What a Day

What a day!  Normally
when we think of the Sunday before Easter we focus on what is traditionally
referred to as the “Triumphant Entry”. 
You remember the story, Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a young
donkey and the crowds come out to greet him, yelling praises and waving Palm
Branches which is where the day received the name that is certainly a part of
common usage in the Church today. 
Right?  Because we all know that
today is “Palm Sunday”. 
But that was a just the beginning of the day, a day much
bigger than the parade that started the day out.  But that is really how we are in life,
focusing on the high points, on the parades and parties. 
It is interesting the Triumphant Entry is covered in all
four gospels and all of the descriptions are basically the same.  But the other events of the day are included
in some of the accounts and not included in other accounts. In some gospels
there are things recorded as happening on Sunday and in other accounts we are
told they happened the next day.   And we’ve been here before in saying that it’s
easy for the critics and skeptics to point at these accounts and to say “Look
the gospel writers can’t even agree on what happened.” 
But for me that is simply an argument for the authenticity
of the account, if all four accounts were identical it would be easy to suspect
that one account was written and then the other writers simply copied what the
first writer had put down. 
Week before last the staff were booked to go away to a
ministry conference in Moncton on March 20th.  It was an event that we had all been looking
forward to for various reasons.  The
speaker is someone who I follow online, a Canadian pastor by the name of Carey Nieuwhof,
but more than that because it was a district event we got to reconnect with
friends and colleagues. 
Here is the thing, we were all planning on going to the same
event, but we all saw it from different perspectives.  I had another meeting in Moncton so I went up
a day earlier, on Thursday the day after the storm so I was in Moncton to start
with and arrived at the event earlier than the rest of the group.  The roads were nuts, but only for me, not the
rest of the staff.  Most of the staff
came up the next day, and they saw an accident at the NB NS border, I didn’t
see that.  Ben and Bayley had Winnie with
them so things were a little different for them than for the rest of us.  Stefan and Deborah’s cul-de-sac didn’t even
get plowed out until Friday so they missed the entire event.  The rest of the staff headed back on Saturday
morning but I had an additional meeting on Saturday so I didn’t head back until
later in the day. 
And so if you asked the staff what happened last Friday they
would tell you that they attended, or almost attended a Day with Carey Niewhof,
but they would all tell it from different perspectives.  We all talked to different people, we all
remembered different things that Carey said, some of us were at some of the
events and others weren’t for various reasons. 
And so was the day that we collectively refer to as Palm
Sunday.  A lot of stuff happened that
day, more than just a parade with palm branches.  We are now in the homestretch of this part of
the Jesus story. There is barely a week left in this chapter of the book when
it would close with the bloody and brutal death of Jesus. 
So what happened on that day and the next day, and what does
it tell us about the Jesus we serve and call Lord?
Well, it did begin with a
parade.  Jesus arrives in town after
having spent six days in Bethany at the house of Lazarus and his sisters Mary
and Martha.  I spoke about Martha a few
weeks ago.  This was the Lazarus who
Jesus had raised from the dead.  John 12:9-11 When all the people heard of Jesus’
arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had
raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too,
for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and
believed in Jesus. Man that was harsh. 
But as far as we know Lazarus wasn’t killed by the leading priests, but
they thought about it and you know what they say, “It’s the thought that
counts.”
So what are the lessons we
learn?
And so we pick up the story in John 12:12-13 The next day, the news that Jesus was on
the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors
took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted, “Praise
God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King
of Israel!”
Everyone See’s Jesus Through Their Own Eyes  There were all kinds of people in the
crowd that day, people who had benefited from Jesus’ ministry, perhaps they had
been healed, or had been fed as part of the crowd that experienced the miracle
of the loaves and fishes.  Or maybe their
lives had been changed by Jesus’ teachings.
They had finally discovered the
power of forgiveness in their lives, or they had embraced what it truly meant
to love God and love people.  Perhaps one
of the Parables had been an “Ah Hah” moment in their lives and because of Jesus
they had become better husbands and better wives, better parents and better
employees or employers. 
And so for these people they
were praising God for the Jesus who had impacted their life in such a
meaningful way.  Life would never be the
same for these people, they would always talk about and point to the moment in
time that they met Jesus.
And there are folks like that
here today, you are different then you were because you met Jesus.  A few weeks ago a friend of ours, the widow
of one of our Pastors in the district passed away.  And at her funeral her son spoke and he
referenced all of the nice things that people had said about his mother, and
Pauline Fancy was truly a wonderful and gracious woman of God.  And Bud said something to the affect that
many people talked about what a wonderful woman Pauline was but he said she
wasn’t born that way, she was born again that way. 
And if you have experienced the
life changing power of Christ in your life or the life of a loved one you know
exactly what Bud was talking about.
But there were others in the
crowd that day.  They were the curious,
those who had heard about Jesus but hadn’t actually met him.  Perhaps they had heard the stories of blind
men being able to see or crippled folks being able to walk.  Maybe a friend of a friend was a cousin of
the lady who had touched Jesus in the crowd and had been healed of a disease
that she had had for twelve years.
And so they had come to see the
one they had heard so much about.  And
maybe that is why you are here today, you are seeking to find out more about
God and Jesus and you heard that he was here.  
These folks participated in praising Jesus that morning but they didn’t
have a relationship with him but somewhere in their heart and soul was a
longing for more. We have been created to have a relationship with our
creator.  There is an eternal longing in
each of us to connect with God.
And I’m sure that you are here
today as well, perhaps it was when you started your family that you began to
look for that relationship, or maybe a crisis, the death of a family member, or
a relationship struggle that brought you to this point.  But you are looking for something more than
is offered by the world and a career. 
Or maybe they were curious
about where this Jesus would lead the country of Israel, was he truly the
Messiah? Could he be king?
But there were also the
apathetic there that day, perhaps they had been dragged out to see Jesus by a
spouse or a parent.  Or maybe they had
just been standing on the side of the road when Jesus rode by on the donkey,
but they really weren’t engaged.  They
might have shouted and waved a palm branch or two but it was just so they
wouldn’t stand out from the crowd, there was no significance in their actions.  Sound familiar to anyone here?  I would love to think that we are all here
today because when we got up this morning the burning desire in our hearts was
to worship God and to hear from his word. 
But I’m sure that there are those here who are here because being here
is easier than not being here. 
This Day Shows the Diversity of Who Jesus Was
A lot of things happened during
those 36 hours or so, it began with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but
if you continue to read in the four gospel accounts the day didn’t end when
Jesus got off the donkey.  Most of your
bibles include headings within chapters, listen to some that I found in my
bible that relate to those two days:  Jesus’ Triumphant Entry, Jesus Predicts His
Death, Jesus Clears the Temple, Jesus Curses the Fig Tree, The authority of
Jesus Challenged, Jesus Weeps Over Jerusalem
He was a busy boy that day,
but what it shows us is how multifaceted Jesus was and how multifaceted his
ministry was.
It is so easy to fall into the
trap of developing this one dimensional image of who Jesus was.  And so we see him as the baby in the manger,
or the crucified Christ on the cross.  As
the good shepherd with the lamb across his shoulders welcoming the little
children to come to him.  Or we visualize
him as a miracle worker, walking on water performing healings, casting out
demons, feeding multitudes and commanding nature. 
But we end up being like the
blind men and the elephant.  Did you learn
the legend of the Blind Men and the Elephant when you were in school?
I remember learning the Indian
legend in school and pretty sure that Dad read me the poem when I was a kid,
today you get the Poem which was written by John
Godfrey Saxe, an American Poet,  and
is entitled Blind Men and an Elephant

It was six men of Indostan To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant, And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk, Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal, And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out his eager hand, And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain,” quoth he,
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: “E’en the blindest
man
Can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!

MORAL.

