Say What?


I was sitting in my office annex the other day and was listening to folks use Canada’s third official language as they ordered double doubles, triple singles and four by fours.  Which begs the question: is a coffee with four creams and four sugars still a coffee or is it liquid candy? But again I digress.
As I listened to the customers speaking in a code readily understood by them and those who served them, I wondered about the language we speak in our churches.
How often do we assume that everyone who comes through our doors on Sunday morning speaks the same language as we do?  And I’m not talking about English.
I have to remind myself from time to time that not everyone understands “churchy” language. Part of my job is to act as a tour guide, as I lead people to catch a glimpse of the eternal.  And part of that job is occasionally acting as a translator, translating “Christianese” into everyday English, so that it can be understood.
If you get the wrong coffee because of a miscommunication, that’s a mistake that can be corrected. If you miss eternity because of a miscommunication, that is a tragedy and it’s forever.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

By Our Words

If
there is one word that strikes fear in the hearts of most church goers it is “evangelism”.  Most of us understand the necessity of people
meeting Jesus.  All but the most callous
are heartbroken at the thoughts of friends and loved ones spending an eternity
far from God. 

And
yet. . . Yet, so often we are reluctant to share our faith.  We don’t know what to say, we are
afraid to offend, we are worried about what people will think of us.  And so we justify and rationalize and talk
about our spiritual gifts and the gift blend of those who are successful soul
winners.  And we still feel guilty about
not saying anything. 
We’ll tell
people that they have a flat tire, we’ll tell people that they
left their lights on in their car or that they left their purse on the table at
Tim Horton’s.  We
will tell them about the great book we read or the new restaurant that we just
tried.  We’ll share our political
views and occasionally our fries but are reluctant to share the one thing that
we say is of eternal importance, our faith.
And
I understand that, like you I’ve made the list of people I was going to pray
for and then lead through the plan of salvation.  Maybe, like me, you have memorized the “Roman
Road” or some
other list of scriptures that show people the necessity of accepting
Christ.   And for those of you who think
a Roman Road is a cobblestone highway it’s not. 
Well technically it is, but that’s not all it is.  It is also a method that uses scripture from
the book of Romans to lead someone through the plan of Salvation.
Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of
God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ
to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 10:9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and
believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by
faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done
for us.
When I was in university I took a course called
Personal Evangelism and we used the book “You Can Be a Soul Winner, Here’s How.”  And as part of the course we had to go to the
doors of complete strangers get ourselves invited in, compliment them on their
home and children, show them the necessity of meeting Jesus and lead them
through the plan of salvation.  It
sounded very similar to the training I received before I began my very short lived,
1 week, career selling Filter Queen Vacuum cleaners.  I passed both courses and sold one vacuum
cleaner and didn’t lead
anyone to the Lord.
After I graduated from College I went to
seminars put on by various groups, I read and re-read “Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World”, “The Master Plan for Evangelism”, “Contagious
Christianity” and “Just Walk Across the Room”.  I have
memorized acronyms and have trained for umpteen different crusades and have
taken part in 3 “Billy
Graham Schools of Evangelism”  And I still don’t do it well enough or often enough. 
But I’m
trying, and we should all be trying. 
I feel like the old preacher in Georgia who
used to say “When a farmer prays for a corn crop,
God expects him to say ‘Amen’ with a hoe.”  
You can’t simply pray for someone’s salvation and never talk to them about your
faith.
But this morning I’m not here to put a guilt trip on you about not
sharing your faith, and maybe you are thinking: “Well, it’s a little late for that.”  
There
is a phrase that most of us are familiar with, if only because of the plethora
of medical shows that have graced television over the last fifty years, and
that term is “First do no harm.”  Many
believe it came from the Hippocratic Oath, which was kind of a code of conduct
produced by a Greek doctor five hundred years before the birth of Jesus. And
that’s about half right, the principle is there, just not phrased that
way.  But the principle is, before you
can begin to heal you need to make sure that what you are doing will not harm
your patient. 
The
scripture passage that was read this morning includes that same advice for us
as Christ Followers.  We may not feel
that  we are gifted or capable of being a
soul winner but it is vitally important for us to do no kingdom harm in how we
deal with people on a day to day basis.
And
so in the last part of his letter to the Colossians Paul writes these words, Colossians 4:5-6 Live wisely among those who are not
believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be
gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
And so Paul begins by telling his listeners Colossians 4:5-6 Live wisely among those who are not
believers . . .
Live Wisely  It is interesting to see the difference in the
earlier translations, the King James Version spells it out this way. Colossians
4:5 KJV Walk in wisdom toward them that are without. . . Them that are without.  Without what? I don’t want
to get all scholarly on you and go spouting on about the original language
however the word that is translated “without” here
literally meant “outside
the door”. 
And we are sometimes uncomfortable with the
concept of “in” and “out” when it
comes to the Christian faith.  It seems
so exclusive. And so we use phrases like “Who am I to judge?”  “they are very spiritual” “They seem to be” But the New Testament speaks in terms of black and white, you are a
believer or you aren’t a
believer.  Even Jesus draws very distinct
lines in the sand like when he said in John
3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the
truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And two thousand years ago the line was very
plain, being a Christian wasn’t
socially acceptable, it wouldn’t
advance your career or make you friends. 
Instead it would cost you friends, and your career and maybe even your
life.
Today the line is blurred because there are
cultural Christians.  To illustrate: I am
a Habs fan, don’t look
at me that way. When we returned from Australia I decided that if I was to
truly embrace my Canadian identity that I would need to have a hockey team to
cheer for, so I chose the Habs.  It didn’t take long to discover that in hockey there
are Habs fans and anyone but Habs fans.
Now in saying that I really don’t know anything about the Habs, don’t know their history, have only been to one
live game, and that wasn’t
willingly and the only games I watch on TV are during the playoffs, if then if
there isn’t
anything else to watch and I’m not
reading a book. At any given time I can usually only name one or two players on
the team.  And you are thinking you’re not much of a fan.  Don’t judge me. Who are you to say that 
I’m not a habs fan?
It’s the same way in Canada with religion, most people know that they need
to be identified with some religion and so for whatever reason they choose
Christianity.  They really don’t know anything about Christianity, don’t know it’s history, the only services they get to are the playoffs, you know
wedding funerals, Christmas and Easter, and that’s only if there isn’t a
conflict with other things in their lives. And if you question their commitment
they say “Don’t judge me. Who are you to say that  I’m not a Christian?”
But two
thousand years ago the lines weren’t blurred and Paul recognizes that those in
the early church were going to have to co-exist with those who were outside the
church, those who weren’t believers.  And
he doesn’t tell them to cloister themselves in little commune, only venturing
out when absolutely necessarily, instead he acknowledges that both those who
embrace Jesus and those who don’t are going to occupy the same
communities. 
There
are times that we wish we could live in a world that shared our beliefs and our
culture and our language.  That we would
never have to worry about people challenging our faith and blistering our ears
with their language.  But that wasn’t a
reality for the church in Colossi and it’s not a reality for us today, and it
shouldn’t be.
God
loved lost people so much that he made the greatest sacrifice that he could for
them, he sent his son.  And the very
first believers were commanded to become fishers of men.  And one of the things that I learned while I
