Paid in Full

“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorist, directly or indirectly.”  Those were the words of Prime Minister Trudeau after Canadian John Ridsdel was murdered in the Philippines this week.  Ridsdel was kidnapped in September and the Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf demanded a ransom for his safe release, a ransom the Canadian Government refused to pay.  And while I sympathize with John Ridsdel’s family I agree with the stand of our PM.  If we start paying ransoms, then Canadians around the world will be placed in danger as Canada becomes seen as an ATM for cash strapped terror organizations.

The Bible tells us that every one of us has had a ransom paid for us.  Because of our sinful behaviour a price had to be paid and that price, a ransom so to speak, was paid by God himself.

Peter tells us in his first letter that it was not a ransom paid with gold or silver but paid with the blood of Jesus. And while I agree with the stand of our Government, I am thankful that God loved us so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice for us, even when we didn’t deserve it, and all we have to do is accept it.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Legacy of the Tenth

Here
we are, week four of money month 2016, you still doing alright?  We having fun? 
For those
who are visiting with us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event.  Each April I take the opportunity to teach
the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at what the
Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it after we
get it.  Nice thing is that means I won’t
ambush you about money throughout the year. 
And we
culminate Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which happens
today and we will be talking more about that later in the service. 
This year
our theme has been “Your Legacy, Your Life.” 
  In week one we looked at the
fact that everyone of us will leave some type of legacy, for good or for
bad.  We leave a legacy in the way we
spend our lives and the way we spend our money. 
And the type of legacy we leave will be determined by the choices we
make.
In week
two I spoke on the legacy of work. And we looked at how work is something that
we were designed for, and that work is something that is expected of us, and it
is through work that we leave a legacy with our giving. 
Last week
we looked at the length of the legacy we leave with our giving.  And some giving has a relatively short shelf
life.  When Jesus feed thousands of
people on the shores of Galilee with five loaves and two fish, it met an
immediate need, it was important, but the next day those folks were hungry
again.  So some gifts last a day. 
Other
gifts will last for a lifetime.  When
Cornerstone provides sources of clean water in West and Central Africa those
gifts are life changing.  We have
impacted the lives of thousands of people in Sierra Leone and the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and that legacy will last a lifetime.
But the
most important gifts we give are the one that lead people to God, we often say
that our purpose at Cornerstone is help de-populate hell.  Those gifts last for Eternity.
Which
bring us here today, so let’s jump into our scripture which is the “go to”
scriptures for preachers and tithing. 
Malachi
3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in
my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the
windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have
enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
There are
times that I think “God why did you have to put this scripture where you put
it?  Just another page, just another 13
verses and it would have been in the New Testament and I wouldn’t have had to
listen to people say ‘but that’s in the Old Testament that doesn’t count’”
And then
I realize that I’m not God and he put it exactly where it belongs.  So what about the argument that it’s in the
Old Testament and it doesn’t count, or the “I’m not under the law I’m under
grace” statement?
What
people fail to recognize with this argument is that grace always goes further
than the law.  It’s throughout the
Gospels.  The law says don’t murder,
grace says don’t hate.  The law says
don’t commit adultery, grace says don’t lust after someone you aren’t married
to.  The law says love your neighbor,
grace says love your enemy.  So why would
Jesus change that with tithing? He wouldn’t and he didn’t.  In Luke chapter 11 Jesus confronts the
Pharisees about the hypocrisy and he tells them: Luke 11:42 “What sorrow
awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from
your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God.  They were tithing the smallest of
things in their lives, they were tithing their winning Roll Up the Rim Cups,
but they weren’t nice people.  But Jesus
doesn’t tell them they should stop tithing. 
Let’s keep reading, You should tithe, yes, but
do not neglect the more important things.
 
