Sleeping with the Elephant

It was Pierre Trudeau who compared living next to the United States as being in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast might be, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.  And at no time is that truer than during the US presidential elections.  And we’ve seen plenty of twitches and grunts since this campaign began.

Regardless of how you may feel about the two candidates or who you may think the Americans should or should not elect, I would remind that God is still on His throne and neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have the power to dethrone Him.

So I would suggest that in the days ahead, as we sleep with the elephant, that we need to hang onto our blankets and pray that God’s will be done.

And for all the doomsayers, on both sides of the campaign, at the end of the game we all need to understand and claim the reality of Psalm 20:7:” Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

Today there are those who trust in parties and policies but as God’s people we ultimately need to trust in the name of the Lord our God. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Who is in your web?

Have you had enough spiders this fall? It is incredible the number of arachnids we have around the outside of our house right now. Mind you, having lived in Australia for four years—where you could saddle the spiders and ride them like ponies—these aren’t a particular threat.

It’s not the spiders that I mind; live and let live, right?  It is the webs. There is nothing more annoying and frightening than walking into a web, unless it’s the thought you had in Australia: that what spun the web could weigh as much as a small puppy. Yuck!


Spiders aren’t the only things that have webs. So do we! Webs of influence and webs of relationships that are all interconnected to the centre—you.  I was told recently that, on average, churched believers have a relationship of some kind with seven people who aren’t in church or in Christ. It might be a co-worker or someone you share a hobby with. It might be the parents of your kids’ friends or a relative. Who is in your web?

Maybe it’s time you actually took the time to see who you could introduce to your church and who you could introduce to your Lord. After all, it might make an eternity of difference.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

