Gifts for Everyone

I love the distance between my birthday
and Christmas, it’s perfect.  It divides
the year in half, when I was a kid I knew that I would get gifts in June and
then again in December.  I always felt
sorry for the kids whose birthdays were close to Christmas, not just in
December but in November and January. 
There was always at least eleven months before you got more stuff. 
Not for me, there were gifts at Christmas
and then six months later it the middle of June there were more gifts
I’m not nearly as excited about birthdays
these days, I guess that I’d agree with Groucho Marx
who said “Getting older is no problem. You just have
to live long enough.”  If the
downside of birthdays is that you are getting older the upside is you get
stuff.
How about you?  Do you like getting gifts?  Sure you do. 
We say it’s better to give then to receive but receiving has a lot to be
said about it as well.  And there are
gifts and then there are gifts, a pair of socks is a gift, but a new BMW
convertible, now that’s a gift.  
If you are a Christian then you’ve
received the greatest of all gifts because the Bible tells us in the book of Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is
eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.


Now that’s a gift.  That’s not all because we are offered another
gift as well after we get that first gift, listen to what Peter tells us in the
book of Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be
baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness
for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But for the believer the gifts don’t stop
there.  Because when you come into a
relationship with Jesus Christ, not only do you become a child of God, but you
become a gifted child.  Maybe you’ve
heard people talking about spiritual gifts or the gifts of the Spirit and
wondered what they were and how you can get them. 
The answer to both the questions are
found in    1
Peter 4:10
God has given each of you a gift
from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
It’s like God has a gift closet and those
gifts are available for each of us and this morning we are going to look at
what that means.
1) We All Get a Gift There used to be a time that not
everyone at the birthday party received gifts, only the person whose birthday
it was got gifts.  Now parents have to
spend a fortune on grab bags to make sure everybody gets a gift. “Hey, kid it’s
not your birthday, you’ll get your chance.” 
But from the beginning we are
told that there is a gift for every believer, that there are no believers who
don’t have a gift from the spirit.  There
are believers who don’t use the gift or gifts they have been given, but they
have all been given at least one. 
Remember the scripture that we just read from 1 Peter, God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety
of spiritual gifts. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 12:6 In his grace,
God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has
given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has
given you.
And in 1 Corinthians 12:7 A
spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
Now let’s clarify that your spiritual
gift isn’t necessarily your God given talent. 
Everybody has natural talents.  Miley
Cyrus is an incredible singer, she has buckets of talent and most people would
say that she was gifted, others would say other things about Miley but we’re
not going down that road. 
But singing isn’t Miley Cyrus spiritual
gift it’s her talent.  Talents are what
you are born with, spiritual gifts are what you are born again with.  Get it? 
How do I know that because we
are told in the scriptures that 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each
other.
and in verse 11 of the same
chapter 1 Corinthians 12:11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these
gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
Well sure you say, but couldn’t
the spirit give his gifts to an unbeliever, well he could but he doesn’t.   Listen to Galatians
5:16
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide
your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Now in math you may remember
that the way we prove a mathematical equation is by reversing it 1+2=3, but
only if 3-2=1.  So we can do the same
with scripture.  Turn Galations 5:16
around and it says:  If you are doing what your sinful nature craves then you
aren’t living in the Holy Spirit.  
Listen to what James the brother of Christ wrote in the letter he wrote
James 3:12
Does a
fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw
fresh water from a salty spring.
So can a person whose life is not
controlled by the Spirit of God exhibit gifts which the Bible plainly tells us
are given by the Spirit of God for use in the body of believers, I don’t think
so.
2) We All Get Different Gifts The scriptures that we read earlier spoke of believers getting
different gifts or special gifts.  The
problem is that when anyone talks about the gifts of the spirit most people
automatically think that it’s the gift of tongues that’s being referred
to.  And that is limiting the power of
the Holy Spirit, because in reality there are at least 20 different spiritual
gifts listed in the New Testament.  And
Paul tells us over and over again that we don’t all get the same gift.  He uses the analogy of a body to represent
the Christian church and tells us that each part of the body performs a
function that is essential for the body to properly function. 
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out
that a body that was nothing but eyes would never get anywhere, and a body
consisting solely of feet, would never see anything.   We need our eyes to see, our arms to hold,
our feet to walk, our ears to hear, etc.  
A body without all it’s parts wouldn’t be whole and it wouldn’t matter
if you tried to substitute, “Well I might only have one leg but I have three
eyes.”  It still wouldn’t be whole.  And so within the family of God, the church, we
have people who each have a spiritual gift which is needed, and they aren’t all
the same gift.
The gifts most clearly mentioned in the
Bible are found in a several different verses and include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy,
discernment, tongues, interpretation, apostleship, teaching, helps,
administration, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism,
pastoring, hospitality.  Now I’m
not saying that this is an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, I’m just saying
that these are the most clearly defined. 
Now we don’t have time to define and deal with each of those gifts this
morning, if you want more information do a search for Spiritual Gift Inventory
and you’ll find all kinds of resources.
3) We Don’t All Need The Same Gift  Sometimes as children it is
natural to compare ourselves with others, I wish I could run like Bob, or I
wish I had hair like Suzy or I wish I could sing like Mary.  Come to think of it we never really grow out
of making those comparison do we?  Within
the Kingdom of God sometimes we put certain gifts on
pedestals and people look at them and say wow I wish I had the gift of
_____________.   
Now this isn’t a unique problem,
 Paul had to deal with it in the church
in Corinth and
he used the analogy of the body that we spoke of earlier 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 Yes,
the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am
not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less
a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I
am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole
body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how
would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each
part just where he wants it.
4) We Have Our Gifts For A Reason  God doesn’t just give us a gift so we won’t feel bad because we didn’t
get a gift.  This isn’t a kid’s birthday
party, ss believers we are given our Spiritual gifts
for a reason. 
The scriptures are very plain that we
aren’t given spiritual gifts for selfish reasons, and we’re not given them so
we can gloat about them, we are given them so we can serve God’s people, the
church.  Listen again to the Bible 1 Corinthians 12:7 A
spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.  The gifts of the spirit are given to
