Taking the My out of Money: The right Thing

Well, today is the day.  You ready? 
It’s April 30th the last day to get your taxes filed for 2016.  Or maybe you’ve already filed.  Maybe it depends on whether it you are
getting money back or paying money out.
And taxes are a touchy subject
for some folks, Politicians are elected or rejected often based on what they
promise to do with our taxes.  Oh, if we only had every tax cut
that had been promised to us by the parties who got elected into power.
A little history here, Canadian
Income Tax is a hundred years old this year. 
It was first instituted in 1917 to help pay for Canada’s efforts in the
First World War.  When the Canadian income
tax act was first printed in 1917 it had six pages.  Today it has 1412 pages.  In 1917 the average Canadian paid $14.00, that’s in today’s dollars and
the total collected represented 2.6 percent of total government revenue.  Today the average Canadian will pay $4,120.00
in income tax and the total collected represents over half of the total
government revenue. 
It was Albert Einstein
who said  “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the
income tax.”
And taxes have been a touchy
subject as long as there have been taxes being paid, and that has been for
quite a long time.  How do you think the
Egyptians built the pyramids, or the Mayans built their cities, or the Romans
constructed the aqueducts and coliseums?
And as long as there have been folks collecting taxes there have
been folks resenting having their taxes collected.  Throughout the New Testament the term “Tax
Collector” is often used in statements like Matthew 9:10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus
and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors
and other disreputable sinners.  Or Mark 2:16 But when the teachers of
religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other
sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” Nice. 
And when the religious leaders criticized
Jesus one of the charges was Matthew 11:19 . . .‘He’s a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
So here we are in week last of our Stewardship month.  You
can all breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s
almost over.
For
those who are visiting with us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual
event.  Each April I take the opportunity
to teach the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at
what the Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it
after we get it.  Nice thing is that
means I won’t ambush you about money throughout the year. 
And
we culminate Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which
happens today and we will be talking more about that later in the service. 

Sometimes pastors choose to not speak about money in church, maybe in hopes that somehow their people will learn about it on their own, perhaps by osmosis. 
Or maybe
it’s because they feel that talking about money is too personal or too obtrusive. but Jesus talked a lot about money, he
talked about the way people make it and what they do with it after they have
it. 
And because money is talked about
in the scriptures, and because Jesus seemed to attach a great deal of
importance to it, to the point of linking it to our eternities it is something
that needs to be addressed. And we can’t just ignore it because it bothers some
people and offends other people.
Seriously, what would happen if
every preacher prepared his messages in an effort to not offend or bother
anyone?  You might as well open fortune
cookies. 
Apparently Jesus wasn’t afraid to
express his opinion on a wide variety of topics that are deemed off limits
today.  People’s behaviour, people’s
attitudes and people’s money. 
Surprisingly though, especially
if you are in the habit of watching the political
situation in the States, Jesus never talked about politics.  He never told
people how to vote, never expressed a preference for a certain political party,
never wore a campaign button or endorsed any particular
candidate or political party.  Just
sayin’.
And this is how this particular Jesus story happened.  Luke
20:20  
Watching for their
opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to
get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he
would arrest Jesus.
Who were these leaders?  In
the other gospels we are told they were the Pharisees and some unlikely allies.
 In the NLT we are told they were
“supporters of Herod”  the actual word
used was “Herodians”.
So, on
one side you have the Pharisees, the religious elite of the Jews and on the
other side you have the Herodians who through their support of Herod, the puppet king of Palestine, are de-facto supporters of Rome.  What is that old saying about “strange bed-fellows”? 
And so this unlikely and unholy union sent
a group to ask Jesus a seemingly harmless question, Luke
20:20-22 
Watching for their opportunity, the
leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say
something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest
Jesus.  “Teacher,” they said, “we know
that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others
think. You teach the way of God truthfully. 
Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Now we need to understand that this was not just a innocent
question about Jesus’ philosophy on taxation. 
They were not talking about taxation in general they were speaking of a
very specific tax.  2000 years ago in
conquered Palestine there were several different layers of taxation, much as
there is today in our country. 
Those in the know tell us that there was a first of all a ground
tax. Kind of
like our property tax.  Then there was income tax, that’s self-explanatory.   And then there as what was called “the poll
tax” or the “Tribute”, which considering that we are in district 13 is kind of
funny.
 This tax had been put in
place when the Romans conquered Israel in in 63 B.C. and had to be paid by
every male from the age of fourteen to the age of sixty-five, and by every
female from the age of twelve to sixty-five. 
It was a tax paid simply for the privilege of being alive and living as
a subject of the Emperor. 
And people resented paying it. 
There had already been one rebellion, 25 years earlier, primarily over
this particular tax. So you see where this is going, right?  If Jesus speaks out in favour of the tax, the
ordinary people are going to be outraged; it will solidify what the religious
right has been saying about Jesus not being the Messiah. 
However if Jesus rejects the tax the Herodians will take the
report back to Herod, and eventually to the Romans, that Jesus is talking
treason and encouraging people to not pay their taxes. Win, win for the enemies
of Jesus, lose, lose for Jesus himself.  In
Australia, they would say it was a bit of a sticky wicket, here we would say
that Jesus was between a rock and a hard place. 
Doesn’t seem to bother Jesus though he doesn’t even break stride
let’s keep reading, Luke 20:23-24  He saw through their trickery and said,
 “Show me a Roman coin.”
Some people have commented that it shows that Jesus wasn’t
concerned about money because he didn’t even have a coin on him. But the coin he was talking about wasn’t
simply pocket change, it was a denarius. 
And it was a silver coin that was the equivalent of a full day’s
salary.  But I think it goes deeper than
that.  The problem with the coin was the
inscription on it. On one side would be a picture of the present ruler and the
inscription “Tiberius Caesar, son of Divine Augustus.”  This picture and the claim of quasi-divinity
made the coin a portable idol, is it any wonder that Jesus wasn’t carrying one
with him.
So they waited with baited breath, waiting to find out who Jesus
would offend, knowing that there was no way that he could come out of this
unscathed.  And let’s keep reading  Luke 20:24  “Show me a Roman
coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
Simple question, perhaps they thought he was simply stalling for
time and so they answered.  Luke 20:24 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
And I’m sure they were thinking . . . “and . . .” Luke 20:25  “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar
what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
And then we are told in Luke 20:26  So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people.
Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.  
The big question for us today is “So
what?”  What does that mean for us today?
Some of Your Money is the Government’s  Nobody
really likes paying taxes, that’s something that most of us have in common, we
think we pay too much and deep down think others pay too little.  We always assume the burden falls to those of
us in the middle.  The very poor don’t
pay tax and neither do the very rich. 
Most of us were not surprised at the attitude expressed by
American business woman Leona Helmsley.  Helmsley
was worth over a billion dollars, when an employee commented that she must pay
a lot of taxes when she said “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes…” She
took it as her due that she shouldn’t have to pay taxes. 
It was no surprise when Donald Trump didn’t deny paying income tax
instead he said that made him smart.
Of course Helmsley did go to jail for income tax evasion and maybe
someday the president will as well. 
But the reality is that all of those who enjoy what our country
has to offer should pay taxes.  It was
President Franklin D. Roosevelt who said “Taxes, are the dues that we pay for
the privileges of membership in an organized society.”
Jesus was acknowledging that there was benefit to being a part of
the Roman Empire.  The sword of Rome might have been wielded by an oppressor but
it had brought peace to the known world, something that hadn’t been seen in
hundreds of years. Road systems were developed for trade, water systems were
built and laws were being
enforced.  It wasn’t perfect but it was working. 
It was the Roman Historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus who wrote “The repose of
nations cannot be secure without arms. Armies cannot be maintained without pay,
nor can the pay be produced without taxes.”
We grumble and complain about government waste and extravagance
but as long as we want our public health care, as long as we want our children
educated, as long as we expect a degree of safety, both from outside forces and
from the criminal element there will be taxes that have to be paid.  If we expect safe water to come out of our taps when we turn them on, and if we
expect our streets to be plowed and our garbage to be picked up we will have to
pay taxes. 
And the more you travel the more you appreciate our system.  (Pictures from Africa)  Because this is what health care looks like
without the taxes we pay.  And this is
what education looks like without the taxes we pay.  And this is what main roads look like without
the taxes we pay.  This what the
drinking water supply looks like without the taxes we pay.  And
this is what dinner looks like . . . actually that has nothing to do with taxes
it’s just one of my favourite Africa meal pictures. 
And so Jesus was telling us that if we want all the benefits that
our tax dollars bring then we will have to pay taxes.   And I’m proud to pay taxes in Canada,
although truth be told I think I could be just as proud even if I only paid
half as much.
And maybe tax time can even be a time to be thankful.  You understand that you pay more in taxes
than your Grandparents, or maybe even your parents made.   When I was a teenager I remember my father telling me what he paid for income tax that year and he seemed excited about
it.  When I asked him why he said “Do you
know how much I had to make in order to pay that much in tax?”
And so today, as 2000 years ago there are taxes that must be paid,
and I also think that our Governments need to pay heed to other words from 2000
years ago as well, it was Emperor Tiberius Caesar who observed “It is the duty
of a good shepherd to shear his sheep, not to skin them.”
Some of Your Money is Yours  Then
there is the money that we get to keep. 
And this money comes with all kinds of choices.  Will we spend it or will we save it?  And what we will spend it on and what will we
save it for?   Most of us are familiar with
Christ’s words when he told his followers Luke 12:22 Then, turning to his
disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday
life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.”  And
while we are not to worry about such things we are still required to provide
them. 
And some of us make good choices and some of us make bad
choices. 
Every once in a while, you hear about someone who is desperate
financial straits and then they win the lottery. 
They are supposed to be a good news stories, but my first thought is
always “What is a someone who is desperate financial straits doing buying
lottery tickets?”  You
understand that is a message for a different time, but lotteries are really a
tax on the mathematically challenged.
If we spend more than we make eventually it will catch up with us,
if we spend our money to support our addictions, eventually that will catch up
with us. 
And I don’t think that Christians are supposed to be destitute but
I do believe that we are supposed to be responsible with what we have.  A good exercise for all of us is every once
is a while just sit down and figure out where you are spending your money.  Are you using it wisely or not? 
And that really is subjective, what you might consider wise I
might consider foolish.  But if you are
having trouble paying for food and shelter or if you have problems giving the
government their share or God his share then you may be spending it in places
that it shouldn’t be spent.  And those
are all part of the choices we make.
Some of Your Money is God’s  From
the very beginning
of the book people have offered up something
as an offering or as a sacrifice.  So in
Genesis and continuing throughout the Bible we see people returning part of
what they have to God.  Notice I said “returning” because we need to understand that all that we have comes from
God, from our lives to our livelihoods.  And
sometimes that was called offerings, and sometimes it was called sacrifices and
sometimes it was called a tithe.
And those
gifts, those sacrifices, those offerings were given for a couple of different reasons.  From the time the Israelites began gathering
together for corporate worship there were costs associated with that
worship. 
If you read through the Old Testament first there was the
Tabernacle, which was like a portable temple that needed to be constructed and
maintained.  There were priests who led
the people into worship who needed to be paid, there were scrolls and ink for recording
the scriptures that needed to be purchased. 
There were sacrifices and offerings that were part of their worship
which needed to be provided.  And God
called on his people to provide for those expenses.  There was a fiscal responsibility to their worship. 
Could God have done it without the giving of his people?  Sure he’s God.  But he knew that anything in life that
doesn’t cost you something isn’t worth anything. 
Today there is still that
practical aspect of our worship.  If you
want to worship under a tree by yourself there will probably be very little
practical cost associated with that. 
However, if you want to come together corporately to worship there are
costs associated with that.  We’ve talked
about this before.  Before we even look
at salaries at Cornerstone there is a building to be paid for and
maintained. 
There are mortgage payments that
have to be made every month, there is power that needs to be paid to light and
heat the building, there are cleaning supplies and insurance and snowplowing
and lawn mowing.
And we need to have people come
in to inspect and maintain the alarms and emergency lighting and to inspect and
clean the Heating and Ventilation system and to take away the garbage.  
And that is before we do anything
in the building.  And then there are the
salaries and curriculum and licensing costs that allow us to provide the
ministries for you and your family.
Do we require that people at
Cornerstone give?  Yep, sure do.  Does that mean that if you don’t give you
can’t worship here?  Nope.  Does that mean that if we are going to send
someone around to your door looking for your offering envelope?  Nope.   
But if you don’t give there will
be no Cornerstone.  You understand that
right?   If the people of Cornerstone didn’t make the sacrifices necessary to pay the
bills then the staff would be laid off, the building
would be sold and there would be no Cornerstone.  Because there is no magical pot that we go to
for our funds.  Every dollar in our budget comes from those
who call Cornerstone their church home.
But more than just the practical side of giving is the spiritual
side of giving.  Because even if you were
worshipping under a tree by yourself there should still be a sense of giving
back to God.  Early in the story that was
called making sacrifices and it involved bringing meat, grain, wine or oil and
offering it to God as a gift. 
Did God need those things? 
No he is God.  But it goes back to
anything that doesn’t cost you anything isn’t really worth anything, including
your worship.  Because it allows us to
acknowledge that what we have comes from God and to be thankful for that which
we keep.       
And very early in the story it is
laid down what God’s people are to return to God, When the law was laid down
over three thousand years ago it was written Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from
the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart
to him as holy.”  And it was
reiterated in Deuteronomy
14:22
“You must set aside a tithe of your
crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.”      
And often when you bring up the tithe people will tell you that
the tithe is an Old Testament concept, and that is a sermon in itself, but when
Paul was writing about money to the church in Corinth this is what he wrote. 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion
of the money you have earned. The
believers in Corinth had a Jewish heritage so I wonder what they assumed when
Paul said that should put aside a portion of the money they had earned.
And then they will go on to tell you that the Tithe was used for
something very specific and that is true, listen to the words of the prophet Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. The tithe was provided so that the temple and all that was
involved in temple worship could be maintained. 
And we don’t have a temple and priests and scribes but we do have a
church and we do have a pastoral staff. 
So what is the tithe?  Tithe
simply means tenth and throughout the word of God the concept is reiterated
that all that we have comes from God but he requires a tenth of it back.  For the people of God this does not mean that
we give God ten percent of what is ours, it means that He allows us to keep
ninety percent of what is His. 
Now listen to the last part of that verse from Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the
storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD
of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out
a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to
the test!
And so God tells his people, “If
you tithe, if you return to me ten percent of what I have given to you then I
will bless you.” 
You see when we give to God, we
are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.
But it really doesn’t matter what
I say today, the past two message we talked about why people gave the little
things to God and the big things to God. 
And the reasons were the same. 
They loved God and they believed in the mission.  And those are the same reasons you will
choose to give to God through Cornerstone. 
And as a side note, we live in a great country where if you give
to God what is God’s than Caesar won’t want nearly as much. 

