Are You Leaving Me Too?

Are you leaving me too?
On December 7th 1941 President Franklin D.
Roosevelt addressed the people of the United States and referred to the
previous day as “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”.  Most of you know what he was referring to, on
December 6th Japan had attacked Pearl Harbour. 
There are other days that people remember, and most are
generational.  Can you remember where you
were when JFK was assassinated, or when John Lennon was shot, I remember where
I was and what I was doing when the Challenger went down in 1986 and when I
heard about the Twin Towers falling in 2001. 
Each of those events was a pivotal point in history.  Most of us have pivotal points that we can
remember in our personal histories. 
Times when things changed, when they suddenly became different than what
they had been.   The birth of a child,
the death of a parent, losing a job or ending a relationship.
If you have been a part of Cornerstone forever then you
might recall the “Spring of Tuesdays”. 
Which technically it wasn’t all spring and it wasn’t always on Tuesdays
but it was close enough and it was catchy. 
And there aren’t many here today who know what I am talking
about.  Ian and Sylvia Richardson, Karen
Wickwire, Mike and Sajonna Kneebone, Heather Stubbert and Paul Caza were there,
and Angela and I of course.
So here is the background, Angela and I moved to Bedford in
1994, 19 years ago this month to begin what was called a “parachute plant” or a
“catalytic church plant”.  Which meant
that we were it.  You’ve all heard us
joke that when we started there was Angela and I, our two kids, the cat and a
hamster and then the hamster died.   Cornerstone
began worshipping together as Bedford Community Church on April 9th
1995.  And by then we had a core of
around 50 people who would consider Cornerstone their church home, that meant
that on an average Sunday we had about 35 men, women and children present.  Through the course of the first year and a
half we saw that number grow to about 100 who called us home and were averaging
about 75 or so in our services. 
There had been a number of changes, we had brought a second
staff member on, we had moved from the LeBrun centre in Bedford to the Empire
Theatre in Bedford.  For those of you
with a blank stare there used to be a six cinema complex where the Lawton’s is
now in the Mill Cove Plaza.
And life was good, the church was growing, lives were being
changed and the world was our oyster so to speak.
On Christmas Eve 1996 we had our service in theatre three,
it was really cool because there were movies being shown in the other five
cinemas and we were celebrating the birth of 
Jesus in the theatre we called home. 
And that was when it started. 
Greg Hanson, who was our worship pastor had put together a teen band who
performed a very rocky rendition of  “We
Three Kings”.  And as they rocked the
house I looked up and caught the eyes of a family who had been with us for
about a year and I thought “they are not happy.” 
A week later on Tuesday December 31st I received
a phone call from the family letting me know that they felt God was leading
them to another church.  And thus began
the spring of Tuesdays.
Between January 1st and the first of May our
average attendance fell from82 to 43.  In
that five month period 12 families who had called our church their church home
moved on to other churches, and those who contacted us about leaving always
called on Tuesdays.
And they took their money with them, what’s with that.  Our offerings fell by forty percent.  The small salary we were giving our assistant
got cut, we moved out of the office we were renting on the Bedford Highway,
Angela and I were in the process of building a home in Kingswood and weren’t
even sure we would be able to afford to make the mortgage payments because the
church couldn’t afford to pay my salary and so I began looking for outside
work.  And I had no idea what had
happened or how to stop it.  At times I
compared it to a snowball rolling down a hill. 
Or on my more carnal days like rats leaving a sinking ship. 
And when I talked to the people who left they all seemed to
have good reasons for leaving, at least they seemed to be.  And when they couldn’t find a good reason
they used the trump card, “God is calling us to another church.”  It’s kind of hard to argue with that.  But most of them told me to not take it
personally.  But that was kind of tough.
In April of that year I was helping out with Keswick a group
that hosted special church services each spring, they still do.  Our guest speaker that year was a preacher by
the name of David Mains.  No, not that
David Maines the other David Mains.  Most
of you are thinking that I’m talking about the Host of 100 Huntley Street, but
I’m talking about the David Mains from Chicago who was the host of “Chapel of
the Air”.
And I was asked to take David and his wife Karen out to
lunch.  And as we are driving along David
asked me how life was going and how the church was doing.  And I said “fine”, and he told me to stop
lying to him.  He said he had been a
church planter and knew some of the struggles and invited me to unload on him
because he was going back to Chicago the next day and I would never see him
again. 
And I did.  As we
drove along I told him of people leaving, of the personal impact it was having
on me and my family, the impact that it was having on the church, some of my
doubts about what I was doing.  Not sure
if that’s what he expected but he smiled and nodded and said sympathetic
things.  And then my phone rang and I
answered it, that was when you were still allowed to talk on your phone while
driving.  When I hung up I told David about
the conversation, it was a lady calling to tell me that she felt that her
family needed to find another church. 
Did I mention it was Tuesday?
And David looked at me and said “You must feel a lot like
Jesus.”  And that kind of confused me
because I definitely wasn’t feeling very messianic right then. And I must of
looked confused because he added, “You know, when he said in John 6:67 “are you leaving me too?”
Well, we survived the Spring of Tuesdays, and in the 16
years since people have still decided to move on from time to time, but I
realized that we weren’t alone, that it happens in all churches.  A few years after that I heard a pastor by
the name of Antony Graham preaching and he said “Pastoring a church is like
driving a bus, people get on and people get off.”    But it doesn’t seem to get easier. 
And of course it’s not restricted to churches, I was getting
my hair cut one day and my stylist was telling me about someone who had stopped
coming and started going to another stylist, no explanation, she didn’t know if
she had done something wrong or said something.  And it hurt. 
And she took it personally. 
Last week I was speaking to a business owner who had just
lost two contracts and the impact that would have not only on their business
but on them personally.  And then there
are those who have lost friends and spouses.
This is week 3 of our Red Letter Summer series, and we are
focusing on those words that are printed in many of our Bibles in red, the
words of Christ.  And so this week we
find ourselves in the book of John.
From the early part of John’s
Gospel we read about the crowds that were flocking  to Jesus in order to hear his message.  John 2:23 Because
of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration,
many began to trust in him., John 4:1 Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard
that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John¸ John 6:2 A
huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous
signs as he healed the sick.
 And it was an awesome message.   Jesus spoke about the grace of God, his love
and his forgiveness.  And people embraced
the message.  But then Jesus began to
speak about obedience to God, about extending grace and forgiveness to others,
about loving your enemies and doing good to those who do bad to you. 
And we pick up the scripture
that was read for us in John 6:60 Many
of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept
it?”   And Jesus goes on to tell
them just how hard his teaching could be and apparently there were those who
couldn’t accept it because by the end of the conversation we pick up the story
in John 6:66-67 At this point many of
his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and
asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
We can understand people
leaving a church, or not going back to their hair stylist or changing their
service providers, but it’s hard to understand people leaving Jesus, he is
Jesus.  And I’m sure that each of those
folks who left Jesus all had good excuses for leaving. And they probably told
him to not take it personally. 
So what happens when people
leave?  We’ve been worshipping together
as a church for 18 years and there are times that people still decide to move
on, for all kinds of reasons, most of them valid. 
People will still find other
hair stylists to go to; other people to design their websites, other mechanics
to fix their cars and people who they prefer to hang around with.  
Probably the first question and
maybe the toughest one to ask is:  Is It Me?  Now to be truthful I
think most people in ministry are a little insecure because the first thing
