Insane Giving



They called him the “Phantom Philanthropist”.  Two weeks ago there were at least a dozen reports around the HRM about a stranger handing out fifty and hundred dollar bills along with five dollar coins.  In some reports he asked people to pay it forward, in other cases people were simply asked to thank God for what they had received. 
And people were confused; why would someone give money to complete strangers?  Others raised concerns over the man’s mental health, after all what sane person would do such a thing?
One mental health worker said she didn’t think he was experiencing mental illness. Instead she suggested  “He’s a generous individual and is wrapped up in the acts of kindness and is wanting to help people.” 
Apparently being wrapped up in acts of kindness will get you admitted for a mental health assessment because that’s where Richard Wright ended up when he returned home to PEI.

Wright’s acts seem rare and even unstable in our world today, but millions of people make the lives of complete strangers different every day by sponsoring children through organizations like Compassion Canada.  And they don’t do it because they are unstable, they do it because they are following Jesus who told us to love the least of these.

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


Noah, not the Movie

Has everyone heard about the movie coming out next week
called Noah?  That was the trailer for
it.  Now understand that Noah, the Movie
is not the same as Noah the Bible story. 
And they’ve tried to tweak it to make it work, as a biblical epic, but
it just doesn’t.
They’ve tried focus groups and all they’ve done is made
people cranky. 
One Christian commentator, Barbara
Nicolosi Harrington made this statement “Paramount
takes liberties with ‘Noah’ that they would never take with ‘Harry Potter,’“  She goes on to say “if
there’s a fan base for a source material, that fan base has a right to expect
the fundamental meanings of the material to be intact.”  Which is interesting because she is a
script writer for a Movie call “Mary” which is about the first five years of
Jesus life, which is covered in about a dozen verses in  the bible. 
And it’s not just a Christian concern that the film doesn’t
fall in line with what we would define as the “Historical Noah Story”.  A number of Middle Eastern countries have
decided to ban the movie.  Juma Al-Leem the Director of Media Content for the
United Arab Emirates stated “There are scenes that
contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it, it is important
to respect these religions and not show the film.”
So if you are looking for a grand biblical epic, this won’t
be it, from what I’ve heard it is preachy, but preachy for all the wrong
reasons.
Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t go see it, if you are
looking for a action flick this might be for you, I’m hoping to get to see it.  If the fact that it doesn’t stick to the
biblical script is going to make you cranky, than maybe you should go see “The
Muppets” this weekend. 
This is week six of our Old School Sunday School
series.  Through February and March we’ve
been looking at Old Testament stories and we’ve had so much fun that next
spring we are going to do it again with the New Testament.
And I have heard all kinds of positive comments from
people who remember their Sunday School days, and we have discovered that everyone
seems to have a favorite Sunday School Chorus that they did the actions
for.   Probably one of my earliest
memories of Sunday School were from when I was a kid and Dad was posted to
Germany with the forces and for awhile we attended the Salvation Army, don’t
remember going to church but I remember going to Sunday School in the
basement.  And they taught us, I’m in the
Lord’s Army.  For a five year old army
brat it was an awesome Sunday School Song.  Maybe you remember it, it was sung to the tune
of the Old Grey Mare. 
I may never march in the Infantry,  
Ride in the cavalry,
Shoot the artillery. 
I may never zoom o’er the enemy, 
But I’m in the Lord’s Army. 
But that’s not what we are singing today, instead I’m
going to invite Pastor Jason to come up and lead us in a fairly new Kid’s
chorus that goes with today’s message. (Rise and Shine)
And if you are thinking that song sounded familiar but you
never went to Sunday School it’s because Nate Flanders sang it on the Simpsons.
The story of Noah happens very
early in the Bible, in the very first book the book of Genesis and we are told
that God looked down upon the earth and saw nothing but wickedness.  Well, almost. 
In the darkness of sin God saw a promise, a beacon and that was the man
Noah, the bible tells us in Genesis 6:9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a
righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he
walked in close fellowship with God.
Wow, and so God decided to start over by destroying the
world and all that was in it with a flood. 
And that’s hard to get our heads around and I’ve often said that if we
understood God he wouldn’t be much of a God. 
And because Noah had found favour in God’s eyes God instructed him to
build an ark, a huge floating zoo.  And
into that zoo Noah was to bring a pair of each animal and his family.
And you know the story, how it began to rain, and it
rained torrentially for forty days and forty nights, without stop, and if that
wasn’t enough the bible tells us that all the water erupted from the
earth.  And the earth and all that was on
it was destroyed.  And then the rain
stopped and after 150 days the ark came to rest on a mountain. 
Eventually we are told that Noah released a dove and it
came back with an the leaf from an olive tree and Noah knew that the new
beginning had begun.  And as part of that
new beginning God made a promise to Noah that we read earlier and he sealed it
with a rainbow.
This morning’s message isn’t about Noah and the Ark,
Because you all know the story of Noah and the Ark;
everybody knows the story of Noah and the Ark. 
Even people who are vehemently nonchurched know the story of Noah and
the ark.  It is probably the best known
story in the Old Testament and it is celebrated by everyone. You don’t find
depictions of David and Goliath or Daniel in the Lion’s Den in stores, but you
can always find Noah or his boat.
And people are always looking for the silly boat. Here’s a
hint; even if they found the Ark in perfect condition tomorrow the sceptics
would still disbelieve, and if they never find it the faithful would still
believe. It was built out of wood and has been exposed to the elements for thousands
of years, if they find it the miracle wouldn’t so much be the story of Noah as
it will be the story of a wood boat that was still around after all this time,
and I want some of that gopher wood for the next deck I build.
So this message isn’t about Noah and the Ark; and it’s not
about animals and forty days of rain, instead it is about rainbows and promises.
We read the scripture earlier
that contains the promise, here it is again, Genesis
9:13
I have placed my rainbow in the clouds.
It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.
So the first promise of the
rainbow is the Promise of Justice Remember
that without rain there can be no rainbow, and had there been no flood there
would have been no promise. And the flood was the result of humanities
sinfulness. If we go back to Genesis 6:11-12 we read Genesis
6:11-12
Now God saw that the earth had
become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption
in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt.
There is an interesting note in
Hebrews 11 in the New Testament that tends to put the Judgement of God into
perspective. Hebrews 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his
family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had
never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and
he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
Did you ever have a teacher in high school or college that
graded on the curve?  You know the theory
that if a test was a good test and the teacher was a good teacher then the
grades should fall along a bell curve. You’d have so many As and Fs, a few more
Bs and Ds and the majority would fall in the C range.  C being average and by it’s very definition
most people are average, that’s what average is.  And so a curve would end up looking something
like this.  However, if the test wasn’t a
good test or the material wasn’t taught well enough the entire curve would move
down and when that happened a professor who was committed to the entire curve
thing would grade accordingly, and move the marks up. Is that somewhat clear?
The problem was when the curve was here, and one or two
students still scored high, thus indicating that the problem wasn’t with the
test or the teacher but with the students. And the prof wouldn’t move the
marks.  We referred to those people in
the nicest possible way as curve blowers.
Noah was a curve blower. Had
there not been a Noah then God could conclude that either he hadn’t taught the
course properly or that the test was too hard. But if we go back to the book of
Genesis we read in Genesis 6:9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a
righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he
walked in close fellowship with God.
Because
Noah was righteous, because Noah was blameless , because Noah enjoyed a close
relationship with God that was the evidence that it could be done, if people
had of wanted to do it.
And if there are no consequences for disobeying the rules,
then they aren’t rules they are just suggestions.  It was Benjamin
Disraeli, onetime Prime Minister of England who said, “Justice is truth in action.”
Think about what happened as Noah was building the ark?  This puppy was 450 foot long, 75 foot wide
and 45 foot high. I’m sure that people asked, “So Noah what are you doing?” “I’m
building a boat.”  “How come, we live in
the middle of the desert?” And then Noah would proceed to tell them what God
had told him, but there’s no record of mass conversions or for that matter
unmass conversion.  By the time the ark
was finished even though people would have been aware of what was going to
happen, they continued in their evil ways.
And here my friends is the
application for today, God is still just, and he still requires obedience,
remember Jesus told us in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
The promise of God’s justice
reminds us that in the end justice will be served.  Sometimes we stand and look at the world and
history and wonder where all the evil fits into it, and if God is a just God why
doesn’t he do something.  Well He will.
In the end Justice will be served, and as Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21:15 Justice is
a joy to the godly, but it terrifies evildoers.
In the
end the Hitlers the Stalins, the Charles Mansons the Osama bin Laden and the
Henry Morgentalers will
have to answer for their evil.
Two hundred years ago Thomas Jefferson wrote in regards to the United Sates
“I tremble for our country when I reflect that God is
just.”   Two hundred years
down the road when we look at what is happening around us we understand what was
meant by Ruth Graham who told her husband, Billy Graham “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and
Gomorrah.”
Promise of Grace  So first there is the promise of Justice,
God will not be mocked, the evildoers will not escape punishment. And I know
that there are folks out there who are thinking yes, that’s what we need is
justice.  I’m not so sure, Margaret Atwood said “Never
pray for justice, because you might get some.”
When you cheer the fact that
God will judge sinners keep in mind Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious
standard.
Remember what Mark Twain
said “Heaven goes by favour; if it went by merit, you
would stay out and your dog would go in.” 
Justice by its very definition is getting what we deserve.  Mercy is getting less then what we deserve
and Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. 
I would never ask my barber to me justice, no sir I want grace.
Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God,
and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which go with it. It means that even
though we are sinners God treats us as children and heirs.
Why? Because even though it’s
justice that we deserve listen to what God’s word says in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved
you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a
gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so
none of us can boast about it.
And so we have the promise of God’s grace in our lives.
Promise of Provision  How
many of you have pets? How often do you buy pet food?  For six years we had a Great Dane and it
seemed that we were always buying pet food. 
  Noah had to feed all the animals
in the Ark for over a year and there’s only one line in Genesis that says Genesis 6:21 And be sure
to take on board enough food for your family and for all the animals.”
I wonder if Noah knew how long they would be in the
ark.  I wonder if he was able to store
enough water, I know it rained for forty days and forty nights, but then it
stopped, and they were in the ark for another eleven months.  There is no way that Noah could have taken on
enough food to feed that menagerie, instead it is what we see so often with
God, first he asks us to do our part, and then he does his part.    I’m
going to take a wild guess and make the assumption that a miracle had to have
happened here to keep this menagerie fed for over a year. But I wonder if Noah
wondered why the food never ran out?
God still provides for us today,
but I wonder if we ever give God the credit for His provision?  How about the promise of God in Philippians 4:19 And this
same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious
riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
The
promise of God’s provision is still with us today.  And I know that we don’t get everything we
want, but the question is do we get everything we need?  Of course it all depends on how we define
need. 
Through
the years I have had to deliver food baskets or some funds to a “needy” families
who desperately needed food.  They call
me from their phone, which if I need to call them back they know who it is
because they have caller id, when I get to the apartment I choke on the smell
of cigarette smoke and they don’t hear me when I knock because they are too
busy watching cable on their Flat Screen TV or are on their laptop
checking Facebook.  Ok, not always, but enough to make me a little
jaded. 
In 1981 I
was trying to finish off my private pilots license and prayed “Oh God please
provide for this need in my life.”  In
the fall I still didn’t have my license and reminded God of my prayer and his
promise and he pointed to the car I bought during the summer.  “But God” I cried “I needed that car.”  Uh-huh and what about the eighty percent of
the students at the college that didn’t have a car.
Did you
know that the children at Cornerstone sponsor a little girl in Ghana?  Her name is Grace.  And because little kids in Nova Scotia do
extra chores and give up some of their allowance money a little girl most of
them will never meet is provided for.  
She gets at least one hot meal a week, she receives a gift at Christmas
and on her birthday, she is guaranteed health care and most important she is guaranteed
an education.  All for $41.00 a month, so
through children God provides for a child.
 I’m trying to make you understand that God has
promised that He will provide for you and he does on a daily basis and very
seldom do we stop and say “Wow, without God I wouldn’t have. . . whatever.” And
understand that there are times that God provides for our needs and we spend it
on our wants, and then try to blame Him.
Promise of
Deliverance
You
understand that God saved the lives of Noah and his family, if it hadn’t been
for God’s deliverance it would have been Aqua La Vista for all of them.  But there came a time that they had to die. Kind of like the whole healing thing, yes I believe
that God heals, but you gotta die sometime.
Here’s another promise of
deliverance John 8:51 I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys my teaching will never
die!”
You like that?  Oh I know Christians die, if we didn’t we
wouldn’t be able to stem the flow of converts, but this isn’t it people.  This is merely a hiccup in eternity and the
real promise comes in 1 Corinthians 15:54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies
that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up
in victory.
If you don’t have John 3:16
memorized in some translation then shame on you, 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 that
my friends is the deliverance that is promised to each one of us.
 Let’s finish with an interesting
scientific tidbit I discovered years ago. 
Since you’re always standing in the centre of
your own rainbow only you can see how the light reflects off the moisture where
you’re standing. Therefore every rainbow is unique to each person viewing it.
And every one of God’s promises are unique to the person
receiving them, you won’t get my promises and I won’t get yours.
And for Christians here is the greatest promise
of all: 2 Peter 1:4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us
great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share
his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Lost. . .



It’s baffling and just a little bit scary.  We are constantly reminded in today’s world of the fact that Big Brother is watching, with its satellites and  endless array of electronic goodies, and that whatever liberties we give up it’s for a greater good.  The world is a safer place.  So how could they lose an airplane? 

We are told that satellites are able to read the licence plates on cars and that our email and cell phone communications are constantly being monitored and perused.  So wouldn’t you have thought that someone might have noticed that flight MH370 had diverted from its course, long before it was declared missing?

With the tracking devices on board the plane, not to mention the GPS capabilities of hundreds of cell phones the question  is being asked at Tim Horton’s and around the world: Where is the missing airplane and it’s passengers?


