Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

It was almost like they had had been two different debates.  The first where Donald Trump was the victor and the second where Hillary Clinton emerged victorious.
I didn’t watch the presidential election debate on Monday but others did.  At least I thought so.
The first story I read on Tuesday told me that Hillary was the clear winner and the Donald had floundered for answers and looked the part of the buffoon while Hillary was very presidential.
A few minutes later I read another report that told me that it was obvious that Donald had scored all the points and left Hillary in the dust. Hmmmm, interesting.
Like most of life, there were multiple views and differing opinions on the debate, and who the clear winner and loser was.  But Jesus said when it comes to where we spend eternity there is only one option.  Remember he said “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” 
Many feel that what happened in Monday’s debate and who our neighbours to the south choose as president on November 8th is of the utmost importance but it pales in comparison to who those same people choose for eternity.   But nobody seems to be talking about that choice. 
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

God Loves Our Worship

In all my years of ministry I
haven’t found anything that can make church people as cranky as the music.  Seriously. 
Thom Ranier a church growth and
health consultant wrote “The comment ‘someone
complained about the music at my church’ is a universal phenomenon of our age.”
If you’ve been with us over the
past couple of week’s we’ve been going down a path entitled.  Why We Are. . . and we started two weeks ago
by looking at why we are focused on the lost. 
We are by definition what some folks would call a Seeker Sensitive
Church. 
That is why we do what we can to
make the unchurched, the de-churched and the pre-churched comfortable in our
service.  That’s why we have an one-hour
service.  It’s why we try to incorporate
music that at least sounds like it was written in this century and why we try
to explain churchy terms and concepts and preach and teach toward the end of
making the message relevant to people today. 
To answer that all burning question that people ask during sermons:  So What?
And the reason we do that is
because God loves lost people.  God loved
lost people enough to be willing to give his Son.  And Jesus loved lost people enough that he
was willing to give his life.  And so we
asked the question, if those two statements are true than what are we willing
to give to reach the lost?
Last week we looked at the story
of the children who were brought to Jesus and how the disciples tried turning
the parents away and Jesus got a little cranky and told the disciples, “Let the
children come to me, don’t do anything to stop them.”
And we looked at why Cornerstone
invests so much time and energy into our children’s ministry.  And we do that for the future of the
church.  The church, this church and the
church universal is always one generation away from extinction. 
And without children the church
will only exist until they close the door after the last funeral.
But more importantly, the reason
why we invest so much time and energy into our children’s ministry is because
we aren’t just impacting the future of the church we are impacting the eternity
of those kids.      
If we believe what we say we
believe about there being a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned I
would think there would be people knocking down the doors to help insure that
our children would have an eternity with God. 
We aren’t just offering a program
to keep the kids occupied while you are in real church, our staff and
volunteers are impacting their todays and their forevers.
And that brings us to the
scripture that was read earlier. 
Jesus was asked by a man what was
required for eternal life, and this was his answer:  Matthew 22:37-38  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all
your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the
first and greatest commandment.

Jesus said that is the most important
commandment, if you can only do one, this is it.  This is the one that you don’t want to miss.  ‘Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind.’  So we were created to be loved by God and our
purpose in our lives is to love him back. 
He should be the most important thing in our life. 

If we have to pick the one item that we
couldn’t or wouldn’t do without it should be God.  

And there is a word for what we do when we
love God that way and that is “Worship”. 
We worship God.  Goes all the way
back to the first book in the Bible, Genesis 4:26 When Seth grew up, he had
a son and named him Enosh. It was during his lifetime that people first began
to worship the Lord.

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

But it’s not very long into history that we
read those words about their grandson Enosh, it was during his lifetime that
people said “We need to have that relationship with the one who created us, we
need to connect with him again.”  And
they began to worship God.  But what does
that mean? 

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

And by the way, the term “Contemporary
Worship” is often misleading, in more cases than not it means that churches
sing songs written somewhere between 1970 and 2001.  But the word contemporary as defined by Collins English Dictionary means 1. belonging to the same age;
living or occurring in the same period of time2. existing
or occurring at the present
time3. conforming
to modern
or current
ideas
in style, fashion,
design, etc4. having approximately the same age as one another

In his book The New Traditional Church, Tony Morgan makes a great point
when he wrote : “If most churches truly wanted to be contemporary, Sunday would have a
lot more hip-hop and R&B (have you listened to the Top 40 lately?).”  That
was an aside.

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

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

And that’s why musical styles in churches can
sometimes result in conflict, because it is so personal.  When we say that we don’t like a particular
type of music then those who like that type of music take it personally. 

In other words, if I don’t like singing
traditional hymns in church then in some people’s minds I’m saying singing
traditional hymns in church is wrong and so by implication that means that I’m
saying that those who prefer singing traditional hymns in church are wrong as
well.

Understand that was just an example, there
are a lot of hymns I like, and I enjoy singing them at the Berkeley and at
Beulah Camp, but it’s not a part of what we are trying to accomplish at
Cornerstone. 

But if I didn’t like hymns, it would just mean
that I personally don’t enjoy that style of music.

I don’t like classical music or rap music, I
don’t like reading poetry, or putting anchovies on my pizza. And if you do like
classical music or rap music, reading poetry and eating anchovies on your pizza
you probably aren’t offended because I don’t. 
But worship is more personal than just our preferences.

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

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

Neat story, that I’ve told
before.  There was an elderly pastor on
this district by the name of Walter Fernley, he passed away about five years
ago and his wife passed away a couple of years before Walter.  Mrs. Fernley’s first name was Mabel but
everyone called her Mabs.  One day Walter
asked Mabs to say grace at dinner, which she did, very quietly.  To which Walter commented, “I couldn’t hear
you.”  To which Mabs replied “I wasn’t
talking to you.”

So when you say “I didn’t enjoy the worship
this morning”, the response is “We weren’t singing to you.”  

I don’t think God has a preference for any
one style of worship music.  I think that
we offer our worship to Him and if we do it with the right motives and a pure
heart then He goes, “Thank you, that was so cool.” 

Because as good as it might be on any given
Sunday at Cornerstone ,God has heard so much better.

Think about it twelve hours ago he heard the
worship team from Hillsongs Australia sing, and two hundred years ago he heard
Beethoven play his fifth symphony and three thousand years ago God heard King
David sing an original arrangement that that we call the 23rd Psalm.

And you understand that heaven is filled with
music that God hears all the time.  It’s
actually country music, it sounds a lot like Willie.  

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

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

Paul was writing to the early church in the
book of Romans and this is what he said  Romans 12:1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead
with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let
them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is
truly the way to worship him.

So look at the last line, This is truly the way to worship
him. In other translations it reads “this is
your spiritual act of worship.” What is your spiritual act of
worship?  To offer your bodies as a living
and holy sacrifices.  But what does that
mean?  Well there are three things that
we need to note about that statement.

