United we Stand, Story of the Book # 9

United
we stand

What
a mess!  It should have been a model
church; after all it had all the earmarks of becoming the greatest church in the
denomination.  Its founding pastor was
the most prolific church planter in the denomination; the next man was by far
the best preacher that could be offered and tossed in for good measure was one
of the original founders of the denomination. 

One
who had stood closer to the original flame that started the group than any
other.  It had everything that could be
offered to it, it had been planted in a major metropolis that was the capital
city of the state.   Time, money and
talent had been invested in seeing it become everything that it could possibly
be.  This church was destined for
greatness.

But
then it came tumbling down like a house of cards.  They began to have problems with the
spiritual gifts and tongues in particular seemed to tear the church apart.  Sexual immorality had reared its ugly head
within the congregation, as well as incest, adultery, marriage problems and
just a hint of heresy over the resurrection. 
Members were taking each other to court, and their fellowship times were
becoming excuses for gluttony and even drunkenness.

And
then if that wasn’t enough the entire church split along party lines giving
loyalty to either the guy that planted the church, or to the fellow who was
such a great preacher or the denominational official.  What a mess. 

Surely
not a Wesleyan church, it must have been you know one of those churches.

Well
you’re right and you’re wrong.  I mean it
wasn’t a Wesleyan church but then again it wasn’t one of those churches
either. 

The
church planter was Paul, the preacher was Apollos, and the official of the
denomination why that was one of Jesus’ closest friends, Simon Peter.  The church of course was the Corinthian
church and its problems are well chronicled in both 1 and 2 Corinthians the
letters that Paul wrote addressing those problems.

Here
we are week 9 in our “Story of the Book” series.  Since the first of July we have been taking a
whirlwind tour through the bible.  Last
Sunday we were in the book of Acts and looked at the Birth of the Church, and
finished with Bill Hybel’s words “The local church is the hope of the world.” And
the promise of Jesus when he said “And the gates of hell will not prevail
against the church.”

And
now we have arrived at the Pauline Epistles, or the Letters of Paul.  This section is exactly what it is called, Letters
written by Paul to various churches and individuals.  It includes Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2
Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2
Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. 

These
letter were written by Paul between 50 and 57 AD.  These probably aren’t the only letters that
Paul wrote but they are the ones chosen by God to be preserved for the
church.    

Most
of the letters were written to churches and often related to problems that the
church was having in regards to specific situations.  And letters are the most personal of
correspondence, even now, maybe especially now, if you receive a letter you are
getting something special.

And
we think that privacy is a major concern today and we are always warning people
that what they write will be around forever it wasn’t much difference when our
country was first born.  Our first Prime
Minister Sir
John A. MacDonald testified to the power of the letter when he said “Never write a
letter if you can help it, and never destroy one!”

And
Paul was a prolific letter writer, it is because Paul left us so many letters
that we feel we know him so well.  

It
was Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe who wrote, “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person
can leave behind them.”

But
there is a problem with reading a letter, letters are dialogues, they are part
of a fluid conversation.  And when we
read a letter it is often like hearing only one side of the conversation.

In
the case of the scripture that we are looking at today Paul starts by bringing
us up to speed on the other side of the conversation.

You
see in this case Paul  is writing to a
church that is torn from within and  Paul
sums up the major problem of this division in 1 Corinthians 1:12  Some of you are saying,
“I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter.”

And
then he responds to the problem in the next verse by asking is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?  And the answer is “of course not”. 

What
a dumb question, but it is rhetorical.  Dr.
Victor Hamilton who was a professor at Asbury theological seminary and he illustrated
by telling the story of being in the Toronto international airport and it was
wall to wall people. 

Dr.
Hamilton had just finished reading the paper he had purchased and had no place
to put it so he sat on it.  A gentleman
walked over and asked Dr. Hamilton “excuse me sir, are you reading that paper?”  Hamilton looked at the man and said “yes I am”
then he stood up turned the page and sat back down again. 

A
rhetorical question is a question that you really don’t expect an answer
to.  Like “how dumb do you think I am?”  Don’t really want anyone to answer that do
you?

And
so even though Paul doesn’t expect his readers to answer his rhetorical
question he answers it himself in 1 Corinthians 3:4-6  When one of you says, “I
am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” (or “Denn)” aren’t
you acting just like people of the world?  After all, who is Apollos? Who
is Paul? (Who is Denn) We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the
Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.  I planted the seed
in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.

And
so Paul Begins With the present reality:  The Corinthian Church was a Church Divided.  And we all know what Jesus said about
division remember Matthew 12:25  Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family
splintered by feuding will fall apart.”

I’m
sure that he would have added every church divided against itself will be
ruined.  Some thoughts on disunity:

Proverbs 6:16-19  There are six things
the LORD hates— no, seven things
he detests:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent,
 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong,  a false
witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.

Galatians 5:19-21  When you follow the desires of your sinful
nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful
pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts
of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild
parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before,
that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Now
the Guptill paraphrase of that last statement is this “if any of the
aforementioned applies to you then you is going to hell.”

The
disunity in the Corinthian church was brought about by three men, Paul, Peter
and Apollos.  But understand that wasn’t
their original plan.  That wasn’t what
anyone of them wanted or planned.

In Acts 18:1 Then Paul left Athens and
went to Corinth.  If we were to continue to
read in Acts 18 we would discover that Paul joined up with Aquila and Priscilla
who were fellow tent makers, and that Crispus the ruler of the synagogue
believed and all his household and that many others believed, finally we are
told in Acts 18:11  So Paul stayed there for the next year and a
half, teaching the word of God.

Well
that explains Paul’s connection with the Corinthians but what about the other
two guys?  Well Apollos is mentioned in Acts
18:25 when we are told he had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught
others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy.

And
then again he is mentioned in Acts 19:1  While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled
through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he
found several believers.