was fishing with my dad was that you were a lot more apt to catch fish if you
were where there were fish.  And so the
early church knew that if they were going to love lost people like God loved
lost people that they would have to be willing to make sacrifice like God
did.  And by choosing to live with those
who did not believe they often faced persecutions and scorn and even
death. 
And by
choosing to live with those who did not believe they were able to demonstrate
the love of God and to live a godly and holy life and because of that those who
were without became those who were within. 
  But we aren’t just told to live
with those who don’t share our beliefs we are told to live wisely with them.   
Notice
that he didn’t tell his readers to live smartly but to live wisely.  And there is a difference, I heard an article
on the radio this week about EQ, and that’s not to be confused with IQ.  IQ measures your intellectual ability.  EQ measures your emotional intelligence and emotional
intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way
you behave and the way you interact with others.
One
author wrote “If you have high emotional intelligence you are able
to recognize your own emotional state and the emotional states of others, and
engage with people in a way that draws them to you. You can use this
understanding of emotions to relate better to other people, form healthier
relationships, achieve greater success at work, and lead a more fulfilling
life.” 
Or as Paul wrote,  Live wisely among those who are not believers.
And
that is tough.  Paul is telling the
church to live in such a way that their lives won’t be a hindrance.  That people won’t be able to use as an excuse
but look at . . .  and you can fill in
the blank.  They are no different than
me, or they did this or they did that. 
Just
think before you do something.  We need
to live the way that Christ commanded us to live, love the way Christ commanded
us to love.
And the
passage continues Colossians
4:5-6 Live wisely among
those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Be Aware  When I took Personal Evangelism it was very
much concerned with meeting someone and initiating a spiritual conversation,
leading them through the plan of salvation, guiding them through a decision and
prayer and pointing them to a church. 
And people go saved that way, but seriously.  You don’t have to be strategic about find someone who
doesn’t know Jesus.  
The story is told about a battle during the civil war and the fortunes
had turned on the Union troops and the commander called for a retreat.  When suddenly an enlisted man broke ranks,
ran across no man land, hit a confederate soldier with his rifle and carried
him back dumping him a the officer’s feet. 
The officer looked at the man and said “Where
did you get him?”  to
which the man replied, “Over yonder and there are enough there for
everyone.”  You don’t have
to look very far to find those who need Jesus; they share your work place, your
class room and might even live under the same roof.  Be aware that people are watching how you
live and what you say.   There is so much
truth in the statement that you are the only bible some people will ever read.  They are watching what you do and what you
say, which leads us to the next point.
Colossians 4:5-6 Live wisely among those who are not
believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be
gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.
Speak Graciously The bible constantly
warns us of the danger of the tongue, and we are all aware of that.  We don’t need Solomon to tell us things like Proverbs 13:3 Those who
control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin
everything.  Or Proverbs 15:2 The tongue
of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out
foolishness.
And it was Abraham Lincoln who said “Better
to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”
And this is tough, probably not
for you but for me.  There are times I
think I need to have business cards printed up that say “I’m sorry, I’m a jerk”.  Because too often I am to quick to speak my
mind, or to be sarcastic in my response to someone. 
Paul tells us to make sure our
speech is gracious and attractive.  But
listen to how the New International Version translates this verse Colossians 4:6 NIV Let your
conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know
how to answer everyone.   Not just
gracious but filled with grace.  When you
talk to people who don’t share your faith is your conversation filled with
grace? 
And while salt is common place
today, two thousand years ago it was an incredibly valuable commodity.  I could preach an entire sermon on salt, and
I have.  But let it be suffice to say
that salt was used for preserving food, for flavouring food, for medical
reasons and even as part of the salary of Roman soldiers was designated for the
purchase of salt.  Thus the phrase “Worth
your salt.”   It was seen as something of great value.  Is that how our words are seen, not by us,
but by those who hear them? Or overhear them.
I’m afraid that there are times
that the closest my speech comes to be flavoured with salt is that it stings,
and that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. 
Which is why we are told in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love. 
It’s easy to speak the truth, not so easy to speak the truth in
love.   
And one of the
greatest culprits these days is Social media; regardless of how you feel,
people aren’t going to put their phones down. 
And all too often we
use social media to vent and it really sets up a “them and us mindset.”  We are right and they are wrong, and here are
all the reasons they are wrong.  And
while it’s easy to hide behind our Facebook or Twitter profiles the damage that
can be done is immeasurable.
Larry Wilson, the
pastor of Fall Creek Wesleyan Church, recently posted a blog entitled “8 Social
Media Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Right Now”
  and in it
Larry writes, “Advocate any position you truly believe in. But please do
so kindly and with no attempt to humiliate, crush, demolish, wreck, or reduce
to a puddle of tears the people who disagree with you. Say something nice or at
least say it in a nice way.”
Words are words, and they need to be spoken
with grace and seasoned with salt, regardless of whether you speak them, write
them, post them or tweet them.  Very few
people have ever been argued into Christianity, and probably fewer still have
been embraced Christ because of a rant they’ve read
on Facebook about their lifestyle posted by a nasty Christian.
Remember when your mother used to tell you, if
you can’t say anything nice don’t say
anything at all?  Not bad advice. 
And this goes back to the live wisely, check
stuff before you post it, because when you don’t
sometimes you end up looking like an idiot and if it’s in any
way connected to your faith it makes all Christians look like idiots, just
sayin’.
And as long as we are here,
listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything
you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to
those who hear them.   Did you
catch that?  Don’t use foul or abusive
language.  And I don’t care if everyone
uses this word or that word, if you have chosen to follow Christ then you have
chosen a higher path.  And that applies
for what you post online, and also who posted it before you.  When you repost something and the original
title contains vulgarities it reflects on you and if you profess to be a
Christian then it reflects on the Christ you serve.
I have seen people from
Cornerstone post wonderful spiritual stories followed by something with
language that would make a sailor blush, I know, I blushed.   So in case you found Paul’s words a little
vague I will read them again, slower.  Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use
foul or abusive language.
You
can’t separate your faith from who you are, and you don’t want
to.  It’s not
enough to speak graciously to co-workers and strangers and then snipe at your
family and friends.  Or the other way
around, only being nice to the folks you know. 
And I understand that there will be times that you have to defend your
faith in no uncertain terms.  But you don’t have
to be nasty or get personal about it.
And you are thinking “That’s
really tough”  Yep, sure is and it’s not
something you turn on and off.  Peter
tells us in 1 Peter 2:1 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all
deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.   How do you do that?  By embracing the power of the Holy Spirit in
your life.  Seriously you can’t do it
alone and that was never the intent.
Have you given your speech over
to God?  Every day? Have you asked him to
guide your words and to make them gracious? 
Every day?
If you pride yourself on your
sarcasm, or being able to put people in their place with your words you might
have a problem.
We are told in Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in
our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self-control.  What
if our speech was coloured by those characteristics?  
So, knowing that you can’t do
it yourself, and knowing that the Holy Spirit can produce that kind of fruit in
your life, is today the day that you surrender your will and your words to the
Holy Spirit?  