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

In 1942 Isaac Asimov wrote a
short story called Runaround and in it he introduced us to the 3 laws of
Robotics which state  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that applies to what happens on Sunday as
well.  We can decide to not enter into
worship during a service because the music isn’t to our taste or we find it too
loud or not loud enough, or it’s not our favorite worship leader, but
understand it will be our choice.  We do
what we want to do. 

2) Worship
Involves Who You Are
We told to give our bodies, not
anybody else’s body, but our bodies.  And
that simply means that you are to give “You”. 
While we are here we are here in our bodies, if we are going to do
anything it will be done with our bodies. 

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

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

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

Because, ultimately  “We do what we want to do.”

So when we offer our bodies we are offering
ourselves in a practical way to God, it’s not just something that happens here
in our mind, kind of like a card I sent to my best friend one year for his
birthday, on the cover it said “When it comes to gifts it’s the thought that
counts.”  And inside it said “And I
thought about getting you a gift.”   And
it’s not just what happens here in our heart, where it is a good
intention. 

When I was growing up my favorite Aunt would
often remind me that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  And Margaret
Thatcher said “No one would remember the Good
Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well.” 

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

3) Worship
Demands Something. 
Every decision we make involves a positive and a negative, when we
say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else.  And it isn’t simply a matter of choosing
between what’s good and what’s bad.  That
would be too easy. 

As a pastor I will sometimes hear people talk
about how much they love Jesus, but they never offer anything back, no time, no
service no gifts.  It was Michael Novak who wrote “Love
is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice.”    Remember how Paul said we were
to offer ourselves to God?  A living and holy sacrifice.

And that often means choosing one thing over
another. 

And by the way, another aside here.  On the other side when you hear someone
saying they are going to choose the lesser of two evils, remind them that the
lesser of two evils is still evil.  That
was a bonus, had nothing to do with the message.  Now back to our regularly scheduled Sunday
morning message. 

And so worshipping God, offering your body to
Him will require a sacrifice.  Sometimes
it’s small.  Maybe it means being in
church instead of sleeping in or mowing the lawn.   

Maybe it means lifestyle choices.  I will do this thing and will not do that
thing.  Or perhaps there is a
relationship that drags you down and puts you in situations where you know as a
Christ follower you really shouldn’t be. 

Jesus was talking about situations like that
when he told his disciples in Matthew 5:29-30  If your right eye causes
you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one
part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if
your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for
you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into
hell. 

He was so serious about that statement that
he repeats it in Matthew 18:7-9  “Woe to the world
because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to
the man through whom they come!  If your hand or your foot causes you to
sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or
crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is
better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown
into the fire of hell.

Now, Jesus
didn’t poke anybody’s eye out or cut off anybody’s hand or feet.  He was talking about removing yourself from
situations and relationship that would cause you to be disobedient to what he
is calling you to do.

And there
are some of you here today who know exactly what I’m talking about.

Your sacrifice might be reflected in how you
use your volunteer hours.  Every one of
us has to decide for ourselves where we will give our time.  Because we only have so much time to give.

It is reflected in our giving, because I
understand that when you choose to give to God’s work you are choosing to not
use that money somewhere else. 

But ultimately those decisions are life
changing decisions because when they come together they are saying “I will put
God first in my life.  Before my family,
before my career, before my recreation, before habits.”  And that’s not easy, and that’s probably why
Jesus said in Matthew
10:38
If you refuse to take up your cross
and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 

Because Jesus knew that what he was asking of
us wouldn’t be easy, he knew that it would cost something, he knew that it
would require a sacrifice.  If it doesn’t
cost something, then it’s not a sacrifice. 

It’s been forty-five years since Wilbur Reese
wrote these words, inflation has probably increased the price but the sentiment
is still the same.

Three Dollars Worth of God

I
would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.



I
don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or
pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.



I
want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

I don’t think that’s what God was asking for
when he asked us to be a living sacrifice.

What is it that you are giving up?  How are you making yourself a living
sacrifice today?

The Trouble with Trouples

It was a term I had never heard before, I understood the “Trouble with Tribbles” but what was this “Trouble with Trouples”? 

I came across an article the other day talking about trouples and I discovered that it is a term for a polyamorous unit made up of three individuals.  It could be any combination of males and females and two of them may or may not be married to each other.   It is a small polygamous relationship. 
And the trouples are getting cranky.   Because an individual can’t be married to more than one person, their relationships have no legal recognition or protection.  And you can’t really blame the trouples.  After all, if they supreme court could redefine marriage by removing the gender restrictions, surely they would be able to redefine it again removing the numerical restrictions.


John-Paul Boyd, the executive director of the Canadian National Research Institute for Law  recently stated  “The number of people in poly relationships is growing and soon the law will have to catch up to the changing structures of modern families.”
I suspect that it won’t be long before your tolerance will be questioned and you will be labeled a polyphobe if you object to the thoughts of polygamy being a socially accepted part of Canadian life.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

