Dress for Sucess Part 1

Dress for Success

Can you remember a book that you read the year you turned
16?  Did you read any books the year you
turned 16?  As most of you know, I am a
reader.  My parents read to me as a
child, then I graduated into comic books, anything from Casper the Friendly
Ghost and the crew from Archie to any number of war comics, super hero comics
and spooky comics.   And then I started
reading western novels and spy novels. 
I’ve slowed down in my reading, it wasn’t that long ago that I tried to
read three novels a week, and then it was two novels a week and now I no longer
count the books but my goal is 500 pages of fiction a week.  Not bragging, it’s just a reality in my life.
I love to read.  And because I read so
much it’s not so easy to remember what I read and when I read it.  The upside of that is that it’s no problem
for me to read a novel and enjoy a novel that I’ve already read. 

There are a few that I do remember.  In 1968 Action Comics had a five part series
where Lex Luther infected Superman with Virus X and we thought he was going to die.
I remember reading that, I was eight.  I
remember staying up all one night in 1988 and reading “The Silence of the
Lambs” in one sitting.  In the fall of
1990 I read an excerpt from a book in Readers Digest and ordered the book,
which was really tough and expensive in Australia, but it became a favorite of
mine it was written by Robert Kriegel and is “If it Ain’t Broke Break it”  I remember reading “User Friendly Churches”
by George Barna in 1991 and “Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary” in
1993, they were two of the books that redefined my ministry and how I viewed
church.

But the book I remember reading in 1976, the year I turned
16 was “Dress for Success”, it was written by John T. Molloy about the effect
of clothing on a person’s success in business and personal life.  “Why” you might ask “was 16 year old Denn
Guptill reading Dress for Success”?  
That year I started working part time for Tip Top Tailors and I wanted
to be the best that I could be, I wanted to know what I was talking about and
do the best possible job for my clients. 
I didn’t consider myself a retail clerk or a men’s clothing salesman, my
business cards said that I was a fashion consultant.  And I figured unless I wanted to go back to
pumping gas in the cold that I better be good at what I was doing at Tip Top.
Three years late I became a Christ follower and as I started
reading through the bible I discovered a section in the New Testament called
“Dress for Success”, well not really.  It
was the portion of scripture that was read for us earlier, it is often referred
to as The Armour of God.  But Paul is
really telling the early Christ followers how to dress for success.  
Last week my message focused on the battle that was being
fought daily in the lives of Christians.  
And so last week I walked you through this passage and noted a few
things.  We Need to understand There is a
Battle, We Need to Know Who The Enemy Isn’t, We Need to Know Who The Enemy Is, We
Need to Dress for Battle and finally We Need to Remember Our Secret Weapon.  And while we were on the fourth point I said
that we would come back and revisit it, and here we are. 
Now understand Paul wasn’t teaching a lesson on Roman
armour, it was just a convenient illustrative device.  2000 years ago everyone knew what Roman
armour looked like, and as a testimony to the strength of Paul’s illustration
2000 years later people still know what Roman armour looks like.  When Sajonna found this gentleman in Rome
three years ago she didn’t think he was a bus driver or a waiter, she knew that
he was a Roman soldier.
But it wasn’t Paul’s intent to teach about Roman armour,
instead it was his intent to use Roman armour to teach about Christian
character.  But instead of taking Paul’s
advice about the armour we are supposed to wear too many Christians agree with Francis
Bacon who wrote “The best armour is to keep out of gunshot.”  In that same vein, John Sedwick was a Union
Army General during the US Civil War, his unit had come under fire from
Confederate sharpshooters and were ducking for cover, in an attempt to rally
his troops Sedgwick strode around in the open and was quoted as saying, “What?
Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire
along the whole line?” When his men continued to hide from the shooting the
General said, “Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an
elephant at this distance.”  Just
minutes later Sedwick was fatally shot. 
Sometime I think that Christians feel that they are immune
to the battle that Paul says is raging around us. Like Sedwick we feel that we
are far enough away that we are safe, and then we aren’t.  Through the years I’ve talked to Christians
who have failed in their faith, sometimes in spectacular ways who have said “I
never saw it coming, I thought I had it all under control.”
But Paul was under no such illusion, he said very plainly, Ephesians
6:10-13  A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against
all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against
flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen
world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in
the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you
will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you
will still be standing firm.
In those three verses Paul warns Put on all of God’s armour,
why?,  so that you will be able to stand
firm against all strategies of the devil. 
And he adds For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but
against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers
in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  And in case they missed it he adds Therefore,
put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in
the time of evil.  You might remember
that cardinal rule of bible study: 
Whenever you see the word therefore you go back to see what it’s there
for.  So, why are we supposed to put on
every piece of God’s armour?  So we can
stand firm against the strategies of the devil, because we are not fighting
against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the
unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits
in the heavenly places.
And as a result, if you put on every piece of God’s Armour
Paul promises that after the battle you will still be standing firm.
So what do we need to know about this armour of which Paul
speaks?
Ephesians 6:11  Put on all of God’s armour . . .  It’s Not Some it’s All   Paul doesn’t suggest that we put on some of
God’s armour, or most of God’s armour, or the parts we like.  Instead he tells us to put it all on.  And there’s a reason for that, it works best
when it’s used together.   
I love food and I enjoy cooking, and sometimes I want to try
something different and I end up at a recipe site on the interweb thingy.  And I love reading the comments when people
complain about how the recipe turned out because they usually mention how they
changed the recipe.  Instead of ½ a cup
of this they only used a ¼ cup, and they didn’t have maple syrup so they used
honey and they didn’t have reindeer so they used zebra.
And sometimes in our Christian walk it seems inconvenient to
be dragging around all that armour and we are tempted to leave some of it
behind.  And I would suspect that those
in our church family who are in law enforcement would agree that some days body
armour seems hot and bulky and uncomfortable, but they know that if they need it
that it won’t do them any good hanging in their locker. 
And then Paul tells his readers,  Ephesians 6:14  Stand your ground,  . . .
Stand Your Ground  In
every situation that we encounter we will choose how we will respond.  In some cases the very best option is to
retreat or stand down.  There are times
that Christians get sucked into discussions and conflicts that do nothing but
harm the kingdom.  They aren’t about
anything more than personal preference and traditions. I’m not saying that we
shouldn’t have preferences, but fighting over them is just dumb.  Sure we should talk about them and discuss
them, but they shouldn’t be fought over. 
At the end of the day we need to embrace the philosophy of John Wesley.
Through his ministry he was sometimes in disagreement with George Whitfield,
another prominent preacher of the day. 
When Whitefield died Wesley wrote a memorial sermon that said “There are
many doctrines of a less essential nature… In these we may think and let think;
we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…”   Paul was writing to Timothy, a young
preacher that he mentored, and basically said the same thing in 2 Timothy 2:23  Again
I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start
fights.  Or as I was wisely counselled
when I accepted my first positon as a full time solo pastor “Choose carefully
the hill you want to be crucified on.”
But there are things that we need to stand our ground on:  Paul isn’t talking about the issues that
affect society and the world, he is talking about us personally.   Sometimes we talk about spiritual warfare we
link to the ills of society, especially south of the border.  Prayer being taken out of schools, the Ten
Commandments being taken out of the court rooms, same sex marriage and people
voting for the wrong party.  But that
wasn’t what Paul was talking about.  He
wasn’t speaking about what was happening in society as a whole but what was
happening in the life of the individual believer.  Let’s go back to his analogy of the
solider. 
Historians tell us that when the Roman army advanced in
battle each soldier was responsible to defend their position.  They weren’t responsible for the entire
battlefield, just their little square but they were expected to fight and die
before they gave that up.  And that was
the strength of their army, each soldier defending what they had been entrusted
with.
If every believe was victorious in their spiritual battles
the local church would be stronger and if the local church was strong than the
church as a whole would be stronger and if that was the case than society would
be affected.
And so the battle for us is the attacks that endanger our
souls and our relationship with God.  And
that will be moral issues, whether or not we are obedient to what God requires
of us and theological issues, how we see and view God.  And these are where we will be attacked, at
the point of our personal integrity and beliefs.  Because if the devil can convince us that it
doesn’t matter how we live or what we believe then he already has won the
initial battle.  So don’t give in, even
on the little things.  You don’t reserve
a patch of your garden for weeds and you don’t reserve a part of your life for
sin.  Or as the Arab proverb says, “If
the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.”
The question then is how do we keep the camel out of the
tent, how do we “Stand our Ground”?
Glad you asked, Paul continues  Ephesians 6:14  Stand your ground,
putting on the belt of truth . . .     Put
on the Belt of Truth  While I was working
on this point I asked myself “what is the main purpose of a belt?”  And my immediate response was: It keeps my
pants up.  Now I know that some people
never wear a belt or if they do it’s simply a fashion accessory. 
But as a person with no butt let me tell you that the main
purpose of a belt is to keep you pants up. 
And that is important because it keeps me from being distracted with the
thought “I wonder if my pants are going to fall down.”  Our modern translations tend to use the
analogy of a belt, in the NIV it says Ephesians 6:14 NIV Stand your ground,
putting on the belt of truth . . .
And while that seems to make sense for us today that isn’t
the picture that Paul was drawing we he wrote this.  The problem is that culturally what Paul had
told those early believers make little sense to us 2000 years later.  The King James Version is pretty close to
what was written in the original Greek in this passage, it’s just doesn’t make
sense to us in 2015, because in the KJV Paul tells us  Ephesians 6:14 KJV Stand therefore, having
your loins girt about with truth,
Having your loins girt about with truth.  Has a nice ring to it, but what does it
actually mean?  Well 2000 years ago folks
didn’t need a belt to hold up their pants because they didn’t wear pants.  They all wore long robes, which were probably
really comfortable but really awkward when you were involved in things that
required mobility, like battle.   I went
to the website: The Art of Manliness and found instructions.  I told Angela that I was going to find a robe
to wear this morning so I could show people how to gird their loins and she
looked absolutely horrified.  In our 33
years of marriage I’ve learned that in situations like this it’s best to trust
Angela on things like these.  So instead
of a robe I got pictures.    So here is an illustrated guide.
So what does that have to do with anything?  Well Paul is telling us that we need to have
a firm grasp of the truth.  When I was in
high school we learned about situational ethics that is the concept that what
is true depends on your circumstances. 
And that makes life difficult.  In
2015 in Canada there are very few absolutes, what society knew was wrong
fifteen years ago, well not so much today. 
Someone said that we have narrowed the Ten Commandments down
to “Thou shalt not kill” but even that is open to interpretation according to
the pro-choice abortion proponents and those who promote assisted suicide. 
Listen to what Jesus told those who rejected him in  John 8:44  For you are the children of
your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a
murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no
truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a
liar and the father of lies.
In contrast Jesus told his followers 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 when he stood
before Pilate on the day he would be crucified we read this account,  John 18:37-38  Pilate said, “So you are
a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came
into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that
what I say is true.”  “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out
again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.
Are you settled on Jesus as the truth?  If not than the battle becomes much more
difficult, you will be hindered by other thoughts and claims, and worried that
your pants will fall down.  And if you
aren’t convinced that Jesus is the way the truth and the life than you aren’t
ready for the spiritual battles that lie ahead of you, because you will be
lacking the authority that you need.
So once we have established the truth we are told  Ephesians 6:14 Stand your ground, putting on
the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s righteousness and that’s where we will pick up next week.

