared to
Job.
2) Don’t Take It Personally Sometimes
when trouble happens we tend to look at it a couple of different ways.  As Christians sometimes we look inward for
reasons, wondering what have I done, why me, I don’t deserve this.  Job hadn’t done anything wrong, there was no
hidden sin in his life, and he wasn’t rebelling against God.  We need to realize that trouble happens to
the just and the unjust. And I know that’s a cynical view of life but Jesus
said in Matthew 5:45 “. .
. For He (God) gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends
rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
How often do we focus on our problems to the exclusion of
everything and everyone else?  We aren’t
alone in this world and chances are there are people with bigger problems than
yours, it was Humphrey Bogart who said “Everybody in Casablanca has problems.”  And everybody in Hammonds Plains has
problems and everyone in the HRM has problems.  
The second thing that believers
do is to automatically attribute every problem in their life to Satan.  Now I don’t want to underestimate the power
of the dark one, however I think we give him way too much credit.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a child of
God and certain privileges come with that position.  And my Bible still has 2 Thessalonians 3:3 But
the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
Sure you say but what about
when you’re in bondage?  Again I don’t
want to minimize spiritual warfare, but there are a lot of people out there who
are in bondage because they choose to be in bondage.  It’s a very convenient excuse when we enjoy a
sin to simply throw up our hands and say “I can’t help myself, I’m in
bondage.  I’m not sure that is what Jesus
had in mind when he told his disciples in 
John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a
slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is
part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
I like that: So if the Son sets you
free, you are truly free.
And you might be thinking: “But Denn what if what happened
to Job happens to me? What if God allows Satan to strike at my family and I.”
Probably won’t happen. 
Job is very much an isolated incident in the scriptures, we can’t
explain why God allowed it to happen the first time but it doesn’t happen
again.  And considering the description
of Job, remember it Job 1:1 He was blameless—a
man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.  So probably, unless you are blameless
and a person of complete integrity who fears God and stays away from evil you
are probably safe.  If that is the
criteria than most of us have nothing to worry about. 
Don’t be in so much of a hurry to give the Devil all the
credit for the bad stuff that happens in your life.  To quote C.S. Lewis again “There are two equal and opposite errors
into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their
existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy
interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”
3) It’s Not Wrong To Question  Sometimes we are given the impression
that Job stoically endured all that happened, that he never asked why, never
questioned whether it was fair or not, just endured.  And that just isn’t true, for most of the
forty chapters in the book of Job, Job was asking; Why? 
And there’s nothing wrong with asking why.  Throughout the Bible people questioned God,
Abraham asked why, Moses asked why, Joshua asked why, David asked why, Isaiah
asked why, Peter asked why, Paul asked why. 
Even Jesus when he was hanging on the cross looked up to heaven and
asked “Why?”
But if you’re going to ask God
why, you are going to have to be satisfied with the answers and that can be
tough.  Because as God told Job 38:2 “Who is this that
questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?
Because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, God is
God and we are just people.  But a little
homework for this week, go home and read Job chapters 38-40, won’t take you
long but it might help you understand God a little more.
4) We Have The Victory  Sometimes we can figure out a solution to
our problem on our own perhaps by using Brady’s First
Law of Problem Solving: When confronted by a difficult problem, you can solve
it more easily by reducing it to the question: How would the Lone Ranger have
handled this? But more often than not, that’s not enough and so if you
get nothing else out of this morning’s message get this “We Win”. 
When we are faithful to God, in
the good times and in the bad we are the victors.  Listen to what Paul wrote to the early church
in Rome, and remember this was where the persecution broke out against the
early church, where Christians were killed for the sheer sport of it.  Romans 8:35-37 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it
mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted,
or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? . . . No,
despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who
loved us.
Did you catch that Overwhelming victory is ours. 
And in 1 John 5:4 We read 1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil
world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
Don’t throw up your hands and say, “I quit”  It was Billy Sunday
who said, “Stopping at third adds no more to the score
then striking out.”    
