Connecting with the Created

I was probably 9 or 10 when I first discovered Lego, as opposed to the soft plastic bricks that I had been playing with up to that time. Even though Lego had been around for 20 years it was only introduced in Canada in the early sixties.    But even after I discovered the joys of Lego I didn’t realize that you could actually buy kits with instruction manuals to help you build them.

Which kind of seems like cheating to me.

In 1964 the first Lego kit was introduced and you could build a cowboy and pony.

Since then the sky has been the limit when it comes to Lego Kits, from most of the world’s great landmarks, think the London Bridge and Eiffel Tower right up to most of the Star Wars fleet.   But the biggest kit that had ever been produced was the Taj Mahal set which contains almost 6,000 pieces.

Well move over Taj Mahal, early this month Lego released a new Millennium Falcon set which contains 7,541 pieces. And it can be yours for only 799.99 American.  And Luke said it was a piece of junk.

And the reality is that what allows you to take a pile of randomly shaped, sized and coloured bricks and create sometime like the Taj Mahal or the Millennium Falcon is their ability to connect with one another.

This Fall our series at Cornerstone has been “Connect” and we’ve been looking at how we are to connect.

And so in week one we looked at how we were created to connect.  To connect with God, to connect with creation and to connect with others.

Last week we went a little deeper in connecting with our creator and looked at how we connect by talking to God, by praising God, by listening to God and by trusting God.

This week I want to look at connecting with the created, that’s us.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment his answer is found in Mark 12:29-31  Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD.  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

 

And most of us are familiar with the concept of the greatest commandment, Love God and Love others.  And most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule, not the one that says “He who has the gold makes the rules”, but the one that Jesus taught when he said Matthew 7:12  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

But the premise of both of these is the same, love others as you love yourself.  So, at the core you first need to have a love for yourself.  That almost seems wrong and selfish.  Love ourselves?  We are supposed to love our spouses, and love our children and love God and love others, we aren’t supposed to love ourselves.  Or are we?

Because, can we really love others without loving ourselves?

Author Ayn Rand wrote “To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.”

The reality is that you will only be able to love who you are when you finally connect with yourself.

The phrase “Know thyself” has been around for thousands of years, it’s been attributed to both Plato and Socrates, and it really doesn’t matter who said it first, the truth of the statement is that we each need to know who we are in order to connect. To connect with God and to connect with others begins with connecting with ourselves.

So to know ourselves we Need to Know that We Were Created by God This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my messages lately.  To know ourselves is to know that we aren’t simply an accident or an oops.   And that’s important, to know we were created to be here.

We not the result of a single cell creature that accidental evolved from the primordial sludge millions of years ago.  Instead we are the creation of a loving creator.

3000 years ago David wrote in Psalm 139:13  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

And maybe you find it difficult to celebrate how God created you.  Seriously, I have a theory that when people with a healthy self-esteem look in the mirror their reaction is, “Meh, not bad.”

They are neither the ones who look in the mirror and hate what they see, nor the ones who think the one looking back at them is perfect. “Meh, not bad.”  Unless it 4:30 on a Sunday morning, then it’s just scary.

And to the point, I think most of us would be willing to change how we were designed if we had the chance.  If I was creating Denn, he would have longer legs, thicker hair a thinner body and the voice of James Earle Jones.  But I wasn’t asked so “Meh, not bad.”

Tennessee Williams wrote  “There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors.”

Or, there is another option,  when we connect as a Christ Follower and understand that we were created by the God of the Universe then we can say as David did in the next verse of Psalm 139, Psalm 139:14  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

And if you are still struggling with who you are then here’s something to think about. You are a walking talking miracle, only God could have made you what you are.  Engineers have never been able to come close to devising a machine equal to God’s supreme achievement, which is you.

Every minute of our lives the heart pumps over five litres of blood through our bodies, that’s over 300 litres of blood an hour, 7,200 litres of blood a day through a network of 96,000 km of arteries, veins and capillaries.

