It Seems to Make Good Sense


It just seems to make good sense.  Last Sunday Cornerstone decided to embark on another adventure.  Over the past several months your leadership team has been investigating ways to reduce our annual $16,000.00 power bill.  And this isn’t a new thing, from the first power bill we ever received we have been trying to make it less.  That has resulted in new lighting throughout the building, going to time of day usage for our heating and several other initiatives.  But this is by far our most ambitious.  
The plan is to install a new air to water heat pump to save energy and to install a 30 kw PV Solar array, consisting of 120 solar panels on our south facing roof, to produce energy.  And there are some cool aspects to the project.  We would be the first church east of Ontario with a significant solar presence, and it would be the largest solar project in Nova Scotia.  But outside of that it just seems to make good sense.  It seems to make good sense financially and environmentally and it always makes good sense for the church to be seen as doing the right thing. 
And when all the proposals are in if it doesn’t make good sense, then we won’t do it.

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

Let Go of Sinful Anger

Yoda said “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to
anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  And Yoda could have been talking about
the movie Frozen.  Elsa’s fear of losing
her sister Ana, led to the explosion that you just saw which ultimately led to
the entire kingdom falling into a deep freeze and all the troubles that came
from that point on. 
This week the staff attended the Global Leadership Summit
and one of the speakers was Joseph Grenny, one of the authors of “Crucial
Conversations”  the subtitle of the book
is “Tools for Talking When Stakes are High” 
Elsa should have been in that session
And if we were honest with ourselves we can track many of
our problems in life back to the root of anger. 
Because you are angry with someone or something you do
something that you later regret.  You are
working at something and it isn’t doing what you want it to do so you get angry
with it and so you yank too hard and you break it.  You get angry at your child, spouse, sibling,
parent, employer, employee and you say something you wish you could take back.  And you can’t take it back, those words that
are said in anger are always remembered.   And you are thinking “But they said they
forgave me.”  Yep, but that doesn’t undo
the hurt, you can’t unring the bell.
And so you would expect me to say “Let Go of Anger”.  After all 
most people would say that anger is bad, that we should never get
angry.  It was Buddha who said “Anger will
never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind.
Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.”
While Peter O’Donnell wrote “Anger and worry are the enemies of
clear thought.”  And Ralph Waldo
Emerson   offered us excellent
advice when he wrote “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of
happiness.”  And here are words of
great wisdom from Ambrose Bierce, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best
speech you will ever regret.”   I’ve
given those speeches. 
The bible
even weighs in on the subject when Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:24-25 Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people,
or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.   And again in  Proverbs 29:22 An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all
kinds of sin.
And most of us think of anger as a “Sin”.  “Forgive me because I got angry” we pray or
we tell the person on the other end of our anger “I’m sorry I was angry.”   
And so you
would understand if I preached on “Let Go of Your Anger”.  But then we have to deal with passages in the
bible like Psalm 7:11 God is an honest judge. He is
angry with the wicked every day. Or in the New Testament John 3:36 And anyone who believes in
God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never
experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
And we look in the bible and we see Godly men and women who
get angry.  And maybe we can understand
Moses getting angry, and David getting angry and Jonah getting angry, after all
they were people like us. But the bible tells us that Jesus got angry, and you
are thinking “Not Jesus, Jesus hugged children and cuddled lambs, Jesus told us
to love everyone and turn the other cheek, no preacher you’re wrong Jesus never
got angry.”  Yep sure did, he got angry
with the Pharisees he got angry with his Apostles and in a story that is
familiar to all of us one day he got so angry about what was happening in the
courts surrounding the temple he turned over tables, set animals free and
chased people with a whip.
And so now we have this dichotomy to deal with.  We perceive anger to always be wrong and to
be sinful behaviour and yet we see Jesus acting in a way that seems to be angry
and he was without sin.  And there are
multiple instances in the scriptures with God being angry, and that is the word
that is used “angry” not a little put out or mildly annoyed but angry. 
Perhaps the truth lies in the words of Aristotle who
said “Anyone
can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the
right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way —
this is not easy.”
So here are some questions we can ask ourselves about Anger
and perhaps we can find some answers in the Jesus story.
What makes you Angry?  And probably I could get a whole range of
answers here.  Some would be appropriate
and some would be wildly inappropriate.  A
few years ago there was a story in the news about a guy in Ontario who was
charged with road rage.    
Someone had cut him off in traffic, I don’t know if it was
intentional or not, but he chased the guy down and then forces him off the road
with his truck, rams the offending vehicle a couple of times and then grabs a
chain saw and threatens the other driver with it. 
Do you get angry in traffic? 
In the parking lot?  In the
supermarket when someone cuts you off with their cart?  Do you get angry because of the way people
treat you?  Because of some slight,
either real or imaginary? 
Do you remember when Jesus
cleared the temple of the money changers? 
Why was Jesus angry?  I think
there are a couple of reasons, the most obvious is found in   Mark 11:17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My
Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned
it into a den of thieves.”
He was angry because people
were disrespecting God’s temple and making a mockery of God’s rules.  What was supposed to be a Holy place had
become an everyday place, what had been set aside as a place to worship God had
become a place to worship money.  And
because of that people’s relationship with God were in jeopardy.  And that made Jesus angry.
That was why Jesus was upset
with the Pharisee; they were putting religion ahead of people and putting
roadblocks between people and God.  Once
when Jesus was teaching some parents tried to bring their children to him to be
blessed and his disciples scolded them for interrupting Jesus while he was
teaching and then we read in Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry
with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop
them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”
When people and churches stand
between others and God that should make us angry in the same way it made Jesus
angry.  
When people are more concerned
with their preferences and their comfort rather than reaching out to those who
need Jesus, that is a reason to become cranky and when people and churches that
call themselves “Christians” do a disservice to Jesus’ name and nature by being
rude and bitter, that should make us angry.
But there was a second reason
that isn’t as obvious but just as valid, and I understand that this is speculation
but I think Jesus was upset over the fact that those who were supposed to be
leading people to God were taking advantage of them. 
These were pilgrims who had
travelled a long way to be able to worship God in the temple and they were
being ripped off.  Historians tells us
that the same dove that was being sold in the temple court yard could be
purchased outside the temple for a fraction of the price, but coincidently the
same people who benefitted from the sale of the doves inside the temple were
the ones who had to inspect the ones from outside to make sure they would be
suitable.  Can you say “conflict of
interest”?
And the temple tax had to be
paid in a certain currency, the principle had been laid down that the tax was
paid for the upkeep of the temple, and that was a good principle the temple
needed to be maintained and that needed to be paid for by those who used
it.  But then the principle was distorted
and became a burden.  Because now it
wasn’t enough that the right amount be paid but it had to be paid in the right
currency.  So while other currency was
used outside the temple the priests insisted on a certain type of
currency.  When the pilgrims came they
had to get their money changed.  And if
it was a straight exchange then the rate was about 20% but if you needed change
back the rate doubled.  And so Jesus was
angry because people were being taken advantage of.
What was happening was legal,
but was it right?   Personally I think
Jesus would be a little cranky over what happens in the name of business and