Pick it Up!


I was following a car the other day when the driver threw garbage out the window. Hello! Now maybe I’m a little sensitive after having spent last Saturday morning picking garbage out of the ditch, but really, come on.  The last time I checked, littering was still considered rude and slightly obnoxious.  Not to mention illegal. And I’m pretty sure the guy in the car knew that when he threw his garbage out the window. So why did he do it? Perhaps it was poor potty training or maybe the environment he was brought up in.  Maybe his father was a rude litter bug and he is just following the example that was set for him.  Or he was brought up in a culture where littering was considered socially acceptable. 
No, he probably did it for the same reason we sometimes act like jerks when it comes to keeping God’s law, or not keeping God’s law.  He did it because he wanted to.  It was more convenient to toss the trash out the window than mess up his car.  And who really cares about how it affects others? Sometimes we take the same cavalier attitude toward sin and we shouldn’t.  There are rules against littering for a reason and God’s rules all have a reason as well.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Prepare for Battle

It seems that we are constantly being barraged with images
of battles being fought around the world. 
There hardly seems to be an evening that goes by without the news
telling us of an armed conflict that is being fought over real estate, religion
or resources. 

And we hear about it so much that we have almost become
immune to the reports.  After all it’s
over there and not over here. 

But there is a battle being fought today, not in Iraq, not
in Ukraine and not in the Middle East, but right here in Hammonds Plains, and
in Dartmouth and in Halifax and in Sackville. And it has nothing to do with the
Taliban or ISSI or Al-Qaeda. 

It is a battle that every Christian will have to fight with
evil. You know we’ve become pretty sophisticated in 2015 and the concept that
there is a battle between good and evil seems, well it seems quaint and old
fashioned.  Maybe for an old episode of the
Twilight Zone of the X-files, but not in real life. 

But that is what Paul was talking about in the scripture
that was read earlier.    If you have your Bibles with you this morning
why don’t you turn to Ephesians chapter 6, that’s about ¾ the way through the
New Testament. 

Putting things into perspective here, the Author of the
book of Ephesians is Paul and he has been arrested for preaching about Jesus
and is now languishing under house arrest in Rome while he awaits his appeal to
Caesar to be heard.  And so it was during
this imprisonment that he wrote a series of letters, this being one of them.

Through the previous chapter and for the first nine verses
of chapter six Paul has been advising the Christians in the Ephesian church how
to relate to one another and now he takes an abrupt turn and begins to talk
about a conflict that is happening in the lives of the people he is writing
to.  Now if we were honest it is a
conflict which we have all encountered from time to time.

And so Paul begins by telling us exactly what it is that’s
happening in our lives.  Ephesians 6:12  For
we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers
and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world,
and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

And so the very first thing that 1) We Need to understand There
is a Battle.
  It’s unfortunate that
somewhere along the path Christianity has become seen as, a walk in the park, a
stroll in a rose garden or a canoe ride down a gently frolicking river,
anything but a battel.  But that wasn’t
the way Paul saw it, it wasn’t that way Peter saw it and it surely wasn’t the
way Christ saw it.  Listen to what Jesus
says Matthew 5:11  “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you
and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are
my followers. Sure sounds like a battle.

Notice that Jesus didn’t say “If people mock you and
persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things” He seemed
pretty sure that it was going to happen because he says “When.”  It may not be as direct as the early
Christians being thrown to the lions in Rome, or the persecution that happens
to Christians in places like Indonesia and India and but trust me when I say
that there is a battle going on. 

It may be an issue of integrity, or it may be a sexual
temptation, or it may simply be the need to identify yourself with Christ in a
society where the norm is anything but Christian, but there is a battle that is
raging. 

Marjorie Holmes wrote “You don’t always win your battles,
but it’s good to know you fought.”  But
there are some battle that are imperative to win, and so Paul starts by telling
us Ephesians 6:12  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies
. . .

 2) We Need to Know Who The Enemy
Isn’t.
  There are two types of people who
are not our enemies; the first is other believers.  We can become so caught up in taking
pot-shots at other churches and other Christians that the world thinks there
must be some type of holy war being waged between denominations. 

There’s a story told about a battle that happened during the time of the
French-English wars.  It seems that one
of the English frigates was anchored off of Quebec City waiting to reinforce
the infantry when they arrived.  To keep
the sailors from getting bored the captain, an Admiral by the name of Phipps
decided that a little target practice would be order so the cannons were
trained on one of the many Cathedrals that overlook the Saint Lawrence
River.  For the rest of the day the ship
fired at the statues that stood on the roofline and along the walls of the
church.  Alas when the ship was called
into battle it was discovered that, and here’s the line people, “They had used
up all their ammunition shooting at the Saints.”