When you do up your taxes this year and you use the receipt that
is provided by Cornerstone for your giving you will discover that Caesar will
give you a break on your taxes.  If you
gave a hundred dollars a week, which is the tithe on a fifty-thousand-dollar salary, then you will save over $2,500.00 on your
taxes.  And to quote F. J. Raymond
“Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is quite as satisfying as an income
tax refund.”

A Free Trade? Not.

There’s been a lot of talk of free trade in the news lately.  You might recall that one of the planks in Donald Trump’s election was to re-visit NAFTA to ensure that Americans were being treated fairly when it came to cross border commerce.  And it seems that’s one promise he’s set to deliver on.
Last week the President blasted the Canadian dairy Industry and this week he imposed duties on Canadian lumber that he feels is unfairly subsidized.  United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated  “This is not our idea of a properly functioning free trade agreement.”  Ross went on to sum things up by stating “It has been a bad week for U.S.-Canada trade relations.”  You think?  
But in most cases of trade, someone benefits more than someone else.  And the greatest example of that is the example of grace.
Grace is a great deal for us.  For us it means forgiveness and salvation and eventually a life forever with God.  But for God, grace cost Him His Son, for Jesus’ grace cost Him His life. 
If it is really grace and not just a trade agreement, then the one who gives grace never counts the cost and those of us who receive grace should never stop counting the cost.

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

Taking the My out of Money: The Big Things

Two weeks ago I spoke about the little things, the minutia,
the details.  In that case it was the
details that would have been involved in supporting Jesus and his
disciples.  And I looked at Luke
8:1-3.  In particular the verse that said
Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had
cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager;
Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support
Jesus and his disciples.
Do you remember why they
contributed their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples?  That’s right because they loved Jesus and
believed in the mission.  But that was 2
weeks ago when I spoke about the little things, the minutia, and the
details. 
This is April, which often means
Easter and always means weird weather.  At
Cornerstone, April is the Month that we call Stewardship Emphasis month, or as
it redubbed a number of years ago, Money Month.
Those who have been a part of
Cornerstone for a while know the why and the how of Money Month, but we will
catch the rest of you up.
For the first 7 years of our
existence Cornerstone operated like most other churches.  In the spring, just before the new church
year, we would sit down as a leadership team and draw up a budget for the
upcoming year.  And usually the budget
was based on the previous year’s budget with an increase, because we needed to
take a step of faith.  I’m not even sure
that we needed to have met the previous year’s budget before we used it as our template.
But the budget was kind of a wish
list, we want to do this, we have to do this and we need to do this and then
we’d put it all together and call it a budget. 
   
