A Parting of Minions

How many of you have seen Star
Wars?  No, not the last one.   I mean
the first one “A New Hope”, not that we called it “A New Hope” we just called
it Star Wars. 
And if you are interested it was
released 40 years ago this weekend, May 25th 1977.  I don’t know where I was forty years ago last
weekend or 40 years ago next weekend. 
But I do know where I was forty years ago this weekend.  I was watching Star Wars a New Hope for the
first of many times. 
And Star Wars is rife with
Minions.  From those everybody loved,
like C3PO and R2-D2 to those everybody hated, like the storm troopers and Jar
Jar Binks.
For the most part we think of
minions as loyal to a fault, that’s all part of being a minion.  But sometimes even minions come to a parting
of ways.  For example.  (Video Clip of R2D2 and C3PO)
That’s right, sometimes Minions
just walk away, but that doesn’t always spell the end of the journey.  In the case of C3PO it didn’t, they still had
to make another dozen movies.
This is week four of our “Minions:
Playing Second fiddle for God” series. 
And we have discovered the importance of those who are willing to play
second fiddle.  Remember it was Leonard Bernstein, who when asked what was the
most difficult instrument to play, replied without hesitation:  “The second
fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play
the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second
fiddle, we have no harmony.”
 In the scripture we read this morning we see a
parting of Minions. 
Let’s go back to the story, this
is the beginning of Paul’s second journey from Jerusalem through Asia to
Europe.  And he is pulling his team
together and casting the vision for the trip and we pick up the story in Acts 15:37-39  Barnabas
agreed and wanted to take along John Mark.  But Paul disagreed strongly,
since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them
in their work.  Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated.
Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.
Like in the Star Wars clip this
parting was not a happy event, the bible says that their disagreement was so
sharp that they separated, and that seemed to signal the end of their
relationship.
But just like in Star Wars this wasn’t
the end of the story.
Later, when Paul was writing his
letter to Philemon he would refer to Mark as his co-worker and in his letter to
Timothy we read 2 Timothy 4:11  Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you
come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.
Interesting.  So how do we get from A. to B.?   From the spot where Paul basically fired
John Mark to the place where he refers to him as his co-worker and even asks
for Mark’s assistance? 
The answer is found in another
minion, Barnabas. And we going to dig a little deeper into that in just a few
minutes.
We are told that John Mark or
Mark as we often refer to him was Barnabas’ cousin, but we don’t know a whole
lot more than that about Mark.
And we discover in Acts chapter
12 that Mark’s mother’s name was Mary and that the early church gathered in her
home.  From that we’ve had speculation
that it was her home that Jesus and the 12 met in for the Last Supper and that
was where Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, but it’s just
speculation.
Early Church tradition has ascribed
the second Gospel to Mark, but the author never identifies himself. 
And so, on that day, in Antioch,
when Paul threw a hissy fit and fired Mark and alienated Barnabas, there was
the potential for everything to get derailed.  
And there was the potential for
Mark to have gone home pouting and saying “I’m done.”  For Barnabas to have given up on Paul and the
church because his feelings got hurt. 
And for Paul to have said “I’m not going to have anything else to do
with those losers.”
And maybe we wouldn’t have blamed
them.  But if that is what happened then
Christianity today would look very different than it does.
Back in January I preached a
series based on the fact that this year marks the 500th Anniversary
of the Protestant Reformation.  
And from our western view we see
two branches of Christianity, the Catholic Church and the Protestant church.  And we think that before the reformation
there was only the Catholic church. 
But 501 years ago, there wasn’t
just one church there were basically three churches.
There was the Catholic church,
and really it was Paul who was responsible for spreading the gospel into
Europe.  Without Paul, there would have
been no church in Rome.
But there was also the Eastern
Orthodox Church. Today we see them primarily in the Greek Orthodox Church and
the Russian Orthodox Church. 
Many scholars would point to the
birth place of the Orthodox church as Cyprus and the father of that church as
Barnabas.  Remember what we read
earlier?  Acts
15:39
 Their disagreement was so sharp
that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.
If there hadn’t been a
disagreement, if Barnabas and Mark had of stayed with Paul I wonder. . .
But there wasn’t just the
Catholic, or Western Church and the Orthodox or Eastern Church.
As many of you know on Tuesday
I’m heading to Egypt to preach and work with the pastors of the Wesleyan Church
in Egypt, a work that is about a hundred years old.
But in Egypt the Wesleyan church is
just a baby church because the Coptic church dates itself back to AD 49, 19
years after the resurrection of Christ. 
And they claim that the one who brought the good news to Egypt was none
other than Mark himself, as a matter of fact his head is still believed to be
in Alexandria. 
And while the ladies are thinking
“That’s gross”, the guys are thinking, “That’s kind of cool.”
The Coptic church even point back
to Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 19:19  In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the
heart of Egypt, and there will be a monument to the LORD at its border.
So, if there hadn’t been a
disagreement, if Barnabas and Mark had of stayed with Paul, I wonder. . .
I think the reason that the entire
story didn’t go south at the point was because of Barnabas, listen to how he is
introduced back in Acts 4:36  For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles
nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe
of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.
Years
ago I preached an entire message on Barnabas, I’m not going to do that today.
So what can we learn from our
minions today?
A Good Start Doesn’t Guarantee a Good Ending  How
often do we make predictions about people based on how they start the
journey?  They just seem to have it all
going for them, they were voted most likely to succeed and everybody knew they
were going places, and then they didn’t.
You’ve watched enough of the
Olympics to know that just because you are first out of the blocks doesn’t mean
that you will be first across the finish line. 
As a matter of fact just because you are first out of the blocks doesn’t
even mean you will make it to the finish line.
John Mark had a lot going for him.  While scripture doesn’t spell it out
tradition fills in some of the blanks about Mark.
In Luke’s gospel we read, Luke 10:1  The Lord now chose
seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and
places he planned to visit.  Tradition tells us that while Mark wasn’t a
part of the 12, that is he wasn’t one of the Apostles, that he was a part of
the 72. 
Then there is a weird little
story in the book of Mark, not found anywhere else.  It happened right after Jesus had been arrested
in the garden, let’s pick up the narrative in Mark
14:50-52
 Then all his disciples
deserted him and ran away.  One young man following behind was clothed
only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him, he slipped out
of his shirt and ran away naked.
The theory put forth from some
commentators is that the young man was Mark, that the Last Supper had happened
in the upper room over his mother’s home, this goes back to the reference in
Acts 12.  So, after supper was over,  young Mark followed Jesus and the 12 to the
garden, and the rest as they say is history. 
But it’s just a theory, but it