Friends the message I leave with you today is: Don’t quit,
don’t give up, the victory has already been won.  So where are you at?  Do you sometimes find it tough to be
faithful, to believe in the victory?  I
want to pray for you this morning.  Life
is tough, but God is there for us.   If
you want me to pray for you this morning, and through the week I’d like you to
stand where you are, I don’t know what you’re going through but God does.  There’s an old saying that says “Let go and
let God.”  Is that what you need to do
today, is to let go and let God?  

Those who forget history, etc , etc

And so now we know how to change history and win an award.  Thirty years ago while at University I watched history unfold as Ken Taylor and the Canadian embassy staff in Iran masterminded and facilitated the rescue of 6 American embassy staff after the Islamic revolution.  It was called “The Canadian Caper.”  The United States publically declared their gratefulness and then gradually the entire episode was forgotten by the general public. 
Fast forward to 2012 and Hollywood produces a movie where Canada plays a very minor role and the CIA mastermind and facilitate the rescue of the embassy staff. Then the movie, Argo wins the Oscar for best picture & the First Lady announces the award  and the entire world has a new understanding of what “really” happened.  The movie may have changed perception but it didn’t change reality.  
Sometimes as Christ followers, we forget our history.  We think we masterminded and facilitated our spiritual rescue & that we were responsible for our salvation.  But we weren’t. It was God who was behind the plan to rescue us, and it was God who implemented the plan to rescue us and it was God who made the sacrifice to rescue us.
We were simply the rescued.

And regardless of our memories, that is the reality.
        
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Where are you in the Strip?

How many of you grew up with “Peanuts”?  Not the ground nuts that people are allergic
to but Charlie Brown and his crew?  From
as far back as I can remember Charlie Brown has been a part of my life, when I
was a kid a part of our Christmas traditions was to watch A Charlie Brown
Christmas, as I got older the Peanuts strips in the paper, black and white
through the week and colour on the weekends was something that I read
religiously.  My best friend collected
the Peanuts collections and when we were at University he decided that he was
too mature for Peanuts and BC and gave me all his books.  Not sure what he was saying about my level of
maturity. In 1990 when we moved to Australia I gave them away but Charles
Schulz’s creation was an integral part of the first thirty years of my life.
And when we started promoting this series I would be willing
to wager that each of you had a favorite Peanuts memory that came to mind.  Perhaps Snoopy as the famous WW1 Ace chasing
the Red Baron, or Charlie Brown with his kite stuck in the tree, Linus with his
blanket or crabby Lucy and her fledgling Psychiatric practice. 
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about,
it’s going to be a long four weeks. 
It was last March during our “Sermons from Seuss” series
that Colin approached me and asked if I had thought of using Peanuts for a
series and he reminded me the panel where Charlie Brown reveals his
idea of happiness.  “The secret of
happiness is to own a convertible and a lake. If the sun shines, you can ride
around in your convertible. If it rains, you can say, ‘At least the rain will
fill up my lake.’”
So here we go, the Peanuts gang were the creation of Charles
Shultz.  Schulz was born in and raised in
Minnesota, and very early in life was given the nickname Sparky by his
uncle.  He was brought up in the Church
of God where he eventually taught Sunday School and contributed single panel
comic to the denominational magazine between 1956 and 1965.   Later
in life he defined himself as a secular humanist but his Christian background
continued to be evidenced in the stip
Sparky always had an interest in drawing but that wasn’t recognized
by everyone, his high school year book rejected drawings that he submitted
during his senior year. 
After high school and a stint in the US Army during the
Second World War Schulz set out to make a living with his drawings, but it
wasn’t until 1950 that his strip, originally called L’il Folks was accepted by
United Feature Syndicates and became the most successful comic strip of all
times eventually earning Schulz 30 to 40 million dollars a year.  A little trivia, at its peak the strip was
featured in 2,600 papers in 75 countries and 21 languages.  Schulz refused to hire an inker or letterer,
saying that “it would be equivalent to a golfer hiring a man to make his putts
for him.”  And during the life of the
strip, Schulz took only one vacation, a five-week break in late 1997 to
celebrate his 75th birthday; reruns of the strip ran during his vacation, the
only time reruns occurred while Schulz was alive.
The original title for the strip was “L’il Folks” but the
publishers felt that it was too close to the name of a couple of other strips
and renamed it “Peanuts” a name that Schulz never liked. 
