Throwing Bouquets to the Dead


Hundreds gathered for a Candlelight vigil this past Saturday night in the small town of Berwick.  The public outpouring of grief wasn’t for an actor or pop star. It was for 62 year old Harley Lawrence, a homeless man who died last week when the bus shelter he was sleeping in caught, (was set?) on fire. 
I might be a cynic….. okay I am a cynic, but I wonder how  over four hundred people who showed up at Saturday’s vigil treated Harley when he was alive?  I wonder if they spoke kind words when they saw him outside the local Tim Horton’s or how they felt about him sleeping on the bench in the shelter?  It’s not as if Berwick has a homeless problem; Harley was their homeless problem.  And from all accounts, Harley Lawrence didn’t want help, but everyone deserves kindness, and not just after their brutal death.  It’s easy to throw stones, and I probably would have ignored Harley and perhaps questioned why the local government didn’t do anything to address the homeless problem (that would be Harley) in town.
So perhaps each of us needs to look around for the Harley Lawrences in our lives and offer the kind words and thoughtful gestures before it’s too late.    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Sea Monsters and Dragons!

Weird things in the news lately, I mean weirder than usual.  In the last week, two rare oarfish have washed up on a beach in California.  You might be wondering what an oarfish is, so was I.  They are like giant eels with a pug face.  The two that washed up were fourteen and eighteen feet long.  Scientist tell us that the fish are elusive creatures which can live at depths of 914 metres and are thought to have inspired legends of giant sea serpents.  Considering that they can grow up to 56 foot long I can understand that. 
And then there was a video was released from Truro England showing what appears to be a dragon flying in the sky. A dragon!  This is so cool. I was brought up reading about sea monsters and dragons and was so disappointed when they disappeared from my life.
No doubt the dragon video will be proven to be a hoax and the harmless oarfish will put legends of the kraken to rest but God’s world is still a place of mystery and wonder.  And in His time if God wants to send a dragon to shake things up, there is no doubt in my mind that He will send a dragon.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.  

The Walking Dead, Lazarus

So here we are week two of the Walking Dead.  For those of you who are wondering what in
the world is happening at Cornerstone let’s bring you up to speed.  Through October and November our theme at
Cornerstone is “The Walking Dead” and we will be looking at various stories in
the Bible where people had been dead and then were alive.  There are a number of these stories and often
we just kind of read over them, not really stopping to realize the impact that
this would have had not only on the person who had been given life but on those
around them as well.  To us they are just
words on a page but to those who were involved it was literally a life altering
event.  These are stories of dead people
who came back to life, that’s gotta be a little spooky.