the believer for a very special purpose and that is to advance the kingdom of
God.  At this time I need a couple of
helpers to hand out ministry involvement sheets.  Plain and simple, each one of us is here for
a reason, and each of you who call Cornerstone your home church is here for a
reasons.  Maybe you sitting there
thinking “I’m not sure if Cornerstone is my home church or not.”  Here’s a hint, if this is where you come to
church most of the time it’s your home church. 
Years ago I was pastoring in a different
community and there was a gentleman in our church who attended every service,
but his home had been a small community 50 kms away.  And it was the church in that community that
he gave to, and he never gave much time to our church but if needed he would
drive 50 kms and do work around that church. 
And that was wrong, he was being fed
spiritually at our church, he was receiving his spiritual care at our church,
his children grew up going to our Sunday School and youth group and yet his
heart and his money were elsewhere. 
That’s like ordering a Big Mac at MacDonalds and paying for it at Burger
King.  He was parking on somebody else’s
nickel.
Everyone have a form? Good, let’s take a
look at them.
4) How We Should Use our Gifts  (We did this with a Drama team as an improve)
Ok, let’s set up a scenario, you’re at a
dinner party with seven other people each of who have one of the spiritual
gifts listed in the scripture that was read this morning.  You’ve all had a wonderful dinner and you’re
just settling back for dessert.  Your
hostess is bringing out the tray with all your desserts when she drops it,
breaking dishes and scattering dessert all over the floor. 
The response of each person there should
be governed by their spiritual gift.  The
person with the gift of serving would jump up and say, “Let
me help you clean that up” They give practical assistance to fulfill a
need.  These are great people to have
around because they are always ready to serve. 
The one with the gift of teaching would
say “Now the reason that fell was because it was too
heavy on one side and it was off balance” Their gift allows them to
bring life lessons in such a way as to bring clarity to difficult situations.
The guy with the gift of prophecy doesn’t
say anything because he had already said “Don’t bring
them all out at once, the tray will be too heavy” Often when we think of
someone with the gift of prophecy we think of someone who can tell the future,
when in reality it is usually someone who can tell us the consequences of our
actions especially in our spiritual life.
The person with the gift of encouragement
would say “Hey that’s ok, we didn’t need dessert
anyway.”  Don’t you love having
someone around who always says the right thing to lift our spirit; the person
with the gift of encouragement is there to give positive attitude for the
future.
The person with the gift of giving has
already excused them self to run over to Tim’s and buy a box of donuts to serve
as dessert “I’ll go buy donuts”.  These
people don’t ask “how much should I give” but “How little do I need to get by on.”
The one with the gift of leadership is
saying “Fred go get a mop, Mary could you and Tom make
sure that all the glass is picked up” His or her gift is to cast the
vision and get people moving together toward a common goal. 
And the person with the gift of mercy
would have their arm around the hostess saying “Don’t
feel bad it could happen to anyone.”  The gift of mercy is not the gift of pity, it
is the gift of empathy, and it is sensitivity to the feelings of others.  Even though it’s not mentioned in Romans, it
is obvious that the hostess had the gift of hospitality.  Now I know that really oversimplifies things,
but hey I’m a simple kind of guy right.
Now there are a couple of warnings that
need to be issued here.  Don’t use your
gift blend to excuse you from doing other things.  Well I haven’t got the gift of hospitality so
I don’t invite people over, that may be but don’t forget we have scriptures
like
Romans
12:13
When God’s people are in need, be
ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Others say I don’t have the gift of
giving so I don’t give.  Uh-huh, we are
commanded to give the tithe or 10% if we are a believer, the person with the
gift of giving gives over and above that. 
God does not give us gifts to excuse us
from doing other things; instead it’s to allow us to go over and above in our
areas of giftedness.  Sometimes we need
to step outside of our comfort zone in order to remain in obedience to
God.  So sometimes even though we may not
feel that we have the gift of teaching we may have to teach, or that we don’t
have the gift of leadership we may have to lead.  Get it? 
If you were out for your evening walk and
saw a house on fire you wouldn’t say, “Well there’s a house on fire, I can’t do
anything to help because I’m not a fireman.” 
No you’d do your very best to help the people inside and put out the
fire until the professional arrived.  If
you happened on the scene of an accident and there were those who needed first
aid you wouldn’t ignore them because you weren’t a paramedic, you’d do what had
to be done until the right person arrived. 
Once the experts arrived, you step aside because they were better
equipped to deal with the situation.
And so in the work of the Kingdom of God there may be times that you need to
step outside of your giftedness in order to meet a need until the right person
comes along to meet that need.
There is a great story in the book of
Acts.  The Apostle Paul is on his way to Rome when the ship he was
on hit a reef and everyone had to abandon ship. 
They were in shallow water, close to land so they were able to make
their way to shore without any loss of life.
So here they are on the beach
at Malta,
wet, bedraggled and cold.  And in Acts 28:3 As Paul gathered
an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire. . .
And you are thinking, so?  Paul was probably the most highly educated
person on the ship, he had at least the equivalent of our PhD.  He was one of the most highly respected
figures in the early church and he was gathering sticks.  You want to know why?  Because right then the sticks needed to be
gathered.
The other danger is the danger of
transference, or expecting that others should do what you are gifted to
do.  You know that what you have to do to
be obedient to God and you presume that all believers have to do the same.  So the person with the gift of mercy can’t
figure out why others are so callous, well they may not be callous they just
might not have the gift of mercy.  Those
with the gift of giving shouldn’t expect everyone to feel compelled to give
like they do.   Those with the gift of
leadership shouldn’t expect everyone to lead.
Bottom line is that you are responsible
for your gift and nobody else’s and you’re responsible for being obedient to
God in using that gift. When you get to heaven, God will ask you what you did
with the gift that he gave you.  He’s not
going to ask what your spouse did with their gift or what the pastor did with
his gift, but you will be held responsible for your faithfulness with your
gift.
Can people have more than one spiritual gift?  Sure but there are usually one or two
prominent ones.  How do you find out what
your gift mix is there are several test out there that you can take, but here’s
a simple way, if you enjoy it and you do it well that is probably where your
spiritual gifts are.  And the two go
together; you can enjoy something and not be good at it. 
I’ve been looking for a place to
quote Red Green and this looks like the spot. 
Red Green
says “You are not good at something just
because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are
not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because
you are good at it.”
And you can be good at something and really not enjoy it,
but when the two come together, it’s magic. 
But you won’t know unless you try it. 
And here’s my promise to you, if you try a ministry at Cornerstone and
it doesn’t fit we’re not going to make you keep doing it. We don’t want you to
be doing something just because we need it done, we aren’t interested in
jamming square pegs in round holes.  We
want you to fit where God wants you and where you will feel fulfilled. 
But at least be willing to try.