commerce in our society today. 
When companies ask the rank and
file to make wage concessions and give up benefits and then give their
executives million dollar bonuses, I can understand the anger there.   And I don’t think it would be billion dollar
bailouts that Jesus would have had in mind for the big banks and Wall Street,
just saying.
But here is a rule of thumb, If
you are getting angry over your feelings or over your stuff, you are probably
getting angry over the wrong things. 
Understand that Jesus didn’t
lose his temper, he got angry.  Which
leads us to the next question.
How Do You respond In
Your Anger?
This is a matter of time and degree.  Sometimes people get angry and their response
is way over the top.
The guy with the truck and the chainsaw in Ontario, that was
probably not the best way for him to express his anger. 
 If you lash right out
you have probably reacted the wrong way.  
Which is why Thomas Jefferson cautioned people “When angry,
count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”
Again, let’s look at when Jesus
chased the merchants and money changers out of the temple.  In Mark’s account we discover that Jesus had
actually been there the day before, Mark 11:11 So Jesus came to Jerusalem and went into the
Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was
late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples.   And then we pick up the story the next
day Mark 11:15 When they arrived back in
Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying
and selling animals for sacrifices. 
So you understand what must
have happened, right?   He must have seen
what was happening, he left, thought about what was happening  and figured out what his response should be
and then came back. 
John’s account of Jesus in the
temple comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and there has been debate
over whether it was the same incident or a separate incident, and I can say
categorically it could have been the same incident or a separate incident.  But there is a neat line there in John’s
account.  John 2:15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them
all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money
changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.   I wonder in that account if the taking
the time to braid the rope together was his way of counting to ten.
If you find yourself reacting
immediately in anger, you are probably in the wrong.  You are letting your anger control you
instead of controlling your anger, which is why the bible tells us in Ephesians 4:26-27 And “don’t sin by letting
anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for
anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”:
Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil
a foothold.  Presumably when we
let ourselves be controlled by anger that is when Sin gets a foothold. 
But Paul doesn’t stop there he
tells us to deal with it right away, and not to let it fester in our lives.  Because if you’re like me you’ll lay awake
all night pressing the replay button over and over again.
It was Phyllis Diller who said “Never go to bed angry, stay up and
fight.” 
I’m not sure that is what the Bible had in mind. 
But understand this; if you aren’t controlling your anger
then your anger is controlling you.
So, you need to find out how you are supposed deal with what
makes you angry.  Remember when the
disciples wouldn’t let the children come to Jesus and he got angry?  What did Jesus do?  Did you yell at them and call them jerks, no he
taught the disciples what their correct response should be and then he blessed
the children.
What can you do about what makes you angry?  How do you correct it, how do you deal with
it?  Can you be part of the solution?
The other
thing to note is that there was no personal violence in Jesus’ response,
granted he set animals free and scattered coins but there is nothing to
indicate that he struck anyone, that he hurt anyone.
Martin
Luther King Jr. was angry, Mahatma Ghandi was angry, Timothy McVeigh was angry
and Osama Bin Laden was angry.  Two will
go down in history as heroes two will always be villains.
The
scriptures don’t tell us not to be angry but they do warn us in Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”
Do You Understand The Price Of Your Anger?  There is an old saying that there is only
one letter difference between “anger” and “danger”.  There are people who will go to jail because
of their anger.  There are people who
lose their lives because of anger, on both sides.   Because a man was angry in Ottawa this week
he is dead along with an innocent man.
I can’t count the marriages
that I have watched dissolve because of an angry spouse.  Sometimes situations where there was abuse
but often just times where the other partner just got tired of the anger and
venom that was being spewed. 
People have lost their jobs
because they were categorized as an “angry person” and people lose friends for
the same reason, nobody wants to be around someone who is always angry at
something, even when that anger is justified.
But there is also a cost when
we are angry in the right way.
Jesus got angry over what was
happening in the temple, and he responded after thinking about it and without
violence.  And the result?  A lesson was taught, not just for that
specific point in time but for the next two thousand years.  The temple courts were cleared at least
temporarily and I’m sure that some of those who were chased out examined their
motives. 
But what else happened?  Mark 11:18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law
heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him,
because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
This was the tipping point in Jesus’
ministry. 
The lives of African American’s
were changed irrevocably for the better because of the anger of Martin Luther
King Jr.  India’s future was changed
because of the anger of Ghandi.  And King
and Ghandi paid the price with their lives.
You get angry over abortion, or
poverty or social injustice, or people disrespecting God and his name and voice
your anger and there will be a price to be paid.  Chances are that you won’t be killed, but it
might be the way people view you, or it might be a promotion or it might be
contempt.
But that doesn’t mean that you
shouldn’t get angry about those things, it just means that you need to be aware
that there is often a price to be paid. 
Remember the words of Edmund Burke who wrote “The only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 
Anger has been the catalyst
that has changed our world for the better. 
One of my favourite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw who said  “The reasonable man adapts himself to the
world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the word to
himself.  Therefore all progress depends
on the unreasonable man.”
It is when people get angry
over social injustice that we see change, it’s when people get angry over the
environment that people begin paying attention. 
Seriously if it wasn’t for angry environmentalists big business would
still be pouring poison into the air and cars would still be burning leaded
fuel and getting 15 mpg.
At the Global leadership Summit
we heard Allen Catherine Kagina who is the Commissioner General of the Uganda
Revenue Authority, which is like our CRA or the IRS in the States. She said that
she took the position because she was angry. 
Angry that the URA was known as a Den of Thieves, angry that the taxes
that Ugandans were paying weren’t providing what they were supposed to.  Ten years later the URA is now a model public
institution for developing countries around the world.  And more than that it is an institution that
the people of Uganda trust. 
It was when Martin Luther got
angry over what he saw as the failure of the Catholic Church that the
reformation began. 
After all the founder of the
Methodist movement, John Wesley got angry over child labour and the founders of
the Wesleyan Church go angry over Slavery. 
But it can’t be repeated enough: Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV “In your anger do not sin”
While we understand these normal human experiences of anger,
Christians need to ask the question—when is anger righteous, moral and
appropriate?  And how we do we
respond?  And so this morning I would
challenge you to “Let Go of Sinful
Anger.”

. . . but doesn’t share well


It was bizarre.  The other day I was working at the office annex (Tims), that wasn’t the bizarre part, when I noticed an older gentleman reading his morning newspaper.  That wasn’t bizarre either, but after he finished each page he tore it in half and put it in a pile.  That was bizarre.  Most people read their newspaper in the coffee shop and if they don’t take it with them they leave it for the next person.  When he was finished his breakfast he got up and threw his decimated paper in the trash & not even in the paper recycle bin, but the trash.
I’ve actually seen the same gentleman a number of mornings and his routine is always the same: read a page, tear it in half and then throw it out.  It wouldn’t cost him an extra nickel to leave his paper for someone else, and yet he goes out of his way to make sure someone else doesn’t get to enjoy what he has paid for.
We might think that is petty but how often do we do the same thing with all that God has given us?  Regardless of what “it” is, I’m pretty sure that God expects us to leave some of “it” for the next guy.