And I know that there are stories through history of people
who were declared dead only to be discovered later to still be alive.  And while most of those incidents happened
before the advent of modern medical techniques they sometimes still
happen.  For example in September of 2007
33 year old Carlos Camejo was declared dead after being involved in a traffic
accident in Venezuela.  When the staff in
the morgue began the autopsy they realized something was wrong when the first
incision drew fresh blood and then the corpse screamed.  Carlos said “I woke up because the pain was
unbearable.”  His wife had been called to
the hospital to identify her husband’s body only to discover him alive and well
and waiting for him. 
But in those cases the person being revived comes as a shock
to everyone involved, the cases we are looking at is when folks are commanded
to come back to life. 
But before we go there back to the Walking Dead.  The Walking Dead is a television show that is
now into its fourth season.  It involves
Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes and a small band of survivors who are trying to stay
alive in a post-apocalyptic world populated by Zombies or Walkers as they are
called in the show.  So far they haven’t
been able to find out what has caused this Zombie Apocalypse or whether or not
they can reverse it.   
For those who are concerned that we are delving into the
dark side here, these are not the Zombies of yesterday that were conjured up by
Voodoo, witchcraft and devil worshippers. 
Instead this has been caused by some unknown biological plague.  This of course is even scarier because it
becomes something that in this day and age of chemical warfare and GMOs could
be entirely possible. 
You say you don’t believe in Zombies.  Well for you sceptics I give you this
photographic proof.  (Photo of kids
texting.)
Earlier this year there was an article in the National Post
entitled: Zombie popularity peaks when society is unhappy: researcher  In the article Dr. Sarah Lauro, a professor at
Clemson University in South Carolina was quoted as saying “We are more
interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered, and
the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast
population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves … or
watching a show like ‘Walking Dead’ provides a great variety of outlets for
people.”
Well there you go.
It was so dark, and so cold. He had
no idea where he was, how long he had been there or what he was supposed to be
doing.  The last thing he remembered was
being at home in bed. He had been sick; nobody knew what to do or even what was
wrong. The doctors had come and gone leaving behind potions and powders that
had little effect besides depleting their already meager budget.
It was then that Mary had the idea
to send a message to their friend.  They
had all heard the stories. How the lame walked again, the deaf heard and how he
had given sight to the blind.
If anyone could do anything for him
it would be Jesus!  And so a message was
sent, and they waited. And waited and waited. The fever left only to be
replaced with chills but soon he was burning up again. The days became
fragments as he passed in and out of awareness. 
He could remember bits and pieces of the conversation, most of it
centering either on how sick he was or wondering where Jesus was. Where was
Jesus? And then, the girls just cried, every time he opened his eyes there was
either Mary or Martha holding his hand and weeping. Why was everyone so sad?
And then there was nothing, well
almost nothing. He dreamt that he had died and gone to heaven there he saw his
parents and his brother who died as a child. And Moses was there and Elijah and
God.  But it must have been a dream
because it was so bright and so warm, and now it was so dark, and so cold. He
had no idea where he was, how long he had been there or what he was supposed to
be doing. And then he heard something, it was someone calling his name and they
were telling him to come out.
Come out of where?  And then as his eyes adjusted to the gloom he
realized that he was in some kind of cave, it seemed vaguely familiar and then
suddenly he knew he was in the family tomb, laid out on one of the shelves.  The last time he had been here they were
burying his father. What was he doing here and who was calling his name?  He swung his legs clear of the shelf and
immediately stumbled against the wall realizing that his legs were loosely
bound together.  He was wrapped in strips
of cloth, even his head was wrapped and he was just able to see between the
strips of cloth wrapping his face.  What
type of nightmare had he awoken into? 
What was happening to him?  Slowly
he shuffled his way to the light streaming through the low entrance toward the
familiar voice calling his name.  And as
he ducked through the opening he heard screams of terror mixed with shouts of
joy, as the bandages fell away from his eyes he looked around at the crowd he saw
his sisters and Jesus and Jesus told the people “Unwrap
him and let him go!”
Must
have been quite a shock for everyone but Jesus. 
Dead men don’t come out of tombs, but Lazarus did.    He would never be looked at the same way
again, he would always be the man who Jesus raised from the dead, there would
always be questions and there would always be scepticism.  For many Lazarus would be thought of as The
Walking Dead. 
But what can we learn from the story
of Lazarus? And how does it apply to us and what spiritual application can we
find in this story of the walking dead?
Let’s go back to the story: John
11:39
“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s
sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be
terrible.”
Lazarus Was Dead
He wasn’t just sick or not feeling
well, he hadn’t gone into the tomb to lie down and take a nap, the man was
dead.  He had been sick, didn’t get
better and he died.  That’s the way that
life works, Robin Williams said “Death is nature’s way of saying, Your table’s ready.”  Well, Lazarus’s table was certainly
ready.
Now I’m sure that there are those
that thought that maybe Lazarus wasn’t really dead, maybe he had just been in a
coma and woke up when Jesus called him. 
Quite a coincidence wouldn’t you say? 
That the man had been declared dead, been wrapped in a funeral shroud
and laid in a tomb and four days later at just the time that Jesus ordered that
the stone be rolled away he awoke from his coma.
Let’s skip the conspiracy theories
and acknowledge that the man was dead. 
Martha knew he was dead, Mary knew that he was dead, Jesus knew he was
dead, the crowd knew he was dead, Lazarus was dead.  What was it that Ebenezer
Scrooge said about his partner “Marley was dead
to begin with; old Marley was as dead as a door nail.”  And so was Lazarus.
Spiritually each one of us is or was
dead. That is not open to debate any more than Lazarus’ condition was open to
debate.  We’ve covered this material
before.  Humanity was created perfect and
placed into a perfect world that they could inhabit and live in fellowship with
God.  The only condition was that they
not eat the fruit from one tree, they could touch the tree, they could hug the
tree, they could kick the tree as far as we know they could even cut the tree
down and use it as fire wood but they could not eat the fruit from that tree.  Why did God put that temptation before
them?  I don’t know.  Why didn’t he make the world a place with no
restrictions and no guidelines?  I don’t
know, but I do know that when the first couple made the decision to disobey God
they severed the relationship between them and God, an action that not only had
repercussions for them but for all of humanity as well. 
The Bible says in Romans
3:23
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
And in the Old Testament the Prophet Isaiah
said Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn
leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
The consequences of our sinful actions are
spelled out in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death . .
. and in Ephesians
2:1
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
Just as Lazarus was dead physically,
and there was no debating it, each person on this earth is dead spiritually and