Gottca


They think they’ve solved the Jack the Ripper murders. After 126 years,Russell Edwards, a scientist in Liverpool, has claimed he has solved the murders that terrorized London in 1888.  DNA from a shawl worn by Catherine Eddowes, one of the Ripper’s victims, has been matched with a descendent of Aaron Kosminski, an original suspect in the case. Kosminski, a Polish immigrant was considered a suspect by Scotland Yard as early as 1894.

Edwards and molecular biology professor Jari Louhelainen performed a number of tests and have stated that they are completely certain that Kosminski is the villain. But is he? 

Ripperologists, (Honest I didn’t make it up) have their doubts and point to similar claims in the past.  And really, we will never know for sureas the shawl has been handled by literally dozens of people over the past 126 years and according to some Kosminski didn’t match eye witness descriptions of the ripper. 
But it doesn’t matter, because although Jack the Ripper may have escaped justice on earth it doesn’t mean that he has escaped justice.  The Bible reminds us that our sins will find us out and it doesn’t just mean sins as onerous as Jack’s.  And that is why we need God’s grace and forgiveness.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

He
knocked on the door wondering how he’d be received when the door was
opened.   His name was Onesimus and he
was a slave who had run away and was now returning, returning to what he wasn’t
sure.  We don’t know a whole lot about
what happened between the time Onesimus had escaped from slavery and the point
that he returned, what we do know is found in the letter to Philemon, part of
which was read this morning.   
And the
reason the letter was written was to ask for grace and forgiveness for
Onesimus.
We have
25 verses to tell us the story and this is what we know.  Onesimus was a slave who belonged to
Philemon, he escaped and ran to the Rome to lose himself in the largest city in
the world at that time.  We know that
somehow he ended up in prison with Paul and during that time Paul introduced
him to Jesus.  And we know that
eventually the story came out that Onesimus, which means useful, which by the
way was a very common name for slaves back then, belonged to a friend or at
least an acquaintance  of Paul’s and a
fellow Christian. 
And so
Paul and we presume Onesimus felt they had to do the right thing and that
Onesimus would need to be returned to his rightful owner.  And to that end Onesimus was sent with this
letter, which by the way is only one of two personal letters in the Bible.
I know
that I had said that 1 and 2 Timothy were personal letters, but they were a
different type of personal.  Those
letters more properly called pastoral letters were sent to the leaders of the
church with advice about leading the church. 
This was a letter sent to a friend with a personal request. 
You are
probably wondering why Paul didn’t write Philemon and tell him how wrong
slavery was, berate him for owning slaves and inform him that he wasn’t sending
Onesimus back, no way no how.  And the
reason would be that at this point Christianity was still very young and
slavery was an institution in the culture they were in.  As a matter of fact slavery was an
institution in every culture at the time. 
Slaves were a part of life. 
You
could become a slave if you were taken prisoner is war, if you owed a large
debt that you could not pay, if your parents owed a large debt they could not
pay or if you were born into slavery. 
Had Christianity, in those days started denouncing this institution that
had existed since the beginning of recorded history and demanded an end to
slavery Christianity itself would have been destroyed. 
Instead
they did something almost as radical, they demanded that slaves be treated
fairly and kindly and in the case where both the master and the slave were
Christ followers they insisted that the relationship go beyond that to a
spiritual kinship and that was just bizarre.
And
that is the situation that Onesimus and Philemon find themselves in.  Onesimus the escaped slave, and his former
master, reunited not as slave and master but as brothers.
It is
interesting to note that when Ignatius was on his way to be martyred he spoke
of the Bishop in Ephesus, a man by the name of Onesimus, the same man?  We don’t know, however church tradition has
held that they were one and the same.
So what
would be the changes that both master and slave would notice in their
relationship?  Now that they were family?  Well I suppose to answer that first of all we
need to discover what a family is.
What is
a family? And does it really relate to our Christian walk and those around
us? 
Collins dictionary defines family as; “a social unit consisting of parents and
their children, the children of the same parents, or a group of people related
by ancestry or marriage.” 
Let us
begin our spiritual dissertation this morning with a deep and profound
thought.  You realize as well as I do
that we are not always impressed with our family.  They are not always our favourite people and
sometimes they’re not the type of people that your mother would want you to
hang around with.  Right, you still with
me?  I’m sorry Denn, that may be what
your family is like but my family is not like that I am proud of everyone in my
family.  Thomas
fuller said, “He that has no fools, knaves nor beggars in his family must have
been begot by a flash of lightning.” 
Look
admit it, every family tree has some sap running through it.  So please keep that in your mind as your
engrave this deep thought provoking concept deep into your memory, you ready? Got
your pen out? Right, here goes, “You can pick your
friends, but you are stuck with your relatives.”  And folks that profound thought goes
double for the relatives you have in the family of God. 
They
may not be your friends but they’ll always be a part of your family.  So let’s look at families. 
1) 
Families are related.
 Deep isn’t it, sometimes I
wonder where I come up with them.  If you
are family, then you are related, somehow, somewhere you are related.  Now you can talk about third cousins on the
left four times removed but they are still related to you. 
My
family is from a little island in the middle of the Bay of Fundy.  Now I love Grand Manan Island, it’s our
traditional family home and even though I have never lived there I am
considered an islander, on the other hand if you went there as a child of four
and lived there until you were a hundred and two you would always be a stranger
from off the island.  And everybody on
the island is related, which if you know anything about Grand Manan probably
explains a lot.  But whenever I introduce
myself, and I’m always:  “oh right, your
father was one of the twins and your mother is Steve Bradbury’s girl”  and then they explain why I am related to
them, “Oh, well your mothers father’s brother was my sister’s husband’s
cousin’s nephew’s first cousin six times removed so we are related.” 
For
example because Angela’s mother is an islander as well, Angela and I are
related, you see Angela’s mother’s, father’s great uncle was my father’s
mother’s great uncle’s brother.  In other
words our great, great, great grandfathers were both the same fellow. We don’t
have a family tree we have a wreath. I mean that’s how I am related to my wife
but the question still remains, how am I related to you?   John 1:12-13 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to
become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting
from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
Now
what John is saying is this, “that if Jesus is our Lord then God is our father
and if we as children all have common parentage then that makes us brothers and
sisters.  Now then I want you to turn to
the person next to you and say “hello brother”, or “hello sister” now do the
same with the person on the other side of you.   
Now
sometimes we think that we’re brothers and sisters because we all attend the
same church, that we are Wesleyan brothers and sisters.  And those other people who attend the church
down the road, why I know that they are related but they’re like third cousins,
on the left, four times removed, I mean they are kin, but not real close
kin. 
People
sometimes ask if Jay Guptill the Pastor at Hillside Wesleyan is my brother, and
the answer is no, I don’t have a brother. 
So then they dig a little deeper and ask if we are related, and the
answer is yes.  All Guptills are related.  So then they want to know how we are
related.  Our great grand fathers were
brothers, and I have no idea what that make us, I think friends. 
But in
a spiritual sense we are brothers.  And
I’m a brother to the Christian believers at the Full Gospel, and Emmanuel
Baptist and St. James and St. Johns.  And
those believers are every bit your brothers and sisters as the person sitting
next to you.  And they ain’t just
in-laws, they are related to you by blood, the blood of Jesus Christ.  
Now
sometimes it is hard to comprehend, and to be truthful sometimes it’s even
harder to accept, but the fact of the matter is it’s not doctrine that makes us
brothers and sisters, and it’s not theology that makes us brothers and sisters,
and it’s not church affiliation that makes us brothers and sisters.  It is Jesus that makes us brothers and
sisters. 
You see
when someone comes to Christ with a contrite heart and asks for forgiveness and
accepts the salvation that only Christ can give, then they become part of the
family, they’re brothers and sisters. 
And sure
we might be different. It’s like my sister and I.  We both have grey hair but there was a time
that I had light brown hair and she had dark brown hair, and I have our mother’s
nose and she has our father’s nose, and I have 0- blood and she has a+ blood,