that crosses your mind when someone decides to leave the church is: “Was it
something I said or did?”  And sometimes
it is.  There are times that I have
unknowingly hurt someone, it might have been something I said.  I can be a jerk sometimes, not intentionally,
well sometimes intentionally but mostly not. 
I heard someone say one time “If Denn hasn’t offended you yet, you just
haven’t been coming long enough.”     Once
I heard through the grape vine that someone had stopped coming because I had
snubbed them in the lobby one Sunday. 
And maybe I did but I can assure that it was done because my mind was
somewhere else.
The truth is sometimes I blow
it as a pastor and sometimes Cornerstone blows it as a church.  But we don’t do it intentionally to drive
people away, we do it because we are people. 
 And sometimes expectations are
too high, we had a couple who left and they told me they were disappointed
because I didn’t do more to keep their teenage son from getting in with a bad
crowd and leaving the church. 
Sometimes we just aren’t what
the person is looking for.  Back during
the spring of Tuesday we had a couple of those comments, someone said they were
looking for a church with more traditional music and another couple said they
weren’t in agreement with what we believed as Wesleyans.  We had people leave because our service only
goes an hour and I don’t preach long enough. 
How many folks here have ever
sold a house?  Before we moved into the
house we live in now we owned a two story salt box further into Kingswood.  It was a two story with three bedrooms, two
and a half baths and no garage.    And
sometimes after it was shown the people would tell their agent, “Oh we were
looking for something with a garage.”  Or
“We are really interested in a bungalow” or “We need at least five bedrooms,
and a pool, on city water with sidewalks.” 
Really?   If you check out our website or read our promotional
material it is very clear who we are, and who we aren’t.
Maybe as a company you have
priced yourself out of the market or you haven’t kept up with technology.  Perhaps you are no longer offering what that
customer needs.  Maybe you’ve outgrown
them.   
When I had to go to work
outside the church in 1997 I went back to Tip Top Tailors and they had just
done a dramatic shift in who they were and the product they offered.  And as a result they lost some
customers.    It wasn’t a bad shift, as a
matter of fact many people felt like it was a positive shift, but not everyone
agreed.
And if you look at yourself and
discover that maybe you are at fault then you need to correct those
things. 
Part of what we did in 1997 was
to examine our service style and I had felt really good about what we were
doing, but it wasn’t working and we had to make some midcourse
corrections.  Sometimes the church will
overload a willing volunteer and they feel overwhelmed yet they feel they will
let the church down if they ask for less to do, so it’s easier to go somewhere
else.  And we need to be careful of
that.  If you find yourself in that
situation please talk to us before you make any decisions.  I think everyone should serve somewhere in
the local church but you don’t have to serve everywhere. 
Sometimes it is what it
is.  There were some things that we were
committed to as a church and we truly felt that was what God was calling us to
do and who God was calling us to be.  We
couldn’t stop being Wesleyans, we were committed to keeping our music fresh and
new, Denn was the pastor.  
Sometimes you lose friends
because of  your behaviour,  something you said or did and it doesn’t have
to be negative, often when you become a Christ Follower you lose friends,
because you no longer share a similar life style and interests, and that’s
fine.  It was something you did, but it’s
not something you should undo.
Now in one sense Jesus didn’t
do anything that would have justified people leaving, after all he was Jesus.  He was offering them eternal life.  Like who wouldn’t want that?  But he was also asking them to give up some
of their behaviours, he was telling them they would be persecuted, he wanted
them to forgive people who hurt them. 
And maybe it’s not you, so then you have to ask,  Is it
Them? 
This one is easier, or at
least it’s where we’d like to go most of the time.  It’s not me it’s them.  Kind of like that book I wanted to write as a
follow up to “I’m ok, You’re ok.”  My
book was going to be “I’m ok, you’re a jerk.” 
And sometime it’s not us, sometimes it is them.
In the scripture that we read that was the case.  People decided that they weren’t ready to
make the sacrifices that Jesus was asking of them.    Maybe they didn’t understand what Jesus was
calling them to and when they discovered the reality they decided it wasn’t for
them, or maybe they thought they were willing but when push came to shove they
decided that it was just too much for them to take on.  And that is valid. 
We are told that at that time in history there were others
who claimed to be the Messiah so maybe some of those who left Jesus found
someone else who was more exciting or who wasn’t asking them to give us so
much. 
Some folks who left Cornerstone through the years left
because we weren’t growing fast enough, and then some left because we were
growing too fast.  Some decided that the
church down the road could do for them what we couldn’t.  And there were some who didn’t like being challenged
about their behaviour.  And some who
didn’t like Denn.    And I discovered a long time ago that you
can’t please everyone.  We’ve had this
discussion before, people sometimes ask if there is anything God can’t do?  And that answer is yes; He can’t make
everyone happy.  
And for some people we were just a way point.  They had attended five churches before they
got to Cornerstone and five after they left. 
And that might not be healthy but it doesn’t make a person a bad person,
but if they keep blaming the churches they might want to look a little
deeper. 
John Maxwell teaches the Bob Principle which says “When Bob has a
problem with everyone, Bob is usually the problem.”  Sometimes I will meet with folks and
they will tell me about the abuse that they suffered at their previous
churches, not church but churches.  If
you go to a church and you have problems it’s a tragedy, if you go to two
churches and you have problems it’s a coincidence, if you go to three churches
and you have problems it’s either a conspiracy or you are the problem.  And I really don’t believe in conspiracies,
except that entire moon landing thing.  And the problem might simply be that you are
picking churches that just aren’t a fit for you. 
And some people were simply moving on because they were
moving.  We discovered early on in our
adventure that new churches attract people who are new to the community, and
many of those folks have jobs that brought them to our community and jobs that
took them away from our community. 
In our personal lives when a relationship ends it isn’t
always about something you did, or who you are. 
Other times it rests with the other person, maybe you’ve outgrown them,
or maybe they’ve outgrown you.  Through
the years we have had friends that aren’t a part of our lives now.   When we were single most of our friends were
single, and we noticed that as our friends started having kids we didn’t share
a lot in common with them anymore.  They
wanted to talk about their kids and how little sleep they were getting and what
they were finding in diapers and we drifted apart. 
Sometimes it’s work you have in common or church and when
things change the relationship changes. 
It’s not bad, it simply life.
In business it sometimes the same, the customer’s needs have
changed and you can no longer provide them with what they want.  Or they feel that another company can do a
better job or provide a better price or maybe they simply got wooed away by the
other company.  
Sometimes it’s as simple as they don’t feel any loyalty to
you.  I am horrible when it comes to who
provides my phone and internet services, no loyalty at all, I hope that doesn’t
make me a bad person. 
So what happens when someone leaves our church family, or
leaves your business or stops being your friend?  I mean after you’ve asked yourself if it was
you or them and if it was you corrected the problems?
This might sound simplistic and cold but We Need to Get Over It  And it’s tough.  It hurts when you feel either right or wrong
that you’ve been rejected.  Even if they
tell you that it’s nothing personal.  
But you can’t stay there forever. 
Because the more you think about it and dwell on it the more it
hurts.  If you feel that you’ve been hurt
or done wrong then you need to forgive the person that you feel hurt you, or
did you wrong.  Jesus taught that over
and over again.
And the toughest thing for me to come to grips with was the
acknowledgement that the trump card I mentioned before, “We feel that God is
calling us to another church” is valid. 
A believer might be needed somewhere else.   When we left Truro and moved to Australia it
was because we felt that’s were God was leading us, and when we left Australia
19 years ago to come and start a new church in Bedford we did it because we
felt this was where God was leading us.  
And we can understand God calling people to Cornerstone, we
just can’t understand him calling them away. 
 