there is no debating that. 
And while death is a condition that Lazarus
would share with the entire human race that’s where the similarity ended,
because even though he was dead he didn’t stay dead. And so the second thing we
need to realize is revealed in  John
11:43-44
Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the
dead man came out . . .
Lazarus Was Alive  Now that’s neat.  The man had been
dead and in the grave for four days, and he walks out of the tomb by
himself.  I don’t know who it was more of
a shock for, his sisters, the crowd or Lazarus. 
We know who it wasn’t a shock for, it wasn’t a shock for Jesus, because
that’s what he asked for and that’s what he expected to happen.
The entire incident became an integral part of
Lazarus’ identity, in John 12:1 Six days
before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of
Lazarus—the man he had raised from the dead.
After a while that must have gotten
more annoying than being dead, “Oh, you’re Lazarus, the guy that Jesus raised
from the dead.”  People would point to
him on the street and say “that’s Lazarus the guy that Jesus raised from the
dead.”  And people were probably always
asking him, “So what was it like being dead?” 
But the fact of the matter was this Lazarus had been dead and now he was
alive.  And that was a miracle.
In the same way miracles can happen in our
spiritual lives as well.  Remember what
happened?  From that first couple we
inherited our tendency to sin, from that first couple we inherited our desire
to rebel. In the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 So you
see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from
the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all
belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
If we are spiritually dead because
of sin then we need to find a solution to the sin problem and that solution is
Jesus Christ.  We are told in the
scriptures that when we ask Christ for forgiveness that is what he does, he
forgives our sins.  They are gone, Henry Ward Beecher said “God
pardons like a mother, who kisses the offense into everlasting
forgiveness.”  What an incredible
picture.
Colossians 2:13 You were
dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.
Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
And just as Jesus stood at the entrance to the
tomb and called for Lazarus to come out he is calling each one of us to enter
into the life that he has prepared for us. Earlier I read Romans
6:23
For the wages of sin is death, . . .
but we all know that isn’t where it
ends, the passage continues by saying but the free gift
of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
And we know all these things, I am
preaching to the choir here.  Most of us
have experienced that new life; we aren’t strangers to the forgiveness of
Christ and the life that he offers.  Like
Lazarus we have heard Jesus call our names and we have answered the call.  We know that when we die we will go to heaven
do not pass go do not collect two hundred dollars.  I know that and you know that.  And that leads us to our third point: 
John 11:43-44 Then
Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and
feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them,
“Unwrap him and let him go!”
Lazarus Was Free
When Lazarus came from the tomb he
was alive, he could walk again he could talk again, he could love again.  But he wasn’t free.  He was still bound by his grave clothes, even
though he was alive there was still more that had to be done.
When we accept the forgiveness that God offers
we are given life, but often times we are still bound in grave clothes.  We bring old baggage into our new
relationship with Christ, baggage that we need to get rid of.  The bible tells us in Titus
2:14
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and
to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.
And just as it wasn’t enough for
Lazarus to be given life without freedom we need to be unwrapped and set free.
What are some of the things that bind us, what are some of the things we need
freeing from?
He wants to Free Us From Our Hurts Here’s a sad fact of life, none of
us make it through unscathed. From the time we are children things happen that
hurt us.  It may be physical, emotional
or spiritual but the hurts are there.  If
I was to ask you to just close your eyes for a moment and reflect on how you
have been hurt, hurt by circumstances and hurt by people. Everyone here could
think of something said or done that cut them. 
And it hurts, that’s why they call them hurts. And I’m not here today to
say they shouldn’t hurt, Proverbs 18:14 The
human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?
But I am here to say that Jesus
wants to help you carry the hurt, he wants to eventually wipe it away and free
you from its consequences.  Right
now?  Maybe, I’ve seen the power of the
Holy Spirit reach into a broken spirit and fix it in an instance, and I’ve also
seen him work over a period of time slowly bringing about a complete healing.
I know some of your hurts, and I hurt with you,
you there are times that my heart is broken because of what people here are
going through, and I wish that I could reach out and fix it.  I can’t but God can.  He wants to free you from your hurts, not
minimize them, He isn’t going to tell you to suck it up and get on with life, 1 Peter
5:7
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
That’s his promise, God cares about
you, and he wants to heal your hurts and free you from them, but you have to
let go.  Leo
Buscaglia said “Don’t hold to anger, hurt or
pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love.”
He wants to Free Us From Our History  Every one of us brings a little bit of our history into our new
relationship with Jesus.  Even though the
bible tells us that we are born again and are new creations, that doesn’t erase
all of the influences both good and bad that that have touched our lives up to
that point.
But we don’t have to be controlled by those
things we don’t have to be controlled by our past, we are brand new creations
and we need to claim the promise that is given in 2
Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has
become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
All of the mistakes we had made, all
of the sins that had been committed are gone, we are starting over.  Sometimes we blame the past for the way we
behave as believers.  Maybe there are
certain behaviors that used to be part of our life and you don’t want to give
them up, so you say you can’t because of your past. Sometimes I can be a little
sarcastic, and it’s easy to say “Well that was the way I was brought up”.  But that doesn’t excuse it.   Man up, own your problem and allow God to
deliver you from them.  Sarcasm may have
been a love language in my family but that doesn’t make it right or necessary
for me to use that as an excuse when I’ve hurt someone with my words. 
He Wants to Free Us From Our Habits. “I just can’t help myself.”  How many times have you heard those words or
for that matter how many times have you said those words?  Our lives are so often governed by our
habits, good habits and bad habits.  And
we come to the place that we think we are slaves to those habits, because we’ve
always done it we will always do it.  But
we don’t have to be.  Remember 2 Corinthians 5:17 This
means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life
is gone; a new life has begun!
We are new, but it’s not easy to
break those old habits, that’s why self-control is referred to as a “Fruit of
the Spirit”, because it’s something that’s really tough to do by ourselves but
the Spirit wants to help us to have that control. 
Jesus wants you to be free, and not just a
little free listen to what he said in John 8:36 So if
the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
If you have asked Christ for
forgiveness and have accepted his salvation you are alive, but have you been
released, from your hurts your history and your habits? If not you can be,
Jesus is calling your name today, will you listen?  Because Lazarus didn’t have to come out, he
could have stayed in the tomb, Jesus wouldn’t have gone in and dragged him out
and he won’t drag you into the Kingdom. 