So,
from that we can assume that Paul founded the church and then Apollos came as
the preacher. 

But
what about Peter?  Where does he come
into the picture?  And you might be
thinking “But preacher we don’t know what Peter’s connection was to the
Corinthian church.” You’re right and that is how it will remain on this side of
eternity, we just don’t know. 

We
don’t know when Peter was thereof why Peter was there but somewhere along the
line he developed a following.

Three
good men, each with only the very best motives for serving the Corinthian
church and yet they became the reason for dissent. 

In
a church that I served there were some folks who were constantly reminding me
of how awesome one of the former pastors was.  
He was a great teacher, and a great visitor and they were so lucky to
have had him as a pastor. 

I
love Cornerstone, but someday, hopefully not someday soon, but someday I will
be gone.  And I hope that your loyalty to
whoever replaces me will equal or exceed your loyalty to me and that the words “When Denn was here” will never cross
your lips.  Because when that day comes,
you will need to realize that your primary loyalty will be to the Cornerstone of
the present not the Cornerstone of the past. 

And
so Paul broaches the most pressing problem in the church, a problem that was
more severe than sexual immorality, an issue more pressing then tongues, more
critical than problems relating to communion, more dangerous than divorce or
lawsuits. 

The
very first problem that Paul addresses is the disunity that was rampant in the
church.  And he approaches this problem
not as the boss, not flaunting his apostolic authority, not ordering the people
to unit but instead we read in 1 Corinthians 1:10  I appeal to you, dear
brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .

You
notice that it’s not addressed to servants or subjects but brothers and sisters,
and he doesn’t present himself as brother’s keeper but brother’s brother.  And he doesn’t order he appeals.

This
isn’t a request for Paul, he’s not addressing the “First Pauline church of Corinth”
be instead he appeals in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Because
I am the pastor of Cornerstone whatever you do reflects on me, and whatever you
do reflects on Cornerstone Wesleyan church, and whatever you do reflects on the
Wesleyan church as a whole, and it hurts but  really it don’t matter.  But when you bring reproach on the name of Jesus
Christ that matters.

Probably
the greatest damage done to the Christian church throughout the ages has been
done by Christians.  I will defend the
church of Jesus Christ to the hilt and part of doing that is to promote unity within
the local body.

Now
I want to clarify right now, this message is not because there is disunity at
Cornerstone.  This isn’t a reactionary
message at all, you don’t need to be wondering about what you might have missed
and what is happening at Cornerstone. 

But
understand that there was a time in the Corinthian Church that they didn’t need
this message either and then one day they did. 
Perhaps if Paul had of addressed these issues in advance this might have
been a different story.

1 Corinthians 1:10  I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other.
Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in
thought and purpose.

And
so Paul not only identifies the present reality but he also  presents them with a vision of a preferred
future.  Paul says that he believed that  The
Corinthian Church Could be a Church United
 Now personally I prefer the how NKJV translates
Paul’s words, when he says I want  “That you
all speak the same things.”  And very
simply it means that the church needs to be one in doctrine, or as some would
say “We are singing from the same music.”

Now
that doesn’t mean that you can’t come to Cornerstone if you don’t believe what
we believe.  But that does mean that if
you don’t agree with what we believe and you are vocal about your beliefs then
you probably would be happier in another denomination.  Because although the Wesleyan church may not
be the one and only true church it is the Wesleyan church and you probably won’t
change it, at least not this week.

Why
should we all live in harmony with one another? 
Well Paul implies that that is the first part of the goal which is Let there be no divisions in
the church.  The word division is the Greek word skhismah
and it literally means a tear in a garment, something that is torn when it
should still be in one piece.

Surely
Christ was thinking of the church when he prayed 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.

Notice
that Jesus didn’t say the believers had perfect unity, he said “may” they experience perfect unity,
they weren’t there yet.  The real problem
with the Christian church is people, if we didn’t have people we wouldn’t have
any problems.  Of course we wouldn’t have
any church either, oh well. 

We
may disagree on some things but let’s be careful about how that is presented to
those outside the church.  Nothing will
damage the reputation of the church quicker than infighting.  On the other hand listen to what David says
in Psalm 133:1 How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers
live together in harmony!

Disagreements
are not division, but when parties start to form over a disagreement that
becomes divisive.  As long as people
gather you will hear the words “I don’t think so” and “I don’t entirely agree”
or “I wouldn’t do it that way”.  And I
have no problem with that, and you don’t need to leave the church over it. 

People
that do that often find that the same problems come up time and time
again.  When I was fresh out of college a
very wise old preacher’s wife (at least she seemed old then, she was probably
40) told me once, “Don’t change churches because of
problems because you will find them in your next church with different faces.” 

We
will never agree on everything I can virtually guarantee that.  My wife and I don’t agree on everything, my staff
and I don’t agree on everything, my best friend and I have never agreed on
everything.  So it is very doubtful that
you and I will agree on everything. 

And
sometimes I’ll be right and you’ll be wrong. 
And sometimes you’ll be right and I’ll be wrong.  And sometimes we’ll both be right, and if the
truth be told there will even be times that we will both be wrong.

It
doesn’t matter if we disagree over whether to sing old hymns or new worship
songs, whether we clap or don’t clap, raise one hand, two hands or three hands.  What translation  of the bible we use, what clothes we wear or
how long or how short our hair is or even when and how Jesus is coming back.

By
the way in that particular instance we need to remember that was are supposed
to be on the welcoming committee not the planning committee. 

You
see those things are only differences of opinion.  But when they start to cause you to think
less of me then they become divisive.

Now
that does not mean that we tolerate sin or heresy in the body, Paul is very
adamant about that and perhaps we have fallen down on the job in that
area. 

In
trying to be a loving church maybe we have forgotten that the church isn’t
supposed to condone sin in the body instead it called to condemn sin. 