You represent on the average, 5 million hairs, 20 sq. Feet of skin, 650 muscles, 206 bones, as a matter of fact there are enough bones in the body that if you put them all together you’d have a complete skeleton,  100 joints and over 13 million nerve cells.

Within you there is enough fat for four cakes of soap, enough lime to white wash a small shed, the carbon equivalent of 14 kilos of coal, enough phosphorus to make 2,200 matches, enough iron for a 1 inch nail and for good measure a spoonful of sulphur and 28 grams of various metals other than iron.

In the course of your life time you will eat 45,400 kilos of food, drink 45,000 litres of liquid and walk about 24,000 km.

As a matter of fact, Life Gem, an Illinois company, says it can turn cremated remains into diamonds.  They remove the carbon, turn it into graphite and simulate the conditions that create a diamond, and voila you are now a diamond weighing in at about a quarter caret.  Guess it was true about you being a diamond in the rough.

You are not a mistake, or a goof or an accident, you are a divine creation, spoke into being by the same God who fashioned the great barrier reef who molded the Rocky Mountains with his hands, scooped out the Grand Canyon with his fingers and cast the milky way into the night sky.

To question the creator or to belittle his creation is pretty close to blaspheme.  You say “But preacher I’m not very tall, or very athletic, or very pretty, and I don’t sing as well as Evie or play guitar like Shawn.”  Me neither, but I’m not Evie or Shawn.

Have you ever watched God doodle in the evening sky with a sunset?  And as you stood there and marveled at the master’s hand in nature?  Have you ever shouted to the heavens, “Hey, you could use a little more purple in the back and the oranges aren’t quite as bright as they could be”?  Of course not.

Every one of us is as unique as a sunset, and each one of us is precious to God because of our uniqueness, because he is the one who made us unique.  Which has to rank more than a “Meh, not bad.”

But God didn’t just create us and forget us.  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.

So to know ourselves we Need to Know that We are Loved by God Last week I spoke about how the first couple deliberately disobeyed God.  And how that caused a break in our relationship with God.

But God loved us so much he wasn’t willing to let us go.

Now you know as well as I do that the world is a big place, and it’s got a lot of people, at last count there were 7,576,592,610… 11…12…13…14  Anyway there are a lot of people out there and sometimes we divide God’s love by that number and we think well that doesn’t leave very much for me.

But dividing God’s love isn’t like splitting a pizza.  Because with God’s love there is as much love there for me, or for you as there is for the entire world.

We could read John 3:16  “For God loved Denn so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that if Denn believes in him then Denn will not perish but have eternal life. And not only did he love me that much but he loved you that much too.

You need to be able to look in the mirror and say, “For God so loved me, that he gave his one and only son.”  Maybe we would do well to start off the morning singing “Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so, little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me, yes Jesus loves me the bible tells me so.”

Can you imagine a king loving you so much that they would willingly give up their throne and live as a commoner for thirty-three years and then would willing die in your place?

A pretty awesome thought isn’t it.  The world stood in awe at the power of love when Edward the Eighth abdicated the throne of England because of his love for Wallis Simpson.  But the sacrifice he made for his love was minute compared to the love of God for each one of us.

From the beginning of time sin has separated man from his God, and man has sought to bridge that gap through rules, and regulations, through offerings and sacrifices.  The prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 64:6  We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.

Because no matter how good we are, we are never good enough.  And we end up like a dog chasing our tails.

And into that confusion stepped God Almighty in human form, and the bible tells us that he took our sins on himself, and he paid the price.  A price that we could never pay on our own.  A price that he paid willingly. Titus 3:4-6  But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love,  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.  He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

And in 1 John 4:10  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

You are so special that Jesus Christ came to this earth and lived and died so that you could be saved, so that you could have eternal life.