Not to diminish the loss of the plane and its passengers, but there is a world full of lost people who don’t even know they are lost.  Jesus said those folks were His very reason for coming, and if we are followers of Jesus then shouldn’t we share His concern for the lost who are all around us?  And they aren’t even that hard to find. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


Moses, A Long Way From Nothing

He was a hero.  And not just in the Bible but also on the big
screen.  But that wasn’t the way his life
began.  He was born as the son of slaves,
his immediate future looked bleak and short. 
Nobody would have assumed that his name
would ever be known outside of his immediate family but ultimately he would
assume an honoured spot in the traditions of the majority of the world’s
religions. 
His life would be featured in an
Academy award winning film as well as a Disney animated feature that also won
an Oscar.  And well before he was winning
awards on the big screen he was a star on the flannelgraph.  His name of course is Moses. 
This is week five of our Old School
Sunday School series.  Each week we’ve
been re-telling some of the great bible stories from the Old Testament, and so
we’ve discovered new insights from the story of Jonah and the Whale, David and
Goliath, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and last week we looked at Daniel in
the Lion’s Den.
A generation ago most children grew up
hearing these stories in Sunday School and while Cornerstone doesn’t offer a
traditional Sunday School program our Children’s ministries on Sunday morning
still teach our children these stories, albeit without the flannelgraph. 
For years flannelgraphs were an
integral part of the Sunday School experience. 
How many of you had never seen or heard tell of a flannelgraph before we
started this series?
This history of the flannelgraph grows
back over 70 years.  In 1942 a lady by
the name of Ruth Overhotzer along with students from Dallas Baptist University launched
a magazine called “Child Evangelism Magazine”. 
And each issue included a bible lesson with paper cut-outs to be used on
a flannelgraph.  And as they say, the
rest is history.  It wasn’t long before
churches started ordering the magazine so they could use the flannelgraphs to
supplement their Sunday School Curriculum.
Someone commented that flannelgraph was
the first PowerPoint but that would actually be stained glass windows. 
In most Sunday schools, before the
students went to class, there would be the Sunday School Opening and that was
when all the children gathered together and sang songs and played games. 
And not just any games but games like
“Sword Drill”.  How many people know what
a sword drill is?  The kids would hold
their bibles and the Sunday School Superintendent would call out scripture
references and the kids would race to find the reference in their bibles and
then they would jump up and read the verse. 
That was how a whole generation learned to find things in the Bible.  This was also the time that children would be
recognized for memorizing their memory verses for the week.  And that was how a whole generation learned
to memorize bible verses.
Of course both of those were dependent
on the children bringing their bibles to Sunday School, which was of course
dependent on the children having a bible. 
Brilliant concept!
We aren’t going to do a sword drill
this morning but we are singing a Sunday School Chorus and Pastor Bayley is
coming to lead us in “I am a C-H-R-S-T-I-A-N”
So without further ado let’s look at
the story of Moses.  While most people
think Moses’ story begins in the book of Exodus it actually begins much earlier
than that.  Because there wouldn’t be a
Moses’ story without the story of Joseph which is told in Genesis. 
You remember Joseph?  He was the boy with the coat of many colours
who was sold into slavery by his brothers; he ended up in Egypt where through a
series of events he became right hand man to the Pharaoh.  In that position he was able to take steps to
prepare Egypt for a seven year famine that came over the area and ultimately he
was able to send for his family to save them from the famine as well.  
Joseph and his family were highly
regarded in Egypt.  But that was
then.  The book of Exodus picks up the
story 400 years later and tells us that Joseph and the seventy members of his
family had prospered and multiplied, and then there is a note that says, “Eventually,
a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had
done.”
And the new King, or Pharaoh started thinking about
what would happen if the Israelites rebelled, or if they decided to side with
the enemies of Egypt.  And there doesn’t
seem to be any indications that either of those things were reality, but then
again our realities are often determined by how we define them. 
So, the king ordered that all of the Israelites
should become the slaves of the Pharaoh to build cities for him, and as the
saying goes, they worked them like rented mules. 
But that wasn’t enough so the Pharaoh gave orders
that all the baby boys born to the Israelites should be drowned at birth.
But one couple decided that their child wouldn’t be
killed and so they hid him for the first three months of his life and then they
put him in a basket and set him in the reeds at the edge of the Nile
River.  Do you remember when Big Macs
came in the Styrofoam boxes?  Angela did
a Sunday School lesson at our church in Australia where they made baby Moses
out of clothes pegs, wrapped them up and put them in the Big Mac Boxes.  She called them McMoses, but that’s a whole
other story.
Well even if you didn’t go to Sunday School you
know the story because you’ve seen one of the movies.  The baby is discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter,
she takes him home, names him Moses and he is raised in the palace.
And then we don’t hear from Moses for 40 years,
until one day the story picks up with Moses seeing an Egyptian beating a Jewish
slave and he kills the Egyptian and buries his body in the desert. 
Afraid to face the consequences of his actions he
leaves Egypt and settles in Midian where he got married and became a
shepherd.  Years later, while tending his
sheep God interrupts Moses’ new life by speaking to him from a burning bush,
commanding him to go back to Egypt and lead the Jewish people to freedom. 
And while Moses doesn’t jump at the chance
eventually he relents, goes back to Egypt and tells the new Pharaoh “set my
people free” and again, because of the movies you know the rest of the story.
It was however Golda
Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister, who said
“Let me tell you something that we Israelis have
against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to
the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!”
So what is it that we learn from the story of
Moses.
Moses Was
Given a Gift
The first thing we discover is the incredible gift
that Moses was given.  All across Egypt
little Jewish boys were being killed. 
And Moses had his life spared. 
And it wasn’t because of anything he had done.  Maybe he was a cute baby, but there would
have been other cute babies. 
But he didn’t just have his life spared; he was
adopted into the royal family and as raised as the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  
Moses’ survival and his eventual
position in Pharaoh’s court was the perfect definition of grace.  Which is getting what you don’t deserve.  Moses did nothing to gain that position; it
was his mother and sister who took the risk. 
It was Pharaoh’s daughter who took a risk; even Pharaoh took a risk when
he welcomed this child into his home.
All that Moses had was a gift; he had
done nothing to deserve it.
And most of us are very much like that
in all that we are. It was American politician John
Raese who said “I made my money the
old-fashioned way; I inherited it.” 
For most of us we have inherited what we have, not
necessarily wealth but the fact that we were born in a developed country was
something we inherited.  We did nothing
to deserve it but here we are. 
You may be musical or athletic or
artistic, or pretty and if you are then those are gifts that were given to
you.  You may have improved them with
hard work and practice but you had nothing to do with the gift that was given
to you.
You may feel that it was your hard work
that allowed you to succeed in life, but it was a gift that allowed you to be
born in a country like Canada instead of Haiti or Sierra Leone.