makes sense.  In an embarrassing kind of
way.
And apparently, Paul saw
something in this young man to recruit him as an assistant on his journey and
all seemed to work out until we read in Acts 13:13 Paul and his companions then left
Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John
Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem.  
Luke doesn’t elaborate, doesn’t tell us why Mark left, we are just told
that he left.  Some have said he was home
sick, other have speculated that when he got to Paphos, which is in Turkey that
he got cold feet, but we don’t know. 
And while Mark’s departure didn’t seem to bother Barnabas it really
bugged Paul, enough that when Barnabas suggested taking Mark along for their
next journey it drove a wedge into their friendship.
Paul saw Mark as a quitter, and
I’m sure he would have agreed with Evangelist Billy
Sunday who said “Stopping
at third adds no more to the score than striking out it doesn’t matter how well
you start if you fail to finish.”
Through the years, I’ve seen folks who have
started out so well in their Christian faith only to falter and fall. 
Peter, who really should have had a little
more grace than most on this subject wrote in 2 Peter 2:20-22  And when people escape
from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than
before.  It would be better if they had never known the way to
righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to
live a holy life.  They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to
its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”  Hmmm, I wonder what
he really thought?
Through the years my prayer has been, “Lord let
me finish well.”
 But, the next thing we discover in this story
is that Falling Doesn’t Guarantee
Failure 
In Paul’s mind if Mark had
failed him once and disappointed him once, he was bound to do it again. 
But that isn’t grace.   Grace is illustrated better when Jesus
entrusted Peter with the keys of the Kingdom, even after Peter denied knowing
Jesus three times. 
When you fall, and if you are a
people and most of you look like you are people, you will fall at some point,
you will have one of two options.  You
can stay down or you can get up.  It’s
that simple. 
When we were pastoring in Truro,
late in the last century, I was rushing out the back door of the parsonage one
morning and didn’t realize that there was frost on the steps.  My feet went in the air and down I came.  It’s like the guy who was asked “Did you miss
the steps?”  “Nope hit every one of
them.”
And as I was laying in the snow, with
my wounded pride, hurting so bad my first thought seriously was “Maybe I can
just stay here.” 
Maybe you’ve been there,
physically or spiritually, you’ve fallen and you don’t think you can get up, or
maybe more to the point, you don’t want to get up.
Your mother ever give you poems
when you were growing up?  My mom was
forever giving me poems she had found that she thought might help me at some
point.  And those were the days before
the internet and email.  One she gave me
is probably familiar to some of you: 
Two frogs fell into a can of cream.
Or so I’ve heard it told;
The sides of the
can were shiny and steep,
The cream was deep and cold.
“O, what’s the
use?” croaked No. 1.
“Tis fate; no help’s around.
Goodbye, my
friends! Goodbye sad world!”
And weeping still, he drowned.
But Number 2, of
sterner stuff,
Dog paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped
his creamy face, 
And dried his creamy eyes.
“I’ll swim awhile
at least,” he said –
Or so I’ve heard he said;
“It really wouldn’t
help the world,
If one more frog were dead.”
An hour or two he
kicked and swam.
Not once he stopped to mutter.
But kicked and
kicked and swam and kicked.
Then hopped out via butter.
When you fall, you can choose to
stay down, or you can choose to get up. 
But either way it will be your choice. 
We don’t know why Mark went back
to Jerusalem.  At that point Paul gave up
on Mark, but Barnabas didn’t give up on Mark and more importantly Mark didn’t
give up on Mark.
It was Richard
Nixon who said   “Defeat doesn’t finish a man—quit does. A man is not
finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.”
When I was a teenager we had
horses and our folks had us in riding lessons and the lesson that our
instructor drilled into us over and over again was “Every time you fall, you
will get back on a better rider.”  That
was only partly true, you’d get back on a better rider if you learned from your
fall.
So when you fall, not if you fall
but when you fall, get up, brush yourself off and get back into the game.  Because the next thing we learn is found
in  Romans
8:28
 And we know that God causes everything to work together for
the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for
them.
There’s Always a Plan “B”
I
don’t think that it was necessarily God’s will that for there to be such a
sharp disagreement that it damaged the relationship between these three
men.  But God was able to use it. 
I
think that when Paul cast the vision for the trip that they were all on board
and that they thought the trip was a great idea and was in God’s will.  For them it was all Plan “A” but they all
seemed to have a different idea of what Plan “A” might be. 
For Paul,
it included Barnabas but not Mark.  For
Barnabas and Mark they were convinced that they both belonged on the team. 
And
maybe their Plan “A” wasn’t God’s Plan “A”. 
Maybe God had an entirely different plan that was only revealed because
of the disagreement. 
Because
Mark and Barnabas didn’t go on the journey Paul recruited Timothy to join him
and Timothy went on to become the pastor of the church of Ephesus and because
of that we have the letters of 1 and 2 Timothy.
If
you’ve been reading through the book of Acts you’ll notice that Luke has been
writing in the third person narrative, that is he using the words “he” “they”
and “them”
But
there is a shift to the first person narrative in Acts
16:10
 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that
God was calling us to preach the
Good News there.  That is where Luke joined the team.  He’s no longer reporting what others have
been telling him, now he’s writing as a participant in the adventure.
If Barnabas and Mark had still been on the
trip would there have been room for Luke who would go on to write the gospel of
Luke and the book of Acts?  I wonder
This is the last we see of Mark in the book
of Acts but when the Apostle Peter closes his first letter he writes:  1 Peter 5:13  Your
sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark.
Most bible scholars feel that this was the
same Mark who Paul fired, and that makes sense seeing that when Peter was
rescued from prison in Acts chapter 12 the first place he goes is to the home
of John Mark’s mother, Mary.
Because John Mark had his employment
opportunities expanded did that allow him to become Peter’s assistant for a
while instead of Paul’s?  The Gospel of
Mark was the first gospel written and it is considered by most scholars to be
Peter’s account, that Mark was simply writing down the stories that Peter told
of his time with Jesus.
I wonder if the Gospel of Mark would have
been written if Mark had of actually joined the journey with Paul?
When I was in Bible college someone told me
that our view of life is sometimes like looking at the back of a tapestry or
needlepoint.  That looking at it from the
back it can be a little confusing, but the other side, the side that God sees
makes perfect sense.
I don’t know where you are on your spiritual
journey.  But I want to assure you that
falling isn’t failure and that failure isn’t final.
The decision that Mark made to walk away from
Paul and Barnabas resulted in Paul refusing to offer Mark a second chance down
the road.
Mark was hurt, Paul was angry and Barnabas
was disappointed.  It had all the
ingredients of a ministry train wreck, they didn’t have trains back then so a ministry
ship wreck.  I’m sure all who were
involved wondered if anything good could come out of what had happened.
And at the end of the story we had the Western
Church, the Eastern Church and the Coptic Church, 1 and 2 Timothy and the
Gospel of Mark.