So oft in theologic wars,  The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!
And sometimes I’m afraid that
it’s too easy to just focus on one aspect of who Jesus was and that is all we
can see.  The all loving all accepting
Jesus, the angry Jesus who clears the temple and curses the fig tree, the
miracle working Jesus who is there to grant every wish.  But no one of those is who Jesus is. 
Have you been down at the water
front and seen the artists drawing the caricatures?  You know where they focus on a couple of the physical
characteristics of the person they are drawing and overemphasise those to make
a point?  Here is how artists have seen
the Prime Minister over the past few years. 
But that isn’t really what Stephan Harper looks like.
And
I’m afraid that often what we have is not a picture of Jesus but a caricature
of Jesus.  You understand what I mean, if
we only focus on certain areas of Christ’ ministry we don’t see the entire
picture.  And so on that day, a week
before his eventual arrest and crucifixion we see Jesus as a humble messiah
riding into Jerusalem on a young donkey, fulfilling a prophecy made by Zechariah
hundreds of years before. 
And
the people are singing his praises, waving palm branches and laying down the
coats for Jesus to ride on and when the religious leaders demand that Jesus
muzzle his followers Christ replies by telling them in Luke 19:40 He replied, “If they kept quiet, the
stones along the road would burst into cheers!”   If I said that you wouldn’t consider
me very humble but then I’m not God, and so it is evidence of Jesus’
self-awareness.
And then we see Jesus enter
into the temple where he sees merchants selling doves for the sacrifices and
changing the foreign currency of pilgrims who have come from away into the
appropriate coins needed in the temple. 
And really there was nothing wrong with that, but what was wrong was
that those who were doing the selling and changing were gouging those had made
a sacrifice to come and worship God.  And
most of you know the story how Jesus makes a whip out of ropes and starts
turning over the tables of the merchants and money changers and chasing them
out of the temple.   Jesus angry? 
Jesus Judgemental?  Wow, that is a
game changer for some. 
And then there is the story
told by both Matthew and Mark about how Jesus and his disciples were hungry and
they saw a fig tree full of leaves but upon closer investigation there was no
fruit on the tree, no figs.  And so Jesus
curses the tree and it withers and dies. 
And while that in itself seems a little intense Mark tells us that it
wasn’t even the season for the tree to have figs on it.  So what was with that?  I don’t know and really neither does anyone
else they are just guessing. 
Some commentators have said
that the trees around Jerusalem had fruit earlier than other parts of the
country because it was more temperate, others have suggested that the tree
didn’t even have the early buds that would eventually become fruit.  So there wasn’t even the promise of fruitfulness. 
But what we have is a little
snippet of an event without the conversation or context that went into it.  That’s another one of my “when I get to
heaven” questions.    But combined with the story of the clearing
of the temple it would indicate that Jesus isn’t necessarily all loving and all
accepting, “that’s all right at least you tried” saviour that some have
embraced.  That he has certain
expectations for how we act and how we behave. 
He expected those outside the temple to not cheat people, he expected
the fig tree to be fruitful.
But we still don’t have a
complete picture of Jesus.  Let’s add
another story from the day, Luke
19:41-42
But as they came closer to Jerusalem and
Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all
people would understand the way to peace.” 
For the past three years Jesus had taught the scriptures had
pointed people toward God, had spoken of forgiveness and peace and grace and
they just hadn’t gotten it.  And it broke
his heart. 
Parent’s when you try to teach
your kids those lessons of life and they don’t seem to get it, does it break
your heart?  I would imagine that Jesus
has wept for me and probably because of me as well. 
And so leading up to the
arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus we see this multi-dimensional image of
Jesus.  Not a caricature but a true
picture of the one we serve and love. 
His self-awareness, he knew he was God, that’s why he had told his
followers in 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.
And that fact that some would
still choose to ignore that reality and choose to not accept the grace and
salvation that he was offering broke his heart. 
And the fact that others would choose to flaunt their rejection of the
love and law of God made him angry.  
Which leads us to the next
point, because if we go further along in John’s account we read this note that
the Gospel writer includes:  John 12:37 But despite all the miraculous signs
Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him.
The Reality is Not Everyone Will Get It We want to think that
everyone will get it, that nobody will be lost, that at some point even if it
happens on their death bed that everyone will fall in love with God and accept
Christ. 
And as much as we want that to
happen, the reality is that 2000 years ago people watched as Jesus performed
miracles, they ate the bread and fish that were formed in his hands, they saw
their loved ones healed, they heard his teaching, they saw his  tears and still most of the people did not
believe in him.
And he did not force them to.
The one with the power to command the wind and waves most certainly had the
power to break the will of the people who listened to his teachings and
witnessed his miracle 2000 years ago but he did not come to create a kingdom
using force then or now. 
There is a great promise in
God’s word, it’s found in 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about
his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He
does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
But ultimately it will be your
choice and yours alone. 
Everyone one of us has a choice
to make, will you believe? Will you choose to surrender your life or not?  As much as I pray for people and weep for
people I can’t force them into a relationship with God.  I can’t and God won’t.  Are you willing to take the step
yourself? 
 

But we’re not sinking.


We’ve been having a few leaks in the church building lately & actually that kind of minimizes the issue. If we were a boat we’d be sinking.  Ten years ago, as I watched the property being cleared and test pits being dug, I was in no way thinking about the building problems we might be having in 2015.  Instead I was visualizing the positive impact that having a building to call our church home would have on the small group who were gathering at the LeBrun Centre in Bedford for worship.  If I had stopped to focus and obsess about all the possible issues and challenges that might come with having a church building, we’d still be a small group gathering in the LeBrun Centre in Bedford for worship, if we were still here at all.
We aren’t the only building to be having water challenges in the spring of 2015 and in a little while the drips will stop and the damage will be repaired and life will go on.  

In spite of drips and ice build-up, because Cornerstone is here and has been in this building, there are lives and families that have been touched and eternities that have been impacted and that is worth a few buckets. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Zach in a Tree

The crowd surged
toward the road, pushing and shoving to get a better look at the man called Jesus.  The city was Jericho and it was wall to wall
people, each one of them eager to get a look at the young carpenter from Nazareth
that everyone was talking about.   It was
his first time to this historic city but obviously his reputation had preceded
him.  The people had come out in mass to
see this man who had made the lame to walk and the blind to see, to see the one
who could speak and make the winds die down, who could command and see the
demons flee.