And because we’d really only done
one side, the expense side we’d ultimately end up having problems at some point
through the year with the other side, the income side. 
And when the money issue would
inevitably come up with the leadership team there were always 2
suggestions.  Denn needs to put in the
bulletin what our short fall is so people know and Denn needs to preach on
money.
And I always had a problem with
both of those suggestions.  Putting it in
the bulletin is just discouraging and for the folks we are trying to reach it
sends a really dismal message.  And the
Denn preaching on money, that gets old really quick when you know the only
reason Denn is preaching on money is because there are money problems.
So in 2002 we decided to do
something different.  I would take a
month and preach on the theology of generosity because it was April, not
because we were in a bad financial situation. 
And then at the end of the month we would ask those who called
Cornerstone their church home to fill out an estimate of giving card, which looks
like this. 
And it is exactly what it says it
is. It is a card where you estimate what you will be able to give in the up
coming year.  And we use those cards to
set the budget for the upcoming year. 
And not a nickel more, we used to say not a penny more, but then they
did away with the penny.    
So two weeks ago we spoke about
the little things, this week I am going to be speaking about a big thing, as a
matter of fact you might even say it was a BHAG or Big Hairy
Audacious Goal.   I don’t know if you are familiar with the term
but it comes from Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great”.  
Here is how Collins’ defines a BHAG:  “A true BHAG is clear
and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst
for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the
organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for
finish lines.”
And this was in the truest sense
a BHAG.  We first read about it in a
discussion that King David had with his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:7 “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honour the name of the Lord
my God,” David told him.  For four hundred years the people of Israel
had been worshipping God in a temporary facility, the tabernacle which God
himself had provided inspiration for to Moses. 
But the time had come as a nation that King David felt there needed to
be a permanent spiritual home for the people of God.  Sounds like a good idea, I’ve known other
leaders who have cast the vision for a permanent place of worship.    But listen to the rest of the story that
David told his son, 1 Chronicles 22:8 “But the
Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And
since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build
a Temple to honour my name.
Now personally if I was David I
would be a little confused, after all he might have shed blood but he was just
following God’s commands and for the most part he was defending Israel against
the Philistine and Amalekites and everyone else who thought they should have a
piece of Israel, some things never change. 
But I’m not David and I’m not
God.  And the issue here wasn’t an issue
of whether David was obedient or disobedient instead it was a matter of God’s
timing and apparently, God’s temple was to be built during a time of peace and
not one of conflict because God told David that Solomon would be able to do
what David could only dream of doing. 
And that was to build the temple. 
I think it says a lot about David
that even though he knew he wouldn’t get to build the temple he did his very
best to see that the temple got built, the temple didn’t just magically appear,
it happened because people gave to make it happen and that takes us to the
scripture that was read earlier.    1 Chronicles 29:3 “And
now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own
private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in
addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy
Temple.”
So the first thing is that It was Sacrificial Giving   Not only did David tell the people that
he was going to give in front of God and everyone he tells them exactly how
much he is giving.  1 Chronicles 29:4 I am donating more than
112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying
the walls of the buildings Now David could have simply said “I’m really,
really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of gold and
silver.”     But
he didn’t, he said I’m giving 224,000 lbs of gold, 464,000 lbs of silver.  Now we don’t know what that was worth in
their economy. There was no currency as we know it in Israel at that time, but
in today’s dollars that much Gold would be worth close to 10 billion dollars
Canadian.  And to quote Senator Everett
Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real
money”.
And it wasn’t just the king who
gave, let’s keep reading in 1 Chronicles 29:6-7 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the
tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s
administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the Temple
of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of
silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron.
Now understand, the tithe was
already a part of life for the Jewish people, including the King.  They were already contributing 10% but this
wasn’t their tithe and this wasn’t in place of their tithe, this was over and
above their tithe.  And if they were like
most people in most cultures than I would suspect that the gifts that were
given for the temple cost these folks something, there were other things they
could have used those gifts for, bigger homes, nicer chariots, new robes and
yet they opted to give it, sacrificially to God’s work.
From the looks of it they gave
some really neat stuff.  Gold, silver and
precious stones.  If you get into the
description of the temple being built it was the very best of everything that
was used.  Why?  Because apparently just good enough wasn’t
what Solomon and the Jewish people wanted to present to their God.  They wanted their offerings to mean something
and in order for it to mean something it had to be a sacrifice.   A sacrifice is by definition, a sacrifice.  It is when you give up something of value for
something or somebody who you think is more valuable than what you are giving
up.
Often I hear people say “Well
today people aren’t familiar with sacrifice.” 
Sure we are.  In each of our lives
we all are familiar with making sacrifices, perhaps not for God but you will make
sacrifices for something.  Maybe you will
make sacrifices so your children can be in sports or band or go to a private
school or get a tutor.  Or maybe you’ll
make sacrifices so you can drive a nicer car, live in a better home or have a
better retirement. Some people make sacrifices for causes that aren’t nearly as
noble.  If you smoke what is it in your
life that you sacrifice for your cigarettes? 
If you drink, what is it you give up to buy a case of beer or a bottle
of liquor?  If you gamble what else could
you or should you have spent that money on?  
You see when you choose to spend money on one thing instead of on
something else you have made a sacrifice. 
For better or for worse.
And the amount of the sacrifice
is directly proportional to how much you care for the person or object you are
making the sacrifice for.  Care a lot,
sacrifice a lot, care a little sacrifice a little. 
You cannot love much and give little. 
And it doesn’t have to do with
how much you spend instead it’s how much you sacrifice.  What might be a sacrifice for me might not be
much of a sacrifice for you. Does that make sense? 
When we were building this
building our theme for the capital campaign was “Not equal giving but equal
sacrifice.”  And that is still the reality;
God doesn’t call for equal giving he calls for equal sacrifice.
So when it comes to what you give to God is it sacrificial or is
it just superficial?
Let’s go back to 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I
am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the
construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already
collected for his holy Temple.”  So
you remember whose words these were right? 
They were King David’s.  The most
powerful and richest man in the Kingdom. 
So the next thing we discover about this story is that It was Top Down Giving  It would have been so easy for David to
have said “We are going to give a bunch of money to build the temple, and by
“we” I mean you.”  
David didn’t expect his people to
do something that he wasn’t willing to do. And it didn’t stop with David, the
story goes on in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family
leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the
army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.
All of the leaders of Israel came
to the party because they believed in what was being done and they wanted to be
a part of it and they wanted to demonstrate their commitment. 
I think it says something about
God when we read 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.”  God, creator of the universe loved us
so much that he what?  He gave.  And what did he give?  He gave his one and only son.  Do you remember what Jesus told the apostles
during the last supper?  Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the
new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood,
which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. 
So the example set for us by God
is one of giving and sacrifice.  He
doesn’t just demand that his people give, he gave.  And he gave the very best he had to give.
And God continues to give.  Do you believe that all you receive comes
from God?
At Cornerstone you can be assured
that those in leadership are givers. 
Over 7% of our weekly budget comes from our staff, and one of the
requirements of being on the leadership team at Cornerstone is that you are a
sacrificial giver.
And David not only told the
people he was going to give he told them what he was going to give, remember 1 Chronicles 29:4-5 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of
refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings and for the
other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will
follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?”  I
wonder if there were people who were upset because David publically declared
how much he was giving?   Maybe they
didn’t mind that he said he was going to give but they were a little cranky
because he named amounts.
Cornerstone went through a
capital campaign in order to raise the initial capital needed for this building
and as a part of the process Angela and I along with some of the leaders told
the congregation how much we were going to commit to our building project over
that three year period. 
And I know that there were some
folks in the congregation who wondered why I had to state it publicly. Why I
didn’t just stand up and say “I’m really, really, really committed to this and
so I’m going to give a bunch of money.”     
I don’t think David did it to
prove how special he was, everyone knew that David was the richest man in the
Kingdom.  It wasn’t going to benefit him
much because 25 verses later he died.  I
don’t think he did it to shame people into giving. 
When I decided to tell the church
how much I was giving it wasn’t so you would think, “Wow that Denn is a great
guy.”   If you are going to base that on
money there are a lot of people out there that can do more than I can do, does
that make them greater?   I certainly
didn’t do it to shame people into giving as much as I was giving. 
The reason that David announced
for everyone to hear the amount of his gift was for one reason and one reason
only.  To show that he was committed to
the process.  Listen again to his words
1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my
God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in
the construction.”
The reason I tithe to Cornerstone
now is the same reason I announced how much my contribution would be the new
building, because I am committed to seeing our vision accomplished.  And for anyone who cares I can show you my
T-4 and my giving receipt from Cornerstone.  In other words I am willing to put my money
where my mouth is.
Neither myself or our staff or
the leadership team expects others here to do what they don’t do.
Let’s continue with the story, I
love the line in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family
leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the
army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.  Did you catch the last three
words?  All gave willing.
It was Voluntary Giving  This was not a tax that the king imposed to
build the temple it was voluntary.  The
people of Israel caught the vision for building the temple and they wanted to
be involved. 
And when everything was said and
done we read in 1 Chronicles 29:9  The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had
given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD, and King David was filled with
joy.
And that wasn’t the only example
of people giving willingly, listen to what Paul wrote about the church in
Corinth 2000 years ago, 2 Corinthians 8:10 Last year you were the first who wanted to give,
and you were the first to begin doing it.
And then there were Paul’s comments
on the Christ followers in Macedonia  2 Corinthians 8:2-4
They are being tested by many troubles, and
they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has
overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what
they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They
begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the
believers in Jerusalem.
You probably remember the story
of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts.  If not, here’s a recap.  They had seen how others in the church had
sold property and given it to the church so the kingdom could advance.  So they sold a piece of property and gave the
proceeds to the apostles for the church.
And that’s fine but they didn’t
give all of the money only a portion of it, and that was fine. 
But they told the church that
they gave it all and that wasn’t fine. 
We pick up the story in Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter
said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy
Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to
sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours
to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but
to God!”  And if you know the
story the fear of the Lord came over Ananias and he dropped dead.  But it wasn’t what he gave and it wasn’t what
he kept that was the issue, it was that he lied to God. 
And really, your giving to
Cornerstone is voluntary.  We don’t tell
people, “Unless you give you can’t come to Cornerstone.”  We don’t hold you up by your feet after the
service and shake you to make sure we got all your money and we don’t ask for
anyone’s T-4 to make sure they are tithing.
Let me end with two
thoughts:  In the Old Testament God asks
his people a rhetorical question through the prophet Malachi and then he
answers it himself in Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated
me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have
cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”  Interesting,
when we don’t give God what is due God then the bible says we are cheating God.
And I know that sometimes we just
can’t get our heads around the math, how can we give when it seems we spend all
that we have now.  Leonard Nimoy said
“The
miracle is the more we share, the more we have.”  When you think about it that’s not
logical but those that share would tell you it is a reality.
Why did David and the leaders of
Israel and the people give to see the temple constructed?  2 reasons ,they are deep so you want to write
them down this could have been all the of the sermon  They gave because they loved God and they
gave because they believed in the mission.

