What is in a name?


20 years ago I added an “n” to my name. It was a whim but I’ve never regretted it.   15 years before that I had removed the same “n” along with a “y” when I went from being Denny to being Den. And for fifteen years I had people correct my name, helpfully changing it from Den to Don or Dan and then I would have to explain that it was neither, that is was Den.  And when they looked at me quizzically I would say “you know, the place where a bear lives.”  (Which is what my Great Grandmother told me.)
And I finally figured out a solution, someone had asked me what Den was short for and I told them, Dennison. To which they asked “then why doesn’t it have two “n”s?  Good question.  So I added an “n” to my name. 

The first time I officially used the new spelling was for my new library card which arrived in the mail the next week, addressed to Dean Guptill.  And again I discovered that people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. 

But regardless of how I spell my name, I can always be assured that God knows who I am.    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

We Win


Well, another survey is out, showing that Christianity is losing ground and that church attendance is down.  But, depending on your perspective, we aren’t losing, we’re winning.  When you stop and think about it, every person who isn’t a Christian hasn’t been lost from Christianity, they just haven’t been won to Christianity yet. 
The starting place for humanity isn’t a relationship with Christ, the starting place is being separated from God, so every person who begins that relationship is a win for our side.  Does that make sense?
By default, the other side doesn’t have to do anything except try to keep us, the church, from doing its job; they only win when we stop doing what we’ve been called to do.
But when you stop and think about it, our job is easy, because all we’ve been called to do is be obedient.  And Jesus said that if we love Him, our natural instinct will be to obey him and that has to involve introducing people to Him.  Regardless of what the survey says, every day in Canada, there are people who cross the line and commit their lives to Christ and that is a win.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.  

Barnabas Son of . . .