God Loves Children

It was just about this time of year 22
years ago.  We had just moved to Bedford
to start what would eventually become Cornerstone and I had to fly to Colorado
to attend what was called “Church Planters Boot Camp”, an intensive week long
training session that included men and women from around North America.
And part of the process was each church
planter was assigned a coach who would work with them through the week and
would provide additional coaching as needed. 
My coach was a man named Jim Griffith, who had two things going for him,
he had planted 5 churches up to that point and more importantly he looked like
Tim Taylor who was riding high with “Home Improvement” at the time.
Because of my experience with Jim as a
coach we had the opportunity to bring him to the district a few of years later
to talk to church planters and re-planters. 
I remember that because it happened during the Ice Storm of 1998 and it
was a crazy drive to the conference and because of two things that Jim told us
at that conference.  
The first thing Jim told us was “There are
three ways to measure a person’s commitment to the vision, money, money and
money.”  As a matter of fact, Jim said
that when someone told you how committed they were to what you were trying to
accomplish you had to quote the phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire, “Show me
the money”. 
Not everybody will agree with that.
The second thing he taught us has proved
invaluable through the years, he said “The person who will decide to come to
your church the first time will be the wife, those who will decide to come back
will be the children.”
Now I know that is a generalization and
that all generalizations are wrong but bear with me.
He went on to say that if we were asked to
meet with a family that we should go as a couple.  He said that the two guys could talk about
anything, sports, hunting it really didn’t matter.  But the women would talk about the new
church.
And we would do that, I would talk to the
husband and Angela would talk to the wife and it would work.  I can imagine the conversation after words, she
would say “Well, honey what did you think?” 
and he would say “He’s an idiot, doesn’t
know anything about sports or hunting and he’s a Habs fan.”  And she’d say “Angela
told me what their church is like and it sounds amazing, I think we should go
this Sunday.”  And they would.
And the second part of the equation was
equally true.  We have discovered that
life is too short to fight with kids about whether or not they wanted to go to
church.
When you and I were growing up, kids were
expected to be seen and not heard, to a certain degree.  We certainly didn’t have an opinion on things
like where we would go to church.
But life has changed and the reality is
that children often make those choices, or at least have a voice in the
decision making process.
 And
we have embraced Jim’s advice. 
From the beginning Cornerstone has tried to
offer a top notch kids program, and it has cost us time and it has cost us
money and it has meant that we have to constantly recruit the very best
volunteer base that we can.  That was
true when we had to find eight out of the sixty who called Cornerstone their
church home and it is equally true today when we have to find eighty out of the
four hundred who call Cornerstone their church home.
And so for the first twelve years of our
existence Angela headed up our children’s ministry, you seeing a theme here? She
also played piano and led worship and led our women’s ministry for the majority
of those years.  A well trained monkey
could have done my job, but without Angela there would have been no
Cornerstone. 
For the past 8 years Marilyn has led the
children’s ministry team.  And our
children’s ministry is still a major priority at Cornerstone, in time, effort,
money and volunteer commitment.
And the passage that was read this morning
explains it even more than Jim Griffith’s words do.
We are in the closing chapter of the story
of Jesus’s ministry.  He is making his
last journey to Jerusalem.  A journey
that will ultimately end with him nailed to a cross. 
And as he makes his way to Jerusalem he
continues to teach and impact the lives of the those around him.  And we pick up the story in Mark 10:13  One day some parents brought
their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples
scolded the parents for bothering him.
We’ve all seen the paintings and pictures
and there are a couple of problems with those. 
The first is where did the Swedish kids come from?  Seriously. 
The second problem with the picture is the age of the kids, you see the
word that all three of the gospel accounts used for children actually refers to
infants.
So this was kind of the equivalent of
having your baby dedicated. And we don’t know why these parents wanted Jesus to
bless their children.  Perhaps they had
witnessed some of Jesus’ miracles.  Maybe
they had seen Jesus heal the sick and figured that an ounce of prevention would
be worth a pound of cure.  Kind of like
having your children vaccinated. 
Or maybe they truly saw Jesus as God’s son
and were looking for a spiritual touch from him, or maybe they were dedicating
their children to him.
Or maybe they just wanted their children to
be touched by someone famous.  The reason
people let politicians kiss their babies.  
We don’t know the reasons, but we know that
the disciples weren’t having anything to do with it and the bible tells us they
scolded the parents for bothering Jesus. 
And I know the guys get a lot of grief over
this, but let’s cut them some slack. 
Everyone is a little tense heading to Jerusalem.  Jesus knows that the end is close and while the
12 may not have known the details they knew that something big was up.
And with the pressure of time they probably
saw this as one more interruption that they didn’t need. 
I would suspect that if the parents had of
been bringing sick kids to Jesus there wouldn’t have been a problem. Sometimes
we are quick to elevate the physical needs of our children above the spiritual
needs.  I have more people ask me to pray
for their kids’ physical needs then I have people ask me to pray for their
kids’ spiritual needs.  Just saying.    
Let’s keep reading in the story.  Mark 10:14  When Jesus
saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
It’s not often that we see Jesus getting
angry, other translations say that he was greatly displeased or indignant but
you get the picture, he wasn’t a happy camper. 
And he told the disciple to do two things here.  1) to let the children come and 2) to not to
do anything to stop them.  
So what do we learn from the story?  Why do we need to go out of our way to insure
that the children will come to Jesus?
The first thing is we need to realize that It is Important for our Children and the Children
of Others 
As Christian parents we have the primary
responsibly for introducing our kids to Jesus. 
It’s not Deborah’s job in the nursery, or Marilyn’s Job in Cornerstone
Kids, or Stefan’s job in Consumed.  It’s
your job. 
And maybe you think that it’s best to allow
them to make that decision without you, or to wait until they are older. 
Seriously? 
We don’t let our kids decide if they will go to the dentist, or when
they will go to school or to the Doctor.
It was Frank Sonnenberg who wrote “If you don’t pass your values on to your kids, someone
else will.”
And Lenin said
“Give me four years to teach
the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”
You have the primary responsibility to
introduce your children to God, but we want to be here to help and to help with
the journey.  And we need your help, not
just with your children but with the children of others.
It’s easy to be passionate about what our
kids are being taught but our responsibility has to go beyond just our kids.
Sometimes we have parents who will be
willing to serve in Nursery, Children’s Church, Junior Church, Ignite or
Consumed, that’s our youth ministry, as long as their children are part of the
program.  But it can’t just be about your
kids, there are other children as well who need to hear the story.  Other kids who need to come to Jesus.
And it takes special people to reach
them.   You understand that not everybody at Cornerstone
can teach children.  There is a process,
and that is why we don’t advertise that we need volunteers.  Because we aren’t looking for warm bodies we
are looking for ministry partners.
Before someone is asked to teach we discuss
your possibility as a staff, then a personal invitation is extended, there is
an interview, there are references to be checked and training that has to
happen.  Police forms are filled out and
checked.  Why? Because this is important.
We were in a church on vacation once and
part way through the service the pastor announced that so and so was going to
take the children out to children’s church. 
A half a dozen kids got up to go out but so and so wasn’t there.  And so the pastor says “Is there anyone who
can take the children out?” 
And nobody responded.  Now we knew the pastor so Angela volunteered
and the children were sent off with a lady who had been in that church six
times in her life.   That will never
happen under my watch at Cornerstone.
But the question is still; why is it so
important?  Because Jesus
said  “Let the
children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
It’s
Important for the Church’s Future
The church is always one generation away
from extinction.  We attend churches
while we are on vacation.  And more times
than not they are small churches, because I remember pastoring a small church
and how encouraging it was to have visitors. 
Just as an aside, do you visit churches
while you are on vacation?  Or do you
take a vacation from God as well?    Seriously there are all kinds of churches out
there and most of the people who go to them don’t bite.  Or at least don’t bite strangers. 
There is a message about the importance or
lack of importance of corporate worship that you are teaching your children.  That was an aside.
But all of those small churches were
lacking one thing, children.  Oh there
might have been one or two but primarily they were churches full of old people,
and we’ve been back to visit some of those churches only to discover them
closed.
And they weren’t always like that, if you
look around the churches, which I sometimes do, you’ll see classrooms and toys
and posters that remind you of a different time.  But that was then, and they didn’t reach out
to families with children and what holds true for local churches holds true for
denominations and for the church as a whole.
Our city is full of empty churches that were
once full of families and children. 
If we don’t reach the next generation,
there will be no future for the church. 
Throughout the book of Acts in the record of the early church it talks
about whole households coming to faith.  And
in Paul’s letters he addresses both parents and children.
Why was reaching children important to the
early church?  Because they understood
that Jesus said  “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
But It’s not just the future of the church,
It’s
Important for Our Children’s Future 
If we believe what we say we believe about
there being a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned then reaching
children should have an eternal importance.
We are not just teaching your kids bible
stories and morals; we are leading them toward a relationship with Jesus.  Why because we think it important that they
go to heaven and not go to hell. And it should be important to you as well.
When you see the teens who are baptized at
Cornerstone, they are often teens who have been brought up at Cornerstone,
brought up being taught and led toward that relationship.
Jesus said in John
14:6
 Jesus answered, “I am the
way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 
I understand that Church isn’t the only
thing in your family’s life, and I understand that church activities aren’t the
only activities that you have your kids involved in. 
But listen carefully, their eternity won’t
be determined by how high they can jump in basketball, how fast they can skate
in hockey, how many flips they can do in cheer or how goods their marks are in
school.  Their eternity will be
determined by whether or not they know Jesus. 
And while you can’t make that decision for them you can do everything in
your power to make sure they have every opportunity to make that decision for
themselves. 
Remember what the bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6  Direct your children onto the
right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.
They will need to make their own decision,
but we are responsible for directing them unto the right path to start
with.  Why?  Because Jesus said  “Let the children
come to me. Don’t stop them!”
But it’s not just because for the church’s
future or the future of our children.  L
Psalm
112:1-2
 Praise the LORD! How joyful are those
who fear the LORD and delight in obeying his commands.  Their children
will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be
blessed.
It’s
Important for our Children’s Children’s Future   
You understand
that the values that we pass on to our children, they will pass on to their
children.
The Prophet Hosea was speaking of how the
people of Israel had rejected God and the consequences of that decision for the
next generations when he wrote Hosea 8:7  “They
have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind.”
We are reaping the seeds that were sown a
generation ago.  For two thousand years
church was a priority in the lives of Christian families.  It was what they did on Sunday.  They worshipped together as a family.
Earlier I spoke about those churches in the
city and around our country that used to be full, many of them were built for
the children of the baby boom, but at some point church became less and less
important for the boomers and because of that it became even less important for
gen x and y and the millennials. 
In a moment of introspection, what values
are you passing on to your kids about the value of church attendance?
Has church become the thing you do with
your family when there is nothing else to do? 
There are no games, no practice, no chores, no family visits, no
camping?
And maybe you are thinking, “but Denn, if
church takes priority over sports and other activities it will teach my kids to
resent the church.”
Really? 
What will it teach your kids when sports and other activities take a
priority over church?
We have parents at Cornerstone who take
their kids to cheer or hockey or soccer on Sunday and still get them to church,
they might be wearing their uniforms and might be a little sweaty, but that’s
ok, they’re here. And kudos to those parents.
  