Live Forever

Have you heard about the research venture called “The Methuselah Project”? Those of you with a grasp of the Old Testament have probably made the leap already.  The Methuselah Project is looking into ways that we can stop or maybe even reverse the aging process. 
As I read about medical advances and genomes, the benefit of a healthy diet and of regular exercise, they spoke about the possibility of people living to be hundreds of years old.  And so, I wondered, what happens if you get hit by a truck or eaten by a bear?  You might not be health food, but you’d certainly be healthy food. 
The quest to live forever goes back to the Garden of Eden and we are no closer to living forever on earth now than the first couple was then.  Think about it; if we did discover an answer, we’d soon have to start feeding people to bears or we’d run out of space on spaceship earth.
Looking at the big picture though, as Christ Followers, we already have the answer to finding eternal life, it’s given to us in 1 John 5:13  I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

Rediscover Easter

Rediscovering Easter
He was dead, and with him died
all of their dreams, all of their hopes everything they believed in.  They had given everything to him, their past,
their present even their future and up until three days ago it seemed like a
pretty good bargain.  All he had wanted
was everything, and they gave it.  All he
had asked was that they believe and oh how they had believed. And why not they
had seen the impossible, they hadn’t just thought the impossible, that’s easy,
what was it the Queen of Hearts told Alice, “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things
before breakfast.”   They had seen
the impossible, they had seen blind men see, they had seen lame men walk, and
they had seen dead men live.  They
believed with all their hearts, but not anymore, now their beliefs were as dead
as their master was.
And there was nothing to do but
to go home, to leave Jerusalem, to leave their hopes to leave their dreams and
just go home.  They might as well try and
recover their yesterdays because their tomorrows were as dead as Jesus
was. 
They had seen him beaten, they
seen him crucified, they had seen him killed and they had seen him buried and
they knew the dream was as dead as the dreamer. 
Unless, unless it was true what Mary had seen, she had seen an empty tomb,
she had seen empty grave clothes and she had seen Jesus.  And if that was the case than he wasn’t dead,
he was alive.  And if he was alive than
everything was going to be all right. 
I went and saw the Passion of the
Christ when it first came out and a friend asked me how I felt about it and I
told them “Disturbing”.  And he looked at
me a little strange and said “really, I really enjoyed it.”  Seriously? 
I find that disturbing as well.  
And the reason I found the
Passion disturbing is because crucifixion is disturbing.  But Christianity is not about the crucifixion
of Christ it’s about his resurrection, Christianity is not about his death it’s
about his life. 
It’s not about mourning it’s
about celebrating.  The first Easter
morning 2000 years ago must have begun as a bit of a downer, a dreary affair,
with Jesus followers remembering what had happened, remembering the horror of
Friday, remembering that their friend was dead and their dreams were
shattered.  But then the cry rang out
he’s alive, the tomb is empty.  And then,
it happened, as quickly as turning on the lights, they weren’t mourning his
being dead they were celebrating his being alive.  It wasn’t defeat it was victory.  Because he wasn’t dead he was alive and the
tomb is empty. 
But how do we know that? Well we
do know from history that on the third day the body of Christ was missing.  So where was it?  We believe, as did the early church, that
Christ had risen from the dead that there was actually a physical resurrection.  It wasn’t a spiritual metaphor or a mass
hallucination or a colossal hoax.   
However, throughout the years
there have been other theories put forward as well. 
Last week a movie opened in town
called “The Case for Christ”, it’s about Lee Strobels and how he came to faith.
Strobel’s was an atheist as well
as an investigative reporter and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune.  He wrote the book “Reckless
Homicide” which was an exposé into Ford Motor’s cover-up of
the problem they were having with the Pinto’s exploding gas tank.
When Strobel was 28 years old his
wife became a Christian at Willow Creek Community Church.  He was beside himself, figured that Leslie
had been duped by a brainwashing cult and so he began to investigate the claims
of Christianity.   
His motives were to show his wife
that Christianity couldn’t possibly be true, instead through that journey he
himself became a believer.   After his
conversion he wrote the book “The Case for Christ”  which chronicled his investigation and is the
basis for the movie. 
I have been a Lee Strobel fan
since I read his book “Inside the mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary” in
1992.  Angela and I went to the movie
last week and it is well worth watching.
 In his book “The Case for Easter” Strobel wrote, “The
starting point seemed obvious to me: Clearly, the resurrection was the linchpin
of the Christian faith.  After all,
anyone can claim to be the Son of God. 
But if someone could substantiate the assertion by returning to life
after being certifiably dead and buried — well, that would be a compelling
confirmation that he was telling the truth. Even for a sceptic like me.”
The first thing that Strobel
wanted to confirm was that Jesus actually died on the cross. 
After all there have been those
who have maintained that he only passed out on the cross and came to in the
cool air of the tomb. What Strobel discovered was that when presented with the
gospel accounts of the crucifixion modern doctors felt that there was little
chance that Christ could have survived the torture described there. 
Dr. William D. Edwards is a cardiovascular Pathologist at the Mayo Clinic and he wrote in the Journal of the American Medical
Association “Clearly, the weight of the historical and
medical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead before the wound in his side was
inflicted . . . Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus
did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”
Once Strobel was satisfied that
Jesus was really dead when he was placed in the tomb he needed to affirm that
one of the apostles hadn’t stolen the body. 
The strongest argument for that is that every one of the apostles was
tortured for their faith and for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
And while there are all kinds of people who will lie there are very few who
will maintain that lie in the face of torture and death. 
The same apostles who hid while
Jesus was being tortured encountered something or someone that gave them
unprecedented power, and according to the scriptures, that something or someone
was the risen Christ. Strobel wrote “The disciples didn’t merely believe in the resurrection:
they knew whether it was fact or fiction. Had they known it was a lie, they
would never have been willing to sacrifice their lives for it. Nobody willing
dies for something that they know is false. They proclaimed the resurrection to
their deaths for one reason alone: they knew it was the truth.”
Chuck Colson was known as Nixon’s Hatchet man, he was part
of the Watergate Seven.  While serving
time for what happened at Watergate Colson became a Chirstian.  He would later write about the resurrection:
“I know
the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men
testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that
truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured,
stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.
Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t
keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for
40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Strobel then lists the various
people whom the bible said Jesus had appeared to after the resurrection and
said that if you called each of them to a witness stand to be cross examined
about what they saw and allowed them 15 minutes to explain that the total
testimony time would be 129 hours.  In
other words, it would take you from breakfast on Monday until
Friday at dinner time listening
around the clock to hear the testimony of those witnesses.  
But what did that really mean,
other than the obvious that Jesus wasn’t dead?
Because the Tomb Was Empty His
Enemies Knew they Were Wrong 
The Jewish
Religious leaders said he was a liar and a blasphemer.  The Roman Government said he was deluded and
harmless.  Judas felt he had backed the
wrong horse and that Jesus was a fraud.
And if
Jesus had of remained in the grave then they would have all been proven right,
but the grave was empty and they were wrong.