Not that Jericho was
a stranger to the holy and the awesome. 
It was at Jericho that Rahab the harlot hid the spies of Israel, it was
at Jericho that Joshua was commanded to take off his sandals because he was
standing on holy ground, it was Jericho that the people of Israel marched
around seven times and when they shouted to God and blew their trumpets it was Jericho
that came crashing down.   It was going
into Jericho that Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus, and it was on the road from Jerusalem
to Jericho that the Good Samaritan came upon the unfortunate traveller who had
been robbed and left for dead. 
It was a rich city,
referred to some as the city of palms, while the Jewish historian Josephus
called it “a divine region”.  And so it
was through Jericho that Christ came on his last visit to Jerusalem. Jericho
which had the largest tax base of any city in Palestine.  It was the perfect place for a corrupt little
tax collector to live, a corrupt little chief tax collector named Zacchaeus to
be exact.
The bible tells us a little bit
about Zach in Luke 19:2 There was
a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and
he had become very rich.
1) Zach Was A Tax-Collector
Now that doesn’t say
a lot but we need to recognise the fact that Zach wasn’t everybody’s favourite
person, as a matter of fact Zach wasn’t anybody’s favourite person not even his
mother’s.
That may seem more than
a little unfair but Zacchaeus was a tax collector and Jericho was a city of
great wealth and one of the greatest tax bases in the area, and it was from the
wealth and the poverty of the people of Jericho that Zacchaeus amassed his own
personal fortune.  You have to remember
that Palestine was an occupied country under roman rule and so even if the tax
collectors weren’t notoriously dishonest they had taken service under the Romans
and because of that they were considered both renegades and traders by their countrymen.
Let’s take a moment
now and have everybody visualise Joe Oliver our illustrious Minister of Finance,
if you thought it was Jim Flaherty you need to catch up on your news.  Ok, If you don’t know what Joe Oliver looks
like here you go, you got that picture in your mind?  Now add to that the amount of tax you had to
pay this year on everything except the air that you breathe, right?  Now multiple the distaste you feel for the
right honourable Mr. Oliver by 7.6543 and you may be close to how the people of
Jericho felt about our hero.
The tax concessions
were like franchises.  The Roman’s
assessed the area and what they felt the tax should be, and then they sold the
right to collect those taxes to the highest bidder above that amount.  The trick being that anything the tax
collector collected over the set fee was his cut that was how he paid the
bills.
If you think that
our tax load is high there were four distinct and separate taxes levied in Palestine
at the time.  First was the stated tax
and that was paid for everyman between 14 and 65 and every woman from the age
of 12 to 65 and that was a flat rate that you paid simply for the privilege of
being alive.  The second was the ground
tax, you got it; that was the tax you paid on the ground you lived on
regardless of whether you owned, rented or borrowed it.  The third tax was income tax and I’m sure I
don’t have to explain that to you and the last tax was something which they
called duties and it basically taxed everything that hadn’t been taxed up to
that point.  It paid for the use of
roads, harbours, the market etc.  For
example there was a tax levied on a cart and it was based on a set fee for each
wheel as well as for the number and types of animals which pulled it. 
In duties there were
purchase taxes and import taxes and export taxes.  A tax collector could stop you on the road
make you unpack your load and then charge you tax on what you were carrying in
your bundles.  The rabbis spoke of
robbers, murderers and tax collectors in the same breath.  Do you recall that whenever the Pharisees
became critical of the company Jesus was keeping they always spoke of “tax
collectors and sinners” at the same time. 
That was part of the reason that tax collectors were barred from the
temple.  And Zacchaeus wasn’t just any
tax collector he was the chief tax collector.  
In every sense of the word he was the man everybody loved to hate.
Luke
19:3
He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he
was too short to see over the crowd.
2)
Zach Had a Problem   
Now somewhere somehow this tax collector had
stumbled unto news of Jesus of Nazareth, a Godly teacher who associated with
sinners and tax collectors.  What type of
man was this?  Why was he willing to be seen
in the company of those whom polite society shunned?
And now he hears
that this Jesus fellow is right here in Jericho!  And so as the crowd surges forward toward the
road way to catch a glimpse of the one whispered to be the messiah, Zacchaeus
joins in the attempt to view the carpenter from Nazareth.  And I’m sure that as Zach tries to get through
the crowd that people begin to recognise who he was and they begin to push him
this way and shove him that way..  And
even as they struggle to see the prince of peace they took the opportunity to
vent their frustration on poor old Zach.
You see Zacchaeus
had a major handicap, he was short.  Not
that being short is necessarily a handicap, unless of course you are standing
on the sidewalk trying to watch a parade. 
Now to be truthful we don’t know how short he was, but it must have been
short enough for Luke to feel like he should mention it.
Every one of us has
a handicap of some sort that can keep us from seeing Jesus.  Maybe it’s a cultural handicap.  If you were brought up Jewish or Muslim then
you would have a predefined concept of who Jesus was and that could prevent you
from seeing him for who he really is. 
The same would apply if you were brought up in a home that was hostile
toward the gospel and the church.  If you
are only hearing the name of Christ as a curse, and always hearing that the
church is this or that, it would colour your opinion and become a handicap to
you accepting the gospel.
Sometimes it’s just
the opposite.  It’s unfortunate but true
that while many Christian parents are very adamant about making their kids
religious they are very lax about making sure that their kids have the
opportunity to become Christians.
Years ago I read a
statement that warned Parents about the dangers of inoculating our children
with small amounts of Christianity so they never catch a dose of the real
thing.  And so what happens is that if we
have been told about Jesus Christ all our lives but our parents have never
taken the opportunity to introduce us to him we may not be able to see him
because we think we know all about him.
Here is a little
aside for the parents of children at home, the person with the primary
responsibility to lead your child to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is not Deborah
and her team in the Nursery, or Marilyn and her team in junior church or Ben
and his team in youth or Denn Guptill in church.  The person with the primary responsibility
for leading your child to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is you.  You see at some point in your child’s life
you will experience a relationship where they will exhibit the utmost trust in
what you say, now that may only last for twenty minutes, but it’s at that time
that you as a Christian parent have an obligation to lead your child into a
personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now if your response
is “I’ll wait until they get older and let them decide for themselves” realize
that every year they go without accepting the lord increases the chance of them
not accepting him and going to hell. 
Like when was the last time you let your kid’s wait until they were
sixteen to decide if they should go to school, or go to the dentist.  “I’ll let them decide for themselves whether
or not they want a job and teeth when they are adults”.
Zacchaeus had a handicap that
kept him from seeing the Lord and in that he was somewhat like each of us.  And so he decided that if he was going to
overcome his handicap he would have to take matters into his own hands and so
we are told in Luke 19:4 So he ran
ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to
pass that way.
3) Zach Was a Risk Taker
I love this picture,
here’s short little Zacchaeus gathering all his robes, and probably very nice
robes, remember how rich he was, 
gathering all his robes up and racing madly down the street.
Now I might be
making some unfair assumptions but I would suspect that Zacchaeus was probably
very dignified and superior acting in keeping with his position.
Now I like being
tall and when I want to make an impression I use every one of my 187 cm to make
that impression.  But I would suspect
that Zacchaeus used his air of dignity to accomplish the very same thing.  Somehow though the picture that comes to mind
of Zacchaeus racing as fast as he can, picking up and putting down those short
little legs, his robes gathered up in his arms. 
Is not real dignified is it?
So he gets down the
street and he still can’t see Jesus but he sees the crowd surging toward him
and he suddenly realises that it don’t matter how fast he runs that when the
crowd gets there he’s still gonna be too short to see over them.  Off to one side he spots a sycamore tree and
he rushes over, lifts his robes and starts to shinny up this skinny little
tree. Ladies and gentlemen pause if you will and try to imagine yourself
climbing a tree in an evening gown, quite an image isn’t it.  That was what Zacchaeus had to do in his
robes.
You see in order to
overcome his handicap, Zacchaeus had to first overcome his pride.  I don’t know what keeps you from seeing Christ
as saviour, but if’n I was a gambling man I’d bet dollars to donuts that a lot
of it was pride.  Don’t let pride stand
in your way because there won’t be a lot to be proud of in hell.  The story is told of Harry Ironside, one of
the great bible teachers of the last century, as a child.  One evening after the family came back from
church Ironside confessed to his mother that during the invitation to come
forward to accept Christ that he had felt to go but was afraid that his friends
would laugh at him.  His mother told him,
“Harry, your friends may laugh you into hell but they will never be able to
laugh you out of hell.”  Your pride may
get you to hell but it won’t do you much good when you get there.
So there he is in all his
dignity the chief tax collector of Jericho up in a tree watching the parade and
Luke tells us in Luke 19:5 When
Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!”
he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
4) Jesus Found Zach
I love it, it was
because Zacchaeus was willing to break with tradition and go against the flow
that something wonderful happened.  Jesus
came to his house for lunch.
I’m sure if Zacchaeus
had any friends that they would have said “you can’t do that Zach”  “what will people think” “it’s never been
done like that before”  “what will people
say if you fall out of the tree?”, “this Jesus fellow is going to think that
you are some kind of nut case” as luck would have it though Zacchaeus either
didn’t have any friends or there weren’t any around.  I once saw a bumper sticker that sums up my
approach to life, it said and I quote “no guts, no glory.”  Now I know that doesn’t sound real spiritual
but if we’re going to get anything done for God then we are going to have to
take a risk. And I get sick of little churches and little pastors who bemoan
the fact that they never see any growth or any action in their church but they
wouldn’t know a risk if they fell over one let alone took one.
When Jesus calls
people he calls them out of mediocrity and into risk taking.  If the twelve hadn’t been willing to take a
risk then the gospel wouldn’t have spread throughout the holy land, and if Paul
hadn’t been ready to take a risk then the gentiles would never have heard the
gospel.  And if Luther hadn’t taken a
risk we would still have a pope and if john Wesley hadn’t taken a risk then we
would still have the archbishop of Canterbury.
And if folks hadn’t
taken a risk then there wouldn’t be a Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.  And if Zacchaeus hadn’t been willing to take
a risk he would never have met Jesus.
Listen to Luke 19:9-10 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for
this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came
to seek and save those who are lost.”

5) Zach Found Jesus

Salvation has come to your house, praise God Zacchaeus got saved.  The chief tax collector, one of the most
hated men in Jericho had opened his heart to Jesus and Christ had washed that
sin stained heart whiter then snow.  But
why Zach?  Because Jesus said that he had
come to seek and to save what was lost. 
You don’t need to save those who are already saved, you don’t have to
give sight to those who can already see or heal those who are already well and
those who are already found don’t need finding.