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

Let go of Fear

Fear will be your enemy. 
And that statement seems to set the tone very early in the movie.  If there seems to be one overriding emotion
in the movie “Frozen” it is fear.  The
King and Queen are fearful for their daughters and so the girls are separated
and grow up alone.  Elsa is afraid of
what she might inadvertently do with her power and so she puts up barriers
between her and those she loves.  Anna
fears being alone and so she ends up engaged to a man she had just met.  Hans being the youngest of 13 brothers fears insignificance
and is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure he had a place in the world.  Kristoff fears for his business, who wants to
buy ice when it always cold?  . And the
villagers?  Well like villagers
everywhere it seemed that they feared everything.   It seemed that the only characters in the
story who weren’t afraid of something was Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the snow
man. 
This is week two of our “Let it Go” series and we are
looking into the passage that was read for us earlier, in particular looking at
the seventh verse that says 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but
of power, love, and self-discipline.
Fear isn’t just the overriding theme of the movie Frozen,
sometimes it seems that fear is the overriding theme of life. 
So let’s begin by looking at fear what it is and how it affects
our lives.  
The words fear and afraid are mentioned close to five
hundred times in the Bible and in the New Testament there are actually several
different words used to convey the idea of fear.  The first word simply means to be
in awe of, or to revere or respect something. 
This is a natural fear.  In the
Bible it is used of the fear of God, or fear of death.  This is the type of fear that keeps us from
doing silly things, like stepping off tall buildings.
Another word that could have been used means exceedingly afraid or terror. It’s
where we get our word Phobia. And it is natural fear taken to the extreme.  If the first type of fear keeps us living,
the second type keeps us from living. 
The website www.phobialist.com actually lists over 500 different fears,
things like Acousticophobia- Fear of noise or Alektorophobia- Fear of
chickens., Cometophobia- Fear of comets, Didaskaleinophobia- Fear of going to
school. And finally Homilophobia- Fear of sermons, there would appear to be a
lot of people who are suffering from that in our country today.
But it isn’t either of those words that Paul used when he
wrote to Timothy.  The word he used means,
timid or fearful and its root word in the original language means
faithless. 
And the context of this word is being afraid to do
things or for that matter even to try things, because you are afraid that you
might fail.
And so let’s begin back where we started, 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has
not given us a spirit of fear and timidity. . . And so we begin
with Paul’s instruction to Timothy to Let
Go of Your Fear
This is the fear that makes us live mediocre ordinary
lives, never taking chances, never trying to change anything, content to simply
drift along.  This is the spirit of
average, and it keeps you in a rut, and you know what a rut is right?  A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. 
And Paul tells us that this fear has not been given to
us by God.  The question is, if
God hasn’t given it to us then where does it come from? let’s listen to what
this theologian had to say about the origins of fear.  (clip from “The Phantom Menace where Yoda
tells young Anikan that fear comes from the dark side)
That’s right, fear comes from
the dark side, and the devil wants you to be afraid to do anything great for
God, to say anything for God or to try anything for God.  And we can’t let that happen. 
The spirit of fear robs you of
what God wants for you.  When you are
governed by fear there are things that you will never do because of your fear
of things that may never happen.   And so
you are presented with an opportunity to try something new and you don’t
because you project your fears into the situation.  I have mentioned before that I am terrified
of heights, not just a little scared, really scared.  And that could have kept me from learning how
to fly when I was in college but it didn’t. 
And in 1988 I was looking at one of the big roller coasters in Florida
telling myself that I would never go on it when I realized that I had preached
the week before on overcoming our fears, and so it was that day that I
discovered that you can be afraid of heights and love monster roller
coasters.  And Deborah and I have ridden
some of the best in Florida.  But I would
never have discovered that if I had of let myself be governed by fear. 
And so Paul continues in his
instruction to young Timothy saying 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but
of power, love, and self-discipline.
So not only does Paul tell
Timothy what God doesn’t give, he also tells him what he does give. 
So this morning we aren’t just telling you to let go of fear
we are going to look at the three things that God has given you as
believers.  Notice that this is not a God
will give you, but it’s a God has already given you statement.  You already have these things, you may not
recognize it, you may not use what God has given you but as a Christian these
things are alaready yours.  Kind of like
someone who has a winning lottery ticket in their sock drawer.  The money is theirs all they need to do is
claim it, and tithe it of course.