You know don’t you that sometimes as Christians we use up
all of our ammunition shooting at the saints. 
Full Gospel, and Immanuel Baptist and Stoneridge are not the enemy.  And Saint Johns, Saint James and Saint
Nicholas aren’t the enemy and we need to keep that in mind.

The other group that is not the enemy are
non-believers.  Somewhere along the line
we’ve developed an “Us versus them” mentality. 
And maybe that is why the Church as a whole has lost its focus on
reaching the lost, I mean after all if’n they are the enemy why should we
rescue them?  But it’s like in those old
war movies where the bad guys in the submarines torpedoed the good guy’s ship
and then watched as the survivors drowned. 
And we knew that was just plain wrong. 
And it’s still wrong.  When Jesus
saw the lost he didn’t see them as the enemy instead he wept over their
predicament. 

So now that we know who the enemy isn’t listen to what Paul
says next: Ephesians 6:11-12  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will
be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not
fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and
authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and
against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 3) We Need to Know Who The Enemy
Is
In Luke 10:19 Jesus called Satan “Our Enemy” and that is echoed by his
friend Peter who wrote 1 Peter 5:8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great
enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to
devour.

One of the smartest things that the devil ever did was to
allow himself to be portrayed as a harmless doofus in a red suit, with a horns
and a tail and a pitchfork.  By allowing
himself to be portrayed as a comical character he has removed the menace, the threat,
the sense of danger.  Oh people today may
be afraid of a multitude of characters and situations portrayed by the media,
but they aren’t afraid of the Devil. Friends, as scary as the Walking Dead
might be, they ain’t got nothing on Lucifer.

As Christians we often make one of two mistake, either we
ignore Satan and pretend that he has no power and is nothing more than a myth
or a past problem, or we dwell on him and give him credit for everything that
goes wrong in our lives.  Two things you
need to know 1) the Devil is real and 2) I’ve read the back of the book and we
win.

So now that we know there is a battle going on and who the enemy isn’t and
who the enemy is, we need to figure out how to fight the battle and a good part
of  our success will depend on our
preparation, which is why Paul goes on to tell us 4) We Need to Dress for Battle

I’m sure that Paul being the preacher that he was, was always on the
lookout for new ways to communicate age-old truths. As he looked at the man who
guarded him, and eyed his armour and weapons that an idea germinated in his
mind and he thought to himself, “That’ll preach”

Let us realize that the armour that Paul uses here is
purely an illustrative device.  He
reached out and used the common to communicate the divine.  We can go to all kinds of extremes here and
talk about the armour that the Roman guards wore and what was special about it
and how it related to the different concepts that Paul spoke of, we could do
that but we won’t.  Paul wasn’t teaching
about Roman armour, the reason that he used that as an illustration was that
everyone knew what he was talking about. 
If he were teaching this same lesson today he probably wouldn’t use the
same analogy because it is irrelevant in 2015. 

But while the illustration may not be relevant today the
truth that he was trying to convey is.  
Paul was teaching about the characteristics that will keep us as
Christians safe in the spiritual battle that is being waged for our soul.   And he says that there are two times that we
are going to need this spiritual protection. 
First in Ephesians 6:11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be
able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. So first of all these
characteristics will protect you today, that is the immediate.  We will chose to either use the armour that
God has prepared for us or not to use it and it will be our decision.  But it is there for us, and if you don’t use
it and as a result mess up your life then it is your own fault, don’t blame
God.  But as well as for the immediate it
is also available for the ultimate if we were to keep reading in Ephesians 6:13
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the
enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing
firm. There are a couple of things that this could mean, the first is that
Christianity was coming under intense persecution at the time and Paul could
very well be preparing the Christians in the city of Ephesus to prepare for the
inevitable.  But the bible is also quite
clear that there will come a time that we will see a show down between good and
evil. When that happens we need to be prepared, and Paul is telling us not to
sweat it, that the qualities that will protect us today are the same qualities
that will protect us in that grand finale. 

And so Paul goes on to speak of several characteristics
and qualities,  Ephesians 6:14-17  Stand
your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armour of God’s
righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News
so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up
the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on
salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word
of God. So what have we got here, we have Truth, God’s Righteousness, the good
news, faith, salvation and there’s a knowledge of God’s word, which is the
Bible.

The mistake that is so easy to fall into here is thinking
that this is armour for very special occasions. 
You know “Oh, today I am going to be involved in spiritual warfare and
so I should don my spiritual warfare armour. 
Today I will rely on truth, righteousness, faith, salvation and God’s
word.”  That isn’t what Paul is
saying.  If we are going to get our heads
wrapped around this one we need to move back to the original analogy about the
Roman soldier. 

You gotta understand a couple of concepts here; the first
is that there was no such thing as an off duty Roman Soldier or an Undercover
Roman Soldier.  These guys were the
occupying force in conquered country. 
They were on duty and in uniform 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  If you saw a guy who looked like this the
first thing that you knew was that he was a Roman Soldier.  And the second thing you knew was that he was
ready for battle.

The things that Paul is talking about here are not the characteristics
of some special type of Christian warrior they are not things that we put on
for special occasions.  Just as the
armour of the Roman Soldier identified him as a soldier of Rome there are
certain things which identify us as soldiers of Christ.  There are certain characteristics that we need
to exhibit in our lives by which people know who we are and who we serve.  Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and
sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable,
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are
excellent and worthy of praise.

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!  If you are
a Christian, a follower of Christ then every morning when you get up you’d
better make sure that those things that Paul speaks of are going to be a part
of your day and your life.  You can’t just
put them on and take them off as it’s convenient.  They aren’t just your Sunday go to meeting
clothes.

The reason that the Roman Soldier was
always in his armour was because he was living in a country that wasn’t
his.  He was in a country that was hostile
to him and all he stood for.  And you
realize of course that this is not a Christian country that we live in.

Take a look around, our culture reflects the exact
opposite of what the Bible teaches us that we should be and how we should live
as believers.  Every time you turn on
television, every time you read the paper, every time you step into a movie theatre
doesn’t it scream at you “You don’t belong, you are different”?  If it doesn’t you’ve got a problem.  Listen to the words of Jesus John 15:19 The
world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no
longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates
you. If you don’t think he meant it, listen to what he said in his prayer just
before he was arrested John 17:14  I have given them your word. And the
world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not
belong to the world. And again in John 17:16  They do not belong to this
world any more than I do.

And just as the Roman soldier got up every morning and
dressed in a uniform that identified him as different than those around him
you’d best put on all the armour that God gives, so you can defend yourself
against the devils tricks.

We are going to come back here and park for a while next
week and take a deeper look into how we are supposed to dress for success.

Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every
occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers
everywhere.

 And then finally
Paul says 5) We Need to Remember Our Secret Weapon.  Every army needs a secret weapon. 

You won’t ever win this battle on your own.  Satan is more powerful then you will ever be
by yourself.  And if you think that you
can win this one all by yourself then you are in for a whooping.  Face it if you enter into battle with the
forces of evil without supplication and intercession then the ruler of darkness
will prevail.  Let’s see if I can make
that a little more spiritual, “if you try to take on the devil without prayer
you gonna get your butt kicked.” 

Let’s go back up to Ephesians 6:10  A final word: Be
strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  So, what is it that makes you strong?  You ever see the cop show with the bad guy
tells the cop, “Oh yeah, take off the badge and we’ll see whose toughest” or
when the defendant tells the Judge, “If you didn’t have that robe on.”? 

Does the badge emit a force field?  Does the robe give the judge some superhuman
strength.  No it’s the authority they
represent. 

A Roman soldier could walk almost anywhere in occupied
Roman Territory and as long as he was in his armour he was safe.  Was it because of the armour, no it was
because of what the armour represented and that was the power of Rome, it was saying:
mess with me and you’re going to have all of Rome all over you. 

And the power of prayer is that it gives us the power of
God, and the only way that you can come out on top of this one will be with the
help of God.  And that’s one of the
reasons why Satan tries to keep God’s people from praying, listen to what William
Cowper a British poet in the 1700’s wrote “And Satan trembles when he sees, The
weakest saint upon his knees.”  It has
nothing to do with the one praying and everything to do with the one we are
praying to.  And that’s why when we find
it hardest to pray, that we should pray the hardest. 