So with
that out of the way, let’s go back to where we started from Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so
there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s
Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing
so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
In
particular I want to look at the portion that says “I
will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you
won’t have enough room to take it in! This is the word of God, speaking
to God’s people and it says that God will pour His blessings on His
people.  And not just any blessing, this
passage says He will pour out a blessing so great that we won’t be able to take
it in.  Would you like to be blessed?
Would you like your life to be characterized as being blessed of God?  Sure you would, so here’s the secret. 
It begins
with one very small very important word, just two letters and yet this entire
promise hinges on that word.  And the
word is “if”.  God
is waiting and willing to bless His people, but, there’s another small yet
important word, the choice is always up to us if we want to be blessed.  In this case the word of God says “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be
enough food in my Temple. If you do, . . .” 
What will happen?  God will open the windows of heaven and not
only that but out of those windows a blessing will be poured. 
And we
aren’t always comfortable with that, it seems. . .selfish.  We want to think that the blessing for giving
is simply the warm feeling we get from giving. 
But the concept of the tithe is that we are simply returning to God a
portion of what he gives to us and throughout the bible we are taught that when
we are faithful with what God has blessed us with then he blesses us with
more. 
So what
does it mean when God promises to pour out a blessing on those who are
faithful?  The short and simple answer
here is that God promised to bless the Israelites if they paid their
tithe.  So what is the tithe?  Tithe simply means tenth and throughout the
word of God the concept is reiterated that all that we have comes from God but
he requires a tenth of it back. 
For the
people of God this does not mean that we give God ten percent of what is ours,
it means that He allows us to keep ninety percent of what is His.  And in this case God tells his people, “If
you tithe, if you return to me ten percent of what I have given to you then I
will bless you”  You see when we give to
God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.
And that
is the short answer, and if that was the entire answer then we’d be
finished.  We could sing a song to close
and we could go home but you would have received only a portion of what you
need in order to achieve God’s blessings today.
Here then
is the long answer the answer that is contained in the short answer.
You Leave a Legacy in Your Obedience.  The fact that the Israelites had not been paying their tithe was only
evidence of a much great problem and that was their obedience or their
disobedience in this case. The concept of the tithe goes back to Genesis, the
first book in the Bible, when Abraham gave King Melchizedek, who was also a
priest, ten percent of his belongings as an act of worship to God. 
The
commandment to God’s people to return ten percent of what God had given them is
first recorded in Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the
produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees,
belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” It is also
mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:22 “You must set aside a
tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Throughout the Old Testament we see
God’s people responding to the command of the Tithe, when they were living in
obedience to God’s will and commandments.  However when they were living in disobedience
it is often evidenced by the fact that they were not giving to God’s work.
In fact
God often uses our giving as a spiritual barometer, because if we are finding
it difficult to give something as paltry as money how much more difficult will
it be to give important things like our time, our will and our future?
So when
we are obedient to God then he blesses us. 
Now some of you might be thinking “That’s blackmail or bribery.” No,
that is reality.  When our children are
disobedient do we rush out immediately to buy them a gift or take them to a
special restaurant?  “I am so glad that
you wrote on the living room wall with crayons and didn’t do your homework, let
me buy you something special.”  No, that
happens when they do what we want them to do.
Tithing
is only a small part of who and what we are as Christians, but is a part it
can’t be ignored.  But neither can it be
a bribe to excuse our disobedience in other areas.  If people could just pay their tithe and then
do whatever they liked with immunity the church wouldn’t be able to spend the
money they had.
God is
still looking for our obedience to His word and He will bless us when we obey
Him. 
Jesus tells us that unless we obey him we don’t really
love him John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my
commandments.  When we were
children and we disobeyed our parents we felt guilty, and that wasn’t a fun
feeling was it?  As believers when we do
what we shouldn’t  do or we when we don’t
do what we should we feel guilty as well, sometimes we call that conviction and
that isn’t a great feeling is it?  By the
way, when we stop feeling guilty about our disobedience it’s not that the
action has become all right it’s that our hearts have become hardened.
You Leave a Legacy in Your Faithfulness.  This goes back to the concept of all we have as coming from God, he has
entrusted us with our material possessions to make an impact on this
world.  And we can choose to do that or
choose not to do that and that is entirely up to us.  But if we choose to spend what was meant for
the sacred on the secular then God is not going to bless us.  The concept is laid out in Luke 16:10 When Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things,
you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things,
you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.
The New International Version says it this way Luke 16:10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also
be trusted with very much. 
If we go back into the Old Testament we discover that when
Israel was faithful to God, then God blessed them.  When he could trust them with what they had
then he was willing to trust them with even more, and the converse was also
true.  When God’s people could not be
trusted then the blessings of God were removed.
If your boss can’t trust you do you think you will be
promoted?  If you’re spouse can’t trust
you to be faithful with your love and your emotions do you think the
relationship will grow.  I truly believe
that God blesses us based on our past performance with his blessings.  When we aren’t faithful, when we can’t be
trusted how do we feel?  Not good huh?
You Leave a Legacy in
Your Honesty. 
When you take
something that doesn’t belong to you but belongs to somebody else it is called
stealing.  When you take what doesn’t
belong to you but belongs to God it’s still called stealing.  If we look back into the book of Malachi this
is what God says Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God?
Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever
cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”  In other words you cheat God when you
keep what is his. 
So it’s
not just a matter of obedience and faithfulness it is a matter of honesty.  Many people who would never take a penny that
belonged to somebody else have no problem taking and keeping what rightfully belongs
to God.
But
honesty doesn’t just have to do with money. 
We can steal the affections of someone who isn’t our spouse, that’s
called adultery, we can steal somebody’s good name that’s called slander, we
can steal the honour that is due God and that is called idolatry.  To take something that doesn’t belong to us
is a sin, by whatever name you call it. 
And God will not bless us in our sin.
So
if those are some of the Legacies we leave what are the results of those
legacies?
Let’s start with the least important thing, Your Legacy Will Have a Momentary Component
Throughout the scriptures this concept has been taught, if
you are faithful to God with your finances then God will reward you.  The word “give” is used over 1100 times in
the Bible and we see this concept taught, again and again.  Listen to Ecclesiastes
11:1 Give generously, for your gifts will return to you later.  Or Proverbs
11:24 Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. You
understand the concept, that if God provides for his work and his Kingdom
through his people then it is in the best interest of His work and his Kingdom
for those who are faithful to prosper.
If I was going away for a while and told some of my staff
“Each month I’m going to send you $10,000.00 (remember this is only an
illustration) and you can use that however you want but you need to give
$1,000.00 a month to Angela.  It would
seem like a pretty good deal right? 
And say after four months Angela and I were talking and I
asked her how she was doing financially and she said “you know staff person “A”
send me a thousand dollars a month, every month I can expect it on the first
day.  Staff person “B” has been sending
me $2,000.00 a month, don’t know why, I was only expecting $1,000.00 but it is
a blessing.  That’s cool, so I ask, “What
about staff person “C”?”  “Well” she says
“the first month I got $1000.00 the second month I got $700.00 and then $400.00
this month nothing.” 
What do you think I’m going to do?  I’m going to stop sending money to Staff
person C and start sending it to Staff person B. 
Which is why Jesus tells us in Luke
19:26 “and to those
who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who
do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”
The bible tells us that the church is the bride of Christ
and he provides for us so we can provide for his bride.
R.G. LeTourneau
was an American Inventor and committed Christian.  What did he invent?  Heavy earth moving equipment, much of what
they use in excavation and road work today was originally the brain child of
Robert LeTourneau.  And he became very
wealthy doing what he did, and as his income grew so did his giving but he
wasn’t content with simply giving a tithe and by the end of his life he was
giving back ninety percent and living on the other ten percent. And this is
what R.G. LeTourneau said “I shovel money out, and God shovels it back … but God has
a bigger shovel”
Most of
us have either read the book, seen the movie, watched the play or at least
heard of The Diary of Anne Frank, and Anne
Frank said “No one has ever become poor by
giving.”
I’ve used this before but in the
book  “The 10
Secrets Revenue Canada Doesn’t Want You to Know”  The author David M.
Voth writes in his chapter on Charitable Giving.  “Ask people who
tithe faithfully and they will tell you of the ten, hundred and thousand times
returns they have received by giving. 
Universally, tithers will also tell you that if you tithe you’ll live
better on the 90% than you ever did before on the 100%.  The prosperity benefits of tithing are so
significant that it would be worth it even if it came without any tax
benefits.  However, there are also tax
benefits to tithing.” 
I came across a neat saying that
kind of sums up this point, You should give according to your income, lest
God make your income according to your giving. 
So here’s a question, could you live on 10 times what you give to
the church each week?
But the
momentary blessings are the least important. 
Your Legacy Will Have an Emotional Component When we aren’t doing what we are supposed to be doing we feel guilty or
under conviction.  And I know some of you
think that I’m the one that tries to make you feel guilty.  Not so, I simply present the word of God, if
you are feeling guilty that’s your doing not mine.  If I did a poll right now, some of you would
feel guilty and wish I would change my sermon right now to something pointed
like Apple Pie, Motherhood and Lower Taxes while others wouldn’t be feeling the
least bit convicted. 
If I were
to preach on adultery or lust who would feel guilty?  If I was to preach on lying or stealing who
would feel guilty? If I was to preach on unforgiveness who would feel
guilty?  And guilt will tie you up in
emotional knots.  Ask the person who is
having an affair how they feel around their spouse, as the person who is
stealing from the company how they feel around their boss, ask the person who
cheats on their income tax how they feel when a letter arrives from the tax
department.
And so
the legacy of our obedience is emotional freedom, a clear conscience makes a
soft pillow.  Listen to God’s word in Romans 4:7 “Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.
Have felt
the Joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven?   Which lead us to the last point Your Legacy Will Have a Spiritual Component
When we are disobedient to
God, in whatever area of our lives it puts up a road block between us and
Him.  You see disobedience is simply a
big word that describes a little word and that word is sin.  The bible, the word of God says in James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
And the result of sin? 
We are told in Isaiah 59:2  It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.
But when you are walking as you are supposed to be walking,
talking as you are supposed to be talking and doing as you are supposed to be
doing then you are in fellowship with God, the doors of communication are open
and you are right where you are supposed to be with your God and creator.  Is that where you are this morning?  If not then it can be.  The blessing that God has in store for his believers
are for those who are obedient in all areas of their lives.  For those who are walking in the light that he
has given them.  If you are not a
believer then those blessings aren’t even on the menu yet but they can be, and
in either case the choice is yours, do you obey or do you disobey? 
The promise that is here for you is found in the last part
of Malachi 3:10 . . .Try it! Put me to the test! Do
you want to be blessed, then try it and let Him prove it to you. 