Paul
was very blunt when it came to sin that was in the church in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13  When I wrote to you
before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.
 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are
greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world
to avoid people like that.  I meant that you are not to associate with
anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or
worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even
eat with such people.  It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but
it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are
sinning.  God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say,
“You must remove the evil person from among you.”

We shouldn’t
sacrifice standards of belief or morals on the altar of unity.

And
so the result of all agreeing together we are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10  I appeal to you, dear
brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in
harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of
one mind, united in thought and purpose.

In
order for the Corinthian church to get from the Present reality: They were a
divided church, to a preferred future: They could be a church united Paul tells
them Unity Will Have to be
Intentional 
 The word picture that is used here for united
together actually comes from a medical word in the original language which
literally meant “knit together”, and it was usually used in the sense of a
broken bone mending or a scar healing. 

Maybe
Doctor Luke was with Paul at the time of the writing and suggested that
particular usage.  But the fact of the
matter is that it does not refer to something that had always been whole but
had in mind something that needed to be mended or healed.

The
truth is that if there has been a split in a church body or in a personal
relationship then it can be rejoined, healing can happen but it has to be
intentional we need to want it to happen. 
And don’t expect it to be perfect overnight. 

If
you were to break your leg, even though I have no medical training I would
suspect that your doctor would strongly recommend that you stay off said leg
until it mended properly in the same way when a split in the church is healing
don’t try bending it again the same way that broke it before.

When
it comes together in perfect unity Paul says it should first of all be unity in
thought in 2 Corinthians 13:11 Paul tells the church in Corinth 2 Corinthians 13:11  Dear brothers and
sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity.
Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace
will be with you.

And
in Philippians 1:27  Above all, you must live as citizens of
heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.
Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that
you are standing side by side, fighting together for the faith, which is the
Good News.

As
we continue to grow our main concern should not be expanding, and our main
concern should not be not expanding.  Our
main concern should not be what type of music we sing, or what bible we read
out of from the platform, or how well the preacher preaches or doesn’t
preach.  Or what colour the carpet is or
whether the preacher wears jeans or a robe. 
 

Our
main concern needs to be that there are people in our communities who are dying
and going to hell.  Our main concern
needs to be reaching those people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything
else is secondary. 

This
building and our programming they are nothing more or less than tools to help
with the task at hand and the task at hand, needs to always be, helping to
depopulate hell. 

And
so Paul tells us that ours should not just be a unity of minds but as well a
unity of vision and purpose.   

There
may be times that you may not agree with everything we do, but do you agree
with our vision and purpose?  It will
only be in unity that we will be able to move ahead together to do the task
that God has called us to do. 

Remember
what the prophet Amos said in Amos 3:3  Can two people walk together without
agreeing on the direction?  

Each
of us, by making Cornerstone our church home have agreed to walk together, let’s
do it and reach out and touch this community for God.