. . . as sin!


I was looking for a specific product at a hardware store last week, apparently in vain.  When it became obvious they didn’t have what I needed and I would have to look elsewhere, the clerk sympathetically commented,” What a sin!”
An inconvenience yes, a nuisance maybe, but hardly a sin.
It kind of made me think of a conversation that I overheard about Croc footwear when they first came out. The final opinion of those involved was that they were incredibly comfortable but “ugly as sin.”
Now granted ,Crocs are ugly, at least as ugly as earth shoes and probably even uglier. I’ve maintained that Crocs don’t actually float, they’re just so ugly the water repels them. But ugly as sin? I don’t think so.
Sin is the deliberate violation of God’s will and God’s law. It’s not an inconvenience and it’s not a nuisance, it is sin. And it is ugly and it is dangerous and the Bible says it will separate us from God.
So let’s be careful that we don’t minimize and trivialize sin by flippantly using the word to mean what it doesn’t.
On the other hand, let’s be careful that we don’t minimize and trivialize sin by calling it a mistake or an oops.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Even Now

Where
is he?  Where?  Where is he? 
How many times had she asked that question over the past four days.  Her only brother had come down with some
mysterious virus and nobody could do anything for him.  Well nobody except for their friend
Jesus.  How many times had he reached out
his hand and the blind had seen, or the lame had walked.  If there was any hope for Lazarus it would
only be through Jesus.  Granted she
hadn’t actually asked Jesus to come, she had only sent word that His friend was
deathly ill.  If Jesus was the friend that
he professed to be wouldn’t he have come?
But she
had waited and Lazarus got worse, and she waited and Lazarus died, and she
waited and Lazarus had been buried.  
Jesus had healed the paralytic and he didn’t even know him, he healed
the blind man who was just a face in the crowd, surely he would come for his
friend.    And still the thought
tormented her, where was he, surely she couldn’t have misjudged Jesus so
badly.  He had eaten at their table and
slept under their roof surely that had meant something to him, or maybe not. 
And
then a murmur began to weave it’s way through the crowd that had gathered to
mourn with the two sisters, the master is here, Jesus has arrived.  And Martha couldn’t help herself, she was on
her feet rushing to meet her friend.  The
thought that had burned in her heart was already on her lips,
John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
I don’t
think it was said with a mean or vindictive spirit, but I don’t think it was
simply a statement of fact either.  I
think she was disappointed in Jesus and felt betrayed and I’m sure the question
even though unasked could be read in her eyes, “When
you heard he was sick, why didn’t you come then?” 
Max Lucado says that “The
grave unearths our view of God” And he’s right how often have we heard
“God if you existed my child wouldn’t have died, if you’d have answered my
prayers my life wouldn’t be empty, if you cared my mother wouldn’t have
developed cancer.”? 
How
often are we guilty of dealing with God in that very same way, of demanding to
know why he doesn’t do it the way we want it done, when we want it done?  The experts tell us that it would have been a
two day walk from where Jesus heard the news to Bethany, and you all know how
an expert is defined?  X being the
unknown quantity, spurt being a drip under pressure.  So if we take the experts word for the
distance and add to it the two days that Jesus waited before he left we come up
with a grand total of four days, the exact number of days that Lazarus had been
in the grave. So Lazarus was dead before Jesus was even told that he was
sick.  Sometimes we just don’t know.
And
then she said the most incredible thing, something that revealed volumes about
her character and her faith, John 11:22 But even now I
know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
“Jesus
I may not understand what you’ve done, I may not be able to explain it, I may
not like it but even now I still believe that you are capable of anything.”
How
about it people?  Are you convinced even
now that he is able to do anything?  Are
you?  What do you believe that God can do
even now through Cornerstone Wesleyan Church? 
All we have to do is look at what He has done in the past to see what he
can do in the future; because what he did yesterday he is capable of doing
today.
1) Even Now God Can Do The Impressive.  I love the story of Gideon. 
Maybe you don’t know it, after all it happened almost three thousand
years ago.  It was during a time that
Israel had come under foreign rule, the story is found in the book of
Judges.  The Midianites had conquered
Israel and the people had run for the hills, literally living in caves and ravines.  Not satisfied with that the Midianites made a
nasty habit out of burning any Israelite fields they found and killing their
animals.
In a
situation like this who do you need?  You
need a hero right and where do you find a hero, well I checked the yellow pages
and they skipped right from herbs to hobbies. 
But if you’re God you don’t need the yellow pages and so an Angel was
sent to a young farmer named Gideon. 
Well to make a long story short Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men not
bad.  But God said “Hey you guys could
defeat the Midianites all by yourself, tell anyone who is afraid to go
home.”  That did it, 22,000 of them
left.  Imagine how Gideon must have felt.
 But still 10,000 is better then
none.  But God said  “Hey Gideon still too many, get everyone to
drink from the stream and keep only those who drink from their cupped
hand.”  Well maybe you know what happened
9,700 of them knelt down to drink and Gideon was left with 300.  To quote God in Judges
7:7 The Lord told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you
victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.” And he did! 
Now
that’s impressive.  But not necessarily
impossible.  You see the three hundred
men surrounded the Midianite camp in the middle of the night each one armed
with a trumpet, a clay pot and a torch. 
On a prearranged signal they blew their trumpets and smashed their clay
jars, waved their torches and yelled 
“For the Lord and for Gideon.” Well the Midianites had just been woken
up, panicked turned on each other and beat a hasty retreat. 
God
does some impressive things in our lives, perhaps helping us deal with anger,
or helping our relationship with our spouse or our children.  People have prayed for work and found the
perfect job.  That’s impressive.  People have been sick and others have prayed
for them and they have gotten better, that’s impressive.  God answers prayer in an impressive way, but
none of those things were impossible. 
People have found the perfect job without praying, sick people have
gotten better without praying, relationships have been restored without
God.  But he does do impressive things in
answer to our prayers.
Are
there situations in your life that you need to say, “Even now I believe God can
do some impressive things for me.”  Maybe
you’re at the end of your rope in your marriage or frustrated with your
children and you feel like only a miracle could help, he’s still in the miracle
doing business.  God still does the
impressive.  Throughout the Bible we read
how God stepped in and helped his people. 
Abraham, David, Solomon, Joshua, Moses, Daniel each one could tell an
amazing story of the impressive work that God did for them and even today there
are people who would confirm that even now, May 18, 2014 ,God does the
impressive.
God has
done impressive things with this church. 
Twenty
years ago, next month, you could have fit Cornerstone around a kitchen
table.  Nine years ago there were forty
of us meeting together at the LeBrun Centre in Bedford.  Today close to three hundred or us meet each
Sunday in a multi-million dollar facility and there are probably three times
that many in the community who would identify themselves with Cornerstone.  “Of course Cornerstone is my church, I go
every Christmas.”  And that’s impressive
but not impossible.  After all every
church was started at some point. 