Which way will we look?

If you were in church at Cornerstone last Sunday you might have noticed that I wasn’t here, and neither was Stefan.  We were in Saguenay Quebec, visiting the group that make up our Bagotville satellite. Since last Fall, we have offered our Sunday morning worship service, via livestream, to military families at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.

The RCAF base was first developed during WWII to train Commonwealth pilots and is situated in a prominently French Roman Catholic area.  As a matter of fact, the closest Evangelical church is over an hour away.

And it was a good trip, while we were there we connected with seven families representing over thirty individuals and were able to cast some vision for the future of the work.

One interesting note was that the base chapel serves both the Catholic and Protestant personal.  There used to be a separate Protestant chapel but a few years ago it was turned into a military museum.

As I pondered that, I realized that there are a lot of churches whose doors are still open, but they are simply museums.  They are more interested in preserving and protecting the memories of yesterday than they are in reaching the lost of today.

Where will our focus be?  On yesterday or on tomorrow?

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

Just Stop It!


–>

I was following a car the other day when the driver threw garbage out the window. Hello! Now maybe I’m a little sensitive after having spent last Saturday morning picking garbage out of the ditch, but really, come on.  The last time I checked, littering was still considered rude and slightly obnoxious.  Not to mention illegal. And I’m pretty sure the guy in the car knew that when he threw his garbage out the window. So why did he do it? Perhaps it was poor potty training or maybe the environment he was brought up in.  Maybe his father was a rude litter bug and he is just following the example that was set for him.  Or he was brought up in a culture where littering was considered socially acceptable. 
No, he probably did it for the same reason we sometimes act like jerks when it comes to keeping God’s law, or not keeping God’s law.  He did it because he wanted to.  It was more convenient to toss the trash out the window than mess up his car.  And who really cares about how it affects others? Sometimes we take the same cavalier attitude toward sin and we shouldn’t.  There are rules against littering for a reason and God’s rules all have a reason as well.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.