Zacchaeus was a sinner but then
again according to Paul in Romans 3:10 As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one.
One of the hardest
steps in finding the saviour is admitting that you need a saviour, but the fact
of the matter is that everybody has as much of a need of Jesus as did Zacchaeus.
Luke
19:8
Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the
Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have
cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Ain’t it great?  They say a leopard
can’t change his spots, well if he gets saved he’d better.  Not only was Zach a saved man he was a
changed man as well.  Wealth was
everything to Zach and he gave half of it away to the poor, and then he used
the other half to right any wrongs,  he
told people, if I cheated you out of $100.00 then I will repay you $400.00

You never realize
how much things mean to you until you have to get rid of them, when we were on
our way to Australia I couldn’t understand why Angela was getting so upset over
selling some old furniture, well I discovered a few flaws in my character when I
sold my car and my motorcycle within seven days of each other.  My neighbour summed it up when he said “Denn
you’re living in an empty house and driving a borrowed car.”  I realised then just how I’d been building
bigger barns and I knew that if I learnt nothing else from my decision to move
to Australia that it shed a whole new light on what things I owned and what
things owned me.
The truth of the matter is that
Zacchaeus was a changed man because his priorities had changed.  How about it, does 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!  Apply to you?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


It’s here, it’s here! That time of the year that we all look forward to. The time of the year that we realize how lucky we are to live in this wonderful country and we can take the time to reflect on how blessed we are. That’s right… it’s “Tax Time”! What did you think I was writing about? Spring?  March 21st isn’t actually the beginning of spring, it is just an arbitrary date picked by some lunatic who never lived in Nova Scotia.
But tax season is a great time to be thankful. Seriously, if you have never visited a country in the developing world then you have no idea how privileged we are with our health care, transportation and political stability and most of those things are a result of the taxes we pay.
Don’t want to pay taxes? No problem, just don’t earn enough money.  I know folks that live like that.  So, we need to be thankful that we make more than the threshold, and that the CRA graciously allows us to deduct our giving to the church. Try that in most other countries. So this year instead of grumbling while doing your taxes, why not take a moment and breathe a prayer of thanks.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Get Out of the Boat

Here we are in Week seven of our old school Sunday
School series and during that time we have see Jesus lost in the temple,
baptized in a river, heal a paralyzed man and a blind man and mediate a sibling
rivalry. 
And that’s what happened when Sunday School was being
taught, each week a new bible story would be taught and explored in a wide
range of classes.  But before the
children went to class they would go to the Assembly, and that was a time of
singing, many of the songs that we have sung over the past seven weeks, and
they would have played games
 