God can and will continue to do the impressive through Cornerstone Wesleyan
Church.  When?  Even Now.

2) Even Now God Will Do The Improbable.   Do
you remember the story of David and Goliath? 
It seemed that everyone wanted to whump on Israel, this time it was the
Philistines.  The story is found in the
book of 1 Samuel 17.  The Israelites are
on one hill, the Philistines are on another hill and the Philistines trot out
their Champion, Goliath, and he was one big sucker standing over nine foot
tall. Throwing down a gauntlet Goliath says, 1 Samuel
17:8-9 Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the
Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the
Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to
come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be
our slaves!
Well,
none of the Israelite soldiers were all that excited with the prospect of
taking on this guy.  But along came
David, not a soldier a shepherd, not an adult but a teenager and armed with a
slingshot and five smooth stones he killed the giant and saved the day.
What
would you say to that a professional soldier armed with the very best armaments
available to him challenged by a mere boy with little more then a toy.  What are the chances of David being the
victor.  Possible but not probable.  Hey, God not only does the impressive he does
the improbable.  Daniel surviving a night
in a den full of lions, Abraham and Sarah having a child in their nineties,
Noah building a 450 foot boat miles from the nearest major body of water.  Impossible no, improbable yes. 
And God
does the improbable today.  People
addicted to one thing or another who have tried everything to break that
addiction have turned to God and have conquered it.  Possible yes, probable no.  But even now God does the improbable.  Through prayer abusive husbands have become loving
mates, shrewish wives have become encouragers and impossible teens have become
our friends. 
Possible
yes, probable no.  But even now God does
the improbable.  Cancer patients have
been prayed over and all traces of the disease have disappeared, Possible yes,
probable no.  But even now God does the
improbable. 
What
are some of the improbable things that you need doing in your life, things that
just aren’t likely to happen.  Need a
personality transplant, he can do that, need self-control he can do that.  Do you have giants in your life that need to
be put down?  He still helps to defeat
giants.  And not only can he do the
improbable in your life he can do the improbable in your church as well.  He’s already doing it. 
When we
moved into the building almost nine years ago we decided that we needed to do
more to impact those in our greater community and those in our world.  And since then we have provided thousands of
pounds of food for Feed Nova Scotia through our monthly collections and Harvest
for the Hungry.  We have provided meals
for thousands of people who have been staying at Ronald McDonald House while their
children were being treated at the IWK. 
CIA has had an impact on the lives of people we will never meet because
of work we have done at shelters for homeless teens and victims of domestic
abuse, have served meals in soup kitchens and sorted through tons of food at
Feed Nova Scotia.
Through
your sacrifice we have drilled wells in five villages in Sierra Leone, have
provided  resources for homeless teens in
Odessa in Ukraine and made a difference in the lives of countless others in
Haiti, Ghana, Thailand and Cuba.
A
little over a month ago 27 families from Cornerstone stepped up to the plate to
sponsor children in Peru in Partnership with Compassion Canada.
In the
past five years we have sent men, women and teens from Cornerstone to West
Africa, Haiti, Cuba and Guatemala.  And
they have trained leaders, built homes for widows, taken hockey bags of medical
supplies and held orphans in their arms.
And ten
years ago if we had of told people the impact that Cornerstone would have
locally and globally we would have been told, “Well sure that is possible but
it’s really not all that probable.”     
And
today God still wants to do the improbable through Cornerstone.   Today God can help us to minister in
improbable ways to our community and to our world. When?  Even now.
3) But Even Now God Does Do The
Impossible. 
Let’s return to our original story.  Jesus friend Lazarus becomes ill and his
sisters send news to Jesus.  As we noted
before in the account we have they don’t actually ask Jesus to come but judging
by their reaction they expected him to come. 
Not only did they expect him to come they expected him to come and heal
their brother.  That much is evident in
Martha’s  words in John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had
been here, my brother would not have died. 
and the words of her
sister in John 11:32 When Mary arrived and
saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my
brother would not have died.”  
Now
that’s pretty much laying it on the line, isn’t it?  “If you had been here you could have done the
impressive, you could have even done the improbable, but you weren’t here and
now our brother is dead”
Now you
would think that with expectations like that and knowing Jesus the way we know
him that he would have rushed to be with the sisters or knowing that he wouldn’t
have made it in time did a God thing and zapped Lazarus back to health long
distance. We would think.
But
listen to what happened.
John 11:5-6 So although Jesus loved
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Now I don’t know why Jesus waited two days, and I’m
not going to pretend I do.  What we do
know is that when Jesus heard the news his friend was already dead and ready to
be buried.
And
then he came.  But Lazarus had already
been in the grave for four days.  And even
though it would appear that Martha had reprimanded Jesus for not being there
sooner she tells him “It’s not too late because even now you can perform a
miracle.”
Could
you do that?  Standing next to your
brother’s filled in grave could you express that type of faith in God?  You see her statement was not so much saying
that she believed that Jesus could raise her brother, but she would trust him
even if he didn’t. 
Martha
was saying.  “Even now I believe that you
can do anything, but I will trust whatever it is you do or don’t do.”
But the
story doesn’t end there, because Jesus goes to the tomb, let’s read John’s
account of what happened, after all he was there.  John 11:38-44 Jesus
was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across
its entrance. “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.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s
glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to
heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I
said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they
will believe you sent me.” 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!”
Guy’s
been dead five days, in the grave four days and he’s brought back to life.  That is impressive, and it’s improbable and
it’s also impossible.  Dead people don’t
come back to life that just doesn’t happen. 
But it did happen.  You see it is
the reality of what the Angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke
1:37 “For nothing is impossible with God.” and Jesus summed it up when
he said in Luke 18:27 Jesus said, “What is impossible
for people is possible with God.” 
And
guess what God still does the impossible today. 
People can change their behavior but only God can change their
hearts.  What have you been told is
impossible in your life?  Can you say
with Martha “Even now”?
What
would you have God do with Cornerstone Wesleyan Church?  Can you see it as God sees it?  Can you see it not as it is but as God would
make it? 
Close
your eyes for a minute and answer this question, if Cornerstone could be
anything and do anything without taking into consideration any human
limits.  Forget about money, buildings, or
staff what do you believe God can do with this church? Because even now God can
do the impossible.
This
year we will continue to be there with a hot meal when families come back to
Ronald McDonald House after spending the day next the sick bed of a child.  And while we need Vashti and Wanda to
co-ordinate that effort it would be impossible for them to do it themselves. It
becomes a reality when God’s people step up.
CIA
will continue to minister in the downtown core, impacting the homeless and the
hungry.  And while Pastor Ben
co-ordinates the operations it will be men, women, teens and children giving up
a few hours on Saturday who will make it a reality.
Right
now James Galsworthy is in Uganda representing his God and his church.  Have you been praying for James?  Right now Val Lewis and I are working on a
project that will take a team of doctors and health professionals to the Kamakwie
hospital in Sierra Leone.
How
many wells can be drilled in the future? How many children can be sponsored?
Pastor
Marilyn and her team are working on a healthy marriage workshop for the
fall.  We have dozens of children’s
workers speaking God’s truth into the lives of children every week.  Pastor Ben and his team and helping teens
connect with God. 
I read
recently that our job as parents is to raise great adults not great kids, and
we want to stand alongside of you in that responsibility. 
So this
year which of your friends and family will begin a relationship with God that
will impact their eternity?  We don’t
just want them to come to Cornerstone, we want them to come to Cornerstone and
meet Jesus. 
Can you
believe the vision?  Can you believe God
for the impossible? This is our future, so to quote that great Philosopher Yoda “Try
not. Do or do not. There is no try.”