But
really, Easter wasn’t about who was proven wrong.  Judas had already taken his own life, Pilate
didn’t care who Jesus really was when he had him crucified and still didn’t
care and the Jewish leaders still felt threatened by the teaching and life of
Jesus.  To admit they were wrong now
would signal the end to their power and influence.
But the
empty tomb would change the lives of those closest to Jesus and ultimately
would change the face of the world.
Because the Tomb Was Empty Peter Knew
He Was Forgiven
You remember
Peter don’t you?  Peter who was one of
the twelve.  Peter who was one of the
inner circle.  Peter who was one of
Jesus’ closest friends. 
It was Peter who walked on water,
it was  Peter who offered to die for
Jesus and it was Peter who grabbed a sword in the garden and tried to fight off
those sent to arrest his friend.
And it was the same Peter who
denied he even knew Christ, not once, not twice but three times.
Jesus had been arrested and his
followers scattered, all but two of them disappeared.  John and Peter followed Christ, but not
together.  We don’t really know if John
was challenged about knowing Christ, and if he was we don’t what his response
was.  But we do know what happened in the
case of Peter.
Biblical Scholars tell us that
the Book of Mark was probably the first gospel written.  The same scholars tell us that even though it
was written by a young man named John Mark that he was probably just acting as
a secretary for someone else.  Someone
who had been an eye witness to everything that Christ had done.  And that somebody was in all probability
Peter. 
With that is mind let read
Peter’s account in Mark 14:67-72 and noticed
Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You
were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.” But Peter denied it. “I don’t know
what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just
then, a rooster crowed. When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began
telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” But Peter denied it
again. A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said,
“You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.” Peter swore, “A curse on
me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And immediately
the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through
Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that
you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.
Come on Peter, what is going
on?  This is Jesus, the same Jesus that
called you from being a fisherman and turned you into a fisher of men.  The same Jesus that walked on the water, fed
the hungry, healed your mother in law and raised Lazarus from the dead.
You don’t know him?  You practically lived with him for the past
three years and you don’t know him? You ate together, travelled together,
laughed together and you don’t know him? 
He taught, you learned.  Maybe you
simply forgot that you knew him.  What
was it you couldn’t remember?  Was it
when you said in Luke 9:20  “You are the Messiah sent from God!”or
was it when you said in Matthew 14:33 “You really
are the Son of God!”
Peter do you even have the
slightest recollection of saying to Jesus in Mark 14:29
Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”  Or Mark 14:31 No
Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny
you!”
But you did deny him, not once,
not twice but three times.  And if Jesus
had stayed in the tomb than Peter would have lived a life of defeat.  Wallowing in guilt, self-pity and grief.  But Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb.  And when the two Marys found the tomb empty,
and the angel told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the angel
told them in Mark
16:7
Now go and tell his disciples, and
especially Peter, . . .
Especially Peter.  Peter who denied him, Peter who swore that he
didn’t know him, Peter who turned his back on him when he need Peter the
most.  Not to fight for him, not to try
and rescue him from the Roman Centurions. 
He just needed Peter to be there. 
He needed to see Peter in the crowd needed to know that those three
years weren’t wasted.  He didn’t need
Peter to die for him; he simply needed Peter to live for him.  And Peter denied he ever knew him.
And when Jesus hung on the cross,
with the blood from the crown of thorns dripping into his eyes, and he pulled
himself up by the iron nails driven through his wrists and said
Father forgive them, he was
looking for Peter.  Mark Twain said “Forgiveness
is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” And
that was certainly the case here as Jesus looked out at those who betrayed him,
denied him.  Those who demanded his
death, and those who gave into those demands. 
But that forgiveness is powerless
unless it comes from one who has the power to forgive. Unless it came from one
who had the power to say, defeat death. 
Without the resurrection that forgiveness would have been worthless,
simply more words from a prophet proved wrong by his death.  But when he stepped out of the tomb
everything he said, everything he taught was proved to be right.  And his forgiveness became a certainty.
Have you denied him?  With your words, with your behaviour? Have
you wondered whether or not Jesus could ever forgive you? The answer is “Yes”,
not only can he forgive you, he wants to forgive you and his resurrection
proves that he has the power to forgive you, if that is what you want. 
When Peter realized what he had
done, the Bible says he broke down and cried, that was remorse, he was sorry
for what he had done.  God’s forgiveness
is there for each one of us but first we need to acknowledge our wrongs, and be
sorry that we did it, not just sorry we got caught doing it, but sorry that we
disappointed Jesus.
Because the Tomb Was Empty Thomas
Knew He Was Blessed
You ever get tagged with a
nickname?  Especially one you didn’t
like.  You have to feel sorry for
Thomas.  This was the disciple that
tradition says was responsible for taking the gospel to India. We are told that
he was martyred for his faith in the Indian city of Madras. 
If you read through the accounts
of Thomas in the Gospels you see a young man fully devoted to Christ.  And yet how do we know him?  Not by his first nickname, which is what the
other apostles called him, they called him “The Twin.”  I wonder what they called his brother?    
And yet 2000 years later we still
call him “Doubting Thomas”  Why?  One mistake, one lousy mistake.   John 20:24-25 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),
was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the
Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his
hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
As if he was the only one who had
doubted.  When the women first came with
the news of the resurrection, well let’s pick up the story where we left off. Luke 24:10-11 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and
several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story
sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.
Doubting Thomas indeed.  But he probably verbalized it better, saying
I won’t believe unless I can see it myself. 
Not a impossible or unreasonable request considering the time and
circumstances.  Not like Woody Allen who said “If
only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name
at a Swiss bank.”
All Thomas was saying was “you’ve
seen him, if I’m going to believe than I need to see him too.”  Not unreasonable at all.  And when he saw Christ he believed, he looked
at him and said “My Lord and my God”.   And do you remember what Jesus said John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.
Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”  
That’s you, blessed are you who
haven’t seen him and believe anyway.  You
do believe in the resurrection don’t you? 
You can’t take bits and pieces of the Bible, believe some of it but not
the rest.  Augustine
said “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and
reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
If you don’t believe that Christ
rose from the dead why are you here?  If
I didn’t believe I could think of a dozen other things I’d rather be doing than
being in church on a Sunday morning. 
Everything that Jesus Christ said
and did could be duplicated or fabricated right up to his resurrection.  But at that point it became very apparent that
he was not a man, he was not just a prophet or a teacher.  He was and still is God.  And what does that mean for you on April 16,
2017?  Well in Romans 4:25 The
Bible says Romans
4:25
He was handed over to die because of
our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.  And again in Romans 6:4
And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the
Father, now we also may live new lives.
Have you been made right with
God?  Are you leading a new life?  That’s why Jesus was raised from the dead, so
that you could be forgiven, so that you could believe and so that you could
have a new life. And all you have to do is reach out and accept it.
Maybe today you can identify
with  Lee
Strobel when he wrote “As soon as I reached
that monumental verdict, the implications were obvious. If Jesus overcame the
grave, he’s still alive and available for me to personally encounter.” And
encounter him he did on November 8, 1981. Perhaps you will point to April 16,
2017 as the date of your encounter with the risen Christ.
Because the tomb is still empty