Legacy of Death

This month we’ve been talking about Legacy, what we leave behind, in memories and money.  Vladimir Lenin has left behind a legacy that he probably wasn’t intending to; an ongoing bill.

Ever since his death in 1924, Lenin’s body has been on display in Moscow.  It was recently revealed that the annual cost to keep Lenin’s embalmed body on display now exceeds a quarter of a million dollars.  The report also indicated that along with replacing the embalming fluid they’ve also had to replace “parts” with plastic and other material.  Parts?  So it’s not even all Lenin they have on display.
Thousands of people a day stand in line to see the tomb and body of the founder of their movement.

If you want you can visit the tombs of others who have founded movements.  Muhamad’s body is located in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia, the tooth of Buddha can be found in Dalada Maligawa in Sri Lanka and the grave of Confucius, founder of Confucianism, is in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China.

But our faith and hope is based on the fact that there is no tomb or embalmed body of Christ for Christians to visit, because as the angels said “He is not here, He is risen.” Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Length of Your Legacy

Length of Your Legacy
How long will you be remembered?  I remember my Grandfather Guptill, we called
him Da.  He passed away when I was
11.  I vaguely remember my mother’s
grandfather, he passed away when I was seven, but we had moved overseas when I
was five so those were my last recollections of Grampy Peter.  I never met my mother’s father, he was killed
in an industrial accident when I was just a month old.
Often we live on in the memory of our
children and grandchildren, but for most of us that will be it.  I don’t expect strangers to be talking about
Denn Guptill seventy-five years from now, but there is a chance that my
grand-daughters will remember me and their children. 
And I’m not sure if that is depressing or
not.  It was Benjamin
Franklin who said if you wanted to be remembered you would need to “Either
write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  And while I am
published it’s doubtful that the Penn of Denn will ever be remembered as great
literature.  Mark
Twain defined a classic book as “Classic:
a book which people praise and don’t read.” 
So maybe the Penn is a classic.
This is week three of Money Month here at
Cornerstone.  If you are new to
Cornerstone this month is really for those who call Cornerstone their church home.  We do finances a little different at
Cornerstone then most churches do, but it hasn’t always been that way.
For the first seven years of our life we
struggled with our finances and really didn’t have a financial plan at
Cornerstone.  We did write a budget each
year, but it was more of a wish list then an actual budget.  As a leadership team we would sit down at the
beginning of the new church year and draft our budget.  These are the things we need to spend money
on, and here are the things that we’d like to spend money on.  And we felt that we were being fiscally
responsible, but the budgets weren’t really based on solid data.  We didn’t actually know how much money we
would receive and estimates were really guesses. 
So we would prepare a budget and present it
to our annual meeting and it would be approved because. . .  it was the budget.
And then at some point in the year we would
realize that we were under budget, usually on the income side, not the expense
side.  So there would be suggestions,
perhaps we should put our finances in the bulletin so people could see what was
needed. But that usually was just depressing and wasn’t really the message you
wanted to send to guests.
Then someone would suggest that maybe
letters be sent out to everyone in the church and that Denn should preach on
stewardship. And I have copies of those letters and those sermons, and the
message always came across as a little desperate because no matter how you
worded it the message was the same. . . “We need your money”.  And people just tuned out.  Those who were giving would dig a little
deeper because it was a priority for them, and those who weren’t giving, very
seldom started.
So in 2002 we made two major changes in how
we would present and deal with our finances. 
The first is that I would teach on stewardship and the theology of
giving in April each year.  It is the end
of our church year so it seemed like the best time.  Easter often falls in April so a lot of years
that limits us to three Sundays, some years like this year you get four Sundays
and when you are really lucky Easter falls in March and there are five Sundays
in April.
So I’m not preaching on money because we
are desperate or because there is a problem, but because it’s April.  And there are some folks who don’t come in
April because they know what I’ll be preaching on, and that is their choice.
The second thing we do is to ask those who
make Cornerstone their church home to estimate what they think they can give
that year.  The last Sunday of April we
hand out estimate of giving cards and ask, not tell, you to fill them out.  It is completely voluntary.  But you get to have a say in the budget, when
you are filling out a card, or not filling out a card you are saying “This is
the type of church I want Cornerstone to be. 
And we use that figure to determine our
budget for the upcoming year.  And we
feel that is the responsible way to do it.
This year our theme is “Your Legacy, Your
Choice!”  And in week one I spoke about
how Everybody leaves a legacy and that we leave a legacy with both our lives
and our money.
Last week I spoke about how we have a
legacy in the work that we do and what the bible had to say about our work.
This week my focus will be the length of
your legacy, because while we understand that we all leave a legacy with our
money, not all of those legacies have the same life span.
So let’s look at a couple of different
stories in the New Testament where giving actually impacted the lives of
others.
One of my favourite stories in the gospels
happened on the edge of the sea of Galilee. 
The story is told in Matthew and Mark’s gospels.  A crowd has gathered to hear Jesus preach and
the time has gotten away from them and suddenly the apostles realize that it is
getting close to supper time and that people are starting to get hungry.  So they go to Jesus and tell him that it’s
probably time to call it a day, that the people are going to have to head home
to get something to eat. 
Jesus simply responds by saying “You feed
them.”  Seriously?  Feed them what?  We pick up the story in Mark
6:37
 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d
have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these
people!”  
And so Jesus tells them to go into the
crowd and see what they can rustle up for supper.  And they come back with a boy who offers up
five rolls and two fish.  The story is
one of those one taught to us in Sunday School and VBS, Jesus takes this gift
and uses it to feed the thousands of people who have come to hear him teach.
And there are all kinds of lessons wrapped
up in the story.  The generosity of the
little boy, God using this small gift in a miraculous way, the faith of the
apostles as they began to pass out the food. 
And 2000 years people are still talking about what happened that
day. 
But here is the reality, as miraculous as
that was the people were hungry again the next day.  So we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Day
And that does not negate what happened that
day, people were hungry and Jesus met a need. 
But the need that was met was very base and
very temporal.  It filled their bellies
but that was it.   
We leave this type of legacy all the time,
at least I hope we do.   We leave it when
we give a homeless person a handout on the street or at a set of lights in the
city.  And I know the arguments, that you
are simply enabling them, or they will probably use your loonie to buy
cigarettes or booze.  Maybe, and if they
do that is a choice that they make, but whether I give them sometime or not is
a choice I make.
When you bring your cans of chunky soup and
evaporated milk on the first Sunday of the month and we donate that to feed
Nova Scotia, that is making an impact and leaving a legacy, but only a very
temporary one. 
But for the person whose food for that meal
is a can of chunky soup that you went out and bought and then remembered to bring
in on a Sunday, it is important.  As
important as the tuna fish sandwiches were to the folks that Jesus fed.
This type of giving is so important that
Jesus used it as an example when he spoke about what the day of judgment would
be like. You might recall, or not, that in the last days Jesus says that
humanity will be divided into two groups, a group on the right and a group on the
left.  And to the group on his right he
says Matthew 25:34-36  “Then the King will
say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the
Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave
me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you
cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
And when they asked “When did this happen,
when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or naked or sick?”  He replies in Matthew 25:40  And
the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least
of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
If you google Loaves and Fishes before you
get an entry about Christ’s miracle, you get hits about food banks with that
name.
And it really doesn’t hurt us much to spend
5.00 to help someone, Jack London wrote “A bone to the
dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just
as hungry as the dog.”
Twice a month when we provide the Monday
meal at Ronald McDonald House, we are leaving a legacy for a day.  When families return to RMH from the
Children’s hospital and there is a hot meal waiting that they didn’t have to
cook or buy, that means something.  It
may just be filling a temporary need but it is filling a need and making an
impact.
I’m sure you are all familiar with the
statement “Give a man a
fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a
lifetime.”,   it’s been attributed to many different
people over the years including Maimoides who was a 12th century philosopher,
but we really don’t know who actually said it the first time. 