A blast from the Past


Angela and I were marvelling at the autumn colours last week as we drove along the highway. The woods were a kaleidoscope of colours, no two the same. It wasn’t hard to imagine Jack Frost painting each leaf individually.
One of the many things we missed during our time in Australia was fall colours. As beautiful and gorgeous and wonderful (have I used enough adjectives yet?) as the weather was in Australia, and it was beautiful and gorgeous and wonderful, their trees didn’t change in the fall. To be truthful, I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the various hues that paint our forests until they weren’t there to see. That’s a sad reality of life as well—you don’t realize the good you have until you don’t have it anymore.
As much as I enjoy the fall scenery I don’t appreciate what it takes to make the leaves change—chilly fall mornings leave me cold, so to speak. That’s human nature though isn’t it? We never seem to want to pay the price, no matter how small. The great thing about the beauty of heaven is that the price has already been paid, and all we have to do is claim it. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.  

The Walking Dead: Lepers

Well, here we are “The Walking Dead”.  Some folks have been looking forward to this
series with anticipation, others with dread and some with confusion.
So why “The Walking Dead”?
The title and theme come from a Television series of the same title that
will begin its fourth season tonight. The show has won numerous awards
including a Golden Globe for best television drama.  The TV series had its roots in a comic book,
excuse me, Graphic novel series by the same name.
The series revolves around a sheriff’s deputy by the name of
Rick Grimes, who is wounded in a shootout with armed criminals, he awakens from
a coma weeks later in a deserted and badly damaged hospital.  When he gets outside he discovers the world
as he knew it no longer exists, instead he is in post-apocalyptic world that
now includes Zombies, or walkers as they are often called in the series.
Grimes eventually hooks up with a small band of survivors
which includes his wife, son and former partner and best friend, Shane.  And for three seasons the survivors have been
seeking answers for what has happened and have been battling the walkers.  There is drama, romance, intrigue betrayal,
in other words it is a soap opera with Zombies.
Personally I’m on the side that it’s all a dream, that someday
Rick will wake up in a clean, fully staffed hospital and  declare “You’ll never believe the nightmare I
just had.”  But that’s just me.
As a nod to the geekiness of this series, each week I shall
wear a different Zombie T-shirt.  This
week’s T-Shirt simply states that I am a member of the Zombie Apocalypse
Response team.
For those who are concerned about the dark connotations of
this show, these aren’t your parent’s zombies.
People who don’t watch the show often confuse the “Walkers” from the
Walking Dead with Zombies from the horror flicks from the 30’s and 40s, White
Zombie was the first zombie film ever released in 1932 with Béla Lugosi as the
evil protagonist who turned a man into a zombie, in 1943 “I walked with a
Zombie” told the story of a Canadian Nurse who encountered a female Zombie on
the Caribbean Island of  St.
Sebastian.  These Zombies had overtones
of Voodoo and black magic.
It was in 1968 that George Romero made his cult classic, “Night
of the Living Dead” which introduced us to the idea of some type of biological
disaster that resulted in “the living or walking dead.”  Romero’s original concept for Night of the
Living dead was that it would be a comedy, guess that didn’t work out.  It spawned five sequels, was selected by the
Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film
deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Different time obviously but the film was made in 1968 and
the lead man and hero, Ben, was played by Duane Jones and there was a little
bit of controversy because it was the first time a black man was the hero in a
horror flick.
So that being said, the “Walking Dead” are not some part of
a Voodoo conspiracy, weren’t animated with witchcraft or black magic and aren’t
involved in Devil worship, just victims of some strange post-apocalypse plague.
But what does that have to do with church?  Well, for the next seven weeks we are going
to look at examples from the Bible where people died and came back to life, or
in the case of this morning’s message people who were considered, “the Living
Dead”
For those of you who think that Zombies are too frivolous of
a topic to discuss in church, may I direct you to this video.  (Parliament on Zombie Apocalypse)
He was without friends, family or future.  He lived a life of tragedy without a home and
without a hope.  Have you ever heard
someone say “They treated me like a leper” or “they acted like I had
leprosy?”  Back in the eighties when AIDS
was just surfacing and  society and science
still didn’t have a grip on how it was spread or who would contract it you
would often hear those who had acquired AIDS make that statement, “I feel like
a leper.”  And while I wouldn’t want to
minimize the hurt that people feel when they ostracized by others it is
doubtful that anyone in this time could ever fully comprehend what life as a
leper was like 2000 years ago.
Leprosy was probably the most feared disease of the time,
and that wasn’t just then either, we don’t think of leprosy as a modern disease
but the world health organization estimates that there were 232,857 new cases
diagnosed in 2012.
We forget that the rest of the world doesn’t have the health
care that we have.  And while we gripe
about a half-hour wait for the doctor or a three-hour wait in outpatients there
are many places in the world where the closest hospital is a day journey away,
and drugs are almost impossible to acquire for the common person.  As a matter of fact it’s not a far stretch to
say that this group of people would be considerably smaller if we lived in a
third world country, because some of you would not have survived without the