2 Timothy 1:7 For
God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power . . . And
so the first thing Paul tells Timothy and by default us is that youneed to Embrace the Power You’ve Been Given.  At this point Paul is writing from the
perspective of thirty five years down the road from the Day of Pentecost.  You’ll remember the promise that Jesus made
to the Apostles before he returned to heaven. 
It’s recorded in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon
you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in
Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
But you
already knew that because that’s one of my favorite verses and I’ve only used
it five gazillion times in the past nineteen years.  And ten days later on the day of Pentecost
the Holy Spirit came and the church became synonymous with Power.
Most scholars agree that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy
about 66 AD.  And because of that Paul
was able to look back at the power that had been released on the Day of
Pentecost.  Paul was able to say; “This
power, this power that could take eleven unlikely men and turn them into the
champions of Christianity is still available to you today.” “The power that
took a trembling Simon, the swaying reed who shook at the questions of a
harmless maid and turned him into Peter the Rock, able to stand up to the very
leaders who had Christ crucified, is yours for the taking.”
You see, up to the day of Pentecost the followers of Christ
had his teachings, his words to guide them and give them direction, but it was
with the coming of the Holy Spirit that the power was released.  The teachings of Christ were good, but the
disciples needed the Power of the Holy Spirit to reveal those teachings as the
words of God himself.  It was Al Capone who said “You can
get more with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.”  Well you can get more with the Gospel
and the Power of the Holy Spirit then you can with the Gospel alone.
The power that is offered to
the believer is first of all the power to conquer our fears, because as a
believer we know that God is in control. 
Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Can we say that together?  Let’s try it: Psalm 34:4 I prayed to the
LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.
Notice
that God didn’t erase David’s fear he simply freed David from them.  He gave David the power over his fears.  I believe that when David stood in front of
the giant Goliath and looked him up and down that he was afraid.  I believe that when they tossed Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace that the three boys were
afraid. 
I believe
that when Daniel was invited to attend dinner with the Lions that he was
afraid, that when Peter stepped over the rail of his fishing boat and placed
his foot on the surface of the Sea of Galilee
that he was afraid.
And hold unto your seats because I believe that
in Luke 22 verse 42 when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane  Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of
suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
That
Jesus Christ the son of God was afraid.  He
was afraid because he knew that he would be beaten, humiliated and hung on a
cross to die a long painful death.  And
if he wasn’t afraid then he wasn’t a hundred percent human, and that wouldn’t
be fair. 
Fear said “Please take
this cup of suffering away from me.”  But
the power over fear said “Yet I want your will, not mine.”  Fear says “I can’t.”  the power
over fear says Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me
strength.
Personally I will probably always be afraid of snakes but
that didn’t keep me from moving to Australia with 7 of the top 10 poisonous
snakes in the world. And I will probably always be afraid of heights, but I
will climb a ladder and clean out my gutters, don’t enjoy it but I will do it.  And with God’s help I will never let my fears
keep me from doing what God wants me to do. Why because I have not been given
the spirit of fear but the spirit of power. 
And to quote Margaret Thatcher  “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you
have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” 
2
Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a
spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love . . .
Secondly you are told to Embrace the Love You’re to Display.  You do understand how important this is
don’t you?  Love is the key identifying mark
of the Christians.  Time and time again
we are commanded to love. To love God and to love one another.  And the bottom line is recorded in John 13:35 when Jesus told his followers John 13:35 Your love for
one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
The
reciprocal of that is “Your absence of love for one another will prove to the world that you
are not my disciples.”
The greatest definition of Love
is found in 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.
Now we all know that Jesus is love
incarnate.  Jesus was love in a physical
form, John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and
only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal
life.
Logically
then if we have a definition of love and if Jesus is indeed love then Jesus
should fit into that definition.  Let’s
try it.
1
Corinthians 13:4-7
Jesus is patient and
kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. He does not demand his
own way. He is not irritable, and he keeps no record of being wronged. He does
not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
The word
Christian means follower of Christ or little Christ, and if that is the case
then would it be fair to say that we need to be exhibiting the same
Characteristics as Christ?  Let’s try it.
1
Corinthians 13:4-8 Christians are patient and kind. Christians are not jealous
or boastful or proud or rude. Christians do not demand their own way.
Christians are not irritable, and they keep no record of when they have been
wronged. They are never glad about injustice but they rejoice whenever the
truth wins out.
Sound tough, of course it’s tough.  If it was easy everyone would be doing
it.  The great thing is that you’re not
expected to do it alone. 
If attend Cornerstone then
eventually you will hear our mission statement or perhaps you will read it on
our website.  And it says “Cornerstone
Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and
relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus
Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the
fruit of the Spirit.”
And maybe you’ve wondered what
exactly the fruit of the Spirit is, well it is defined in Galatians 5:22-23 But the
Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There
is no law against these things!
The very first characteristic
that we are supposed to exhibit when the Holy Spirit is in control of our lives
is love.  And Paul tells Timothy that we
have not been given a spirit of fear, instead we have been given a spirit of
love.  This is reiterated in Romans 5:5 when Paul tells the early believers
Romans 5:5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God
loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his
love.
On our own
we will never be able to love people that way described in 1 Corinthians 13,
just not going to happen, and God doesn’t expect it to, that’s why we have
access to the power of the Holy Spirit and the Love of the Holy Spirit.
2
Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a
spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
And then finally we are told to Embrace the Self-Discipline You’ve Been Promised Actually if you
are following along in a different translation of the Bible “Self Discipline”
may have been translated “a Sound Mind”, which bothered me for a while because
I wasn’t sure where I stood if sanity was a prerequisite of salvation.  However my fears have been eased because I’ve
discovered that the word used in the original language is kind of tough to
translate and this is actually the only spot it is used in the New
Testament.  In the Greek it could mean self-discipline
or a disciplined mind.  Both translations
are pretty close to each other and the word never implied a connection to your
spirituality and your mental health.
What it does imply though is that we have the power to
control ourselves and our thought life and that might be even more disturbing
then the mental health issue.  If you go
back to fruit of the Holy Spirit, the first characteristic is love and that
would make the last characteristic self-control, or perhaps self-discipline.
You may have discovered in 2014 that it’s not necessary to
accept responsibility for our behaviour. 
We are told that we behave the way we do because of society, or because
of our upbringing, or because it is our inclination or our orientation or
because of other areas outside of our control. In other words it’s not our
fault if we exhibit behaviour that is unacceptable or hurtful to ourselves or
to others.  We are simply a victim and we
can’t help ourselves. But that isn’t what the Bible says, the Bible tells us
that we are responsible for our behaviour and that if we can’t do it on our own
that we can do it with the help of God.
And that is why one of the defining marks of being a
follower of Jesus Christ is self-control or self-discipline. And before we can
gain control over our actions we need to gain control over our thoughts.  And here Paul tells Timothy that he has
already been given a disciplined mind.  Bill Burbury was a professor of mine back in the day and
he used to tell us over and over again, “You aren’t
what you think you are, you are what you think.”  Motivational speaker Napoleon
Hill said “Self-disciplined begins with the mastery
of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what
you do.”
And so the battle for self-discipline and self-control
must first begin here.  First of all you
have to want to have self-control.  The
problem a lot of times is we are too busy enjoying sin and self-destructive
behaviour to actually want to stop. And the assurance from the Bible is that if
you are a Christian and if you’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to have control of
your life that you have already been given the spirit of Self Control and the
spirit of Self Discipline.  And yet many
of us are like the story you hear every once in a while about the person who
dies in poverty and it is discovered they have horded away a fortune, all the
while screaming poverty.
Listen to me please right now, if you are a Christian, if
the Holy Spirit controls your life you have the spirit of self-discipline, you
may choice to use it, or you may choice to not use it, but it is there for
you. 
So where are you at today? 
In closing this morning I want you to bow your heads and close your
eyes, now cup your hands in front of you. 
Now I want you to visualize the fear that is keeping you from being
everything that God would have you to be, the fear that keeps you from doing everything that God wants you
to do.  It might be the fear of
rejection, or the fear of failure, or maybe the fear of losing control. 
Now I
want you to open your hands and let it go because it is not of God.  You understand, God
has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity.

Happy Thanksgiving


So, how was your Thanksgiving?  We had a full house this year. Deborah and Stefan and the three girls were here along with our son Stephen.    We did the traditional feast on Monday and will eat leftovers for a good part of the week.  Thanksgiving was good, and we had a riot with the grandkids.  But it was a busy weekend, with conducting a funeral on Friday, dealing with a car accident on Saturday, three services on Sunday, including dedicating our youngest grand-daughter and the feast on Monday.
In the rush I wonder how much time I really had for giving thanks.  And I have much to be thankful for, especially as I look around at the rest of the world, and I don’t just mean material blessings.  I love my wife and I love my life and there’s a lot to be said in that statement.   Often though I take those things for granted, or worse, take them as my due.    
I’m not going to make promises about how next Thanksgiving weekend will be less rushed because it won’t be.  But I am going to try really hard through the year to say “thank you” more to my family, my friends and my God.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Let Go of Self Love

A year ago the word Frozen referred to food that was in your
freezer and “Let it Go” was something you told you four year old when you
wanted them to release their grip on a toy or their sibling or when you were
counselling someone over some hurt from the past.

That all changed on November 27th of last year when Disney released
“Frozen” on an unsuspecting world.  The
animated movie is loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow
Queen”.  And it wasn’t the first time
that Disney used an Anderson story as inspiration, The Ugly Duckling was
released in 1931 in Black and White and then again in 1939 in colour.  And of course the most successful adaptation,
until Frozen was the Little Mermaid.