First Silence Your Critics


I fear for Canada!  While we can’t claim to have been founded by those seeking religious freedom,( unless it was a freedom to trap and sell beavers), for almost 150 years our public policy and laws were shaped with at least a nod to our Christian heritage.  However, it would appear that those who lean to the right are now being excluded from the public arena.
Some of it is spill-over from our neighbours to the south. Recently HGTV cancelled a new reality show.  The reason? It appears the hosts, twin brothers Jason and David Benham are vocally pro-traditional marriage and pro-life.
But we can’t just blame it all on the States.  
Last week it was announced, first by the liberal party and then by the NDP that pro-life candidates would have no place in either party.  Seriously, the “Conservative Party” have said they are not interested in re-opening the abortion debate, but that is a discussion for another day. So why did Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulclair find the need to limit who can run for their parties?
Because the reality is that this will not just remove the Pro-Life and traditional marriage voice from the public forum, it will remove the conservative Christian voice from the same forum.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

A Believing Mom

You ever been broke? I mean really broke? She was and she
couldn’t believe what she was hearing! She was at the end of her rope. Life was
hard enough for a widow in that day and age, but the drought that they had been
experiencing had been the straw that broke the camel’s back. Well she should
have been lucky enough to have a camel with a broken back. She was out of food,
out of money and was so broke that she couldn’t even afford to pay attention.
She had enough food at home to make one last meal, and she figured hey if we’re
going to starve might as well have a hot meal first. So out she went to collect
some fire wood and it was at that point that into her life comes the prophet
Elijah, who like a typical preacher was asking for something. Now the first
request was fairly simple, he said “Would you please bring me a cup of water?”
Well, that wasn’t all that tough, even she could afford to give someone a drink
of water, but as she turned to walk away it got a little tougher because he
said “oh by the way could you grab me a sandwich as well.” Her response to this
man of God would not only have an immediate impact on her life but it would
ultimately have a life changing impact.
Mother’s day and mothers.  A Jewish proverb says, “God could not be everywhere so he made mothers.” The Spanish
say, “An ounce of mother is worth a pound of
clergy.” Think about it mother is the name for God in the lips and
hearts of little children. Now let’s recognize right off that simply having
children does not make you a mother, all you have to do is watch the news to
have that verified. Napoleon said, “The future
destiny of a child is the work of a mother”. I believe that mothers have
a special place in the heart of God.
And so in the book of I Kings we are told a story of a
mother.   And I realize that not everyone
here is a mother, but everyone here has or had a mother.
A single mom with a son, who was facing the type of economic
pressure that single mom’s still face today. Except there was no safety net for
her, no monthly cheques coming in, she lived on what she could scrape together
to live on. And on this fateful day, this day when she figured that she was at
the very end of her rope and there wasn’t even enough rope left to tie a knot
God arranges for to take a trip into the divine zone.
And although we know very little about this woman, we do
know that she was a mother and a very devoted mother. And because today is
mother’s day I thought it fitting that I should preach on a mother, and not
just any mother but a very special mother. And even though my mother is a very
special mother I thought that using a mother from the Bible would be more a
little more appropriate for church.
The prophet Elijah has foretold
of a famine and drought that would overcome Israel, and in the course of this
famine and drought he finds himself in need of a little food. And so our story
opens in 1 Kings 17:9 When God tells Elijah  “Go and live in the
village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there
to feed you.”
1) She Was An
Appointed Mother
. Here is a woman about whom we know nothing, we have no
name to call her by, we don’t know her age or her lineage. Nothing and yet God
used her as his instrument to provide for his prophet. This woman had an
appointment with destiny! She was chosen for a specific task. Actually two
specific tasks. The first was to raise a son, the second was to provide for one
of God’s servants.
She had a divine appointment to be a mother, but she also
had a divine appointment to be a servant of God. It was no accident that she
was chosen to meet Elijah, it wasn’t a fluke, it didn’t just happen. Just as
the angel Gabriel said to Mary, rejoice highly favoured one, the lord is with
you blessed are you among women. Just as Mary was chosen, just as Esther was
chosen, just as Ruth was chosen, just as Sarah was chosen, just as Deborah was
chosen, just as Pricilla was chosen, just as Tabitha was chosen. In the very
same way this nameless widow was chosen to serve God by serving God’s servant.
Now the first appointment, the
raising of the son comes with certain ground rules, the first and greatest
being, Proverbs 22:6 Direct
your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave
it.
As parents our greatest responsibility and our greatest
appointment is the spiritual training of our children. All else pales in
comparison. If we neglect their health, there is a good chance that they will
get sick, if we neglect their teeth, there is a good chance that they will lose
them, if we neglect their education there is a good chance they will end up a
bum on the street. But if we neglect their spiritual training there is a good
chance they will go to hell, and hell is forever.
Now keeping that in mind realize that the only
responsibility in Proverbs 22:6 for the parent is the first part, Direct
your children onto the right path 
Dr. James Dobson said that the
message of this proverb was this , “Do your best
when they are young and hope for the best when they are old.” Dobson
also reminds us that there are two ages mentioned here children, and old people
and nothing in between, he doesn’t say anything about adolescents or young
adults, not even Solomon was game to talk about teen-agers let alone make
predications.
We can train up our children, we can walk a blameless walk,
we can see that they are in church each week, we can have family devotions, and
we can read them God’s word. But we cannot, cannot, cannot make the decision to
follow God for them. I mean we can’t even guarantee that they will turn out
nice. As much as we would like to determine their salvation, we can only show them
the way and trust God to bring them into his fold. You know what they say, you
can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
Mothers and fathers, you have a responsibility to train your
children right, and if you do all the right things then you increase their
chances of becoming Christians. You can’t however get saved for them, anymore
then you can eat for them. We can bring up two children the same way and one
might choose to become a devout servant of God and the other might choose to
become an axe murderer, but it is their choice. Don’t flog yourself and call
yourself a failure because ultimately there’s as much good luck as there is
good management in raising our kids.  And
remember, even God has problems with his kids.
And kids don’t blame your parents for your stupidity. You
ever see one of those talk shows where people stand up and talk about how the
reason there are what they are is because of their parents. Just once I’d like
to hear someone stand up and say “I had two great parents, they loved me and
did everything they could but I’m complete idiot.”
But listen up, if as a Christian parent you failed to direct
your children’s feet into the paths of righteousness, if you didn’t seek to
give them the spiritual training they required, God’s going to hold you to
account. And you can take that to the bank.
Along with her appointment to raise a son she had an
appointment to serve God by serving others. God has used women mightily
throughout the years. And maybe that is the reason that most of our children’s
workers at Cornerstone are ladies, and maybe that’s why there are more women in
the average evangelical congregation then men. And maybe that’s the reason why
historically the church has had more female missionaries then males. Could it