medical care that you have obtained in Canada.
But back to the subject at hand: Leprosy isn’t the term we
use, today we call it Hansen’s disease.   It was named after Gerhard Hansen the Norwegian
doctor who discovered it’s cause in 1869.
But before 1869 the scientific term was leprosy.  The disease began with lethargy and pain in
the joints.  Little brown patches would
appear over the body and nodules would form on them especially in the folds of
the face, around the nose, eyes and mouth.
Ulceration of the vocal cords would result in the victim talking in a
hoarse rasp and before the disease had run its course the person would be
unrecognizable.  You can imagine, someone
shuffling along in pain, their voice hardly understandable.
Sometimes it progressed and the nerve ends were also
affected and the infected area would begin to lose all sensation and feeling,
often without the person knowing until they scalded themselves or broke
something without the warning that pain brings.
Pain’s not always a bad thing.  As
the disease progresses the muscles waste away until the hands are contracted
into claws and the feet curl up.  At this
stage the sufferer would sometimes lose their extremities, fingers and toes,
ears and noses because of infection caused by untreated injuries.
It was a horrible disfiguring disease that was contagious
and incurable.  Today through the marvels
of modern sciences leprosy can be contained and in many cases cured, it the
funds are available, but 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago the diagnosis of
leprosy was a death sentence, not a quick death but a slow and painful death,
these men and women were truly the walking dead.
And people were terrified of leprosy as you can well imagine
and so at any sign of a skin disease the person was examined by the Priest and
put into quarantine, if the symptoms disappeared the person was considered
cured however if it became apparent that the disease was or could be leprosy
the consequences were actually quite dire.
But if the physical affects of leprosy were horrible there
was something even worse.  The leper had
to bear the mental anguish and heart break of being totally cut off from the
people he loved, being banished from society and shunned by everyone.
The book of Leviticus contained the law for the people of Israel
and this is what it said Leviticus 13:45-46 “Those
who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their
hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As
long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must
live in isolation in their place outside the camp.  Nice huh?
The person with leprosy was not allowed to mingle with
anyone who didn’t have the disease, they weren’t allowed to live in the village
or the city they had to move into the wilderness living in caves and hovels,
their only companions other victims.  The
closest they could come to a person without the disease was six foot which
would have made for a tough time keeping your marriage intimate, but that didn’t
matter because once you were diagnosed with leprosy you were considered dead
and your spouse could remarry and your estate was divided up amongst your
heirs.
And so while you were still alive, you were considered dead,
it was almost as if you were the Undead, the Living Dead or the Walking
Dead.
There has never been a disease that has so separated people
from the rest of humanity like leprosy, not even AIDS.
And so as we pick up the story
in Luke 17 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, Luke
17:12-13
As he entered a village there, ten
lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”   Remember all they symptoms of leprosy,
their movements are stiff, some are missing extremities, because of the damage
to their vocal cords their voices are almost growls, and they are contagious.  Remember what Leviticus said, they weren’t to
comb their hair and they had to tear their clothes.  Frightening thought isn’t it?
We don’t know how they knew about Jesus, or more mysterious
how they knew Jesus was coming, but in him they saw their only hope.
And so they asked for the one thing that they wanted more than
life itself, to be healed.  That their
disfigured faces would once again be looked upon with love instead of
revulsion, that twisted limbs would become straight and that life, life would
return to normal.
And the thing that they wanted
more than anything was given to them.   Listen to the very next verse, Luke 17:14 He looked at
them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were
cleansed of their leprosy.
There are two miracles here; the first was that they
believed, the second was that they were healed.
Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they went,
didn’t question, didn’t ask “what if we get there and there’s no change?”   And the story says And
as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.  If they hadn’t gone, do you think they
would have been cleansed? If they had of chosen to go see their families first,
or gone back to work.   I don’t know,
what I do know is that as they obeyed the miracle happened.  And image as they are walking along the
conversation that took place if they looked at one another and began to see the
changes, “Hey Fred, your nose just grew back, and Bill you’re not shuffling
anymore.  I can feel my fingers again,
and I feel like singing.”
And this is where the analogy with the Undead, the Living
Dead or the Walking Dead breaks down, because once you are a walker you can’t
be healed you can only be killed real good.
But here we see the lepers being given a new life and a new
beginning.  And I believe that Jesus
could heal Zombies as well.
I wonder what it felt like as the nodules disappeared and
skin was made smooth again, as twisted limbs became straight and strong.  I wonder if they had lost appendages to the
disease and what it felt like as fingers and toes grew back.
So let’s go back to the
story.  Luke
17:15-16
One of them, when he saw that he
was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground
at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.   Ten are healed, one came back.  Here is a pop quiz, how many were