But Frozen changed all that, but it wasn’t
easy.  For those of us brought up on Hans
Christian Anderson’s tales you know that the Snow Queen was not a light hearted
tale. 
Anderson’s version begins with an Evil Troll
called the Devil, the Snow Queen was Evil and Anna’s name was Gerda and she
wasn’t related to the Snow Queen at all.  
The only other differences were that Kristoff’s name was Kay, Sven’s
name was Bai there was no snowman named Olaf or prince named Hans.  Kay is taken captive by the Snow Queen and it
rescued by Gerda and the Reindeer. 
Two notable things about the story, Gerda gains
entrance into the Snow Queen’s castle after she prays the Lord’s Prayer and the
story ends with Gerda and Kay back home and all grown up.  And in closing Gerda’s grandmother reads to
them from Matthew 18:3 “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are
converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom
of heaven.”
But there is a Queen and there is Snow.  I think the term would be “inspired” by Hans
Christian Anderson’s story.  But it
obviously worked because to date it has accumulated over $1.2 billion in
worldwide box office revenue,
It ranks as the highest-grossing animated film of
all time, the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, the highest-grossing
film of 2013, and the third highest-grossing film in Japan.
Frozen won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature
and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”),the Golden Globe Award for Best
Animated Feature Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, five Annie
Awards (including Best Animated Feature), and two Critics’ Choice Awards for
Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”).
And you are thinking: so what?  Well, over the next seven weeks or so we are
going to be looking at things that we need to let go of as we follow
Christ.  Things that keep us frozen in
our Christian walk.  Things that shouldn’t
bother you anyway, but do. 
What are those things that we need to Let Go of
when we meet Christ? Things that may be acceptable for us to hold unto before
we met Jesus but really have no place in our lives after we meet Jesus.  And we think that some of those things are
pretty simple, but we don’t always get it.
The story that was read for us earlier is a very
familiar part of the Jesus story, as a matter of fact I preached from this same
passage a year ago when we started our series on the Walking Dead.  But at that time I focused on the nine lepers
who didn’t come back and this morning I’d like to take the time to focus on the
one leper who did come back. 
So, you know the story.  Jesus and his apostles are approached by this
group of Lepers begging for something they could barely imagine. 
They are asking to be healed, for Jesus to stop
the progression of this horrible disease that has robbed them of all they
had.  Ten are healed and they go their
way, but then one stops and comes back to thank Jesus.  Here is a pop quiz, how many were
thankful?  Probably all ten.  They just didn’t express their thanks, but I
guess the question is: if they didn’t express their thanks were they really
thankful?  If we don’t express our
gratitude for what we have, and for what people do for us are we grateful?  When our kids are little we teach them to say
thank-you, or at least I hope we do. 
Perhaps British Poet Walter Savage Landor  had it right when he wrote, “We often fancy that we suffer from ingratitude, while in reality
we suffer from self-love.”  And so
on this thanksgiving Sunday I would challenge you to Let go of Ingratitude or
Self-Love or whatever it it that keeps you from suffering from
thanklessness. 
So what do we learn from the man who came
back?  Luke 17:12
As he entered a village there, ten lepers
stood at a distance. . .  The
first thing is that He Understood His
Hopelessness
 We were watching
a W-5 special last week about the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which hits
pretty close to home because I have taught in Sierra Leone and was planning a
teaching and medical trip back there for this coming February, we’re not
going. 
And the special focused on the spread of the
disease and what is being done to help bring it under control.  And as I was watching I was reminded that our
denomination has been there from the beginning, before Canada offered aid,
before the US offered aid, before Bill Gates and the UN poured money into find
a solution the Wesleyan Church was there. 
While they were still numbering the cases in the dozens the people of
Cornerstone were not only praying for the crisis we were giving to empower
World Hope in the battle.   
And one of the things that the medical community
agrees on is the supply of clean water is critical in slowing the spread of the
Ebola virus.  And so there is no telling
how many lives have been saved because of the wells that have been drilled by
Cornerstone over the past two years. 
But I digress.
Probably one of the most poignant images from that
special was a man lying ill in the middle of a dirt street and life was just
going on around him, but nobody was coming near.   They were afraid of being infected with a
disease they knew would probably be fatal. 
And so there he lay, dying alone. 
And I immediately thought of Lepers 2000 years
ago.  When you were diagnosed with
Leprosy it was a death sentence.  There
was no known cure, if you had leprosy it was assumed by you and by everyone else
that you would die.  And because of the
fear surrounding leprosy you would die far from those you loved and far from
those who loved you.
And that’s what had happened to these ten men,
they had been exiled outside of their village, far from their homes, their only
companions were those who suffered with them.
2000 years ago there was no cure for leprosy,
there was only quarantine, isolation and a drawn-out painful death. 
Most of us don’t live a life without hope, at
least in the physical sense.  Most of us
are aware that compared to most of the world that we live a blessed life. 
And as I prepared this message I thought about how
we need to be thankful and grateful for where we live, and then I thought is
that even fair?  4 years ago I was in
Ghana when the earthquake hit in Haiti and I was told by a Ghanaian friend of
mine “In Africa we watch what happens in Haiti
because it reminds us of how lucky we are to live in Africa.”  And when I’ve told people that their
reaction ranges from: that’s terrible to think that way to that certainly puts
in in perspective.  
But how often is it suggested that we should be
thankful because of the misfortunes of others? 
You should be thankful that you’re not as sick as Suzy.  You should be thankful at least you have
something to eat and a place to sleep. 
It would be rude if I said “I’m thankful that I’m
Denn and not Fred.”  Because that would
imply that somehow being Denn is better than being Fred.  But is that any different than saying “I’m
thankful that I’m Canadian and not Sierra Leonean?   
And where we were born was no more our doing then
who we were born. 
But the leper didn’t even have someone worse off
to compare himself to.  He couldn’t say
“well I might have leprosy but at least I don’t have. . .”  Because two thousand years ago there wasn’t
anything worse.
And while we live in a blessed country and have
more physically than they majority of the world could even imagine, spiritually
we are without hope.
In our natural state, the way we were born there
is a gulf between us and our creator that we can never hope to bridge.  That is why we are reminded in the bible Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all
fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Before we can be thankful for the grace that God
has poured out on us we have to understand the hopelessness of our spiritual
condition before we received that grace. 
Grace is not just a nice addition to our lives it is our only hope. 
This man knew that without divine intervention
that he was destined to live a desperate lonely life, without hope and without
a future. 
But then there was a whisper of hope, the story of
someone who could make him clean and give back to him all that leprosy had
taken away.