It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote, “In a battle all you
need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it’s more
dangerous to lose than to win.”  And in
the battle against evil in our lives, we will need to be passionate and
understand that it is eternally more dangerous to lose than to win. 

Stupid is as Stupid Does


People seem divided about what happened last week in Toronto at the TFC game.  (For those of you who are as ignorant as I am, I’ll save you the google. TFC is a soccer team.)  You have probably read about or have seen the reports that went viral after fans yelled vulgar comments at television reporter Shauna Hunt. When Hunt confronted the fans, Shawn Simoes defended their actions with more vulgarities targeting the reporter.  The problem is that he did it in front of a camera, which goes to prove Billy Sunday was right when he said “Sin can be forgiven but stupid is forever.”
The clip quickly went viral and was seen by Simoes’ employer Hydro One and they fired him.  When Hunt asked Simoes on camera what his mother would think, Simoe replied that she’d find it funny.  Wonder if she thought her son losing his $106,000.00 a year job was funny?
Most people find Simoes’ actions offensive, but they are divided on whether or not he should be fired. 
I don’t think Hydro One fired him because of his words, they just figured he was too stupid to work for them.
I wonder what would happen if Jesus could fire Christians who behaved badly and represented Christianity poorly?
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Price of Discipleship

Jesus is on his way
to Jerusalem, a journey that he knew would end with him being crucified, and
yet many of those following him thought he was on his way to establish his
Kingdom in the capital city.
Sometimes I wonder
if Jesus ever wanted to say:  “What we’ve
got here is a failure to communicate.”? 
It’s not as if he
led them on and pulled a bait and switch on them, instead he had been open from
the very beginning about what was involved in following him, but still I’m pretty
sure that there were those in the crowd who still thought Jesus was the coming
messiah who would establish his earthly kingdom and reign in glory.  And so they had decided to hitch their wagon
to his star, so to speak.
From the very
beginning Jesus had alluded to the fact that he hadn’t come to establish an
earthly kingdom, but there were still those who didn’t get it.  They envisioned an Israel free of the Roman
occupiers who had made life miserable for so many of them.  And so to clarify Jesus turns and tell them,
“Salvation is free but it’s not cheap, did you catch that?  Salvation is free but it’s not cheap.”
Well that isn’t
exactly what he said, what he said is recorded in Luke 14:33  So
you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. What a statement, any one of you who does not
give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
We don’t preach on
that enough do we?  We preach on
salvation that’s given so free, but we don’t preach on the cost of serving Christ.
We have probably
read these eight verses a dozen times, maybe more but somehow this concept of
giving up everything we own seems to apply to others.  “Well that’s fine for them but Jesus wouldn’t
expect that of me, would he?”  If you are
his disciple he would.
You say “But hold it Denn, what if I don’t want to be a disciple,
what if I just want to be a plain, ordinary, everyday, average Christian?”  Well it shouldn’t take long in reading the New
Testament to discover that Christ doesn’t want plain ordinary, everyday,
average Christians.
We have come to the
place where we want to divide Christians into a couple of different
categories.  “You see pastor there are
your nominal Christians, they’re your C & E Christians, you know what I
mean pastor, and you see them on Christmas and Easter.  Then there are your Christian Christians,
that’s what most of us are, you know just your average, every day,
semi-committed Christian, you know what I mean pastor,  then there are the disciples, you know what I
mean pastor, those super saints.  They
pray more, they give more they are more disciplined.”
The only problem with this theory is that disciple simply means
one who follows a teacher or leader.  A
communist is a disciple of Marx, a Buddhist is a disciple of Buddha and a Moslem
is a disciple of Mohammed.  And so by
definition if you profess to follow Christ then you are a, you ready for it,
you are a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And so to make sure that everyone is on the same page Jesus
makes three very clear statements About what it means to be a disciple.
Now with that out of the way let’s go back to Luke 14:33  So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything
you own.  Discipleship is About Our Possessions
So Christ is saying,
anyone of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be his
disciple.  You ok?
You say “Yeah but
pastor you don’t really think that is what he meant do you?”  I don’t know, how many different meanings
could there be to that statement, So you cannot become my disciple without giving up
everything you own.  Sure
sounds like that’s what he meant to me.  “But
everything pastor?” well that’s what the book says, and we know that we don’t
debate the book, right?
The problem is when
we hear these words we immediately think that Jesus is talking about money, but
really money is the least of what he is talking about.  Jesus is talking about everything you own and
everything that owns you.  He’s talking
about all you have and all you are.  You
all right?  If it was just money, it
would be so easy.  We could just write a
cheque and get on with life.
So to find out what
Jesus meant when he said “everything” we need to start at the beginning of the
story.
Let’s start at verse
25, these are the last days of Christ, and as he makes his way to Jerusalem and
his final sacrifice the crowds push in and gather around to hear the teachings
of this young influential rabbi.
And as Christ turns
and sees the multitude pressing around him I wonder what thoughts crossed his
mind?  Here are his followers, those who
seek to learn from him and they expect great wisdom to come forth from his
lips.  What will they hear, “Blessed be
the peacemakers”  “Love your neighbours”,
“Do unto others”  “Love God”.  What great insight would come forth from the
mouth of Jesus?

But no the words of Christ were unlike any others they had ever heard from
the master, in Luke 14:26  “If you want to be my disciple,
you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and
children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot
be my disciple.  Discipleship is About Our Priorities

That must have
floored them; I would suspect that for what seemed like eternity that those
pressing in tight around Jesus just stood in stunned silence.  Who could believe that the one who had spoken
so eloquently about love could change his tune so completely?  What an about face, he’s gone from love your
enemies, to hate your mother. Love those you barely know, and hate those you
know best?  What could possibly, have
provoked this radical shift in perspective?
I mean let’s face it;
he’s not discussing something that’s relatively insignificant; if you’re going
to love Whoppers with cheese you are going to hate Big Macs.  If you are going to love the Habs you will
have to hate the Leafs.  If you are going
to love Toyotas you will have to hate Fords. 
  No problem.  But he’s not talking about trivial things,
he’s not even talking about in-laws, he’s talking about flesh and blood, he’s
talking about, “I carried you for nine months, my feet
swelled to the size of bedroom slippers, and I was in heavy labour for a week
and a half.” that’s what Christ was talking about.

But what he isn’t saying here is that we need to consciously hate all that
is dear to us.  He is not telling us to
hate our parent’s and our spouse and our children.  Let’s read it again Luke 14:26  “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you
cannot be my disciple.

We tend to focus on what Jesus tells us to hate, but that isn’t what he is
getting at.  Compared to how I like a
really good hamburger I hate lobster. 
But I don’t actually hate lobster, I kind of like lobster but it doesn’t
even come close to how much I love hamburgers. 
Did I tell you that back in February I was at Wood’s Harbour and had
lobster for supper and breakfast?  And it
was awesome, but if for any one of those meals they had of said:  You can have lobster or a really good
hamburger, I would have had the hamburger. 

