A Blast From the Past. This was written in response to the death of Princess Diana.


            Once upon a time in a faraway Kingdom there lived a Beautiful princess who was loved by everyone, not only in her kingdom but in other kingdoms as well.  She was kind and gentle and people loved to see her and to hear about her loves. 

            In the same kingdom there lived a playful dragon named “Grog.”  Many of the people of the kingdom enjoyed playing with Grog even though he had a few annoying habits.  Sometimes Grog had been known to get carried away and hurt the people he played with, sometimes families were destroyed and sometimes people were killed.  Oh well.     

            One day the Beautiful Princess and her love had been to a banquet feasting and making merry.  What they didn’t realize is that one of her love’s servants had brought along the playful dragon.  To make a long story short, in his own unique way the dragon managed to destroy the Beautiful Princess, her love and her love’s servant.  

            The people of the kingdom loved their Beautiful Princess but because they enjoyed playing with Grog they didn’t want to offend the playful dragon by blaming him or heaven forbid by banishing him from kingdom. And so they sought to blame her love’s servant and the peasants who followed her about. And nobody lived happily ever after.   Except maybe the dragon.


Have a great week and remember:  Life be in it!

It all makes sense now


I was putting my contact lenses in the other day when I noticed how grey my hair had become. As I wondered how that could possibly have happened without me noticing, I remembered something I was told almost thirty years ago. Roy Corey, a member of the Truro Church, told me how he had discovered his eyesight was directly connected to the amount of pigment in his hair. When I questioned him more, he told me how he had noticed that when his hair was dark he had no problem seeing, but as his hair became progressively greyer his eyesight got progressively worse. Ergo, it was apparent that his eyesight was directly connected to the amount of pigment in his hair.
When you think about that, it makes sense. An obvious case of cause and effect. But I have discovered in life that just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it’s true. Those in the world will often ask you to embrace their culture and their values simply because they make sense. Granted, sometimes they do make sense,  but that doesn’t mean they are  true or right.
And just because you colour your hair doesn’t mean you won’t need glasses. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.  

Demons in the Grass

I drove by our old house the other day and the lawn looked great.  I was a little concerned when put the sod down when the house was built.  You see when the sod was delivered the driver told me that it was demon possessed.  Honest!  At least I think that’s what he meant when he told me that during the first week I’d have to “water the hell out of it.”  I wanted to ask him how the hell got in there in the first place but decided that discretion was the best part of valour.

I’m sure that part of Satan’s strategy to ensnare people is to trivialize hell so that it’s no longer taken seriously.   Hell has become such a common place part of many peoples everyday conversation that it is no longer a threat.  The fact is Hell is a reality, it’s not in the grass and there’s only one way to avoid it, and that’s not by watering it.

 Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  Don’t know if that’ll keep the hell out of grass but I plan on it keeping me out of Hell.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Would you like. . .

I read the other day that the most frequently asked question today was . . . “Would you like fries with your order!”  Profound, to say the least.  Now I did not read that the most important question asked today was. . . “Would you like fries with your order!”, just the most  frequently asked, although I’m sure that to some it is a very important question.  The reason the question is asked so much is that it is in reality an example of  “suggestive sales”.  Just by asking the question they are increasing the chances of you buying fries with your meal, as if your meal wouldn’t be complete without fries.
The most important question that can be asked today is the same question which held that honour 2000 years ago and it was asked over and over again, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The    answer is the same now as it was when Jesus answered it then in the book of 
John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
The answer to the other question is “No, if I’d wanted fries I would have asked for them.” Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