#turntheothercheek

Is it just me or does the US presidential election seem
nastier than usual? 
The interesting thing, or disturbing thing, or sad thing,
use your own adjective, is that both Candidates would say they were at least
brought up in the Christian tradition.
When asked about her faith Mrs. Clinton responded with a
trinity of faith statements. “I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a
Methodist”
Not to be outdone the Donald said “I’m a Protestant; I’m a
Presbyterian.” He elaborated by later stating, 
“When I drink my little wine — which is about the only wine I drink —
and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness,
and I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.”
And both candidates attended Sunday school, Trump at 1st
Presbyterian in Jamaica Queens and Clinton at First United Methodist Church in
Park Ridge, Illinois.   
And while I wouldn’t want to question the personal faith
of either of them, apparently even though they may have heard the teachings of
Jesus from an early age it would seem that some of them didn’t stick, in
particular how to treat those who treat you badly.
It seems as if have forgotten some of Jesus’ most
important teachings.   You know, the
section we call the Sermon on the Mount. 
This is week 3 of our “Hashtag This” series at Cornerstone
as we take a look at words and phrases that could use a hashtag.  Week one was #gointoalltheworld  last week was #castthefirststone and this
week we are going to delve into the Sermon on the Mount, all of which would
probably carry the hashtage #sermononthemount
Most of this section of the Sermon on the Mount is summed
up in Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love
your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for
those who persecute you!”
This is kind of interesting because there is nowhere in
the bible that we are told to hate our enemies. 
This particular command comes from Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge
or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbour as
yourself. I am the Lord.  Somewhere over
time the oral law decided that if you were to love your neighbour then it only
makes sense that you should hate your enemy.
The Love your neighbour part would appear to be a New
Testament favourite because Jesus mentions it five times, Paul quotes it twice
and James quotes it once.  You might
assume from that, that it was important concept. 
But it wasn’t “Love your neighbour” that Jesus was
concerned with at this point, instead it was the second half of what was said
the “Hate your enemy” side of it.
What Jesus is talking about here ties in with what he said
a little earlier in this passage, when he stated in Matthew 5:38 You have heard
the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and
a tooth for a tooth.’
His listeners would have heard this in a variety of Old
Testament scriptures in particular in Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21 and
Exodus 21:24.  This is the oldest law in
the world, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.  That law was referred to in the ancient world
as Lex Talionis, but it might have been more aptly referred to as the “law of
tit for tat.”
It appears in the earliest code of laws and that was the
code of Hammurabi, who was a Babylonian King who lived 1800 years before
Christ.  The main principal is clear; if
a person inflicts an injury then he would receive the same treatment.
There are some who would call this harsh and blood
thirsty, but in reality it was the beginning of mercy, for two reasons:  The first is that it limited Judgement, if
someone knocked out one of your teeth then you can’t knock out all of his.  Secondly it took judgement away from the
individual and gave it to society. 
Probably the greatest example of the why and how of this
law was capital punishment.  If someone
killed your child they would be sentenced to death, that was their punishment,
you couldn’t go out and kill their children and their spouse.  This type of law was indicative of the
society in which Christ lived.  It was
very much a retaliatory society. 
And it still is through much of the Middle East, Iran does
it, Syria does it, Lebanon does it, Iraq does it, Libya does it and if you want
a real lesson in retaliatory justice then just watch the Jews.  But then again we support Israel so when the
do it we don’t call it terrorism.
And remember that Christ said that he didn’t come to
destroy the law.  Also keep in mind that
we are dealing with an imperfect world. 
We need to accept the reality of a system which punishes the lawless and
rewards the lawful. 
In a perfect world there would be no murder so there
wouldn’t need to be laws concerning murder. 
In a perfect world there wouldn’t be adultery so there wouldn’t have to
be laws concerning adultery. 
In a perfect world there would be no divorce and nobody
would ever break a promise or cheat on their spouse but we don’t live in a
perfect world so God laid down regulations, regulations for everyone, believer,
non believer, Christian pre-Christian, redeemed unredeemed.  We live in a less than perfect world, and
although the law is not perfect it was concerned with checking the evil which
threatens to destroy society.  And so Christ
accepted the necessity of an imperfect system to deal with an imperfect world.
But he felt that his followers needed to go beyond the
law, it wasn’t enough for them not to commit murder they were to refrain from
hating.  It wasn’t enough for them not to
cheat on their spouse they couldn’t even think about it, and we are going to
deal with that next week. 
The Mosaic Law punished evil doers; Jesus sought to
eradicate evil.  Not by eradicating the
evil doer but by redeeming them, by changing them.
If’n you want to stomp out evil by stomping out the evil
doer then the Law of Moses is fine.  But
if’n you want to destroy evil and salvage the sinner then you need a completely
different approach.
The law tells us to react in kind, and that suits our
human personality.  We are quite willing
to kill the killer, hate the hater, and be close minded to the close
minded.  But Christ isn’t content with
those who call themselves by his name reacting in the same way as the
world.  Instead of reacting in kind, he
commands us to react in contrast.
Indeed, he goes so far as to tell us in Matthew 5:39 But I
say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek,
offer the other cheek also.
Now I can almost ready your minds, “He can’t be
serious.  Jesus didn’t understand what
the situation would be like today.  But
you know Jesus wasn’t referring to international situations, and Jesus didn’t intend
for this to be taken serious, besides all of that Jesus only meant this as
guidelines in relationships between Christians.”  I had a Professor in Bible College who said
“When you say ‘that isn’t really what it means’ then it must have hurt”
Jesus was talking about October 16, 2016, he meant for his
words to be taken literally and he was referring to all of our interpersonal
relationships.  To top it all off Jesus
even lays down some examples from the everyday life of his listeners.
Matthew 5:39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If
someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  
Often we don’t read into this statement what Christ
intended for us to see.  We see someone
who struck another person and we don’t see more because we are relating this
statement to 2016 Canadian culture and that isn’t the time or place that Jesus
was when he made this statement. 
“     “ would you
come up here for a minute, let me demonstrate. 
In the culture of Christ, the backhanded slap was the greatest insult going;
as a matter of fact, it was twice as insulting as being slapped with the palm
of the hand.
What Christ was saying was not only “do not retaliate” but
“don’t resent either”. 
Now don’t make the major error of limiting Jesus’ words to
a physical slap. 
In 2016 Canada you will probably never be physically
struck, just doesn’t happen in polite company. 
But there will be verbal blows, insults, and rumours.  They will be real and imagined, petty and
large, personal and general.  Don’t
forget the words of Christ in Matthew 5:11 “God blesses you when people mock