And
not just any games but games like “Sword Drill”.  How many people know what a sword drill
is?  It is based on Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest
two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It
exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 
The kids would hold their bibles and the Sunday School
Superintendent would call out scripture references and the kids would race to
find the reference in their bibles and then they would jump up and read the
verse.  That was how a whole generation
learned to find things in the Bible. 
This was also the time that children would be recognized for memorizing
their memory verses for the week.  And
that was how a whole generation learned to memorize bible verses.
Of course both of those were dependent on the children
bringing their bibles to Sunday School, which was of course dependent on the
children having a bible.  Brilliant
concept!
And in most Sunday Schools having a flannelgraph in
every room just wasn’t in the budget and that was ok because everyone was
learning the same story so a story teller would use the flannel graph in the
opening for all the different ages.
(Tell Flannelgraph Story)
The entire world just disappeared.  One minute it was there and the next minute,
there it was gone.  Well not really but
it seemed like everything else had ceased to exist, and all there was left was Peter,
the sea and Christ.  It had started off
as another boat trip across the Sea of Galilee for the twelve while Jesus
stayed behind, it was a beautiful evening, with a star filled sky and then
bang, a storm blew up from nowhere.  What
was it that Yogi Berra said, “It was like deja vu all
over again.”  Peter remembered
another boat trip across the same stretch of water when a storm had blown up
and threatened to swamp their boat.  The
difference being that this time there was no Jesus to stand in the bow and
rebuke the wind.
And so the disciples desperately struggled against the
storm as they made their way slowly across the lake.  A short trip soon turned into an epic
journey.  The daylight had fled in the
path of the impending night and the sunset had been a crimson slash across the
western sky ushering in a heaven like black velvet studded with chips of
diamond.  But soon the stars were hidden
by an increasing number of clouds and the wind whipped the shallow depths of Galilee
into a boiling cauldron of froth.  They
were bow into the wind and it seemed that every metre had to be fought for and
bought with a price.  But they had been
through worse and survived, after all they made their living on the sea, but it
was a lot more fun without the gale force winds. 
Then it happened they’re struggling at the oars,
they’d had to pull the main sail down to keep it from being torn to shreds, and
somebody said “what is that?”  Well talk
about freak city.  There was somebody
walking out there.  No there couldn’t be
he had to be in a boat, nope there wasn’t any boat, “it’s a ghost” somebody
yelled, and well there wasn’t a great deal of time for consultation it would
appear that was the consensus.  What
next?  First they were battling for their
lives in a storm, now they have a ghost walking on the water?  When Peter had said earlier “cheer up, things
could be worse” he didn’t entirely expect things to get worse.  Well there was only one thing left to
do.  So they did it, they screamed, in
fear. 
But a familiar voice came across the water saying “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” It was Jesus, and I’m sure
that Peter was thinking “I hate it when he does stuff like this”  I kind of like the NKJV translation here because Jesus say’s “be of good cheer”.  Oh,
no problem.  We’ve been in a storm that
been threatening to sink us for the past seven hours, we’re wet and we’re cold,
and now out of nowhere a dude walks across the water and says “hey guys cheer
up”  not a problem.  But then he qualifies his first statement by
adding, “it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  pretty stiff translation if you ask me,
picture a carpenter saying “take courage! 
It is I. Don’t be afraid”  how
about “hey guys, it’s me and I’ve got everything under control”
Well I don’t know about the rest of the disciples but Peter
believed him because he stands up and shouts into the wind, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the
water.”
Tell you
what that is a Peter statement if I ever heard one.  Well you know the rest of the story don’t
you, Jesus says “Yes, come,” and Peter
crawls over the gunwales of the boat puts one foot on the water, not in the
water but on the water, tests it puts his other foot on the water and starts to
walk toward Jesus.  I wonder what he was
thinking.  There’s spray blowing in his
face, the waves are slapping against his legs and he’s – walking – on – the –
water.  Hot diggity dog, walking on the
water, he can hardly believe it, everything else seems to disappear except for Jesus
and the sea and him. 
Now personally I think the devil showed up about that
time and whispered in Peter’s ear, “hey dummy, you can’t walk on water you’re
going to drown.”  If Peter was like the
majority of commercial fisherman and seaman that I know he couldn’t swim, and
had a fairly healthy respect and fear of the sea and suddenly he realized that
people don’t walk on water,  people walk
under water and so the bible tells us that he began to sink, and that’s where
we come in. 
1) The Storm.  We have to
realize that storms will come in each of our lives whether we are Christians or
not, storms of illness, unemployment, financial set back, martial strife or
death.  Christ never promised us that our
life would be a stroll in the park.
Some of those storms are brought on by ourselves.  If Jonah had of been obedient then he would
never have ended up in his particular storm. 
If you smoke and end up with lung cancer you have no one to blame but
yourself, don’t stand demanding “God, how could you do this to me?”  You cheat on your spouse and they leave you,
that’s a storm of your own making.  You
don’t do your job right and get sacked. 
We need to recognise that some storms are our fault; nobody is to blame
but us.
Some storms are caused by Satan, take for example in Job
1:19 
the storm that killed job’s family was
directly attributable to Satan.  The mobs
that attacked the early church in the book of acts, the crucifixion of Christ
all storms caused by the devil.  But
sometimes we give the devil too much credit and we credit him with things that
just happen.  A family that I grew up
with lost their nine year old son when a mud bank where he was digging a cave
collapsed on him, you lose your job because of a poor economic climate in the
country, you or a loved one gets cancer. 
We need to realize that sometimes bad things just happen and that is
just the way it is.
Some storms come from God or he sends us into
them.  In John’s account of this story he
tells us a little bit about what went on before Jesus sent the disciples out in
their boat.  In John 6:14-15 When the people saw him do
this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been
expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king,
he slipped away into the hills by himself.
Perhaps Jesus knew that the disciples would spend the
night talking about what it would be like if their boss became king, and if
that was the case then just maybe they were being kept busy in the storm to get
their minds off those things.  Sometimes
a storm is our safest place because it demands all of our attention, and
energies, and keeps us from giving into temptation.  My dad told me about being in a little
fishing boat as a teenager with his father when a sudden storm blew up, he was
bemoaning the fact that they had to be at sea and how much nicer it would be on
land and my grandfather told him “oh you wouldn’t want to be ashore now, it’d
be too dangerous a tree could blow over and kill you.  No we are much safer here.”
And sometimes it takes a storm for us to step out of
our comfort zone and do something great.
2) The Rescuer and so
there they are, in the storm, alone and struggling for their very lives.  Their thoughts probably went back to the last
time this happened.  Maybe Andrew said “hey
guys, do you remember back in Matthew 8:23
when this happened and Jesus stopped the storm” and they reminded him that was
fine but where was Jesus now.  And so the
discussion went, made up of little jerks of conversation between waves.  Maybe they decided that they must be out of
the will of God, because that’s the only time that bad things happen to
believers is when they are out of the will of God or when there is unforgiven
sin in their lives right? Hardly.  But
the question must have been in their hearts if not on their lips, “where is he?”
Well when Mark wrote his account of the story he added
this insight, Mark 6:46-48 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to
pray. Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the
lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble,
rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in
the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.
Must have been one of those God things, because it was
dark and they were in the middle of the lake. 
I mean the sea of Galilee isn’t that big but it’s still between four and
seven miles to the middle depending on where you stand, not many people have
that kind of eyesight.  They may have
thought that they were alone but he was there all along.  And when the storms come in our life we’re
not alone either.  But sometimes it seems
like Jesus waits until the night is at it’s darkest to show up, and maybe it
is, or maybe we’ll never know how dark the night might have got if he hadn’t
shown up, or maybe it was simply because he doesn’t always follow our timetable
that it seems like he’s not on time.  How
often are we guilty of praying “Lord grant me patience and I want it now.”
Whatever the reason it wasn’t until the fourth watch
and that’s between three and six in the morning that Christ finally got to the
boat.  And were they thankful? No they
freaked.  I’m sure that they wanting
rescuing, but they wanted to be rescued their way.  They saw Christ walking on the water and they
thought it was a ghost.  Now I realize
that it’s very easy for us to laugh and say “a ghost, how silly can you get?”  I don’t know I think I’d have some serious
doubts if I saw somebody walking on the water in the middle of a storm.  
3) The Walker 
Can I ask you a question?  Sure I can, after all I’m up here right?  When was the last time you took a risk?  Any risk, outside of driving in the
city?  When was the last time you took a
business risk?  When was the last time
you took a personal risk?  When was the
last time you took a spiritual risk. 
When was the last time you got out of the comfy little boat that you
call life and took a risk?  You probably
used to do it a lot more when you were younger didn’t you? It seems like the
older we get the more comfortable the boat seems and the more dangerous the
storm looks.  But life is about taking
risks, it shouldn’t be about playing it safe. 
After all the secret is not who gets the most years in their life but
who gets the most life in their years. 
Maybe Charles Lindbergh said it best
when he made this statement, “I
decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it
would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary lifetime. . . Who valued life more
highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or the misers who
doled it out like pennies through their antlike days”. 
You say “Preacher Peter really didn’t take a risk” oh
really?  Bet the other eleven guys
thought he was taking a risk, notice that they didn’t get out of the boat.
Every noteworthy contribution every made to society
has started out as a risk.  Beginning
with Adam and eve deciding that maybe cooked food might not be so bad and
trying to figure out how to go about harnessing fire, right up to and including
space travel and beyond.  Human progress
entails risk taking.  It’s easy to play
it safe, but it’s not profitable.  Peter
wasn’t the only person in the bible to take a risk.  Think about how different our bible would be if
Abraham had said no when he was asked to leave everything he had to pursue the
vision of a great nation.  That’s a risk
when you are told that you will be the father of a nation when you aren’t even
the father of a child.
What would have happened if Noah had of decided to
play it safe and not become a boat builder in his old age?  And if David decided that tending sheep had a
better future then fighting giants?  What
if Daniel realized that it was safer to obey the king’s command then to
pray?  And if Mary had of told the angel
that she really wasn’t interested in being a teen age mom because she didn’t
want to take the risk?  What if Jesus had
of come to the conclusion that there was a brighter future in being a carpenter
then being a messiah?  Or if he hadn’t
wanted to take the risk of coming to earth at all?
If the apostles had of decided that it was too risky
to leave Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit had come, would we still be painting
our bodies and living in trees?  If Columbus
hadn’t taken a risk on the earth not being flat would England and Europe be
very crowded now, and Australia and the Americas still belong to their original
owners.  If Luther hadn’t taken a chance
would we all still have a pope?  If Wesley
hadn’t taken a chance would we still have an archbishop? 
If Henry Ford hadn’t taken a risk would we still be
riding horses?  If Edison hadn’t taken a
risk would we still be reading by candles? 
If Graham Bell hadn’t taken a risk would we be living without the
telephone?
The face of the earth and the scope of human history
has been changed by those who were willing to get out of the boat.  Now I know that we can’t all be Fords and Edison’s
but everyone of us has the ability to change our world.  Every one of us has the ability to leave a
mark with our life.  I remember reading
once “if you want to put your life into perspective put your finger into a
bucket of water and then pull it out, that is the difference that your being
here will make” and I am here to say that is wrong, wrong, wrong.  The world is what it is today not because of
what society has done but because of what individual people have done.  And in doing it they have had to get out of
their boat and walk on water.
4) The Sinker  it was only
when Peter took his eyes off Jesus that things got out of hand.  The tight rope walker Tino Wallenda said “when I walk the wire I must concentrate definitely on the other
side.  I keep my eyes straight
ahead.  If I start to look over to the
audience or watch somebody  underneath me
there is a good possibility I could lose my balance.”  In life we need to keep our eyes on the goal
and in our Christian walk we need to keep our eyes on Christ.  It’s when we start watching people that we lose
the balance we need to keep going.  And
so Peter starts to sink and I love what he says, “Lord save me” no fancy prayer
there.  “Oh great and awesome lord,
creator of all things, that which is in the sea and that which is above the
sea, I beseech thee to reach forth thy almighty hand and save this unworthy yet
needful sinker” the man would have drown if he had of prayed like that.
Now notice that Jesus took time to save the sinker
before he rebuked the doubter.  Didn’t
point a finger of accusation instead he extended a hand of assistance.  Take that as an example and when a brother or
sister in our congregation began to sink for whatever reasons don’t stand there
and criticize, help them.
When Jesus said “o you of little faith” he was
acknowledging that Peter had some faith. 
Peter was ready to do something great with Jesus.  And he did he walked on water.  I don’t know how far he walked on water but
it doesn’t matter what matters is that he walked on water. 
Before he sank he did what no other man had done
before and that no other man has done since he walked on the water.  And after Jesus reached out his hand, well he
had to get back to the boat somehow so I suspect that he walked back.  And all in all I think that if I had my
druthers I’d druther be a wet believing Peter, then a dry doubting Thomas.  And Peter was never rebuked for trying.
Are you ready to
take a risk? To live life the way that Christ intended it?  Remember in John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose
is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Can you honestly
say that you have been living your life to the fullest?  You need to take life by the throat and make
an impact.  Your goal isn’t to live long
it’s to live, it’s not how many years you get in your life but how much life
you get in your years.  Don’t listen to
the whines of those who have settled for a second rate life and want you to do
the same.  It is up to you to make the
choice, will you choose to act or to stand still and watch life go by?  Let me close with a quote by Thomas
Jefferson who said “I’m a great believer in luck; and I find the harder I
work, the more I have of it.”
.

Here comes the Sun!


Have you noticed lately how much more daylight we are seeing. Each day it’s getting light earlier and staying light longer and as Martha would say: That’s a good thing.

Spring is not only an awesome time of the year but it’s also a great metaphor for life. No matter how dark, cold and long the winter seems, spring will come.  And no matter how dark and cold life may seem, spring will come. Every night has a dawn, every mountain has a crest and every tunnel has an end, so don’t quit. You may be just a few steps away from the resolution you’ve been looking for. 

There are times that it seems that nobody in the world has it worse than we do, but we don’t have to look very far to discover someone who would love to have our life and our problems instead of theirs.
I don’t know where you might be in your life or how cold and dark it might be, but I do know that God wants to be there with you and He doesn’t want you to have to walk through the dark alone. I also know that He won’t join you unless you invite Him to.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What it Takes to Kick a Hole in the Roof

This winter we
decided to re-visit Sunday School to bring you some of the New Testament
Stories that those who were brought up in a traditional Sunday School learned
as children.  So we’ve taken to the flannelgraph
to tell you the stories of how Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in Jerusalem when he
was twelve, how Jesus was baptized by his cousin John and how he healed the
blind man and other stories.