The Birth of the Church, Story of the Book # 8

The
Birth of the Church
Sigmund Freud wrote “The act of birth is the
first experience of anxiety, and thus the source and prototype of the affect of
anxiety.”    Which might explain Andy Warhol’s statement “Being
born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery.”
This
is week eight of our Story of the Book series and since the beginning of July
we have been on a whirlwind tour of the Bible. 
Last week we arrived in the New Testament and from the Gospels I
selected the book of Mark to speak on and my central theme was what it will
take if we want to be more than an average Christian. 
The
Gospels of course begin with the birth of Christ and take us on a journey
through his life and ministry leading to his death and resurrection.  And that brings us to the next stage of our
journey.  This is only one of two
sections where we will only be looking at one book, in a few weeks we will look
at the book of the Revelation but today we are looking specifically at the book
of Acts or more correctly “The Acts of the Apostles.” 
It
is accepted that author was the same author who wrote the book of Luke, Luke,
who was a Gentile physician.   The book of Acts was written around  AD 63 and Luke  was writing these accounts for a friend of his
by the name of Theophilus, who was either a new believer or someone seeking to
know more about Christ and the early church. Interesting name Theophilus, it
was my great grandfather’s name but more than that in the Greek it means Lover
of God.
I
never knew my Great Grandfather and the only person I ever met with the name Theophilus
was a pastor from Burkina Faso who I met when I taught in Ghana in 2013.  Three weeks ago today Pastor Theophilus and
his wife were killed in a motorcycle accident on their way to church and Pastor
Theophilus was also a lover of God.  
And
so Acts is really book 2 with the Gospel of Luke being book 1. 
And
if I was to ask you what was important about the book of Acts I would get all
kinds of answers. 
It
is in the book of Acts that we read about the Holy Spirit coming upon the early
believers on the day of Pentecost.  It is
in the book of Acts that we read about the martyrdom of Stephen and James, it
is here we read about the persecution of the believers and how because of that
persecution many of those believers were forced to leave Jerusalem. 
It
is in the book of Acts that we read about a man named Saul, and his journey
from an obscure reference in a tragedy involving the first Christian martyr to
his becoming one if not the most influential voice in Christianity.  Oscar Wilde
could have been speaking about Saul when he wrote “Every
saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” Because with his
conversion Saul became Paul and Paul would go on to write the majority of the
New Testament and develop and shape the theology that would make Christianity
distinct among world religions.
In
the Wesley Study Bible we read:  “The entire Book
of Acts is an expansion and fulfilment of the promise in 1:8 —- “you shall be
witnesses . . . in Jerusalem . . . Judea and Samaria, and the end of the
earth.”
But
when I think of the book of Acts I think of the birth of the church.  Bill Hybels of
Willow Creek community Church is noted for saying “The
local church is the hope of the world.”  And
I truly believe that. 
The
church is the instrument that Christ planned on using to change and impact the
world.  That was apparent when he told
Peter in Matthew 16:18  Now I say to you that you are
Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all
the powers of hell will not conquer it.  But
when Jesus spoke those words there was no church. 
If
the Gospels are the story of Jesus then Acts is the story of the church and Groucho Marx said “Although
it is generally known, I think it’s about time to announce that I was born at a
very early age.” And the church was born at a very early age. 
So
what do we learn about the New Testament Church?  Because you will hear folks say from time to
time, “We ought to be a New Testament Church” or “Our church should be more
like the New Testament Church.”  I’ve
even had a few pastors through the years tell me, “We are a New Testament
Church.”  I’ve always wanted to ask them,
“So has anyone died taking communion lately?” 
If you didn’t get that you need to read 1 Corinthians 11:30.
The Church was Born in a
Partnership   
Have you ever heard the
phrase “It takes two to tango”?  That is
particularly true when it comes to making babies.  Here is the reality it takes a boy and a girl
to make a baby.  2 girls can’t make a
baby and 2 boys can’t make a baby and neither the Supreme Court nor popular
opinion can change that. 
In
the case of the Church the two it required was God and People.  Peter spoke, the Spirit moved and the church
was born.  Could God have done it without
people?  Sure, he’s God, but that isn’t
how he chose for the church to be born. 
And two thousand years later it still requires the moving of God and human
effort.
It
reminds me of the story of the man who bought an empty lot and turned it into a
beautiful garden.  Originally it had been
overgrown with weeds and filled with rocks, but through hard work,
determination and love he turned it into an object of beauty.  One day as he stood admiring his garden a
stranger happened by and commented, “That sure is a beautiful garden the Lord
has given you”  “Yes it sure is” replied
the man, “but you should have seen it when the Lord had it by himself.”
Every
church is born out of a partnership with God and with people.  Every growing church grows because of a
partnership with God and with people, every healthy church is healthy because
of a partnership with God and with people. 
Unfortunately
when things aren’t going well God often gets the blame. “I guess it’s not God’s
will that our church should grow.  We’ve
been praying and praying and nothing has happened.”
I
have discovered through the years that the two cop outs that churches and
pastors use to explain why one church is doing well and theirs isn’t are 1) God
is really blessing that church or 2) They are lucky.  And I’ve heard them both applied to
Cornerstone. 
And
it’s a cop out because they are both things we can’t control so we don’t have
to accept responsibility for what we can’t control.
My
response is: Why wouldn’t God bless other churches?  Is it in His will that they are not
growing?  Does He not want people to meet
Jesus and experience his grace?   Doesn’t
God want all churches to be healthy? 
And
as for the luck comment, I had a boss once who used to say “Luck is what failures call success.” And it was Pierre Trudeau who said “Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet.” 
In
Acts chapter 2 we read what happened when the Holy Spirit came upon the
believers in the upper room, it says a great crowd gathered and were asking
questions about what happened.  And then
we read in Acts 2:14 Then
Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd,
“Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no
mistake about this. . .”  And he goes on to preach and call people to
repentance and they respond.  But What if the Holy Spirt had
moved and Peter had of stayed silent? 
Not
only was the church born out of a partnership, the next thing we discover is
that The Church was a Growing Church.  The early church was not stagnant or in
decline, it was a church that was growing and not just a little bit of growth
either, it was off the charts.
Listen
to some of the early descriptions of the church Acts
2:41
Those who believed what Peter said were
baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. Acts 2:47  all
the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each
day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.  Acts 4:4  But
many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of
believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.
Eventually
they just stopped counting, and so we read in Acts
5:14
Yet more and more people believed and
were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. Acts 9:31  The
church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became
stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the
encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
I
am passionate about church growth and have been since I started pastoring, and
I’ve beat that drum in each of the churches I’ve pastored and with other
pastors.  And because of that I’ve had
people say “Denn, you are only concerned about numbers.” 
And
that’s not entirely true, that’s not all I’m concerned about, but it is one of
the things I’m concerned about.  And if
numbers are just numbers that that might be an issue, but when you realize that
numbers are actually representative of people it becomes different, especially
when they are people you care about.
When
a church grows it means more people are hearing the word of God, more people
are being presented with the opportunity to accept Christ, and more people are
being discipled.
When
a church grows there is more opportunity to reach more people with the love of
Christ, more opportunities to impact the world. 
 And that is all in keeping with
the command of Christ to reach all the world. 
And
we are going to come back and park here for three weeks in September and take a
look at why the church should grow, how they church will grow, and what the
cost of that growth will be, but that’s not until September so I’ll leave it
alone for now.
The
next thing we discover about the New Testament Church was that The Church was a Multiplying Church  The church didn’t start and finish in
Jerusalem.  There wasn’t just one mega
church that Peter pastored.  By the end
of the book of Acts there were churches scattered across Asia and into
Europe. 
And
that was what was supposed to happen, the last command of a Jesus was for the
church to go into all the world.  But
they didn’t go willing.  We all like to
be comfortable, change isn’t always something that most folks look forward to,
let alone leaving home and hearth to go start churches in faraway places.
So
for the first seven chapters of Acts we see the early church growing at an incredible
rate, I think the technical term is Hand over Fist, but it was limited to
Jerusalem. 
But
remember what Jesus told the Apostles in Acts 1:8 But
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my
witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea,
in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  
In
Acts chapter 1 it seems that Jerusalem was to the be the starting place for the
church, but by Acts chapter 7 it would appear that Jerusalem has become the
stopping place, the only place that the church was making inroads. 
And
then we come to Acts 8, Stephen has become the first martyr of the early church
Acts 8:1  Saul was one of the witnesses, and
he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution
began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers
except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.
It
was only when the believers were forced to move outside their comfort zone that
what was supposed to happen actually happened.
Years
ago when I was at a church planting seminar of some kind I heard a speaker say,
“Churches are programmed to reproduce, the question
is will be a planned pregnancy or an unplanned pregnancy?” 
Twenty
years ago I watched a church from our denomination go through a church split.  That was an unplanned pregnancy. 
Ten
years later I saw the same church take part in an intentional church plant
where they participated with people and finances. You might say that was a
planned pregnancy.  
Which
of the two births do you think was less stressful for all involved?  And which one ended up with the stronger
daughter church? 
There
are life cycles to churches, they are born and they die.  That is reality.  None of the churches that were written about
in the book of Acts exists today and if the church is going to continue to
exist then new churches will have to be started.
One
of our core values when Cornerstone was in the planning stages was that
Cornerstone would be involved in starting additional churches and while we
having been involved financially in several we still haven’t birthed a church,
yet.
We
just celebrated our 20th anniversary by the time the Jerusalem
church had celebrated their 20th anniversary there were dozens of
new churches as a result of the Jerusalem church.  Hmmmmmmm.
But
it wasn’t just a growing and multiplying church.
The Church was a Demanding
Church 
When you hear people talk
about wanting to be involved in a New Testament church they always seem to have
this vision of a church where everyone is sitting around in a circle, holding
hands, enjoying fellowship and being taught things that don’t offend or challenge
anyone, and seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy
all day. 
When
someone says they wish the church was like the New Testament church it’s
because in the their heart of hearts they know that if they attended a New Testament
church then the only songs that would be sung would be their favourites and
they would be sung the way they liked to sing them. 
They
know that if they attended a New Testament Church they would never be asked for
money and they would never be judged on their behaviour and would never be
asked to volunteer in the nursery.
But
trust me on this, that wasn’t the way it was. 
 