This statement then
is not one of affection as much as it is one of loyalty, to whom do we owe our
primary allegiance, to our family or to Christ? 
To our friends or to Christ?  To
ourselves or to Christ?  Not an easy
question to answer is it?  Now to be
clear I’m not talking about your loyalty to Cornerstone.  There are churches that almost take that
approach “If
you want to be a member of our church, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you
cannot be a member.
And if I come across
that way than please forgive me.  Last
week I had mentioned having a commitment to our kids spiritual health, I wasn’t
implying that our kids shouldn’t be involved in things outside of Cornerstone
like Hockey, cheer, baseball and ballet, I was saying let’s make sure we are as
committed to the spiritual, youth group, rallies and camps, as we are to the other
things in their lives.  Not because it
will benefit Cornerstone but because I truly believe that it will benefit your
kids, for now and for eternity.  
Jesus was clear on this premise, which is why he told those
who were following him, Matthew 6:24  “No one can serve two masters.
For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and
despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.   And for that matter the true disciple
cannot serve God and his job, or God and his family, or God and himself. If God
is not in first place then God is in the wrong place.
Now don’t get me
wrong, this doesn’t mean that we neglect our family or our friends.   And it doesn’t mean that we develop a negative
self-image, but it does mean that God has to take first place in our life, you
ok?
You say “But Preacher my family is a priority, and my job is
a priority and my friendships are a priority.” 
But Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33  Seek the Kingdom of God above
all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I am a better person
because I follow the teachings of Christ. 
Denn in his natural state isn’t all that loveable, you might think that
Denn like this isn’t all that loveable, but you should have seen me before I
met Jesus. 
Because of Jesus I
am a better person than I would be without him, a better spouse, a better
parent and a better son.  That’s part of
the process, as you draw closer to God, and become more Christ like then you
become a better father, or mother, a better husband or wife, a better employee
or employer, and a better friend.
In a marriage
situation if both partners are aiming for a common goal as they get closer to
the goal they draw closer together. 
Christ will reward faithfulness, but in the same breath it is up to you
to be faithful.
And so as a disciple
we will need to be faithful with all that God has given us, and what is it that
God has given us? That’s simple, all that we have and all that we are.  That’s the secret to understand tithing; we
will never give cheerfully as long as we think we are giving God 10% of what is
ours.  Instead we need to realize that he
is allowing us to keep 90% of what is his.
Our family, our
friends, our job our health, our money, our talents, everything we have has
been given to us by God and all he asks of us is that we put him ahead of the
things which he has given us.
Here’s a question to
ponder, what would happen if you found out that Christ was coming to dinner
some night next week?  Well you know what
would happen. You would have the very best meal possible. 
You wouldn’t take
him out to the Golden Arches, would you? 
Instead we’d break out the fine china and good silver, linen napkins
instead of the usual paper towels. 
Perhaps a sirloin tip roast with Yorkshire pudding, candied carrots,
broccoli with cheese sauce, and for dessert flaming cherry jubilee.  That’s what you would probably do, I’d probably
BBQ up some Denn Burgers.   You all right? 
You did have breakfast didn’t you? 
I mean if we knew
that Jesus was coming to supper we would really outdo ourselves, and I for one
would never question the need to do that. 
What I do question is this; if we would be so conscious of what we would
serve Christ at one meal why are we so content with serving him leftovers the
rest of the time?
Are we intent on giving Christ the very best of our money,
our time and our talents, or are we content to offer him what little we have
left over at the end of the week, and that of course is dependent on whether or
not we need it.  And that doesn’t sound
like the words of Christ in Luke 14:33  So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything
you own.
Does that mean that there is no money, time or talents left
for those we love?  By no means, we are
taught in 1 Timothy 5:8  But those who won’t care for their relatives,
especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people
are worse than unbelievers.
But you say “Denn
it’s not easy to tithe, and it’s not easy to give God precious time out of a
day that is already too short.”  I know
that, and you know that and God knows that. 
But you wanna know something else as well?  He never once said that it was going to be
easy.  You see Christianity was never
intended to be a cake walk.
Too many of us have
fallen prey to a false theology that which proclaims that Christianity smoothes
all the humps out of life and will make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  “Praise God I’ve
been saved and sanctified and since Jesus came into my life he has made things
so much easier, I’ve gotten a better job, I’m never sick, my children are
always polite and pleasant and my marriage is like heaven here on earth.”  The problem with that is when things start
going wrong, and trust me sooner or later things will go wrong, and then we
figure that we must have sinned for God to be punishing us. 
Well on that beautiful spring day, as the crowds pushed and
shoved to be near Christ he turned around and said, “I beg your pardon, I never
promised you a rose garden.”  Well maybe
that isn’t exactly what he said but it was pretty close because in Luke 14:27  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you
cannot be my disciple.  Discipleship is About Our Purpose
Carrying a Cross doesn’t
sound like a day in the park, but it does sound like commitment, or dare I say “discipleship.”     If we are going to be the type of Christian
that Christ wants us to be it will have to affect our entire life.  Christianity isn’t just a ticket to heaven it
is supposed to be a lifestyle.  It isn’t
just supposed to affect our behaviour on Sunday morning it is supposed to have
a direct, dramatic impact on our entire life, Monday through Sunday, day in and
day out, 24 hours a day; it is supposed to be a life changing experience.
Jesus knew where he was being led.  He was heading to the Cross, and it was for a
purpose. And he knew that if he was going to fulfill that purpose that he would
have to go to the cross, and he knew that it wouldn’t be easy that why we
discover Jesus praying in 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.”  ,
What was that purpose? 
Jesus spelled it out in Luke 19:10  For the Son of Man came to seek
and save those who are lost.”  But
his purpose wasn’t just to make a difference in our eternity, which is why he
told us 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.
But why do I
sometimes get the feeling that the only difference it makes in some people’s
lives is that it gives them someplace to go on Sunday mornings that is when we
don’t have someplace better to go on Sunday morning.
Let’s be serious, do
you really think that Christ came to this earth, lived for thirty three years,
suffered the indignities he went though and died on a cross so you could come
to church Sunday morning, throw a five dollar bill in the box and then squeak
into heaven when you die.  That level of
commitment wasn’t what he expected two thousand years ago when he called men
and women to follow him and it’s not what he expects today.
To be truthful it
really bugs me when I know that someone professes to follow Christ, professes
to love God, but have a commitment level of absolutely zero. It’s kind of like
the fellow who wrote the note to his girlfriend that said, “For you I’d cross deserts, swim oceans, I’d climb
mountains and ford raging rivers, for you I’d fight starving animals.  PS. If it’s raining on Saturday I won’t be
over.”
The question that
each one of us needs to ask is this, “What does God
expect of me?”  in actual fact it
doesn’t’ matter whether you ever live up to what I expect of you, and it really
isn’t all that important whether or not you live up to the expectations of Cornerstone
or the Wesleyan Church but it will matter for eternity how you measure up in God’s
eyes.  Your entire life needs to be lived
asking the question “what does God want of me?” 
The number one
resource material for answering that question is the book, his word, and here
is a deep thought if you don’t read it you will never know what’s in it.  His word provides the direction that we need
as his disciples, but only if we read it.
I was at Joe Millington’s wedding the other day and when Scott
Rhyno from Kingswood University began the marriage ceremony he used the words
that are used in so many different traditions in one form or another.  If you weren’t at Joe and Lauren’s wedding
but you were at Will and Kates you would have heard the same thing, and if you
missed the Royal Wedding but have attended a wedding that I have performed than
you would have heard the same words, or close to them.  This holy estate
Christ adorned and beautified with his presence in Cana of Galilee, and the
Apostle Paul commended as honorable among all men.  It is not therefore to be entered into
unadvisedly, but reverently, discretely and in the fear of God.


And it was that same concept that Jesus was teaching about
discipleship, It is not therefore to be entered into unadvisedly, but
reverently, discretely and in the fear of God. 
He didn’t actually use those words but he told folks to count the cost, Luke 14:28-30  “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin
construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there
is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise,
you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then
everyone would laugh at you.  They would
say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to
finish it!’
But more than anything Jesus wants you to understand that to
be his disciple is a choice, and he wants it to be an informed choice.  And the fact that it is a choice suggests
that there are alternatives.
He was telling those how heard him that day that they would have to make
a choice, because to choose one thing means that we reject another. To choose
to follow Jesus means that you are choosing to not follow someone else, even
our own desires. 
In the book of Joshua, Joshua issued this challenge to the Israelites, Joshua 24:15  But if
you refuse to serve the LORD, then
choose today whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my family, we will
serve the LORD.”
And we are still being asked, Choose today whom you will
serve.