This morning we
are looking at one of my favorite Jesus stories.  (Do Flannel Graph Story)
As they moved closer to the crowd their hopes begin to sink,
what they thought would be a fairly simple task had taken on monumental
proportions.  When the suggestion came up
to take their lame friend to Jesus everyone thought it was a great idea, all
they had to do to get their friend to walk was put him on a stretcher carry him
across town and have Jesus touch him. 
But that plan now seemed doomed to failure.  The closer they got to the house where Jesus
was staying the larger the crowd got and they realized that it would be
impossible to break through the wall of people while they were carrying their
friend.  Their efforts were wasted, their
dreams were dashed and their hopes were shattered.
The story actually begins in the first chapter of the book
of Mark.  After Jesus had called Andrew,
Simon Peter, James and John to follow him they made their way to the town of
Capernaum.  
Capernaum operated as Jesus Head Quarters while he
ministered in the Galilee area, and we are told in that while there he stayed
in the home of Peter and Andrew.  In the
first chapter we see Jesus speaking in the Synagogue, casting out unclean
spirits and healing the sick, including Peter’s Mother-in-law.  Then we are told that he left town for a few
days and continued doing the same thing in a different location.  And then he returned to Capernaum, presumably
back to Peter’s house and it was in this home that the story picks up in
chapter 2.
The people have flocked to the house to see the one called
Jesus, the one some called the Messiah. 
There were the sincere, the religious, the sick, the devoted and the
curious, you know the ambulance chaser. 
And there were those who were there to destroy Christ.  That was the only reason they had shown up was
to find fault with what he said.  And all
of these people crowded around the front door of Peter’s home presenting a wall
of flesh that could not be dismissed or penetrated.
And into the story walk four men carrying a paralysed
friend.  We don’t know why he was
paralysed, whether it was from birth or the result of an accident or an illness
or what had happened all we know is that he was paralysed.   And when they got to the house it became
very apparent very quickly that they weren’t going to be able to get their
friend through the mass of people gathered to see Jesus.
Well you know the rest of the story, at least you should we
just told it with the Flannelgraph. 
The four guys heist their friend up to the flat roof of the
house, that must have been some ride, and then they tore a hole in the roof and
lowered their buddy down in front of Jesus. 
Well a little bit of a discussion ensued and then Jesus makes this
incredible statement; he says “My son, your sins are
forgiven.”   Do you remember that
I earlier said that there were those in the crowd who wanted to destroy
Jesus?  This was all they were waiting
for and they started nattering in the corner. 
“Like who does he think he is? Forgiving sins? Only God can forgive
sins, this is blaspheme”
Well Jesus knew what they were saying and he countered with
“What is it easier to do to say, your sins are forgiven or to so pick up your
mat and walk?”  And then he turns to the
guy on the mat and says, “Stand up, take your mat, and go home, because you are
healed.”  That’s the story.
The entire “Your sins are forgiven you” may seem to be a
strange way to respond to someone’s physical ailments but 2000 years ago it was
a natural starting place.  The Jews saw a
direct correlation between sin and suffering. 
You’ll remember that argument from your extensive study of the book of
Job.  Or maybe not.  One of Job’s friends asked the question
 Job 4:7 “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright
been destroyed?
The same heresy is around today, just dressed in different
clothes, do good and God will bless you.

We are told that the Rabbis of the day had a saying “There is no sick man healed
of his sickness until all his sins have been forgiven him.”  And the reality is that as important
as it was for the man to have a physical healing it was infinitely more
important that he have a spiritual healing.

And we all say we believe that but why do more people ask for prayer for
their friend’s and relative’s bodies than ask for prayers for their souls?  Just wondering.  That was what is technically referred to as a
tangent, so back to the message.

But who were these four guys?  We don’t know, all the Bible tells us is that
they brought the paralyzed man to Christ. 
It provides no details at all.  It
gives no names, no occupations, no addresses. 
We are left completely in the dark as to their identities.  But even though we don’t know who they were
we do know that they exhibited certain characteristics.  Characteristics that it might not be bad to
emulate. 
1) They Saw a Need When
these men looked at their friend they didn’t see him the way he was, they saw
him the way he could be and should be. 
I’m sure that everyone who saw the man would have recognized the fact
that he couldn’t walk.  But it didn’t
register, they never realized how that affected his life or it was so daunting
that they simply ignored it 
We don’t know how long the man had been paralyzed or how it
had happened.  But we need to realize
that being paralyzed 2000 years ago would have been very different than being
paralyzed today. 
For many of my generation when we think of Superman we think
of Christopher Reeves, and I’m sure that many of you remember when Reeves was
thrown from his horse in 1995 and shattered his first and second vertebra
leaving him a quadriplegic.  And over the
next 9 years before his death in 2004 the world marveled at his courage and
were inspired by his strength. 
But realistically speaking had Reeves’ accident happened
2000 years ago or even 200 years ago he wouldn’t have lived 9 hours let alone 9
years.
Life for the paralyzed man would have been completely
dependent on other people.  They would
have gotten him up in the morning and helped him do all the things we take for
granted when we get up then they would have dressed him and fed him and
transported him where it was he wanted to go. 
And his friends realized that unless something happened that
was what the rest of his life would look like, and they also understood that
unless something happened not only would he live the rest of his life totally
helpless the rest of his life wouldn’t be very long.
What are the needs that you see in your world?  Maybe they are personal, areas where you can
help your friends and family or areas where you need to grow, maybe they are
professional goals and aspirations, and hopefully you see the spiritual needs
of those around you, people that need to meet Jesus. Because until you see a
need it will never progress to a solution. 
Until you see that there can be something better you will never strive
for it.  It is said that Abraham Lincoln shucked corn for three days to buy a
copy of the book “Washington’s Life”
when someone asked him why he replied, “I don’t always
intend to delve, grub, shuck corn, split rails and the like, I am going to be
president.”  Is it true?  Who knows, but it makes a great story, and
until you see a need to improve your life your life will never improve. 
As long as you think that people can find their own way to
God or can earn their salvation you will never be moved to the next step, which
is telling them about Jesus.  Because as
far as you are concerned, there is no need.
I’m sure that there were others in the man’s life who
realized that something had to be done, perhaps they felt sorry for him, and
wished there was something they could do. 
It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote “I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You
see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
Let’s go back to the story, Mark 2:2-4 While he
was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on
a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a
hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat,
right down in front of Jesus.
And it was when the men started to ask “Why Not” that 2) They
Were Moved to Action  
It is so easy
to get stuck in the dream stage, and I love to dream.  One of my philosophies of life is If you
never build castles in the air you will never build anything on the
ground.  This church existed in my head
long before we had our first service on April 9 1995, and I walked through this
building dozens of times before the first tree was cut on this lot. 
The Cooper Brothers were a Canadian Country Rock Band who released
their biggest song in 1978, which happened to be the year I graduated from High
School.  And and the words said “The Dream never dies just the dreamer”,
and I loved that song and still listen to it in my head, does that make me
crazy?   But without action a dream just remains
a dream. 
These guys were determined to see their dreams
fulfilled.  They didn’t just sit around
waiting for it to happen, and when something came between their dream and its
fulfilment, they climbed over it. 
Probably 100 people knew about the paralysed man and felt bad that he
couldn’t walk.  Probably 50 of those
thought about taking him to Jesus and eventually maybe 20 of them might have
actually gotten around to doing anything about it.  But out of all of those how many would have
turned around and gone home when they saw the crowd?  I bet those four guys were the only four who
would have been willing to go to the extremes that they went to for their
friend.
The Bible is filled with men and women who dreamed of the
great things they could do for God, well actually it is filled with the people
who dreamed and then had the stickwithitness to see the dream become
reality.  Those who just dreamed, dreamed
themselves into obscurity.
Abraham had a dream of a new nation under God, Moses had a
dream of freeing his people, Deborah had a dream of delivering her people,
David had a dream of uniting his people, Paul had a dream of a church that
would reach across the world that he knew. 
 And each one of them had more
than a dream they had a determination to see the dream become a reality.  Each of them must have been ridiculed and
mocked but they kept at it.  They must
have come across obstacles and stumbling blocks but they stuck with it.
We can’t wait for our dreams to come to us; we need to go to
our dreams.  And if something stands in
our way, like the crowd stood in the way of these men and their dreams then we
need to go around it, and if we can’t go around then we need to climb over it.  Because to use a baseball analogy, stopping
at third adds no more to the score then striking out. 
There are those of you here today who will dream with me of
someday expanding this building and reaching even more people for Christ, and
you will tell me that you are part of that dream but there will come a day that
the dream will cost you something and you’ll make a decision to step away from
the dream. 
How do I know that? 
Because I’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt.
Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your
goal.  These men had a dream and in order
to see the dream fulfilled they had to get their friend to Jesus and if that
meant climbing a ladder, and digging a hole in the roof of the house where
Jesus was then that is what they were going to do.
What are you willing to do to achieve your dream?  People say that you need to think outside the
box, my question is:  How did you get in
the box in the first place?
3) They Worked Together 
Church, this one’s for you.  I
don’t know how they came to the point that they agreed they should carry their
friend to see Jesus.  Maybe it started
with a discussion and ended with a vote, “All in favour of carrying Fred to see
the carpenter raise your hands.” Or maybe it was the result of one strong
leader who said, “Come on guys grab the other handles of this thing and let’s
get going”  I really don’t know where it
started but I do know that it took the four of them operating together to make
the thing happen.
One of them couldn’t have done it, two of them couldn’t have
done it and while three might have carried the stretcher to the house it’s
doubtful that they could have gotten it onto the roof top without four.
If we are to accomplish everything that God wants for this
church it will only be through the unity of the body, notice I didn’t say
uniformity, they are different. 
Throughout the New Testament, Paul compares the church to a body, made
up of different parts, doing different jobs, but all functioning for the common
good.
We may not ever all agree on everything, we may never cross
our ts and dot our Is the same way but we can agree to put those little
differences aside to fulfil the task set before us. 
Do you remember one of the most important lessons that we
learned from Sesame Street?  That’s
right: Cooperation
Just hours before his death, Christ went to the Father in
prayer and part of that prayer is found in
John 17:23 I am in them and
you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know
that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.  Jesus was telling us that
our unity would be our witness, and you only have to talk to the unchurched for
a few minutes before they start asking why there are so many denominations and
why we seem to be fighting all the time.
Let’s never allow disunity in the body destroy what we are
trying to do in this community.  There
may be times that we don’t do things the way that you think they should be
done.  There may be times that we go in a
different direction then you think we should go.  And I say this, not to be malicious or cocky,
but because I am committed to this church being all that it can be.  If we ever get the place that we aren’t doing
what you think should be done, either co-operate or leave, don’t try to destroy
what we are trying to do here.
We are committed to hearing what people have to say, we are
committed to allowing people to share their views.  But once the body has made a decision don’t
campaign against it, because that reveals a split and the truth is united we
stand and divided we fall.  Jesus asked
the question “Can a house divided against itself stand?”
There is a great story in the Old Testament in the book of
Exodus chapter 17 verses 8-13, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel at
Rephidim.  Joshua led the battle for the
Israelites  and Moses stood on top of the
hill and watched the battle, listen to what happened at this point. 
Exodus 17:11-13 As long as Moses
held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever
he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon
became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone
for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.
So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army
of Amalek in battle.
We are in this together, each one of us with a task to do,
and it’s only as each one of us holds our corner of the stretcher that they job
will get done.
But the thing that tied all of
these elements together was their faith that Jesus could make a
difference.  They had obviously heard
Jesus speak the words Mark 9:23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.”
4) They Had the Courage to Believe. 
If they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they
would never have suggested the trip.  If
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
carried the stretcher across town.  If
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
thought of climbing to the roof.  And if
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
broken through the roof.  And listen to
why Jesus healed their friend  Mark 2:5 Seeing
their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are
forgiven.”  And then ultimately
further in the story we read Mark 2:10-12 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the
authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and
said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up, grabbed
his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers.   And it all went back to their
faith. 
There are those who say “I need
to see it to believe it” but the reality of faith is that “You need to believe
it to see it.”
When you leave here today you will leave saying well that was
a nice story or you will leave determined to change your world. 
Let me end with Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Rome 2000
years ago.
Romans 15:5 May God, who gives this
patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other,
as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.