It was Aristotle who wrote,  “Give me a
child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”
And it’s because we hold the future of our
grand-kids in our hands that Jesus said  “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
If I was to ask you “Who was responsible
for more people coming to Christ, Billy Graham or Edward Kimball?”  What would your answer be? 
Most of us are very familiar with Billy
Graham and have never heard the name of Edward Kimball, so it seems the answer
would be an easy one.  Edward Kimball was
a Sunday School teacher and one of his students who he introduced to Jesus was
a boy named Dwight L.  Moody. 
Yes, that Dwight L. Moody, the man who went
on to become one of the most influential evangelists of the 1800’s.  And one of Moody’s converts was a man named
Wilbur Chapman, who would also go on to become a preacher. 
In the late 1800s a professional ball player
by the name of Billy Sunday committed his life to Christ, Sunday would
eventually leave Baseball and become an assistant to Wilbur Chapman, who
mentored the former baseball player and through that process Sunday became the
Billy Graham of his day, or more correctly Billy Graham became the Billy Sunday
of his day. 
At one of the meetings where Billy Sunday
was preaching a man named Mordecai
Ham turned his life over to Christ. 
You kind of see the
pattern here right?   Yep, Ham also
became an evangelist and it was during one of his meetings in Charlotte North
Carolina that a young man named Billy Graham committed his life to Christ. 
Yep that Billy Graham,
the man who is reported to have preached to more people than anyone in history
including the Apostle Paul.
So, I’ll ask you
again, “Who was responsible for more people coming to
Christ, Billy Graham or Edward Kimball?” 
The evangelist or the Sunday School Teacher?
And it is because of that that Jesus said 
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!”
And maybe you are sitting there thinking “Denn, you are making us feel
guilty.” 
Perfect, I love it when a plan comes together.  I don’t often play the guilt card, but this
is of eternal consequence. 
Ed Stetzer, is a Baptist
preacher with two master degrees and two earned doctorates, he has planted
numerous churches, lectured around the world, I’ve heard him in Orlando and
Sussex, and written 15 books on church health and church planting and is the
executive director of Lifeway Research. And after years of research and study
Stetzer has come to the conclusion that  “Too many
churches love their traditions more than their children.” 
And so the question is: What do we love more than the children of
Cornerstone?
And when you are thinking of your answer remember the words of Jesus who
said  “Let the
children come to me. Don’t stop them!”

Oops!

She had obviously never heard the old proverb “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”  Of if she heard it she wasn’t paying attention, because it appears she wanted her revenge to be hot.
I read an article this week about a Florida woman who set her ex-boyfriend’s car on fire, presumably in retribution for something he had either done or hadn’t done in their relationship.
The problem was that it wasn’t her boyfriend’s car, it just looked like her boyfriend’s car.  Oops!
And so Carmen Chamblee has been arrested and charged with second-degree arson after being apprehended by the Clearwater Police. And they didn’t have to look very hard for a suspect. It seems that Carmen’s misguided attempt at revenge had been captured on a nearby surveillance camera.  Oops, oops!
I guess she should have paid more attention in Sunday School, especially when the lesson was about Romans 12:19 “ Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.”
The reality is, more often than not, our attempts at revenge hurt us more than it hurts the person we are setting out to hurt.   And even if it’s not caught on video and even if we don’t go to jail, it will damage our soul and our relationship with God. 
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