The High Road


In a society that seems to be obsessed with violence, almost to the point of celebrating it, this was a refreshing story.  Kevin Vickers gave the convocation address at Mount Allison University this past week after being granted an honorary degree.  For those who have been living in a cave for the past seven months, Vickers was the Sergeant at Arms on Parliament Hill who shot and killed Michael Zehaf Bibeau in October of last year.  Vickers has been hailed as a hero around the world for his actions in stopping Zehaf Bibeau who had already murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and was terrorizing the halls of the Parliament. 
Vickers, now Canada’s ambassador to Ireland, downplayed what happened that day by stating, “I bumped up against a moment in history.”  While others might have relished in their actions the former sergeant-at-arms called it “The loneliest moment of my life” and said that he remembered the gunman not for his evil, but for his innate human dignity. 
In the aftermath of that day, Vickers remembered “With my grandchildren in my arms, I said a prayer for Michael”.  Not what most would expect, but it sounds a lot like what Jesus expected of those who follow Him, at least according to Matthew 5:44.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Hope for the Hopeless

So
we are picking up our story where we left off last Mother’s Day.  You remember where we left off last Mother’s
Day don’t you?
For
the few of you who don’t recall last year’s message.  It began with a drought in the country of
Israel, God’s prophet Elijah was instructed to go to a town called Zarephath
where a widow would take care of him. 
Starting to sound familiar?
He
arrives in town, finds the widow and asks her for food and drink to which she
responds by saying in 1 Kings 17:12  But
she said, “I swear by the LORD
your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have
only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom
of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then
my son and I will die.”
Doesn’t sound very promising does it?  Well, Elijah convinces that woman that you
are never a loser when you are generous and she takes a step of faith and
believes God’s representative and prepares him a meal.  The result is found in 1 Kings 17:15-16 So she
did as Elijah said, and she and Elijah and her son continued to eat for many
days.  There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers,
just as the LORD had promised
through Elijah.
And that was where we left the story last year.  And it was truly a celebration of generosity
and faith.  And the result was that she
was rewarded and blessed.  And we all
love stories like that.  But as I
finished writing the message I read ahead into the next verse and discovered a
story as old as humanity itself.  Because
it wasn’t long before celebration gave way to grief. 
Lets’ pick up the story in 1
Kings 17:17
 Some time later the
woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died.
The child who had been saved through his mother’s generosity
and faith has now died.  And what could
possibly be more heartbreaking than the death of a child?
And it is interesting that the first death recorded in the
bible is the death of a child, the younger son of Adam and Eve.  But that’s not the way it’s supposed to
be.  Children are supposed to bury their
parents, parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.  But it happens, as can be testified to by
some of you.
And so on this day that we celebrate Mothers there are moms
at Cornerstone who grieve for children lost and children never born.  And our hearts go out to you, again that’s
not the way it’s supposed to be.
And it was easy to find positive uplifting lessons from the
earlier story.   Last year we discovered that this woman was An Appointed Mother, A Caring Mother, A
Practical Mother, A Believing Mother, An Obedient Mother, A Rewarded
Mother. 
But what is it that we learn from the rest of the
story? 
1 Kings 17:17  Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew
worse and worse, and finally he died. 
The Reality of our
Mortality 
The tragedy wasn’t that
her son died, the tragedy was that he died too soon.   One of my favorite shows, when it was on,
was House MD, and Dr. House’s ionic line was “Everybody
lies”. That’s not necessarily true, at least I hope it isn’t but here is
something that is an unchangeable truth “Everybody
dies”
Manlius said, “We begin to die
as soon as we are born, and the end is linked to the beginnings.”
Homer wrote in the Iliad  “Like the generation
of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters
the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber
bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round
again. And so with men:
as one generation
comes to life, another dies away.”
And the other Homer summed it up when he told Bart at bedtime “Don’t let Krusty’s death get you down, boy.
People die all the time, just like that. Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow!
Well, good night.”
That is the reality, why you could wake
up dead tomorrow.
The writer of
Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 9:27
 And just as each person is
destined to die once and after that comes judgment.  Notwithstanding all
the heavenly tourism books that are out there, each person is destined to die
once. 
And Jesus’ brother tells us in the book
of James James 4:14  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
And maybe at this point you are
thinking:  Well that has really cheered
me up, this is supposed to be cheerful, non-threatening Mother’s Day message
and Denn pulls this out of the hat.
But bear with me, because even though
death may be inevitable doesn’t mean death is the winner.  Let’s keep going with the story.
While we don’t know the nature or name of the disease that
killed the boy, it seems as if whatever it was, was really quick, remember 1 Kings 17:17  Some
time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he
died.  In the NKJV it reads this
way,  1 Kings
17:17 NKJV
 Now it happened
after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became
sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him.
There is no talk about doctors, we don’t see the widow going
to Elijah asking him to pray for her son, even though in the very next verse
she acknowledges him as “A Man of God”. 
She knew he could do the impossible, after all it wasn’t that long
before that she had witnessed the miracle of the bottle of oil and a container
of flour that never ran out. 
So if we keep going in the story we read in 1
Kings 17:18
 Then she said to Elijah,
“O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out
my sins and kill my son?”  The Depth of the Mother’s Despair  I can’t even begin to imagine the grief
associated with losing a child.  She
blames Elijah and she blames herself but she doesn’t blame God.  Sometimes it seems in our culture that we are
uncomfortable with the public display of grief. 
We watch tragedies unfold in other parts of the world where people are
screaming and wailing and falling down in their grief.  It just seems so undignified.  One of my favorite singers is Miranda Lambert
and one of my favorite Miranda Lambert song is “My Mama’s broken heart”, and if
the truth was known most of us would echo the words of the mother in this
song.: 
Word got around to the barflies and
the Baptists
My mama’s phone started ringin’ off the hook
I can hear her now sayin’ she ain’t gonna have it
Don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look

Go and fix your make up, girl, it’s just a break up
Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady
‘Cause I raised you better, gotta keep it together
Even when you fall apart
But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart

Powder your nose, paint your toes
Line your lips and keep ’em closed
Cross your legs, dot your eyes
And never let ’em see you cry

But this mom wasn’t going to bottle her grief up. 
It wasn’t that long before in the story, when the prophet
had first asked the widow for lunch that she had told him in 1
Kings 17:12
 . . . I was just gathering a few
sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die.”
She could see no way out of her poverty that had been
magnified through the drought and famine, but the hope that she had lost was
restored when God provided for her and more. 
Again she began to dream about a future of seeing her son grow up, she
almost could hear the giggles of future grandchildren.  And now that had been ripped from her
again.  And she is a little put out. 
And it wasn’t that she blamed Elijah for not keeping her son
from dying.  You might recall in the
story of the death of Lazarus both sisters, Mary and Martha said the same thing
“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That
wasn’t on the widow’s radar at all, as far as we know, the widow hadn’t even
asked Elijah to pray for her son. 
She doesn’t blame him for not healing her son, she blames
him for her son’s death.  She blamed Elijah
personally for what had happened to her son. 
1 Kings 17:18  Then she said to
Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to
point out my sins and kill my son?”   
She might not blame God, but she comes close, she blames his
representative.  And I’m sure if there
were others around they probably stepped back to avoid the lightning
strike.  But she was speaking out of
pain, and frustration, anger and loss. 
And God understood. 
Our God isn’t so insecure or afraid that he can’t be
challenged.  Moses questioned God, Job
questioned God, David questioned God. 
Even God’s own son cried out from the cross Matthew 27:46  At
about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema
sabachthani?”
which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
But if we are going to question God we need to be willing to
listen to him as well.  When Job
questioned all that God had done and allowed this was God’s response Job
38:1-3
 Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind:  “Who is this
that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?  Brace yourself like a
man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
We may never get the answer we are looking for.  You may never know the physical, emotional or
spiritual pain that they escaped because of an early death.  We grieve for our own pain and loss, but if
we believe what we say we believe about heaven, and if our children love Jesus,
then  without wanting to sound trite,
they are in a better place. 
And that might be for the best, we might not want to know
how things would have turned out if the tragedy hadn’t of happened.  
And at this point it
would have been easy for God’s prophet to have taken offence at her remarks and
said “Oh yeah” and walked away but that isn’t what we are told happened.  Let’s pick up the story again in  1 Kings 17:19-21  But
Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms,
carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body
on his bed.  Then Elijah cried out to the LORD,
“O LORD my God, why have you
brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to
die?”  And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried
out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, please let this child’s
life return to him.”  It is here
we discover The Passion of Elijah’s
Prayer.   
Remember that I said that the widow didn’t
come right out and blame God?  Not so
much Elijah.    Then Elijah cried out
to the LORD, “O LORD my God, why have you brought
tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?”
 