Sometimes as Christ followers we forget
that our salvation is a gift, Paul spells it out in Ephesians
2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed.
And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a
reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Moses
Squandered His Gift 
Think of
the potential that Moses had to be an advocate for his people.  He lived in the Palace, he was raised as the
son of Pharaoh’s Daughter and apparently enjoyed all the benefits that went
along with that and yet he seems that he still knew what his roots were.  But there is no indication that he ever spoke
up for the people of Israel, no record that he ever spoke out against their
slavery or the brutality they had to endure. Instead he simply took what he had
as a matter of course.
There is a word for that and that word is “Entitlement.”  When we think we are entitled to everything
we have.  If you google the word
entitlement you will find that the boomers often speak of “the Entitlement
Generation” or “Generation Me”.  And the
Entitlement Generation is defined in Dictionary.com as; The group born between 1979 and 1994 who believe they are owed certain
rights and benefits without further justification. 
And I love the joke about the young college graduate who was
interviewing for his first job and  he told
the interviewer that he expected to start at $65,000.00 a year, with a company
car and four weeks annual vacation.  The
interviewer listened to the young man and replied, “How about we start you at
$100,000.00 a year, give you six weeks’ vacation and make sure your company car
is a BMW?”  the young man replied “You’re
joking?”  “Well sure” said the
interviewer, “But you started it.”
John Maxwell said “They were born on third and think they hit a triple”
But if there is an entitlement generation it was created by their
parents that would be us.   We were the ones who told them they should
have it all, we were the ones who insisted that everyone should get an award
for just participating, that you weren’t rewarded for effort just for showing
up and we were the ones who scolded the teachers when our kids messed up in
school.  You understand that by
definition not every student can be above average. 
But I don’t think it is limited to a generation, I’ve met plenty
of boomers who feel entitled, and plenty of seniors who feel entitled simply
because they have lived a long time. 
Entitlement isn’t defined by our age but by our attitude.
When we were on our cruise last month we commented to our
waiter one morning about the amount of food that was left on plates and his face
clouded over and he said “They act as if they are entitled to simply waste
their food and they never realize how lucky they are.”
And it’s not a new problem it was over a hundred years ago
that Mark Twain said
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a
living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
In the same way that Moses had the opportunity to make a
difference in the lives of others we have the opportunity to make a difference
in the lives of others. 
We need to use the gifts we were given to help others,
whether it be our wealth, and understand that compared to the rest of the world
we are incredibly wealthy, or our influence on the world stage or just taking
steps to protect the environment around us.  If you want to experience entitlement mention
to a boomer that they should drive a smaller car to lessen their impact on the
environment. 
It so easy to fall into the
trap of Cain when he asked of God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and if you are
asking that question the answer is “Yes”. 
That’s why we told in Galatians 6:2-3 Share
each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you
are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not
that important.
You will be the one who chooses what you will do with the
gift you were given. 
But here’s a hint; Gratitude and
entitlement cannot occupy the same space. 
As long as you think you are entitled to what you have you won’t be
grateful for it.  But once you recognize
that it is a gift and start to express your gratitude for what you have you
will lose your sense of entitlement.
Let’s pick up the story again, we are told that one
day Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and in a fit of anger he
killed the Egyptian and buried his body. 
Realizing what he had done Moses was forced to flee Egypt Moses Lost It All.  All that Moses had taken for
granted he no longer had, he lost it all. 
In some ways we might applaud Moses for standing up for the slave but
the reality is that he took authority that wasn’t his. 
Every once in a while you read about some who shoots an
abortion provider, or a vigilante taking justice into their own hands and it’s
the same deal they are taking authority that is not theirs to take.
Moses might have used his influence to save many slaves
instead he loses his temper and just saves one slave.  You might say that Moses was a dollar short
and a day late in the sudden development of his social conscience.
And so Moses went from being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter
to a shepherd in the middle of nowhere. 
Actually it was in a place called Midian, but I think the English
translation for Midian is “The middle of nowhere.”  And it was there that he met and married the
woman who would be his wife, it was there his children were born.  And he settled into his new life as a keeper
of sheep.
From the palace to the desert from a future without limits
to a future watching sheep.  Wow, but it
was Alexander MacLaren who said “God tests His weapons before He uses them, and great men
are generally prepared for great deeds by great sorrows.”   And apparently that was the case with
Moses.   Because in spite of it all, Moses was Used by God
And it was when Moses was in the solitude of the desert, just
him, his sheep and God that God spoke to him. 
The story was read for us earlier, how a bush began to burn without
actually being consumed and then God spoke to Moses from the middle of the
burning bush to reveal his plan for delivering his people from slavery. 
And Moses wasn’t convinced, he couldn’t see past Moses the
Shepherd, he couldn’t understand how God could use him and his speech
impediment.  But Moses the shephered forgot
Moses, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter who had been brought up to lead people.  And Moses would need the attributes of both
to fulfil the task that was being set before him. 
 He would need all the leadership
abilities that had been instilled in him while he lived in Egypt, after all he
was being called to stand up to the leader of a nation and he was being called
to be the physical and spiritual leader of millions of people who were rescued from
captivity. 
And maybe you are wondering; where did the millions
of people come from? I thought back in Genesis Joseph only had 70 relatives?   True
enough, but when a man a woman love each other. . .
Actually if those seventy people represented 25
couples and each couple had four children by the time they were 25 then the population
would double every 25 year.  And over the
span of 400 years there would be 16 generations, each one doubling the previous
number.  And so the 70 had the potential
to become close to two million.
And so the first part of Moses’ life he was trained
to lead people, and the next part of his life he was trained to lead people in
the wilderness.  Seriously, what would
the son of Pharaoh’s daughter know about wilderness survival?  Probably no more than a shepherd would know
about leading a nation.
It’s sometimes easy to look at a story in parts
without seeing it as a whole.  The young
Moses was way too full of himself to be much good, but on the other hand the
older Moses doubted himself so much that he wouldn’t have been much good.  But if you were able to combine them, what a
combination you would have.
And sometimes we wonder how God can use us, but the
reality is that God can use anyone, and all that we are goes into the package
that God is going to use.  But like Moses
we need to come to the place that we are willing to be used. 
What is it that God is calling
you to do? How will he ask you to change your world?
We haven’t all been called to be
Moses, or the Apostle Paul, or Martin Luther, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham
but we can all make a difference, and we are all supposed to make a
difference. 