Maimonides wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity.  And he wrote this “ Lastly, the eighth and
the most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty.” 
I guess that is
like teaching them to fish. 
But some of our giving leaves a legacy that
goes beyond a day.  The passage that was
read this morning ends with these words, 2 Corinthians
8:14-15
 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need.
Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this
way, things will be equal.  As the Scriptures say, “Those
who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those
who gathered only a little had enough.”  
And it’s here we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Lifetime:  I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago.  Paul is addressing a serious problem in the
early church.  Persecution had become a
reality for the believers, especially in Jerusalem where it had been fanned
into flames by the same religious leaders who had Christ crucified.  But more than that, the Roman authorities were
starting to see Christians as a threat because of the growth of the church and
their refusal to swear allegiance to Caesar.
Rome was fairly open to the various
religions of the day, it really was live and let live.  But there was one condition that everybody
had to live by, once a year they had to swear allegiance to the Emperor with
words “Caesar is Lord.”  The only problem
Christians refused to say that because to them it was blasphemy because for
them only Jesus was Lord.
And believers in Jerusalem, because that
was perceived to be the birthplace of the church, were suffering the most.  They were losing their jobs and their property,  sometimes being put in prison, sometimes
losing their lives.  For many it wasn’t a
matter of being unwilling to work it was being unable to work and the only
reason they were able to survive was through the giving of other
believers. 
We see that reflected in what we do with
our Clean Water Project each Christmas where Cornerstone has provided clean
water for over a dozen villages in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of the
Congo.
In some ways it serves the same purpose as
giving food but it goes so much further than that.  I am so passionate about clean water because
of my teaching in West Africa and you can’t even comprehend the impact that clean
water can make on the lives of people.
 Most
people are now familiar with the Canadian charity “Me to We”  or “Free the Children”  when brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger first
began their project they were funding education in Africa and they discovered
that very few girls came to school.  Not
because they weren’t permitted but because they were too busy carrying
water.  And so they began providing clean
sources of water along with schools and the difference was incredible.
Water provides so many life changing
benefits, health, economic and educational. 
It has a lifelong legacy.   By the
way this is a picture of a well that we helped provided for a 175 bed hospital
in Tandala in the DRC, and long after the sign is gone your giving will still
be providing a legacy.
The present emphasis on refugee sponsorship
in Canada has a similar legacy.  The
difference in the lives of the families who come to Canada with the help of
community groups like our own Kingswood Refugee Project will last for a
lifetime. 
And I have mentioned before, that because
people through the years have sacrificially given so that Cornerstone can exist
we have had a life changing impact on individuals and families in our
community.  Stories that you will never
know about marriages that have been saved and children and teens who have been
nudged away from bad decisions, addictions that have been overcome.  Those legacies go well beyond today, they
last for a lifetime.
In the Gospels we often read accounts of
Jesus healing people, and the ministry of healing continues into the book of
Acts and beyond.  And I believe that even
today that God heals people, but for all those who say that God always heals
and all you need is enough faith let me share this with you: You are
wrong!  And death proves that.
But for the person who has experienced a
physical healing their life and their quality of life has been changed and they
would often say it was a change for the best.  
But here is the reality of this point,
people’s lives can be changed for the better. 
They can be educated and healthy but still be far from God.  And while I truly believe that Jesus came so
we could have better lives, abundant lives. 
That’s not the main reason he came. 
Because there are all kinds of organizations that help people have
better lives but don’t prepare them for eternity.
Schools and service organizations help Feed
Nova Scotia, other community groups assist with meals at Ronald McDonald
House.  There are any number of well
intentioned organizations who help provide clean water in the developing world
and sponsor refugees.
But if we truly believe the word of Jesus
than there is a legacy that lasts beyond our lifetime.  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.    You understand
what Jesus is saying there right, he’s not saying he is “a” way to God, he is
saying he is “The” way to God.
And John 11:25-26  Jesus
told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone
who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever
die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
Another story from the Gospels, this one
more toward the middle.  Often when we
picture Christ and his disciples we see them making their way from town to
town, teaching and healing those they came in contact with.  Some kind of care free existence somewhere
between Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and Robin Hood and his Merry Men.    You almost expect them to break into song
as they make their way through the country side. 
But from a practical stand point, how did
they survive?  Think about it, thirteen
guys walk everywhere they went they had to be hungry at the end of the
day.  But we don’t see them working part
time, or sitting on the corner with a sign, or doing the squeegee kid thing
with Chariots stopping at the lights.  Oh
I know every once in a while you see them fishing, or picking some grain as
they walked along the road and that was fine when they were around Capernaum
where Peter and Andrews fishing boat was, and the picking grain that was a
snack not a meal. 
But in order for Jesus and his happy little
band of followers to have ministered for three years around Israel someone had
to be footing the bill, and there’s just one little mention in the bible to
give us a clue as to what was happening.  
Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of
the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the
Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women
who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene,
from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s
business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own
resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
Some
Gifts Last for an Eternity
Plain and simple if these folks hadn’t been
kicking in then Jesus and the 12 would not have been able to do what they did.  They were not only feeding 13 men their gifts
were establishing a movement and leaving a legacy.
The gifts that were given by those folks
2000 years ago are directly responsible for your salvation.  Their legacy is you.
22 years ago this summer we moved back from
Australia with the vision of a new church that we would be starting in
Bedford.  We were partially funded by the
district and denomination, but a significant portion of our funding came from individuals.  And that happened as I travelled across the
district speaking wherever I could wangle an invitation.
And when I cast the vision for this church
22 years ago at Beulah Camp and around the churches on our district it wasn’t a
vision to have another Wesleyan Church it was a vision to establish a church to
help depopulate Hell.  And when people
gave to that vision they weren’t giving so we could have another Wesleyan
Church on the district, they were giving to a church that they’d probably never
visit because they believed the vision, they gave so that people would meet
Jesus.
And over the past 22 years marriages have
been saved, and wells have been drilled and cans of soup have been collected, and
that is fine and good.  But there will be
people who will be in heaven and not in hell because this church was
started.  And that is an eternal legacy.
And when we cast the vision for this
building 12 years ago it wasn’t a vision to have a comfortable place to
worship, it was a vision to help depopulate hell.  And because people sacrificially gave we have
this building.
And there are people who started attending
who would never have attended at the LeBrun centre who have stepped over the
line of faith and there will be people who will be in heaven and not in hell
because this church was built.
Three weeks ago a grade six student
accepted Christ as their saviour and because of the teaching that happens in
Jr. Church and Children’s church children embrace the reality of Christ and his
grace and that is because folks at Cornerstone give so that we can have a
pastors who focus on children and youth. And that is an eternal legacy.
We don’t give at Cornerstone simply to keep
the lights on and the doors open we give to to help depopulate hell.  And that is an eternal legacy.
Next week at the end of the service we will
distribute estimate of giving cards, they look like this.  And we will ask that each family who makes
Cornerstone their church home prayerfully consider what they will be able to
give in the upcoming year.  And you will
have the opportunity to say, “This is the kind of church we’d like Cornerstone
to be.”  And each of you will have a hand
in shaping our legacy.