If we continue to focus on yesterday then we will miss out
on what God has for us today and tomorrow.  
At the end of the Spring of Tuesdays the core group of our
church met together to evaluate what had happened, and we determined that regardless
of what had happened in the past that God had a great future for us and that we
would pursue that without casting blame on those who left.  It wasn’t easy and I didn’t always get it
right but we did move on. 
When Jesus asked the question
in John 6:67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and
asked, “Are you also going to leave?”   Listen
to Peter’s response John 6:68-69 Simon
Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal
life. We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.”
The HRM is full of great
churches, churches where the truth is taught. 
And when someone leaves our church or any church to go to another
church, it changes relationships and often leaves a gap in the church family
but life will go on.  But when someone
leaves Jesus it is a tragedy because he truly is the Holy One of God.  
           

A New Old Commitment

The law of unintended consequences.  At times it’s one of my favourite laws and at other times one of my least favourite.  This past week it fell into the former category.  The plan was to attend Agustinus and Erlina Nagata’s Canadian Citizenship Ceremony.  What a privilege to be able to be there to celebrate the milestone with friends.  
The unexpected part was when the Judge invited any Canadian citizens who were there to take the same oath as the new citizens.  Judge Linda Carvery presented it as an opportunity to renew our commitment as Canadians.
So I did, I raised my right hand and repeated the vows along with my friends, committing to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Queen and my country and to fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.  Because I have always been a Canadian I had never given much thought to what it meant to be a Canadian, now I do. 

Some of us have been Christ Followers for so long that we have forgotten what it really means to follow Christ.  Maybe every so often we should renew the oath we took when we surrendered our lives to Him and agreed to follow Him, just to keep it fresh.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Talking to the Father

Last Sunday was Father’s Day and I
would imagine the phone lines were burning up as people were calling their
dads. I phoned my dad and I got one phone call and a text from my kids.  And for those whose fathers are no longer
with them they probably thought about conversations that they have had with
their Dads through the years.