God Loves Lost People

If you’ve been around Cornerstone long enough
you have probably heard our mission statement or perhaps you’ve read it on our
website.  Late in the last century when
Angela and I were dreaming about what this church would look like we were told
that an important part of that process was to develop a mission statement and so
we did. 
22 years ago when people asked us what we
were about we could tell them with conviction “Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians
through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life
expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical
holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.” 
And sometimes when we would parrot off our
mission statement we would have other Christians question it.  “Why do you call them Pre-Christians?  You’re just being mushy, it should be the
lost or sinners” or “Why don’t you talk about them getting saved?  What’s with the Life expanding relationship
stuff?”  “You’re just pandering to them
with your relevant messages and dynamic worship; we didn’t come to entertain
the world”
So early on we learned to defend our vision,
we refer to folks as pre-Christians because we believe that we are going to
reach people who aren’t Christ followers yet but that they will become Christ
followers, thus they are not non-Christians they are simply pre-Christians. 
We talk about Life Expanding because we
believe that when you come into that relationship with Christ it not only gives
you the promise of eternal life in heaven when you die but it gives you a
better life, an abundant life, a changed life, an expanded life here on earth.
And the relevant preaching and dynamic
worship is just part of the plan, if we expect folks to connect with
Cornerstone then we are going to have to take the first step.  That when they hear the messages they don’t
leave saying “So what?”  
Instead the messages will be relevant to where
they are in their lives right now and they can apply it to their lives where
they are today.  And dynamic worship, why
not?  People ought to enjoy church.  Most of us don’t listen to 500 year old music
played on an organ the other six days of the week so why would we do it on
Sunday?
And that dream started during my time in
Australia, I read a book by Robert Kriegel called “If It Ain’t Broke Break
it”  it is primarily a business book
challenging people to think outside the box. 
Then I picked up a book by George Barna called “User Friendly Churches”
that highlighted a number of new churches that were making a major difference
in how they did “Church” 
And then it all came together in a week long
seminar I attended in Brisbane in the winter of 1992, it was actually summer in
Brisbane, but that just gets confusing. 
Bill Hybels and a team from Willow Creek Community Church spent a week
presenting a conference entitled “Building a Church for the Unchurched”, during
the conference he referenced a book written by Lee Strobels called “Inside the
mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary” and I was smitten. To have a church that was
intentional in their purpose, intriguing. 
For the first ten years of my ministry the
thought had been “If they are serious about getting saved they’ll come to
church the way we’ve always done church.” They’ll sing our songs, they will
learn our language and they will adopt our customs and in the end if they stick
with it long enough they will meet our God. 
But what if we sang music that at least the
style was familiar to those outside the church? 
What if we made sure that we didn’t use words that unchurched people
were unfamiliar with?  What if we used
videos of things they were familiar with? 
What if we took the time to explain things like
communion?  And that was the dream that
this church was based on, that we would endeavour to reach the pre-churched,
the de-churched and the un-churched.
After all we
are told in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal
life.  And that
thought is reiterated in Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us
while we were still sinners.  So if God
loved pre-Christians enough to give his Son and Jesus loved pre-Christians
enough to give his life I would think that we should be willing to give up our
traditions and preferences for them, if that’s what it takes.
And so 22 years later our mission remains the
same, although sometimes we shorten it down to say “Cornerstone exists to reach
pre-Christians” or most times I will simply say “Cornerstone is here to help
depopulate hell.”  And I believe that, I
believe that there are people today in our church and in our community who will
go to heaven because of who we are and what we do and that wouldn’t have been
the case if there had been no Cornerstone.
But sometimes I still have pastors or
believers from more traditional churches accuse us of pandering to people, or
watering down the gospel and dumbing down the message.  Oh well. I am
reminded of the story told about D.L. Moody, apparently someone asked Moody how
he reached the lost.  When he told them
they informed him they didn’t agree with his methods so Moody asked “How do you
do it?” to which they replied “I don’t.” 
Moody answered “I like my way better.”
Our story begins in  Luke 15:1-3 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to
Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain
that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus
told them this story:
Two thousand years ago it was the same as it
is today.  Religion was sometime seen as
a closed club, you came to God on the terms of established religion, you
learned their language, you sang their songs and you understood their rules,
both the written rules and the unwritten rules. 
And Jesus began to shake that up, instead of
expecting those who needed God to take all the steps Jesus made it easier for
them.  He taught in fields and market
places, in people’s homes and with simple stories that people could
understand.  And the religious
establishment got a little cranky because they were feeling threatened.
 So
Jesus did what Jesus so often did, he told them a story.   It
wasn’t a theological dissertation, it wasn’t a sermon filled it religious terms
and words, it was just a story. 
When we lived in Australia, it is a beautiful
country filled with wonderful people who are far from God, and I discovered
that in most social settings if people asked me what I did for a living and I
told them I was a pastor it became a very different conversation, they shut
right down.  So often when someone asked what
I did I would tell them “I’m a story teller” and that would often move them in
a direction where we could talk. 
But back to the message, this chapter is one
of the most loved chapters in the Bible; it contains the story of the lost
sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. Or as he is often referred to “The
Prodigal Son.” 
There are times that people will talk about
these as three separate parables but the reality is that there is only one
parable, there are simply three parts to that parable.   It is
like a montage, three pictures in a single frame, brought together by a single
overriding theme, it would appear that Jesus was defining three types of
lost. 
So let’s start at the beginning, Jesus looks
at the religious leaders, don’t know if he was sad, frustrated or angry that
they didn’t get it but he begins his parable by telling them.  Luke 15:4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will
he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search
for the one that is lost until he finds it?  
In the first instance The Sheep Was Lost Through Its Own Carelessness The story would be
familiar to anyone who had ever tended sheep because they really weren’t the
brightest of animals.  Most of what I
read this week about sheep would imply that they aren’t the sharpest knife in
the animal drawer.   If I wasn’t so
sensitive and careful with my words I’d probably say that The Sheep was lost
through its own stupidity.  But I won’t
go there.
A sheep is driven by its appetites and the
immediate, it has no long term plans or desires, its main concern is simply to
find food for right now.  And so with its
head down the wayward sheep eats and wanders and wanders and eats until it has
wandered far from the safety of the flock.
Its wandering is not a conscious act, it
doesn’t begin the day by saying “I think I will wander off and get eaten by a
wolf today.”  Instead it is simply
satisfying its base needs, oblivious to the bigger picture.
And there are folks like that today, perhaps
some right here in this service.  They
are not far from God because that was their plan; they just didn’t have a
plan.  Their world is consumed with the
immediate, earning a living, feeding their appetites, simply making it through
life. 
And some of those appetites and desires move
them further and further from God, but it is carelessness and a lack of
knowledge.  That’s where I was when I was
19. 
A few years ago I was talking to another
pastor and the question came up about making church relevant to people who are
far from God.  And I commented that the
relevancy of the church never crossed my mind before I chose to follow
Christ.  I didn’t deliberately not go to church;
it was just something that never crossed my mind to do.
I didn’t go to church, I didn’t attend
meetings at the Lions Club and I wasn’t a Shriner simply because they weren’t a
part of my life.  I never stopped to
think about the eternal, or about creation or about God. 
I was lost and like the sheep who had
wandered away wasn’t even aware that I was lost.  But that didn’t make me any less lost.  And it wasn’t until a friend confronted me
about my lostness that I even gave it any thought. 