you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things
against you because you are my followers. 
Christ didn’t say “If that happens” he said “when that happens” and
there’s a big difference in those two little words. 
Christ was a lot nicer person then me and he was called a
glutton and a drunk, he was accused of being a friend of tax collectors and
prostitutes, and he was beaten and spit on, hey I haven’t got a chance.
Early Christians were called cannibals and accused of all
kinds of gross immoralities.  Time and
time again Christians suffer real and imagined insults.  They aren’t nominated for a position, they’re
forgotten in a note of thanks, or they are snubbed by someone in the church or
heaven forbid by the Pastor. 
But the true Christian has forgotten what it is like to be
insulted because they have learned from the master to accept any insult without
reprisal, and without resentment.
It was John Maxwell who said “If you want to help others
and become a person of influence, keep smiling, sharing, giving, and turning
the other cheek.”
The second illustration comes in Matthew 5:40 If you are
sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.  All except the very poorest of the Jews would
have a couple of shirts.  The coat on the
other hand was their outer garment but it was more than that.  It was like a long poncho and the people of
the day wore it as a garment during the day and used it as a blanket at
night. 
Most Jews had only one cloak, and the cloak was such an
important part of the Jews wardrobe that it was protected by the law.  We are told in Exodus 22:26-27 If you take
your neighbor’s cloak as security for a loan, you must return it before sunset.
This coat may be the only blanket your neighbor has. How can a person sleep
without it?
By Jewish tradition and Jewish law, you might ask a man
for his shirt, but never His cloak.  And
yet Christ is saying, even that which is protected by law, be ready to give
up.  Even that which you don’t want to
give, give.  Unfortunately, the church is
full of people who militantly stand on their rights and their privileges, and
they won’t be pried loose from them. 
People like that haven’t even started to see what
Christianity is all about.  The Christian
doesn’t think of His rights he thinks of his duties; he doesn’t dwell on his
privileges but remembers his responsibility. 
He has forgotten that he has any rights at all.  The man who vehemently stands on his rights,
who will fight to his death over his legal rights both inside and outside the
church has a lot to learn about giving up his cloak as well.
The third illustration comes from Matthew 5:41 If a
soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.  Here is a picture taken from an occupied
country and it’s tough for us to even imagine what Christ is talking about
because we can’t imagine being forced to do anything.  Yet in Palestine 2000 years ago at any time a
Jew might feel the flat of a Roman spear on his shoulder and the Soldier on the
other end command them to do anything, even act as their porter and carry their
baggage for a mile.
Do you remember Simon of Cyrene?  He was the man who was forced to carry the
cross of Christ.  That was the only other
time that this word which we translate as forced was used in the Bible.
Now you could obey the soldier one of two ways:  the first would be with grudging acceptance,
like the little boy who was told to stand in the corner and he sat there with
his arms crossed and said “I may be sitting on the outside but I standing on
the inside.” 
You ever do that?  I
sure have.  Or you can cheerfully do your
best.  There are always two ways to do
something 1) doing it with the bare minimum and that’s it, or 2) do what you’re
asked to do and more, graciously and cheerfully.  But listen up, don’t wait until you are
pressed into service by a Roman soldier because it probably won’t happen.  But you will have all kinds of opportunity at
work, school and church.
The ineffective employee, the resentful volunteer the
ungracious helper has no idea what the Christian life is supposed to be
about. 
The Christian shouldn’t be concerned with only doing what
he likes to do instead he should only be concerned with being able to help,
even when the demand is discourteous and unreasonable.  And so Jesus has given us three guiding
principles for our Christian life: 1) Christians shouldn’t resent or seek
retaliation 2) Christians shouldn’t stand on their rights 3) Christians
Shouldn’t demand the right to do as They Please.  Instead they should be seeking to help, or go
the second mile if you will.
Christ summed it all up in Matthew 5:44 But I say, love
your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 
as a matter of fact if you were reading in the New King James Version of
the Bible it goes into even more depth because it says “But I say to you, love
your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and
pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  But you ask, “how do I love people like
that?”  Good question and the way to the
answer is to first get a proper understanding of the word love.  There are all kinds of “love” out there and
we relegate them to one word.  I love
your shirt, I love my wife, I love my kids, I love my church, I love to fly, I
Love pizza.  And yet I love each of those
things in a different way.
The Greeks got around this problem by using different
words for love.  1) Storge, was family
love it was what you would feel toward your children or your parents.  2) Eros, was the love you felt toward your
husband or wife, it’s where we get the word erotic. 3) Phileo was a close
friendship.  There was a fourth word used
by the Greeks for love and that was Agape. 
And this was an act of the will not of the heart. 
It’s not an if or because love, you know I’ll love you if
you do this or I love you because of that. 
This type of love is not based on the actions of others.  It’s not the love of family, friend or lover
although it may grow into one of these. 
And this is the type of love that Jesus commands us to show to others
even our greatest enemy. 
Why Agape?  Because.
That is the love of God for the world.  A
love based on no external factors.  This
commandment can only be comprehended and obey by Christians, because it is only
when Christ lives in our lives that bitterness dies and love springs to life.
We also need to note that this commandment isn’t just
passive, we are required to commit ourselves to action.  We are commanded to pray for our
enemies.  We cannot go on hating a man in
the presence of God.  In prayer
bitterness dies.  It’s pretty well summed
up in Matthew 5:48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is
perfect. Sometimes people have some problems with that verse.  They think perfect like God, hmm kind of
sounds like Genesis 3:5 when Satan told Adam and Eve that they could be like
God.  And that isn’t what the word
perfect implies here. 
Again if we were to go back to the original language of
the New Testament we would discover the word used was Telios and it literally
means complete.  This word is used to
indicate that something is perfect for the job at hand.  A fully grown man is telios compared to a
half grown boy.  A graduating student is
telios compared to a freshman.
God is perfect as God. 
He is a perfect God, he has perfect knowledge, and perfect power and
that is a perfection which we can never attain because we’ll never be God.  And yet God has a perfection for each one of
us and that is when we come to a place where we are complete for the task set
before us.  When we live a life with
perfect love, perfect motive and perfect obedience.  It comes when we live by the Sermon on the
Mount not because we have to but because that is the inner most desire of our
heart.  When even politicians realize
that if they profess to know Christ then they need to act it, and maybe a part
of that is not participating in attack ads and personal attacks against their
opponents.  I understand you can even win
elections with that philosophy.
And now I leave you with the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
 “That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’
leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.”