The Little Things

When you stop and think about it,
it’s the little things, the minutiae.  I
can get my head around the miracles in the New Testament, miracles are by
definition miracles.  You either believe
them or you don’t.  So I don’t struggle
with how Jesus fed the five thousand that was a God thing, a miracle and by
definition miracles are miraculous.  He
took the little bit the boy had to offer and multiplied it to feed
thousands.  And there are all kinds of
lessons we learn from that miracle, the concern that Jesus had for the hungry
crowd, the sacrifice that the boy was willing to make and the faith that the
apostles had when they started handing out the food.  It is a great story and one that I’ve
preached on before.  It would definitely
fit in with the “Taking the My out of Money” theme from this year.
And so I don’t ever wonder about
the mechanics of how Jesus fed thousands of people one afternoon but on the
other hand I do wonder how he fed the twelve, day after day, week after week
and month after month for three years. 
And where they slept each night and what they did when their sandals
wore out.  You know the little things the
minutiae. 
You ever wonder about stuff like
that?  Probably not, maybe before today
it never crossed your mind.  And probably
the vast majority of people who heard Jesus preach and watched him heal the
sick and those who ate tuna fish sandwiches on a hillside two thousand years
ago never gave it a second thought.
They enjoyed the teaching they
heard, they laughed when Jesus told stories of men straining a gnat out of
their drink but swallowing a huge camel and people with beams in their eyes
trying to take sawdust specks out of the eyes of others.  They marvelled at the beatitudes and pondered
the parables that he told, but they never really thought about the little
things, the minutiae.
And maybe if people had brought
up the little stuff that needed taken care of the response of some would be
“Don’t sweat the little stuff” or “you just have to trust that God will take
care of those things.”
But that didn’t mean that the
little things weren’t important, as a matter of fact if the little things
hadn’t been taken care of than the big things wouldn’t have happened.  How long could the ministry have continued
without Peter, James and John and the other nine guys eating?  Or finding a place to crash at the end of the
day.  And so we have the scripture that
was read earlier this morning.
Luke tells us in chapter 8 that
Jesus travelled from town to village teaching and preaching about the Kingdom.  And apparently he didn’t go alone because we
are told   Luke 8:1-3 . . .He took
his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil
spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out
seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and
many others . . .
Kind of interesting the mix we
have here.  There are the twelve
apostles, which of course is to be expected. 
And then we are told that there were some women who had been cured of
evil spirits and diseases.  We really
don’t know how many women there were in the group, only three are actually
named, and of those three this is the only time we hear the name Susanna. But
we are told that there were many others. 

I think it’s neat though what we know about the other two, we are told that
Mary Magdalene had seven demons cast out of her and that is really all we know
about Mary.

And you might be thinking, “But I
thought?”  I know what you thought, through
the centuries she has been cast in roles as diverse as being a prostitute or
being the wife of Christ. 
But all we know is that she had
seven demons cast out of her and she was from Magdala and she was a follower of
Christ.  When the Da Vinci code came out
as a movie I preached a message called “There is Something About Mary” and if
you want more information about Mary let me know and I will
send you the manuscript.
With Easter next week here is an interesting
story.   According to one
legend we owe Easter Eggs to Mary. One tradition says that following the death
and resurrection of Jesus, Mary used her position to gain an invitation to a
banquet given by Emperor Tiberius Caesar. When she met him, she held a plain
egg in her hand and exclaimed “Christ is risen!” Caesar laughed, and said that
Christ rising from the dead was as likely as the egg in her hand turning red
while she held it. Before he finished speaking, the egg in her hand turned a
bright red, and she continued proclaiming the Gospel to the entire imperial
house.
That was a freebie.
And then there was Joanna, the wife of Chuza,
Herod’s business manager.  But business
manager doesn’t say it all, the Greek word used here is ἐπίτροπος, epitropos.  This was the man who would look after all of
King Herod’s financial interest. 
He was Herod’s CFO ( Chief Financial Officer)
so to speak, one of the most important people in Herod’s court. And things like
that fascinate me, how did Joanna hear about Jesus? What made her decide to
follow him? How different she must have been from the common Mary from the
little village of Magdala. 
But then again Jim Irving’s wife Jean is a
committed believer who grew up on a farm outside of Peticodiac New Brunswick. 
I think it’s interesting that
these woman are first mentioned at the beginning of Christ’s ministry and then
we read in Luke
24:1
But very early on Sunday morning the
women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 
We are just a week away from Easter
and so you probably recognize that as Luke’s account of the resurrection.  And maybe you thinking: so what? 
The so what comes in Luke 24:10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and
several other women who told the apostles what had happened.  Mary Magdalene and Joanna, right? And
tradition has held that Susanna was one of the several other women who were
mentioned.  As a matter of fact, in the
Orthodox tradition they are known as the Myrrh-Bearing Women and are celebrated
on the second Sunday after Easter.  It
called the Sunday of Myrrh Bearing Women, kind of catchy.  This year it is the same day as our
commitment Sunday.
What were they doing at the tomb,
they were preparing to give their final gift to Jesus.
It is April which means that it’s
stewardship month at Cornerstone and so as fascinating as all of that is we are
going to focus on Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had
cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager;
Susanna; and many others who were
contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
So what can we learn from this
one verse?
Things get mentioned because they
are out of the ordinary.   If people giving to Jesus’ ministry had been
the norm than it wouldn’t have warranted a line in Luke’s account. 
I love the story my Dad tells
about the First Mate who returned from an evening ashore and the next day he
noticed that the Captain had written in the ship’s log: “The mate came aboard
drunk tonight.”  Well, the mate wasn’t
amused and protested to the captain saying it had never happened before to
which the captain told him that he couldn’t change the log and it was a record
of significant events in the life of the ship.
Well the next night the Mate was
standing watch and the Captain returned from an evening ashore and the mate
noted in the log “The Captain came aboard sober tonight.”
So Luke records this event because
he thought it was pretty special that these individuals had taken it upon
themselves to see the kingdom of God advanced.
So apparently, there were two
groups of people who availed themselves of Christ’s ministry 2000 years
ago.  Those who supported it financially
and those who were just along for the ride. 
It seems that some things never change. 
Those Who Didn’t Give
So if some people never gave I
guess there is a question that is 2000 years old but the answers are probably
still the same.  What Were their Reasons
for Not Giving?  Seriously if some people gave and some
didn’t there must have been reasons why they didn’t.  And after 35 years of pastoral ministry I’ve
heard a lot of reasons why people don’t give to the ministry of the local
church.  I would suspect that at least
some of those reasons are the same.
For Some There Was No Reason to Give These were folks who had no interest in Jesus or his message,
they never stopped to hear him preach, no one they knew or cared about had been
touched by Jesus.  Their lives hadn’t
been changed by the carpenter from Nazareth. 
If Jesus stopped preaching and
teaching and healing it would have no impact on their lives at all, and really
there was no reason for them to give.  I
am sure that Jesus never expected those people to contribute to his ministry.  Just as he never really expected the Roman
Empire or the Jewish establishment to support what he was doing.
And I don’t think those who have
no connection with Cornerstone should be expected to support Cornerstone.  Those who never come through the door, who
don’t call Cornerstone their church home should not feel obliged to support
financially a ministry that has little or no direct impact on their lives.  If we closed Cornerstone tomorrow and someone
bought it for a used car lot those people’s lives would not change one little
bit.
And is the same way there is no
obligation for the government, municipal, federal or provincial to assist the
Church.  Although sometimes they do, we
received money from our municipal counsellor to help with the paving, the
provincial Government paid for the playground equipment we have and every year
the Federal Government graciously allows you to deduct your giving to
Cornerstone from the income tax you pay.  
And that is a bonus but it is not something that we should expect them
to do.
And if the time comes that the
government no longer allows us to deduct our giving, that isn’t
persecution.  Being persecuted for your
faith means you could lose your life or your freedom not an income tax
deduction.
But I would suspect that there
were people who listened to Christ’s teaching and enjoyed the benefits of the
miracles he performed who weren’t included in that list of those who
contributed from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.  They weren’t shy about giving Jesus the
credit for the difference that he made in their lives but he wasn’t getting
their cash.
So how come, why didn’t they give?  Probably the same reason some don’t give
today.
Some Never Thought About It 
Strangely enough there were some
in the crowd who never connected the dots. 
They arrived and Jesus and the 12 were there, and they left and never
gave it a second thought about where the group would eat or sleep or who would
pay the bills at the end of the day.
They may have even experienced a
healing because of Jesus or maybe they had a “Got It” moment about the kingdom,
a life changing revelation, or maybe it was a spouse who heard Jesus teaching
and had decided to make the marriage work. 
But they never really clued in to the fact that if Jesus was going to
continue to teach and heal and change lives it would require someone to come to
the party and help pay the bills.
I don’t think they were stupid,
it just had never crossed their minds.  
If they thought of it at all it was simply to think that somehow it just
happened.   I don’t think I actually even
thought about how the bills got paid when I first started attending church.
There are those like that in
every church in the world, including Cornerstone.  They come to the church; enjoy the preaching
and the music.  Maybe their life has been
changed, or their marriage has been saved or their kids have been impacted by
the children’s ministry or youth group. 
But they don’t connect the
dots.  There isn’t an “aha moment” when
they suddenly realize that there are mortgage payments to be made, and power
bills to be paid, and pay cheques to be written.  Somehow, they figure it just happens that
maybe the church has a magic pot in a back room that generates money or some
mysterious benefactor somewhere who somehow pays the freight. 
Some Figured Someone Else Would Do It.  There
were others in the crowd who had made the connection, they knew that there were
bills that had to be paid but they were content to let someone else do it.  And there were probably a couple of different
reasons for that, maybe they figured others could afford it more than they
could, after all they had bills to pay and kids to feed, and the chariot needed
new wheels this year and apparently, those who were able to contribute to the
ministry of Christ didn’t face those challenges.
And then there was Joanna,
Chuza’s wife, she could probably pay for all of Jesus’ expenses by herself.  That problem comes up time and time again in
any situation that Mrs. Irving is involved in, people automatically assume that
Jean should pay for it. 
And there are still people like
that in the church today.  They have this
expense and that expense and they know they are unique.  They know that other people don’t have to pay
the mortgage and car payment, other people don’t have to feed their children or
pay for hockey and so those other people can afford to give to the church.
It’s
easy to define luxury as something that someone else has that I don’t have, and
at the same time declare that everything I have is stuff I need.
Some Saw No Value In What they Received These were folks who enjoyed what Jesus had
to say, and perhaps they had directly benefited maybe they had enjoyed one of
the spontaneous banquets that sometimes happened after he spoke. 
But they found it difficult to
assign an intrinsic value to what he had to offer.  They felt they couldn’t justify giving to
Jesus’ ministry because it wasn’t benefiting them, at least not in what they
felt was a tangible way. 
Maybe if he had of promised them
material blessings they could have found their way to give as kind of an
investment.  But they knew that when
Jesus made statements like he did in Matthew 19:29 Jesus said
“And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or
mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as
much in return and will inherit eternal life.” 
That he wasn’t talking about the here and now he was talking
about the there and then. 
And add to that the statements he
made like Matthew
5:11-12
“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. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For
a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were
persecuted in the same way.
And there are still people like
that today, they attend church but they don’t really see the value in it, and
if their church closed tomorrow they would just drift up or down the street and
settle into another church they wouldn’t support.
And Some Just Weren’t There Yet. 
They were new in their faith and
just hadn’t grown to that point yet.  It
was Martin Luther who said “People go through 3
conversions: their head, their heart and their pocketbook.  Unfortunately, not all at the same
time.”   And so while they had
gotten it here in their head, and that had made the transition to here in their
heart, it still hadn’t made it all the way to the wallet in their back pocket.
Giving is part of the growth
process in the Christian faith, and as you grow and mature in your faith your
commitment to God increases and your trust in God increases and that is
evidenced in your behaviour.  Seriously some
people talk about how much they trust that Jesus is in control and will provide
their needs but they won’t take their hands off their money long enough for him
to prove it.  Instead you’ve simply
proven the old adage The tighter we hold onto our money the tighter our money
holds unto us.
But those aren’t the people we
are talking about this morning; instead we are talking about those who
contributed from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. 