–>

Layers of Minions

Layers of Minions
As Sir Hiss was to Prince John and as
Donkey was to Shrek, so Timothy is to Paul. 
Sounds like a question on a game show.
What is “Henchman?”
Hiss was a Henchman, Donkey was a side-kick
and Timothy was a protégé but they were all Minions. 
And remember how the Oxford dictionary defines
a minion: “A follower or underling
of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one.”
This is week two of our “Minions:  Playing Second Fiddle for God” series and you
know what they say, another sermon another pair of minion socks.  Well maybe they don’t say that, but they
should.
This week we are looking at Timothy who we
are first introduced to in the book of Acts and then later on there are two
books in the New Testament which were addressed to Timothy. 
1 and 2 Timothy are two of three books
which are referred to as “Pastoral Epistles.” Or Pastoral letters and they are
simply letters which Paul had sent to directly to pastors who he had
trained. 
So, the book of Ephesians was a letter that
was written to the church in Ephesus. 
But the books of 1 and 2 Timothy were letters which were written to the
Pastor of the church in Ephesus and that was Timothy.
Just like some letters that arrive in our
mailbox here at the church are addressed to Cornerstone Wesleyan Church and
others are addressed to Rev. Denn Guptill. 
So let’s start at the beginning, which is
usually a good place to start.    
The Apostle Paul is on what is referred to
as his Second Missionary  journey, it
began in Jerusalem and now he has ended up in Lystra, which is located in
modern day Turkey.
And we pick up the story in  Acts 16:1  Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where
there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but
his father was a Greek.  And so let’s
begin with the fact that
Timothy
was  a Young Minion  
I don’t know about
you but often times when I think of the heroes of the bible, I think of older,  more mature individuals. 
And in the case of Moses, who was 80 when he
was called to lead the People out of Egypt, or Abraham who was 99 when the
promise of becoming the father of a great nation was fulfilled the picture of
the man with the white beard is probably fitting. 
And, if you pause and picture, say the 12
Apostles, who were the Minions that we spoke of last week, you probably think
of Jesus surrounded by mostly older men.  
But the 12 were most likely in their twenties. 
Paul who was the architect of the early
church was in his early thirties when he was called. 
Jesus was only 30 when he began preaching
and 33 when he was crucified. 
So, while we don’t know how old Timothy
was, he was young enough that it was mentioned. 
And several years later Paul would write to Timothy and remind him in 1
Timothy
4:12
 Don’t
let anyone think less of you because you are young. . . .
The bible reminds us that age isn’t a
factor.  It wasn’t a factor when God
called those who were old and it wasn’t a factor when God called those who were
young.
Age shouldn’t be a limit on our dreams or
our calling.
Bill Gates was twenty when he founded
Microsoft and Steve Jobs was 21 when Apple started and Mozart had composed over
600 works by the time he died at the ripe old age of 35. 
On the other hand, Colonel Sanders was 62
years old when he founded KFC,  Christopher
Plummer won his first Oscar when he was 82 and Gladys Burrill completed her first marathon at the age of 92.  They called her the Gladyiator. 
God doesn’t have an upper or lower age
limit on who he chooses to uses.  Don’t
let anyone think less of you because of your . . . age.
What else can we discover?  Let’s keep reading. . .   Acts 16:1-2  . .  .His
mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek.  Timothy was well
thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium. . . 
Timothy was young, but he wasn’t fresh out
of the box.
Timothy
was A Minion with a Heritage
Even though Timothy
was young he was mature in his faith. 
And the credit for that goes to two ladies in his life. 
If we go to the second letter that bears
Timothy’s name we read this about his heritage. 
  2 Timothy 1:5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the
faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I
know that same faith continues strong in you.
You catch the critical
word there?  The word faith.   Three times in thirty words Paul uses the
word faith.  We are told that it was a
genuine faith, that it was a shared faith and that it was a strong faith. 
The person that
Timothy was, had been shaped by his mother and grandmother, and that isn’t all
that surprising considering how much influence our mothers have over us. 
It was Napoleon who
said “Let France have good mothers, and she will have good sons.”  And in his poem by the same name William Ross
Wallace writes “For the hand that rocks the cradle Is
the hand that rules the world.”
And so according to
Paul, Timothy was who Timothy was because of Eunice.  His faith had been formed and shaped by the
faith of his mother and on this day when we celebrate Mothers it would be a good
time to realize that Timothy could never have become the man he became without
the influence of both his mother and Grandmother.
French philosopher Mirabeau was asked when
the education of a child should begin?  His
reply was “Twenty years before his birth, by educating his mother.”   
The actual title of this message is “Layers
of Minions” because while we see Paul as Timothy’s mentor there was a much more
important mentor in the story and that was Timothy’s mother Eunice and before
Eunice could be a mentor to her son she had a mentor in her mother, Lois.
Moms and dads, understand the responsibility
that falls to you.  We aren’t just
responsible for our children growing up healthy and productive, which is why
health care and education are priorities.  
But we are also responsible to introduce our kids to God. 
Ultimately it will be their decision as to
whether or not they will pursue that relationship but it’s up to us as parents
to make sure they understand the importance of it.
When you look at what you communicate and
demonstrate to your kids about God, the scriptures, their relationship to Jesus
and the church,  are you communicating a
genuine, strong shared faith?
And perhaps some of you  are thinking, “Well sure pastor but it’s not
that simple, my spouse isn’t a believer.”   
Remember the scripture that we started
with?  Timothy’s mother was a Jewish
believer, but his father was just identified as a Greek.  It’s not that Paul had anything against
Greeks, you see it wasn’t what Paul said about Timothy’s father it was what was
left unsaid. 
He was a Greek, not a Greek believer just a
Greek.  And so we have a household where
one spouse is a Christ follower and one isn’t and the challenges that are posed
in such situations can never be fully understood unless you are in that
situation.
That was the situation that Timothy’s
mother found herself in. she probably didn’t have to fight the hockey,
baseball, soccer, scouts, sparks, band battles but I’m sure there were similar
cultural concerns 2000 years ago. 
Would Timothy be in church and youth group
or would he be at the chariot races and practicing for the Olympics?
And so Eunice would have been practicing
her faith and raising her son in a less than ideal home situation.  Now we don’t know at what point in her
relationship she became a believer.  Was
she a Christ follower before the wedding or after the wedding? 
In her situation and culture that question
may have been irrelevant in that her marriage may very well have been arranged
and she didn’t have a choice of who she would marry or who would marry her.
And still she was able to be the godly
example that would lead her son to the place that he was a committed Christ
follower. 
Let’s keep reading.
Acts 16:3  .
. . so Paul wanted him (Timothy)  to join
them on their journey  After Paul met
Timothy and got to know him he saw the potential that Timothy had to help