The Promise

It wouldn’t be long and he knew it.  For three years he had taught throughout Israel, for
three years he had healed the sick and fed the hungry. For three years he
pointed people to the Kingdom
of God, but the time was
coming, it wouldn’t be long now and he knew it. 
The end was in sight, it was time for the chapter to close on his
earthly ministry.  But how would he
explain it to his friends? How would he explain that he was leaving?  Would they feel deserted, betrayed?  Would they be able to see that there was a
much bigger plan a much longer story then they could presently see?
Our scripture this morning was John chapter 16.  It was just hours before the arrest of
Christ, the group had eaten what we call “the Last Supper”, had posed for the group
photo, you know what Peter said at the end of the Last Supper?  “Hey everyone, you need to be on this side of
the table if you want to be in the picture.” 
That was free, and now Jesus was explaining the events that
were about to happen.  Trying I’m sure to
ease their fears, to let them know that whatever happened that he was still in
control and that it was all part of the plan.  
I’m not sure that he was all that successful.
Most of all he wanted them to know that he wasn’t leaving
them alone.  Really isn’t that a fear
that we all have?  The fear of being
deserted, being left to our own devices. 
Lord Byron made this statement
concerning growing old: “What is the
worst of woes that wait on age? What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow? To
view each loved one blotted from life’s page, And be alone on earth, as I am
now.”
And so it was almost an “I have bad news and I have good
news statement.”  Jesus told them that
the time had come that he had been telling them about, when he would have to
die, but in the same breath he assured them “You Are Not Alone”
This is week eight of our Red Letter Summer series.  And since June we have been focusing on the
Red Letter words in the bible.  Which is
just another way of saying that we’ve been preaching from the words of Jesus.   
The passage read this morning was Jesus’ promise to his
disciples that he would not leave them alone and that same promise if for us
today.  The promise that even though he
wouldn’t be here in a physical form that the Holy Spirit would be here to give
us the guidance and comfort that we need in our day to day life as Christ
Followers. 
A number of years ago we received a newsletter from
friends of ours who are bible translators in an unnamed Asian country.  We could tell you where they are at but
because of security concerns if we told you then we’d have to kill you.
In the letter our friends who we will call Rick and Sue,
mainly because that’s their names,  spoke
about the difficulty they had in translating the book of Acts because in that particular
dialect there was no word for Holy Spirit and the concept seemed to be beyond
translation. 
Which raises the question “How can you translate a book
without a term for the main character?”   The story of John Reid would have been simply
another western if he hadn’t been named. . . the Lone Ranger.  
And so the translators looked into the original Greek
along with similar languages in the region and they tried, “God’s Good Wind” “God’s
Breath” or “God’s Good Spirit.”  But none
of those worked, people thought they were talking about a great sailing day or
just thought the concept of God’s breath as being bizarre.  The people had no general term for “Spirit”
they had terms for specific bad or evil spirits but nothing for a good or
benevolent spirit.  They tried using a
more generic word but people understood that as meaning “to have a good
attitude.”
After a lot of work and prayer they came up with the phrase
“God’s Perfect Spirit” and it worked. 
Sue said that suddenly the Holy Spirit wasn’t an attitude or force but a
person, a part of the Trinity.
Now most of us don’t have a
problem with the term the Holy Spirit. 
But do we really understand who He is and what He does?  In the scripture that was read for us earlier
Jesus is telling the disciples that his time on earth is coming to an end, and
it is there that we receive the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Now to be honest, the majority of us have a grip on God
the Father, we know that he is our Creator. 
And we’ve have no problem with God the Son, we know that Jesus is our
Saviour.  But for too many of us the
concept of the Holy Spirit is a little fuzzy, a little vague.
Hopefully this morning we can add some clarity. 

The first thing
I want to look at this morning is: The Promise of the Holy Spirit  Throughout
the gospels and into the book of Acts we see Jesus promising the disciples that
they won’t be left alone.  Often we think
that the Holy Spirit was a last minute thought by Christ, “Oh by the way.  I’m leaving, but don’t be upset, tell you
what I’ll leave the Holy Spirit for you.” But that isn’t the case at all.  The Holy Spirit isn’t an afterthought he was
part of the original plan.  Early in
Christ’s ministry right after Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer he
makes this comment

 

Luke
11:13
So if you sinful people know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give
the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
As a matter of fact before
Jesus began his earthly ministry he was announced by his cousin John who said Matthew 3:11 “I baptize
with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is
coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even
to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
and with fire.