All Fixed

–>

Apparently you can correct some of your youthful indiscretions.  I recently read about a new trend in plastic surgery; earlobe reconstruction, really . . .  earlobe reconstruction.
One plastic surgeon says that he has been doing four or five of the one hour procedures a month, and it seems to be gaining popularity.  It is a relatively simple operation that repairs the large holes left from having the earlobes punched out and stretched to accommodate large spacers. 
If only all of our past decisions could be fixed as quick and easy as fixing an earlobe.  Some things will always leave marks that can never entirely be erased.  Things like tattoos, poor choices in relationships and addictive behaviors can sometime mark us for life, but while the physical reminders may stay with us, spiritually we can be made new.
After a number of really bad decisions, David’s prayer is recorded in the Psalms, “Wash me God, and make me whiter than snow”.   God answered David’s prayer and God will answer the same prayer for us.
We may have to pay a physical price for the mistakes and choices we made in our past, but the Bible assures us that the spiritual consequences can be erased just for the asking.  The question is; have you asked?
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

#castthefirststone

Have you ever had a song or a part of a
song stuck in your head?  You know like,
. . .  “Mahna Manhna.”   You’re welcome.
Back in the early eighties I heard a song
once, only once as far as I can remember. 
It was in the kitchen of our family home on Golden Grove Rd. in Saint
John.  We were that family that always
had a radio playing in the kitchen.  And
one afternoon I hear a song, didn’t catch the name of the artist but the words
of the chorus stuck in my head.  For over
thirty years they have lived there, and every once in a while I’d try and track
down what the song was.  And low and
behold the other day thanks to the power of the interwebby I found it.
The song was recorded by a young Christian
artist by the name of Robyn Pope who had limited success for a few years in the
United States.  Why it was played on a
secular radio station in Saint John New Brunswick is beyond me.  But the line that has been stuck in my head
for the past thirty years, is “Cast the first stone
if you think you’re so hot, if you think that she’s wicked and you think that
you’re not.”
To put it into context, here is first verse
and chorus song by Robyn Pope. 
Maybe you know the story and maybe you
don’t.  It was read this morning from the
book of John Chapter 8 the first eleven verses. 
It’s pretty self-explanatory; really all you have to do is read it to
get a sense of what is happening.
And today I’m sure that if someone was
tweeting about this event the hashtag would be #castthefirststone.  We are in our second week of our “Hashtag
This” series, and over the next few weeks we will be looking at various words
and phrases from the bible that deserve a hashtag.
A woman had been caught committing
adultery, a sin that was considered a crime under Jewish law.  As a matter of fact the Rabbis said “Every Jew
must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery.”  A view that obviously wasn’t shared by
everyone.  In particular, a view that
must not have been shared by this woman, at least not in practice.
You’ve either heard the story or you’ve
heard the phrase “Cast the first stone” which is the central part of what
happened that day.  This morning we are
going to look at the characters who made up the story.
1)
The Accused
Let’s start by clearing a couple of
things up right away.  First you ever get
the impression that the woman here was an innocent spectator? You kind of get
the idea that she was just standing on the side of the road and they grabbed
her and dragged her to Jesus.  I don’t
know how many times I’ve heard this message preached and I’ve always gone away
feeling sorry for the woman.  Hold
it.  The woman was an adulteress.  The Bible says that she’d been caught in bed
with a man who wasn’t her husband.  Now I
don’t know for sure what she was doing in bed with the man who wasn’t her
husband but I’d be willing to bet they weren’t playing checkers. 
Now in 2016 Adultery may not seem all that
serious.  Across the border in the
presidential race one candidate is an adulterer and the other candidate is
married to an adulterer and it hasn’t seemed to hurt either of them.   And
all most of us probably know at least one adulterer or adulteress, but in Jesus
day it was a pretty dangerous accusation.
The second impression that you get from
hearing some of these sermons was that she was just caught in the act right
then and dragged from the scene and thrown at the feet of Jesus, but it doesn’t
even imply that it had just happened. 
So we probably should presume, because we
don’t know any different that the woman was fully clothed and her husband or
her partner’s wife or whoever had caught them, had reported them to the powers
that be and now action was being taken.
The third impression that you get is that
the man got away with it.  You hear
preachers asking that question “Where was the man”?  And then saying things like “She couldn’t
have been alone.”  As if this was some
grand conspiracy where only the woman involved in adultery was punished.  And then the preachers start speculating that
the person that she had been caught with was one of the religious leaders or
someone important.
Maybe, but according to one source the
Mishnah, or Jewish codified law states the penalty for adultery would be
strangulation and it even lays down the method.
It then reiterates that death by stoning is
the penalty for a girl who is betrothed and then commits adultery.  So, maybe the guy had already paid the price.
We know nothing else about this woman other
than the bare facts laid down in John’s narrative.  She was caught in adultery and was being
sentenced.  There was no defense for her;
she couldn’t appeal to a higher court. 
She had started writing the story and her
accusers would finish it for her.  As a
Jewish woman, in a Jewish culture, raised in a knowledge of the Jewish law she
would have known the consequences of her actions. 
We might ignore the words of the law laid
down in the Old Testament but for her that wouldn’t have been an option so she
would have known that Leviticus 20:10 “If a man
commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have
committed adultery must be put to death.
When she started down that path, she would have
known the ultimate destination if she got caught.  She may very well have thought that she
wouldn’t get caught but she knew what the law dictated would happen if she did
get caught.
We might feel sorry for her, we might feel
that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, after all what would happen today if
adulterers & adulteresses were put to death.  Other than the fact that the unemployment
problem would be solved with all those jobs opening up, Hillary would be a
widow, the Donald Trump question would have already been answered, Hollywood
would be a virtual ghost town and most of us would lose some friends.
And as much as we might feel that this was
extreme and unjust action, in her country, under her religion according to her
traditions and customs she was simply getting what she deserved no more no
less.
Which brings us to 2) The Accusers The scriptures tell us they were the teachers of
religious law and Pharisees.  These men
were the court of Israel.  They were the
legal experts of the day.  When you had
an issue that needed to be resolved this is where you brought it. 
And so it was to these men that the woman
was brought.  Probably by her husband who
explained the situation and presented the witnesses.  You see it wouldn’t be enough that he had
caught her in the act because the law may have been harsh but it tried to be
fair and so it said in Deuteronomy 17:6 But never
put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always
be two or three witnesses. 
That is reiterated in Deuteronomy 19:15-19 You must not convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of
only one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of
two or three witnesses. “If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses
someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the
Lord by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges
must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges
against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he
intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among
you.
Now that’s the bare bones of the situation,
but it’s not all the story.  To put a
wrinkle in the story these men did not have the right to put this woman to
death, and they knew it. 
“But Denn, you said”, I know what I
said.  I said that the penalty for her
crime was death under Jewish law. 
Right?  Right. 
But they weren’t under Jewish law, remember
they were an occupied country and they were under Roman law, and under Roman
law nobody but the Roman Authorities could impose the death sentence.
You might recall that is why the Jews took