and I’m easy to get along with and cuddly and lovable and she’s well we won’t
get into that right now. The fact is that we are different as day and night but
I’m still her brother and she’s still my sister and we will never be able to
change that.  We might say that we aren’t
we might deny our relationship but we will always be brothers and sisters. 
Now
hang on to your seats you ready for this you got brothers and sisters who
profess to speaking in tongues, and you got some brothers and sisters who embrace
reform theology, and you got some brothers and sisters who are pre-post-or a
millennial, and you even got some brothers and sisters who call themselves
Catholic.  And you may not like them, but
Christ said that if they have repented of their sins, and accepted his forgiveness
that they are brothers and sisters.  And
I think that that is a
hoot.  Now you are saying “Pastor you are
way off base.” uh-huh, it’s scriptural, because even in the Corinthian church
which was the most carnal, most pagan, unrighteous church in the New Testament
Paul still found brothers and sisters in Christ.  
And you
might be thinking, so we are related, so what?
Galatians 6:2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
2) Families Care About Each Other, or should I say families are
supposed to care about each other.
I remember
a song from when I was growing up that had a line in it that said, “He ain’t
heavy he’s my brother.”  When it comes to
bearing the burdens of one another in the family of God that needs to become
our motto, the world says “he’s too heavy he ain’t my brother.”  But as we look around at the heartaches and
needs in the family of God, we need to say,  
“They ain’t heavy they’re my brother, or sister” 
Now
listen up, if’n you focus on the load it will be too heavy to carry.  If every step of the way you whinge and whine
about having to carry brother so and so’s load, it will soon become too-too-too
heavy for you to carry.  But Christ said
in John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.
And
love is nothing but a word until it proves itself in service.  You can say, I love that person or I love this
person, but love isn’t love until it cost something, until you reach over and
help the person bear his burden you haven’t loved him. 
You say
“But Denn, I’ve got burdens of my own and I’m waiting until someone lifts my
burden!”  Nope that’s not the way it’s
supposed to work.  Jesus had already
accepted the burden of your sins, when Simon of Cyrene accepted the burden of
Jesus cross. 
Our
responsibility isn’t “who is going to carry my burden”, instead it needs to be
whose burden can I carry?  There is
somebody in this congregation who needs you to lift a burden from their
shoulders. 
Maybe
it’s a spiritual burden: you ever feel to pray for someone, you don’t know why,
all you know is that you feel that you need to pray, don’t hesitate my friend
pray.  That person may be waging a
spiritual battle and your prayer will be the turning point, the point of
victory. It might be an emotional burden, and all they may need today is for
someone to tell them how special they are, they may simply need to be affirmed,
to be thanked for what they do or who they are.  
Sometimes
we feel, “I wish I had of told that person how much they meant to me.” Tell
them now, don’t wait, they won’t be able to smell the bouquets that you throw
when they’re dead.  When I first went to
Truro there was an old preacher who dropped in from time to time to encourage
me, and Lawrence would tell me how wonderful I was, and what a great job I was
doing and would agree with my dreams and pray with me.  And do you know when I realized how much that
meant, and acknowledged the debt I owed him? When I delivered the eulogy at his
funeral, a little late. 
Maybe
it’s a physical need, a senior in the church who needs some work done around
the house, a young mother who could use some free baby-sitting so she can get
out for an afternoon.  At North Point our
church in Brisbane Australia we had a lady in the church who had three year old
twin girls and every once in a while Angela would take the girls for an
afternoon so Tina could go shopping and have a coffee all by herself, you have
thought Tina had been given a million dollars.  
How about those in our congregation who might have a financial
need?  Remember families care for one
another.  
1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV Love
always protects.  3) Families Protect One Another.
When my
sister Dianne and I were growing up we fought like cats and dogs.  I still have the scars to prove it.  Once we got into it and she threw pepper in
my eyes and I couldn’t see so I grabbed her and threw her against the wall but
missed.  Do you have any idea how hard it
is to explain what happened to the picture window in the living room when your
parents come home and find it on the lawn, in pieces?  But I will tell you this, we fought three
ways, constantly, consistently, and courageously, but if’n you took one of us
on you took both of us on. 
I could
say anything about her, and did say most of it, but you’d better watch out what
you said about her.  We had our
differences and we had our fights but we were brother and sister and ultimately
blood is thicker than water.  We don’t
see each other as much as we should but thirteen years ago when my niece was
killed in a car accident Dianne called me in the middle of the night and I was
on my way to New Brunswick just as soon as I could. Why? Because she needed
me. 
I will
never delude myself into believing even for a minute that Cornerstone Wesleyan
Church, let alone Christianity as a whole will ever exist in perfect and
complete peaceful harmony, we won’t. 
My
mother, she had to come to the point that she accepted the fact that we would
never be the Brady Bunch, or the Cleavers, or the Huxtibals, we weren’t even
the Simpson but she always, always, always expected us to defend one
another.  We need to learn to protect one
another, and there has to be a loyalty within our spiritual family.  When someone badmouths a fellow Christian
you’d better be the first one on the spot to stand up for that brother or
sister, instead of being the first one to deny them or say, “Oh really tell me
more so I can pray for them.” 1 Corinthians 13:6 It does not rejoice about
injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  And
when a brother or sister falls, they are still family. 
Just because
they blow it doesn’t mean they aren’t kin anymore.  I had an uncle who was a drunk, “Oh no
pastor, you mean an alcoholic.”  No you
don’t understand I meant what I said, the man was a drunk, he didn’t go to the
meetings.  My daddy said my uncle saw a
sign once that said, “Drink Canada Dry” and that’s what he was trying to do.
And he did it right up to fifteen years before he died when he suddenly walked
away from booze. 
But
when he was drinking sometimes he’d wind up in detox, and sometimes he’d wind
up in jail, but he was still my uncle, and just because he was down don’t mean
he wasn’t kinfolk anymore. 
And
sometime it isn’t real easy to protect some of our Christian brothers and
sisters, and sometimes we don’t even want to admit a relationship.  And sometimes I had to go down to the Grand
Manan ferry and pick up my uncle to take him to detox, and he walked on the
ferry stone sober on one end, and got off my end two hours later dead drunk,
and it would have been real easy to turn the car around and drive back to Saint
John saying he’s no kin of mine, but he was, he is and he will be forever,
whether I liked his behaviour, or approved of his behaviour or not. 
In the
church we never have a shortage of opportunities to defend our brothers and
sisters.
Thirty
years ago it was the scandals with Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert.  Recently it was the fiasco with Mark
Driscoll, a mega church pastor from Seattle. 
And I am amazed at how quick Christians are to turn their back on fellow
believers who have blown it and now with social media how quick and easy it is
to condemn.  As I have said before, a
hanging always attracts a crowd.
And
when these types of things blow up we are quick to distance ourselves and say,
“Hey they are no kin of mine.” But the fact of the matter is that they are,
they are brothers and sisters of yours and you have an obligation to stand up
and protect them.
Because
remember, where we started, you can pick your friends but you are stuck with
your relatives. But how do I defend them, how do I protect them, how do I stand
up for them?  Good question, when someone
is jumping all over them you can affirm the forgiveness of God, and that fact
that we are all human and that God is bigger than our sins.  You can focus on the positive on the people
who have been saved, and touched though the ministry of those men, and it
hasn’t been all bad.   
And
what goes for the high profile Christians goes double for the folks in your
church.   Listen up “If I ever catch you
back biting, and tearing down a brother or sister in this congregation I might
just ask you to find another church”, cause there ain’t nothing I hate worse in
my church then sins of the tongue.  I
know it’s not my church it’s Christ’s church but if you know your New Testament
you know that I am the elder in charge.  
And so
you may ask how do I become a part of that family and part of the family of God?  Good question, glad you asked, Galatians 3:26-27 For you are all children of
God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in
baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.
So
where are you at this morning, where do you stand in the family?  Perhaps there’s someone in the family that
you need to ask forgiveness of, or maybe there’s someone in the family that you
need to forgive.