I
don’t know what your favourite music style is but I can almost guarantee you
that isn’t what the New Testament Church was singing. 
And
listen to what the Bible tells us about stewardship in that church Acts 2:45 They sold their
property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.   And Acts 4:32 All
the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned
was not their own, so they shared everything they had.  
And
as a matter of fact there is a story told in Acts  about a 
couple who sold a field, told the church they were going to give all of
the proceeds to the church and then only gave half, well let’s pick up the
story in Acts 5:3-5  Then
Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the
Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  The property
was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money
was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t
lying to us but to God!”  As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to
the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.
Wow,
at Cornerstone if you make a financial commitment and don’t keep it, we don’t
even call. Are you sure you want us to be like the New Testament Church?
And
there was behaviour that wasn’t tolerated in the early church, regardless of
what culture said, and regardless of what the government decreed.   And I don’t know how many times through the
years people have told me the church isn’t supposed to judge people.  But that wasn’t a reality in the New
Testament church, listen to what Paul told the church, 1 Corinthians 5:12  It
isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your
responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. Wow, in
a day and age when the church seems to be more and more vocal about the
morality of those outside the church.  Maybe
we’ve lost our focus. 
And
the church is reminded in Ephesians 5:3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you.
Such sins have no place among God’s people. 
And that isn’t an isolated instance, over and over again
throughout the New Testament the church is held to a much higher standard than
the world, in how they gave, how they loved, how they served and how they
behaved.
And
what was the result of that? Well ultimately The Church was an Impacting Church 
There is a great statement in Acts 17.  As Paul and Silas are travelling and
establishing new churches they arrive in Thessalonica and as was their custom
they first go to the Synagogue to preach. 
And
we are told in Acts 17:4  Some
of the Jews who listened were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with
many God-fearing Greek men and quite a few prominent women. Cool right, but not
everybody was happy and if we continue to read in Acts
17:5-6
 But some of the Jews were
jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob
and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas
so they could drag them out to the crowd.  Not finding them there, they
dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before
the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they
shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too.” 
The
charge was that Paul and Silas had caused trouble all over the world. In some
versions though it reads this way “These who have
turned the world upside down have come here too.”  And that is what the church did, it
turned the world upside down.  Never
again would the world be like it had been before the church.
I
know there are critics of the church, and some of their criticisms are
valid.  But understand this, that the
world is a better place because of the Church of Jesus Christ.  The church has been at the forefront of
providing education, health care, of taking care of the poor.  It was the church who rallying against slavery.  It was the church who embraced the cause of
women’s rights and civil rights. 
And
locally the church continues to make a difference, because of a Church named
Cornerstone marriages in our community have been saved and made stronger, young
men and women have made better choices than they might have made without the
church. 
 Families
have been embraced and supported during transitional periods.  Ask some of the new moms the difference a
week of meals made when the baby came home from the hospital.    
Because
of Cornerstone in Action, volunteers have made a difference with feed Nova
Scotia, St. Georges Soup Kitchen, Adsum House, Phoenix House and other
agencies. 
Last
Christmas the people of Cornerstone provided sleeping bags and long underwear
to dozens of homeless people in partnership with Souls Harbour.  Each month Cornerstone provides dozens of
cans of chunky soup and evaporated milk for Feed Nova Scotia, every two weeks
Cornerstone provides meals at Ronald McDonald House for families with sick kids
at the IWK.
Because
of Cornerstone there are families drinking clean water in Sierra Leone and the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.
But
bigger than all of that, there are people today who will spend their eternity
with God, because of Cornerstone and around the world through the ministry of
those we support and partner with. 
We
have turned our world upside down.  Because
as Bill Hybels says “The
local church is the hope of the world.”  And
as Jesus said “And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

The Smell of Moral Outrage

I love the smell of moral outrage.

I read today that a group of Ashley Madison clients have joined together for a class action law suit.  If you’ve missed the news, Ashley Madison is a website whose specific purpose is to hook up married people who want to cheat.  Their slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” Last week Ashley Madison’s servers were hacked and the names and emails of their clients were made public, literally tens of millions of people were outed. 

Apparently some people who had no problem breaking their marriage vows are upset that Ashley Madison didn’t keep their promise of confidentiality. Sniff, sniff, is that moral outrage I smell or hypocrisy?