And so it should have come as no surprise
when hours before his arrest Jesus told his apostles in

 

John
14:15-17
“If you love me, obey my
commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,
who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. . .
The Person of the Holy Spirit.    The theologian A. W. Tozer wrote this in
his book The Counsellor “Spell this out in capital
letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON.  He
is not enthusiasm. He is not courage.  He
is not energy.  He is not the
personification of all good qualities, like Jack Frost is the personification
of cold weather.  Actually, the Holy
Spirit is not the personification of anything. 
He is a Person, the same as you are a person, but not material
substance. He has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will
and intelligence.  He has hearing. He has
knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear,
speak, desire, grieve and rejoice. He is a Person.”
If we were to do a pop quiz right now and ask you who or
what is the Holy Spirit I wonder what we would get for answers?  “The Third Person of the Trinity” “The
Comforter” “The Counsellor” “Guide” “Teacher”. 
How about this: He is God. 
Often times when we think of
the Holy Spirit we think of him as the third person of the trinity.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Why is that? 
Why do we define him in that way? 
To many people the trinity is ranked Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father being the most important, then
Jesus, then somewhere on down the line we place the Holy Spirit.  Why is that? 
When asking people they will often say, “Because that’s how the bible
lists them.”  Does it?  Well, it does in Matthew 28:19. 
 When Jesus is giving his last
instructions to the apostles he says Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
 But it’s interesting
to note that this is the only place in the bible where the trinity is listed in
that particular order, in other places God is listed as Father, Holy Spirit and
Son, and sometimes as Holy Spirit, Son and Father or Son, Holy Spirit, Father
as a matter of fact there are six different ways that you could list the three
members of the trinity and all six ways are used in the Bible.
Others think that the Holy
Spirit is the third person in the Trinity because he isn’t mentioned until the
day of Pentecost.  Yet if we go back to
the very beginning in Genesis 1:2 Which
of course is the initial account of creation we read Genesis 1:2 The earth was formless and
empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering
over the surface of the waters.
In Psalm 51 King David is
pouring out his heart in repentance over his affair with Bathsheba and listen
to his prayer in verse eleven: Psalm 51:11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy
Spirit from me.
It was the Holy Spirit who was
present at the conception of Christ   Luke 1:35 The angel
replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called
the Son of God.”
It was the Holy Spirit who was
present at the Baptism of Christ.  Luke 3:22 and the Holy
Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven
said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”
The Holy Spirit is not some created being or force that “poof”
magically appeared on the day of Pentecost. He always was because he is
God.  Nor is He some third string player
waiting until late in the game to make his appearance.  He has been active through the entire realm
of history from day one until the present. 
He is God.
The Presence of the Holy Spirit  Maybe the question you’re asking today is
“So what”, what does that have to do with me. 
Everything.  When Jesus made the
promise to the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be a presence in their
lives the promise wasn’t limited to those twelve.  It is as real today as it was then and as
real for you as it was for them.  The
Holy Spirit is not an option in the Christian life, it’s not like getting power
windows and air conditioning in your new car to make it more comfortable.  Instead we need to understand that He is the
engine, he is what makes it go, he is the power of our Christian
experience.  Jesus said The Holy Spirit
is the very centre of our Christian life and you cannot live an obedient,
productive, fruitful Christian life without the Holy Spirit’s presence.
                                               