The two men stood on the wharf, looking across the
shimmering water, seeing their final destination only in their hearts.  They were about to begin a journey that would
not only change them, but would change the world.  One was known throughout the church, the
other, some people knew his name.  He was
a relative new comer, with a shady past and a spotty reputation.  Those who did know about him figured that he
wouldn’t last long, that he’d just be a flash in the pan.  Here today, and gone tomorrow.  One was sailing to a foreign port; the other,
he was simply going home.  It’s funny how
history is though, because 2000 years later the man who was less known is now
considered one of the pivotal people in the history of the early church.  The man who was known throughout the church
is now merely a footnote in church history.
This is week four of our Down the Road series as we follow
Paul through the New Testament.  We first
met Paul in Acts 7 and 8 as he witnesses the stoning of Stephen one of the
leaders of the early church.  Not a great
introduction to the man who would ultimately be responsible for the spread of
Christianity and who would write many of the New Testament books, as well as
shaping the theology and doctrines of the baby church. 
But Paul didn’t travel alone, and this morning we are
looking at a companion who accompanied him on many of his trips.  
Earlier in the service we read from
Acts 13 and part of what she is read was Acts 13:2 One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the
Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I
have called them.”
Well we know who Saul was; he was the man we now know as
Paul.  Paul who was the persecutor of the
early church.  Paul whose life was
dramatically changed on the Damascus Road. 
Paul who wrote much of the New Testament.  Paul who was the catalyst for the Christian
Church to become more then another Jewish Sect.    We all know who Saul was; he was Paul.  But who was this man Barnabas?
Acts
11:24
Barnabas was a good man, full of the
Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.
And so we are told that Barnabas was a good man.  What a drab description to give someone, a
good man.  Or at least that would be the
feeling of many people.  To them good
just isn’t very interesting, you know if you want to live a dull life then just
be good.  Too many people feel that sin
writes history while goodness is silent. 
We’ve even come to the place that our heroes are at the very best tolerable,
but seldom are they good. 
Dr. John Gossip, a
theologian from Scotland wrote “It is held by many
people as a first axiom that holiness is a dull affair, and God’s company
intolerably dreary and that for vividness and colour and interest you must look
elsewhere.”    It would seem that
nobody gives goodness much credit these days and yet without goodness why live?
Without goodness than the atheist are right, without
goodness why strive to make the world a better place.  No, sin is not the only author of history;
throughout history good men have had an impact and have changed our world.  From Martin Luther to John Calvin, from John
Wesley to John Newton good men have made a difference.  Where would our world be without the
Lincolns, without the Grahams, without the Livingstons and without the
Schweitzers.  What a dreary world this
would be without the Martin Luther Kings and Mother Theresas .
Our country was founded and built on the foundation stones
of moral goodness; even the very name the Dominion of Canada is a direct
Biblical reference.  Goodness is not
dull, it’s vibrant, and it’s not boring it’s exciting.
But what else do we know about Barnabas?  Other than that he was good, we are told in
the scriptures that his nickname was “Son of Encouragement” but what else could
he have been called?
The first time we come across
Barney is in the book of  Acts 4:36-37 For instance,
there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of
Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of
Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
1) He  Could
Have Been Called “Son of Generosity”. 
From
this scripture we know that Barnabas was a Levite, that is he belonged to the
family of priests who served Israel.  We
know that he was from Cyprus, which happened to be in the same place then as it
is now, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. And we know that he sold a
field that he owned and brought the money to the apostles. 
Why would he do that?  Maybe he had been back in the crowd when
Jesus told the young Lawyer in Matthew 19:21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all
your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in
heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Or perhaps he had watched other believers as they used their
combined resources for the common good of the body.  Or maybe it was just Barnabas’ way of saying,
“Here you go God, you can have all of me, including my field.”  You know that our financial attitudes are
often indicative of our spiritual attitudes. 
As a matter of fact Jesus said that how you handle your money is a
pretty good measurement of your spiritual state. 
Matthew
6:21
Wherever your treasure is, there the
desires of your heart will also be.
Oh that was good, let’s hear it
again.  Matthew
6:21
Wherever your treasure is, there the
desires of your heart will also be.
Don’t you just love it when he says stuff like that?  You know if you say your heart is in God’s
work but your money is elsewhere then your heart’s not really in God’s work.
Maybe Barnabas discovered that as long as he had the field
that his loyalties were torn, maybe he’d been saying, “You know I’d serve God
but I have this field I have to take care of.” 
We don’t know, probably will never know unless we ask Barnabas when we
get to heaven.  What we do know is that
the first time he is mentioned in the Bible he is characterized as a
giver.  And one of the first characteristics
of being good is not just giving what we are; it’s giving who we are.
Martin Luther said “A religion that does
nothing, that saves nothing, that gives nothing, that cost nothing, that
suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”
I’m sure that Barnabas could have thought of a dozen good
places to spend the money, a bigger tent, a new chariot, Christmas, clothes,
summer holidays, celebrations.  But he
didn’t spend it on any of those things he gave it to God’s work.  And I’m sure that those who knew what he did
might have said “He is the Son of Generosity.”
The next time we see Barnabas
is found in Acts 9:26-27 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the
believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly
become a believer! Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how
Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to
Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in
Damascus.
2) He  Could Have
Been Called “Son of  Compassion”
Let’s
put this into perspective.  When the
church was in it’s infancy it was seen as a group of heretics by the Jews and
there were some in the Jewish religion who felt it was their duty to put a stop
to this heresy.  One of those people was
a religious leader by the name of Saul. 
He became one of the foremost persecutors of the Christian faith,
although he would have seen himself as one of the foremost protectors of the
Jewish faith.  His entire life revolved
around imprisoning Christians and destroying Christianity.  It was his life, it got him up in the
morning, it was his vision and his motivation.
And into his neatly ordered
life stepped Jesus of Nazareth.  The
complete story is found in Acts chapter 9, but through this vision Saul’s life
is turned inside out and he begins to serve the Lord.  The result is summed up in  Acts 9:19-20 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength. Saul in
Damascus and Jerusalem Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few
days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying,
“He is indeed the Son of God!”
When Saul arrived back in Jerusalem the church wasn’t quite
sure what to do him, here was a guy who was intent on destroying the church and
he shows up for worship, what would your response have been?  The church was naturally suspicious of his
motives, and with his background you really would be hard pressed to fault them
for their reaction.
But here was a man who cared about Saul, I mean really cared
he was willing to go out on a limb, put his own reputation on the line and