I find it interesting that the villain in the story isn’t Ashley Madison, a company based on adultery and betrayal and the villains aren’t the men and women who were willing to violate their marriage vows and betray their partners. Instead the hacker is portrayed as the villain.  They are the ones being blamed for all the harm that might be caused when would-be adulterers are exposed, not those who were willing to break their marriage vows.

Maybe Instead of “Life is Short” Ashely Madison’s new slogan should be “Be sure your sins will find you out.”   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Sharing isn’t always good


Perhaps you’ve seen some of the warnings and maybe you’ve even shared them.  Many of the warnings have been showing up on Facebook and other social media.  They involve Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) and they are alarming and true.  People are being warned that DHMO is used by the nuclear power industry, that it is used in the production of pesticides, is present in most poisons and it is guaranteed to be fatal to humans in large quantities and yet it is still used in everyday products and food.
And it is amazing how many people simply hit share in order to warn their friends about the dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide without further investigating the claims about this mysterious and supposedly deadly compound.  If people checked, they would discover that DHMO is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, and is simply another chemical name for. . . water. 
And that’s just funny and pretty much harmless.  But not everything that people share on social media is funny or harmless and if you share it than you are responsible for it.   Be sure that what you are sharing is consistent with your faith and your witness and maybe even ask yourself: WJST? Would Jesus share this?   Because if He wouldn’t, chances are,you shouldn’t either.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What Will I Have to Do? Story of the Book #7