So what is it the Holy Spirit
does?  What is it you need him to
do?  A lot can learned just by looking at
the word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit.   In John 16:7
Jesus says  John
16:7
But in fact, it is best for you that I
go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I
will send him to you.
 The word that I want to look
at for a minute is Advocate in the New Living Translation, in the King James
version the word is translated comforter, in the New King James version it’s
helper paravklhto” Parakletos, and it can mean
a variety of things, it can mean an intercessor, consoler, advocate, comforter
or it can mean counsellor.  But however
they choose to translate the word it means someone who comes alongside to help
you.
And whichever of those definitions you use, it’s good.  Who wouldn’t want an intercessor in their
life or a consoler or an advocate or for that matter a counsellor?
What does He want to do for
you? The Holy Spirit didn’t just come to hang around and confuse people, so let’s
take a look at The Purpose 
of the Holy Spirit 
Why
has the Spirit come?  Why did Jesus think
it was so important for the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit?  How did the Spirit’s presence affect the
church then and what effect should He have on the church now? And not
just the church collectively but the Christ Followers who make up the
church.   Let’s let the book answer: Acts 1:8 Jesus said “But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” The Holy Spirit Gives Us Power
Power, what an incredible concept, power.  For everyone who thinks that they don’t have
what it takes to live the life that Christ expects of them let me tell you
this: You’re right, you don’t.  But cheer
up because the Holy Spirit has buckets of what it takes and he wants you to
have it.  This is one of my favourite scriptures;
I love the very concept of the promise that when the Holy Spirit has control of
our life you will receive power.  Not you
might receive power or you may receive power or there’s a chance you will
receive power, but you will receive power. 
And not just a little bit of power, but wonderful, incredible, dynamic
world changing power.
The power you need to conquer bad habits, the power you need
to start good habits, the power you need to tell others about Jesus, the power
you need to be everything that God wants you to be.  He doesn’t expect you to do it alone, as a
matter of fact he doesn’t want you to do it alone, he wants to help you to do
whatever it is you have to do.
Do you realize that you have the infinite power of almighty
God in your life? That is his promise to you today.  He’s saying:  Let me come into your life and you will have
power.  But it’s not just a matter of
power. 
Romans
5:5
And this hope will not lead to
disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us
the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. The Holy Spirit
Gives Us Love
 Christianity places a high premium on love,
after all Christianity itself is rooted in love,  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.
 And in John 13:35
Christ said Christianity would be defined and identified by Love John 13:35 Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Probably the one commandment that is given the most page
space in the New Testament is to Love One Another.  And as long as the church is made up of
people that is going to be tough, especially when you use the definition of
love that is given in the New Testament,
1
Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own
way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not
rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never
gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every
circumstance.
You cannot love people in the church like that in your own
power.  Because there is always going to
be some Jerk that you just can’t get along with, and God still expects you to
love me.  And even though you can’t do it
on your own the Holy Spirit can fill your heart with love.  Is it any wonder that the first
characteristic mentioned in the fruit of the spirit is Love.
1
Corinthians 12:4
There are different kinds
of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.  The Holy Spirit Gives Us Gifts
Now I don’t know if this will
come as a shock to you or not but if you are a Christian then the Holy Spirit
has a gift for you, and he also has a reason why he gives it to you. If we continue along in 1
Corinthians 12:7
A spiritual gift is given
to each of us
and then it tells us why so we can
help each other. Some of those gifts are Prophecy, teaching, evangelism,
discernment, healing, hospitality, speaking in unknown languages, interpreting
unknown languages.  And each Christian is
given at least one spiritual gift, why? 
As a means of helping the entire church. 
If you have never taken a spiritual gifts test you should, you might be
amazed at what your gifts are.
We all love gifts so we should be excited to find the gifts
that the Spirit has for us. 
Galatians 5:22-23 Is a familiar passage for most of us. Paul has
described what a person’s life is like when they are controlled by sin and then
he goes on to tell what it should be like when it is controlled by the Holy
Spirit.  Galatians
5:22-23
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love,
joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and
self-control. There is no law against these things! The Holy Spirit Gives
Us Character
Notice that the word fruit is singular, these aren’t several
different characteristics that we can pick and choice from, if your life is
controlled by the Holy Spirit then this is how you will live.  The converse is also true if this isn’t how
you are living then the Holy Spirit isn’t controlling your life.  It’s not rocket science.
So what’s the bottom line?  Romans 8:6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to
death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

Through my thirty years of ministry, time and time again I’ve
heard Christians either pray or make the statement “I want more of the Holy
Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit is God he’s not
a collection of pieces.  You can’t have
more of him or less of him.  It’s like
being pregnant you either is or you ain’t there’s no in between.  And it’s not that we don’t have enough of the
Holy Spirit, it’s that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have enough of us.

Choices. . .