And I would venture that the vast majority of
the folks in our community who don’t attend church just don’t think about
it.  And so for them we need to present
both the church and the kingdom in such a way that they actually stop and
consider what we have to offer. 
And in most cases that will happen when
people who already follow Christ talk to their pre-Christian friends and family
members about the difference that Jesus and Cornerstone has made in their
lives.  It’s really that simple, no big
plan just an acknowledgement that there is something else out there.  
The second
picture that Jesus draws is in Luke 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t
she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she
finds it?   If the sheep was lost
through its own carelessness The Coin
Was Lost Through Its Someone Else’s Carelessness. 
Culturally there is a lot going on in
this story.  With the sheep the shepherd
had lost one in a hundred, but here the woman loses one of the ten silver coins
that she has, not one percent of the total but 10 percent of the total.  And the commentators say that the coins may
have represented a couple of different things to the woman. 
For some it
was her household savings, her rainy day fund, money set aside for a specific
purpose and that makes sense.  Maybe she
was counting it wondering how much longer it would take her to have what she
needed or maybe she had what she needed and now was taking it out to spend it
on whatever it was that she had saved it for. 
At least one
commentator offers a more romantic spin and claims in that time and culture the mark of a married woman
was a head-dress made of ten silver coins linked together by a silver chain.
And if that was the case and if it was one of these coins that was lost, she
would have searched for it like you would search for your lost wedding
band. 
But
it was not the coin’s fault that it had been lost, it hadn’t jumped out of the
woman’s hand, she dropped it or she misplaced it but it was her fault not the
coin’s.  But the coin had certain
characteristics that allowed it to be pre-disposed to being lost.  It was heavy and so it fell, it was round so
it rolled and it was inanimate so it just lay there hidden. 
And
there are people in our community today who are far from God because of the
actions of other people.  Parents who had
no use for the church, I hear that from time to time, adults who from the time
there were children heard nothing but criticism of the church and God, they
were shaped from childhood to be lost. 
Or
maybe it was an incident where they were hurt or disappointed by a church or a
believer; I’ve heard those stories as well. Or maybe today it is a result of the
constant negative press the church seems to get in the national media.  A few years ago we did the window wash thing
at the Esso across the street.  One
Saturday in February we washed peoples windows and topped up their windshield
washer fluids and gave them a magnet with information about the church on
them.  And this one guy when he found out
I was from church started yelling about priests and little boys and televangelists
and churches stealing people’s money. 
And then he jumped in truck and drove away.  Wow. 
And
for those people we need to prove ourselves, and we do that through our actions
and through our authenticity.  We not
only say we care and can be trusted we prove it through our actions and the
actions of those who call themselves Christ Followers.   But remember even those that are lost
because of the carelessness of others, are still lost and they still need to be
found.
And that
brings us to the third picture in the frame and probably the most familiar one,
everyone knows the term the Prodigal Son, even people who have never set foot
inside a church.  Little side lesson
here, often we think that Prodigal is a description of someone who knew God and
wandered away.  Prodigal was actually a
description of the life style that he was living and had nothing to do with his
past life style or his future life style. 
And so Jesus
continues with his lesson  Luke 15:11-13 To
illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.
The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you
die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days
later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land,
and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” 
The
Son Was Lost Through His Deliberate Actions 
This is what sets this story apart from the other two, it wasn’t
carelessness that resulted in his being lost, it was a conscious thought and
action, he deliberately walked away from his father and his father’s home.  Have you seen the progression? One sheep out
of a hundred, one coin out of ten, but here it is one son out of two.  We’ve gone from a loss of 1% to 10% to
50%.  From a relatively insignificant
loss to one of incredible significance, the loss of a son.
It wasn’t
his carelessness that led the boy into his wilderness, he knew exactly what he
was doing.  And it wasn’t someone else’s
fault, as far as we can tell the boy had a good home and a loving family.  And he decided to walk away from his home and
his family.  This was a conscious decision
that he made, nobody else made it for him.
And there
are people out there today who have consciously decided to not follow Jesus or
they were part of the family and decided that they didn’t want to be part of
the family any more.
But
regardless of why the son was lost the reality is that he was lost.  He no longer had any of the privileges of
being part of that family, he no longer slept under their roof no longer shared
their meals.
I think it
is interesting that the shepherd went looking for the sheep, and the woman swept
her house in order to find the coin but the father simply waited for his son to
return.  Because there wasn’t anything
else he could do. 
Once the boy
had decided to go there were only two options that remained 1) Let him go 2)
Take away his free will.  And as
effective as shackles and a small room in the barn would have been it was
outside the scope of the father’s love. 
As much as the father loved his child he wasn’t about to take away his
free will.  Sound familiar?
In January I
will have been in pastoral ministry for 36 years, and I have owned cats for 42 years
and I have discovered that pastoring people is like owning cats. If they get out,
you can’t run and catch them.  You ever
try to catch a cat? 
Not going to
happen not until it wants to be caught. 
Oh you do the right things you call for the cat, and you rattle the
treat bag but they come home when they want to come home. All you can do is be
prepared when they come back to let them back in.
And I have
discovered that when someone decides to leave the church or worse turn their
back on their faith there’s not a lot you or me or God can do to prevent that
from happening, shy of locking them in a small room in chains and that goes
back to the free will issue again.  
And so we
call them and rattle the treat bag but we need to be prepared when they come
home.  In the story we read this Luke 15:20 “So he (the lost son)
returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw
him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him,
and kissed him.”
Sometimes we
are better at tracking down lost sheep and lost coins then we are at welcoming home
lost sons and daughters.  Just saying.
 But all three stories ended the same way
listen again to the words of Jesus.
Luke 15:6 When he arrives,
he will call together his friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me
because I have found my lost sheep.’
Luke 15:9 And when she
finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbours and say, ‘Rejoice with me
because I have found my lost coin.’
Luke 15:22-24 “But his father
said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on
him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we
have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was
dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the
party began.
And then Jesus ties it all
together with a bow when he said  Luke 15:10 “In the same way,
there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Are we serious about our mission,
about God’s mission?  About reaching
pre-Christians?  It cost God his son, it
cost Jesus his life and be assured it will cost you something.
There are those in this group
today because others were willing to pay that something, the cost of this
building, stepping outside their comfort zone to talk to you about God and
Cornerstone or in giving up their preferences in order to have a church that
you would feel comfortable in. 
But it doesn’t stop with those
who are here.  Our communities are filled
with lost people who need God and our purpose is to help de-populate hell.
And it is because we believe that
that we ask so much from you.
Why we ask you to give more and
serve more, because reaching lost people is a responsibility we all share. 
As more people come home to
Cornerstone there will be a need for more volunteers to provide for more
ministries and you might be thinking but I don’t want to miss Sunday morning
worship.  Do you think our other
volunteers want to miss the service?
Plus, we have the great
opportunity to work in one service and worship in the other one.  And we have folks who do just that.
Sometimes when someone is asked
to serve in ministry, whether it be greeting, hosting our coffee time or
ministering to our children they will say “I’ve already done my time.”  Which might be the appropriate response if
you are talking about prison but not if you’re talking about ministry.   
The only question that remains
is: Do we love lost people enough to pay the price?