It may be as simple as paying $41.00 a month to lift a child out of poverty in
a developing country, and you will be able to hear more about that in two weeks
when George Canyon is here. 

Jesus’ brother James reminded
those who would call themselves Christ Followers James
1:27
Pure and genuine religion in the sight
of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and
refusing to let the world corrupt you.  And
I would think that hasn’t changed in the past two thousand years. 
But it’s more than simply feeding
the hungry.  It may be using your vote to
make a difference and it may be using your influence to make a difference.  You understand when you help out with CIA at
Feed Nova Scotia or a soup kitchen, you are making a difference in the
world.  When a tired family comes home
from a long day sitting next to a sick child at the IWK and there is a hot meal
waiting for them at Ronald McDonald House, you are making a difference.
When you mission dollars support
Kerry and Carol Allison working with homeless teens in Odessa in Ukraine, you
are making a difference.  When you help
with any of the children and youth ministries at Cornerstone, you are shaping
the lives of the leaders of tomorrow.
And on Sunday morning when you
reach out to people and make them feel welcome at Cornerstone, you are making a
difference in their world.

Missing



How long would you have to be gone before someone noticed that you were missing? A couple of days, a week, a month? How about six years? The body of Pia Farrenkopf—a forty-nine-year-old woman from Pontiac, Michigan—was discovered sitting in her Jeep Liberty, parked in her garage last week. Authorities assume that Ms. Farrenkopf’s body had been in the garage since 2008, the year the plates on her Jeep had expired. And nobody really cared.
She was apparently estranged from her family and her neighbours said she travelled a lot. They hadn’t noticed that she wasn’t around, and her bills were paid automatically. It was only after her bank accounts were emptied and her home was repossessed that her body was found in the garage.
How sad it is that you could be dead for 6 years and have nobody in your life that cared enough to check.
Does your life make a difference to those around you? The time to make sure you will be missed is now. After all, it will be your choices today that will determine how you will be missed tomorrow.
In the beginning, God said “it is not good for man to be alone” and that is still true today.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

A Lion of a Prayer

It’s one of those phrases that you
hear every once in a while but I’m not always sure that those using it are aware
of the context.   It often involves
someone who is in a tough spot and they will say “I felt like Daniel in the
lions den.” 
But it is just something they
say?  I wonder if they actually know who
Daniel was or why he was in the Lion’s den? 
Or if it’s just something that’s said. 
In Australia people would sometimes say “It’s a bit of a sticky wicket”,
which originated from the game of cricket, which if I tried to explain here
would take up more time than I have this morning. 
But you are in luck, because this is
week four of Old School Sunday School here at Cornerstone So far we’ve had to
opportunity to learn about Jonah and the Whale, David and Goliath and last week
we looked at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s adventure with the fiery
furnace.  And this week our lesson will
be “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” 
Most of us are at least somewhat
familiar with the concept of Sunday School, perhaps you attended as a child or
you know someone who did.  But how many
of you know that it was started in 1780 by a Jesus follower, named Robert
Raikes,  as a means to teach children of
common people how to read and write.  In
that day and age children worked 6 days a week and his dream was to give them
an opportunity on the seventh day to learn regardless of how much or how little
they had.  Five years from it’s beginning
it is estimated that there were 250,000 children enrolled And within 50 years
we are told that there were 160,000 Jesus Followers teaching 1.5 million
children how to read and write and how to love God with all their minds. 
And while we are seeing fewer and
fewer Sunday Schools thirty years ago they were the primary outreach of
churches.  We had contests to encourage
children to bring their bibles and their friends.  If your church was any type of church at all
it had a fleet of old school buses that drove through neighbourhoods picking up
kids and driving them to Sunday School. It was called the “Bus Ministry”.  And there was a virtual army of volunteers
who kept that ministry alive, driving and maintaining buses, going door to door
inviting kids to come to Sunday School. 
Hillside Wesleyan Church in Cole Harbour was recognized as the fastest
growing Sunday School in Nova Scotia in the late 70’s and it was primarily
because of their bus ministry, they had seven buses and a crew of 30
volunteers. 
Imagine today, a stranger coming to
your door and inviting you to put your kid on a bus that had been bought at a
surplus auction to take them to a church you may never have attended.  And it worked, back then.  As proof of that one day in 1974 a young
couple came to a house in Lawrencetown and invited a couple to put their kid on
a bus and send her to Sunday School, and they did.  And eight years later I married her. 
One of the highlights of Sunday
School were the songs, full of action and enthusiasm.  The songs were printed in song books and song
sheets and eventually they went high tech and the person with the best printing
would write them on a transparency for the Overhead Projector. 
And I’m going to invite Pastor Jason
to come back up and lead us in Deep and Wide.
But Daniel in the Lion’s Den isn’t
just something we say, it’s got a story behind it, and  for those of you who were brought up going to
Sunday School you might be familiar with the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den,
it really is a great story. 
It begins when Israel is
conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and many of the people are taken
into captivity as slaves.   We pick up
the story after Nebuchadnezzar returns home with the captives and he’s looking
for personal attendants to work in the palace and we read in  Daniel 1:4 “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he
said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted
with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace.
Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
Last week our lesson was about
three of these young men and how they took a stand for righteousness and
refused to bow down to the Idol set up by King Nebuchadnezzar.  But that was last week. 
This week we are looking at
another one of those young men who was selected to be groomed in the courts of
Babylon and he is the hero of our story Daniel. 
Except he’s no longer a young man. 
Now I know that’s how we often picture him, in his late teens or early
twenties, as a matter of fact many of the classic paintings show Daniel in that
light.  But while that may be perception
it’s not reality.   
You will recall that the king who
captured Jerusalem and took the young men as slaves was King Nebuchadnezzar. 
And King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon from 605 to 562 B.C. and we know
that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 and it was then that Daniel was taken into
captivity. You OK? 
And we know that Nebuchadnezzar died in
562 B.C. about 25 years after Daniel had been taken captive. Now let’s fast
forward to the King in this story, we are told that his name was Darius and
many scholars believe that he reigned around 539 B.C.   Which if we do the math, 587 – 539 =
48.  So this happened at least 48 years
after Daniel was taken captive.  So if
assume that Daniel was say 15 when he was taken captive he would be at least 63
when the story took place and maybe even older. 
That was what is technically called a “Tangent”. 
So, Daniel has risen to position of
influence with King Darius and  those who
are jealous of his rise decide that enough is enough.  They knew that Daniel was a devout God
Follower and the times he spent talking to the his God were very important to
him, so they convinced the King to pass a law that would make it illegal to
pray to anyone other than the king for thirty days.  And the penalty for breaking the law would be
to be fed to the lions. They really didn’t mess around.  
Well, when Daniel heard about the new
law, he did what any of us would do I’m sure, he went home to pray about it and
his enemies spied him praying and reported him to the king.  And the bible tell us that this bothered the
King because he really liked Daniel, but he was bound by the law and ordered
that Daniel be thrown into the Lion’s Den. 
Thus, feeling like Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The bible tells us that the
King couldn’t sleep all night and rushed to the den in the morning to discover
the fate of his friend, but instead of finding Daniel dead he found him safe in
the midst of the Lions.  And as a result
he had Daniel’s enemies fed to the Lions and declared that everyone should
worship Daniels God. 
So what do we learn from the story
of Daniel in the Lion’s Den?  Well, I
think it’s important that we look at the prayer that got Daniel in all the
problems.
Daniel 6:10-11 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he
went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open
toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had
always done,

giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house
and found him praying and asking for God’s help.
The first thing we discover is that Daniel’s Prayer Was A Prayer of Habit  We are told that he knelt down as usual,
and he prayed three times a day as he had always done.  He didn’t have to think about what he was
doing, he just did it.  He made a point
each day of talking to God, it was his habit. 
We all have habits, and usually when we use the word we think of bad
habits, the things that make up our New Year’s resolutions and then three
months later we talk about giving the same things up for lent. 
But there are good habits and bad
habits, they are simply the paths that we have trod through life that are easy
to walk.  I’ve always done it that
way.  When I mow my lawn, I always do it
the same way, when I clear my driveway I always do it the same way.  I have a friend who always eats the same way,
he positions his plate in a particular manner and then eats all of his
potatoes, then all of his vegetables then all of his meat.  It’s a habit.
Mortimer
J. Adler who was an American educator wrote,   “Habits are formed by the repetition of particular
acts. They are strengthened by an increase in the number of repeated acts.
Habits are also weakened or broken, and contrary habits are formed by the
repetition of contrary acts.”
And what are your spiritual
habits?  You understand that they are
formed by what you do, are you in the habit of attending church?  The more you do it the easier it gets.  But when you get out of the habit it gets
harder to do.  How about reading your
bible?  Do you have a certain time that
you do that?  Nice thing about using a
plan in youversion on your computer, phone or tablet is that it will actually
remind you to read, it helps with your habit.  I discovered very early in my Christian life
that this worked the same way with my giving to the church, if I did it every
week, if I made it my habit it was a lot easier, otherwise I was forever
playing catch up and feeling guilty.
Aristotle said  “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence,
then, is not an act, but a habit.”
And so Daniels habit was that
he prayed three times a day, not a bad habit to have, start the day with
prayer, pause in the middle of the day to touch base with God and then finish
with a word of prayer before you go to bed. 
We are told in Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.   You catch that?  Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer;
it was his habit to find a quiet place where he could talk to his father.  And time and time again Jesus taught people
to pray and he always seemed to begin with the words, “when you prayer”.  His assumption was that prayer would be their
habit.
And the great thing is that
making something a habit is a choice, it is something we can choose to do.  We can choose to pray, we can choose to read
God’s word we can choose to make church attendance a habit. 
Ben Franklin had it right when he
said, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what
remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.”
So what will your net spiritual worth
be when you subtract your bad habits from your good ones?
Daniel 6:10-11 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he
went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open
toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always
done, giving
thanks to his God.
Then
the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking
for God’s help.
Daniel’s Prayer Was A Prayer of Thanksgiving  Let’s pause for a
moment and reflect on Daniel’s life at this particular moment.  The first thing we need to recognize is that
he was a slave.  His country had been
invaded, he had been taken captive and while he might have a better life then
many of the others who had been taken captive at the same time he was still a
slave, he did what he was told and he lived at the whim of his master.  Then he has his religious freedom taken away,
he was told that he could not pray.  Not
that he could not pray in school, not that he couldn’t pray as part of the
opening of parliament or the legislative assembly, he was told that he could
not pray, period.  And now because he was
willing to disobey the decree not to pray he was facing the death penalty.  And what is the first thing he does?  He gives thanks to God. 
Maybe he thanked God that his life had
been spared during the invasion, maybe he thanked God that he was a palace
slave and not a field slave, maybe he thanked God that in a time when many
people would have died young he was a relatively old man or maybe he was simply
thankful that he had a relationship with his creator. 
We don’t know what Daniel was thankful
for, all we do know is that he prayed as he always did giving thanks to his
God.  . 
  
Time and time again the Bible tells us
to give thanks to God.  And we have so
much to thank God for, if we are only willing to stop and reflect on it.
1
Thessalonians 5:18
Be thankful in all
circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Did you catch that?  It doesn’t say be thankful for all your
circumstances, it says to be thankful in all your circumstances.  And there is a difference.  You don’t have to be thankful because you are
sick, but you can be thankful when you are sick.  You don’t have to be thankful because you are
broke, but you can still be thankful when you are broke.
One of my favorite stories involves a
Preacher from the 1700’s named Matthew Henry.  The story goes that
when travelling between preaching points that he was robbed and later he wrote
in his diary, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before;
second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third,
because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I
who was robbed, and not I who robbed.
So let’s go back to the
story.   Daniel 6:10-11 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he
went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open
toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done,
giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house
and found him praying and asking for God’s help.
Daniel’s Prayer Was A Prayer of Petition  So Daniel, started by giving thanks to
God for all he had and then he got down to business and asked God for help.  He knew that he only had two options, he
could capitulate and not pray.  And that
seemed to be smart but not right.  Or he
could continue to do as he had been doing and keep praying regardless of the
outcome.  And that seemed to be right but
not smart.  So he decides to check with
someone smarter than him, God.  And
that’s still a good option, it’s why we are told in  James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it
to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
Throughout the bible
we are told to ask God for help when we need it, Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call
on him now while he is near. And in Psalm 91:15 we
read the words of God Psalm 91:15 When they call on me, I will answer; I will
be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them. And God’s promise to David was the same as God’s promise to
us, Psalm 50:15 Then
call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me
glory.”
But ultimately this has to go back to
the habit thing, Daniel wasn’t just praying to ask for help, instead while he
was praying he asked for help.  Too often
we skip the first two points.  We don’t
pray because it is our habit, and we don’t pray to give thanks, instead the
only time we pray is when we need help. The kids are sick so we pray, our
marriage is in trouble so we pray, we lose our jobs so we pray and hope that
God recognizes our voice. 
Now understand , it’s not wrong to ask
for God’s help, but that shouldn’t be the only time we talk to him.  I am a pastor, people call me all the time,
but for some people the only time they call is when they need something, or
want something or want to express their displeasure over something.  And when their name comes up on the call
display, I cringe.  Does that make me a
bad pastor?  They never call to thank me
for something Cornerstone has done for them, they never call to ask about my
day or to tell me they are praying for me and for the church, they call to ask
me to do something for them or to solve a problem for them or to fix something
for them.
I hope that God never looks at
the call display and cringes and thinks “I wonder what Denn wants now?”   God wants us to ask him for things, in the
Lord’s prayer we are taught to ask for our daily bread, that is our daily provisions.  But that comes after we’ve have expressed our
adoration for God and after we have acknowledged his sovereignty in our lives.  Remember, Matthew
6:9-11
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is
in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
Don’t be afraid to ask God for
help, as our heavenly father he expects to help and he wants to help, but it
needs to be a part of a relationship. 
Prayer isn’t just a red phone that we pick up when there is an
emergency. 
So let’s go back to the story
Daniel
6:12
So they went straight to the king and
reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty
days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your
Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?” “Yes,” the king replied, “that
decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be
revoked.”
And even though Daniel was a
favorite of the King’s, Darius felt he had no choice and he ordered that Daniel
be thrown into the den of Lions.  Now
understand, regardless of whether the law was just or unjust Daniel knew that
it was unlawful to pray and he knew what the penalty would be and he still
prayed.  Martin Luther King often wound
up in jail for disobeying the law. Nelson Mandela wound up in prison for
disobeying the law.   Even if the law was unjust it was still the
law, and you may be willing to disobey a law that you don’t agree with but in
doing that you have to be willing to pay the price.  And it goes back to the scripture that we read
last week when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to bow down and
worship the statue of the king, Daniel 3:17-18 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we
serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But
even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will
never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
So what happened to
Daniel?  Let’s go back to the story.  Early the next morning the King rushed to the
Lion’s den, but to his surprise he discovered Daniel alive and well, the bible
says not a scratch was found on him.   
Daniel’s Prayer Was A Prayer that was Answered    Daniel prayed for God’s help and he received it.  You might be thinking “But it doesn’t always
work that way, sometimes you get eaten by the lions.”  I’m not even sure that this was what Daniel
prayed for, perhaps when he prayed for help he was praying God would help him
die well, maybe he was praying his death would be quick, or that Darius would
intervene.
If we keep reading in
the book of Daniel we discover that Daniel was used by God after he was saved
from the lions, so perhaps the answer to Daniel’s prayer was simply that God’s
will was done.  Because as Christ
Followers shouldn’t that be our prayer, that God’s will be done in our lives? 