It was a tragedy. A young man lost his life and another man had his life changed forever. Like many people, I watched the video of Sammy Yatim being shot in Toronto last week and, like many people, I felt a sense of rage. Really, nine shots?  And then they tased him. Seems a little much. But then again, I wasn’t there.
I agree that the officer involved will need to be held accountable. However, we need to remember who was ultimately responsible for what happened that night in the streetcar. For reasons we may never know, Sammy Yatim reportedly was waving a knife and threatening a female passenger. (The media seems to have forgotten her.) That’s what led to his being shot. He wasn’t an innocent teen gunned down on the street. 
Had Sammy Yatim chosen to stay home and watch TV–or if he had left his knife at home–chances are nobody would know who he was.

It’s all too easy to look at our circumstance in life and blame God and others without ever taking the time to examine the choices we made that brought us to those circumstances. Remember, if yesterday’s choices helped shape today, then today’s choices will shape our tomorrows.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Back to the Future

Back to the Future
So this was how it would end.  Public humiliation and possibly a public
death for a private act, an act that they had never been intended to be shared
with others and certainly not made public. 
It had all started out innocently enough, a shared glance, an innocent
touching of hands, a long conversation and it ended in with her doing what she
never thought she would do.  How often
had she heard her rabbi warn his congregation that “Sin will always take you further
than you want to go it will always keep you longer than you want to stay and
will always cost you more than you want to pay.”
But she thought she was in control, but she wasn’t and this
was how it would end.  Public humiliation
and possibly a public death, and the disgrace would not just be hers; it would be
shared by her parents and her children. 
We all know the story; we read a portion of it earlier from
John chapter 8.  There are people all the
time who use the phrase “Cast the first stone” and have no idea that it is part
of the Jesus story.  We also hear those
guilty of a variety of offences who try to escape judgment by invoking the same
phrase. 
This is week seven of our Summer series “A Red Letter Summer”.  From June to September members of the preaching
team here at Cornerstone are focusing their efforts on the Red Letter words in
the Bible.  And those are the words of
Christ.  The origins of Red Letter words
stretch back more than five hundred years when calendar makers decided it would
be cool to print Holy Days in Red so that people wouldn’t miss them.  They became Red Letter Days.  In 1899 an editor with the Christian Herald
magazine came up with the idea to print the words of Christ in red and as they
say, the rest is history. 
 This is one of the
great Jesus stories.  You are all
familiar with it and if not you heard it read a few minutes ago.  In an attempt to trap Jesus the religious
leaders bring a woman to him for judgment. 
Not sure they were really interested in justice as much as it was just
an opportunity to have Jesus either a) prove that he wasn’t all that interested
in extending grace or b) that he wasn’t all that interested in obeying the law
of the Old Testament.  Either way, the
woman was just a pawn. 
But instead of playing their game Jesus did what he did so
well and he turns the tables on those who were trying to trap him. 
When they demanded that he take part in the condemnation of
the woman he bends down and begins to doodle in the dust. We have no idea what
he was writing, there have been all kinds of theories but that is all they are,
theories, because we don’t know.  Maybe he
was writing names or sins or maybe he was just doodling but to guess would be
just that, a guess.  But then Jesus looks
up and extends one simple test, he tell them, “If you want to judge her that’s
fine, but first judge yourselves.  What
makes you so worthy of being her judge?” 
And they all walked away. 
There have been some who speculate that Jesus was writing the names of
girlfriends and indiscretions in the dust but there is no evidence of
that.  Maybe the religious leaders were
simply afraid of what he might be writing. 
Reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, where he said “I once sent a
dozen of my friends a telegram saying ‘flee at once – all is discovered.’ They
all left town immediately.”  Perhaps it was the religious leader’s guilty
conscience that caused them to leave, we will never know this side of
eternity.  But there are lessons to be
learned from the story.
John
8:3
As he (Jesus)  was speaking, the
teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught
in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
It
Started With Her Problematic Past. 
You ever get the impression that the woman here was an innocent
spectator? You kind of get the idea that she was just standing on the side of
the road minding her own business when  they grabbed her and dragged her to
Jesus. 
And maybe she was, crazy things
happen.  Don’t know if you read the story
recently of the 24 year old Norwegian woman who was working in the United Arab
Emirates.  One evening after dinner and a
few drinks she claims that she was raped by a colleague from work.  When she reported it to the police she was
charged and convicted with public intoxication and having sex outside of
marriage.
So maybe there is an outside chance that
this lady had been framed.  But we don’t
know that, all we know is that in the story the charge was that she had been
caught in the act of Adultery. 
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard
this message preached and I’ve always gone away feeling sorry for the
woman.  Hold it.  The woman was an adulteress.  The Bible says that she’d been caught in bed
with a man who wasn’t her husband.  Now I
don’t know for sure what she was doing in bed with the man who wasn’t her
husband but I’d be willing to bet they weren’t playing checkers. 
We immediately think that this woman
broke one of the Ten Commandments, but in reality she broke several.  It started when she broke commandment number
Ten when she wanted what wasn’t hers to have. 
Thou Shalt Not Covet.   We don’t
know what it is she wanted, maybe it was simply the physical, or maybe it was
deeper than that, maybe she was looking for an emotional connection that was
missing with her husband that she saw in someone else.  But either way she wanted what wasn’t hers to
have.    
And then if the man she was involved with
was married she broke commandment number eight, when she stole the affections
that belonged to someone else.  Thou
Shalt not steal.  And finally she broke
commandment number seven when she slept with a man who was not her
husband.  Thou Shalt not commit
adultery.    
And in 2013 some people may be thinking:
what’s the big deal, People have affairs all the time.  Notice how we have even sanitized the act,
from adultery to an affair.   But the reason adultery made the big ten is
because it is so destructive. 
Destructive to individuals, destructive to families and destructive to
society as a whole.  Adultery is not a
victimless sin and often those who are hurt go far beyond just the betrayed
spouse.  It was Natalia Ginzburg  who wrote “No adultery is bloodless.”  Partners are hurt, children are hurt,
relationships are damaged and trust is destroyed.
And because of her past, because of a
decision that she made she was brought to judgment.
Now understand that we all have a
past.  It may not have included breaking
commandment number seven but I would suspect that it involved breaking some of
the other the commandments.  And for
those who piously claim that they have never broken any of the Ten Commandments
Jesus takes it to an even higher level when he challenges people to not only
take responsibility for our physical actions, do not murder, do not commit
adultery and do not lie.  But to take responsibility
for our thought lives as well; do not even lust after someone who is not your
spouse, don’t even hate someone, don’t just be a person who doesn’t lie because
you’ve taken an oath, be a person of integrity who doesn’t lie, ever. 