What me worry?


It was 2:17 in the morning when it happened.  I woke up.  But more than that, I woke up and it was pouring out, and my first thought was a question.  Did I put the roof up on my car when I came home?  The obvious answer was, yes.  I have been driving convertibles since I was 18 years old and I have never forgotten to put the roof up for the night. Never.  At least that’s what I tried to convince myself of at 2:17 in the morning and again at 2:25 and 2:30.  Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I got up, went downstairs and looked out the garage window to confirm that my roof was indeed up.
Why do we so often default to the negative and worry about things that we know we shouldn’t worry about?.  In the case of my middle of the night obsession, the solution was easy. I went and checked and then I went  back to sleep. 
What is it that wakes you up in the middle of the night?  At that point there are two things that you need to know:  Can you do something about it or not?  If you can, then do it, if you can’t, then go back to sleep.    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What’s Special about Scripture

There is
normally a sense of urgency to people’s last words.  Last week as we finished up our Down the Road
Series I mentioned that the last letter of Paul’s that we have a copy of is 2
Timothy, and the scholars tell us that it may have
been written just weeks before Paul’s execution. 
Last week we looked at the words of Paul when
he told Timothy, 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I
have remained faithful.   Paul was
summing up his life for his friend, it was almost as if he was delivering his
own eulogy.  But those weren’t the only
important words that Paul had for Timothy.
Earlier in this letter Paul reminds Timothy of
where he was to find his authority, and it wasn’t from Paul. Paul
writes, 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us
what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us
when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
You may
have noticed that in my messages I use a lot of scriptures, when I was in
college I read the words of John Wesley who said “I am a Bible
bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.”  And I really didn’t understand what he
meant but I have come to understand, because I too am a bible bigot, I don’t think that anything I or
anyone else has to say has the potential eternal consequences of God’s word.
You don’t
come to church on Sunday Morning to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill,
at least I hope you don’t.  You come to
hear from the Bible, the word of God, the Holy Scriptures, so I don’t want to
take the time you have entrusted me with to let you know what I think. 
And I
would be naïve to think that everyone agrees with me on the validity or the
value of this book. A number of years ago I was asked to take part in a debate
on CBC radio concerning the Oxford translation of the Bible.  This particular translation worked very hard
at trying to offend nobody. So they were very gender unspecific.  Now I understand some of that, he and her
become they, mankind becomes humanity or should that simply be hu-people-y.  I can even concede a little bit on Sons of
God becoming Children of God, although socially and culturally speaking, 2000
years ago being someone’s son was a whole lot different than simply being
someone’s child and was understood as such. 
If you didn’t want to be gender specific but
still wanted to capture the essence of the original son would have to
translated “favourite child” not just child.
But the
translation kept going, it removed any mention of the Jewish leaders asking for
Christ to be crucified instead it was simply the religious leaders. Because it
didn’t want to be anti-Semitic.  But
historically it wasn’t just any religious leaders who demanding the execution
of Christ it was the Jewish religious leaders. 
That’s not to put any blame on Jews who live today that is simply the
historic reality.  To deny that is akin
to just referring to the authors of the holocaust as political leaders and not
mentioning that they were German political leaders.
In the
Oxford translation the right hand of God was no longer the preferred place
because that would imply that left was wrong or bad.  The parable of the blind guides was left out
because it was offensive to blind people, you get the gist.  And I was asked to debate another pastor who
thought the Oxford translation was the greatest thing since sliced bread. 
And I
challenged her saying that regardless of how you viewed the Bible it was wrong
to take that much liberty with it.  If it
was the word of God how could you make such radical changes, if it was just a
historical document how could you justify tampering with it or if it was only
great literature we wouldn’t change the wording of Shakespeare’s plays simply
to make them more appealing for today.
But to
her the Bible was just a book, a good book but just a book never the less.  And I couldn’t fathom how a pastor, a
minister could view the word of God as just a book.  What did she say when she stood up on Sunday
Morning?  What could she possibly offer
her congregation if it wasn’t from the word of God? 
And so in
the scripture that was read this morning Paul is writing a young pastor by the
name of Timothy.  And as we read
this we need to remember that 2 Timothy is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed
to the congregation in the Ephesian church it was addressed to the pastor of
the Ephesian church. We are reading someone else’s mail. 
Paul is in prison in Rome facing execution and he is
writing to encourage Timothy and to remind him of his calling.
And part of what Paul reminds
Timothy of is his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a
foundation established on the scriptures.   And so Paul tells Timothy 2 Timothy 1:5 I remember
your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother
Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in
you.   And that goes back to the promise we are given
in Proverbs 22:6 Direct
your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave
it.
In other words parents do your best when they are little
and hope for the best when they grow up. 
And Timothy had that heritage, it would appear that his Mother Eunice
and his Grandmother Lois were followers of Christ and that they had brought Timothy
up in the faith.  Now understand that
these ladies came to their faith through a Jewish background and so that is how
Timothy would have been raised. The scriptures that he would have been taught
would have been the Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament,
because for Timothy the New Testament was still a work in progress.
After He turned 13
the Rabbis would have felt that He was responsible enough to observe all the
mitzvahs, which were the divine commandments or meritorious acts.  As He grew He would have read the Talmud
which were the books of wisdom written by the Rabbis through the
centuries.  And in those books He would
have learnt things like “Never threaten a child, either punish him or forgive him.”
or
“A child’s tears move heaven itself” or “Why was man created on the last
day, so when pride takes a man it can be said, ‘God created the fly before
you.’”  He would have learnt all
these things at the Heder or Hebrew school. 
Historians tell us that at a time when 90% of the world’s population was
illiterate, that every Jewish boy over the age of five was learning to
read.  And while most of us do our best
to struggle though with one language, Timothy was undoubtedly learning in both
Hebrew the language of his people, and Greek which was the language of the
marketplace. 
On His first day
of school Eunice would have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of
how sweet learning was and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey
and told Him, “The study of God’s word is sweeter.”  But Timothy’s education in the scripture
would have begun long before that, in his own home. 
But what are some of the things
about the scriptures that Timothy and we by default are reminded of here in
regards to God’s word?  Paul begins by
reminding Timothy  2 Timothy 3:16 All
Scripture is inspired by God
First of all we are told that The Scriptures are Inspired by God 
This is the crux of the entire sermon.  If you can’t believe that this book was
inspired by God then what good is it for you? 
It’s not just another self-help book, it’s not just another book on
morality, it’s not just another “Good Book”. 
This is the word of God.  And it’s
not enough to say “Well I believe that parts of the Bible are inspired.”  What parts? 
The parts that you agree with? 
The parts that make you feel good but don’t make you feel guilty?  Do you get your pick of the Ten Commandments,
so you’ll pick do not murder and do not steal but skip lying and adultery.  This book is either the word of God or it’s not
and if it’s not then why waste your time with it?
It was Augustine who remind us “If you believe what you like in the
Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but
yourself.”
We hear the word inspired tossed around a lot these days,
artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, and interior decorators are
inspired.  But does that mean the same as
the bible being inspired by God? 
No.  In most cases when we speak
about someone being inspired it means they are very creative, that they are
able to draw some special inspiration from within themselves or from their
Muse.
But the thought of the original language in saying the
scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant God and
breathed, God breathed the scriptures into being.  As a matter of fact if you were to read 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version it
begins by saying All Scripture is God breathed.   You have 40 different human authors who put
pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book, and we believe that
they were inspired by God in what they wrote. 
I read a great analogy a while ago.  If you were a musician and picked up a
trumpet and played it the music would be created by your breath, the trumpet
would simply be the tool, it would be what turned your breath into a
recognizable sound. If you then picked up a tuba and played it would still be
your breath but it would come out sounding different, hopefully.  In the same way the breath of God is played
through various human writers in the Bible, same breath but we hear it in
different ways.  So Moses writes
different than David, who writes different than Amos who writes different than Jonah,
who writes different than Matthew.  But
the initial inspiration or breath is from the same source.
So it’s inspired, but why? 
Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of God just to have a good book
to read?  And it is great reading, there
is mystery and intrigue and romance and betrayal, poetry and songs,
inspiration, philosophy and theology all wrapped up in this book we call the
Bible. No it’s not just a good read there needs to be a purpose to our
reading. 
2
Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is
right.
The Scriptures Teach
us What is True 
There has to come a
time when we ask: What is truth?  Is it
something that is defined by politicians? 
God help us if it is.  Or do we
leave it up to nine appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and by
default what morality is?  Can truth
change? 
According to the Supreme Court of Canada it can and they
would have us believe that they are the ultimate authority for truth.  Back when the Supreme Court ruled changing
the definition of marriage I met with our MP, Geoff Regan, and asked him what
protection was in place for me as a clergy if I was asked to perform a same sex
marriage.  Mr. Regan assured me that I
was protected by the Supreme Court Ruling. 
And so I asked if the Supreme Court ever changed its mind.  And he said it did.  Not much protection, but the point being is
that truth is not supposed to change. 
Jesus promised in John 8:32 And you will
know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
But how can the truth set you free if the truth
is ever changing and if what is true today isn’t true tomorrow?  Jesus said in John 14:6 Jesus told him,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
And we are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ
is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