If you are like me, there are
probably certain talks, or conversations that you have had with your father
that stick in your mind.  A friend of
mine said he had “The talk” with his eleven year old son the other day, for now
I’m sure that is memorable, for whom I’m not sure. 

I am fortunate that through the years I have had a really good relationship
with Dad, probably didn’t realize it at the time but there are several
conversations that I can almost think of verbatim, even remembering where we
were when we had those conversations. 
Not all of them would be appropriate in this context. 

This is week two of our Red Letter
Summer series and for the next couple of months we will be focusing on those
words in the New Testament that are printed in Red.  These are the words of Jesus.  Red Letters are found primarily in the four
gospels but there is a small segment in the book of Acts, in Chapter 9 and
again in the book of Revelation.
In the scripture that was read
earlier we are eavesdropping on a conversation that Jesus is having with his
Father.  Last week we looked at how Jesus
viewed his Father, that he 1) Jesus Knew the Love of the Father,
that 2) Jesus Knew the Affirmation of the Father. And finally 3)
Jesus Knew the Protection of the Father
And
the fact that he had that type of relationship with his father would explain
why he was able to have this conversation with his Father,  Mark 14:35-36 He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed
that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this
cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
And so it had come to this. 
For three years he had taught for three years he had healed.  For three years he had tried to make a
difference in his world and to direct people to his father and now it had come
down to this.  One of his followers had
already cut a deal with his enemies and he knew deep within his heart that this
was already the beginning of the end.
Others might guess what was going to happen, he knew. From
the very beginning he knew that the people would reject him and his message and
they would reject his call to draw near to God. 
He knew that he would have to die and would have to surrender his
life.  He knew all this because he was
God.  But he also knew that he had to
make the offer, he had to walk among the people and offer them the chance to
embrace him, even knowing they would reject him, but he had to make the offer.
And so it had come to this. 
And the worst part was the anticipation. 
You know how you felt the last time you had to go to the dentist to have
a filling, or a tooth pulled?  You sat in
the waiting room imagining how much it was going to hurt, you could almost feel
the prick of the needle as they froze your gums, and as you heard the sound of
the drill coming from the office it was almost as if it was in your mouth.  Your blood pressure went up, your palms got
sweaty your pulse increased. Sorry, I was gone but I’m back now.
Jesus knew that before the day was done that he would die,
and not just die but die a very painful death. 
Oh sure he was God he could make it so it wouldn’t hurt, but that wasn’t
a part of the plan. Dying would be the easy part; it was Julius Caesar who said “It
is easier to find men who will volunteer to die, than to find those who are
willing to endure pain with patience.”  And
Jesus Christ, the son of God knew that before the sun had set one more time
that he would offer up the supreme sacrifice for the world, not just for the
world, for you, and you and you.  Because
before the day was done he would offer himself up to suffer and die.
And with those thoughts racing through his mind he fell to
his knees and began to pray.
This is the prayer of Jesus.
Mark
14:36 
“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take
this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
The first thing we discover in this prayer is 1) He Knew Who He Was Praying To.  For Jesus the Father was not some abstract
figure, he wasn’t a vague benevolent something, out there somewhere.  Instead he was God the Father, who loves and
cares about his children, He was Abba-*. 
When we think Abba we think of a Swedish Disco group from the 70’s, and
while that may be what Abba means now, it is nowhere near what Abba meant
then. 
Instead Abba was an Aramaic word that meant father but more
then simply father, it was the diminutive form. 
Burton Guptill is my father, has been as long as I can remember, but you
know something in 53 years I don’t think I have ever called him father,
ever.  When I was younger I called him
Daddy, and now I call him Dad, for awhile when I worked for him on the tugs I
called him Skipper but I have never to my recollection referred to him as father.
Abba means Daddy or Dad; it is
a term of endearment, signifying a relationship.  It’s used only three times in the New
Testament.  This was the first.  The other two times Paul uses it to describe
the relationship we need to have with our heavenly Father Romans 8:15 So you have
not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received
God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba,
Father.”   And again Paul reminds
us in Galatians 4:6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of
his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”
And I understand that the concept of God as our Father is
not a positive for everyone.  Some people
were brought up by fathers who were cruel and vicious, who abused them
physically and verbally, and that wasn’t right. 
That isn’t what fathers are supposed to do and are supposed to behave
like.  Others weren’t abused by their
fathers they were simply ignored, it would appear that their fathers had taken
to heart the words of Ernest Hemingway who said
“To be a successful father… there’s one absolute
rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.”
But men who abuse their children or ignore their children
aren’t fathers they are simply sperm donors. 
A father doesn’t just participate in the conception of the child he is
an integral part of seeing that child grow up. 
He is responsible for loving and caring for his children. Of providing
for them and protecting them, first against the monsters who live beneath the
bed and then against the world.  And as
children we understand that, Sigmund Freud said
“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as
the need for a father’s protection.”
And now as Jesus came to the most crucial time in his thirty
three years on this earth, knowing as only he could know what was about to
happen he cries out to his father, to his dad, pouring out his heart.
When you pray who do you pray to?  A concept, a belief, some vague deity that we
find hard to define, kind of like Alfred Jarry who
said “God is the tangential point between zero and
infinity.”
I don’t think so, but if we are
going to pray to God the Father then it better be to God our Father.  There needs to be a relationship, and He only
becomes our Father when we become his children. And how do we do that?  Listen to the word of God, John 1:12 But to all who
believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
And our obligation as His
Children?    Philippians
2:15
so that no one can criticize you. Live
clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world
full of crooked and perverse people.
Our lives then become evidence
of that relationship, 1 John 3:10 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are
children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love
other believers does not belong to God.
You are a child of God if you have
believed in Jesus and accept him and you live clean innocent lives, obeying
God’s command.  Then you can call out to
Him, Abba.
Mark
14:35-36
. “Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please
take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not
mine.”
Jesus not only knew he was praying
to the Father,  2) He Knew The Father’s Power Abba, Father,” He
prayed everything is
possible for you.  What’s the use
of praying if you don’t believe that God has the power to answer your prayers?  Somehow we need to get our head around the
concept that everything and anything is possible for God.  And I know that some of you are out there
shaking your head thinking “but God doesn’t always answer my prayers.”  You’re right God doesn’t always answer prayer,
but not because he can’t.  We also need
to understand that we aren’t always going to be able to understand it.  I can’t explain why God doesn’t always answer
our prayers.  Personally I know that
there have been some of my prayers that I’m glad He didn’t answer.
The Angel Gabriel summed it up in Luke 1:37 “For nothing is
impossible with God.”
Time and
time again in the Bible we hear the words “everything is possible for God”, “anything
is possible for God”, and “all things are possible for God.”   But understand there are things that God
won’t do.  A woman approached her pastor
and told him that she wanted him to pray that her daughter wouldn’t move in with
her boyfriend like she was planning.  The
pastor refused.  Why?  Think about it.  God doesn’t force his will on us so why would
he force our will on others?  The better
prayer might be that the daughter would seek God and embrace His
salvation.  If we have a loved one in the
Armed Forces and pray that they are not sent into battle does that mean that
someone else might be placed in danger because our husband, son or brother
isn’t there?
But
God has the power to answer all our prayers, and we need to pray believing that
He will answer those prayers, but understanding that if He doesn’t it’s not
because he can’t and it’s not because he doesn’t want the best for us, but we
may have a different idea then God of what is best for us.  Sometimes we are like little kids and we want
it all, but all isn’t what we need.
So he prayed to His Father,
believing that His Father had the power to answer his prayer and then Mark 14:36“Abba, Father,”
he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your
will to be done, not mine.”
 3) He Prayed For Himself  You
ever catch yourself praying for something for you and feel guilty?  It’s like somewhere along the line we have
been told that we should only pray for others. 
If we pray for ourselves then we are selfish.
That’s wrong.  When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, that would be
the one that Jesus gave the disciples, we pray that God would give us our daily bread, that God would
forgive us, that God would keep us from temptation. 
A few years ago there was a
bestselling book out called the Prayer of Jabez and it looked at an obscure Old
Testament Prayer that is recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:10, do you remember what he
prayed?  1
Chronicles 4:10
He was the one who prayed to
the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please
be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!”
A fairly
selfish sounding prayer but listen to the result, And
God granted him his request. 
Jesus said this about the Father Matthew 7:9-11 “You
parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone
instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So
if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much
more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Oh sometimes when we pray for ourselves we are praying for selfish
things.  You can’t deny that, but for the
most part it’s not wrong to ask God to be with us and to take care of us and to
provide for us.  And He wants to do that,
but you need to trust his judgement.  And
here is the kicker.  It’s easy to pray to
God our Father, and it’s easy to acknowledge his power, and it’s easy to ask
Him to take care of us.  It’s tough to
surrender to His will.  
Mark
14:36
“Abba, Father,” he cried out,
“everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from
me. Yet I want your will to be done, not
mine.”
4) He Prayed For
God’s Will 
American Poet  Richard Cecil
made this comment “The history of all the great
characters of the Bible is summed up in this one sentence: They acquainted
themselves with God, and accepted His will in all things.”
Think
about it, the only thing anyone in the bible got by insisting on doing their
will instead of God’s was trouble.  Time
and time again it is proved that God is smarter then we are. 
If
you are like me, and like most people, at some point in your Christian life you
have made a decision that you knew was not what God wanted you to do, so how
did that work out for you?
Think
about it on one hand we have God, the creator of the universe, this is the God
who cast the milk way into space, who imagined platypuses and created you.  On the other hand we have us, most of whom
can’t even figure out how to change the digital clock in our cars.  Which isn’t really a problem because it’s
right for half the year.     
It’s
no contest, and yet time and time again we want to pray to God, “Yet I want my
will, not yours.”
When
Noah chose God’s will he was able to build an ark that saved him and his
family, when Joseph chose God’s will he was able to save his family from
starvation.  When Moses chose God’s will
he was able to deliver his people out of the slavery of Egypt.  When Gideon chose God’s will he was able to
save the Israelites from the Midianites. 
When David Chose God’s will he was able to defeat the giant.
And yet when Saul chose his
will over God’s he lost his throne, when Samson chose to ignore God’s will he
lost his life, when Sarah and Abraham chose their will over God’s, let’s stop
and reflect here on the consequences of disobedience, and doing it our own
way. 
God promised to make Abraham
the father of a great nation, and yet Abraham couldn’t seem to have a child
with his wife Sarah.  So Sarah decided to
take matters into her own hands and set her husband up with her maid a gal
named Hagar who became pregnant with a son. 
The boys name was Ishmael, and this is what the Bible predicted about
Ishmael Genesis 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild
donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against
him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Later Sarah and Abraham had a son named Isaac who would
eventually have a son named Jacob who would eventually be called Israel. And
the descendents of Israel
are the people we call the Jews.  We know
that.  It was from Jacob’s descendants
that a young lady named Mary was born, who would go on to be the mother of
Jesus. 
But what about Ishmael? 
Well his descendents lived in that same area and more than 2,500 years
after his birth was born a descendent of Ishmael’s was born, and this parents named
him Mohammed, and almost 1,500 years after that another descendent of Ishmael’s
was born and his name was Osoma Bin Ladin and the rest as they say is
history. 
What would have happened had Abraham and Sarah taken God at
his word, if their prayer had of been “not my will but yours be done.”?  Just asking.   What were the consequences of two people not
trusting God’s will 4000 years ago?
Now you might be asking, how will I know the will of
God?  Good question.  Paul Little
says this “Has it ever struck you that the vast
majority of the will of God for your life has already been revealed in the
Bible? That is a crucial thing to grasp.”
But you will never know what’s in the Bible if you don’t
read the Bible.
What is your prayer today? 
God has only your best in mind, are you willing to trust him?