be that women are more attuned to the voice of God as he calls them to
salvation? And more attentive as he calls them to service? Ladies and
gentlemen, let us keep our hearts open as we endeavour to hear and keep the
appointments that God has for us.
1
Kings 17:10
So he went to Zarephath. As he arrived at the gates of the village, he
saw a widow gathering sticks, and he asked her, “Would you please bring me a
little water in a cup?”
2) She Was A Caring
Mother.
The old adage “more is caught then taught” probably holds
truest in child rearing. If we don’t show concern for the welfare of others
let’s not expect our children to. And if we don’t practice giving to the work
of God, then we shouldn’t expect our children to. And if we don’t exhibit a
caring loving attitude toward our brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s not
be surprised when our children don’t. Children pick up more than you will ever,
ever, realize. That little computer between their ears has an unlimited memory.
They hear everything you say, and see everything you do and it is stored away
in the memories of your children for future reference. Someone commented that
it wasn’t that their children didn’t listen to him that was a worry it was that
they did.
Your capacity for caring will be multiplied through your
children if they catch it. But you will never teach your children to care until
they see how you care. Caring not only for others but also for them. Parents
your children want nothing more than your love, and your care and your
encouragement. Take an interest in what they do, show them that you are proud
of them. Tell them just how proud you are, tell them how smart they are or how
pretty they are. Tell them that you love them and show them with hugs and
kisses.
And remember that you can’t buy their love with gifts. Money
and presents are no substitute for your love.
1 Kings 17:11-12 As she was going to
get it, he called to her, “Bring me a bite of bread, too.”   But she said, “I swear by the LORD your God
that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a
handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the
jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son
and I will die.” 
3) She Was A
Practical Mother.
When everything is said and done I believe that the chief
priority for the Christian is to take care of their family. God does not take
food out of the mouths of our children to support the ministry of Joel Olsten,
or Joyce Meyers, or Franklin Graham, or Denn Guptill.
Our financial obligation to God
is the tenth, the tithe. And God isn’t going to deprive your family so he can
get his cut. However you and God may very well have two different concepts of
being deprived. God wants us to take care of our families, God expects us to
take care of our families, as a matter of fact God commands us to take care of
our families 1 Timothy 5:8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially
those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse
than unbelievers.
 Pretty heavy words
aren’t they. This woman had no problem being kind to this man of God, but when
the rubber met the road her first concern was for her son.
1
Kings 17:13-14
But Elijah said to her,
“Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do just what you’ve said, but make a little
bread for me first. Then use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and
your son. For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: There will always
be flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the LORD
sends rain and the crops grow again!”
 4) She Was A Believing Mother.
This is the crunch, now God is offering her a choice, “If
you believe in me, really believe in me then provide for my servant first and
you’ll never want, but remember first you have to trust me.” Now think about
it. God could have filled the jars first and that would have made everything a
whole lot easier.
It’s easy to believe when it’s
laid out in front of you, but that’s not faith, at least not like the Bible
defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 Faith
is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us
assurance about things we cannot see.
You have to show your faith before God will show his
faithfulness. Peter had to get out of the boat before he could walk on the
water. Joshua had to march around Jericho for seven days before the walls came
down, and David had to fire his sling before the giant came down.
We read about a very similar
situation involving Elijah’s protégée Elisha in 2 Kings 4:1-7  In that case the widow of a prophet
came to the prophet because after her husband died his creditors were
threatening to take her two sons to pay the debt their father owed.  When asked what she possessed the widow
replied;  “just a bottle of olive oil”.  And her is what she was told by Elisha 2
Kings 4:3-4
And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty
jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with
your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the
jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”   In case you’ve forgotten the story,
the widow begins to fill all the empty containers from her one bottle of olive
oil, and as long as she poured there was enough olive oil.
The entire story revolves
around verse 3, let’s read it again, And Elisha said,
“Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors.
You know what he was saying; you show me how big your faith
is. He was saying the very same thing that his teacher Elijah had said to a
widow when he told her to feed him first and the flour and oil would never run
out.
All too often we say “When I see it I will believe it.”  But in this case it was only when she
believed it that she could see it.
Some folks did that two weeks ago at consecration Sunday,
they said “I believe that God will provide x amount of money for me to give to
His work.” We don’t see it first, instead we promise it in faith.
When we started this building, we didn’t start because we had
all our ducks in a row, whatever that means because at the time we couldn’t
afford ducks.
 Practically it didn’t
make sense, but we moved ahead because God wanted us to move ahead, and I’m
convinced that if we had not taken that step of faith 9 years ago that this
church wouldn’t exist today.   And as we move ahead there will be times again
 that if we are going to be obedient then
we will need to step out in faith.
1
Kings 17:15
So she did as Elijah said . . .
5) She Was an
Obedient Mother
It is one thing to believe, it is quite another thing to
turn your belief into action. Anybody can believe. Simple belief is the
simplest chore in the world. Acting upon that belief is another kettle of fish.
It would have been easy for the widow to say, “Ok, I believe, now produce.” But
instead she was willing to give her last morsel away in order to prove her
faith and God’s faithfulness. Her actions said, “God, I not only believe you,
but I believe you enough to give you everything I have” then God produced a
miracle. Do you remember the first miracle that Christ performed? It was at
Canna of Galilee? It was at a wedding and Christ turned water into wine. But
you ever think about how come he needed water, I mean couldn’t he have turned
air into wine? Sure he could of but what he really needed was the obedience of man,
he needed man to do his part. Our first responsibility is to our family, until
God assumes that responsibility by asking for more.
1
Kings 17:15-16
So she did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to
eat for many days. There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the
containers, just as the LORD had promised through Elijah.
6) She Was a Rewarded Mother  God
is faithful, and he will never make a promise that he can’t or won’t keep.
Gabriel told Mary, “nothing is impossible
with God” , and we need to believe that. 
It’s doubtful that the widow could even imagine the reward that God had
in store for her but she discovered the truth of the fact that God is
faithful. 
Mothers there are times that
you feel that your children may never come to know Christ. But don’t quit
praying.  God wants to know your kids and
he wants your kids to have a relationship with him.  So don’t quit praying.
There are folks in this church
today who caused their Christian parents a pile of grief as teens and young
adults and yet today they are serving God. 
So don’t quit praying.  Our God is
a prayer answering God. 
Do you believe that? Do you believe it enough to put it into
practice?
And kids, no matter how old you are you are somebody’s kid,
are you wondering what you can  give mom
this Mother’s Day? How about the knowledge that you know Christ as Lord and
Saviour?