thankful?  Probably all ten.  They just didn’t express their thanks.
And there are a pile of life lessons that we can learn from the
nine that didn’t come back.
We see how they realized that their only hope was Christ; we
can see how they approached Jesus within the law, from a distance without
demanding that their request be met.  We
could talk about their obedience, how they immediately did as they were
commanded.
And we should marvel at their faith, how without question they
believed what Christ offered them, why else would they go to the priest?
But what I marvel at is that nine of them didn’t come back
to say “Thank you.”  Think about it, their
lives were radically changed, their lives were literally given back to them, so
why was there no acknowledgment?  Even
Jesus marvelled.  Luke 17:17 Jesus asked,
“Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?
So how come they didn’t come back?
Perhaps They Were Overwhelmed with what
happened.  Sometimes what happens is so
incredible that we can’t find words to acknowledge what has happened.  And maybe that’s what happened, it wasn’t
that they were ungrateful it was just that so much more was happening in their
lives that they simply didn’t get around to saying thank you.  Kind of like those thank you notes that
you’ve always intended to write.
For whatever reason it is sometimes harder to show gratitude
for the big things then for the little things.
It’s easier to thank someone for saving our place in line then for
saving our life.   Benjamin Franklin said “Most people return small favours,
acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones — with ingratitude.”
And so in the haste to get their lives back, they forgot the
one who had given them their lives back.
Very few of us will be physically in that situation, although there are
some who owe a doctor or paramedic their very lives.  But what about the spiritual gift of salvation?
Are we so overwhelmed with the gift of eternal life that we haven’t taken the
time to thank the giver?
Or maybe They Were Underwhelmed.  Oh sure they had been given their health
back, they had been healed from this horrible disease, but it wasn’t
enough.  You’re probably wondering what
more could they possibly want?  They had
probably thought about this day for a long time, and imagined what it would be
like.  But sometimes our imaginations are
greater than reality.  Have you ever
talked to someone whose life has changed radically, a windfall of money, or a
healing or a better job and yet they still aren’t happy.  They still haven’t found what they are
looking for.
Perhaps they thought that life would be like it had been
before the disease only to discover that their spouses had remarried, their
property had been divided between their children, and their jobs had been filled
by another people.
Perhaps they realized that they had lost the freedom they
had as a leper.  Confusing, maybe but as
a leper they had no social responsibilities, no moral responsibilities, they
didn’t have to provide for others they didn’t have to worry about disciplining
the kids or doing a good job at work.
All they had to do was stay alive.
Mark Twain made this statement: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he
will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”
Some people become Christians and then are disappointed
because they don’t become more popular, they don’t get a better job, or make
new friends, or they aren’t healed.  They
are disappointed because they are still human and life still goes on.
Epicurus said “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped
for.”
Or perhaps They Took It For Granted. You know what
I’m getting at here.  They thought “Well
of course Jesus healed us that’s what he’s supposed to do.”  Kind of the difference between a dog and a
cat.  You feed a dog and they think you
are the most wonderful person in the world, you feed a cat and they wonder what
took you so long.  Somebody said that when you take care of your dog the dog thinks you must be a
god, when you take care of your cat the cat thinks it must be a god.
We don’t thank the Doctors who make us better physically
because that’s what they are supposed to do, we don’t thank the teachers who
make us better intellectually because that’s what they are supposed to do, and
we don’t thank the pastors who help us grow spiritually because, well let’s not
go there it’s too self-serving.
Too often people view God as some genie in the air who is
there only to take care of our wish list and we never acknowledge the debt
because we don’t really acknowledge the gift.
Most prayer lists have a lot more items on the “I want” side than on the
“Thank you side.”  When our prayers are
answered how often is it written off as a coincidence?  Or do we think “Well of course God answered
my prayers, he’s God that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Don’t take God for granted! He doesn’t have to answer your
prayer, after all he’s God.
Today is Thanksgiving Sunday,
so it’s only fitting that we talk about being thankful.  These men were literally the Walking Dead,
they were still here, but for all intents and purposes they were dead.  And they were given new life.  One acknowledge his debt and nine
didn’t.  What does that have to do with
us?
As Christ followers how often
do we acknowledge the debt we owe to Jesus?
At some point every one of us was like the lepers, we were in need of a
new life, a life that we could not obtain on our own, let’s go back to the
scripture we started with in the intro video 1
Corinthians 15:21-22
So you see, just as
death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has
begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam,
everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
If you have never received the
new life that is promised to us it is available for the asking, it is a gift
and a gift cannot be earned, or it wouldn’t be a gift.  But while you can’t earn a gift you have to
accept it.
Have you accepted the gift of
grace?  The gift of Salvation?  The gift of eternal life?  If not than why not today?