change the world.
We don’t know what Timothy was doing at
that point in time, whether he was working at a trade or in school.  But Paul didn’t see him where he was, he saw
him where he could be. 
Timothy
was a Called Minion 
Notice that Paul didn’t just stand up and ask for volunteers to go
with him.  He saw in Timothy the
qualities he was looking for in a minion, I mean a protégée and he asked him to
join the adventure.
At Cornerstone, we don’t just stand up and say,
“Hey we need someone to serve in the Nursery or in Children’s ministry or on
the worship team”.  We aren’t looking for
warm bodies to fill spots.  You can be
assured that if you are invited to serve at Cornerstone it’s because we see in
you the potential to make a difference. 
John Sculley was the president of Pepsi
when he was hired by Steve Jobs to be the CEO of Apple computers and the pitch
that Jobs made was “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and
change the world?”
When we invite you to join us in ministry
at Cornerstone it is an invitation to change the world.  And I don’t say that lightly.
When you are asked to assist with our
children or youth you have the chance to make a difference in their
eternity.  Two of our teens committed
their hearts to Christ on Wednesday night, that wouldn’t have happened without
those who have committed to serve with the youth. 
I don’t know what plans Timothy had for the
rest of his life before that day, but I do know that he would go on to shape
the church in Ephesus and have an impact on the lives of hundreds if not
thousands of people.    Because someone believed in him and asked him
to serve.
And there are times we get all mystical and
spiritual about the call, after all Moses got a burning bush, Mary got an Angel
and Paul got a blinding light. 
But Jesus simply asked Peter to follow him,
and in this story it simply said that Paul wanted Timothy to join him on his
journey, so presumably he just asked.
And maybe when God calls you to serve it
will be through one of the staff at Cornerstone.  But when you are called to serve at
Cornerstone you are being called to make a difference in the lives of people
and in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s keep going.    Acts 16:3  . . . In deference to
the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they
left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.
Can you imagine the conversation between
Paul and Timothy “You want me to do what?” 
“Why?”  It’s at this point that it
becomes very clear that   Timothy was a Committed Minion.   
Paul may have arranged for Timothy to be
circumcised but it wouldn’t have happened without Timothy’s consent.    It
didn’t say that Paul forced Timothy to be circumcised it says he arranged for
it to happen.
And whether we can understand that
rationale or not, it happened so that there wouldn’t be a anything that would
cause a barrier between the message and those who heard the message.
Paul would later write,  1 Corinthians 9:19-23  Though I am free and belong to no man, I make
myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I
became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one
under the law
(though I
myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those
not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free
from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the
law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things
to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this
for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
If you asked Timothy why he allowed himself
to be circumcised I’m sure he would have replied, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might
save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in
its blessings.”
If we are committed to the mission, and
committed to reaching people there will often be a cost.  That’s why Jesus said we’d have to take up
our cross and why Paul spoke about being crucified daily. 
And that might be the cost associated with
stewardship or giving up a Sunday morning a month to teach our children or
giving up your Wednesday nights to help lead the youth group. 
Or simply surrounding our preferences in
what church is like so that Cornerstone can reach the pre-churched, the
de-churched and the un-churched.
One of my favourite websites is called the Babylon
Bee and it is satirical Christian site. 
The other day one head line read “Everything Local Man Feels Led To
Do He Coincidentally Really Likes” 
The article begins by saying WARAW, IN—Don Farmer, 43, reported Tuesday that he was
recently “led by God” toward several things he really likes—and in fact, as a
general rule, everything he feels spiritually moved to do he coincidentally
enjoys very much.
The article goes on to
report:  Additionally, he felt led
to attend the church’s Super Bowl Party last year, which it just so happens he
thoroughly enjoyed. The next Sunday, Farmer was unable to sign up for the
church outreach visit to the senior home or the juvenile detention center due
to the lack of a “nudge” from the Holy Spirit, but did feel moved to
participate in the Men’s Group’s Annual Chili Cook-Off. He was also able to
fend off several invitations by the church’s leadership to attend the new
discipleship class, sorrowfully noting that not only would the time interfere
with his Tuesday TV viewing lineup, but that he just didn’t feel as if he was
being led to a diligent study of the Word “in that season.”
“I’m always listening
for that still, small voice that just so happens to send me to do things I
already want to do,” said Farmer.
Most of you know that one of my passions is
training pastors in West Africa, I feel that is one of the high-level things
that I have done.  And I can be
passionate about it.
But it wasn’t like that from the
beginning.  My first trip was in 2007 and
I had only been in Ghana for a couple of days and I had determined that
whatever else happened in my life I wouldn’t be going back to Africa.
I don’t know what I was expecting the trip
to be like but it wasn’t like that. 
I found it hot, loud, dirty and
overwhelming and as far as I was concerned I had made my first and last trip to
the dark continent. 
That evening during my devotions I was
reading Acts 16 and discovered that what Timothy was willing to do in order to
be obedient to God.  And suddenly being
in Africa didn’t seem so bad. 
The next day I spoke to Joe Ocran the
National Superintendent of Ghana and asked what I could do to help fulfill the
mission in West Africa and we worked out a plan to help with the training of
their pastors.   But understand, Africa
isn’t my favorite place to be but being in the centre of God’s will is.
Being circumcised doesn’t always involve .
. . Well you know what it doesn’t always involve, but there is always a cost
involved. 
And when we arrive at the conclusion of
Timothy’s call we read this   Acts
16:4-5
 Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to
follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  So the
churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.
Timothy
was an Effective Minion
Timothy didn’t have a starring role in the
story of the early church, he was just Paul’s sidekick, his minion. 
And if it wasn’t for the two letter that
bear his name Timothy would hardly be a footnote in the New Testament story.  But he was a really important footnote to the
people he ministered to.
40 years from now when the two teens who
accepted Christ this week are telling the story to their grandchildren, they
might not be able to remember the fact that it was Stefan, Chad, Andrew, Lynn
and Kristen who we doing youth that night, but that won’t change the fact that
if Stefan, Chad, Andrew, Lynn and Kristen hadn’t been willing to give up their
Wednesday night the eternity of those young men might have looked very
different.
So the take away today?  Every one of us has the potential to be a
footnote in the story.