Creating a Legacy

Last month we laid to rest one of Canada’s best loved and most respected politicians, or at least that is how it would appear.  
It was a little confusing.  If you had been asleep for the past 18 months, or perhaps a visitor from Mars, then the outpouring of praise at Rob Ford’s funeral might not have seemed strange as he was obviously a man who was loved and respected by all.  But if you had been awake for the past year and a half and living anywhere in Canada, then you probably didn’t recognize the man who was being described in the media last week. 
 In a rare display of honesty, Rosemary Westwood, wrote in the Metro, “One day you’re a national embarrassment and the next day you’re eulogized by a former premier as Canada’s mayor.”  Bizarre, but I guess it goes back to not speaking ill of the dead, but the media had no problem trashing him when he was alive.
So, will history remember Rob Ford as a drug addled buffoon or as a great politician and man of the people?  Hopefully they will remember him as both because they are both part of his legacy, a legacy he created by choices he made.  The important question though is: What choices are you making?  
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Legacy of Work

Legacy of Work
Can you remember your
first paying job?  I can I was. 14 and
got a job as a pile it.   You might think
that is a strange first job for a 14 year old but it is what it is. 
We lived in Hammond
River just outside of Saint John New Brunswick and the Jr. High School I
attended was overcrowded and so we did split shifts.  You either went to school from 8:00 until
noon or from 12:15 until 4:15. 
Because of that I had
a lot of free time.  The farmer down the
road from us, Murray Crowley owned a team of horses and in the winter he worked
in the woods.  And so he hired me to
help, he would cut the wood and I’d pile it. 
What were you thinking?  I mean,
who in their right mind would let a 14 year old fly a plane? 
Any way that was the
beginning of my employment history, and I discovered that I liked stuff and the
money that I got from working would buy stuff and so I’ve worked pretty much
continually for the past 41 years.   And
during that time I have pumped gas, sold clothes, sold vacuum cleaners, for
about a week, sold cars, worked as a bell hop and front desk clerk at the
Admiral Beatty Hotel in Saint John.  I’ve
worked on tug boats, fishing boats and oil tankers, served in the Military
Police in the reserves while I was in college, have been an assistant pastor, a
solo pastor and a lead pastor.  Technically
we were missionaries during our four years in Australia, and during time we have
been at Cornerstone I sold clothes at Tip Top Tailors and worked as a freelance
writer for six different magazines and taught at Kingswood University.
For most of us work, is something we do,
and for some of us work is something that defines us.  You don’t just work as a policeman you are a
policeman, you don’t just work as a nurse or doctor or teacher, that’s what you
are. Perhaps not in your eyes but certainly in the eyes of others. 
This is week two of
Money Month at Cornerstone.  Just to
highlight, since 2002 we have taken the month of April to focus on the theology
of our money.  How we make it and what we
do with it after we have it.  And what
that means for us as Christians. 
I realized that for
the first seven years that our church existed that the only time I spoke about
money was when things were tight.  And
then there was always an air of desperation about it. 
And it really came
across as scolding people or trying to guilt them into giving.   What usually happened was that those who
were giving gave more and those who weren’t giving just became resentful.
So in 2002 we adopted a new model where I take
the month of April to discuss the biblical view of money and giving.  And
at the end of the month, we offer those who call Cornerstone their church home
an opportunity to let us know what they estimate they will be able to give in
the year ahead and that figure is what we will use to create our budget for the
new year. 
Our theme this year is
“Your Legacy, Your Choice”  and last week
we started looking at how we each shape the legacy that we leave.  And I mentioned that Everybody Leaves a Legacy, it might not be apparent but it is
there, and it is far reaching.  And then
I spoke about how We Leave a Legacy By
How We Spend Our Lives
, and talked about choices that we make and how the
choices we made yesterday have shaped our today, which means the choices that
we make today will shape our tomorrows. I guess that means, “Choose carefully”.  And then I spoke about how We Leave A Legacy By How We Spend Our Money.  And my main point
there was that We will all choose to spend our money somewhere. 
And some folks can’t understand how Angela
and I can afford to tithe our incomes to Cornerstone, that is we give 10% of
what we make back to God.  Notice that I
said that we give it back, because it truly is our understanding that what we
have we receive from God.   So I guess
truthfully we all choose to spend God’s money somewhere.
In the same way that some people can’t
understand how Angela and I can afford to tithe I can’t understand how some
people can afford to drink, smoke, play the lottery or for that matter play
golf.  Most of us can’t imagine how
others can do what we don’t do, but they do, because they have chosen to.
This morning we are going to shift our
gears a bit and look at “The Legacy of our Work”.
In the scripture that was read earlier Paul
is addressing a problem in the Thessalonian church.  He is actually re-addressing a problem he had
addressed in his previous letter to the same people.    In 1 Thessalonians we read; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12  Make
it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with
your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not
Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on
others.
And apparently not
everyone got it, because in his next letter Paul gets a little stronger,  for those who missed it the first time he
reiterates.  2
Thessalonians 3:10
 Even while we were
with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to
eat.”   Wow, that
does sound very biblely, “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”  To soften it a bit, he does not say those
unable to work, he says those unwilling to work.  And there is a world of difference between
the two.
Abraham Lincoln once received a letter from
his step-brother asking for a loan of $80.00. 
This is part of Lincoln’s response, “Now,
this can only happen by some defect in your conduct. What that defect is, I
think I know. You are not lazy, and still you are an idler. I
doubt whether, since I saw you, you have done a good whole day’s work in any
one day. You do not very much dislike to work, and still you do not work much
merely because it does not seem to you that you could get much for it. This
habit of uselessly wasting time is the whole difficulty;”
It wasn’t that the folks in Thessalonica
were lazy, but they were idlers. 
The back story here it seems is that there
were those in the church who were waiting expectantly for Jesus to return and
they felt that there was no need to spend that time doing something as
unspiritual as earning a living.  So they
were sponging off the rest of the church while they waited.  And that was causing problems in the church,
resentments were building and because these people weren’t working they were
using their free time stirring up unrest in the church.  Because while it’s not in the bible it is
true, Idle Hands are the Devil’s hands
And so Paul tells them to get a job, but
he’s also telling others in the church to stop enabling these folks.  The command that those who did not work
should not eat was a warning for some and instruction to others. 
And I would expect that if you had of
talked to those who weren’t working that they would have offered all kinds of
“Spiritual” reasons for doing what they were doing.
That there were able to spend more time in
prayer, or in studying the scriptures. 
Perhaps they felt they were showing more faith by not being concerned
about worldly things, after all Jesus had reminded the people that God took
care of the birds of the air.  Or maybe
they thought they were being obedient in putting aside the things of the world
while waiting for Christ’s return. 
We really don’t know their rationale for
why there were doing what they were doing. 
But I do know that sometimes
we try and separate our secular work from our Christian walk.  People put work in one area of their lives
and they put their Christianity in another area of their lives.  Never the twain to meet. 
And what Paul wrote
next was not a hint or a suggestion, it was a command and it was coached in the
strongest of terms.  2 Thessalonians 3:12  We command
such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down
and work to earn their own living.   Paul is so serious that he actually invokes
the name of Christ, because he knew that these idlers weren’t just causing
problems within the Christian community that they were giving Christianity a
black eye. 
Because sitting around
all day isn’t what God intended.
Work is a major theme
through the story.  If we go back to the
story of creation we read Genesis
2:15
 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of
Eden to tend and watch over it.   We
Were Created to Work
  So when God created man, he created him to
work tending the garden, I don’t know what that entailed but it seemed to