A Higher Standard.

Well, it’s certainly been an embarrassing few weeks for Canadian politicians.  Federal, provincial and municipal, the commons and the senate and all three of the major political parties have taken it on the chin….  and so they should. Not only do I believe that politicians should have to follow the same rules as the rest of us, but that they should also be held to a higher standard.  After all, they make the laws. 
I feel the same way about police officers and don’t get me started on police cars that I have seen turn without signals  or coast through stop signs, grrrr.  And to be fair I think pastors should be held to higher standards as well.  Although I don’t think it’s fair for people to have those expectations of the preacher’s kids.

And before you think you are getting off so easy, go back and read the Sermon on the Mount.  It would appear that Jesus was holding his followers to a much higher standard than the world.  And the world holds Christ Followers to a much higher standard than others, so that’s why it’s more news worthy when a priest or a pastor misbehaves than a teacher or hockey coach. And that’s the way it should be.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Knowing the Father

I officially declare today the first day
of summer, at least for 2013.  For no
other reason than today I start my summer preaching series, which wouldn’t
really work if it was still spring. 
This summer our theme will be “A Red
Letter Summer”  and if you are wondering
what that means it’s really pretty simple. 
In most bibles that are printed today, if you flip to the gospels, and
the revelation you will discover that some, not all but a lot, of the words are
printed in red.  And those are the words
of Christ.  The term Red Letter meaning
something important first came from the practice of printing the dates for Holy
Days on Calendars in red.  The first
record of this is found in a book written by William Caxton is 1490 where it
says, “We wryte yet in oure kalenders the hyghe festes
wyth rede lettres of coloure of purpre.” 
Obviously Bill learned to spell with Hooked on
Phonics.
The idea of printing the words of Christ
in Red came from Louis Klopsch who was an editor of the Christian Herald
Magazine.  The first Red Letter New
Testament was published in 1899 and the first Red Letter Bible was published 2
years later.  And it caught on.  Many of those who use the King James Version
find it useful because the King James doesn’t use quotation marks.   
A few years ago a group started that
called themselves “Red-Letter Christians”. 
Proponents of the movement decided that both the far right and left of
Christianity was exploiting the New Testament for their political agendas a
response they have endeavored to create an evangelical movement that focuses on
the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues.
However if we truly believe that the
whole Bible is the inspired word of God then we can’t simply lop off the parts
we don’t like.  So in highlighting some
of the red letter portions of the Gospels we aren’t saying that these are more
important than the words that you might 
read from other portions of the New Testament, but they are the words of
Jesus. 
So where to start?  It has been interesting as we’ve been looking
at the summer preaching schedule with the staff to see where each of them is
planning on going with this series on the dates they are scheduled to
speak.  Most of us have a particular red
letter passage that is our favorite. 
Whether it be “For God so Love the World”, “Suffer the little children
to come to me” or “You must be born again.”   
So many scriptures, so little time. 
So where do we start?
Well that was easy, it is Father’s day
and time and time again Jesus refers to God as Father.  And he tells us that we should approach God
as our heavenly Father, in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus even tells us that when we
address God we should call him Father. 
And that was a departure because for thousands of years the Jews had maintained that
God’s name was too holy to use, and He was some distant deity way out there
somewhere that we couldn’t relate to who certainly couldn’t relate to us and
that we didn’t communicate with directly. To the Jews of Jesus’ day there had
to be an intermediary, you went to the priest and they in turn offered
sacrifices on your behalf to God. 
You ever try to
connect with someone through a middle man? And it just wasn’t happening?  You know you really had to talk to someone but
first you had to go through a receptionist, or secretary or maybe an
operator. 
And into this
setting comes Jesus who says “Hey, when you pray you need to start by calling
God by His name which is Father!”
The problem is that
in order for this to work we need to have a decent view of our father.  If your concept of a father is someone who is
abusive or distant then this isn’t the best illustrative device. Dads don’t
always get the greatest press, and for obvious reasons, you only have to watch
the news or read the paper to realize that some fathers aren’t the nicest
people around.
When we were in Australia
we met a Christian singer by the name of Peter Shirley and he sang a song
called “WOULD YOU REALLY MIND”:
“When I
was just a child, I didn’t
understand
Why my
father left my mother with the waving of a hand. 
He told me it was best this way, but
I couldn’t figure why.
The solution to the problem made my mother cry. 
Lord I find it hard to call
you father,
My
memories aren’t real fond of the father that I
had,
LORD I find it hard to call
you father, but would you really mind,
Would
you really mind if I just called
you friend.
I know this may be selfish, I
know this may be wrong. 
But I’m not sure my father
loves me, I haven’t seen him for
so long.
Lord you’re so much more to me than the father that I knew,
I know that you won’t leave me; your love will see me through.
Lord help me to understand, and ease this pain inside. 
And help me to forgive, my father’s human side. 
Unite us with your spirit, though in flesh we’re torn apart.
And take away this bitterness that’s wrapped around my heart.”
Somehow, what Jesus
meant when he referred to father isn’t necessarily the same association that
some people make now when they think of their father.  He’s saying light you’re thinking dark, he’s
thinking protective you’re thinking abusive. 
You see, when you’ve
been physically or sexually abused by your father, when he drank the family’s
food away or constantly berated you and told you that you were no good.  When the memory of your father, makes you
angry or brings tears to your eyes then it’s going to be really difficult for
you to feel good about embracing a God who is called father. 
You may not even
feel like you could pray to someone called father.  You might share Lord
Chesterfield’s feelings when he said “As
fathers commonly go, it is seldom a misfortune to be fatherless; and
considering the general run of sons, as seldom a misfortune to be childless.”
The problem with our
language is that we define it by our own experiences.  We can both be talking English, using the
same words but thinking totally different things.  If we are talking about cars and the subject
turns to Oldsmobiles I would immediately think of my favourite car which was a
1971 Cutlass Supreme convertible that I owned when I was eighteen.  But if your experience with General Motors
products in general and Oldmobiles in particular has been bad, like perhaps you
owned a 1982 Firenza then you would be thinking entirely different thoughts
then I would.  And for good reasons.
And so the picture
that comes to mind when Jesus says “Father” may be completely different than
the picture that comes to my mind.  And I
have a great Dad, but even with that he can’t be compared to my heavenly
father.
This morning let’s go back to
the scripture that we started with Luke 10:22 “My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows
the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and
those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Jesus tells us that
we need to approach God as Father, but that will only work if we understand how
Jesus viewed his Father.  Jesus said, “No
one truly knows the Father except the Son.” 
But he didn’t stop there he goes on to say “and those to whom the Son
chooses to reveal him.”
So, the question is:
To whom does the son choose to reveal the father?  And the answer would be those who want to
discover the Father.  Because as you read
the Jesus story we read the description of the Father’s character from the Son
himself.    
And so the only way
that we can know what Jesus meant when he referred to His Father is to look at
other times that he used the term father and what it says about his concept of
a father because remember he’s talking about his view of father not ours.
John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son . . .1) Jesus Knew the Love of the Father  Jesus
didn’t have to wonder if his father loved him, it wasn’t a “maybe” or an “if”
statement, he knew it, it was fact not theory. 
If you look through the parables, the stories Jesus told, you find that
the Father is always the good guy.  He’s
the one who takes the prodigal son back, he’s the one who gives his children
the very best, he’s the one who defends his children. 
In other words
whenever Jesus uses a father as an illustrative device it is in a positive
sense.  Unlike television where dad is
usually the idiot on the show.
We may not know
where we stand with our earthly father either because he hasn’t verbalized his
love for us or because his actions negate his words, but that won’t be a
problem with our heavenly father. 
Hopefully your kids
know that you love them, and they need to hear you say it, hopefully this song
couldn’t be written about any of us.
Jesus tell us in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal
life.  I know the world is a big
place and sometimes when we think of  God’s
love divided 6 billion ways it doesn’t seem like we get a very big slice of the
pie, but reality is that God’s love doesn’t divide like a pizza, not only does
every believer get the same size piece but each piece is the same size as the
sum of the total.  In other words God’s
love divided by 6 billion remains God’s love, not 1/6,000,000,000 of God’s
love.  Jesus reminds us of his Father’s
love for us as believers in John 16:27 for the Father
himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.
What type of love is
it that God has for us?  Listen to what
Jesus best friend John said, 1 John 3:1 See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his
children, and that is what we are!   We
are his children, he is our parent, and not just any parent he is a perfect
parent, a parent who loves us.
So what do you
think?  Think you could embrace a Father
who loved you enough to make the ultimate sacrifice for you?
The first time we
see the relationship between Jesus and his Heavenly Father is in Matthew 3:17 and it happened at the beginning of Jesus
public ministry, right after John had baptized Jesus, he comes up from the
Jordan river and we pick up the story in Matthew 3:17 And a voice
from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
2) Jesus
Knew the Affirmation of the Father.
Jesus concept of father was someone who bragged on his kids.  I’m 53 years old and it still thrills me
right down to my toes to find out that Dad has been bragging me up.  Maybe that’s not something that you can
identify with, maybe you can’t remember your dad ever bragging on you with but
it’s the reality of God our father.  Time
and time again Jesus spoke about the worth that God has attributed to us, as
his children. 
Jesus had no doubt that his
Father was in his corner and never had to wonder what his father thought of
him.  John 6:27 For God the Father has given me the seal
of his approval.”
Maybe your earthly father has never told
you he thought you were doing a great job, maybe he never said that he was
proud of you, but upon your Heavenly Father’s lips are the words “Well done my
good and faithful servant.”
So what do you
think?  Think you could embrace a Father
who affirmed you and thought you were the greatest thing since sliced bread.
And Dad’s you need
to affirm your kids.  I have a friend who
used to say that we get our children as empty buckets and it’s up to us to fill
those buckets with good things.  Way to
go, you’re awesome, I love you so much, you are the best kid in the world.
Matthew 26:53 Don’t you realize that I could ask
my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them
instantly?  I love this particular portion of the
Bible.  Jesus is being arrested and Peter
pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the guys in the mob.  Now personally I think Peter is maligned here
because I really don’t think that Peter was actually trying to cut off the guy’s
ear.  He was trying to cut off the guy’s
head and just had a rotten aim, and Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away and
then he makes that statement. In other translations it says Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once
put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 
A legion was a
military term which actually referred to a large unit of infantry numbering up
to 6,000 men.  All Jesus had to do was
say sic em and 72,000 angels with attitude would have been all over those guys,
like down on a duck.  You see 3) Jesus
Knew the Protection of the Father
Every once in a
while you need a really good quote from Freud, and I feel that coming on Sigmund Freud said “I
cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s
protection.”
Jesus knew that his Father was in his corner, that all he had to do was
say the word and his father would be there for him. 
Not only that but Jesus knew that His Father who is also our Father
would be there for us as well listen to his prayer in the book of John 17:11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this
world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now
protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we
are.
Does that mean
nothing will ever go wrong and that you are safe from the consequences of your
actions?  Not at all, but it does mean
that our Father will always be there to hold us and comfort us.  It does mean that Satan has no power over our
lives as children of God, unless we allow him to have that power over us. 
Sometimes as much as
my dad wanted to protect me from life and all that could go wrong there were
times that by my actions I removed myself from Dad’s protection. 
We talked about this
before, the reason God gave us his word, the reason God gives us rules and
regulation and guidelines isn’t because he’s a spoil sport and doesn’t want us
to have any fun, they are there to protect us, not just from physical harm, but
from emotional harm and spiritual harm as well. 
Just like when our
fathers told us, “Don’t play on the street, don’t tease the dog and if you keep
poking your sister she’s going to smack you.”
God wants to protect us, but he won’t
take away our free will to do it. 
We all want to protect our
kids, but if we decided that in order to do that we would lock them up and
never let them out of their room.  While
that might be effective in protecting them society would take a dim view of it
and ultimately it would backfire as they became resentful.  Instead we try to teach them to make good
choices and hope and pray for the best. 
Which is why the bible teaches
us in Proverbs 22:6 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are
older, they will not leave it.   By
the way, proverbs aren’t guarantees, what they are is statements of common
sense or general truth.  Solomon is
saying that if you want your children to stay on the right path when they are
older then you need to show them that path and start them on that path when
they are younger.  
God could do that, he could lock us by
taking away our free will.  Instead he
shows us the right path, through his word and through the preaching of his
word.  He wants to protect you, but when
you step outside those boundaries and say “I don’t need you or your rules” then
you’re paddling your own canoe. 
So what do you think?  Do you think you could embrace a Father who was
in your corner and who was always ready to protect you?
So if you’ve never experienced
the love, encouragement and protection of God the Father it is available to you
today.  Jesus told his followers John 14:6 Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except
through me.
You come to the
Father by entrusting your life to the Son. 
And what better day to come to the Father than on Father’s Day.