Tick, Tock




I wonder what the recent crisis in Ukraine will do to the Doomsday Clock?  The iconic clock was sitting at five minute until midnight the first of January but you have to wonder if the Bear flexing his muscles again will make any difference at all?

The Doomsday Clock isn’t an actual clock, instead it is a metaphor for the danger of a “civilization-threatening technological catastrophe.”   It is used by the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to analyze potential international threats, particularly nuclear arsenals and climate change & the closer it is to midnight the closer the world is to doom.  This would be a good place for a maniacal laugh.

In 1953 the big hand was only 2 minutes from midnight as the Cold War began, the closest it’s ever been.  In 1991 it was the furthest it’s been from midnight when it was set to 11:43 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  And over the past 20 years it has slowly crept ahead.

For the Christian though, the clock should hold no fear.  Midnight will be determined by the Maker of the clock, not the keepers of the clock.  The question then is this: How is your relationship with the Maker?    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Bend, Bow or Burn

They had always wondered what it
would like to stare into the face of imminent death.  Well actually they had never wondered what it
would be like to stare into the face of imminent death, but here they were
anyway. Three young men who were only doing what they thought was right and now
they were to pay the ultimate price. Because they had disobeyed a royal decree
they were to be put to death, and not just any death they were to suffer a
nasty death.  I mean if you had to be
sentenced to death this was just rude. 
They were to be thrown into an immense furnace used for firing pottery
and apparently the occasional execution. Not a situation that anyone would want
to be presented with, but here they were. 
And I’m sure at that point they thought of those great words of Yogi
Berra’s “The Future ain’t what it used to be.”
This is week three of our Old School
Sunday School Series, and already we have looked at the stories of Jonah and
the Whale and David and Goliath.  How
many folks here went to Sunday School as a Kid? 
While we weren’t regular church goers when I was a kid, there were times
that my parents had me in Sunday School. 
And I remember the songs and the bible stories and the grade five boys
class in Lower Lincoln Baptist that met in the furnace room. 
And that was the sign of a growing
Sunday School, always running out of space and making do.  The teachers taught every week, often for
years and years.  And there were take
home papers that you could colour, just like the back of your note sheet today.
 And there were Sunday School
Choruses.  And we are going to sing
another one of those this morning, but unlike the past two weeks the preachers
not going to lead the chorus, so I’m going to ask Pastor Jason to join me and
we will gear up the overhead projector and invite you to stand with us.
Our story this morning happened
after Babylon had conquered Israel and the Babylonian King a man by the name of
Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that a the most promising young captives from
Jerusalem were to be brought to the palace as his personal slaves. 
And the story is about three of
those young men whose names were, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  I know of one person who used to call them
Your Shack, My Shack and Little bungalow and I had a professor at Bible College
who was in the habit of referring to them as Shake the Bed, Make the Bed and in
the Bed you Go.  But their names, at
least the names you would know them by were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Those however were not the names they were born with.  Those names were Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah,
But part of the slavery process was
to erase who they had been so their birth names were taken away and they were
given Babylonian names, so that’s when they became Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego..
For three years they were taught and
trained in the court of the king and at the end of that period Daniel,
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the honour students and were appointed as
advisers in the King’s Court.
But that was then and this was
now.  If we fast forward ahead three
years we discover that King Nebuchadnezzar has come down with a bad case of
deity envy, that is he wanted to be God. And if’n you’re God then you should be
worshipped and that’s where we come into the story.  We heard 
about the first part of this encounter earlier in the scripture
reading.  Nebuchadnezzar had a huge idol
created and erected.  When the royal
musicians played everyone was to bow down and worship the statue, everyone,
even exiled Jews. If we had background music here it would change to a minor
key signifying that something bad was about to happen.
Now if you grew up in church and
Sunday School then you probably already know the story. 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego may
have been favourites of the king but right now they weren’t making him very
happy. 
You see when everyone else bowed,
they didn’t.  Must have had something to
do with the entire Deuteronomy
5:7-9 You know where it says, Do not worship any other gods besides me.
Do not make idols of any
kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship
or bow down to them.
However Nebuchadnezzar considered
himself a fair King and thinking that perhaps his star pupils had misunderstood
the command, perhaps it was the entire second language thing, he gave them
another chance.  If Nebuchadnezzar had of
been an English speaker trying to convey his message to someone who spoke
another language he probably would have simply repeated the initial command,
only slower and louder. You know what they say to be multilingual means you
speak many languages, to be bilingual means you speak two languages and to be
monolingual means you speak English.
The story is told in the book of
Daniel and is one of several stories that this book is known for.  Another is Daniel in the Lion’s Den, we are
going to look at that one next week.
Where were we?  Oh yeah, bow down or be tossed in the
furnace.  And maybe you know the story,
and maybe you don’t. 
This morning I want to look at the
response of  Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego to the challenge they faced. 
Obey God or do what seemed like the smart and practical thing. So where
were we?  Oh yeah, King Nebuchadnezzar
had this huge stature built and commanded everyone to bow down and worship it
when the music played.  But instead of
doing that we read the story in Daniel 3:16-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to
defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God
whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your
Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never
serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
This morning I want to talk about
their Faith.  They were absolutely
convinced that they were doing the right thing and that because of that they
were committed to their course of action. 
And this wasn’t a mamby pamby “Yes I believe I’m doing the right thing”
type of faith, they were willing to put everything on the line.  Talk is cheap, it’s easy to say that you’ll
always do the right thing.  But what
happens when doing the right thing cost you something?  What happens when taking a stand cost you
acceptance with your friends or your family. 
We talk about someday having a bigger worship centre, but what happens
when your commitment to seeing a new church built cost you money and time.  What happens when your commitment to truth
and integrity cost you advancement in your career.  What happens when you are standing in front
of the blazing furnace and you are told “Bow or Burn”?
The first thing the boys had faith
in was what they were committed to. Daniel 3:16 O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before
you.  A) Faith in God’s Purpose They knew they were doing what they had to do and
because of that they didn’t need to say anything.  They didn’t have to convince themselves and
they knew they couldn’t convince the king so why waste their breath. What were
they supposed to say?  It wasn’t that
they weren’t guilty of what they were being accused of, they were.  I remember getting pulled over for speeding
in Australia, a very isolated incident let me assure you. And when the officer
approached me he asked if I had a reason for speeding.  A reason for speeding, the only thing I could
think of was that it was a beautiful evening, I had the roof down and it seemed
appropriate to be driving that fast. So I looked him in the eyes and said “no
sir.”  Sometimes there’s no need to say
anything.
They weren’t
the only ones in the bible who took that approach,  Matthew 27:12-14 But
when the leading priests and other leaders made their accusations against him,
Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear their many charges against you?” Pilate
demanded. But Jesus said nothing, much to the governor’s great surprise.
Jesus didn’t have to convince