And then he asks God to do what God had never done before,
to raise some body from the dead. It had never happened before as far as we
know, we find no precedent for this in the bible.  Elijah must have been reading the Penn of
Denn because he knew the reality of the only way to see what is possible will
be by attempting the impossible. 
On my first trip to West Africa we suddenly discovered that
our team was thousands of dollars shy of what we needed for a conference we
were putting on for Pastor’s in Sierra Leone. 
Peter Moore was our team leader and he made a couple of phone calls to
some large churches in the states and quickly raised the additional funds.  And I loved his rationale. “If you never ask, the answer is no.”
And so Elijah forgets that it was impossible, he puts aside
the fact that he had never heard about it happening before and he asks God to
do the impossible, he believed the words of the Angel Gabriel from Luke
1:37
 For nothing is impossible with
God.”
Sometimes we say that we need to see it before we can
believe it, but my philosophy is that you have to believe it before you can see
it.
1 Kings 17:21  And he stretched himself out over the child three times
and cried out to the LORD,
“O LORD my God, please let
this child’s life return to him.”
Now understand that God did not have to answer Elijah’s
prayers, and God knew even before Elijah prayed what Elijah wanted, but what
would have happened if Elijah hadn’t of asked God to do the impossible?   We will never know, because Elijah did ask
God to do the impossible, and if we pick up the story in the very next verse we
read.
1 Kings 17:22 The LORD heard
Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived!  The story displays God’s Power over Death Do kids still
have to study old poems and old poets in High School?  Does the name John Donne ring a bell?  When I was in high school I fell in love with
Donne’s Holy Sonnet number 10.  Catchy
title.  And it reads.
Death, be not proud, though some
have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are
not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou
dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst
thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy
pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much
more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee
do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s
delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings,
and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and
sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us
sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why
swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake
eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death,
thou shalt die.
You can imagine how amazed I was to later discover that the
Apostle Paul must have enjoyed Donne as well because he wrote in 1
Corinthians 15:54-55
 Then, when our
dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this
Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory.
 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Because here is the truth, that while death may be
a reality it is not the end of the story for the Christian.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  Death those shalt die!!!
And you are thinking, but Pastor, Elijah raised the
boy from the dead.  Yes he did but that
wasn’t the end of the story, you understand that eventually he died again and
there was no Elijah around the next time. 
John describes what life after death will be for
the believer when he writes in Revelation 21:4  “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes, and
there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are
gone forever.”   No pain, no sorrow, sign me up.
If you know the story of King David and Bathsheba you will
remember that their first child died shortly after he was born.  And while the child was sick David put on
sackcloth and cried out to God to save his child but when the baby passed away
took off his sackcloth and resumed his duties as king.  When he was asked about his behaviour we read
his response in, 2 Samuel 12:22-23  David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was
alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the LORD
will be gracious to me and let the child live.’  But why should I fast
when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he
cannot return to me.”  I will go
to him one day.
We spend a lot of time and money keeping our kids physically
safe and emotionally safe, do we spend the same amount of time and money keeping
them spiritually safe?   We make sure
they are in hockey and cheer, baseball and ballet but do we make time in the
schedule to get them out to youth group? 
Do we budget time and money for them to get to Caton’s Island or Bayside
in the summer?  11 of our teens spent a
weekend in Quispamsis last week in the presence of 500 other teens and for some
of them there were decisions made that will affect how they live in this life
and where they will live in the next life. 
And the 11 went because it was a priority with their parents that they
go. 
You can’t make the decision to serve Christ for your
children, but you can make sure they have every opportunity to make that
decision for themselves. 
And then finally the story ends with these words 1 Kings 17:24  Then
the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of
God, and that the word of the LORD
in your mouth is the truth.”
It is here we see The
Widow’s Acknowledgement of God’s Power 
How
easy it would have been for her to think: what a coincidence just as Elijah
goes up and prays over my son he wakes up. 
 
It was Sir William Temple who
said, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I
don’t, they don’t.”
How often do we ask for prayer for our children’s health and
receive an answer but don’t take the time to acknowledge that it was an answer
to prayer.  Instead we thank the doctor,
talk about what an incredible job the antibiotics did, or all they really
needed it seemed was some rest.
How do you feel when someone asks you to do something and
after you do it they don’t thank you or worse yet thank someone else?  I know we don’t do things for the people we
love simply to get thanks, but a thank you is nice. 
So on this mother’s day, if you are struggling with
hopelessness and loss, it’s fine to ask God why?  He may not provide the answer that you want
or are looking for but understand that he loves you and cares about you and
he’s there for you. 
We mentioned earlier King David as he grieved the loss of his
child, if you look through the story of David you’d discover that David
suffered many personal and family tragedies, but ultimately he was able to
write in  Psalm 30:11  You
have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning
and clothed me with joy,
You understand with
my natural rhythm and grace anything that could allow me to dance with joy
would be nothing shy of a miracle but the principle is there.  The end result is not the dancing, it is when
we allow them to, then our pain, and our suffering, and our struggles and our tears
will strengthen our lives. 
There is no trouble
on this earth which is greater than the grace of our God.  Do you believe that this morning?
 
   
 

When it Rains


Up until yesterday the name Andre Levingston didn’t mean anything to me. If I had heard it before, and I probably had, it had never registered with me.  And then I saw Levingston in an interview with ATV news anchor Steve Murphy and I kind of liked him. 
In case you are like me, Levingston is the owner of the Halifax Rainmen basketball team which has been embroiled in controversy this past week.  The back story is that after a very successful year, the Rainmen had reached the national championship finals which became a very physical series.  After a small brawl broke out when the team showed up early for a practice in Windsor, the coach decided that playing game seven of the series would be too dangerous for his team and opted to forfeit, not just the game but the championship. 
The outcome has been $90,000.00 in fines for the team, coach and players and at least two lifetime bans imposed on the two Rainmen coaches.  That’s the back story.
What impressed me about Andre Levingston is that even while disagreeing with the decision to forfeit the game he accepted full responsibility for the decision that eventually lead to the forfeiture.  And accepting blame isn’t something you see much of today.

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

The Journey of Communion

For Christians around the world the celebration of Communion
is something we have in common.  Oh we
might call it by different names, and we might fight over how often we should
observe communion, what actually happens to the elements when we receive them,
and even over what we use for elements but there is a common celebration
there.  And whether we celebrate weekly,
monthly or quarterly communion should never simply be something we do. 
Shauna Niequist In her book “Bread and Wine” writes:  “We don’t come to the table to fight or to
defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to
stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there.”
We are told that during the Roman persecutions of the early
church that the communion celebration was used to malign the church.  It was rumoured to be a cannibalistic ritual,
celebrating with the body and the blood. 
While others suggested the term “Love Feast” implied a celebration of a
different type that happened behind closed doors. 

And so for two thousand years Communion has been the central point of the
Christian faith because it directs our attention to the sacrifice that was made
for us and the grace that sacrifice has provided. 

It was the night before he would be arrested that Jesus and
his 12 closest friends gathered together to celebrate the Passover feast,
something that each of them had been brought up celebrating.  And during the celebration Jesus took the
elements that were so familiar to them and he spoke the words that would become
central to the faith of so many people. 
“Do this in remembrance of me” 
That was the setting behind the scripture that was read this
morning. And two thousand years later Christians all over the world still
celebrate communion, in one form or another. 
Why?
Luke 22:19 He took some bread and
gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the
disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to
remember me.” 
                     