require some effort.
And God knew that man needed something to
do, that’s how we were created, in the image of God, the creator.  If we go back to the beginning of the story
it begins with God working, he creates the heaven and the earth and everything
in heaven and earth and then after six days we are told that he rested.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote “Man is most in God’s image when
he is creating things.”
And through the bible we see people working
and being commended for the work they do. 
They were farmers, shepherds, fishermen and administrators.  And God commended them for it and rewarded
them for what they did.
And through the bible you will find
admonitions to work.  Proverbs
13:4
 Lazy people want much but get little,
but those who work hard will prosper.  And Proverbs 21:5  Good
planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.
Throughout this book of wisdom it is
reiterated over and over again that the result of being lazy, or idle is
poverty. And so the plan seems to include work.
Dave Ramsay, the financial guru wrote “Your
greatest wealth-building tool is your income.” 
He goes on to say that too many people get distracted by get rich
quick schemes or high risk ventures because they want to get rich
overnight.   But ultimately we are told
in Proverbs 10:4  Lazy
people are soon poor; hard workers get rich.
And that doesn’t mean
that we will never need help and never need to help people.  There are times that we hit a rough spot,
perhaps we lose our job or illness or some other circumstance prevents us from
working.  
I’ve told story
before, I went to college with a guy named Mike Ward who was from Louisiana,
and Mike wasn’t allowed to work in Canada. 
So there were times that things would get tight for Mike and he’d pray,
“Lord, you know that I’m going to run out of toothpaste and shampoo, and I need
a new pair of jeans cause my old one have a hole in them”  And then two days later a package would
arrive with a note saying “Mike I was praying the other day and the Lord
impressed on my to send you this.”  And
there’d be toothpaste, shampoo and a new pair of jeans and an American ten
dollar bill.
So I thought I’d try
it and so I prayed the same way, and I got a job. 
But the plan, is for
us to work to earn our living whenever it is possible.  And sometimes that means working at jobs that
you think are below you if that’s all you can find.   
And maybe you are
thinking “I hate my job and there is nothing I can do about it.”  Well the first part of that statement might
be a reality.  And if it is then it
probably goes back to the choices that you made at various points in your
life.  But the second part, the part that
says “there is nothing I can do about it” is only a perceived reality.  History is full of people who have changed
careers in midlife.  But it’s like
changing canoes in mid-river, it can be done but it should be done carefully
and it’s not without risk.
My father is my hero
in many ways but in particular in this instance.  Dad quit school in grade six and went fishing
with his dad.  When he was old enough he
joined the army as a cook for 17 years and then he got out and then did
whatever it took to provide for his family. 
He cooked in and then managed restaurants, he drove cab and dump trucks,
worked on fishing boats and operated heavy equipment. 
And then when he was
37 he decided to go navigation school. 
With a grade six education he began to study and learn things like
trigonometry and navigation.  And
eventually he became Captain Guptill and sailed all over the world. 
You see, Dad knew the
reality that you can’t start over but you can start again.  You can’t change the past but you can make
choices that will change your future.
Colossians 3:22-23  Slaves, obey your earthly masters in
everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are
watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord.
 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the
Lord rather than for people.
The second thing that we need to discover
is that Our Work is Our Witness Let
me say, let’s don’t get hung up on the word “Slave” here, the word can mean
servant as well.  For most of us, we
spend most of our waking hours at work, or getting to work or back from
work.  That’s just a reality and for most
of us we do it for more than forty years. 
And there are some folks who begrudge that
time, and they’ll say things  like “I
wish I had more time to do things for God.” 
Or “When I retire, that’s when I will be able to do ministry.”
But that is where God has put you, and it’s
not separate from our Christian life it is a major part of our Christian
life.  Sometimes I’ll be talking to
someone and they’ll tell me how pagan their work place is, the language that is
used and the crude stories that are told. 
And they’ll say “You don’t know how dark it is, I wish I could find a
Christian company to work for.” 
And I will remind them that we are called
to be light, Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world—like a city
on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”  And then I’ll ask them, “Where does a light do
the most good?  Somewhere where it is
already bright or somewhere where it is dark?” 
And that’s a no brainer, the light from a single candle will chase away
the darkness. 
Every one of us has the opportunity and the
responsibility to be light and and to be the light where God has placed
us.  It might be the hockey rink while
your kids are playing, it might be the golf course while you are playing, and
it while always be where you spend the majority of your time, and if that is
your place of employment then shine as bright as you can, because Jesus went on
to remind people in  Matthew 5:15-16  No one lights a lamp
and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it
gives light to everyone in the house.  In
the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone
will praise your heavenly Father.
But it isn’t just about being a good
Christian it’s about being a good worker. 
You are there to represent Christ and how hard you work, the language
you use, your demeanour and your attitude will ultimately reflect on
Christianity and the church.
Through the years I have met unchurched
folks who have worked with people from the church I was pastoring at the
time.  And there were times that that
made me proud to be there pastor and to be truthful there were times that made
me cringe.  And you can only imagine how
it make Jesus feel.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18  He did all this so you would never say to
yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’
 Remember the LORD your God.
He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the
covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.”
Work
is From God and For God 
  God wants you to be
successful.  Now I don’t mean that God
necessarily wants you to drive a Maserati, live in a 50 room house and own a
jet.  But he does want you to be able to
support yourself and your family and to give back to Him. 
There is nothing spiritually edifying about
being poor.
I talked about this last week, the bible is
not opposed to money, but it consistently warns us to be careful about our
priorities and the choices we make, which is why Jesus tells us in 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.  That statement is not a warning about money,
it is a warning about priorities and who or what we will serve.      
And I believe that God blesses those who
are responsible with their money and are faithful with their money.  But he expects us to do our part. Even when
miracles happen in the bible and a little becomes a lot, it starts with someone
giving the little to start with.
From the beginning of the book God’s work
has been supported by God’s people, whether it was building the temple, or
operating the temple or ministry in the early church, the funds came from the
people of God.  And it was seen as
returning a portion of what God had allowed them to earn.  It was set as a percentage, and so it really
benefited God’s work when folks who were faithful in their giving earned
more. 
I can’t count the number of times over my
ministry that someone has told me how they will start to give when they get
that raise, or the better job or win the lottery.  But as one wit wrote, “It’s not what you’d do with millions if riches ere be your lot, but
what you are doing at the present with the buck and a quarter you’ve got.”
So who will God bless?  The answer is given by Jesus in  Luke 16:10-11 Jesus said “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in
large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with
greater responsibilities.  And if you are
untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of
heaven?”  When we are faithful,
God trusts us with more.
When we stop viewing work as something we
have achieved and see it as a gift from God and that we have it so that we can
make a difference in our world the we begin to see it as a part of our legacy.
Let’s finish with a portion of the
scripture we read last week where Paul told the believers in Corinth,  2 Corinthians 9:10 For God
is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same
way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest
of generosity in you.
He just wants you to trust him, so that he
can produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
And so I leave you
with these words of wisdom from Josh Billings, “Never
work before breakfast. If you have to work before breakfast, get your breakfast
first.”