But nobody should be defined by their worst moment.  To those who would judge this woman she was
an adulteress, but she was so much more than that. 
And it’s not just individuals who have a past; churches have a past as
well.  At Cornerstone we have done some
right things over the past 18 years and some wrong things.    There are things that I would do over again
and there are things that I wish I could do over and correct the mistakes I
made.  Mistakes in dealing with people,
mistakes concerning the direction we took and decisions that were made. 
In the same way that nobody should be defined by their worst moment churches
shouldn’t be defined by their worst moment. I’m sure there are some people who
have had a bad experience with Cornerstone, people who might say;  “Well I tried that church once and I didn’t
like it, nobody talked to me, the worship was terrible and the preaching stunk.”  Well maybe we were just having a bad day.
It was W. Somerset Maugham who said 
“Only
a mediocre person is always at his best.”
The great thing about the past is that it’s the past.  It’s gone and it’s finished.   

We can’t deny our past but we shouldn’t live
there.  The past makes a great classroom
but it shouldn’t be your living room. 
However it was this woman’s past that brought her to where she now stood.   
John
8:4-5
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of
adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

Which Brought Her to Her Present
Reality
And her present was defined by her past.  She was where she was because of choices that
she had made.  If she had not committed
adultery then she wouldn’t have been standing in front of Jesus while others
discussed her future. 