And most of us can find ourselves in the Peanuts gang.  It is like a little snapshot of society.  I don’t mean the physical resemblance but in
their attitudes and your attitudes.  And
just as you can find most of the Peanuts gang in any gathering of folks I think
we can find most of them in the twelve who Jesus called Apostles.  And apparently I’m not the first person to
stumble on to this. 
There are two things that I truly believe about
attitudes.   Number one is that our lives
will be shaped by our attitudes.  And
number two is that we each have control over the type of attitudes that will
shape our lives

Where
you go personally, emotionally, spiritually, academically, vocationally will be
determined in the most part by your attitudes. 
And once we realize that, once we realize that we are in control, and
that circumstances aren’t, then that gives us the power to determine our
destiny.
Now
there may be people here today who disagree with me.  That’s ok, I’ve been disagreed with before
and I will probably be disagreed with again. 
But that doesn’t change the fact that in life, less is dependent on what
happens to you and more is dependent on how you react to what happens to you.  I have seen people go through similar
traumatic situations, one person going through the ordeal, the other person
growing through the ordeal. One person becomes bitter one person becomes
better. 
So,
if it’s not the circumstances that dictate the outcome what is it?  It is the person’s attitude. How they
determine that they are going to handle that situation.
You
ever read this book?  It’s called
“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”  Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no
good very bad day?  Sure you have, we all
have them.  You can’t control the
circumstances that come your way, but you can control how you respond to them.
Leo Buscaglia writes “There are two big forces at work,
external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as
tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really
matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I
have complete control.” 
So
the question is, what type of attitude do you have?  How are you going to face life and what it has
in store for you?
There are the
Downward Lookers.
You ever met someone who is always down?  It seems that they are perpetually seasick on
the journey of life.  It doesn’t matter
what happens they know things are going to get worse. 
Probably most of us would agree that Lucy fits this
description to a “T”.  Lucy’s main
mission in life is to be the voice of doom. 
Nobody can do anything right and she seems to thrive on raining on
everybody and anybody’s parade.  Lucy was
first introduced on March 3 1952 and was several years younger than Charlie
Brown and the rest of the cast when she first appeared.  However, through the marvels of comic strips
she quickly aged to catch up with the rest of the L’il folks.  Lucy is best known for distributing five cent
advice and pulling the football away as Charlie Brown goes to kick it.  If you had to describe Lucy with one word it
would be “crabby.” As a matter of fact her little brother Linus once said “Big
sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.”
While I was pondering who seemed to fit this spot in the
Apostles I first thought of John and James the Sons of Thunder, you might
recall it was the brothers who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy
a village that wouldn’t listen to them, but then I realized the boys might have
a problem with impulse control but they weren’t negative people.  On the other hand it seems like every time we
see Thomas he’s down and trying to
pull others down with him.
Other than being named the
first time we get a glimpse into Thomas’ character is when Jesus’ friend
Lazarus dies and Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to visit his dead
friend’s family.  Some of the disciples
try to dissuade Jesus from going because of the mounting opposition to his
teaching in Judah and Thomas pipes up and says John
11:16
Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to
his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”  At the end of the Last Supper when Jesus tells
his disciples that his time has come and he reassures the Apostles that he is
preparing a place for them and he reassures them that they know where he is
going.  And Thomas says in  John 14:5 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea
where you are going, so how can we know the way?”   And of course where Thomas is best
known is after he misses Jesus’ first resurrection appearance and he has to
choose between believing that Jesus is dead or alive, and he says that without
absolute proof he is going to stick with his belief that Jesus was dead.  
When John Crosbie
was in federal politics he referred to Prime Minister Paul Martin as a “Nattering Nabob of Negativism.”  Originally it was Spiro Agnew who used
the term in reference to the press, but of course he didn’t actually pen it,
that was done by his speech writer William Safire. 
When my friend John
Symonds was pastoring the Yarmouth Wesleyan Church he must have had one
of those guys in his church because I heard him describing someone and he said “If the angel Gabriel
came down he’d put on dark glasses and shoot him for a crow.” 
Lucy and Thomas were nattering nabobs of
negativity they were down and wanted everybody else to be down with them.  But you don’t have to be. 