Death be Not Proud

It’s been one of those weeks.  Half of our staff were attending funerals, one of our church families experienced a close family death and my father’s twin brother passed away.  Someone once said “Death, it’s all a part of living.”  And the reality is, we have all been born to die. 
When I was in High School I fell in love with John Donne’s poem “Death be Not Proud”, which was kind of a weird favorite poem.  The entire crux of the poem is that death is not a master but simply a servant, a pawn of chance.  Donne closes his poem with the words, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally,  And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
When I became a Christ Follower I discovered that theme in the New Testament when Paul wrote “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

None of us have control over how we die or when we die, but I would like to think that I will die well, confident in the grace of my God and that with Donne I will be able to say “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more.”  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Who is this Man? How Jesus shaped how we think of Education and our Enemies

How was high School for you? 
I loved high school, well actually it was a weird time of life, on one
hand I couldn’t wait to graduate so I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I
wanted.   For me graduation signified
freedom.   Wow, was I in for a nasty
surprise.  If I had to pick a them song
for my grade 12 year it would have probably been Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the social aspect of high
school and academics never really seemed to pose much of a problem for me nor
did it seem to cause much stress.  And I
discovered that the only way they would let me take part in the
extra-curricular activities that I enjoyed so much was if I also took part in
the curricular activities that they seemed to think were so important.  Go figure? 
  
This time of year education is on the minds of a lot of
people.  Today we honoured our high
school graduates but there are folks in all kinds of transitions.  Little kids are graduating from
pre-school.  Elementary kids will be
leaving grade 6 and Jr. High students will be looking forward to high school
with either anticipation or dread.  Folks
are receiving bachelor, master and doctorates. 
But for many people education and the church don’t
necessarily go hand in hand.  Some people
would actually contend that the church has been a road block to education and
science. That the church is threatened by knowledge.   But is that a reality? 
This is week last of our series “Who is this Man?”  Actually it has been a multi-part message,
started over Christmas with my message “It’s a Wonderful life” where I started
to look at how the world would be different if Jesus had never been born.  And when I finished I promised that we would
expand on that thought.  So, with that in
mind our theme over Holy Week was “Who is this Man?” and we looked at how
people might have viewed Jesus on Good Friday at the Cross and then on
Resurrection Sunday at the empty tomb. 
And then over April I preached on the Blessed Life, because
it was Money Month.  And you folks
responded in an incredible way on Consecration Sunday. 
So three weeks ago we began looking at how Jesus shaped the
world that we live in today.  The first
week we explored how time has been defined by the birth of Jesus.  Every event in history is described in
relation to whether it happened B.C. 
Before Christ or A.D. Anno Domini the year of our Lord.  Jesus’ birth drew a line through
history.  And there are those who would
try to secularize BC and AD and make it CE and BCE.  Common Era and Before Common Era, but the
question has to be asked.  What do they
have in common?  Oh yeah, the birth of
Jesus. 
We went on to say that in our statement of faith at
Cornerstone it says “Our beliefs are in line with historic Christianity.”  But what does that mean?  Well, it means that we believe that Jesus was
the son of God, we believe that he was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of
a virgin.  We believe that he suffered
and died under Pontius Pilate and that on the third day he rose from the
dead.  This we believe. 
And then over the last two weeks we have looked at how Jesus
shaped the world that we live in.  And he
did that because of what he left behind, the church.  And because there was a Jesus who promised in
Luke 6:47 I will show you what it’s like
when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.  And because there were people who came
to Jesus, who listened to Jesus’ teachings and then followed those teachings
the world is a different place.
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Poor 
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Sick
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Slaves
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Children
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Women
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Marriage
And because there was a Jesus and because he left a church
that would follow his teachings the world today is a different place.
But, you might be asking what
does that have to with education?  Let’s
go back to the scripture that we started with. 
A religious teacher came to Jesus and asked him “Of all the commandments
which is the most important?”  And that
is an important question.  And listen to
Jesus reply in Mark 12:29-30 Jesus
replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD
our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
 And Jesus didn’t just
make that up and it wouldn’t have come as a surprise to the man who asked the
question.  It was a text book answer from
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 And you must love the
LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And
you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving
you today.
But there is a difference.  Remember those cartoons that used to run in
the newspaper, Spot the difference?  They
would have two pictures that were almost the same but not quite.  So here is the command from Deuteronomy
6:5-6
And you must love the LORD your God with
all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And here is the command from Mark
12:30
And you must love the LORD your God with
all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.  Did you catch the difference?  Jesus’ command includes the intellect. 
It’s not enough to love God
because you always have, or because you are commanded to, you are to love him
intellectually as well. 
Do you remember the last
command of Jesus?  Sure you do.  It’s found in Matthew 28:19 where Jesus told
his followers to do three things.  1)
Make disciples 2) Baptize those disciples and 3) They were to teach those
disciples.  When the first church was
described in the book of Acts it is recorded that they devoted themselves to
the Apostle’s Teaching and not just men and boys but women and girls.  Jesus
Shaped How We Think of Education 
There had always been
education, but it had been reserved for wealthy privileged males.  In AD 150 a man who followed Jesus by the
name of Justin Martyr opened a school, and there he taught, men and women, free
and slaves.  And because of that the
Romans had him beheaded. 
And for the past two thousand
years the church has been at the forefront of not only teaching knowledge but
also in preserving knowledge.  Why?  Because they remembered when Jesus was asked
what the greatest commandment was his reply was not only to love God with all
of our hearts but with all of our minds as well. 
And so learning about
everything was seen by many in the church as a means of helping believers know
more about the God who created everything. 
Which is why Augustine
said “A
person who is a good and true Christian should realize that truth belongs to
his Lord, wherever it is found, gathering and acknowledging it even in pagan
literature, but rejecting superstitious vanities and deploring and avoiding
those who ‘though they knew God did not glorify him as God…”
There is sometimes a feeling
the church is anti-intellectual and yet when Rome collapsed and the barbarians
overran the Roman Empire and the scrolls and manuscripts that contained the
classics of ancient civilizations were in danger of being lost, it was in
Christian communities called monasteries that those documents were
painstakingly copied and preserved by hand. 
Because a man named Jesus told his followers to love God with all their
minds.
And these monasteries became
places of learning and eventually formed schools called Universities all over
Europe and Asia.   And within six years
of the Puritans landing in the New World they established a school whose motto
translated into English was “Truth for Christ and the Church.”  You might recognize the name of the
school, it was called Harvard.  As a
matter of fact ninety two percent of the first 138 institutions of higher
learning in the United States were founded by churches.
Closer to home, of the ten
Universities in Nova Scotia four were started by the Catholic Church, one by
the Anglicans, one by the Baptist and one by the Methodists.   In New Brunswick of the eight universities
one was started by the Catholic Church, one by the Baptist, one by the Anglicans,
one was Methodist, one was Wesleyan and one was non-denominational.  Love God with all your mind.  
Most people know about Sunday
School, but how many of you know that it was started in 1780 by a Jesus
follower, named Robert Raikes,  as a means
to teach children of common people how to read and write.  In that day and age children worked 6 days a
week and his dream was to give them an opportunity on the seventh day to learn
regardless of how much or how little they had.  Five years from it’s beginning it is estimated
that there were 250,000 children enrolled And within 50 years we are told that
there were 160,000 Jesus Followers teaching 1.5 million children how to read
and write and how to love God with all their minds.  
You might be more familiar with
the Sunday School movement by what it’s called today “Public School”.
And it was the church which
developed alphabets, and dictionaries and developed written music so songs of
worship could be shared around the world. 
Love God with all your minds.
But Jesus wasn’t content to
simply talk about the greatest commandment, which was to love God.  He goes on to say Mark 12:31 The
second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other
commandment is greater than these.”   This
same story is told in Luke’s gospel as well and in that account it leads into
one of Jesus’ great teaching moments. 
Because in that account, after Jesus says to love your neighbour, the
man asks “Who is my neighbour”  and Jesus
goes into the story of the Good Samaritan. 
You know the story, a man is travelling along a lonely stretch of road
and he is mugged and left for dead. 
Three different men come upon him, the first two, a lawyer and a priest,
go out of their way to avoid him.  The third
man was a Samaritan.  Which doesn’t mean
a great deal to us but 2000 years ago in that culture the Jews bore a grudge
against the Samaritan’s that went back half a millennium.  And it was that man, the Samaritan who
reached out to the victim on the side of the road.  And that was radical. 
Most people have no problem
loving their neighbour, if they already like them.  But Jesus expanded our neighbour to mean
everyone we come in contact with.  Even
people we don’t like and even people who have done us wrong.  Jesus turned the command to love our
neighbour upside down when he said in Matthew 5:43-44 “You
have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I
say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
And those
early lovers of Jesus were reminded of this over and over again while they were
being taught.  And so we get radical over
the top teachings like 1 Peter 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t
retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a
blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.   And remember that this church was a
church persecuted under the Romans, whose members were imprisoned for their
faith, and tortured and killed.
Jesus Shaped How We Think of Our Enemies   In Jesus day most of the world
subscribed to a philosophy called Lex Talionis (lex talin-o-nis).  What we would know as “An eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth”  but it might have
been more aptly referred to as the “law of tit for tat” It appears in the
earliest code of law and that was the code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian
King who lived 1800 years before Christ. 
The main principal is clear; if a person inflicts an injury then he
would receive the same treatment.
There are some who would call
this harsh and blood thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for
two reasons:  The first is that it
limited Judgement, if someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t
knock out all of his.  Secondly it took
judgement away from the individual and gave it to society.  Probably the greatest example of the why and
how of this law was capital punishment. 
If someone killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was
their punishment, you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their
spouse.  This type of law was indicative
of the society in which Christ lived.  It
was very much a retaliatory society. 
And it still is through much of
the Middle East, Iran does it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it,
Libya does it and if you want a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just
watch Israel.    But then again we support Israel so when the
do it we don’t call it terrorism.
If’n you want to stomp out evil
by stomping out the evil doer then the law of Moses is fine.  But if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage
the sinner then you need a completely different approach.
The law tells us to react in
kind, and that suits our human personality. 
We are quite willing to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close
minded to the close minded.  But Christ
isn’t content with those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same
way as the world.  Instead of reacting in
kind, he commands us to react in contrast. 
So when someone strikes you, turn the other cheek.  When someone demands your coat, give them
your shirt as well.  When someone makes
you carry their bags for a mile, offer to carry them two miles.
If we are going to change the
world it will happen through forgiveness, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who
wrote “That
old law about “an eye for an eye” leaves everybody blind. The time is
always right to do the right thing.”   Martin
didn’t think that up by himself, he was remembering the words of the Jesus whom
he followed.
If you don’t forgive when
you’ve been wronged eventually it will consume you and turn you into a hateful
resentful person.  And that isn’t who
Christ called people to be.
Do you remember the school
house shooting that happened in the Amish Community of Nickel Mines
Pennsylvania back in 2006?  A gunman
opened fire in a school and killed 5 girls?  
Did you know that the community publically declared their forgiveness
for the shooter and raised money to help out his widow and orphans?  Why would they do that?  Because they remembered the teachings of
Jesus who said in  Matthew 5:43-44 “You have
heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say,
love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
In 2007 I sat with a group of
pastors under a tree in Sierra Leone and they told me of the atrocities that
had happened during the civil war, of friends and loved ones who had lost their
limbs and lost their lives.  And I asked
them now that the war was over what their reaction was to their neighbours who
had committed those atrocities?  And they
said, “We will forgive them.”  Why would
they do that?  Because that’s what Jesus
told them to do.  And Jesus not only
taught it he lived it and ultimately he proved it to the world when he was
hanging dying on a cross and prayed “Father, forgive them.”
When the overriding motivation
is displaying the love of Christ the rest of the pieces will fall into
place.  When you seek to love others in
the way that Christ loves you then you won’t have to worry about whether you do
this or don’t do that. 
But as we said last week, the
most important question that can be asked isn’t “how has Jesus shaped the world?”  but “How has Jesus shaped you?” 
Have you come to Jesus?  Because you are here you at least come to
hear his message.  Most of you, I hope,
have paid attention and heard his teachings. 
But are you following him?  Are
you allowing his teachings to shape who you are and how you live? 
Listen to the end of the
scripture we started with, Mark 12:32-34 The
teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the
truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is
important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my
strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to
offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing
how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the
Kingdom of God.”
When you understand why Jesus
came, and what he requires then you are not far from the Kingdom of God.  And it is a choice that you will make for
yourself.  Will you follow Jesus and
embrace what he taught?  When you allow
Jesus to shape you, then you will shape your world, which will ultimately help
to shape the world.