Just Stop It!

–>

Litter bugs me!  I just can’t get my head around it.  What possesses people to just throw their trash on the ground?  This time of year seems to be the worst and Tim’s cups seem to be the greatest offenders. But that might just be my perception, after all, their spring cups are red and easier to spot.  Or maybe people get upset with having the opportunity to play again and out of frustration they just throw the offending cup out their car window.
I understand that in some countries they cane people who litter.  I wonder if that would take provincial or federal legislation to make that a law in Canada?
I don’t litter, but I assume that those that do think, “Well, it’s just one cup, or one can or one bag, what will it hurt?”  And if it was just one cup or can or bag, it probably wouldn’t hurt.  But if you do it once, you will do it again and the point isn’t that it’s not much, the point is that it’s wrong and irresponsible.
And, I suppose it’s the same with whatever small sins litter our Christian lives and the answer is simple in both cases: just stop doing it.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Your Legacy, Your Choice

So
here we are, April.  For those who have
been a part of the Cornerstone family for more than a year then you know what
April means. 
For
those of you who have been with us for less than a year you might think that
April is simply the month that falls between March and May.  And while that is true, at Cornerstone April
has been traditionally, at least since 2002, the month that Denn talks about
money.
And
you might think that is a bit strange, so let me give you some history and
background as to why that occurs.
First
of all, it occurs in April because this is the end of the church year for
Wesleyan Churches.  Why April?  I have no idea, but it is what it is.
Prior
to 2002 Cornerstone handled our budget and finances like most churches do.  Before the new church year, the local board
would sit down and draw up a budget for the new year.  But there was really very little rationale
for the budget.  The best that we would
hope for was we’d take last year’s budget and say “We hope to grow this year,
so let’s increase the budget by 10%” But that very seldom took into account if
we had made the budget the previous year or not.
It’s
like writing a personal budget without taking into account your income.  Assuming the money will just appear.  The problem in churches is when the money
doesn’t just appear then the pastor is instructed to preach on money. And
because the pastor only preaches on money when there is a problem it comes
across as scolding or nagging.  And most
people learn from childhood to mentally turn down the volume of nagging and
scolding. 
So
in 2002, the leadership at Cornerstone decided that instead of having the
pastor preach on money when things are tight, and then it comes off as
desperation, we would take the month of April, each year, to teach the theology
of giving, how we make our money and how we use our money.  
First
we called it Stewardship Emphasis month but some where along the line it became
know as simply “Money Month” 
And then on the last Sunday of
April, step up cards will be distributed to folks who call Cornerstone their
church home to respond and provide an estimate of what they believe they will
be able to give in the upcoming year.  In
affect you get to have a say in the budget and say “This is the type of church
I would like to have this year.”
And then we take the cards, add
them up and that becomes our budget for the year.  Not a nickel more.  And to stress the reality of that concept,
the first time we did that at Cornerstone I lost a third of my salary and had to
take outside employment for the next couple of years.
I
think I handle the mechanics of it well; we try not to embarrass anyone or put
anyone on the spot. If you don’t want to participate that is fine, although we
encourage everyone to take part.   And we
don’t come knocking on your door if you aren’t able to give what you thought
you’d be able to, we hope you will after all we have based our budget on those
figures.  And we provide you with updates
throughout the year about where we are in relation to what was committed and
where you are personally in relation to your commitment
 The scripture that was read earlier is one of many
instances in the bible when Christians were taught about and reminded of their
giving habits.  You see it’s not just
Denn who talks about money.
In
this case Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and he’s dealing with a
collection that was being received for the believers in Jerusalem who were in
the midst of persecution for their faith. 
And Paul is commending the Corinthian Church and he reaches back into
the Old Testament for the proper words and he quotes Psalm 112:9 where David is
talking about the righteous people who served God.   Psalm
112:9  They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good
deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honour.
What
Paul is speaking of and alluding to here transcends money and giving because
he’s speaking of the legacy that the Corinthians Church is leaving, in
particular I want to focus on the sentence that says “Their good deeds will be
remembered forever”. 
This
month our theme is “Your Legacy, Your Choice”  
and we really need to begin by defining what we mean by legacy.  Collin’s English Dictionary defines Legacy
this way:
Legacy:
1.         a gift by will, especially of money or
personal property
2.         something handed down or received from
an ancestor or predecessor
Sometimes
people will leave a legacy of money to an organization when they pass
away.  When Angela and I had our wills
prepared we stipulated that 10% of our estate was to be given to the church
where we were actively worshipping at the time of our death.   That would be a legacy, probably not a
really large legacy but a legacy never the less. 
And
for the purpose of my messages I want to combine those definitions and look at
what we hand down because of our giving. 
 Paul told the Corinthians that
they would be remembered forever for their good deeds, for having giving freely
and generously. 
And
so he begins by telling the church 2 Corinthians 9:6  Remember this—a
farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who
plants generously will get a generous crop.
The
first thing we need to note is that 1) Everybody Leaves a Legacy Nobody lives a
life without making some type of mark on the world, for good or for bad. 
Four
Hundred years ago John Donne wrote “No man is an island entire of itself; every
man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”  Everyone will leave a legacy.
Paul
says that some farmers plant a few seeds and some plant generously, but the
reality is that they all plant something.
We
might think that we don’t do much, and while your name might be forgotten the
future will be written by what you do while you are here.  It might be a discovery made by your great
great great grand-child.  But that is
part of your legacy. 
Maybe
you’ve heard it called the Butterfly effect or the fancy name is “The Law of
Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions.” 
But whatever you call it, it simply means that the smallest action can
have an incredible result.  For good or
for bad. 
Sometimes
I don’t think we give enough thought to the impact that decisions that we make
in our ordinary lives will have on tomorrow.
It
was Bill Gates who wrote “Legacy is a stupid thing! I don’t want a legacy.”  And maybe he was thinking of Windows ME or
maybe the quote that is often attributed to him, where he supposedly said “640K
of memory should be enough for anybody.”  He denies saying that, but I probably would as
well. 
But
Bill Gates will leave a legacy, whether he wants to or not, because of Bill
Gates and Microsoft the world looks different than it would have or could have
if a different operating system had of risen to the top of the pile.    And that doesn’t even take into account the
Gates Foundation and the tens of billions of dollars that have been spent on
health and education in developing countries around the world.
But
how about this, in 1968 Bill Gates parents moved their Precocious son from
public school to the prestigious Lakeside Academy a private school for the
elite families of Seattle.  That same
year the “Mother’s Club” at the school did a rummage sale.  There was much discussion of what to do with
the considerable proceeds from the sale and finally it was suggested that the
money be spent on a computer terminal for the students.  The computer terminal was placed in a little
room in the basement of the school and Gates practically lived in that room
from that day on.  In 1968 when most
university didn’t have a computer for their students a grade eight student by
the name of Bill Gates was learning programing. 
So
whose legacy is it?  Bill Gates’ or the
lady who spearheaded the rummage sale, or the mother who pushed to buy the
computer? 
So,
Everybody Leaves a Legacy
Let’s
go back to Paul’s letter:  2 Corinthians
9:7  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.
When
Paul tells his readers that they will each decide how much they will give, he
is talking about money, but to limit it to dollars is an injustice to his
writings.  Because 2) You Will Leave a
Legacy by how you spend your life
Every
one of us makes choices that will have an impact on our own lives.  I beat that drum all the time.  It goes way back to our childhood.  We choose whether we will work hard in school
or not.  I was always content to be in
the top third of the bottom half of my class, that was a choice I made.  We choose who our friends will be, we choose
what activities we will be involved in. 
And those choices that seem so inconsequential in our youth begin to
form and shape us and ultimate the legacy we will leave. 
At
some point we decide if we are going to go to university or not, which school
we will attend, which courses we will take. 
And when we graduate we choose what company we go to work for, who we
date and then we choose who we will marry. 
And maybe you are thinking, I didn’t choose to get married, I had to get
married.  Well that probably goes back to
another choice you made.   Those are all
choices that we make, and they all affect the life we will live and the legacy
we will leave. 
And
we are free to choose to do whatever we want to do in life, but we have to
understand that all choices have consequences. 
Sometimes, good consequences, sometimes bad consequences, but
consequences never the less.   It was
French writer Albert Camus who wrote “Life is a sum of all your choices.”
And
it’s not about accepting the blame it about accepting the responsibly for your
choices, both good and bad.  Because this
is the secret, once you realize that the choices you made yesterday have shaped
today then you realize that the choices you make today will shape tomorrow.
Your
tomorrow is your legacy.  You understand
that you are only here because of a choice that someone made however long
ago.  To illustrate, one day awhile ago
my son and I were having a conversation and he said “Sometimes I wish you had
of stayed fishing with your father, because I would have grown up on a fishing
boat.”   Good thinking Steve, but then I
reminded him, “If I had of stayed fishing with your grandfather then I would
never have gone to bible college where I met your mother, and while my son
might be fishing with me today, that son wouldn’t have been you.”
And
so wise choices will lead to one legacy and less than wise choices will lead to
another legacy. 
There
is a familiar verse in the book of Numbers, some of you will know it from the
King James or Authorized version of the bible, Numbers 14:18 KJV The LORD is
longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by
no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children unto the third and fourth generation.
But
have you ever asked yourself, “What does it mean ‘visiting the inquity of the
fathers upon the children.’”?
For
some people the answer is found in the New International Version where it says Numbers
14:18 NIV  ‘The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin
and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the
children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’   And
they see God with a big stick punishing subsequent generations for sins
committed in the past. 
Seriously,
God is going to punish me for what my Great-grandfather did?  Most days I don’t think I deserve punishment
for what I’ve done.
Now
listen to the New Living Translation,  Numbers
14:18  ‘The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love,
forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty.
He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is
affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’
Let’s
read that again ‘He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the
entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.’  We may not be punished for the actions of our
parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, but often times we are who we
are because of choices they made. 
Where
they chose to live.  How much value they
placed on education and their views or morality.  All of those things colour our lives.  But we get to choose the colour.  Will you live the consequences of your
parent’s actions or will you learn from your parent’s actions?
Don’t
let the past become an excuse for the present, “Well I am who I am because
that’s how I was raised” or “I can’t do much because I’m from. . .” or  “That’s what my parents were like, so I guess
that’s why I’m like this.”  In the
Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes  “We
are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
Regardless
of the legacy that you were left determine in your heart that you will leave a
better legacy. 
Christ
didn’t just come so we would have eternal life, he came to give us a different
life while we are here, he told his followers 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.
The
devil wants to steal and destroy your legacy, but Christ’s plan is for you to
have a rich and satisfying life. 
Whatever your background, whatever your heritage, whatever you are
struggling with there have been people from there who have chosen to rise above
it and leave a mark and leave a legacy and so can you.  
But
here is the great thing, Eleanor Roosevelt said “I am who I am today because of
the choices I made yesterday.”  Which
means that the choices we make today will determine who we are tomorrow. 
2
Corinthians 9:8  And God will generously provide all you need. Then you
will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
3.  You Will Leave a Legacy by How You Spend Your
Money  You knew it had to come to this
eventually right?  After all it is April.  But cheer up, we won’t be here long this
morning.
So,
let’s start up front by saying God and the Bible have nothing against money.
Through
the scriptures we find folks who were wealthy in their culture.  The Bible provides us with all kinds of
directions of how we view money, how we get money and what we do with the money
after we have it. 
Jesus
warns us of the danger of what can happen when we get our priorities about
money twisted around, but there is no glory is being poor. 
Contrary
to popular opinion Jesus did not say “Money is the root of all evil.”  What you might be thinking of is the warning
that Paul gave Timothy in 1 Timothy but Paul didn’t warn Timothy about money,
instead he warned him about priorities.    1 Timothy 6:10  For the love of money is
the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered
from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.  And you don’t have to be rich to love money
and crave money, and unfortunately too many people have traded away eternity
for a handful of dust.
But
listen up, this is important.  We will
all choose to spend our money somewhere. 
Angela and I tithe.  That is, we
give 10% of what we make to the local church. 
We believe that is a biblical concept.  And I’m not bragging I’m simply stating the
reality.
And
we are not the only folks at Cornerstone who have made that decision,
thankfully, or there would be no Cornerstone.
And
there are times that I have heard folks say, “I don’t know how you can afford
to do that”
And
I understand what they mean, because when I hear the price of beer and booze I
think “I don’t know how people can afford to drink.”  When I see the price of cigarettes I think,
“I don’t know how people can afford to smoke.” 
  