Those Who Did Give   And contrary
to popular opinion the folks who gave probably weren’t rolling in money
wondering where they could throw it away. 
They probably had the same bills and expenses that everyone else
had.  And the money they gave was money
that would be missed and money that could have been used somewhere else, but
instead they chose to use that money to support Jesus and his disciples.  So, the question is why?  And that question has the same answers today
as it had 2000 years ago.
I suppose that I could go back
over the original list and tell you they gave because They Realized There Was a Need, They understood that If They Didn’t Do
it It wouldn’t Get Done, They saw Value In What they Received and they Had
Grown to That Point in their Spiritual Life.
 But I am not going to do that, because you
figured that out on the first trip through.
So here it is, the reasons why
some people did and do contribute from their own resources to support Jesus and
his disciples.  You’ll want to write this
down and reflect on it because it is deep. 
They Gave Because They Loved Jesus
They Gave Because They Believed in the Mission
That’s it, they gave because they
loved Jesus and believed in the mission. 
That’s it.  I guess I could have
said that twenty minutes ago and let you go home, oh well.

In three weeks, we will challenge
you about your giving for the upcoming year. 
And between now and then you will be processing all kinds of information
that we give you but in the end your commitment will be based on those same two
things, you will give because you “Love Jesus and because you Believe in the
Mission.”

Who is that Man?