The Dichotomy of Life

I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping, I just happened to overhear their conversation.  That’s different isn’t it?  I was at Tim’s the other day and heard a group of woman expressing outrage and dismay at yet another news story about a new born who had been deserted and left to die  by his mother.  The general consensus was that there were alternatives and that the mother should be punished for her crime.  Later I caught the news and that seemed to be the view of the media as well.  What type of mother would leave her newborn child to die?  And what should we do as a society to provide options? 
The next night on the news I heard the same media celebrating the life and achievements of Henry Morgentaler, the man who is credited with paving the way for unrestricted abortion rights in Canada.  Interesting. 

On one hand we have a society that reacts in rage over a newborn child who had been left without care and on the other hand society canonizes a man whose actions led to the death of literally millions of preborn children.  I guess your value to society depends on timing and on your location, whether you are inside the womb or out.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Who is this Man? How Jesus Shaped the World’s view of Women and Marriage

Who is This Man?  3
If I was to ask you about the longest recorded conversation
that Jesus had in the four gospels who would you say it involved?  His best friend, Peter?  John the Baptist?  The High Priests when they were interrogating
him or Pilate during this trial?  Wrong
on each account.  The longest
conversation that Jesus is recorded as having in any of the four Gospels is
found in the passage that was read for us earlier and took place at a well on
the side of the road.  And while it might
not seem all that important to us it was world changing in its context.
This is week three of our “Who
is this Man?” series.  And it seems a
little familiar in spots it was actually birthed out of a message I did over
the Christmas Season entitled “A Wonderful Life”. 
I finished that message by
referencing John’s words in John 21:25 Jesus
also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole
world could not contain the books that would be written. And I promised
that I would be coming back to re-visit and expand upon the thoughts of “How
Jesus shaped our world.”  If it doesn’t
seem a little familiar to you I’m crushed that you didn’t remember, but I’ll
get over it. 
So on Good Friday and Easter Sunday we looked at what
various people on those days would have said about who Jesus was.  And then I left if for a few weeks and came
back  after Mother’s day to delve back
into the theme again.  And some of you
are thinking, “Oh Yeah, that sounds familiar”. 
And others are thinking “He’s preached on this before?”
So two weeks ago we looked at Who is this Man from our
perspective and read from Cornerstone’s statement of faith that you can find on
our website.  And part of that says: our
beliefs are in line with historic Christianity. 
And then we looked at what that meant in our beliefs about Jesus.  That he is the Son of God, that he was
conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, that his death on the cross
was in atonement for our sins and that on the third day he rose from the
dead.  This we believe.  
And so last week we looked at the greatest gift that Jesus
left the world, and that wasn’t his teachings, or his example, it was his
church.  Jesus promised the world in Luke 6:47 I will show you what it’s like
when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.
And it was because of these people who came to Jesus, and
listened to Jesus’ teachings and then followed those teachings that the world
has been changed.  Last week we looked at
How:
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Poor 
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Sick
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Slaves
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Children
So back to the question: 
If I was to ask you about the longest recorded conversation that Jesus
had in the four gospels who would you say it involved?  The answer of course is found in the
scripture that was read for us earlier, the longest recorded conversation that
Jesus had with anyone was with the Samaritan woman that he met at the well, as
recorded in John 4.  And you might be
asking ‘Why is that so important?”  The
answer is found further along in the story. 
So to bring you up to speed. 
If we  bring up one of
our friendly maps, we are told that Jesus was travelling from Judea, which is
here in the south and was going to 
Galilee which is here.  Now
obvsioulsy the quickest route was a straight line but because of bad blood
between the Jews and the Samaratians most people made a circulous route to get
from point “a” to point “b”.  
Instead we see Jesus and his apostle cut straight through
the centre and as the arrive at “Jacob’s Well” 
which would have been a landmark that those reading the story would have
recognized the apostles head into town to buy food and leave Jesus to his own
devices.  Just as a little aside, in the
culture of that day it would be very difficult to believe that before they met
Jesus that any of these guys would have been in Samaria, let alone would have
thought of buying and eating food prepared by Samaritans, already the barriers
are coming down. 
So Jesus is sitting on the edge
of the well, he’s been walking for probably five or six hours and teaching his
apostles as they walked so he’s a little tuckered out, so let’s pick up the
story at that point.  John
4:7-8
Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw
water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the
time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.  Sounds fairly innocent and you are
probably wondering what this has to do with how Jesus shaped the world we live
in today.  First of all let’s go to the
woman’s response.  John
4:9
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse
to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and
I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”   And now let’s skip ahead through all
the conversation between Jesus and this woman, which is material for a dozen
sermons, to the point the disciples return. 
John 4:27 Just then his disciples came back. They
were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to
ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”
Sometimes the church has been
seen as anti-women, but Jesus Shaped how
we Think of Women. 
 In the time that Jesus was born historians
tell us that for every 100 women there were 140 men.  Why? 
Because boy children were worth more than female children and so often
when a girl child was born she was set outside and allowed to die.  And that imbalance continues in Countries
like China and India today.
One historian records a
chilling letter from a pagan husband to his wife: “Know that I am still in
Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon
as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I
come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”
Under Roman law fathers were
required to raise all healthy male children but were only required to keep
their first daughter, any others were disposable.  Women had no rights, they were considered
mere property of their husbands.  A man
could have his wife killed for committing adultery but the only time a man was
punished was when he committed adultery with another man’s wife and the other
man demanded punishment.
And yet here we have the
longest personal conversation that we have a record of Jesus having is with a
woman, in John chapter four.   And he
talked to her as an equal, which wasn’t the norm of the day but seemed to be
the norm for Jesus because he never hesitated to talk to women and defend
women.  And it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t define the woman at the well by
her Marital Status. 
In that day and
age the proper thing for Jesus to do would have been to have the conversation with
her husband but he wanted to hear what she was thinking.
If we look across the story of
Jesus we discover that he had no problem interacting with women.  And he sees them as equals and treats them as
equals. 
In the John chapter eight we
read the account of the woman who was accused of adultery.  It’s the entire “Cast the first stone”
story.  It’s interesting that although we
are told that she was caught in the act of adultery there is no man who is
brought forward.  And that’s because in
that time and culture that was seen as the man’s prerogative but when a woman
cheated it was all about the fact that she disgraced her husband.  When the religious leaders brought the woman
to Jesus to be judged they were assuming that it was a slam dunk, that Jesus
like most men would side with them. 
Instead he challenged them to examine themselves and to judge her the
way they would judge themselves.  He was
simply asking that she be judged as a man.   
He refused to define the woman
caught in Adultery based on her past
and refused to judge her on the
hypocritical system of the day. 
Now that was not to say that he
excused her behaviour.  Listen to how the
story finishes John 8:10-11 Then
Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t