It’s just not right!

It is just a “U”, but it is the difference between something being right and something being wrong. Perhaps you know what I’m talking about; It’s the “U” that our neighbours to the south neglect to include in words like harbour, colour and saviour. Which is fine if you live south of the 49th, but on this side of the border it means you have spelled the word wrong.
People object and maintain, that because it’s the proper spelling in the States, it should be okay in Canada. And because polygamy is acceptable in Saudi Arabia, should it also be okay in Canada?
That is just Denn venting, and in the big scheme of things the fact that people are too lazy to spell a word correctly probably won’t matter much, it just makes me cranky. However, when Christians begin to justify sinful behaviour simply because society accepts it, that will have eternal consequences.  
It doesn’t matter if television says it’s fine, and it doesn’t matter if everyone at work and school are doing it; if the Bible says the behaviour is wrong, the behaviour is wrong. The fact that others call it right doesn’t make it any less wrong.

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

Minions by the Bunch

When you hear the word “Minion” what do you
think of?  For some, you think of little
yellow people in blue pants. 
For others, you have your own favorite
minions from years past.    The Disney films we grew up with were filled
with Minions, albeit with other names. 
Snow White’s Step Mother had her magic mirror.  Captain Hook had Mr. Smee, and Gaston had
LeFou.
For those with more cultured tastes you
might remember Pintel and Ragetti  who
were minions for whoever was paying the best in the various Pirates of the
Caribbean.
If you grew up with horror movies,
Frankenstein had Igor and Dracula had Renfield.
And lest you think that Minions always
worked for the bad guys remember that Batman had Robin, the Lone Ranger had
Tonto, the Green Lantern had Kato and of course every Han Solo needs a
Chewbacca. 
The Oxford dictionary defines a Minion as “A follower or underling
of a powerful person, especially a servile or unimportant one.”
So in theory
that would make the Vice President of the United States a minion.  Mike Pence might not think so but John Garner who was Vice President between 1933
and 1941 once told Lyndon Johnson “The office of
Vice-President isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.”   
I guess Lyndon Johnson might have disagreed
with that on November 22, 1963.
But for most of us today when we think of
Minions we think of Kevin, Dave and Stuart and their friends. 
These minions first made their appearance
in the animated feature “Despicable Me” in 2010,
which was followed by “Despicable Me 2” in
2013 and finally by their own movie “Minions” in 2015. 
Now the reality is that most of us would feel
insulted if we were characterized as someone’s minion but the reality is that
most of us serve as minions to somebody.
My Grandfather was fond of saying “Beware of the man who
says he’s boss in his own home, if he’ll lie about that he’ll lie about
anything.”   
Peter Moore is presently our assistant
District Superintendent and after July, everything being equal will most likely
be our District Superintendent.  Because
I serve the district in a couple of different capacities I’m kind of a minion
for Peter.  But the reality is, that when
Peter first graduated from University he was my minion.
Over the next 7 weeks or so we are going to
be looking at some of the folks in the bible who were cast as minions, those
who didn’t get to play the lead role or have a place on centre stage.  Those who were asked to play second fiddle
for God. 
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was
once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation,
he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of
first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with
enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no
harmony.”
Let’s start with a whole bunch of minions,
12 to be exact.
If I was to ask you to name the Twelve
Apostles I would suspect that many of you would be hard pressed to get all
Twelve. 
Most of us would start with Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John.  But only Matthew and John
were actually apostles.  We could
probably add Peter and James, most would get Judas and then we’d start
grasping. 
I remember in my Systematic Theology  class in university a friend of mine was
stumped by a particular question so he wrote “I don’t know the answer but the
names of the twelve apostles’ were . . .” and then he listed them.  The Prof marked it wrong.  As my cousin Rob used to say “Mr Bridgeo had no sense of ha ha.”  
So what do we know about the twelve?  A number of years ago I preached a message
called “Discovering the Twelve” and taught about each of the twelve apostles.  I’m not going to do that today, if you’re
interested let me know and I’ll send you the manuscript.
This is a really, really important group of
people. 
They may have scattered when Jesus was
being crucified, but when public opinion was still on the other side they came
back together.  And after Jesus’ death
and resurrection and his return to the Father there were only 120 gathered in
the upper room. 
That’s about a quarter of the number that
call Cornerstone their church home.  And
through the efforts and leadership of the eleven remaining Apostles those 120
people literally changed the course of history.
Now I understand that God was working, and
the Holy Spirit was moving but it ultimately happened because of these
men.  This was the group that God had
chosen to accomplish his plan through.  
And they changed the world that they lived in, without television or
radio or the internet, without force or violence they reshaped humanity in a
matter of half a century.
And while we might not know everything