Lost . . .

“The first thing I thought was that this is exactly what will happen when Donald Trump will be elected: It’s good practice.” Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley may have joked about the recent invasion of his town by Americans, but he wasn’t laughing when he realized that Sarnia would have to pay to get them home.

In August, thousands of Americans set sail from Port Huron, Michigan, down the St. Clair river, on inner tubes and a variety of floaties.  A sudden change in the wind direction resulted in 1,500 of the adventurers winding up on Canadian soil.

The refugees wearing bathing suits and flip flops were provided with warm towels, food and bus rides back across the border, at an estimated cost of over $8,000.00 to the town of Sarnia.
The Bible says, “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.”
Mayor Bradley said something similar, “You also can’t legislate IQ levels — and if people want to go out on a very dangerous river in the middle of a storm pattern … and drink, and be on a little life raft or a flotation device … that’s their choice.”
But, however you say it, the reality is there is often a price attached to our choices.   
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

1 Corinthians 3:16

The city of Corinth was rife with temples,
the temple of Aphrodite,
the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth, which means the Acropolis of
Corinth, but you probably knew that. Acropolis is simply a fancy word for high
ground. And so Aphrodite’s temple held an honoured place high above the city. 

And before you get all mushy and
romantic about the idea of there being a goddess of love, historians tell us
that the temple was supported by the proceeds of “Priestesses” who were in
reality prostitutes and not necessarily by choice, the majority of them were
slaves.   
And that wasn’t something that only
happened 2000 years ago.  The Wesleyan
Church was founded in the fight against human trafficking 175 years ago and
that fight is still going on.  If you
would like information about the Anti Human Trafficking movement in this area
you can talk to Amanda Windsor or Pastor Deborah. 
And while Aphrodite may have been the
primary deity of Corinth she certainly wasn’t the only one and while her temple
may have held the highest place it certainly wasn’t the only temple in the
city. 
Scholars tell us that there was also a
temple for Poseidon, god of the sea as well as temples for Apollo, Hermes,
Venus-Fortuna, Isis, and just to make sure no one felt left out there was a
temple dedicated to “All The Gods” (Pantheon). 
The city of Corinth was rife with
temples.
Here we are winding down our 3:16 series,
we began back in June with John 3:16 and since then we have been in 1 Timothy,
Joshua, Daniel, Colossians, Revelation, Philippians, Ephesians, Acts and
James.  This morning we are looking at 1
Corinthians 3:16 where we read 1 Corinthians 3:16  Don’t you
realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of
God lives in you? 
1 Corinthians is part of Paul’s letters to
the early church, in this case it is to the church in the city of Corinth,
which was a city in Greece, which was rife with temples. 
And so as Paul looks for an illustration to
use to describe the church he settles on the word “Temple”.  After all there were temples everywhere and
everyone, even the most disinterested knew what temples were for.  They were where various gods dwelt or were
worshipped, even if you were in doubt of the existence of that particular god
you couldn’t ignore their temple.
The temple that was missing of course was
the Christian temple.  At this point in
church history there were no church buildings, the early believers met in the
synagogue sometimes, and in the public square and in homes. 
And perhaps that was a matter that was being
discussed, “How come we don’t have a temple to worship in?”
And in the New Testament letters the early
believers are told that God dwelt in three places.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20  Don’t you
realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and
was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,  for God bought
you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body. 
So the first thing that the early
Christians are told is We Are the Temple
of God  
And in this case Paul is
referring to the individual Christians. 
This is often taught when the church is preaching about the evils of
cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women.  
You have to be careful with what you are
putting into and doing with your body, because it is the temple of the Holy
Spirit.   
That’s good preaching, if you bring it up
when you talk about other areas of physical health, like weight and exercise
you go from preaching to meddling. 
And Paul was serious about this, verses 19
and 20 don’t stand by themselves, because in order to really put it in context
you need to include verse 18 as well. Because you all know that a verse out of
context is a pretext.   So let’s try that. 
1 Corinthians 6:18-20  Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly
affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your
own body.  Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy
Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to
yourself,  for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God
with your body.  How’s
that for meddling in 2016.  That’s not
Denn or Cornerstone that is the Bible, the word of God.
Within the biblical framework, sexual
activity outside of marriage is considered sexual sin. And Paul, writing the
words of God, condemns it.  We’ll come
back to this later.
But when someone has committed their lives
to God and are following Jesus, they are a temple of God.
And let’s keep going in the temple
theme.  In Paul’s second letter to this
church we read,  2 Corinthians 6:16  . . . For we are the temple of
the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will
be their God, and they will be my people.
So here Paul is reminding the believers
that not only are we the temple but We
Are the Temple of God. 
In this case
he’s not talking about the individual believer he’s talking about the local
church. 
When God’s people come together, He is in
their midst.  In the book of Matthew
Jesus was telling his apostles how they needed to settle disagreements between
believers, obviously believers disagreed on things even two thousand years ago,
who would have thought?  And Jesus
finishes with these words.
Matthew 18:20  For where two or three gather together as my
followers, I am there among them.”  And while this isn’t specifically with the context of the local
church, the principle is there, wherever God’s people gather, He is present, in
his temple the church.
And you often hear people say, the church
isn’t the building.  And they are
right.  What we worship in here, isn’t
the church, it is the church building. 
The building where the church meets. 
God’s presence is in those who gather here. 
And that’s why it really frustrating when
you hear people who profess to be believers say they don’t need the church,
that they can worship God by themselves. 
God created the church and ordained the
church as his instrument of change.  And
God’s word tells us that is where believers would find God and meet with Him.
The bible actually calls the church the
“Bride of Christ”, and when some says “I love Jesus but I don’t have much use
for the church” I wonder how that makes Jesus feel? 
That would be like you telling someone “I
really like you, but I don’t have much use for your bride.”  Really? 
If someone told me that, we wouldn’t be hanging around together any
more.  
So whenever believers come together they
are the temple of God.
Back to this week’s 3:16.  1
Corinthians 3:16
 Don’t you realize that all of you together
are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  If we add to that 1 Peter 2:5  And you
are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more,
you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer
spiritual sacrifices that please God.
We discover, that not only are we the
temple of God as individual believers and not only are we the temple of God as
a local church but here we are told We
Are the Temple of God
You see you will find God’s presence in The Church,
not just Cornerstone but the entire church.
There are groups that think they are it,
and boy are they going to be surprised when they get to heaven and meet their
neighbours.  I have always felt and
taught that the Church is much broader than simply our local church or even our
particular denomination.
We are all part of the family, granted some
seem like those weird cousins we’re not sure what to do with, but they’re still
kin. 
So, we, as Christians, are personally the
temple of God, we, as a local church are the temple of God.  And we, the church universal are the temple
of God.  Cool.  But how does that play into the next
verse?  1 Corinthians 3:17  God
will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you
are that temple.  
That is a pretty dire warning.  God will destroy anyone who destroys his
temple.  That’s not just; God will scold
anyone who destroys his temple. 
Or God will chastise anyone who destroys
his temple.  Paul is very clear “God will
destroy anyone who destroys his temple.” 
Kind of like the sign that says “Danger, Do not touch. 
Not only will this kill you it will hurt the whole time you are
dying.”  No question about what it
means.
But there is a question here?  Which temple is Paul talking about? 
It can’t be the individual Christian.  Paul will later go on to write in Philippians 1:20-24  For I fully expect and hope that I
will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I
have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ,
whether I live or die.  For to me, living means living for Christ, and
dying is even better.  But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for
Christ. So I really don’t know which is better.  I’m torn between two
desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me.
 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Paul seems convinced that he couldn’t be
destroyed.  And way back in the gospels
Peter was told by Christ. 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.  If the powers of hell can’ conquer the church it doesn’t sound like
it can be destroyed by earthly powers, although they’ve tried.
So it would appear that two of the three
can’t be destroyed.  So it leaves the
local church as the one that is susceptible to that damage.  And we all know of local churches that no
longer exist, their bones are scattered across the ecclesiastical waste
lands.  And some of those were natural
deaths.  But some were homicides. 
But how could it happen, how could a local
church be destroyed?  The two letters
that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church detailed some of dangers that the
Corinthian church faced, and I would suspect that Cornerstone and other
churches today face the same dangers.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15  These people are false apostles. They are
deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.  But I am
not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  So it
is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of
righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds
deserve.
Throughout his writings Paul was warning
the church of The Danger of False
Teachings 
there were a number of
heresies that were prevalent in the early church.  
And we aren’t talking about the stuff that
churches argue about now, the version of the bible you use, whether hymns or
modern songs are more holy, whether your theology is reformed or Armenian.  About whether the church ought to be seeker
sensitive, purpose driven or missional. 
These were heresies that denied the fact
that Christ was God, or that faith and grace were enough to get you into
heaven.  There were the Gnostics who claimed
to have special knowledge that the rest of the church didn’t have.  And their big thing was that Jesus wasn’t
actually divine, and that his resurrection was spiritual, not physical.   
Every once in a while someone trots out
some of the Gnostics writings in an attempt to discredit the church.  Novels like the Da Vinci Code are based on some
of the old Gnostic writings.  Just
remember, they are filed under “F” in the library for “Fiction.”
And you still have the folks who suddenly
have a new revelation, new knowledge or a different twist on theology that
hadn’t been figure out or revealed for the first two thousand years of church
history.
And then there was Asceticism, that
taught that all temporal things were evil, food, drink, sex or comfort of any
kind.
 