He’s your creator and he wants to be your saviour, but it goes further than that because  John the apostle tells us in John 1:12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

Now that is a gift, the right to become the children of God.  You are so special to God, that he gave you the right to become a child of His, the right to say “My father created the universe, he is the master of everything, he is almighty God.”

Do you realise how special you need to be to be offered the keys to the kingdom of God?

What if Queen Elizabeth phoned you tomorrow and said, “I’m really disappointed with Chuck, Anne,  Andy and Eddie and so I would really like for you to become my child.  Everything I have is yours, you will be the heir to my throne, all my power, all my resources everything I have will be yours”?

What would your reaction be?  Not interested. Oh come on, think about it, fishing in the highlands, driving around in expensive cars.

It would be a lot like my job, except for the fishing in the highlands and driving around in expensive cars.

Now the chances of that happening are pretty slim.  But God is offering you that, he’s offering to let you be his child, with all the perks that go along with it.  Why?  Because he loves us.

Are you getting a better picture of who you are?  Created and loved by the God of the universe.

We need to understand the words of Marianne Williamson who wrote  “Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, . . . ‘Know thyself’ is not a narcissistic pursuit.”

So, what are the results of connecting with yourself?

First of all, You will have More Joy  When you connect with yourself as a Christian and realize that you are not an accident and you are loved then it’s easier to find happiness and joy in that.

Paul reminded the early church in  Romans 4:7-8  “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin.”

And if you are living a life without joy as a Christian it may be because even though you may have claimed the forgiveness that God offers you haven’t actually accepted it.

You keep going back to those mistakes, and bad choices that you made in your past.  Please stop it, if you God can forgive you please forgive yourself.    Your sins have been forgiven, they’ve been put out of sight, your record has been cleared.  Because God loves you.

But connecting with yourself not only gives you the assurance that your past has been dealt with, it gives you the assurance that you can now live as a Christ Follower.

When you connect with yourself as a Christian and realize that you are not an accident and that God loves you then  You Will Be Able to Resist Temptation To hear some people it seems that they believe that God sets them up to fail.

That the reason they make bad choices is because God has put them in or allowed them to be put in situations where they have to sin.

But God has set us up to succeed not to fail.

Listen to what the word of God promises us,   1 Corinthians 10:13  The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

God created you, he knows all about you, he knows about your weaknesses and about your desires and yet his word says that He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.  And because he loves you, when you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

And when you connect with yourself you discover and understand what pushes your buttons, you discover your weaknesses and your strengths.  And you know the places, people and situations that you need to avoid.

And you discover that don’t have to make bad choices, there is always a good choice that you can make.

When you connect with yourself as a Christian and realize that you are not an accident and that God loves you then You Will Have More Tolerance for Others 

 This goes back to loving others as you love yourself.  When you are aware of your own weakness and struggles that will help you empathize with others.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was known as one of the five good Emperors and in his writings he said  “Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?”

And we will only have that awareness when we know ourselves and have connected with who we are.

John Bradford was an English preacher and reformer who lived five hundred years ago, it is said that once when Bradford saw a group of prisoners being led away to their execution that he said,  “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford”

Bradford knew himself.

And ultimately it’s not just Joy about our forgiveness and the ability to live our Christian life that we have, Jesus reminds us in  John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

When you connect with yourself as a Christian and realize that you are not an accident and that God loves you then You Will Have More Peace

It is the peace that comes from knowing your beginning.  That is knowing that you aren’t an accident, that there is a design and a plan.  And it’s also the peace that comes from knowing the end, what happens when the story of this life is over.

John wrote to those who were following Christ 2000 years ago assuring them 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.

You’ve heard me say this before John Wesley is reported to have once said “The world can say what they like about us Methodist, but they have to admit: we die well.”

That’s because we have the peace of knowing we were created and loved by God.

 

 

Can you say Mutt?

Well, I got my DNA back the other day and I can now definitively say that I am a human being.

Outside of that I think my official designation would be “mongrel”,

which proudly makes me a Canadian.