Jesus to Pilate to be condemned to death; they didn’t have the authority to do
it.  I don’t know what they were going to
do with the woman, but it wasn’t going to be death.  Or at least there had been a pretty good
chance that it wouldn’t be.
But then they started spouting off things
like John 8:5 “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” And
that’s when the reality of the situation started to sink in.  She knew that the penalty for adultery was
death but it had been a while since the penalty had been carried out and she
wasn’t really all that interested in seeing a return to tradition.  But why now? 
What was happening here? 
Well, to be truthful I don’t think that
this woman or what she did was all that important to the Pharisees and the
teachers of the Law of Moses.  Oh they
would have looked at her with contempt, and probably made some rude comments
about her private life. 
They may have granted her husband a divorce
and made life pretty miserable for her. 
But she was just a secondary concern; they had bigger fish to fry.
The woman was just an excuse; she was bait
for the bigger fish.  You see this young
carpenter from Galilee, Jesus was getting on their nerves and they were looking
for some way to discredit him.  It wasn’t
the first time nor would it be the last; remember these were the same guys who
asked him in Luke
20:22
“Now tell us—is it right for us to pay
taxes to Caesar or not?”
And in Matthew 19:3 Some
Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be
allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
and in Mark 8:11 When the
Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with
him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven
to prove his authority.  Kind of a
recurring theme wouldn’t you think?
And so the question they pose to Jesus is
this, “Will you side with the Jewish law, the law of your forefathers or will
you side with the Roman oppressors?”   
It was really a lose, lose situation for Jesus. 
If he said “stone her” then they could go
to the Romans and say, “Look here’s a man who’s challenging your
authority.  On the other hand, if he says
“don’t stone her” then they go to the Jew’s and say “See, he’s challenging the
authority of scripture.
The woman was a nothing to the Pharisees
and rulers of the law, she had no name, no personality, no feelings, and she
was simply a pawn.  A piece to be played
in the game they waged against Jesus. 
They were using her the same way they would use a tool.
3)
The Forgiver
And so it’s in this little soap opera
that we see Jesus at his best.  Because
unlike the Pharisees, Jesus knew the woman, he had been there when she was
created, he knew her when she was being knit together in her mother’s womb, he
knew the numbers of her hair and he knew the condition of her heart. 
And unlike the Pharisees he cared about the
woman, it was for her that he left heaven and came to earth, it was for her
that he was willing to live as a mortal for thirty-three years, and ultimately
it would be for her that he would allow himself to be nailed to a cross and
die.
You gotta get the picture.  Jesus is teaching a crowd of people, and as
was the custom of the day when a Rabbi had something very important to teach he
did it sitting down with people gathered all around him.  And so there he sat, and there they
stood. 
A woman who if not full of remorse was
almost certainly full of shame, her head bowed, her eyes looking at the dirt,
knowing that she was guilty.  Surrounded
her were the religious teachers, her judges, the ones who had her very life in
their hands.  And they were demanding an
answer. 
And he didn’t say a word, he just bent over
and started doodling in the dirt, and they stood there looking down on him
demanding that he make a decision concerning this woman’s life.  And he continued to write in the sand, kind
of an interesting reaction. 
Wonder why he did that?  There have been at least four
suggestions.  1) To give him time, he
didn’t want to be rushed into a rash statement, so this was a little bit of a
time out.  Perhaps he was thinking things
through and more importantly taking time to ask his Father what he should
do. 
2) Perhaps by doing this he was forcing the
Pharisees and scribes to repeat their charges, so they could hear exactly what
they were saying. 
3) Maybe he did it so that he wouldn’t have
to look in their eyes.  The leering,
lustful looks of the religious leaders, the morbid curiosity of the crowd, and
the shame of the woman all combined to twist his heart in knots.  So he hid his eyes.
4) 
The most interesting suggestion by far is that as he sat there doodling
in the dust, he was actually jotting down the sins of the men who stood before
him.  This goes a little deeper than mere
speculation.  Again let’s remember that
the Bible wasn’t written in English, it was written in Greek which was a much
more expressive language then English. 
English is kind of a lazy language. 
We’ll take one word and make it mean half a dozen different things. 
Like the word fast.  It can mean quick, it can mean go without
food, it can mean to tie something up, it can mean that the colors won’t fade,
it can mean to be loyal, it can mean to be sexually promiscuous or it can mean
that your watch gained time. 
The Greek word that would normally have
been used here for writing should have been graphein which simply means to
write.  But John adds the prefix of Kata
to the word which means against.  Making
the word katagraphein
which meant to write down a record against someone. 
And so some have suggested that Jesus was
confronting the men with their own sins. 
Bob beat his wife last week, Fred cheated on his taxes, Joe stole from
his neighbor, and Jacob slept with Marks wife. 
I’ve also heard it suggested that he was writing the names of their
girlfriends in the dust for all to see.
But whatever he was doing the leaders
continued to demand an answer and so Jesus gave it to them John 8:7-8
They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but
let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down
again and wrote in the dust.
 Maybe this was when they noticed what the
words actually said that he was writing out, I don’t know but something struck
a chord because the Bible says John 8:9-11 When the
accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest,
until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus
stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one
of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go
and sin no more.”
Now as a side bar to our sermon, you may
have noticed in your bibles a footnote that says that this particular story was
not included in many of the early manuscripts that have been found of the New
Testament. 
And that is true; the earliest manuscripts
don’t include this story.  However, some
scholars feel that it wasn’t included in the earliest manuscripts because those
who edited the text of the New Testament thought that this was a dangerous
story, a justification for a light view of adultery and therefore omitted
it. 
None other than Augustine said that the
story was removed from text of the gospel because some were of slight faith and
to avoid scandal.
William Barclay who wrote the daily study Bible Commentary had this to say “We may be sure that this is a real story about Jesus,
although one so gracious that for a long time men were afraid to accept it.”
Now back to the message.  It’s easy to draw the wrong lesson here and
to get the impression that Jesus took the woman’s sin all too lightly, as if it
didn’t matter.  He didn’t say “I am not
going to judge you”.  What he said was “I
am not going to judge you just now, go and sin no more.” 
Jesus was asking her if she was an
adulterer or if she had simply committed adultery, and there is a world of
difference.    It was Richard North
Patterson who wrote  “No one should
be judged
by the worst moment of his
life.”
So what he was doing wasn’t so much
abandoning judgment as much as deferring judgment.  He was saying, “Go and prove that you can do
better” Jesus attitude to this sinner and to us as sinners involves a number of
things.
1) It
Involved a Second Chance
, it was as if Jesus was
saying, “I know that you’ve made a mess of things, but life is not finished
yet, I’m giving you another chance a chance to redeem yourself.”  Let it be known in Jesus is a gospel of
second chances. 
Jesus was always interested not only in
what a person was but in what a person could be.  He didn’t say that what people had done
didn’t matter, broken laws and broken hearts always matter but he knew that
people not only have a past but they have a future.
And isn’t that what Jesus has done for all
of us, give us a second chance?  Where we
can come and ask him to forgive our sins and repent, that is turn from our sins,
and through his help seek to do better.
2)
It Involved Mercy
The basic difference between
Jesus and the Pharisees was they wished to condemn the woman he wished to
forgive the woman.  If we read between
the lines of the story we can see that they were taking great pleasure in what
they were doing and would relish in being able to stone the woman.
3) It
Involved Challenge