Who Was on the Cross
In 1950, Japanese Film Director Akira
Kurosawa produced a movie that through the years has appeared on any number of
lists of great movies.  Maybe you are familiar
with it, the name of the movie is Rashomon,
and the premise of the movie has been used in movies, novels and television
shows in the sixty years since it first opened.
The movie opens with a
woodcutter and a priest sitting under a city gate waiting for a rainstorm to
pass by.  When another man joins them,
the priest and woodcutter tell the newcomer a disturbing story. 
It seems that three
days earlier the woodcutter had come across the body of a murdered samurai, the
priest adds that he had seen the samurai and his wife the same day the murder
happened.  The priest and woodcutter were
later called to testify in court where they met the bandit who had been
captured and charged with the murder of the samurai and the rape of his wife.
The rest of the movie
tells and retells the story from four different perspectives.  The court hears the testimony of the bandit,
the samurai’s wife, the samurai’s ghost and finally the woodcutter who had not
only discovered the body but had witnessed the crimes. 
Each of the stories
are mutually contradictory and even the final version is motivated by ego and
the concept of saving or losing face.  Was the samurai killed by the bandit? Or was
he killed by his wife?  Or did he kill
himself in order to save face? Each version contradicts the others and yet each
of the witnesses feels that their version is the truth.  Sound familiar? 
One theory is that the
movie was, with its differing and conflicting views of truth, simply an
allegory of the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II.  Or maybe it was just a movie.  In case you are looking for something to
watch it has been included in the list “1001 Movies You Must See Before You
Die”  I checked the list, I only have 994
left to watch.
And maybe you are
sitting there confused wondering: what in the world does a Japanese movie from
1950 have to do with Good Friday?  I’m
glad you asked.
You see if we were
able to interview those who were present at the crucifixion of Christ and ask
them the question “Who is the man on the cross?” we would discover that the
Rashomon effect, as it’s often called predates the movie by almost 2000 years.
So The Religious Leader’s Perspective was
simply that they had done what had to be done for the benefit of the
majority.  They would say that the one
who had been crucified was where he needed to be.  In their eyes, Jesus was rocking the boat, or
upsetting the apple cart.  Call it what
you will but who did Jesus think he was to be teaching the things he
taught? 
For a thousand years the
religious leaders of Israel saw themselves as the gatekeepers to God.  They interpreted the scriptures, they interceded
for people, they enforced the rules, they called the shots.  And along came this young upstart from
Galilee with all his talk of loving God and loving others.
First there was John,
preaching repentance and baptism, people were flocking to him in droves, but he
was constantly telling people he wasn’t the Messiah, so he really didn’t pose
much of a threat to the establishment. 
And if there was a threat there, well Herod dealt with that when he had
John beheaded. 
But Jesus, Jesus was a
different story, he called himself the Son of God, he offered people
forgiveness for their sins and he challenged the authority of the religious
establishment. 
And now there was talk
about his being proclaimed King by his followers who saw him as their Messiah,
and the religious leaders didn’t think that would be seen as a positive development
by the Romans.
So, it was the
religious leaders who arranged for the arrest of Jesus, and it was the
religious leaders who falsely charged Jesus with heresy and treason and it was
the religious leaders that demanded that Pilate crucify Jesus.
When the religious
leaders looked at the man on the cross they might say they saw a heretic and
blasphemer.  But the reality was that
Jesus was killed because he annoyed the religious establishment and when they
looked at the cross they saw a solution to their problem hanging there.
But the religious
leaders didn’t have the authority to have Jesus crucified, that power belonged
to the empire and the face of the empire in Israel was Pontius Pilate.  Which is why we read in John 18:29-31  So Pilate, the
governor, went out to them and asked, “What is your charge against this
man?”  “We wouldn’t have handed him over
to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.  “Then take him away and judge him by your own
law,” Pilate told them. “Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the
Jewish leaders replied. 
And I’m sure that if
you asked for Pilate’s Perspective  on Jesus he was have said “Who?”   For Pilate it was just another day at the
office, he was just doing what had to be done, and he really didn’t care who
the man was on the cross.  Oh, he may
have asked, but he really didn’t care. 
When Jesus was first
brought to Pilate, it seemed fairly evident that the charges were trumped up
especially the charge of treason. 
Seriously, this was the man who taught people to “Give to Caesar what is
Caesar’s”, that didn’t sound very treasonous. 
It seemed that Jesus
might have been innocent of the charges against him and Pilate was looking for
an out, but he didn’t look that hard. 
First he sent Jesus to Herod, just passing the buck, and when that
didn’t work we pick up the story in  Matthew
27:24-26
 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot
was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the
crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is
yours!”  And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for
his death—we and our children!”  So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He
ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the
Roman soldiers to be crucified.
So in the end, Pilate just
washed his hands of the whole affair and walked away, after all he had enough
problems in Palestine without further alienating the religious establishment.
As little as Pilate
had invested in what happened to Jesus Judas Iscariot had his entire future
invested in the Carpenter.    If we could
see what happened that day from Judas’
Perspective 
we would see a day that
was a supreme disappointment. 
For three years Judas
had invested his life in Jesus’ ministry. 
He had become one of the twelve and eventually became the keeper of the
purse, the treasurer of the group.
But Judas saw Jesus as
the messiah, the one who would overthrow the Romans and re-establish Israel to
her rightful spot.
When Judas had watched
the crowd embrace Jesus the week previous and shout his praises as he rode into
Jerusalem on a donkey, Judas knew that he had backed the right horse, so to
speak.  But then Jesus started talking
about how his kingdom wasn’t of this earth and Judas knew that he was going to
have to force Jesus’ hand.
There have been all
kinds of theories about why Judas was willing to betray his friend for 30
pieces of silver, but we will never know, this side of eternity, all that went
through Juda’s mind, but I don’t think Judas actually intended the day to end with
Jesus hanging on the cross.
Judas envisioned Jesus
calling on his Father and thousands of Angels sweeping down from heaven to set
things straight, and that didn’t happen.
And when Judas saw
what happening to his friend and teacher we pick up the story in Matthew 27:3-4  When Judas, who had
betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with
remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and
the elders.  “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an
innocent man.”
And while Judas may
have been filled with remorse over what had happened to Jesus, the most tears
shed on Good Friday were shed by Mary the Mother of Jesus. 
From Mary’s Perspective the man on the cross
was the child that she had once carried. 
She was hardly more
than a girl when the angel told her that she would carry God’s son.  From the day that Gabriel had interrupted her
life with the news of her pregnancy she knew that her son was special.  She had told the angel that there was no way
she could be pregnant, that she had “never been with a man”.  That was the phrase she used, she was a
virgin and she knew it, but the angel told her that her son’s father would be
God himself. 
And immediately she
was pregnant.  And she watched her son
grow up and she had always wondered where God’s plan would lead God’s Son.  But this wasn’t what she imagined. 
At each point in the
drama, like Judas,  Mary kept waiting for
God to interrupt what was happening and he didn’t. 
God didn’t interrupt
the arrest, God didn’t interrupt the farce of a trial and God didn’t interrupt
when they beat her son and pushed the crown of thorns unto his head. 
And then when Pilate
ordered Jesus to be beat with a whip Mary had to hide her face but she could
still hear as the lash stripped the skin from the back of her first born.
And now we read in John 19:25  Standing near the cross
were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and
Mary Magdalene.  This wasn’t where she
wanted to be, but how could she be anywhere else?  She was his mother, he was her son.
And when her son
called out to his father, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”  Mary asked the same question.  How, how, how could any father, let alone a
Heavenly Father allow them to do that to His Son. 
And now heartbroken
she wept at the foot of the cross as she watched her son die the death of a
common criminal. 
And if that was “it”
then Jesus had lived and died in vain. 
But there is someone
we haven’t heard from.  Jesus wasn’t
crucified alone, he was one of three.  We
are told in Luke 23:32-33  Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with
him.  When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the
cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his
left.
There was nobody closer
to Jesus that day than the two criminals he was crucified with. 
And it was only from
the other cross that we can see Jesus from Dismas’
Perspective
The scriptures don’t
give the criminal a name but tradition does, and that is Dismas. 
And to Dismas the man
hanging on the cross next to him wasn’t a heretic, he wasn’t a criminal, he wasn’t
a deluded prophet, no he was much more than that. 
As Jesus hung dying on
the cross, with Peter cowering, Judas confessing, and his mother crying those
on the ground and even one of the thieves mocked the one who had claimed to be
God’s son. 
If we pick up the
story in Luke 23:35-39  The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed.
“He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s
Messiah, the Chosen One.”  The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a
drink of sour wine.  They called out to him, “If you are the King of the
Jews, save yourself!”  A sign was fastened to the cross above him with
these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”  One of the criminals hanging
beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving
yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
Just week before a crowd gathered to
welcome Jesus into Jerusalem, they called him king and honoured him by laying
their coats on the ground for him as a carpet. 
They called Jesus a King that day, worshipped him as their Messiah.  But that was then and this was now.
There is nothing other than poetic licence
to make us think that the same crowd that sang his praises a short week before
was the same crowd that mocked Jesus as he hung on the cross.
But at his greatest point of need, there
was no one there for Jesus.  In Jesus
mind even God, his father had forsaken him. 
Until one voice cried out in his defence and it wasn’t one we would
expect to hear. 
 Luke 23:40-42  But the other criminal protested, “Don’t
you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die
for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”  Then he said,
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  
From Dismas’ perspective, Jesus was his
only hope.  Jesus was his salvation, and
in that is the scandal of Grace.  That
this man who lived and now was going to die a criminal understood that there
was nothing he could do to make himself right with God, except ask to be made
right with God. 
And listen to Jesus’ response.  Luke 23:43 And Jesus
replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Dismas may have lived the life of a
criminal but he died a Christ Follower. 
But ultimately it doesn’t matter how Jesus
was seen by those surrounding the cross.  
What ultimately needs to be answered is how Jesus will be seen by you.
As the stone rolls shut across the tomb of
Jesus, the question has to be asked by each of us, “Who do I say Jesus is?”

No Overbooking in Heaven

On my way home from Indiana a couple of weeks ago I heard United Airlines asking for volunteers to give up their seats on an overbooked flight.  They started by offering a $200.00 flight credit and by the time they were done they were up to a $800.00 credit, a hotel room, if needed, and meal vouchers.  I don’t know if anyone snapped up the offer or not, I would have.  
I wondered at the time, “What if they don’t get a volunteer?”  Well, apparently according to a video that surfaced earlier this week they will bodily drag you off the airplane. 

If that wasn’t enough to set off the flying public, it was later released that United was simply making room for four employees from a sister airline.  Oops.

So apparently, airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than they have seats for on any given airplane and if everybody shows up they have the right to tell you there is no seat available, even though you’ve already paid for your seat.  That hardly seems fair. 

But here is the good news, heaven won’t be overbooked, Jesus has already secured your spot, you just have to claim it, and you will never get bumped.  And they won’t break your guitar either.

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

Happy Birthday Cornerstone

22 years ago this very Sunday I preached my first message at Cornerstone, the church formerly known as Bedford Community Church.  Some of you who are here today were there, many who are here today weren’t even born. 

To put that into perspective, 22 years before I preached my first message at Cornerstone, the Vietnam War was still being waged, KISS had their first Concert, Jesus Christ Superstar had just been released in movie theatres, Pierre Trudeau was our Prime Minister and his son Justin was just a toddler.  And the Habs won the Cup.

Over the past 1,144 weeks that we’ve been together, we have only cancelled Sunday Services once because of weather.  We have worshipped together in 8 different locations, including once under a tree.   I have spoken over 900 times and we’ve celebrated 21 Christmases and Easters together. And over the past 22 years we have seen marriages strengthen, relationships renewed and more importantly countless people have met God and will live with Him forever.  

The songs we sing have changed, how Denn dresses for Sunday has changed and where we worship has changed, but for 22 years we’ve been inviting the pre-churched, the de-churched and the unchurched to come and meet God at Cornerstone and that’s one thing I hope will never change. 

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