The truth is the same yesterday, today and forever and this is where you
find it.

So what else is the bible good
for? 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us
what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
The Scriptures Make
us Realize What is Wrong in our Lives 
It’s
not enough that we get our creed from the bible we also need to go to it for
our conduct.  It’s is the source of both
our belief and our behaviour. It should make a difference in how we live.  And if it doesn’t then there something wrong.  Christians are referred to as being born
again, having a new beginning and being new creations.  That would signify new behaviour, how we act,
how we live, what we do.
Throughout the Bible our
behaviour is not taught to be a way to our salvation, as a matter of fact in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved
you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a
gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so
none of us can boast about it.
So our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but
our behaviour is dependent on our salvation. 
Does that make sense?  No,
ok.  You don’t become a Christian because
of what you do, but when you become a Christian that determines what you do,
there are specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t
do.  And they are found in the book.  We are not left without guidance.
True story, this is too good to make up.  I was talking to a friend of mine one day and
he was telling me about how he became a Christian.  No church background, a friend of his introduced
him to Jesus, he had just started attending church.  His friend gave him a bible and he starts to
read it.  At the time he was living with
his girlfriend and one night they are lying in bed, he’s reading his bible and
comes to a word he doesn’t understand. 
So he turns to his girlfriend and says “What’s fornication?” Now if’n
you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside of
marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.
So he asks his girlfriend “what is fornication?”  And she replies “That’s what we do.” 
The scriptures tell us what is
wrong.  But more than that let’s keep
reading  2
Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong . . .
The Scriptures Correct
us When we are Wrong,
So the next morning Bill moves out, if they were
fornicating and fornicating was wrong then he knew that he should stop
fornicating.  Pretty simply right?  So what’s the problem?  And maybe that’s the reason we don’t read the
bible, because we don’t want to find out what we are doing wrong and what we
should do about that behaviour. 
When people talk about being
accepting of people they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness.  They remind us of the woman caught in
adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone
if they were without sin.  And then
people tell us how we should be like that accepting and forgiving of people
regardless of what they do or how they behave. 
What they forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had
left.  Do you remember?  Sure he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no
more.”
In other words stop doing what
is wrong.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This
means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life
is gone; a new life has begun!

Not only is there a new life but the old life is gone. 

And finally 2 Timothy 3:16 All
Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make
us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and
teaches us to do what is right.

The Scriptures Teach us to do what is
right.  
Sometimes people say that
the Bible is full of Don’ts but there are actually more dos in the bible then
there are don’t so if you spend all your time doing the dos you won’t have time
to do the don’ts.

 If you want some place to start try Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our
lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is
no conflict with the law.  So I’ll
tell you what, work on those nine and when you get them down pat let me know
and I’ll find you some more.

Here’s the secret if you want to know what’s in this book
then you have to read it.  It can’t just
sit there.  If you don’t have a bible I
would recommend the New Living Translation, if you can’t afford one let me know
and I’ll buy you one.

Every once in a while I read a quote and think; man I gotta use that.  Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38 years
of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England.  During the time he was there the church grew
to over 5,000 in attendance and he became known around the world for his
preaching and this was before television. 
And Spurgeon said once “There is dust enough on
some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers.”  I hope that’s not true of you, let’s pray.

Best of intentions, but. . .


I was at the beach, but I had no intention of getting wet.
Last week Angela and I decided that a picnic with the grand kids would be fun while the weather was still warm so we arranged to meet our daughter and her family at the lake. 
My plan was to read and watch them frolic in the water.  What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? 
It started when I went to the edge of water to watch the girls but then the girls wanted to know why Grampy didn’t come in, so I did, calf deep.
And then it got interesting.  Our four year old grand-daughter loves the water so she convinced Mommy and Nanny to take her further out.  The two year old wasn’t sure that she wanted to go so she was left with Grampy, but then she wanted to join her sister so she took my hand and asked me “Grampy?”  Well what could I say? 
When I was thigh deep I was remembered I had my e-reader in the cargo pocket of my shorts. Arrggggh!
And once again I was reminded that good intentions don’t excuse me from the consequences of my choices.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Down the Road, Paul and the End