Deja Vu


It is like Déjà vu all over again… the quote of course comes from Yogi Berra, but it seems to be a reality in the present day situation in Ukraine.  In 1940 Russia began what is known as The Occupation of the Baltic States and for almost fifty years they occupied the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  And the West fumed and grumbled and refused to recognize the Soviet Occupation, but that didn’t seem to bother Russia…… much. 

And while the occupation of the Baltic States has been forgotten by most of the world it seems to be playing out again in Ukraine.

And it’s easy to think it’s simply about geography, but ultimately it’s about people.  My GreatGrandFather left Estonia as a young man so he wasn’t there for the occupation; however he lost his family in the purges that followed under Stalin and that left him devastated.

I don’t have a solution for the crisis in Ukraine any more than the leaders of the NATO nations do.  However my faith in these situations rests in the reality of God’s word, in particular Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
 Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

May the Force Be With You.

May the Force Be With You. 

Today is Star Wars Sunday, and that’s kind of special
because it only happens every seven years or so, and for some of you, you know
exactly what I’m talking about and for the rest of you when I explain it will
simply diminish me in your eyes.
Today’s date is May the Fourth, May the Fourth Be With
You.  Get it?   Actually the first time the phrase was used
it was less geeky, maybe. 
The reference was first used on May 4, 1979 when Margaret
Thatcher’s political party placed an advertisement in The London Evening News after
she took office as Prime Minister the ad simply said  “May
the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
But it wasn’t until 2011 that people really began to connect
the dots when the first organized Star Wars Day took place in Toronto, in 2012
the event happened again and geeks around the world embraced the day. 
So what does that have to do with Sunday, and church and
Denn’s message?  Glad you asked. 
For those of who have never seen any of the Star Wars
movies, what’s wrong with you?  Sorry
that was judgemental. 

Most of you understand that the story was set A long time ago, in a galaxy far,
far away…..  I still remember how I
felt the first time I saw that crawl across the big screen with John Williams
score playing behind it.

And I don’t want to get into the theology of Star Wars, but
let if be suffice to say that the original movie and all that have come after tell
the story of good and evil and the conflicts of human nature.  Plus they have really cool light sabres and a
wookie. 
But after six films the entire franchise is still identified
with the words; “May the force be with you.” 
The expression “May the Force be with you” has
achieved cult status and is symbolic of the Star Wars legacy. The line has been
said in some form by at least one character in each of the Star Wars movies
In 2005, the line was chosen as number 8 on the American
Film Institute list, AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes.
If you are wondering what the other seven were, four of them
were “Go ahead make my day”,   “I’m going
to make him an offer he can’t refuse” ,”Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in
Kansas anymore.” And of course the number one movie quote was Rhett
Butler’s line in Gone with the Wind. 
And you are thinking, “So what?”  What does that have to do with anything?  And that’s a good question, one you should
ask every time you hear someone speak into your life.
Well here’s the back story, in the quest of good and evil
the Empire is Evil and the Rebels are Good, it comes down to a show down where
Luke Skywalker and others need to destroy the Death Star.  Their military leaders gather them together
for one last locker room pep talk. 
The famous line is actually said by General Dodonna after
explaining the Death Star attack plan to the Rebel pilots and then it is said
again by Han Solo to Luke, right before the attack on the Death Star battle
station
For those who missed the movie or have forgotten the scene
here it is.  (Video Clip)
1) The Reality is Defined
2) A Vision is Cast       
3) The Victory is Placed in the Hands of a Higher Power 
And again you are wondering “So What?”   Let’s go back to the scripture that was read
for us earlier. 
2
Corinthians 13:7
We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our
correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive.
Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have
failed to demonstrate our authority.
1) Reality is Defined  Sometimes you will hear someone say they
wish the church was more like the New Testament Church, or when someone is
starting a new church they will say that their church will be a New Testament
Church.  Seriously?  When people say that I wonder if they have
actually read the New Testament?  If they
even know what the New Testament church was like? 
For those of you who are familiar with the two letters in
the bible that are written to the church in Corinth, the church was a
mess.  I have received letters through
the years challenging the way we do things at Cornerstone and sometimes the way
we’ve handled a situation.  But if I had
of got a letter like the first letter that Paul sent to the church in Corinth I
would have gotten a blankie, gone and curled up in bed and never come out. 
This was the church that Paul had started, it was his baby,
and now he was writing them because of divisions in the church, spiritual
pride, substance abuse, Christians suing Christians, sexual sin, divorce and
remarriage, issues around how they viewed idols, problems with how they related
together as believers, their worship service, their lack of love for one
another, denying the resurrection of Christ. 
He even had to talk about money, not once, not twice but  multiple times.
This wasn’t a model church, although as my father used to
tell me “Everyone is good for something, even if
it’s being a bad example.”
When Paul
was challenging the Corinthians about their behaviour he said 1
Corinthians 6:9-10
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong
will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge
in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male
prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or
drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the
Kingdom of God.
He wasn’t being nasty he was simply defining the reality of
the church.  Just as General Dodonna was
simply defining the reality of the death star.
And when people got all bristly
and said “Don’t judge me”  Paul responded
by saying 1 Corinthians 5:12 It
isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your
responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
And while it’s easy to condemn the Corinthian church and
call it the “carnal church” aren’t those the same issues that people still
struggle with in their Christian walk 2000 years later?   Divisions, sexual sin, substance abuse, bad
theology?
And it would be easy to write off those who struggle with
sin, but don’t we all struggle with sin, of some kind?
And maybe Paul realized the reality of what William Cowper wrote “No
one was ever scolded out of their sins.” 
Because in 2 Corinthians the tone of Paul’s letter changes and we
read words of encouragement such as 2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore,
since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who wrote “The
saints are the sinners who keep on trying.”  Which is why Paul encourages the believers by
writing 2
Corinthians 4:8-9
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are
perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned
by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
But Paul
doesn’t let them off the hook, he doesn’t nod and smile and say that’s ok, you
can’t help yourself so don’t worry about changing.  Sometime we fall into that trap and never
challenge people to be more than they are, never challenge their behaviour.
It’s easy to
excuse sin, Bill Maher quipped one time that “Everything that used to be a sin, is now a disease.”
But Paul
recognized it as behaviour that needed to be corrected. And so at the end of 2
Corinthians Paul writes 2 Corinthians 13:7 We pray to God that you will not do what
is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our
authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes
it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority.   You
know what Paul was saying?  The same
thing that every parent who has ever gone for an extended drive with their kids
say at one point or another, “Don’t make me come back there.”
And so Paul
talks about the reality of what was happening with the church in Corinth but he
doesn’t just leave it there. 
Which leads
us to our next point where Paul writes,  2
Corinthians 13:11-12
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my
letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each
other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with
you. Greet each other with Christian love.
2) A Vision is Cast  If we go back to the original Star Wars
analogy the General defines the reality of the Death Star but then he casts a
vision for what could happen.  How in the
face of overwhelming odds that they could be victorious. 
I love the “What could be”. 
I am an optimist, a Pollyanna if you will.  I want you to see the preferred future, to
move beyond whatever it might be that you feel that you are ensnared by.