And that in order to be holy you denied
yourself any pleasure and sometimes inflicted pain and suffering on
yourself. 
They denied the theology of God’s grace and
taught that you had to earn your way into heaven by denying yourself. 
Where the Gnostic argued that Jesus was
really just a good man, the Ascetics would deny the incarnation of Christ,
after all if all material things were evil how could Christ have been 100% man
along with being 100% God?
The opposite side of that was Antinomianism, and it taught that there was no connection
at all between the body and the soul. 
These teachers taught that you could do whatever you wanted with your
body and it wouldn’t affect your eternity. 
In other words you could live like hell and still go to heaven.  There were no moral consequence for sinful
behavior.
It really was an eat drink and be merry type group, there was no sin to
be avoided because those activities didn’t have any connections to our soul’s
destiny.
It was probably to this group that Paul addressed in Romans 6:1-2  Well
then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his
wonderful grace?  Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we
continue to live in it?
And we still see these heresies being taught and believed today in
various forms.  And Paul was convinced
that this type of teaching could destroy the local church.  Especially one as young as the Corinthian
church. 
Anyone who starts a church knows that it attracts all kinds of people who
believe all kinds of things and who think that the baby church will be a great
place to share those teachings. Which is one of the reasons from the beginning
one of the core values of Cornerstone stated: Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to the Wesleyan Church as a
denomination and to its doctrine and polity. 
And when people would take me out for coffee to
tell me that God had shown them what we should believe and how we should act, I
could trot out Core Value # 4.
But it wasn’t just false teachings that
Paul was concerned about in the church, 1 Corinthians 1:10-11  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.  For some members of Chloe’s household have
told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.
The next thing that Paul warned them about
was The Danger of Disunity  In this case it wasn’t false teachers who
were the problem, it was good godly men who inadvertently became the catalyst
for disunity.
There were some in the church who aligned
themselves with Paul, and some with Peter and some with a preacher by the name
of Apollos.  We don’t know if it was
their personalities that attracted people or their preaching styles.  But instead of people being committed to
Christ and the local church they were committed to personalities. 
And so Paul instructs the church to get
their eyes back on Jesus, back on the Gospel and back on the reason they
existed. 
It’s obvious that Paul saw disunity as a
destructive force in the church.
Do you remember one of the false teachings
that I mentioned earlier, Antinomianism?
The teaching that all things were
permissible for the believer because there was this disconnect between the
physical and the spiritual?  It had
obviously gained a hold in the church because Paul writes in 1
Corinthians 6:9-11
 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong
will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge
in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male
prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or
drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the
Kingdom of God.  Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed;
you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the
Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Paul really needs to learn to be more
forthright and stop beating around the bush.  
Again I didn’t think this up, it’s not a Cornerstone thing or a Wesleyan
thing, it is a God thing.
The next thing that Paul identifies is The Danger of Accepting Sinful Behaviour   And it wasn’t just that list, if you
read through the two letters to the Corinthians you discover Paul addressing a
number of issues that were regarded as wrong. 
It wasn’t that the church was a horrible
church, it was that church was filled with people and it was a young church
that was filled with baby Christians who were struggling to find their
way. 
But Paul didn’t excuse their behaviour
because of that, he addressed it, because he knew it was important for them as
Christians to know how to behave. 
Regardless of what you might be told there is a certain behaviour that
the bible expects from those who call themselves Christians. 
And Paul states, fairly clearly,  that there would be no place in God’s kingdom
for those who continued in their sinful behaviour.  
And he addressed it for the church, because
he knew that unless the church dealt with that behaviour within that it was
destined to die.  Oh it might continue as
a institution but not as the body and bride of Christ.
And when people trotted out the “do not
judge me” line Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12  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.
Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.  The problem is that today it seems to have
gotten reversed and the church spends all it’s time judging the behaviour of
the world and ignoring the behaviour of Christians.
But ultimately the reason why we need to
beware of false teachings and disunity and sinful behaviour in the church all
goes back to this week’s 3:16
1 Corinthians 3:16 
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and
that the Spirit of God lives in you? 
The church is God’s plan for reaching and
changing the world.  And I truly believe
the words of Bill Hybels who said “The local church is the hope of the world.”

Us vs Them

Staying on a sports theme from the last couple of weeks, albeit a different time and different game,  I read an article recently about some of the original players from the 1972 Summit Series. That would be a hockey series, specifically a series between Canada and the former Soviet Union.

 I remember watching the last game of the series during grade 7 history class.  Mr. McArthur obviously knew that it would become an important part of Canadian history in years to come.  And it did.  And if you are of a certain age then you remember the chant heard from the stands, “Da, Da Ca-na-da, Nyet, Nyet Soviet”.

Forty-four years after the series, eight of the Canadian players are taking part in a cross country retrospective tour telling the inside stories.

In an interview it was interesting hearing Ken Dryden talk about how there seems to be missing a “us against them” feeling in international competition.  And with the fall of the Soviet Union, Canada has never found a new “them”. 

Sometimes I feel that Christians are always looking for a “them” to be against.

It’s almost as if we need a villain to prove our rightness.  But our rightness won’t be found by holding it up against the wrongness of others.  Our rightness is only found in the rightness and grace of Jesus. 

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