It’s Your Choice.



I was part of democracy in action this week. Not only did I vote but I also worked on Election Day as the Supervising Deputy Returning Officer, which isn’t nearly as important as it sounds.
Pretty good gig, all in all, I was paid by Elections Nova Scotia to welcome people to Cornerstone.  During those twelve hours I was able to make several observations about people as they voted.
Some people were visibly excited to have the privilege to vote while others it seemed were simply voting out of obligation, they felt they had to. There were those who were hardly behind the screen long enough to mark their ballots while others were obviously deep in thought or asleep.
What they all had in common was they had each been offered a gift, the right to vote, and they had accepted it.
Many others were offered the same gift and turned it down, for any number of reasons. Perhaps some thought they were too busy,  others left it too long and ran out of time, some were disinterested and still others viewed the entire process with disdain. Bottom line: some people chose to vote and other chose not to vote, but it was their choice. Kind of reminds me of salvation. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.  

Kids and Trips

Well summer is over,
have you noticed?  And part of the mystic
of summer is the vacation trip.  You know
where you pack everything you own, get a neighbour to check the mail, drop the
pets off at the pet hotel and then lock yourself and your family into that
metal capsule called a car for hour upon hour of aggravation. 
Between all the
trips I made to NB this summer and trips that I’ve made recently it got me
thinking of some of the trips that we used to take with our kids. Because the family
home is in Saint John and Beulah camp is on the Saint John River every year
involved a half a dozen trips to New Brunswick, and little kids can make 4 ½
hours seem like an eternity. 
Have you ever taken
a long trip with children?  Sure you
have, you’ve gone to visit Grandparents or gone on a vacation and depending on
the age of your children anything over 20 minutes can categorically be
classified as a long trip.  Been
there?  Done that?   My parents could tell you horror stories of
how they travelled with my sister and I all over Europe when we were between
the ages of five and nine.
Travelling with
Children was a real joy during the time we spent in Australia.  In those four years we ventured south to
Sydney, west to the Out back and north to the Great Barrier Reef.  Each of those trips was 15 or sixteen hours
of driving, and if you add to those the 28 hour plane trip to and from Oz we
became experts on travelling with kids, and you know the formula, X being the
unknown quantity and spurt being a drip under pressure.  And in retrospect car trips with children made
our theology come alive.  Those closed
vehicles became theology labs where we furiously began to examine our
faith.  And what we discovered was that
our trips mirrored our faith journey, which is the trip that stretches from
Salvation to Heaven. 
The fact of the
matter is that we are the children of God and we are on a journey and so there
are bound to be some similarities.  So
what have we learned
1) Sometimes the
Answer is No.
  Probably the most common utterances heard
when we were on a trip were, “Daddy can I have this” or “Daddy can we stop here”.  Now let’s be truthful, how far do you think
we would have got if we stopped for every request that our family ever had on
the trip.  What would happen if we
stopped at every store, every restaurant, every playground and every park that
the kids wanted to stop at?  We’d never have
gotten to where we were going, would we?
Those request weren’t
evil, they weren’t immoral, they weren’t bad. 
They were just things like ice cream, or stopping to slide on the slides
and swing on the swings.  Or I gotta go
to the toilet, for the eighth time in two hours.  And while there was no evil par say in the
requests, they were not in the best interest of the family’s ultimate goal,
whether that goal was Carnarvon Gorge, the Whitsunday Islands or Saint John New
Brunswick.  If we stopped at every
request then we would have wallowed along from stop to stop, bloated and full
and unable to function because of the amount of junk food we had consumed.  About half way through our trip we would have
given up in frustration, finally realizing that we allowed the tyranny of the
immediate to consume our plans.
Now Angela and I are
not ogres, we aren’t monsters.  We did
stop from time to time for ice cream and to let the kids slide on the slides
and swing on the swings, we did grant their request as often as we could.  But if you were to ask our kids they would
tell you that we didn’t stop nearly enough. 
From their limited perspective they didn’t realize that we were doing
the best for them that we can.
Have you ever
wondered what life would be like if God answered every prayer that you ever
uttered?  What would have happened when
you knew that you just couldn’t live without that particular person and prayed
fervently that they would marry you?  But
they didn’t.  It was St. Teresa of Avila
who wrote “There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered
prayers.”
 Saint Garth of Oklahoma wrote “Sometimes I
thank God for unanswered prayers. 
Remember when you talk to the man upstairs that just because He doesn’t
answer doesn’t mean he don’t care, ‘cause some of God’s greatest gifts are
unanswered prayers.”  
Any unanswered prayers in your
life that you want to thank God for?  
What about that job that you just had to have?  The one you prayed for and didn’t get.   You know the one that was made redundant two
months later.  Or the car that you knew
you couldn’t live without and you prayed that you could raise the money and
couldn’t.  You know the one that a friend
bought and had to replace the transmission. 
I wonder if when God doesn’t answer the prayer on our lips it’s because
He knew best.  And it is our best that He
wants for us, God’s not some celestial spoil sport.  He is concerned that we will finish the
journey that we have started on.  And
that is His number one priority.
When people talk about God
answering prayers they often quote  Matthew
7:9-10
“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!  To
many this means that God will give us what we want, when in reality it is God
giving us the best.  We are told that the
round rocks of Palestine can sometimes look like a round loaf of bread, so if
you child asks for a rock thinking it is bread would you give it to them?  Of if they thought a snake was a fish and
asked for it, would you give it to them? 
Of course not, you would give them what they really needed not what they
asked for.
God does answer
prayer.  You know that and I know that
and the Bible confirms what we already know, God is a prayer answering
God.  But just as our kids don’t think
that we answer enough of their request in the affirmative, sometimes we are like
that with God.  If God was really good he
would answer all of our prayers with a “yes”.
God does answer
prayer, but tell that to the thirty year old, single gal who has wanted nothing
more than to be a wife and a mother and God hasn’t answered that prayer.   But maybe it’s because God is more
interested in getting her to heaven then in getting her to the altar, or maybe
it’s because He has kept her out of more than one abusive relationship.
God does answer
prayer but tell that to the worker who is at wits end working in an atmosphere
that is totally opposed to the things of God and who is constantly praying for
a change in job.  But then again maybe
God knows that worker might be the only Bible that his colleagues will ever
read. 
We
have to not only believe that what God does is good but we need to believe that
what He doesn’t do is good as well. 
Sometimes when you tell the kids “no” they pout and make the trip
unbearable.  I’m sure that yours would
never do that, but mine may have.  And
sometimes when God tells us no we pout and make the trip miserable.  Let’s realise the truth of Jesus’ statement
in Matthew 7:11 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.
We need to believe,
really believe, and not just say that we believe, that God our heavenly father
wants only the very best for us.
2) Children have
no concept of Time or Distance 
“How far? 
How much longer?  Are we there
yet?  We’ve been driving forever.”  Sound familiar?  Of course it does.  But how do you explain time to a child who
can’t tell time?  “It’s only three more
hours, honey”  “Three hours how long is
three hours?”  In Australia the kids
loved to watch “Full House” so we would tell our kids, “Three hours is like
watching six ‘Full Houses’”  “Six Full
Houses, Six Full Houses is forever.” 
Three hours isn’t very long to us but to a child three hours is eternity
personified.
“How long do I have
to endure this pain?  How long do I have
to endure this job?  How long do I have
to endure this marriage?”  Do you really
want God to answer?  He could although he
seldom does.  Do you want the answer in