What Do I have to Do? – Gospels
During the four years that I was in Bible College I had
several opportunities to have Dr. Bill Burbury as my Professor, and in some of
his classes Dr. Burbury offered what he called “Mark by Contract.”  When you went to your first class Dr. Burbury
would give you a list of requirements for the course.  If you wanted to pass the course then you did
certain things and you would be guaranteed to make a certain mark.  And if all you wanted to do was to pass the
course then you could plan your semester from there and at the end of the
semester you would have a “D”. 
You would have passed the course, just. Of course that only
worked if you were planning on graduating with a degree than that was pretty
much worthless because in order for your course to count toward ordination you
were required to have at least a “C”.
So if you wanted to do more then simply pass the class then
you started adding more requirements.  If
you wanted a C then you did all that was required of you to get a D and you
added some more work and if you did all those things then you got a C.  If you were even more industrious then you
could add to the C requirements and get a B and add to the B requirements and
get an A. 
You understand the concept of “Mark by Contract” now?  And so during the first week of each term
ever student was able to choose the mark which they wanted to earn. 
Most of those students choose an A or a B, however by term
end many had only done the work required for a D or a C.  Interestingly enough most students marks
didn’t change, there wasn’t a dramatic change in mark percentages. 
The A students continued to be A students, the B students B
students.  Etc, etc.  Nothing really dramatic happened.  In the vast majority of cases nobody took the
opportunity to move up to the next level. 
I will confess that I remained a B student.  My mark really didn’t change, I did enough
work to get the mark I had always gotten and that was it.
Dr. Burbury once confronted me as my faculty advisor and
asked me why I was content with a B or a 3.0 average when I was capable of A of
4.0 work.  You know I thought about if
for a minute or so and then I answered saying “You know Dr. Burbury, “As” and “4s”
are sharp and harsh while “Bs” and “3s” are soft and rounded.”  Bill just shook his head.  Which meant my strategy had worked, if you
can’t dazzle them then baffle them.
You see often what we achieve in life is determined not
nearly as much by our smarts as it is by as it is by our dedication and
devotion.
Whatever the advantages or disadvantages of the contract
method of marking were the main thing is you always knew what was expected of
you.  When you started the class you
could ask “What do I have to do to pass this course or ace this course?” and
you would receive an answer.
We are all born with a desire to be at one with our Creator,
our God and we try throughout our lives to come to the place that we are
supposed to be at. 
And while we may never actually verbalize the question in
our hearts we are all asking the same question that was asked of Jesus in Mark 10:17  As Jesus was starting out on his way to
Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher,
what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He was asking: How do I get to heaven?  What do I have to do to get a passing grade?
Well, we’ve
made it through the Old Testament and here we are in the New Testament.  Over the past six weeks I’ve had the
opportunity to guide you through the Pentateuch, the Historical Books and the
books of Poetry and Wisdom. 
While I was
away on vacation Stefan preached on the story of Daniel from the Major Prophets
and then Deborah preached on Jonah from the Minor Prophets.  And so here we are, in the New Testament.
This week
we are looking at the first four books of the New Testament, books which most
folks refer to as the Gospels.  The
Gospels contain four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  And the authors are named, traditionally it
has been held that Mark was recording Peter’s account of the life of Christ.  The scholars tell us that these books were
written between 50 and 70 AD with the earliest account being the Gospel of
Mark.
Sometimes
you will hear people talk about the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Phillip or the Gospel of
Mary.   The book and movie The Da Vinci
Code made a big deal out of these Gospels and how they were supposedly
suppressed by the Vatican.  The reality
is that they were written between two and three hundred years after the death
of Christ and are not historical accounts. 
But there
have been times that I’ve met Christians who are all excited about this gospel
or that gospel that reveals more about Jesus. 
Here is a warning from 2,000 years ago that Paul gave in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4  But
I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be
corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.
 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a
different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one
you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.
And so here
was the question I had to answer, out of all the Jesus stories in the four
gospels where would I land?  And if I had
of asked two dozen people which one of the stories I should preach on from the
Gospels I would have had two dozen answers. 
So we have landed in the Gospel of Mark because those in the
know tell us that this was the earliest Gospel that we have, and that it is
actually Peter’s account of the life of Christ, and Peter would seem to be a
pretty good source, seeing he was there from the beginning.  And so we begin with these words.  Mark 1:1 This
is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
Just as students would come to Dr. Burbury and say “what do
I have to do to pass this course?” the man that we read about this morning comes
to Jesus and says “what do I have to do to pass the course, what do I have to
do in order to get into heaven?” 
Christianity is very much a contract class, where the
requirements are spelled out for us.
Have you ever worked for someone who had unverbalized
expectations of what they expected of you? 
They knew what they expected but they had never actually conveyed it to
you, until they asked why you hadn’t done what they thought you should have
done but had never actually mentioned that they wanted you to do it. 
Maybe it wasn’t an employer, maybe it was a spouse or a
child or a friend.  That happens at
times, people assume that we should know certain things.
And yet God lays out what is expected of each of us in this
book.  On judgement day Jesus won’t be
saying “Oh, I thought you knew that?”
The first thing that we need to discuss are the entrance
requirement.  Different courses at
College had different entrance requirement. 
For example I needed to have Intro to Psychology before I could take
Pastoral Counselling, and Pastoral Counselling before I could take Family and
Marital Counselling.
You couldn’t enter into a contract in a course of study
until you were first in the course.  It
wouldn’t matter if you did all the work perfectly and on time if you weren’t
actually registered in the class, it would be a waste of time. 
In the same way it’ really silly to live an A+ Christian
life if you aren’t actually a Christian. 
So how do you get into Christianity?  Well it’s sort of like preaching to the
choir, but in case there’s someone who’s not sure the Apostle Peter does a great
job of summing it up in Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your
sins may be wiped away.   It’s
that simple, turn away from your sins, that’s called repentance, ask for
forgiveness and turn to God.  That’s the
entrance requirements, you are now a Christian. Simple enough?
Well got this far and I was stumped, I mean I should now
talk about how we can be an “A”, “B” “C”, “D” or “F” Christian.  And we all know the “A” Christians and we
could name the “B” Christians.  Most of
us know the “D” Christians, they are the people who have pretty well dropped
out of the race but not quite.  They are
still registered in the course but they are skipping class. 
Kind of what happened in the spring of the year when I was in
high school, not that I was personally acquainted with skipping, I read about
it in a book.  And if we are feeling
really carnal we can even name the F Christians, they’ve just given up all
together. 
And so we all know the “A”, “B”, “D”, and “F”.  They are easy to spot and we lift them up or
run them down depending on their grade and the degree of our carnality.
Neither of which we should be doing by the way.  Now I had no problem with those people, they
had all made their choices.  They were either
very dedicated to the Lord, dedicated or they were just looking for a fire
escape from Hell.
They had decided exactly what type of Christian they were
going to be and that’s what they were doing, and they were willing to live with
their choice.  I said before that I was a
“B” student through high school and College, with a little more work and a
little more effort I could have been an “A” student but I would have had to
give up some things that I wasn’t willing to give up. Not bad things just
things. 
I’ve had two assistant Pastors through the years who
graduated from College with 4.0 averages and were both admitted to honour
societies.  Angela has always claimed
that I lived my academic life vicariously through those two, and I won’t name
names, just pick your favourite assistant pastor and assume that is who I was
talking about. 
Now most of the “D” and “F” students (you ever wonder what
happened to “E”? Inquiring minds want to know, what type of education system
goes A, B, C, D, F? Like 1, 2, 3, 4, 6.) That was what was technically known as
an aside.
So, where was I, oh yeah, most of the “D” and “F” students
that I knew in High School and College were there by their own choice. 
And I know that is a generalization, and I know that all
generalizations are wrong.  I understand
that there are people out there with genuine learning disabilities but not this
bunch.  Their marks bothered their
teachers, their parents, the educational system, as a matter of fact it bothered
everybody except the person it should have bothered.  The student.
I’ve said all of that to say this, The “A”, “B”, “D” and “F”
Christians are content to be where they are, and besides it wasn’t them I have
problems with.  It was the “C” Christian,
you know the average Christian.  Out of
necessity there will be more average Christians after all in school the “C’s”
should outnumber the “As”, “Bs”, “Ds” and “Fs”. 
Isn’t that what average means?
We all want to be normal but none of us wants to be average,
interesting.  But in some areas of life
we have to be average, think about it if we were all above average then that
would be average. 
And most times being average doesn’t hurt.  Collins
dictionary defines average as “The mean
value or quantity of a number of values or quantities.”  However I prefer John Maxwell’s definition he said that “Average is the best of the worst and the worst of the
best.”
Maxwell once preached a message on being a success and after
the message a lady came up and demanded to know what was being wrong with being
average.  Maxwell responded with this
statement.  “If
you’re not a Christian, nothing is wrong with being average.  If you are a Christian then you must not be
content until you develop the potential which God has given you to its fullest
extent. In so doing you will bring glory to God and be lifted above average.”
You won’t be better looking or more intelligent because you
have become a Christian, I mean look around, look at me.  But when you become a Christian your attitude
toward life should change, and your consecration in service, your love for
others and your love and service to God should all become above average.
The question remains then, what does an average Christian
do?  Well to be truthful, not much.  They don’t pray much, they don’t give much,
they don’t study God’s word much, they don’t love much and they really aren’t
all that dedicated. 
The average Christian has the entrance requirements down
pat, but they haven’t gone much beyond that, they are like the people being
written to in Hebrews
6:1
So let us stop going
over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and
become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with
the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith
in God.

Most of us have the basics down pat, but have we gone
on to become mature in our understanding? 

God is not a God of mediocrity.  God demands the very best of us.  Was the sacrifice an average lamb?  Was the temple an average building?  Is Heaven just an average place?   No, so how do we rise above being
average? 

1) To be Above Average
Will Require More Effort.  

When those around you quit, then it’s time for you to
grit your teeth and try harder.  Success
in any endeavour but particularly in the spiritual realm is achieved and
maintained by those who keep trying. 

Today you may not be what you want to be, hope to be,
dream of being but the one key to achieving your dream is a determination to
not quit. 