There are the Upward
Lookers
Although there are a few in the gang who seem to have a fairly
upbeat outlook on life, the one who first came to mind for me was Peppermint
Patty.  First introduced to the strip in
1966 Peppermint Patty is the resident Tom Boy. 
She never met a sport she couldn’t master and while academic’s seem to
be a bit of a challenge for her she never lets it get her down.  Accompanied by her side kick Marcie while
calling Charlie Brown Chuck and referring to Snoopy as the “Funny looking kid”.  Patty is always game for the next challenge.
If I had to claim a favorite Apostle it would be Peter.  He was impetuous and sometimes short tempered
but regardless of the circumstances he was either up or getting up.  He was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the
Messiah he was the one who jumped out of the boat and walked on the water, the
first to offer to die for Jesus and even after he had denied Christ he was the
first to the tomb after hearing about the resurrection.
In the book of Acts it is Peter who is standing up in front
of this crowd and that bursting to tell them the Good News about Jesus.  
It was almost as if both Peter and Patty
had heard and heeded the words of Sugar Ray Robinson who said  “I’ve always believed that you can think positive
just as well as you can think negative.”
You say “But Denn you don’t know what my
life is like, I have every reason to be negative.” 
He had it all, a successful career, a
wonderful life, adoring fans, everything a man could want. And then in one
minute it was all over, he was doing what he loved, jumping competitively   when his horse stumbled pitching him to the
ground and then it was all over. 
Christopher Reeves went from being a Superman to being a quadriplegic
who even needed a machine to breathe for him. 
I would think that Christopher Reeves probably has some pretty good
reasons to be negative to have a downward attitude but listen to what he said: “You play the hand you’re
dealt. I think the game’s
worthwhile.”
You get to choose how you are going to
look at life, will it be with an negative attitude, always able to find a
problem in every solution, always able to spot the dark cloud that comes with
every silver lining or will it be with a positive attitude?  Will you be a part of the problem or a part
of the solution.  Will you light the
candle to chase away the darkness or will you be the one who blows out the
candle to prove how dark the room is? 
Only you will decide that.
There
Are The Backward Lookers 
Some people just can’t
seem to leave the past.  They are always
focusing on what used to be and how wonderful yesterday was. 
In thinking about what character from Peanuts would fit that
description my mind immediately went to Schroeder.  He was first introduced May 30 1951 and
he was the first character whose infancy was recorded in the strip and
obviously the first to experience a time warp that brought him up to the same
age as the rest of the gang.  And
whenever we see Schroeder we see him with his toy piano, a piano that plays
amazing complex arrangements.  But for
Schroeder nothing will ever compare to Beethoven.  He is so caught up in the music of 1800 that
he can’t see what’s happening around him. 
While he was leaning over his piano an entire world passed him by.  Much to the chagrin of Lucy who is helplessly
in love with Schroeder. 
When the twelve are mentioned we hear the name Simon the Zealot.   Zealot wasn’t Simon’s last name, the Zealots
were a revolutionary group in Palestine who wanted to return Israel to the way
it was 400 years before.  Depending on who
you spoke with they were either nationalists or terrorists.  But the thing I discovered was they really
didn’t have a plan.  They thought if they
could force the Romans to leave then everything would be all right, that if the
oppressors would just move on then it would be like the old days and everything
would be perfect.
And
Simon and Schroeder are like some folks I know who seem unwilling to leave
yesterday, or probably closer to the truth to leave their memories of
yesterday.  Which of course should come
with a warning label that says “Any resemblance between these memories and the
actual events is purely coincidental.”
You
see most of our yesterdays are coloured by nostalgia and it was George W. Ball Secretary of
State under John F. Kennedy who said “Nostalgia is a seductive liar.”
We
can become so caught up in the past that not only can’t we see tomorrow we
can’t see today.  You can’t live in the
past, and you can’t change the past.  One
of the great things about starting Cornerstone from scratch was that we
couldn’t talk about how great things were back in 1953 or 1983.  We had no past, but we do now.  We been worshipping together for almost eighteen
years and it’s sometimes easy to say, “Why I remember when so and so was coming
here, and the difference it made” or “I remember when we were still meeting at
the Lion’s Den  and only paying $48.00 a
week rent”  Let’s not forget the past,
but let’s not dwell there.  Lee Iacocca said “Yesterday
ended last night!”