even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither
do I. Go and sin no more.”   He
acknowledged that what she had done was wrong and challenged her to do better
when he said “Go and sin no more.”
There is an interesting Jesus
story in Luke, Jesus is visiting the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary and
Martha.  And in that story we are told
that Martha is hustling around doing her best to be the hostess with the
mostest and the expectation is that her sister would be helping her.
Not really all that unusual
from a party or BBQ today, the guys are gathered in one part of the house and
the girls are gathered in another spot. 
Depends on the weather, if it’s a BBQ you know the guys will be out
around the grill.
And that’s what happened that
day, except Mary’s not with the girls she’s at the grill with the guys.    But
the guys aren’t talking sports or cars, as hard as that might be to
believe.  Instead if we pick up the story
we read, Luke 10:39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet,
listening to what he taught.  And
that wasn’t expected, what was expected was that men would sit at the feet of a
Rabbi and that women would be seen and not heard as they did what society
expected them to do.  Which was to cook
and clean and make babies.  But Jesus didn’t define Mary by Society’s expectations. 
And when Martha complained that
she was doing all the work, which probably wasn’t what she was complaining
about, she was upset that Mary was doing what wasn’t expected of her.  Martha was complaining that Mary was presuming
that she could learn like a man.  And
listen to how Jesus responds to Martha’s criticism, Luke 10:41-42 But
the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these
details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has
discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”   What was it that Mary had
discovered?  Some would say that it was
that it was better to be involved in the things of God then the things of the
world, or that we should take time to slow down, the eternal things were more
important than the temporal. 
But what Mary discovered was
that it was all right for her to be his disciple, even when society said that
as a woman she couldn’t be.
And it wasn’t just Mary who
discovered that.  Listen to this
account:  Luke 8:1-3 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.
And you might ask, “Why weren’t
any of the twelve women?”  I would
suspect that it had a lot to do with the practical aspect.  From the gospel accounts it would appear that
Jesus was with the twelve all the time, they travelled together, ate together,
bunked together.  And it was just simpler
and less scandalous that those 12 who were closest to him were all men.  But throughout the gospels there are women,
listening to him, talking to him and touching him and he consistently treats
them with respect and compassion.  
And there are those who would
say that apparently Jesus’ views on woman weren’t accepted by the early
church.  They most certainly were, when
the early followers of Christ gathered together in groups called churches many
of those identified as being in position of leadership were women.  And time and time again Paul addresses his
letters and sends greetings not only to men but to women in the early
church.  For example, Romans
16:3
says Give my greetings to Priscilla and
Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. Not Aquila and
the wife, or Mr. and Mrs. Aquila but instead he refers to my co-workers in the
ministry,  Priscilla and Aquila. 
And because of how Jesus
treated women one of his followers wrote Galatians
3:26-28
For you are all children of God
through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in
baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There
is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all
one in Christ Jesus.  That was
radical. 
And Jesus never commanded that
woman should cover themselves from head to toe and hide away from men, instead
he told men to respect them and not look on them as objects.  Jesus didn’t say that if men had lustful
thoughts it was because of women instead he said it was the men’s
responsibility to control their thoughts.
And yes scriptures have been misused
and the church hasn’t always been what it should have been but it was the
church at the forefront of the woman’s rights movement, including as I’ve referenced
the First Women’s Rights Convention happened in the US in 1848 in Seneca Falls
NY and was held in the Wesleyan Church, why? 
Because Jesus followers remembered that Jesus treated women as equals
and the early church said “There is no longer male and female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And it’s why the first English
book published by a woman was written by a Jesus Follower by the name of Julian
of Norwich in 1393, and why the abolitionist movement could have Jesus
followers like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the prison reform
movement would be championed by a Jesus follower named Elizabeth Fry and a girl
name Joan, who loved Jesus, could lead a country into battle.  And a nurse named Florence could
revolutionize nursing because of her Christian faith.  
Dorothy L. Sayers was one of
the first women to receive a degree from Oxford and she wrote “”(The
women in the gospels) had never known a man like Jesus—there never has been
such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered
or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated
them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who
rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their
questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them,
never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no
axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found
them.”
There is another interesting
part of this story that leads to our next point.  Jesus has offered the woman at the well
living water and she accepts that offer and we pick up the story in John
4:16-18
“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told
her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right!
You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even
married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
Sometimes in conversations with
couples who are living Common Law, they will say “what difference does a piece
of paper make?” or “We are married in the eyes of God.”  I don’t know what liturgy or ceremony that
this woman had gone through the first five times but apparently Jesus
recognized that it hadn’t happened for number six.     Jesus Shaped How we Think of Marriage
Sometimes the church comes
across as a little old fashion about marriage and sex, but 2000 years ago it
was a radical departure from the culture. 
In the world that Jesus lived marriage wasn’t sacred and sex wasn’t
special. 
It was the Greek philosopher Demosthenes who
said “We
have mistresses for pleasure, concubines to care for our daily body’s needs and
wives to bear us legitimate children.”   And
Roman temple worship involved prostitutes of both genders.
And so it would have been a
shock to most when Jesus reminded them in Matthew 19:5-6 And
he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to
his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but
one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
Jesus is declaring that
marriage and sex are no longer simply physical things that you do but a
spiritual union as well as a physical union. When two become one. 
And at that time a Jewish man
could divorce his wife simply by saying “I divorce you”  and one historian commented “From the
beginning of ancient law in Rome men have always had the possibility of
divorcing their wives. Although this custom was usually reserved for serious
marital faults, such as adultery, making copies of the household keys,
consuming wine, or infertility, it could be employed by a husband at any time”
But Jesus and his church
decreed that men could no longer simply divorce their wives for just any reason
but only for the ultimate betrayal, adultery. 
And to this Jesus says Matthew 19:9 “And
I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits
adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”   Again now that sounds old fashion but
for many who heard Jesus it was new and radical. 
As we discussed  earlier, often women were seen as little more
than property and along comes a church that teaches such radical things as  Ephesians 5:25 For
husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave
up his life for her.  And
admonitions like 1 Peter 3:7 In
the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with
understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is
your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your
prayers will not be hindered.   And
speaking of partnership, 2000 years ago a little TMI in the church 1
Corinthians 7:3
The husband should fulfill his wife’s
sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.
As the world once again moves
away from the principles taught by Jesus about how we are to treat each other
and the one we say we love more than life itself, do you think it’s a better place
or a worse place to live?

But the bottom line is that Jesus
shaped the world by first shaping those who would follow him.  And the question that has to be answered is “How
has he shaped you?”