We need to
understand that Communion Points Us to Yesterday.  This is probably the most vitally important
component of the communion service the link it gives us with the past.
The main reason that Jesus gave us the communion service and
the reason he insisted that we observe it on a regular basis, was because he
knew how fragile the human memory is. 
That’s the very same reason that God instituted the sacrament of the
Passover for the Jews twelve hundred years before the birth of Jesus, so that
the children of Israel would always remember how He, God, had delivered them
from the Slavery of Egypt.
It’s when we are called upon to look back that we
remember.  And as we participate in the
communion service, as we eat the bread and drink that juice our minds travel
back in time 2000 years to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that God made for
us.  You do realize that the sacrifice
was made for you, not for someone else, but for you personally.
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.
But you know that really doesn’t say it all, does it?  The phrase, “He gave his only Son” That
doesn’t mean that God said, “Here’s my son, you can have him” Jesus came to
this earth in the womb of a virgin; he was born in a stable and raised in a
carpenter shop.  For thirty years the
creator of the universe lived as one of his created ones.  For thirty years God lived as a mortal in an
imperfect world.  And in order that he
could truly be the ultimate sacrifice for mankind he had to live as we
live.  I’m sure that there were days that
his nose was stuffed up, and days that he felt rotten, and days he didn’t want
to get out of bed.  But he needed to
experience the full realm of the human spectrum, from birth to death if his
sacrifice was to be effective.
The gift of Christ however wasn’t enough to assure our
salvation.  In the Old Testament God had
laid down the law and there he outlined the sacrifices that needed to be made
when the law was broken.  And the penalty
for continually breaking God’s law was eternal separation from God.  A just God could not go back and change the
rules; he couldn’t change the laws and the penalties for breaking the law.  But he could pay the price for us, and that’s
what he did when he came to this earth. 
He came to pay the price for each one of us.  He died so that we wouldn’t have to. 
And it’s when we come to the communion table that we remember
that he died for us. 
Each year at Christmas it is so easy as believers to get
caught up in the birth of Christ and to forget that the birth of Christ was a
meaningless event without the death of Christ. The nativity scene is never
complete without the shadow of the cross.
Now I wouldn’t have been the one to send to die for the sins
of the world.  I mean the conversation
would have gone a little bit like this, “Denn, we are sending you to earth as
God’s Ultimate sacrifice”  “Ok, I can
live with that”  “Well Denn, that’s the problem
but we’ll get to that later. Ok?  You
will be born in a stable and you will be raised in a carpenters shop.” 
“No problem, I’d prefer a fishing boat, but a carpenters shop
is better than a farm”  “Now Denn, in
order for your sacrifice to be effective, you’re going to have to die for the
people of earth.  Do you have a
preference for your death?”  “Hmmm. Let’s
think now, if I’m going to die for the sins of the world then I’d like to die
of old age, preferably in my sleep surrounded by my great great grandchildren.”
If we were honest that’s the way most of us would want to go,
comfortably at the end of a long and productive life.  Most of us wouldn’t mind dying for the sins
of the world if’n we could do it when and where we wanted.  But those weren’t the terms that Jesus came
under.  He was willing to admit his
weakness and fears to God, when he prayed in the garden just hours before he
would be arrested, but then he was willing to say, “But not my will but yours
be done.”
And then for me and for you, let’s make it a little more
personal for you and you and you and you. 
Think about it for each one of you, think about it for each one of us, as
a matter of fact think about this.  I
want you to focus on the thought that for you and you alone Jesus Christ the
Son of God was beaten and cursed and mocked. 
They pulled his beard out, they humiliated him, they stripped him of his
clothes and nailed him to a cross and killed him for you sins, but the story
doesn’t end there.  They put him in a
borrowed grave carved out of the side of the hill, and after three days he rose
from the dead.  And he did all of that
for you, and for you and you and you and you. 
It is in remembrance of the past that we take part in the communion
service.
And so we are going to pause for a few minutes and take the
time to share the bread of communion together, and as we take the small piece
of bread we need to reflect on how Jesus gave his body to save us from our
past. 
Whatever it is that yesterday holds, the forgiveness of
Christ is enough to wipe away that stain. 
If you’ve never experienced the forgiveness that comes through the grace
of Christ just take the time this morning to embrace that gift, to ask Christ
to forgive you and to believe that he has. 
Bread
Let’s pick up the story in Luke 22:18 For I will
not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.”
Communion isn’t just about
yesterday, Communion Allows us to See the Future  Time and time again Jesus points us beyond
his crucifixion, beyond his resurrection, beyond his ascension and directs our
attention to the Second Advent, that is to say his second coming.  And that is where Jesus is directing our
attention here.  Listen to what Paul
writes about the communion service in 1 Corinthians 11:26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.
He is coming again, you do believe that don’t you?  His second coming is chronicled in depth
throughout the New Testament, leaving only one detail conspicuous in it’s
absence and that is the when.  We know
the “who”, it’s Jesus Christ.  We know
the “how” he’ll come in the clouds for all to see.  We know the “why”, it to gather his church to
him, but instead of telling us the when, he tells us in Mark 13:32-33 “However,
no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels
in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know
when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!   And so to demand to know what Jesus didn’t know is not only rude but it
borders on blasphemy.
Communion then does not just direct you to reflect on the
past, but it will cause you to focus on the future.  Yes Jesus did come so many years ago, but the
truth is that he is coming again.  And
while he came humbly last time as a child, born in a stable, this time he will
come with a shout and the sound of a trumpet. 
When I was a kid we played hid and seek, do kids still play that?  And the person who was it would close their
eyes and count to a hundred while the other kids hid and then when the had
gotten all the way to a hundred do you remember what they shouted, right “Ready
or not, here I come” And while the scripture don’t tell us the exact words that
will herald the second coming of our Lord, I’m sure that will be very similar
to “Ready
or not here I come”
Too many of us have lost the urgency of Christ’s coming.  Oh I’m sure that we all know he’s coming
again, I’m sure we all believe that he’s coming again, but somehow I’m not sure
that we are all anxiously awaiting his coming again.  I doubt that the average Christian is really
waiting with baited breath for his arrival.
I heard a story once that involved H.A. Ironside a noted
preacher of yesterday, after speaking in one large church a woman accosted him
at the door and demanded, “How dare you do that?” “Do what?” was Ironside’s
response. “You prayed ‘come Lord Jesus come’ and that would ruin all my plans”
Would it ruin all your plans?  If we were
real truthful about it this morning how many of us would consider the second
coming as an intrusion on our lives and plans. 
One of my favourite quotes comes from the French Chemist Pierre Bethelot  who made this statement in 1869, “In one hundred years of
physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is.  It is our belief that when science reaches
this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say
to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it is closing time.’ ”


This morning we not only want to look to what Christ did in
the past but look to the promise of his return. 
As we take the time to reflect over the cup this morning I trust that we
are looking with anticipation to the return of Jesus Christ. 
Cup
Luke 22:20
After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new
covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which
is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
Communion Directs us to Today
Let us always remember that no matter how wonderful yesterday
was, it is gone.  And no matter how rosy
tomorrow looks it’s not here yet. We have only today, and it is a gift, that’s
why it’s called the present. 
As important as Christ’s death and resurrection was 2000
years ago it is worthless unless you are doing something with it today.  As important as the return of Christ will be
when it happens, you still have to make a decision today for it to impact your
life tomorrow.
Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice and laid down his
life for you 2000 years ago, but it’s only when you claim the power of that sacrifice
that you enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Has anyone every received a car for their birthday?  No? 
Don’t feel bad neither did have I, but I do have a birthday coming up
soon. . .  But if you had of you could park
that car in a garage and reflect on the history of that automobile, perhaps
thinking back to how long that particular model had been around, marvelling at
the different modifications and design changes that had taken place through the
years.  You could have thought about how
it progressed from a pile of unassembled parts to eventually become the
finished product that was displayed on the dealer’s showroom floor.
Or perhaps you want to speculate about what was going to
happen to your car in the future, perhaps wondering what it would be worth in
25 or 30 years.  And how the classic
lines of that beauty would cause it be a sought after collector’s item.  Much like the 1973 Vega I once owned. 
But regardless of how noble the past history of your car
might be, or how impressive the future of it might be unless you are willing to
use it today, you are gonna walk.  We
need to apply our Christianity to our everyday life; Christ has to be a vital
part of our Today, not just our Yesterday or Tomorrow. And that is why the
Bible says
2
Corinthians 6:2
For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today
is the day of salvation.