A hanging always attracts  a crowd. 
And I would suspect that a stoning was no different.  That’s where our journey began back in June
when we discovered Saul of Tarsus witnessing the brutal execution of one of the
leaders of the early church.  A man named
Stephen. 
We don’t know that Saul actually threw any of the
rocks that resulted in Stephen’s death, but we do know that he was in the
crowd. And instead of fueling his sense of injustice at the senseless death of
this man who was described as a righteous man it seemed set fire to a desire to
eradicate the church that Stephen had embraced and that had embraced
Stephen.  One of the first descriptions
of Saul tell us Acts 8:3 But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went
from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
This man was obviously an enemy of the church and
an enemy of God.  But in this strange
display of Grace God reaches down and speaks into the life of Saul and we see
this incredible transformation that turns one of the churches greatest enemies
into the church’s great statesman. 
And it isn’t long before Saul becomes Paul.  No big mystery here, Saul and Paul are the
same name.  Saul is the Hebrew and Paul
is the Greek.  Kind of like Denny is the
English and Denney is the French. 
And it was at the point of Saul’s conversion that
we joined him on a journey that has taken us all of the summer of 2014 to
complete.  We have seen him preach and
sing, he has shown up in the courts of kings and prison cells last week we
found him on a ship in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in a terrifying
storm.  We have met his mentors and his
protégés and now we are at the end of his journey.  The centre of the universe for many of Paul’s
contemporaries, the great city of Rome. 
And it is here that Paul’s story and life would
end, but his writings and influence would shape the early church and eventually
much of the world.  It is in the writings
of Paul that we discover what it means to be a Christian and to live a spirit
filled life.  And the very foundation of
the church was laid by Paul and many of the foundational doctrines of the
church are found in these letters.
But now the journey is coming to an end. Paul is
under house arrest in Rome and I’m sure that as he reflected back on his close
to thirty years of ministry that this might have been his theme song. (My Way
by Frank Sinatra)
The scholars tell us that the last letter that
Paul wrote, or at least the last letter that we have a copy of is probably 2
Timothy, and that’s where I want to take you today on our journey. 
This letter was written to Timothy who was one of
Paul’s protégés, Paul had met him in Lystra and began his training taking
Timothy with him on his travels, eventually leaving him in charge of the church
in Ephesus.  And that is where Timothy is
when he receives this letter from his mentor.
Paul has been under house arrest but he is still
under arrest.  There is a soldier with
him all the time and Rome is becoming more and more hostile toward the
followers of the Nazarene.  They are no
longer seen as simply a Jewish sect but because of their refusal to join in the
yearly worship of Caesar they are viewed as dangerous rebels, after all if they
refused to do something as simple as offer a pinch of incense and use the words
“Caesar is Lord” then what else were they capable of?
And so Paul has seen the writing on the wall, he
understands that his days are numbered. 
And so it is with this in mind that Paul pens these words to his friend
Timothy.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to
God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have
finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits
me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give
me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who
eagerly look forward to his appearing.
As for me, my life has already been poured
out as an offering to God.   
This
is one of those references that is lost on us. 
An offering poured out to God? 
That may not make sense to us but would have made all kinds of sense to
the person the letter was written to. 
From what we read about Timothy we discover that his mother was a
believer who had been raised a Jew and his father was a Greek.  And both traditions had some form of “Drink”
or “Liquid” offering.  In the case of the
Jews it was spelled out in the Old Testament in the books of Exodus, Numbers
and Leviticus.  And it wasn’t a
sacrifice, it was an offering to enhance the sacrifice.  The sacrifice was either a lamb or a ram and
after it had been sacrificed a portion was burnt.  And it was while it was on the hot coals that
a cup of wine would be poured over it. 
So you understand that while the meat was hot the
wine was poured on it and evaporated leaving only the steam and the scent.  Numbers 15:6-7 “If the sacrifice is a ram, give a grain offering of four quarts of
choice flour mixed with a third of a gallon of olive oil, and give a third of a
gallon of wine as a liquid offering. This will be a pleasing aroma to the LORD.
Paul was not saying that his life had been a
sacrifice, the sacrifice was made by Christ. 
We are told in 1
John 2:2
He
himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the
sins of all the world.   But
Paul’s life had added to that sacrifice, it was poured out to enhance the
sacrifice.  And because of what Paul
offered, his life, his talents, his ability the sacrifice of Christ became a
pleasing aroma to the known world. 
Remember when Paul came on the scene that the gospel had basically
stalled in the Middle East.  It was Paul
who saw it spread across Asia and into Europe. 
It was Paul who not only started the new churches but put the systems
into place for the leadership and administration of those churches.  He laid the foundation for the church as we
know it.
It’s interesting that this isn’t the first mention
that is made by Paul of being a drink offering. 
Earlier he had written to the church in Philippi saying Philippians 2:17 But I will rejoice even if I lose
my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful
service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.
The difference is that in Philippians Paul writes
“Even if I lose my life, pouring out like a liquid offering.”  He is talking in the theoretical, he is using
the word “If” but here it becomes a certainly as he says in 2 Timothy 4:6 As for me, my life has already been
poured out as an offering to God.   Why the difference?  Paul spells it out in case Timothy misses it,
The
time of my death is near  
Paul
has now spent the better part of two years under house arrest in Rome,
sympathies have turned against Christianity. 
Rumours about the Christ followers are spreading.  We are told that the early church often
referred to their common meals and celebration of Communion as a love feast,
some outside the church took the low road and began to speculate what might
happen behind closed doors at an event referred to as a “Love feast”. 
When some heard that at the communion service the
body and blood of Christ was shared not everyone understood the symbolism of
the statements and so there were rumours of cannibalism being practised by the followers
of Jesus.
It seemed that things came to a head after the
great Fire of Rome in AD 64, Nero had assumed the throne and it was under Nero
that the systematic persecution of the Christians began.  WE are told that when Rome burned that by some
accounts, Nero came under suspicion for causing the fire and to deflect
attention from himself he used the early church as a scapegoat, after all there
was much in their rhetoric about fire and the end days. 
And so Christians were ordered to recant and give
up their faith or face the executioner. 
Tradition tells us that it was at this time that Peter was executed, and
that he was ordered to be crucified like the Christ he followed.  Peter though insisted that he wasn’t worthy
to die in the same manner as Jesus and so he was crucified upside down.
But Paul was a Roman citizen and so his execution
would be more merciful, quicker and less painful.  He would be. . . beheaded.  And we kind of look at this as barbaric, you
know I am opposed to capital punishment, but when you read headlines of how
they sometimes mess up executions in the States with botched chemicals and
faulty electric chairs you gotta think that maybe the guillotine might not be a
bad option. 
And so Paul would have been offered the choice,
recant and live or don’t recant and die. 
How difficult could it be, all he had to do was proclaim the words “Nero
is Lord” and he would live.  But Paul
decided that he would rather bow to the executioner than to bow to Nero.
And I’m sure that Nero and those who demanded the
death of the early church leaders were convinced that the church would die with
its leaders.  But it was Tertullian who would later write as a warning to
the Roman Government concerning the persecution of the church, “The blood of the martyrs is seed”
Tertullian’s words
continue to ring true, in 1982 Chet Bitterman a bible translator with Wycliffe
was kidnapped in Columbia by a M-19 a communist guerrilla group, the group
demanded that Wycliffe remove all of their missionaries from Columbia,  Wycliffe refused and the terrorists murdered Bitterman.
As a result Wycliffe offered to release any of their staff from service in Columbia.  Without exception every bible translator
wanted to stay and 200 volunteers offered to fill Bitterman’s place. 
Today in
Columbia M-19 is only a memory but you will still find linguists from Wycliffe,working
at translating the bible into the 62 language groups represented in
Columbia.   “The blood of the martyrs is still seed”
It’s interesting to see the analogy that is used
here by Paul, the NLT simply translates it as “the time of my death is near”,
but other versions translate it as “My departure is near” and the word that
Paul uses here is a term that was often used for the process of loosening the
lines on a ship.  They haven’t yet been
cast off, but they are being prepared for that.
And now Paul uses a series of analogies for his life that
all come from sports.  And this is a
theme that he returns to time and time again in his letters.  That would make me believe that Paul had
either been a jock or an athletic enthusiast. 
Because communicators often default to what they are familiar with.  And so you can jump to all kinds of
conclusions about the lack of sport illustrations in my messages and the fact
that I often tell sea stories. 
I never took part in organized sports as a kid, now that’s
not say that I wasn’t involved in sports, I wore out a couple of bikes and the
kids in the neighborhood were always involved in a game of baseball with chunks
of wood or flat rocks as bases, or touch football, sometime with fairly rough
touches or a capture the flag.  Do kids
still play like that or does everything need to be organized now?  Again a tangent. 
 