terms you can’t understand?  Two more
years of pain, ten years in the job, a lifetime in the marriage.  Is that what you want to know?
We live in a time of
instants, I remember when we got our first instant on TV. and didn’t have to
wait for it to warm up.  Instant soup,
instant hot chocolate, instant communications, we used to have instant photos
that were ready in a minute, now that is too long to wait, we can take them and
see them right away.  The longest part of
my day is waiting for my computer to boot up. 
Even though I don’t
like it I agree with the person who wrote, This is the age of the half read page, the quick hash and mad dash,  the bright night with the nerves tight, the
plane hop with the brief stop.  The lamp
tan in a short span, the big shot in a good spot, the brain strain and the
heart pain, the catnaps until the spring snaps and the fun’s gone.
But you know God
usually doesn’t measure time in our terms. 
Instead he usually opts to measure the here and now against the there
and then.  This is life, and this room is
eternity, and when you compare this life against that life then this life ain’t
very long at all.  It was Ralph
Waldo Emerson who wrote “The supreme lesson of life is to
learn what the centuries say against the hours.”
We
need to recognise the truth of God’s word in 1 Chronicles 29:15 We
are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors
were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon
without a trace.
Psalm
39:5
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire
lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”
James
4:14
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like
the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Psalm
103:15-16
Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.
And Jesus’
best friend writes in 2 Peter 3:8 But you must not forget this one thing,
dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years
is like a day.
And so for us the
trip is short, it’s no challenge.  What
is a half a day in a life that has already spanned 20,000 days?   But to a child it seems endless, and so we
try another approach.  When we drove to
Carnarvon Gorge which is an Oasis in the Outback of Queensland we were driving
through miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles including almost two
hundred kilometres on unpaved roads and we would tell the kids, “Just think how
much fun you’re going to have when we get there.  Why at the gorge
there’ll be kangaroos and platypuses and koalas.  And we’ll be able to see the rock paintings
and the tree ferns.”  But they don’t buy that and that leads us to
the third point.
3) For Children The
Reward Doesn’t Seem Real. 
For us, as adults, twelve hours on the road is
worth the price because we know what’s at the other end.  I don’t mind the drive because I know the
reward, I don’t mind the journey because I know the destination.  But kids can’t always picture what’s ahead,
and sometimes what is immediate is more appealing than what is immanent.  They have forgotten the thrill of finding new
places and besides the night is dark and the road is strange. 
And so it is up to
me so it is up to me as their father to try to help them picture the rewards
ahead.  And so on the trip to the Gorge
we talked about how green the trees would be and how wet the creek would
be.   And let me tell you when you are
driving through the Arcadia Valley and there is nothing but mile upon mile of
brown it’s a real challenge to draw that type of word picture. 
And so we try to
describe our destination in terms that they can understand and appreciate.  Descriptions that make the destination worth
the trip. 
When the trip is
going well nobody notices the distance, and when life is easy everything is
great but life isn’t always easy.  And
when life seems to get hard God reminds us of the rewards at the end of the
trip.  Because sometimes the trip is long
and sometimes the nights can be dark with illness and divorce and
betrayal.  Because sometimes the way
seems strange and the destination seems distant our heavenly father provides us
with descriptions that we can visualise. 
That is why He had
John write some of those descriptions in the book of Revelation.  It was at time that the people of God were
going through immense persecutions, when being a Jesus follower could mean that
you could lose your job, your family and your life.
Revelation
21:2-4
And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of
heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout
from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will
live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He
will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow
or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Revelation
21:21-25
The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And
the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass. I saw no temple in the city,
for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need
of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its
light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will
enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of
day because there is no night there.
Revelation
22:5
And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord
God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.
A little girl was walking with her father
in the country.  No neon signs, no car
headlights or street lamps marred the stillness of the crisp evening.  As she looked into the deep blue velvet sky
studded with and array of diamonds which put the most dazzling Tiffany display
to shame, she said, “Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful what do
you think the right side will look like?” 
The promise of the
Bible is this: someday everyone who has accepted the grace and forgiveness of Jesus
and turned their lives over to him, will know the trip was worth it because
they will get to see the right side of heaven.
Will the
streets really be gold?  I don’t know but
I do know this, that whatever they are, the only word that John could find to
describe what God had shown him was Gold. 
The greatest thing is that God will be there., that is the exact message
that Paul tried to convey when he wrote to the Christian in the city of
Corinth, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying,
our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and
won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs
them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now;
rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see
now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
 And so we need to be able to visualize the
reward and that brings us to the last point.
Let’s go 
back to the scripture we started with Philippians 3:14 I press on to reach the
end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ
Jesus, is calling us.   At the end of the race, or in this case at the end of the journey
there is a prize and so the thing we need to realize is  4) When we Get Where We Are Going the Trip  will be Worth it
Whenever we got to
our destinations the excitement of discovery always seemed to outweigh the
trials of the trip.  You ever notice that
Children never interrupt their fun to remind us of how long it was between
stops, or how we had failed to stop for that ice-cream that they wanted, or how
rough the road was.
When we get to the
end of our journey and our Lord tells us “Well done my good and faithful
servant.”  When we look around at gates
like giant pearls and streets like gold. 
When we realize that there is no longer pain, and sorrow has gone.  When we stand in the presence of almighty God
and marvel at his glory, then the trials of the trip will fade, we will forget
the pain, we will lose sight of the heartache and disappointment. 


In the end the
destination makes the trip worthwhile.

Watch your . . .


It’s not what you mean, it’s what people think you mean.  Sometime ago, I read a story, and I can in no way vouch for its veracity, about a woman who misunderstood what” LOL” stood for.  She thought the acronym meant “lots of love” and in many instances that would work.  However when responding to a friend who had recently lost her mother the unfortunate lady wrote something along the lines of  “Sorry to hear about the death of your dear mother, LOL.”
There are all several of those acronyms out there that should not be used by those who claim to follow Jesus.  The problem is that when they’re mentioned  being inappropriate, their response often is “sure that’s what other’s mean  when they use ________ (you can fill in the blank), but that’ not what I mean when I use it.”  But the truth is, it’s not what you mean, it’s what people think you mean.  So even if you think OMG stands for Oh My Goodness, people are hearing you misusing God’s name.  And when the Bible speaks about taking God’s name in vain, it means using it in a frivolous manner.  And ending a sentence with the Name of the One who created the universe is frivolous, whether it’s written or spoken.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.