That’s what Paul was saying, you don’t have to be caught in the struggle of
sin, instead he says be joyful in your victory. 
You don’t have to be divisive and caught up in disputes and arguments instead
he says you can live in harmony and peace. 
You don’t have to remain immature, you can grow up in your faith and all
of this can be done in and with Christian love.

The story is told that one Sunday evening during a church
service an elderly woman stood up and testified saying, “I ain’t what I oughta
be, and I ain’t what I’m gonna be, but praise God I ain’t what I used to be.”
You can’t just get stuck in a rut of sinful behaviour,
saying “I can’t change, I will never be any different, I’ll just rely on the
grace of God to keep forgiving me, because he understands.” 
That’s not what his word says.   We all love the story of how Jesus treated
the woman who had been caught in adultery. 
How he stood up to her accusers and challenged them to throw the first
stone, only if they were without sin. 
And how they all backed down and walked away.  People love when Jesus reached down and
helped the woman to her feet and says, “Neither do I condemn you.”  But people forget the challenge he makes to
her when he said, “Go and sin no more.”
Paul puts away the Grace
argument when he tells us in Romans 6:1-2 Well
then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his
wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue
to live in it?
The Bible talks about the
reality of sin, it doesn’t deny our sinful nature, but over and over again we
are challenged to move beyond what we are and become what God wants us to
become. 
I don’t know what you struggle
with, but God wants to help you move beyond that.  We’ve talked about this before, those things
that the Bible defines as sin, or the acts of the sinful nature are things that
ultimately will harm you and your life. 
Maybe they don’t feel bad right now, they might even feel like the right
thing.  The bible talks about the
“Pleasures of Sin” but it tells us that those pleasures only last for a
season.  And if we continue to follow our
sinful nature God’s word tells us that ultimately we pay a price, physically,
emotionally and eternally.  That means a
separation from God. 
In the book of Galatians Paul
lists what he calls the acts of the sinful nature.  And he begins by saying “The acts of the
sinful nature are obvious”  They knew
what they were, we know what they are, we might try to deny it but we know what
is right behaviour and what is wrong behaviour. But in case they missed the
obvious Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature, not an exhaustive list but
enough that they get the picture.  And he
finishes by saying those who live that way, meaning they continue in that life
style, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 
They will not receive all that God offers them.  But then he offers them hope, he tells them Galatians
5:22-23
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of
fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these
things!   Remember, after the but
comes the truth.  And Paul is telling us
we don’t have to be stuck in our sinful nature. 
There is a better way.
And understand that if we
decide that we want to be stuck in our sinful nature, there is a price to be
paid.  Kara
Defria wrote “These days, the wages of sin
depend on what kind of deal you make with the devil.”  But the reality is that is doesn’t
matter what type of deal you’ve struck with the devil, we are told in the word
of God, Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is
death, and while that sounds hopeless the verse continues to say but
the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Which takes us to the next
point.  Paul has spent the best part of
two letters warning the Corinthians about their behaviour and the consequences
of that behaviour, then he casts the vision for what could be.  But how do you get from what is to what could
be? 
Well, in the movie General
Dodonna pronounces a quasi-benediction over his troops when he says “May the
Force be with you”  Whatever the Force
was, Dodonna was asking for it to assist the troops are they sought to overcome
the forces of evil.

In the passage we
started with this morning Paul does the same thing when he leaves the Christ
Followers in the Corinthian church with these words:  2 Corinthians
13:14
May the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
It’s here we discover that Paul was from the South when he refers
to the church as “You All”.

3) The Victory is
Placed in the Hands of a Higher Power 
I
am not trying to develop a theology for Star Wars and trying to deify the
Force, whatever the force may be.  Some
of you need to repeat after me: It is just a movie.  Or as William Shatner once said in regards to
Star Trek Fans “Get a Life”
But the reality for us as Christ Followers is that we will
never be all that we could or should be in our own power.  But the promise is that we don’t have to do
it in our own power.  And so Paul takes
the struggle for spiritual maturity out of the hands of the Corinthians and
gives it to God.  And I love the way the
character of the Trinity is defined here. 
And this is in no way an exhaustive discussion of the Trinity, after all
it was Augustine who said “If you deny the Trinity, you lose your soul; if you try
to explain the Trinity, you lose your mind.” 
 
But here Paul asks for three specific things for those who
chose to follow Jesus.  He asked for the
Grace of Christ, the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 
Remember, grace means getting what we don’t deserve.  It was only through the sacrificial death and
resurrection of Christ that we are offered forgiveness, salvation and eternal
life.  Nothing we have done, and
everything he has done.  We don’t deserve
it, we can’t earn it but ultimately it is offered to us.  The majority of the letters in the New
Testament take the time to remind their readers of the Grace of Jesus. 
And why is that grace offered
to us?  Because of God’s love.  It all goes back to 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 if we
missed it there are verses like 1 John 4:10 This
is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a
sacrifice to take away our sins.   God
loves you, and he loves you so much that He was willing to make the ultimate
sacrifice for you. 
And finally Paul reminds us not
only of God’s grace and God’s love but he reminds us of God’s presence when he
says, may the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.  Sometimes we feel all alone in our Christian
walk, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. 
When Jesus got close to the end
of his earthly ministry and told his followers that the end was near they were
upset, and we really can’t blame them. 
But Jesus makes them this promise John 14:26 But
when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy
Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have
told you. And the result of that is spelled out in the next verse John
14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of
mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t
be troubled or afraid.
Where does the peace of mind and heart come from?  From the presence or fellowship of the Holy
Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit will only be
present in our life when we allow him to be, goes back to the concept of Free
Will.  Holy Spirit will not be where he’s
not welcome.  When I first began
preaching we used to sing a chorus that said “Come Holy Spirit I need
you.”  And that should be the prayer of
our heart every morning.  If we are going
to see the benefits of the grace and love of God worked out in our lives it
will only be when we allow God, the Holy Spirit to have control of our lives.
Paul believed that God wanted  the
very best for the Corinthians and he believed that the Corinthians could
achieve what God wanted them to achieve, because in spite of our their failures
listen to how he addresses them,  1
Corinthians 1:2
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth,
to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy
by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Let me read it for you this way
1 Corinthians 1:2 I am writing to God’s
church at Cornerstone, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy
people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all
people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and
ours.
And let me pray for you, And now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of
God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  Or in geek speak, May the Force be With you.