According to the religious law
the penalty for committing adultery was death. 
She was caught in adultery and was being sentenced.  There was no defense for her; she couldn’t
appeal to a higher court.  She had
started writing the story and her accusers would finish it for her.  As a Jewish woman, in a Jewish culture,
raised in a knowledge of the Jewish law she would have known the consequences
of her actions.  We might choose to ignore
the words of the law laid down in the Old Testament but for her that wouldn’t
have been an option and she would have known the words of  Leviticus 20:10 “If
a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who
have committed adultery must be put to death.
When she started down that path, she
would have known the ultimate destination if she got caught.  She may very well have thought that she
wouldn’t get caught but she knew what the law dictated would happen if she did
get caught.
We might feel sorry for her, we might
feel that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, after all what would happen
today if adulterers & adulteresses were put to death?  Other than the fact that it would solve the
overpopulation problem, the unemployment problem would be solved with all those
jobs opening up, Hollywood would be a virtual ghost town and most of us would
lose some friends.
And as much as we might feel that this
was extreme and unjust action, at that time, in her country, under her religion
according to her traditions and customs she was simply getting what she
deserved, no more no less.  And she knew
the consequences if she got caught, but like most of us she had no intention of
getting caught.
But understand this, it was the choices she had made
yesterday that determined where she was today. 
All of us are where we are in life today, for better or
worse, because of choices we made yesterday. 
The temptation in our life is to say “why me?”  The real question should be “Why not me?”  Each of us are where we are today because of
choices that we made somewhere along the line. 
The decision to study in school or slough off, the decision
about where we would further our education and what courses we would take, the
decision of who we would marry.  Some of
you may be thinking, well I didn’t want to get married, we had to.” Well that
involved another choice didn’t it?  Every
addiction began with a choice, you may be thinking “I don’t have a choice, I
have to do it.”  But you made the choice
at the beginning, the choice to try whatever it is you are addicted to.
Last week Angela and I watched “Back to the Future” for the
first time, and there is the pivotal scene were Dr. Brown tells Marty to be
careful who he interacts with because his actions in the past could affect the
way the future turns out. 
And he was absolutely right because our today is shaped by
our yesterdays.  The woman made a choice
in her past that led her to the present. 
A different choice would have led her to a different reality.  It was the French philosopher Henri L.
Bergson  who wrote “The present
contains nothing more than the past, and what is found in the effect was
already in the cause.”
In the church it is the same way, choices that we made
yesterday affect where we are and who we are today.  Sometimes we made the right choice, we had
our choice of four properties to choice from when we were building, this was
the bottom on my list but now it’s obvious the right choice in many ways.  And because of that decision that we made 9
years ago we are in a prime location today.  On the other hand if we had of bought it when
it first came on the market we probably could have bought five times the land
for half the price, oh well. 
There are issues that we have with the building today
because of choices we made when we were building.  Including only air conditioning the worship
centre.  I’m sorry.
Because of choices that we made about what our services
would look like and how I would preach there are people who made a decision to
not to come to Cornerstone, and that has coloured who we are.  On the other hand  because of choices that we made about what
our services would look like and how I would preach there are people who are
committed followers of Christ because we are what we are. 
It is when you accept the responsibility for where you are
that you acknowledge that not only what you did in yesterday has shaped the
today but what you do today will shape tomorrow.  God gave us the gift of our “free will”
because he knew that if we choose to that we will make the right decision. 
So you understand where we are in the story.  It had started with a decision she had made
in the past that led her to where she was in the present.  And sometimes we can’t get past that
point.   We look around and say “poor me”.  We look back and wish that we were able to go
back and redo whatever it was that we had done that brought us to where we
are. 
But you can’t change the past.  It was Dale Carnegie who cautioned us “Don’t try to
saw sawdust.”
And Jesus knew that he couldn’t change the woman’s past and regardless
of what the religious leaders were trying to get him to commit to, he refused
to alter her present, but what a gift he had for her.  Let’s go back to the story.
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. In
that statement Jesus dealt with her past, “Where are your accusers?  Where are those who want to remind you of the
mistakes you made yesterday?”  And he
dealt with her present.  At that point in
time she was humiliated, shamed and possibly facing life or death.   And Jesus asked “Didn’t even one of them
condemn you?”
For her,
this was the greatest gift that she could have been given.  But the gift that Jesus had for the woman was
much greater than forgiving her past or saving her from her present.  Because Jesus goes on to say  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin
no more.”