And so as we continue to read
in the story, Luke 17:12-13 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a
distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”   He
Understood His Helplessness
We don’t know how the lepers knew about Jesus, or more
mysterious how they knew Jesus was coming, but in him they saw their only
hope. 
This man knew that there was absolutely nothing he could do
for himself.  Not only was he without
hope he was without help.
And he couldn’t even cover his disease up, listen to what
was required by the law of the day,   Leviticus 13:45-46 “Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear
their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and
call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will
be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the
camp. 
This man knew that he could do nothing to help
himself.  But spiritually we often try to
bridge the gap between us and a Holy God. There is within us an innate need to
re-connect with our creator and when that doesn’t work we try to pretty up our
lives.  And so we try to do it with
religion and ceremony and good deeds. 
But it is never enough.  The bible
reminds us Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with
sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the
wind.
And so now into the lepers’ world of hopelessness and
helplessness came the rumor of one who could not only offer him hope he had
lost but who could also offer him the help that was out of his reach.  And so he asked for the one thing that he
wanted more than life itself, to be healed. 
That his disfigured face would once again be looked upon with love
instead of revulsion, that twisted limbs would become straight and that life,
life would return to normal.
Luke 17:14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the
priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. And He Understood What Had Happened.    And
the thing that they wanted more than anything was given to them.  
There are two miracles here; the first was that they
believed, the second was that they were healed. 
Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they went,
didn’t question, didn’t ask “what if we get there and there’s no change?”  
And the story says And as they went,
they were cleansed of their leprosy.  If
they hadn’t gone, do you think they would have been cleansed? If they had of
chosen to go see their families first, or gone back to work.   I don’t know, what I do know is that as
they obeyed the miracle happened.  And
imagine as they are walking along the conversation that took place if they
looked at one another and began to see the changes, “Hey Fred, your nose just
grew back, and Bill you’re not shuffling anymore.  I can feel my fingers again, and I feel like
singing.” 
I wonder what it felt like as the nodules disappeared and
skin was made smooth again, as twisted limbs became straight and strong.  I wonder if they had lost appendages to the
disease and what it felt like as fingers and toes grew back.
But this is what the one who returned understood.  Life would never be the same again.  For better or for worse he was given a second
chance at life.  And we don’t know if he
was able to fit back into his old life or not. 
Had his job been given to someone else? Had his wife remarried? Would
people accept him as a new man or would they always associate him with the
leper he had been?  We will never know,
but this we do know.  That after he met
Jesus he was no longer the man he had been.
As Jesus followers do we understand that?  That when we meet Jesus that we will never be
the same. 
In the book of John there is a very familiar story
told about Jesus meeting with a member of the religious elite, a man named
Nicodemus.  And it seems that even though
for most people Nicodemus seemed have had it all under control Nicodemus understood
his hopelessness and his helplessness and so he came to Jesus and if we pick up
the story in John 3:3  we read Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born
again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
And that confused Nicodemus.  John 3:4 “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back
into his mother’s womb and be born again?”   The term born again still confuses
people today, it has been used and abused so much and yet people still don’t
click into what it means.  John 3:5-6 Jesus replied, “I assure you, no
one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.
Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to
spiritual life.
Time and time again the scriptures use the analogy
of a new birth for the person who has embraced the grace and forgiveness of
Jesus.  It’s not just the old life with a
veneer of religion, it is a new life. 
Paul explains it best 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!
Just like the leper was given a new life when he
met Jesus and believed each of us is given a new life when we meet Jesus and
believe.  Jesus told the leper “Your
faith has healed you”  and Paul reminds
us in Ephesians 2:8 God saved you by his grace when you
believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Do you understand what happens when you meet
Jesus?  You are given a new life a
different life, or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. You should see God
in a new way, and people in a new way. 
Your priorities should change and hang onto your seats, your behaviour
should change. 
So let’s go back to the story.  Luke 17:15-16 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to
Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking
him for what he had done. He
Understood His Need to Give Thanks
He didn’t just assume that Jesus would know he was thankful,
he took time to say “Thank you”.  Do we
just assume that people will know that we are thankful for what they’ve done in
our lives? Or do we take time to say thank you? 
2 things I discovered a long time ago, the first is that
thank yous are free and the second is that they go a long way.
It was in a different
context but Martin Luther King, Jr once said
”In the End, we will remember not the words of our
enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 
People notice when they aren’t thanked, petty or not that it the
reality of life. 
And the lone man was the man who didn’t take it for
granted.  Perhaps the others were
grateful but someone they felt like they deserved it, or just assumed that is
what Jesus was supposed to do. 
You know what I’m getting at here.  They thought “Well of course Jesus healed us
that’s what he’s supposed to do.”  Kind
of the difference between a dog and a cat. 
You feed a dog and they think you are the most wonderful person in the
world, you feed a cat and they wonder what took you so long.  Somebody said that when
you take care of your dog the dog thinks you must be a god, when you take care
of your cat the cat thinks it must be a god.
We don’t thank the Doctors who make us better physically
because that’s what they are supposed to do, we don’t thank the teachers who
make us better intellectually because that’s what they are supposed to do, and
we don’t thank the pastors who help us grow spiritually because, well let’s not
go there it’s too self-serving. 
But seriously, when you pick up your kids this morning in
Jr. Church or Nursery, take two seconds and thank those who gave up their time
so your kids could learn more about God. 
Did you enjoy the music this morning, thank the praise team and sound
guy who were here Thursday night and early this morning preparing it for
you.  How about the clean bathrooms
that’s worth thank Erv for.  And did you
have a cup of coffee. . .  you see where I’m
going. 
Too often people view God as some genie in the air who is
there only to take care of our wish list and we never acknowledge the debt
because we don’t really acknowledge the gift. 
Most prayer lists have a lot more items on the “I want” side than on the
“Thank you side.”  When our prayers are
answered how often is it written off as a coincidence?  Or do we think “Well of course God answered
my prayers, he’s God that’s what he’s supposed to do.” 
Don’t take God for granted! He doesn’t have to answer your
prayer, after all he’s God.