about the Apostles there are some things that we know about the twelve, let’s
start with their call.
Mark
3:13-14
 Afterward
Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him.
And they came to him.  Then he appointed twelve of them and called them
his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach.
. .
They
Weren’t Just any Minions, They Were Chosen Minions
Just so you understand, there were
countless disciples but there were only twelve apostles.
The twelve weren’t the only ones to follow
Christ during the three years he taught, Jesus had followers two thousand years
before twitter, but the twelve were the ones who followed him the closest and
he chose them for their role they would play in changing the world.
Jesus had come to the place that his
mission and his message could no longer be fulfilled without the help of
others.  He was working under constraints
that he had put on himself by choosing to come when he came and choosing how he
came. 
He came as a person and he came at a time
when there was no social media, no mass media, no printed media and for that
matter no media period.  If people were
going to hear his message they would need to hear it in person. 
And I’m in no way suggesting that there
would have been a better time or a better way, Paul tells us in Romans 5 that
Jesus didn’t come at just anytime, he came at just the right time.
And because of that he needed help if his
message was going to spread and if his message was going to stick. 
And so he choose the 12.  Notice that he didn’t chose 12 people who
would do their own thing in their own way at their own time.  Instead He chose 12 who would function as a
group.  From the very beginning
Christianity was designed to be a social religion and wasn’t simply to be
something we do by ourselves.
And so Jesus called the twelve to serve a
couple of purposes.  He called them to be
the steady and constant players in the drama of his mission. 
We would see others who would come and go,
but for three years the 12 were with him. 
And he called them to represent him, he couldn’t be everywhere so he
multiplied his efforts when he called the twelve.  It’s a great example of synergy. 
And the scriptures were very clear the 12
were different than the multitude.
Why would he call these 12 and not 12
others?  Because he’s God and because of
that He  ultimately he gets to choose Wesley wrote “With
regard to the eternal states of men, God always acts as just and merciful. But
with regard to numberless other things, he seems to us to act as a mere
sovereign.”   
So, they were chosen, what else do we
learn? Let’s keep reading. 
Acts 4:13-14  The members of the
council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they
could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the
Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.  But
since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among
them, there was nothing the council could say.
While
they were Special Minions, They Were Ordinary Minions
So, who were these “Apostles” and what were
they like?  Well let’s start by saying
they were people, they weren’t statues or stained glass windows they were people.  Living breathing people with all of the
faults and foibles, passions and vision that make us people.
Too often we elevate the apostles up on a
pedestal and point to them and say, “Well I could never be like them.”  But they reality is that we are just like
them and they were just like us.
You don’t have to dig very far before you
discover that Jesus wasn’t recruiting from Ivy League universities or prestigious
firms and institutions. 
He found Peter
and his brother Andrew along with John and his brother James on the beach.   They were
all fisherman. I’m kind of glad he still calls fishermen.
Matthew was a
tax collector and Jesus found him in the tax booth.  We talked a little bit about tax collectors
last Sunday.  
2000 years ago
tax collectors weren’t anyone’s favorite people, I don’t even think their
mother’s liked them.   If you do a search
of tax collectors in the New Testament you find them mentioned with thieves and
prostitutes, drunkards and sinners. 
And it wasn’t
just because they collected the taxes, although to be fair that was a good part
of it, it was who they collected the taxes for. 
The tax collectors worked for the Romans, the occupiers and so they were
seen as collaborators and traitors by their countrymen. 
On the other end
of the spectrum was a man named Simon, and whenever he is mentioned it says in
brackets (the Zealot) which meant he was on the far right on the political
scale.   The zealots were nationalists and in reality,
they were probably terrorists.  Depending
on which side you were looking at them from. 
You would be
hard pressed to have a zealot in the same room as a tax collector without a
fist fight breaking out.   But from the
very beginning Jesus insisted that the most diverse people should be able to
get along.  
I’m pretty
sure that Matthew and Simon never came to a place that their political views
were in agreement, but that’s the great thing. 
We don’t have to agree about politics or hockey or what type of music we
enjoy or the food we like.  But we have
to agree that Jesus is Lord.
And then there
was Nathanial who was a little bit of a racist. 
And you’re thinking “No, one of the apostles could never be guilty of
something so base.” 
Really? Let’s
pick up the story in the book of John. 
Andrew has
introduced Philip to Jesus and now Philip goes to look for Nathanael and when
he finds him he tells him told him in, John 1:45. . . “We have found the very person Moses and the
prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”  
And I love the
response that Philips gets from his friend: 
John 1:46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything
good come from Nazareth?”   
Well maybe he
wasn’t a racist, but he was a cityist. 