And so Paul begins by saying, I have fought the good fight Some Christians take this way too
literally they will fight over anything and everything.  And social media has made it worse.
Some
of the things church folks tussle over, really it doesn’t matter what colour
the lobby is, doesn’t matter if you have a pulpit on the platform or not,
doesn’t matter if the pastor wears jeans or suit, doesn’t matter if we sing old
songs or new songs.  Seriously get a grip.  Remember what Solomon warned us of in Proverbs 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like opening
a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out. Or Proverbs 17:19 Anyone who loves to quarrel loves
sin.  Pastors could take heed to 2 Timothy 2:24 A servant of the Lord must not
quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with
difficult people. And in the New Testament we find quarrelling listed
time after time in lists of behaviour that is unacceptable for followers of Jesus.  Romans 1:29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed,
hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.   Romans 13:13 Because we belong to the
day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the
darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral
living, or in quarreling and jealousy.   Time
after time it comes up including when Paul lists the acts of the sinful nature
in Galatians 5.  And when people do read
these verses then they quarrel about what the bible means when it talks about
quarreling.  Stop it. Another tangent.
When Paul says he has fought the good fight he
isn’t talking about a military fight he is speaking of the type of fight that
was a competition.  Yep, he’s talking
about wrasslin’.  Throughout his letters
Paul speaks of the struggles that he encounters and that we will encounter as
Christians.  As we wrestle with self and
our sinful nature, as we struggle with temptation and doing what we should even
when it isn’t what we’d prefer to do. 
Note he doesn’t say that he won every fight but he fought to the best of
his ability.  I wish I could say that I
win every time I struggle in my Christian life, but that’s not reality.  Probably in your life, but not in mine.  But I want to be able to say that I fought
the good fight, that I didn’t just roll over and give up.
And then Paul continues with the sports analogies saying; I have finished the race.   There is no greater compliment
then that you finished well.  Probably
the history’s most famous race is the marathon. 
Do you know the history behind the race? 
The Battle of Marathon was probably one of the decisive battles
of the ancient world. It was here that the Greeks came up against the Persians.
 Imagine if the Persians had won. The
glory that was Greece would never have happened, the language, the art the
philosophies.  If the Persians had of won
that day there would have been no Aristotle, or Plato, no Archimedes.  And the Persians should have won, they had
won everything else, they had superior forces but Darius and his forces were
defeated that day by the Greek forces in a town called Marathon. 
But our story revolves around a runner named
Phillipedes.  Legend tells us that
Phillipedes had run to Sparta from Marathon to request assistance against the
Persians.  A round trip of 240 km, and
then after the Greek victory he was sent to deliver the news to Athens, and
legend has it that he ran the 40 km in the summer heat, delivered his message,
“We have won.”  And then he fell
dead.  He had completed his course and
done his work. 
Over and over again the analogy of the race is used to
describe our Christian life, and it always speaks of how we finish, not how we
start.  How often in life do we see
people start a venture but never finish it. 
But it is the finishing that counts in the end.  And so Paul could look back and say I’ve
fought the good fight but more important I have finished the race.  To which he adds I have remained faithful.   At least one commentator says that this statement continues in the
sports analogy, that the greatest games of all in that era were still the Olympics.
And the day before the games began all the competitors met
and took a solemn oath before the gods that they had spent at least ten months in
training and that they wouldn’t resort to any dishonesty to win their
competition.
If this was the case then Paul was saying; “I have kept the
rules: I have played the game right.”  It
was William Barclay the author of the Daily
Study Bible who said “It would be a great thing to
die knowing that we had never transgressed the rules of honour in the race of
life.”
Remember the Ben Johnson fiasco in the 1988 Olympics.  He was the Canadian runner who won the 100
metres final in Seoul.  Well on September
24 we celebrated him as the Canadian who won the 100 metres.  Prime Minister
Brian Mulroney said “It’s a marvellous
evening for Canada.”  Three days
later he was derided as the Jamaican who tested positive for illegal
steroids.  Canadian Swimmer Mark Tewksbury, hung a sheet out of his window of
the Olympic Village with the words “Hero to Zero in
9.79”.  Johnson had finished the
race but he had not remained faithful.
My prayer is “Lord, let me finish well.”  Because of what comes next, Paul continues to
write And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness. In
the Olympics the greatest prize was the laurel wreath.  There were no medals, instead they were crown
as victor.  And this is the picture that
Paul paints for us here, the athlete who has fought the good fight, finished
well, competed honourably and now is awarded his crown. 
Paul is telling us that he is now turning from the judgement
of man, to the judgment of God.  He knew
that very shortly he would stand before the judgement seat of Rome and would be
found wanting, the trial could only have one end.  But even though he knew what Nero’s verdict
would be, but he also knew what God’s verdict would be.
We will never be able to please everyone, and really when it
comes to our eternity the approval or condemnation of man isn’t relevant.   For the believer our crown comes when we
stand before God after our time on this earth is done and hear his words, “Well
done good and faithful servant.”

I can’t control when I will
die or how I will die.   I really can’t control that.  Kind of like the bumper sticker that says “I
want to die in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming like the passengers
in the car.” 
So I
can’t control when or how I will die.  I
often say I want to die well, but who know I might be crying and begging for
drugs.  I hope not but. . . I have no
control over when or how I will die.
However
I have all kinds of control over how I will live, and my prayer and hopefully
yours will be that as our time of death draws near we will be able to say   2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I
have remained faithful.
  

It’s Just Ten Bucks


Lou Gehrig ’s disease, that’s what we called it when I was growing up.  I’m sure that some folks actually referred to it as ALS but I was an adult before it was anything but Lou Gehrig ’s disease to me. I was just a kid when I saw the movie “Pride of the Yankees” but I would always define the disease in the light of the Yankees’ first baseman.  And so last week I accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  I sent ALS Canada ten bucks, and sent some more to World Hope Canada, and had a bucket of ice water dumped on my head after church. 
I marvel at the success of the viral campaign that has raised over 100 million dollars, at last count, to support the victims and families of ALS as well as funding research and public awareness of the disease. 
And I understand that there are those who aren’t interested in giving the ten bucks and being soaked in ice water and that’s fine, but it’s frustrating when people pour ice water on the concept and try to dissuade people from donating.   Because wouldn’t it would be a travesty if the cure wasn’t found for the want of a bucket of ice water and ten more dollars?
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.