As Christ followers how often do we acknowledge the debt we owe to Jesus?  At some point every one of us was like the
lepers, we were in need of a new life, a life that we could not obtain on our
own, have you thanked God for that Gift?
If you have never received the
new life that is promised to us it is available for the asking, it is a gift
and a gift cannot be earned, or it wouldn’t be a gift.  But while you can’t earn a gift you have to
accept it. 
Have you accepted the gift of
grace?  The gift of Salvation?  The gift of eternal life?  If not than why not today? 

Love thy Neighbour and turn down the Music


“I called the cops on a church!”  Well, that made my ears perk up.  I was working on my message at a Tim’s in the city the other day when I heard those words.  I wasn’t exactly eavesdropping up to that point, but that quickly changed. 
According to the story that I overheard, the gentlemen in question lives next door to a church in the city and the previous evening at 9:40 he went over to ask them to turn down their sound system.  Apparently their band was practising for Sunday and he claimed he could hear them in his apartment with his headphones on.  When they didn’t turn it down, or at least didn’t turn it down enough he called the police, and then they turned it down.
I wonder if they thought they were being persecuted for righteousness sake?  In reality they were just playing their music too loud.
If his version is the truth then I would suspect they greatly reduced any chance they might of had of introducing him to Jesus.  Sometimes being a good witness is simply being courteous and Jesus’ command to love our neighbour starts with being a good neighbour.
But then again, there might be another side to the story.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Worship in Truth

We don’t know the circumstances of her life, or of her
social situation.  We only meet her
because of a chance encounter that she had with Jesus. 
Jesus and his friends were on their way to Galilee from
Judea and on the way they passed by a village in Samaria and while the apostles
went into the village to rustle up some food Jesus sat and rested by the
village well.  It was while he was
sitting there this woman shows up to draw water from the well.  That was just a part of her daily existence,
nothing special about the day or about what she was doing.  Whenever I’m in Africa, regardless of the
country it is always the women who are in charge of getting the water.
And so suddenly we see her life
intersect with Jesus.  An ordinary task
on an ordinary day suddenly has eternal ramifications.  And the conversation is kind of clumsy.  Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and that
blows her away.  And we pick up the story
in John 4:9 The
woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.
She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you
asking me for a drink?”
You see there were all kinds of reasons why Jesus shouldn’t
have been having a conversation with her. 
1) She was a Samaritan 2) She was a woman 3) She was a Samaritan
woman.  None of those would factor in
today but 2000 years ago in that culture each of them was a deal breaker. 
And Jesus just ignores the
question and jumps into a spiritual discussion with her about living water, and
when she asks where she can receive the water the conversation gets a little
awkward.  John
4:16-18
“Go and get your husband,” Jesus
told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re
right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t
even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
It is interesting that Jesus
does not equate simply living together with being married, he viewed them
differently, she had been married five times but now she was simply living with
a man who was not her husband.
And I love what she does, she
deflects the conversation.  She completely
ignores what Jesus has said and jumps to a completely different topic.  John 4:19-20 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me,
why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship,
while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors
worshiped?”
That’s kind of the default that
most of us go to, if we don’t want to deal with something we just change the
subject.
Now I’d probably say “Hey lady
let’s stay on topic here.”  But Jesus was
cool, he was “Ok if you want to talk about worship, we can talk about worship.”
Which leads us to where I want
to land this morning and that is John 4:23-24 But
the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the
Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship
him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in
spirit and in truth.”   It seems
as if Jesus was trying to make a point about worship here, seeing he uses the
word “worship” five times in these two verses.
Now it’s interesting that the
lady wanted to talk about their preferences in worship, how come we worship at
Mount Gerizim and you worship at Jerusalem? 
How come you do it that way and we do it this way?  How come you sing these songs and we sing
those songs?
It was in the book of Mark when
Jesus was asked what was required to achieve eternal life, and this was his
answer: Mark 12:29-30 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this:
‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love
the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all
your strength.’

Jesus said that is the most important commandment, if you
can only do one, this is it.  This is the
one that you don’t want to miss.  And you must love the LORD your God with all
your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ So we
were created to be loved by God and the main purpose in our lives is to love
him back.  He should be the most
important thing in our life.  If we had
to pick the one item that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do without it should be
God.  

And that’s the question that you need to answer: what is
the most important thing in your life? 
But it wouldn’t be fair to ask you here in church, would it?

I’m sure we’d all answer “God”.  Kind of like the little boy in Sunday School
Class, the teacher asked “What’s grey, lives in a tree has a bushy tail and
gathers nuts?”  The boy thought for a
minute and said “It sure sounds like a squirrel but I’m betting the answer is
Jesus.”  So you are thinking “I know what
the most important thing in my life is but I’m betting the answer is God.”

If we go all the way back to the beginning of the story you
realize that Adam and Eve, the first couple, were created to be in fellowship
with God.  There was a direct connection
and they deliberately rebelled and walked away from the relationship.  And after they were banished from the Garden
of Eden we have no idea what type of relationship they had with their
creator. 

But it’s not very long into
history that we read those words about their grandson Enosh, Genesis 4:26 When Seth
grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to
worship the LORD by name.  And
they began to worship the Lord by name. 
But what does that mean? 

Does it mean that they started having church and part of
that was the “Worship” service?  Did they
have drums and guitars and keyboards and sang songs by David Crowder and Matt
Redman, or did they have an organ and piano and sing hymns?  Was it contemporary worship or more
traditional worship? 

The problem is that we limit worship either to what we do
in church or narrow it down even further to half of what we do in church and
then we make it the least significant part. 
And so we have the “worship”, that is the singing part of the service
and it is the prelude to the important part which is the preaching. 

Sometimes you will hear people say, “I really enjoyed the
worship this morning.” And what they mean is that the music spoke to them.  And that’s not bad, but it is personal and
while it may be a small part of what worship is it certainly isn’t all of what
worship is.  When we limit worship to
music then it becomes very personal and anything that is personal we become
defensive of.

And that’s why musical styles in churches can sometimes result
in conflict, because it is so personal. 
When we say that we don’t like a particular type of music then those who
like that type of music take it personally. 
In other words if I don’t like singing traditional hymns in church then
in some people’s minds I’m saying singing traditional hymns in church is wrong
and so by implication that means that I’m saying that those who prefer singing
traditional hymns in church are wrong as well.

No, all that means is I personally don’t enjoy that style
of music.  I don’t like classical music,
I don’t like reading poetry, or putting anchovies on my pizza. And if you do
like classical music, reading poetry and eating anchovies on your pizza you
probably aren’t offended because I don’t. 
But worship is more personal than just our preferences, because worship
is how we connect with God, and if you do it different than you are questioning
not just my taste but the relationship I have with God.

So when we narrowly define worship as one style or type of
anything it boxes in God.

Worship can’t be defined by style because style is too
individualistic.  And so worship music is
really a mis-definition because it’s only worship music for some and for others
it just plain annoying. 

Neat story, years ago there was an elderly pastor on this
district by the name of Walter Fernley and he and his wife were an awesome
couple, who have both moved onto to Glory, which is a euphemism for: They
died. 

Walter’s wife’s name was Mabel but everyone called her
Mabs.  One day Walter asked Mabs to say
grace at dinner, which she did, very quietly. 
To which Walter commented, “I couldn’t hear you.”  To which Mabs replied “I wasn’t talking to
you.”

So when someone says I didn’t like the worship this
morning, the proper response is “We weren’t singing to you.”   I don’t think God has a preference for any
one style of worship music.  I think that
we offer our worship to Him and if we do it with the right motives and a pure
heart then He goes, “Thank you that was so cool.”  Because as good as it might be on any given
Sunday he has heard much better.

Think about it twelve hours ago He heard the worship team
from Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia sing, and two hundred and fifty years
ago He heard Beethoven play his Fifth Symphony. 
And heaven is filled with music, country music actually, it will sound a
lot like Willie.  

But we are God’s children presenting our gift of worship to
Him.  When your child gives you a gift
that they made themselves do you say, “Well it’s nice but it’s not very good
compared to other art I’ve seen.”  No you
say “Thank you, that is so cool.”

So if worship isn’t what we do in church, and it isn’t just
music, what is it?