When
I stand in line at a convenience story and watch people buying lottery tickets
by the handful I think “I don’t know how people can afford to gamble.” 
And
there have been times I have thought “I don’t know how people can afford to
drive that car or live in that house or have their kids in organized sports.”  And trust me I’m not being judgemental, just
curious. 
But
the reality is that we all choose where we will spend our money. And we spend
our money on what we perceive to be valuable.
Very
early in the bible we read about sacrifice. 
It is the story of Cain and Abel the sons of Adam and Eve, the first
folks recorded in the bible.  The story
is told in Genesis, that’s the first book of the bible, where we read how Abel
was murdered by his older brother.  The
back story to the murder is told in Genesis 4:3-5  When it was time for
the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD.  Abel
also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The LORD
accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made
Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  
We’ve
been through this before.  Cain offered
“some of his crops” and Abel offered “the best of the first born lambs.”    And
what does that mean?  Well in the book of
Hebrews in the New Testament we read Hebrews 11:4  It was by faith that
Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering
gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his
gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of
faith.
Abel
still speaks to us as an example of his faith, because he stepped out and gave
his very best.
Each
person who comes to Cornerstone makes a decision in what they will give, God
won’t force you and Denn won’t force you. 
It is a choice that you will make by yourself.  And you will decide if you will give some to
God or if you are going to give the best to God. 
And
all we ask is that over the next few weeks as we look at stewardship and legacies
that you will commit yourself to asking God what that will look like in your
life.