vouch for Saul.  You see love and
kindness are grandiose ideas but they are just ideas until they are put into
practice.
If we are going to impact our
community it will only be as they see our love for one another, when they see
how we care about each other.  There is
no place in the church for squabbles or personality clashes.  Sometimes you have to put those things aside
and get on with your Christian walk.  You
ask but what if I just don’t like somebody in the church, one word answer
“Tough”.  You weren’t called to like
them, you were called to love them and if you are wondering what that means
then you need to read 1 Corinthians 13. 
As a matter of fact let’s read it together, you do any public readings
lately.  1
Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own
way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not
rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never
gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endres through every
circumstance.
And remember this, ultimately,
you are not responsible for how another believer treats you, but you will always
be responsible for how you treat another believer.  When Paul listed the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 & 23 this is what he wrote 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!
And if’n you aren’t exhibiting those characteristics to
other believers there’s a pretty good chance you not showing them to anybody.
John Wesley said that his
rule for life was “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you
can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you
can, as long as you can.”
A little boy was asked if he knew the difference between
kindness and loving kindness and he said that was easy, “If I was hungry and you gave me a
piece of bread that would be kindness. 
If you put jam on it, that would be loving kindness.”
Barnabas went out of his way to be
kind to this new believer and I’m sure people who knew about might have said
“He is the Son of Compassion.”
Acts
11:25
Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to
look for Saul.
3) He Could Have Been Called
“Son of Cooperation”   
A little background for this
incident.  If we were to go back a little
bit in this chapter we would discover that when persecution broke out in
Jerusalem that some of the believers fled from Jerusalem and ended up in places
like Cyprus and Cyrene from there some carried on to Antioch.  As they settled there they told people about
Jesus and the bible says that a large number of people believed and turned to
the Lord.  When the church in Jerusalem
heard what was happening they sent Barnabas to oversee the work.  Under his ministry even more people became
believers and it was at that point that Barnabas went looking for Paul and if
we were to continue reading in Acts 11:26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of
them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of
people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)
Not everyone is willing to share
the glory.  I’m sure there must have been
temptation when that inner voice told Barnabas, “Ride her out son, you are
going to be the pastor of the fastest growing church around.”  A temptation to write a book on how to grow a
church and to say “Hey look at me, look at what I’m doing”  But Barnabas wasn’t  nearly as interested in furthering Barnabas as
he was in furthering the kingdom.
And because Barnabas wanted to
serve Christ first he gave Paul his first big break, and pretty soon Barnabas
and Saul became Saul and Barnabas.  And
the neat thing is that it didn’t seem to bother Barnabas at all.  And Barnabas didn’t just pick up the phone
and call Saul either.  He probably walked
the 200 kms met his friend and said “Saul this is awesome, God is moving,
people are getting saved, the church is growing and I want you to be a part of
it as well my friend.”
Sometimes we need Barnabas’ who
will let someone else take the glory and the thanks, and sometimes we need to
be Barnabas’ who will let someone else take the glory and the thanks.  Leonard Bernstein
said that “The hardest instrument to play is 2nd
violin, everyone wants to play 1st Violin but nobody wants to play
second fiddle.”  The Johnny Paycheck  sang
a song in the eighties that said “Nobody wants to play
rhythm guitar behind Jesus, everybody wants to be the lead singer in the
band.  It’s hard to get a line on what’s
divine when everybody’s pushing for the head of the line.”
I’m sure that when people saw what
Barnabas had done might have said “He is the Son of Cooperation.”
Do you remember the first
instance when Barnabas was mentioned, it was in Acts
4:36
For instance, there was Joseph, the one
the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was
from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.
5) He Was Called Son of Encouragement.  What a testimony, the man’s name was not
Barnabas, the man’s name was Joseph, but the apostles nicknamed him  Barnabas which in English just means Barnabas
but in Greek meant Son of Encouragement. 
Would people refer to you as a son or daughter of encouragement?  Or of discouragement? 
When I was a teenager and went to
work for Tip Top the one thing that I often attributed my sales success to was
the belief that my manager, Ian Vincent,  had in me, and six years later when I returned
from the states and needed a job it was Ian again who became my
encourager.  Through the twenty years of
my ministry I had a number of fellow pastors who have been my encouragers and
it’s interesting to note that my strongest and staunchest supporters are
successes.   Laurel Buckingham, David
LeRoy, H.C. Wilson. So are they
encouragers because they are successful or are they successful because they are
encouragers. 
Barnabas was a lifter upper of
people.  Henry Ford made this statement. “The ability to encourage others
is one of life’s finest assets.”  Who
is there in your life that you can encourage? 
Are you a lifter upper or a tearer downer.  
So was Barnabas a good man
because he was a giver, a sharer and an encourager?  Or was he a giver, a sharer and an encourager
because he was a good man?  Well the
answer is in one of the scripture that we started the message off with Acts 11:24 Barnabas was a
good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were
brought to the Lord.
You see we’re not naturally
good, that is a myth.  The Bible says Isaiah 53:6 All of us,
like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet
the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
The natural part of us is the rebellious part, the
disobedient part, the selfish part.  The
part that says “No I won’t and you can’t make me.” 
The secret is found in John 1:12 But to all who
believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
6) He Could Have Been Called “Child of God”  
Barnabas was good because God
was working through him, because Jesus had changed his life and his heart and
because the Holy Spirit was in control and guided him.     So where are you at?  Who’s in control of your life?  And what would people nickname you if they
had the chance.   The promise is still as real today as it was
2000 years ago John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the
right to become children of God.

Three guys, Patty Mick and Shaun. . .


You know I have never met a terrorist. Never.  And you would think I would have, considering how many Muslims there are in our community.  Unless, not all Muslims are terrorists.  As a matter of fact all of the Muslims that I’ve met are pretty decent folks who love Canada and they seem genuinely friendly. Not a terrorist in the bunch.  So maybe the vast majority of Muslims are just regular people like we are. Notice I used the word regular as opposed to normal.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are a lot of kooks out there who call themselves Christians who certainly aren’t representative of our faith. At least I sure hope they aren’t.  And come to think of it, the terrorists that I heard about when I was growing up weren’t named Abdul. Instead they had names like Mick and Patty and they didn’t come from Baghdad, they came from Belfast, And while they were killing people in the name of their god, his name wasn’t Allah.
Let’s never forget that Jesus died for everyone. And let us never lose sight of the fact that Muslims need Jesus, just like Catholics, Baptist and Wesleyans do. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.