If’n I was
Jesus, and I’m not but If’n I was not sure that would have endeared Nathanael
to me.  I’m from Saint John NB, or at
least that’s where I call home and if someone asked, and they probably have
“Can anything good come from Saint John?” 
I’d take it personal, even if there is a certain amount of truth to the
statement. 
But before his
encounter is over we read this  John 1:49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of
Israel!”
We don’t know what the rest of the group
did for a living, but what we do know is that it didn’t merit a mention.
William Barclay sums it up when he
writes:  “Judging them by worldly
standards the men Jesus chose had no special qualifications at all. They were
not wealthy; they had no special social position; they had no special
education—they were not trained theologians; they were not high-ranking
churchmen and ecclesiastics; they were twelve ordinary men.”


So let’s keep going in the story:    Matthew 4:18-22  One day as Jesus was walking along the
shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and
Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus
called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for
people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed him.  A
little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting
in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them
to come, too.  They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their
father behind.
They
Were Obedient Minions but They Weren’t Perfect Minions
I love this passage, Jesus says follow me
and the response of Peter, Andrew, James and John is simple,  the bible says 
“and they followed him.”   When Jesus called Matthew from his job as a
tax collector we are told that “Matthew got up and followed him.”
Over and over again in the scriptures we
see the Apostles obeying Jesus’ commands.  
Hand out a few fish and buns to thousands of people, no problem.  Cast your net over the side of the boat, no
problem.  Preach the word, no
problem. 
And that was part of the deal, Jesus told
them John 14:21  Those who accept my
commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me,
my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of
them.”
And it’s easy to see the apostles as super
saints who had an incredible amount of faith and succeeded in everything they
tried.  And again, that becomes
daunting.  The Apostles are way up there
and we are way down here.  And we can
never be like them, so why bother trying?
But they didn’t always get it right.  In Matthew 17 we read the story where a man
brought his son to Jesus to be healed and said “I took him to the minions and
they couldn’t do anything.”  And Jesus
said it was because they didn’t have enough faith.
It was the apostles who couldn’t stay up
and pray with Jesus in the garden while had awaited his arrest.  Because they kept falling asleep.
And this was the group that scattered and
hid after Jesus was arrested.
But even though they blew it sometime, and
even though they didn’t always get it right, they tried and when they blew it
they were willing to get back up, ask for forgiveness and get on with life.
 It’s
so easy to be paralyzed by the fear of failure and refuse to do anything, but
watch the apostles.  For all their
faults, they tried. 
And here is a word of encouragement, there
will be days you will blow it and days that if God could be embarrassed then you
will embarrass him. 
But you still need to try and remember that
in the end his forgiveness and his grace are there and they are bigger than
your failures. 
Don’t be a Judas, and I don’t mean don’t
betray Christ.  I mean don’t give up on
Christ, he won’t give up on you.  I don’t
know what your theology might be but I believe that  if Judas had of accepted the grace and
forgiveness of Christ then he would have been forgiven, he just didn’t accept
what had been offered.
Set your eyes on Christ, make it your goal
to be obedient, but remember his grace is so much bigger than our
failures. 
Acts 1:8  But you will receive power when
the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people
about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends
of the earth.”    And finally we discover that When
Ordinary Minions are Obedient Minions They Can Change the World 
It was just forty days before Jesus had
made that promise that the Apostle had scattered in fear.
If you were to ask anyone the day after the
crucifixion, including the apostles, what the 12  might amount to the answer to paraphrase
Vice-President Garner would probably be that they wouldn’t amount to a bucket
of warm spit.
After the resurrection, there were eleven
of the original 12 left, 11 ordinary people who chose to be obedient.
And they would literally turn the world
upside down.  This was a group of men who
had never travelled more than 100 km from where they were born, and yet before
they died they had taken the gospel to the very edges of the known world.
Tradition tells us that Simon the Zealot
went as far as the British Isles, that Thomas went to India and Peter went to
Rome.  Philip we are told ventured to
North Africa, Matthew went to Ethiopia and we are told that Andrew ventured as
far north as the “Land of the Man-Eaters” which is thought to be modern Day
Russia.
Sources indicate that by the time the last
Apostle died that there were close to 1 million believers world-wide. 
The reality is that
for two thousand years God has been using ordinary obedient people to change
the world.  And he can use you, if you
will let him.

So let me close with the words of  William Barclay who
said “These twelve had all kinds of faults, but
whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not
afraid to tell the world that they loved him–and that is being a Christian.”

Take the Time to Vote.

He dropped the writ.  We’ve been waiting for it and wondering when it would happen and now it has happened.  Dropping the writ is an awesome term.  It is much classier than simply saying that he called an election.   
However, it doesn’t really matter whether you are dropping a writ or calling an election, the end result is an incredible privilege.  A privilege that the majority of the world will never have and that the minority who do have it often take for granted. 
So this election instead of grumbling and complaining, let’s pray and ponder.  Pray that the leaders who will lead our province well will be elected, regardless of their party, and ponder the issues so that you can vote responsibly.
But, however you vote, please vote.  Because the person who chooses not to vote is no better off than the person who does not have the right to vote.
Regardless of what some people say, democracy isn’t a God given right. You won’t find it in the Bible, but it is a right that has been paid for with the blood and sacrifice of people.  So over the next four weeks pray and ponder and on May 30th take the time to do what most of the world can’t do, vote.
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. 

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