Eleven years ago when we started talking about the
building there were a number of people who were really excited about being a
part of the dream, until they realized what it would cost, and they walked
away. 

Your mother ever give you poems when you were growing
up?  My mom was forever giving me poems that
she thought might help me at some point. 

And those were the days before the Facebook and email,
you had to type stuff out and then and photocopy it and deliver it. It took
some effort back then to share things.

One she gave me is probably familiar to some of
you: 

Two frogs fell into a can of cream.

or so I’ve heard it told;

The sides of the can were shiny and steep,

The cream was deep and cold.

“O, what’s the use?” croaked No. 1.

“Tis fate; no help’s around.

Goodbye, my friends! Goodbye sad world!”

And weeping still, he drowned.

But Number 2, of sterner stuff,

Dog paddled in surprise,

The while he wiped his creamy face, 

And dried his creamy eyes.

“I’ll swim awhile at least,” he said –

Or so I’ve heard he said;

“It really wouldn’t help the world,

If one more frog were dead.”

An hour or two he kicked and swam.

Not once he stopped to mutter.

But kicked and swam and swam and kicked.
Then hopped out via butter.

It
was Emerson who said “A
Man is a hero not because he is braver then anyone else, but because he is
brave ten minutes longer.”  And it
is that type of commitment that makes us more then average.

You see being a Christian isn’t a destination it is a
journey.  We begin our Christian walk and
sometimes we want immediate results. 
We say we are going to study the bible and we turn to Matthew 1:1 and we begin to read Matthew 1:1-2  This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a
descendant of David and of Abraham:  Abraham was
the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of
Judah and his brothers. . .   And
on it goes, name after name for 16 verses.

And
we throw up our hands and say I don’t understand this and walk away.

When we pray we walk away disappointed if God doesn’t
immediately drop our wishes in our laps. 
You don’t walk out of marriage at your first fight, you don’t quit
school the first time you can’t solve a problem, and you don’t leave university
simply because you don’t like studying. 
Well you don’t do those things if you want to succeed. And
if you are going to succeed in your Christian life it will require effort.
Which is why Jesus told the man in the story Mark 10:21  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told
him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the
money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  It wasn’t about money, it was about
sacrifice.  What do you love more than
God and are you willing to give it up?
2) To be Above
Average Will Require More Faith . 
The
average Christian has just enough faith to die with but not enough to live
with.  Oh that was good, I think I’ll say
it again, “The average Christian has just enough faith to die with, but not
enough to live with.”  
What I mean is that we believe that God can have an effect
on our eternal life but we’re not really sure that he can do anything about the
life we are living today.
But listen up, if your prayer life is going to be above
average then your faith is going to have to be above average.  If you are going to get more out of the bible
study your faith will have to be above average. 
If you are going to give more than the average Christian then you will
need above average faith.  Not just a
little bit, but more than most. 
And bottom line is that if you want to please God, then you
are going to have to have a little more faith, because Hebrews 11:6  And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants
to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who
sincerely seek him.
It doesn’t say it’s tough to please God without faith or
that it’s difficult to please God without faith, it says it’s impossible to
please God without faith.  Faith is being
able to see what isn’t there yet.  Back
in the day when Cornerstone was just a dream, I could see the church we would
become. 
Eleven years ago when the building was just a dream there
were people who when they drove by this property didn’t see 5 acres of scrub
and brush, they saw a facility where lives would be touched and eternities would
be shaped. But that was yesterday, how about today?  Do you not only believe that God could
perform miracles for this church do you believe that God will perform miracles
for this church.
You are a Christian, by your decision to ask Christ for
forgiveness and accepting Him as your saviour you have already demonstrated
that you have enough faith to die a Christian, the question is do you have
enough faith to live as a Christian? 
When Jesus asked the rich man to give up all that he had he
was asking was whether or not the man believed that Jesus would take care of
him.
3) To be Above Average
Will Require More Love. 
Most of us
can love.  We love our mom, our dad, our
brothers and sisters, we love our spouse and that special friend. 
But what about the shrew that’s always saying nasty things
about you?  What about the Pastor when
he’s a little bit critical or says something you don’t agree with.  What about the guy that cuts you off in
traffic or the drunk on the corner.  How
about Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulclair?
Do you love enough to make a difference in somebodies life?
More importantly do you love enough to make a difference in your life?  Do you love enough to sacrifice and give
things up for the sake of others? 
When we ask you to help drill wells in Africa or a help with
RMH or Souls Harbour we are asking you to give up things for the here and now
in order to make a difference in the there and then. 
Jim Elliot was a missionary
who was martyred for his faith almost sixty years ago, shortly before he died
he wrote in his journal “A man is no fool who gives up
what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 
That all that Jesus was asking of the rich man, that he give
up what he couldn’t keep to gain that which he couldn’t lose.  Jesus was asking the rich man to love others,
to make John 13:35 a reality.  John 13:35  Jesus said “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are
my disciples.”
When the 19th century turned into the 20th
century a sailing ship was discovered drifting in the Arctic Ocean amongst the
icebergs, her crew had been dead for 13 years. 
She was described by one writer as “A
drifting sepulchre manned by a frozen crew.” 
Without love that is all the church will become, a drifting
sepulchre manned by a frozen crew.
If you were to compare hot and cold would the average be
lukewarm?  So if your spiritual state is
neither hot nor cold, just average it would be lukewarm?  I sure hope it’s not because listen to what
Jesus said in Revelation
3:16
But since you
are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
Ouch, let me close with two epitaphs for you to think about,
the first was for a guide in the Swiss Alps who died in a fall, it simply read “He
died climbing.” And the second was for an eighty five year old scientist that
simply read “He died Learning” What will they put on your stone?
I love what the old lady said, “I
ain’t what I oughta be, and I aint’ what I’m gonna be, but thank God I ain’t
what I was.”
Will you be average or are you willing to be all that God
wants you to be?  The choice is yours.