Praying or Playing?


A while back I read a story that said 58% of sport fans pray that their team will win. I’m not sure what to make of that, other than wild speculation concerning the spiritual condition of Toronto Maple Leaf fans.
58 %, so how would, or more importantly how should, God respond to those prayers? Are we to assume that the outcome of professional and amateur sports is dictated not by the warriors on the field but instead by the warriors on their knees?
I know that God cares about us and the Bible even tells us that He cares about the sparrows, but I’m not really convinced that He cares all that much about sports. I realize that God has an infinite ability to answer prayers but I sometimes wonder if believers have a limited ability or desire to pray. And if that is the case maybe the reason some folks find it hard to pray for the safety and salvation of their loved ones and for their church is because they’ve spent all their prayer resources on hockey games and weather.  I don’t want you to stop praying, but maybe we need to refocus our prayers where they have eternal consequences and let the players actually win the game.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Good Samaritan

This is week five of our Old School Sunday School
series.  Each week we’ve been re-telling
some of the great bible stories from the New Testament, and so we’ve discovered
new insights from the story of Jesus’ parents losing him when he was a kid, about
Jesus being baptized, healing the blind man and being entertained by Martha and
her sister Mary.
A generation ago most children grew up hearing these stories
in Sunday School and while Cornerstone doesn’t offer a traditional Sunday
School program our Children’s ministries on Sunday morning still teach our
children these stories, albeit without the flannelgraph. 
For years flannelgraphs were an integral part of the Sunday
School experience.  How many of you had
never seen or heard tell of a flannelgraph before we started this series?
This history of the flannelgraph grows back over 70
years.  In 1942 a lady by the name of
Ruth Overhotzer along with students from Dallas Baptist University launched a
magazine called “Child Evangelism Magazine”. 
And each issue included a bible lesson with paper cut-outs to be used on
a flannelgraph.  And as they say, the
rest is history.  It wasn’t long before
churches started ordering the magazine so they could use the flannelgraphs to
supplement their Sunday School Curriculum.


Someone commented that flannelgraph was the first PowerPoint
but that would actually be stained glass windows. 
Flannel Graph Story
of The Good Samaritan
Message
He had woken up with a bad feeling about today, but that
wasn’t unusual, he hated getting up in the morning and always woke up with a
bad feeling.  But now he was certain that
he should have stayed in bed.  It had
started as just another day, and part of his day included a trip to
Jericho.  Not a long trip, and physically
not an altogether difficult trip.  And if
we were to zoom in on the area immediately surrounding Jerusalem we would
discover that Jericho was a twenty mile walk from the capital, and it was all downhill.  Jerusalem was 2300 feet above sea level and
Jericho was near the Dead Sea 1300 feet below sea level, a drop of 3600 feet
over that 20 miles.  And while physically
it wasn’t a tough walk it was a dangerous walk, this was a bad area and as
recently as the 1930’s it was still considered a dangerous trek.  The path was narrow and twisting and provided
all kinds of places to hide and then jump out and rob the unsuspecting.
And that is what happened to him, he was merrily going on
his way, thinking about the end of the journey when suddenly he was
mugged.  A whole bunch of them jumped out
from behind a rock, beat him to the ground stole all his money and then to add
insult to injury they stole his clothes. 
He hurt so bad he couldn’t move, maybe if he just laid still the hurt
would go away.  And just when he was
ready to just allow himself to drift away someone arrived, he sensed more then
saw their presence and when he opened his eyes he could just make out the hem
of their robe, a priest, it was a priest, thank God.  But as quickly as the religious leader
arrived he left, it almost seemed that he rushed away, and the man was alone,
again.
When the next person approached, the man tried to speak, but
the effort was too great and it just came out as kind of a croak.  It didn’t matter the second man rushed away
too, and the traveller laid his head back on the rocky soil, and wondered how
long he would last in the hot Palestinian Sun.
He didn’t respond to the sound of the third set of
footsteps, and hardly felt his head being lifted from the hard ground and
cradled in the strangers arm.  The newcomer’s
callused hands were gentle as he washed the man’s wounds and bandaged the worst
of them.  Who was he? And why was he
helping? The questions came to his lips but were silenced when his rescuer told
him in to conserve his strength.  But
even that brought questions to mind because of the strange accent the words
were spoken with.
And then, he was helped to mount his saviour’s donkey and he
rode while the stranger walked alongside steadying him on his mount.  The trip ended at an Inn close to Jericho but
the care continued into the next day when the stranger continued on his
journey, but not before leaving money to cover any additional expenses.
We all know the story, it’s the story of the Good Samaritan
and even those in the world who don’t know that Jesus originally told the story
know what a Good Samaritan is.
Jesus used this story to illustrate the point of loving
those around us, a lawyer had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal
life and Jesus’ answer was what do you think you have to do?  And the Lawyer answered in Luke 10:27  “‘You must love the
Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all
your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  To which Jesus responded “Ok, you know
what to do, do it.”  I love the next part
because the bible says the lawyer wanted to justify his actions and so he asked
“And who is my neighbour?” This would make me think that probably the guy was
very religious but not all that much fun to be around.  We all know people like that, they find it
easier to love God than to love people.
Well, he wasn’t much of a lawyer because he broke the
cardinal rule of being a lawyer.  I’m not
a lawyer but I read a lot of novels about lawyers and I know that you never,
ever, under any circumstances ask a question that you don’t know the answer to,
cause if you do you will get zapped.  And
Jesus zapped him.  Who loved their
neighbour?  The guy who helped was kind,
the others blew it.  Jesus didn’t allow
any room for excuses or yeah buts at all. 
It was very cut and dried, if you want to love your neighbour you do it
by helping to meet their needs.  Who is
our neighbour? The people you come into contact with on a daily basis.
Now granted you might never be on the road to Jericho and
come across a poor traveller who has been robbed, beaten, stripped and left on
the road for dead.  Maybe you will but
probably not.  But every day of your life
you will come into contact with people who you not only can be kind to but who
you must be kind to. 
(Used clip from Forrest Gump here where he meets Jenny for
the first time.  Start with him waiting
for school bus, finishes with him saying “Only friend I ever had”.
On of my favorite scriptures and the one that is featured in
our mission statement at Cornerstone is  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.   These are Characteristics that are supposed to
be demonstrated by folks who say they follow Jesus.  When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he
will produce this kind of fruit in us. 
Not he might or he may or perhaps maybe but he will. 
In this parable Jesus tells a story that displays two of
these attributes, kindness and goodness. 
And they really go together, let’s start by stating up front that if you
are good to someone it will involve kindness as a matter of fact the words used
in the original have almost the same meaning. 
On the other hand if you were to define goodness as moral goodness then
it will encompass all of the other fruit of the spirit as well.
And so as Believers, or Christians, or Christ followers, or
whatever you want to call yourself, one of the most important elements of your
life, will be and must be kindness. 
 