Jesus confronted this woman with the challenge of a different life.  He wanted her to know the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a
new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  But what he didn’t say was “It’s all
right, don’t worry: just go on as you are doing.”  he said “it’s all wrong, go out and fight and
change your life from top to bottom, go and sin no more.”
It wasn’t an easy forgiveness, instead it
was a challenge which pointed a sinner to heights of goodness which she
couldn’t even imagine.
4)
It Involved a Warning
.  It may not be said but it is certainly
implied.  Here we are face to face with
the eternal choice.  Jesus confronted the
woman with a choice that same choice he gives each one of us, either to go back
to our old ways or to reach out to the new way with him.  This story is unfinished, for every life in
unfinished until it stands before God.
So where are you at?  If you can’t put yourself in the woman’s place,
then you are putting yourself in the Pharisees place. 
Listen to me very carefully.  There isn’t any sin in the world that you
aren’t capable of.  I had a friend of
mine who told me he couldn’t imagine how anyone could commit adultery and today
he is living with another man’s wife while his wife lives alone.  You best be careful before you pick up a rock
and throw it. 
Maybe you’re standing where the woman stood
and you know that you’ve done wrong and you can’t imagine what Jesus would want
with the likes of you, and he’s saying “The story’s not over yet, go and sin no
more.”  That doesn’t just involve being
sorry for sinning it involves being so sorry that you turn from your sin and
that is called repentance.  listen to the
message that Jesus has for you today “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one
of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go
and sin no more.”