Paul was writing to the early
church in the book of Romans and this is what he said Romans 12:1 And so, dear
brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of
all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he
will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
So look at the last line, This is truly the way to worship him.   So how do we truly worship him?  By giving our bodies to God.  That sounds a little strange.  So let’s dig a little deeper. 
In the New International
Version it says Romans
12:1
NIV 1Therefore, I urge you,
brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.   Hmmm, now it’s our spiritual act of
worship.  So let’s go a little deeper
again.

1) Worship is
Something You Give
We are told to offer or give our
bodies and when you offer something it is voluntary.  From day one God created mankind with this
incredible gift of free will.  He didn’t
create us to blindly serve him without thought or choice. 

In 1942 Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called Runaround and in it he introduced us to the 3 laws
of Robotics and there are some of you who know these by heart, and that is
scary.  But for the rest of the 3 laws of
Robotics state:  

1. A robot may not harm a human
being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given
to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First
Law.

3. A robot must protect its own
existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or
Second Law.

Those laws were fiction of course but God could have put
very similar restrictions on humanity.  But
then we would have been robots and not people and God wants us to choose to
worship him and so he allows us to choose whether or not we will obey him and
whether or not we won’t worship him.  He
wants it to be a conscious decision where we in effect say, “I offer this to
you” 

Francis De Sales summed it up when he said “There are no
galley-slaves in the royal vessel of divine love — every man works his oar
voluntarily!”

Of course free will is a double edged sword, author P.J. O’Rourke commented “One
of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual
responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on.
And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up
on your driver’s license.”

Nobody else can worship for you and if you don’t take that
step there is nobody else you can blame for it not happening.  God won’t force you to worship him.

Sometimes we make decisions that are hard if not impossible
to undo.  And you’ll hear someone say,
“If only”.  And many times we can’t go
back and unring the bell, sometimes we only get one chance to make a
decision. 

But regardless of what or who you chose to worship
yesterday today you can choose to worship God.

2) Worship Involves
Who You Are
So, next we are told to offer our
bodies, and that simply means that you are to offer “You”.  While we are here we are here in our bodies,
if we are going to do anything it will be done with our bodies. 

Every once in a while someone will tell me, “I can’t be
here next Sunday Denn, but I will be here in Spirit.”  Do you know what that means?  “Nothing, zip, nada.”  If your bodies are not here then your
spirit’s not here, they are interconnected and they go together.  In this life you can’t have one without the
other.

And so by asking for our bodies God is in effect asking for
all of us.  So understand you will be
worshipping something and that will be indicated by what you are doing with
your body and where your body is.  It
defines our priorities. 

If you tell me “Denn I really want to be at church next
Sunday but I have to be at . . .” What you are saying is “I really want to be
at church but I want to be at . . . more.” 

Late in the last century, when I was in college I was up
until two one morning at a hockey game and didn’t make it to an eight o’clock
class I had.  That afternoon I ran into
my Prof and said “I’m Sorry I didn’t make it to class Dr. K, I really wanted to
be there.”  To which Dr. Kanzlemar uttered these words of wisdom “If you had of wanted to be there you would have been
there” and then he added this gem “You do
what you want to do.”

So when we offer our bodies we are offering ourselves in a
practical way to God, it’s not just something that happens here in our mind,
kind of like a card I sent to my best friend one year for his birthday, on the
cover it said “When it comes to gifts it’s the
thought that counts.”  And inside
it said “And I thought about getting you a
gift.”   And it’s not just what
happens here in our heart, where it is a good intention.  When I was growing up my favorite Aunt would
often remind me that “The road to hell is paved
with good intentions.”  And Margaret Thatcher said “No
one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had
money as well.” 

So it’s not enough to think about worshipping God or even
wanting to worship God if we don’t actually worship God.   

3) Worship Demands Something.  In the passage
from Romans we are told to present out bodies as a living sacrifice.  A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it cost
something.  Sacrifice would be a lot
easier if it involved giving up something we weren’t really fond of to start
with.  If that was the case my go to
would be Brussel sprouts. 

And so worshipping God,
offering your body to Him will require a sacrifice.  Sometimes it’s small.  Maybe it means being in church instead of
sleeping in or mowing the lawn.  Maybe it
means lifestyle choices.  I will do this
thing and will not do that thing.  But
ultimately it is large, it is saying “I will put God first in my life.  Before my family, before my career, before my
recreation, before my habits even before my preferences.”  And that’s not easy, and that’s probably why
Jesus said in Matthew 10:38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are
not worthy of being mine.

Because he knew that it wouldn’t be easy, he knew that it
would cost something, he knew that it would require a sacrifice.  If it doesn’t cost something then it’s not a
sacrifice.  What is it that you are
giving up, how are you making yourself a living sacrifice today?

Remember the greatest commandment?  Mark 12:29-30 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is
the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart,
all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’

But what does it mean to love
God?  Well, Jesus told his followers John 14:15 “If you love
me, obey my commandments.
So ultimately Worship equals Obedience Too often I meet
folks who claim to be Christ Followers but they have no interest in actually
following Christ.  They like his love and
his grace and his forgiveness, but they have no interest in following his
commandments.   They enjoy church, they like to “worship” God,
but they have no interest in really obeying what he’s asked us to do. 
They have captured the first
thought of Augustine’s quote “Love God and do whatever you please: but they
missed the rest of what Augustine said, because it doesn’t end with a period it
ends with a Colon and Colin’s Dictionary defines
a colon this way, Colon, noun,  the punctuation mark(:) :, usually preceding an explanation or an example of what has gone
before, a list, or an extended quotation.  In this case it is the first
definition, it preceds an explanation or an example of what has gone before,
and so the quote finishes with these words. 
“Love
God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do
nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” 
You can’t worship God and disobey his commands, just doesn’t work,
your actions negate your words.  Because
the first commandment tells us to love God, and then Jesus tells us we show our
love by our obedience. 
So where are you at this
morning, sometimes we are like the lady at the well, and when Jesus questions
our life and our behaviour we deflect, maybe reminding him of our worship
habits, but ultimately if we worship we need to worship in Spirit and Truth,
and that means following the one who said John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No
one can come to the Father except through me.

Look Both Ways. . .


Seriously?  A couple of weeks ago I was reading in the paper that city staff had recommended that Halifax should institute a pedestrian safety campaign to help reduce the number of car pedestrian accidents.  Seriously?  When I was three my mother taught me to look both ways before crossing the street and when I was fifteen my driving instructor taught me to not run over pedestrians. 
And now we, meaning tax payers, are going to spend obscene amounts of money to tell people, look both ways before crossing the street and don’t run over pedestrians.  Seriously?
 It sounds silly having to be reminded of the basics, but how often in our Christian lives and our churches do we seem to forget the basics? 
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, His response was to Love God and to love others.  And how are we supposed to do that?  Well, the Bible tells us that if we love God we demonstrate it by obeying his commandments and that seems simple enough and we love others by loving them.  
And we shouldn’t need another program to remind those who have been Christians forever that what they are supposed to be doing is loving God and loving others.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.