And the same holds true for your personal
lives.  As wonderful as yesterday may
have been, it is yesterday.  Yesterday
may be a nice place to visit, but you shouldn’t be living there.
Philippians
3:13-14
No, dear brothers and sisters, I
have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and
looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and
receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
There are the Forward
Lookers
If there is a dreamer in the Peanuts strips it would have to be
Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog.  We were
first introduced to Snoopy on October 4th 1950 just three days after
the introduction of the strip.
And you think of all the ways that Snoopy has appeared
through the years, in his mind he’s been Joe Cool, an attorney, tennis player
and great novelist, but the most memorable image that Schulz would give us
would have to be Snoopy sitting on top of his doghouse, pilot’s gear pulled
over his eyes, charging through the skies in search of the elusive Red Baron.   Snoopy was a dreamer who was always looking
at life the way it could be.  Why
couldn’t a dog win the Christmas house decorating contest?  Why couldn’t a dog save the world from the villainous
Red Baron?  Why couldn’t a dog have a
Zamboni on his water dish?
Snoopy clearly epitomized the words of George Bernard
Shaw who said “There are those that look at
things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and
ask why not?”  
If you are looking for the apostle who always seemed to be
looking ahead it would have to be Peter’s brother Andrew.  From the beginning
it was Andrew who saw a future with Jesus. 
When John the Baptist pointed at Jesus and said “Behold the lamb of God”
Andrew was the first to follow.  The
first five apostles all had connections to Andrew and it was Andrew who brought
his brother to Jesus saying “I’ve found the Messiah”.  In the account of the feeding of the five
thousand it was Andrew who brought the boy with the five loaves and two fish to
Jesus.  Not because he believed there was
enough there to do the job but he believed that with five loaves and two fish
Jesus could do the job.
What
are your dreams?  You do have dreams
don’t you? John Barrymore said “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” How
do you picture your tomorrows? 
Regardless of our past the future stretches out before us like a giant
sketchpad waiting for us to make our mark. 
What is the picture going to be? What are your dreams for your life,
your family, and your church?  Where do
you want to be six months down the road, a year, five years ten years?  If you can’t see it now you won’t be able to
have it.  Before your dreams can come
true, first you have to have dreams.
Look
ahead; for the first ten years of our existence we dreamed of having a building
of our own and here we are.  And then
after we built the church we dreamed of filling the church and we here we are.  And you understand that part of that dream
was to have multiple services are here we are. 
But that was only a part of the dream the dream wasn’t just to build a church;
it was to build a Church.  That is a
community of people who come together to worship Jesus, to support and love one
another and to reach out to our communities to introduce more people to
Jesus. 
And
Denn couldn’t build this building by himself, it took the partnership and
sacrifice from God’s people to make it a reality. And it will be the same way
if we are going to build “the church.” 
The relationships that will need to become a reality will need to be
built by you.  And that won’t just happen
on Sunday morning, during the grip and grin and it won’t happen in the lobby
after the service.  Where it will happen
will be Monday through Saturday in living rooms and kitchens.  At small groups and potlucks, at pool parties,
going to movies and dinner and eating burgers on your back deck.
From
day one the purpose of this church was very clear, we were put here to help
depopulate Hell.  That is our dream that
at the end of the day there are more people who know Jesus and are going to
heaven because this church was here.
But
that one can’t only be Denn’s dream it’s going to have to become the dream of
all of us.  And that’s only going to
happen as we seek God’s face and what he wants us to do to reach people, to
determine what we need to do to honour God and fulfil his will. 
Sometimes in life it’s hard to determine what your
attitude is because of outside circumstances. 
You say: “But Denn you don’t understand what I’m going through.”  Maybe not but Jesus does and as believers we
don’t have a something to keep our eyes on instead we have a someone Hebrews 12:2 We do this by
keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Circumstances
and people may disappoint us, and they may try to rob us of our faith but Jesus
is constant.  Keep your eyes centred on
him.  How?  By reading his word, by spending time in
prayer, by worshipping with his people.