#alloftheworld

Do you remember when your kids
were teens and you would leave them at home alone, maybe for an hour or a
weekend?  If so then you know that the
most important thing that you wanted them to remember were your last words.
“I love you, remember your homework”,
“I love you don’t forget to do the dishes and clean your room.”  “I love you, remember no parties and don’t
burn the house down.” 
Some of Jesus’
last words to his kids, the apostles were read for us earlier.  Or at least a portion of those words, the
part that Mark recorded.  If we want to
capture all of those words we need to look in all three gospels and the book of
Acts.  And when we put them together we
get something like this:
But then
after 40 days of miracles, and teaching Jesus has this to say to His followers:
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father
promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you
with power from heaven.  But when the
Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people
about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends
of the earth. These signs will accompany those
who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new
languages. They will be able to handle snakes
with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They
will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them.  With my authority, take this message of
repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of
sins for all who turn to me.’ You are witnesses
of all these things.
Go
into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone
who refuses to believe will be condemned. Teach these new disciples to obey all
the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even
to the end of the age.”
Those
fragments by the way are found in Matthew 28:19-20,
Mark 16:15-19, Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 1:8-9. 
This is
week one of our “Hashtag This” series and over the next couple of months we
will be looking at various phrases and words in the bible that would warrant a
Hashtag. 
And
perhaps you are wondering:  What is a
hashtag?  According to Wikipedia: A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag
used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for
users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash
character (or pound sign) # (also known as number sign or octothorpe) in front
of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the
end.
So, in
this case each of those scriptures might have included the hashtag #gointoalltheworld
This is
also week one of Partner Month at Cornerstone. 
Each October at Cornerstone we highlight various partners who we have
chosen to work with to change the world. 
In today’s case you will hear from Selinda Van Horn who represents GP or
Global Partners, which is our sending partner. 
And the
reason that we have partners at Cornerstone can be summed up with
#gointoalltheworld.
The words
that were read for us earlier are in reality the mission statement of the early
church.  You know what a mission
statement is right?  It is when you have
boiled the purpose of your life or the life of your church down to a concise
statement of purpose. 
Over the
past three Sundays we’ve looked at why Cornerstone is what it is and why we do
things the way we do. 
And it
ultimately goes back to our mission statement. 
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exist 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.  That is our mission statement, the
short version is Cornerstone Church exists to reach
pre-Christians, the even shorter version is Cornerstone
exists to help de-populate hell. 
And if
Cornerstone Wesleyan Church does not 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, then we have failed to do what we set out to
do. 
The
greatest measure of our success is how well we fulfil our mission statement.
But it’s
more than that for you and for us because along with the mission statement that
we have for our church is Christianity’s mission statement which was given to
us by Jesus: “Christianity exists to make disciples
of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that I have
commanded.” 
If we are
not doing that then we have failed, so let’s look at the mission statement of
the church.
1)  What Is Supposed to be
Done
There has to be a reason why the
church is here and why the Lord leaves us in the world after we get saved.  I mean let’s think about it, the world is
cold and uncaring, full of pain and grief and heaven has none of that. And so
isn’t that where we really ought to be? 
But that isn’t where we are. 
So, why are we here and not there? In John
20:21
Jesus, tells His disciples why
they are being sent out John 20:21 “As the
Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
 So we are being sent by
Christ in the same way that Christ was sent by the Father, and why was that?  Apparently to help depopulate hell.  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.
Winning
the lost is the bottom line that’s why we are here, that ought to be the
mission statement of every Christian and every Christian Church, to reach the
lost. 
It was Charles Spurgeon who wrote:  “If sinners be
damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they
perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them
to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our
exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
Sounds
like Spurgeon was committed to keeping people out of hell.   
But more than that Jesus reminds us in John 10:10  . . .
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.   So how do we not only
help people obtain an eternal life when this life is over, but make the life on
this side of eternity a full life, an abundant life? 
Well, Jesus offered a couple of suggestions in his
teachings when he told the disciples in Matthew
5:13
  “You are the salt of the earth.” And so we are told that we are to be an influence in the world, both
preserving it and flavouring it as salt, and then Jesus added to that in the
next verse when He said Matthew
5:14
  “You are the light of the world.”  So we are to light
the way and brightening the world as light. 
2) Where
It’s Supposed to Be Done 
 Jesus told his
apostles in Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about
me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of
the earth.”   Today that might sound like this;
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And
you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Halifax,
throughout the Maritimes, in Canada, and to the ends of the earth.”
Basically that means everywhere. 
Too often we qualify the word missions by adding either foreign or home
to the beginning of it.  But the church
only has one mission and that is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them and teaching them to obey everything that Christ commanded.
We have
an obligation to reach people where ever there are people.
That
means that we have an obligation to reach our next door neighbour, to reach the
guy across the street, to reach the lady on the other side of town, those in Quebec
and California as well as those in Ghana and Haiti.
And it
needs to be intentional.  It won’t just
happen.  If we don’t plan a way for it to
happen then don’t count on it happening.
At
Cornerstone reaching the lost is a priority, not just in Hammonds Plains which
is our Jerusalem, but also in our Judea, our Samaria and to the very ends of
the earth. 
And early
on we realized that we wouldn’t be able to fulfil all of that mission by
ourselves.
3) Who is
Supposed to Be Doing It
If we were to look at who was there on the day of the ascension we would
discover the eleven remaining apostles, but the great commission had to have
been for the entire movement at that time, it wasn’t enough for those eleven to
be committed to evangelism without the rest of the group being committed as
well. 
The great
commission is meant to be a mission statement for all Christians.  It doesn’t matter what Christians call
themselves, whether it be Wesleyan, Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever.  They have a common mission and that is, to
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey
everything that Christ commanded. 
For
Christianity to survive, Christianity has to be committed to the mission of
winning the lost. 
When we
stop making disciples and stop baptizing people then at that point the Church
will begin to die, and it will die within one generation.
But the
great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of Christianity; it
needs to be a burning passion for the Wesleyan Church.  Without the desire to win souls to Jesus
Christ our denomination will become just another empty shell in the
ecclesiastical wastelands of our country.
But the
great commission has to go beyond simply being for all of the Wesleyan Church
it needs to be for this church right here. 
Without the desire to win souls to Jesus Christ our church will become
just a service club, we’ll be like the Lions or the Rotary Club. 
Not that
there’s anything wrong with the Lions or the Rotary club it’s just that they
are not the body of Christ and we are, or at least that’s what we are supposed
to be.