Jesus not only forgave her past sins and changed her present reality the greatest
gift he offered was Jesus Offered Her a Preferred
future 
When counselling folks I often challenge them first to
describe their present reality, where they are now and then ask them to
describe their preferred future, where they would like to be.  It’s only then that we can work on how to get
from point “A” to point “B”.

You understand that is the great thing about understanding that we are
responsible for where we are? 
When I talk to people about acknowledging that their choices have led them
to where they are today, what they first hear is that they have to accept the
blame.  Not at all, it’s not about blame it’s
simply about responsibility.  Your
choices are also responsible for all the good in your life as well.  Married to the love of your life?  That was a choice.  Love what you are doing for a living?  That was a choice. 
You buy a car and you have problems with it and you think “Well, I chose to
buy that car, I have to accept responsibility for my choices.”  But there’s the other side of the coin, if
you buy a car and it’s awesome you made that choice as well.
So once you acknowledge that what you did yesterday has shaped where you are
today then you will understand that what you do today has the power to shape
your tomorrows. 
Jesus was sending this woman back to the future.  He was giving her the chance to shape her
tomorrows without the baggage of yesterday. 
So often people are quite happy to quote the first part of what Jesus
told the woman while ignoring the second part. 
They love the “Neither do I (condemn you)”  but they seem to forget that Jesus
went on to say “Go and sin no more”. 
Jesus had wiped away her sins, he had given her a clean page to write her
future on, but she would have to be the one who would write it.
Today you have the opportunity to start over.  To say “I can’t change my past but I can
change my future.”  Are you willing to
let go of your past?  Are you willing to
define your future by your actions today? 
And it’s tough, if it was easy everybody would be doing it but just as
Jesus believed that the woman caught in adultery could make the right choice he
believes that you can make the right choice.
And that challenge is not just for us as individuals but also as a
church.  The biggest challenge we have at
Cornerstone today is looking past our success. 
To understand that, just because what we are doing worked yesterday and
today doesn’t mean it will work tomorrow.  Sometimes what works today won’t work
tomorrow.
We have reinvented ourselves several times since we began worship together
18 years ago, the message stays the same but we are not the same church we were
in 1996, or 2006 or 2011 for that matter and hopefully we aren’t the same
church we will be in 2015. 
What do you want your personal future to look like?  What choices will you have to make today to
make that happen?  What do you want the
future of Cornerstone to look like?  What
choices will you have to make today to make that reality? 

One of my favorite verses is 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 . . .
Today Jesus
is offering you a brand new future.  But
it’s up to you,  will you accept the gift
and the challenge?  And as I close let me
leave you with the word of Barbara Bush, who said, “May your future be worthy of your
dreams.”

Blast from the Past

In the Spring of 1997 I had managed to grow our baby church from 82 to 43.  This was the Penn that I wrote to the survivors of the “Spring of Tuesdays” on May 11, 1997

It’s the dawning of a new day, a new chapter in the book, the beginning of a new era!  My dream and vision for Bedford Community Church has never been stronger than it is today and never fresher than it is right now.  I truly sense that God has some great things in store for us in the days and weeks ahead.  Along with that surety comes the surety that it will require very special people to make that vision a reality, a people committed to God and a people committed to the dream.
           

            It will not be an easy task, church plantingis not church playing.  If it was easy then everyone would be doing it.  I believe deep in my heart that God has picked families and individuals to make BCC what He wants it to be.  And to those who have chosen to be a part of that group I say thank you.  The great thing is that in years to come you will be able to point to Bedford Community Churchand say “I had a part in the beginning, I helped plant that church!”  Have a great week and remember: Life Be In It!