himself and he knew that he wouldn’t convince them.  There are times in your life that you have
said what you’ve had to say, you’ve taken your stand and now all you can do is
see how it shakes down.  When Martin Luther took a stand against the Catholic Church 500 years ago he was called in
front of the powers that be and was offered the chance to recant, which means
to change his mind.  Much like Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego were given a second chance, and Luther said “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help
me.”
Let’s keep reading, Daniel 3:17 If we are thrown into the
blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us
from your power, Your Majesty. Their faith in
their action was grounded in their B)
Faith in God’s Protection
.   Maybe
they were thinking back to the stories of how God had delivered his people time
after time when they were faithful.  Of
Noah and Moses, of Abraham and David and a host of others.  Perhaps they remember the words of the Psalms
where David wrote Psalm
55:16-18 But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.
Morning, noon, and night I
plead aloud in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice.
He rescues me and keeps me
safe from the battle waged against me, even though many still oppose me.
When Peter was in prison and the
Roman authorities were going to separate his head from his shoulders God
stepped in.  When Paul was aboard a ship
that was threatening to sink, God intervened.  
We all have experienced or know someone who has experienced the direct
intervention of God.  God will protect
and keep us.  Jesus told the apostles in
the Garden of Gethsemane,  Matthew 26:53 Don’t you realize that I could
ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them
instantly?
Sigmund Freud said “I
cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s
protection.”  And I can’t think of any need in our relationship with
Christ as the need for our heavenly father’s protection.  We need to realize that God cares about us
and we need to be able to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the God whom we serve is able to save us.
And as powerful as their faith was
in what they were doing and as strong as their faith was in God’s protecting
hand I think that the most incredible and powerful statement is yet to
come.  We can stand and say “I believe
that I’m doing what is right and I believe that God will take care of me.”  But how many of us have the faith to echo
those words with these, Daniel
3:18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve
your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  You see they had C) Faith in
God’s Plan
  God will save us, but if
he doesn’t then we will still obey him. 
God does protect his people, but we all know even if we don’t understand
it, that sometimes that doesn’t save us physically, if that was the case
there’d be no martyrs. 
Listen to what Peter had to say in 1 Peter 3:12-14 “The eyes of the Lord watch
over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his
face against those who do evil.”
Now, who will want to harm
you if you are eager to do good?
We like hearing that but Peter’s not
through because he says But
even there it is again But even 
if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So
don’t be afraid and don’t worry.
One of my favourite sections of the
bible is found in Hebrews 11, it is the faith hall of fame. We read about
heroes of the Old Testament, people like Noah and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Moses and Joshua.  Listen to what the
bible says about these servants of God, Hebrews 11:32-35 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too
long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms,
ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the
mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of
the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle
and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from
death.
That’s the list I want to be
in.  The list of the winners, the victors
they trusted God and God came through. 
God is good.  But let’s keep reading
the same author, the same book, the same chapter, carrying on from the same
verse  Hebrews 11:35-39  But others
trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and
be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were
mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in
dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed
with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and
oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world. They wandered over
deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
All of these people we
have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them
received all that God had promised.
If I had my druthers I’d druther be
in the first group.  But we don’t always
get our druthers, do we?  And the people
in the second group were serving the same God as the people in the first group.  And we are told by those in the know that
there have been more Martyrs in the last hundred years then there were in the
nineteen hundred years before that.  And
God hasn’t tumbled off his throne, he’s still a good God and a merciful God and
we have to believe that ultimately he knows exactly what he’s doing. 
 Over fifty years ago four young missionaries
flew to South America to reach a tribe that had never heard the name of
Jesus.  One of those missionaries, a
young man by the name of Jim
Elliot made this statement “He is no fool who gives what he cannot
keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”  It wasn’t very long after he
made that statement that he and his companions were killed by the very people
he went to reach.  People around the
world reacted in shock to the news of the slaughter.  How could God allow that? And yet Jim
Elliot’s wife Elizabeth eventually saw that entire tribe come to know
Jesus.  Elliot couldn’t have kept his
life even if he had of lived to be a hundred. 
And yet how many people will live for eternity because of Jim Elliot’s
sacrifice?
I remember hearing a story about a
lady whose son had cancer, I’ve told it before and no doubt I will tell it
again.  One day a friend and her were
talking and her friend said “Maybe God will be good and your son will be
healed.” To which the first lady replied “God is good whether he heals me son
or not.” 
And as the guys stood staring into
the flames of the furnace they said “God will deliver us, but if he
doesn’t, tough we still won’t bow.” 
Can you believe in the goodness of God no matter what?
Let’s go back to the story.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response
was not what the king was expecting to hear and he was furious.  He commanded that the three be tossed into
the furnace and they were.  From the
description given of the furnace it would appear that it was commonly used for
executions, that is was constructed in such as way that the accused were tossed
in through an opening in the top.  In
this case the fire was burning so hot and so furious that it actually killed
the soldiers who were escorting the three men. 
And so the story ends.  They took a
stand for God and they lost.  Good was
defeated and evil was victorious, but was it?
Keep listening to the words of
Daniel,    Daniel 3:24-26 But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped
up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and
throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes,” they said, “we did
indeed, Your Majesty.”
“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar
shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire. They aren’t even
hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being!”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came
as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
And finally they had a D) Faith that was Proven  God was there, he had a plan and it entailed
keeping those three young men alive. 
They were to go on and play an integral part of the Government of
Babylon during the time the people of Israel were in exile and a measly little
thing like a blazing furnace wasn’t going to stand in God’s way.  Who was the fourth man?  There have been different theories, some have
said it was an angel, others Jesus.  The
truth is we don’t know, but we do know that he was there for a purpose. Imagine
being thrown into an execution furnace, what would your first reaction be?  Mine would be to scream.  “Ahhh I’m burning” and then you realize
against all odds that you were fine, what would your reaction be?  Mine would be to scream.  “Ahhh I’m not burning.” Whoever or whatever
the fourth person was I think he was there to bring comfort and reassuring to
the guys.   
Because whether we burn in the
trials or whether we don’t burn in the trials God’s promise is that he will be
there for us.  Hebrews 13:5 God has said, “I will never
fail you. I will never forsake you.”   That’s the
promise folks.  God will never fail you or
forsake you.  Do you believe that this
morning?  Perhaps you are standing at the
door of your own furnace, my prayer for you today is that you have the faith to
not only believe that God will do what is good but also to believe that
whatever God chooses to do will be good. 
I hope and pray that the prayer of your heart will be, “But even if”