It would be so much easier to convince people
of the value of evangelism if the Bible said that the only way that you could
get into heaven is if you brought somebody with you, but it doesn’t. 

However, listen to the words of Christ in John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones
who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will
love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

You want to be loved by God and by
Jesus?  Sure you do.  Well here’s the ticket all you have to do is
to obey Christ’s commands and one of those is Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach
these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

If that
was a command of Christ and we don’t do it then John 14:21 says that we don’t
love him, and only those who love Christ are loved by the Father and only those
who are loved by the Father are going to get in.
4) How it’s
Supposed to Be Done 
The power of the Holy
Spirit is the means; the method is not defined.   Deng Xiaoping
said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as
long as it catches mice.”  When we
allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives neat things happen.  The Bible tells us in: Mark 16:17-18 (Jesus Said) These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe:
They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.
They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything
poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the
sick, and they will be healed.”
Now some
people get really caught up in those particular things, but they are simply
indications of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who
minister.  It is a promise of enablement
and protection. 
How many
people who were serving evil now serve God?
When Selinda
and Jesse move to their new field they are going to have to learn to  speak in a new tongue because their mother
tongue is English. 
When Val,
Joel and Dana were working in the clinic in Haiti last spring weren’t they placing
their hands on sick people to heal them? 
I don’t
think that you ever have to worry about me picking up snakes, and I think some
churches try to prove the deadly poison promise with the coffee they serve.
Sometimes
we get so caught up in how we should do it that we never do it.  It was Thomas Jefferson
who said “In matters of style swim with the current
in matters of principle stand like a rock.”
Do you
remember when Nike used the phrase “Just Do It.”?  I would like that to be my message to the
church, “Just Do it”  Listen again to the
promise of Christ in Acts 1:8 But you will
receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my
witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Canada, throughout the
Maritimes in Canada, and to the ends of the earth.”
There are
two things that happen when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, two evidences
of his presence. 1) We receive power 2) We will tell people about Jesus. 
If our
lives do not exhibit power and we are not witnesses than it would appear to be
very obvious that the Holy Spirit has never come upon us.
As far as
evangelism on a personal level that is all of our responsibility, you can no
more shirk that than you can walk past a drowning man and not throw him a
rope. 
But on a
broader spectrum there are those who God has called to reach people where you
can’t.  And that’s why we have partners.
We
realized very early in our existence that we couldn’t do it all, and in many
cases there were already people doing it. 
Which is why we have chosen to partner with organizations like Soul’s
Harbour, World Hope, Compassion, Open Doors and Global Partners in order to
change the world.
After all “Christianity exists to make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded.”

Gone. . .

For twenty years he was right there and she didn’t have a clue. 
Two decades ago Rita Wolfensohn’s life changed when her 29 year old son Louis moved out of the family home.  From that point on mother and son had no contact with each other.  That changed last month when the legally blind, elderly woman was hospitalized and her sister-in-law, Josette Buchman went to her home to pick up some personal belongings to take to the hospital.   Josette found the home in complete disarray, and to her shock discovered the fully intact skeleton of her nephew lying on a mattress on the floor.  Still dressed in jeans and a shirt, it was as if he had laid down and never woke up.
One police source commented “It’s like some reverse ‘Psycho’ scene,” but unlike Norman’s fetish with his dead mother,  Mrs. Wolfensohn maintains that her son moved out and authorities say the man died of natural causes.
What a tragedy.   The greater tragedy is that for twenty years Rita thought her son had cut her out of his life and no longer loved her.
The lesson here is to always make sure the ones we love know that we love them, that we always show it and that we always we say it.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.