Why?  Because We
Are Commanded To 
In Galatians 5:22
we are told that kindness will be evident in your life if you are a Christian,
not might be or could be or may be but will be evident in your life.  In the Old Testament we are told by King
Solomon in Proverbs
3:3
Never let loyalty and kindness get away
from you! Wear them like a necklace; write them deep within your heart. 
Listen to Paul’s command to believers in Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and
slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each
other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has
forgiven you.  Did you catch that “Be
Kind To One Another” and in 2 Timothy we are told to be kind to everybody.  Everybody.
John Wesley told Christians
250 years ago  “Do
all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all
the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As
long as ever you can.”
Throughout the New Testament we are reminded of how our
actions reflect our faith, and the ultimate outcome of the entire discussion is
that it doesn’t matter how religious you are, it doesn’t matter how spiritual
you talk, and it doesn’t matter how you perceive yourself, your actions talk
louder than your words.  Listen to what
Jesus says in
James 2:15-16
Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, “Well,
good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give
that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
Jesus himself told us that
our behaviour would validate our claims to be a follower of his, remember what
he said in John 13:35 Your
love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  That would
lead me to believe that the converse is also true, that your lack of love for
one another will prove to the world that you are not my disciples.  Makes you think doesn’t it?
We Do It For Ourselves I know that it sounds like a selfish reason, but it’s
still a reason.  Jesus is very plain
throughout the gospels that the way you treat others is the way you will be
treated, it shouldn’t be a shock to people if they get to the pearly gates and
Jesus says “whoa, where do you think you are going?”  If you don’t believe me go to the last part
of Matthew 25, you know the story, Jesus told it to illustrate the judgement
day and bottom line he said you if you don’t show kindness you aren’t getting
in. 
It doesn’t take much
looking to find places that you can be kind, “Compassion”, “World Hope”, “Ronald
McDonald House” and “Operation Christmas Child.”
Some people would say that
is a gospel of works, read the New Testament it is a gospel of works.  And yes I know what Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his
special favour 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.  We’re not saved because of the kind things we
do, but because we are saved we are required to do kind things.  Jesus’ brother James put it this way in James 2:18-20 Now someone may argue, “Some
people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if
you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.”
Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there
is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in
terror!  Fool! When will you ever learn
that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless?
And then there are the less then spiritual reasons why we do
it for ourselves,  Wilson Mizner said “Always
be nice to people on the way up; because you’ll meet the same people on the way
down.”  And remember “If your words are soft and sweet, they won’t be as hard to
swallow if you have to eat them.”
And your kindness or lack of kindness will determine how you
will be remembered William Wordsworth made this
comment “That best portion of a good man’s life; His
little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”
We Do It To Make A Difference.  The story is told about an old man walking
along the beach after a storm had washed hundreds of starfish upon the sand and
as he walked he would lean over and pick up a starfish and throw it back into
the ocean.  Eventually he met up with a
younger man walking in the opposite direction, and the younger man said “you’re
wasting your time, there are too many of them, do you really think you can make
a difference?”  The old man reached down
picked up another star fish flung it as far as he could and said “Made a
difference to that one”
I don’t think anyone would debate the fact that the Good
Samaritan’s actions made a difference in the life of the traveller, literally a
life and death difference.  Sometimes the
difference we make is physical, when you become a foster parent to a third
world child you may literally be keeping them alive.  When you reach out to the less privileged in
our city you may be the difference between a child going to bed hungry or going
to bed with a full stomach. 
And sometimes the difference is far more eternal then
physical Frederick Faber hit the nail on the
head when he said “Kindness has converted more sinners
than zeal, eloquence, or learning.”  The
way you treat others may determine whether they spend an eternity with God or a
Christless eternity of torment.  The way
YOU treat others. 
And it’s not just the big things that make a
difference.  It’s not just saving the
traveller on the Jericho road.   There is
a great story in the book of Genesis and it’s when the brothers Jacob and Esau
meet up after being estranged for a number of years and this is what Jacob said
when he saw his brother Genesis 33:10 “for what a
relief it is to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the smile of God!”  It’s like seeing the smile of God.
That’s awesome.
Have you ever noticed how contagious a smile is?  It’s as bad as a yawn.  When I was speaking about joy I mentioned how
social scientists have made a remarkable discovery.  We all know that when we feel good on the
inside we smile, that’s a given right? 
Scientists have discovered that we can reverse that, if we smile we
begin to feel good on the inside.  They
have also discovered what we all know and that is that smiling is
contagious.  If you smile at someone
there is a pretty good chance that they will smile back.  So you following me, if we smile we can make
other people smile, and if they smile they begin to feel better on the
inside.  You can make a difference.  You have the power to make a difference in
someone’s life.
Do you realize that by your smile you have the power to
change someone’s life?  The other day I
was in a grocery store and the young lady at the checkout seemed to be having a
less than perfect day and I decided to try and change her day.  When I got to the checkout I gave her a big
smile asked how she was doing, we chitchatted while she rang in my groceries
and when I left I told her that I hoped she had a terrific day.  And she was just beaming when she “Thank you
so much” I made a difference in her day. 
And maybe she was able to make the person behind me smile because she
was smiling and when that person left she had made a difference in their life.
You can make a difference.  Do you believe that?  Do you? 
Can you say, “I have the power”? 
Say it with me, “I have the power” how about “I can make a difference”
Let’s try it together “I can make a difference.”  How about “I have the power to make a
difference”
And it shouldn’t end with strangers Maya
Angelou said “If you have only one smile in
you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the
street and start grinning ‘‘Good morning’’ at total strangers.” 
When I was a teenager I had really eclectic musical taste, I
listened to some fairly heavy rock, some light pop, some country but my
favourite singer was a guy by the name of Harry Chapin, probably famous for two
things one was the length of his songs, how do you get a fifteen minute song
played on commercial radio?  And the
second was a song called “Cats in the Cradle” that has been quoted at every
church in the world on Father’s Day.  But
less known is that Chapin gave half of the profits of his concerts to charity
and that he fought tireless for the poor.  As a matter of fact five years after he was
killed in a car accident at the age of 39 he was awarded the congressional
medal of honour because of the work he did for the poor in the US.
His feelings are summed up on the epitaph on his tombstone,
which of course came from one of his songs. 
If a man tried to take his time on earth And
prove before he died what one man’s life could be worth, I wonder what would
happen to this world.
Harry Chapin
Let me finish with a quote from Martin
Luther King Jr.  Who said,  “The first question
which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what
will happen to me?’ But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do
not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’“ 
Every day we will arrive at situations where we will either
ask the question‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ or ‘If I
do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’“