I’m not sure how anyone whose family has been in Canada for several generations can boast of any particular genetic background.

I am, in no particular order, part First Nations, part Scandinavian, part British and Irish, a little Eastern European, a little Northwestern European, a fair amount of French and German and surprisingly Southern European, including 2% Sardinian.

I had to Google the last one to make sure I wasn’t a fish.

And some of it wasn’t a surprise. I knew about the First Nations (two great-great-great Grand Mothers), the Irish and Welsh connections as well as my Northwestern European heritage, (my great Grandfather was from Estonia).  And the rest of it was just a fun discovery.

But the results did remind me of my humanity, what a melting pot our country is and that the concept of racial purity is pretty much a myth.

And more important it reminded me that I’m a child of God’s and even if we aren’t related by blood and DNA we are related by grace.   Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

 

 

 

Connecting with the Creator

As you might be able to tell from the platform, the signs and the bulletin, Lego has been on our mind lately.  Didn’t Stefan do a great job.  Do me a favour, don’t touch my pulpit.

The “Lego group” began in the workshop of a Danish carpenter by the name of Ole Kirk Christiansen who began making wooden toys in 1932 and two years later named his new company Lego.  Which comes from a Danish phrase “leg godt”, which means “play well”.

In 1947 the company expanded into a new technology and began producing plastic toys and in 1949 they produced an early version of their interlocking bricks.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Here is an ad from 1958, the kid in the boy tie is Ole’s son and he’s now the richest man in Denmark.

Lego wasn’t a new invention, instead it was a modified design of the Kiddicraft brick from the UK which was a little bit like the Minibrix, also from the UK.

And perhaps you are wondering: So what?  What does Lego have to do with church?  Well, it’s all about the connections.

What made Lego different than the original blocks that Christiansen started with, was their ability to connect and because of the round pegs that connected them what they could create seemed almost limitless.

Last Sunday I spoke about how we were created to connect.  To connect with our creator. To connect with creation and to connect with other people.

This week we are going to dive a little deeper into connecting with our creator.

Last week our scripture ended with the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and finished with these words at the end of Genesis chapter 2 Genesis 2:25  The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Chapter 3 begins with Adam and Eve being tempted by the Satan to do the only thing that they were told not to do, and that was to not eat the fruit from one specific tree.

That part of the story is found in Genesis 2:15-17  The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

And if they had of just been tempted by Satan that would have been one thing.  We are all tempted.  Jesus was tempted, by Satan.  Temptation isn’t disobedience.  Disobedience is disobedience.  There was just one thing they couldn’t do, they couldn’t eat the fruit from one tree.  That was it.  They could climb the tree, they could cut the tree down, they could do anything except eat the fruit from the tree.   And you know what happened?  Yep, fruit salad for lunch.

 

And the first line after they deliberately disobeyed their creator is found in Genesis 3:7  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Before they deliberately disobeyed they had no shame, immediately after their disobedience they are filled with shame.  Hmmmmmm.

And with that shame came a break in the connection.  Every once in a while, if you’re playing with Lego you discover they won’t connect.  And upon further investigation you’ll discover that someone has used the Lego for a playdough cookie cutter.  Yeah, go figure.  And because of that the connections just don’t connect.  They are gummed up with stuff that isn’t supposed to be there.

Adam and Eve’s connection with God had gotten gummed up with something that wasn’t supposed to be there, sin.

Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience the intimate connection they had had with their creator was damaged.  They chose to walk away from him, it was their decision not his.

Reminds me of the story of the old farmer and his wife who were driving along one day in their pickup and she observed “how come we don’t drive all cuddled up like we did when we were younger?” to which he replied, “I haven’t moved.”

And sometimes it seems that we look at God and wonder why we aren’t as close as we used to be, but he hasn’t moved, he’s still where he has always been.

Even though it was humanity who moved away from God, there is still a need to connect with God.  Most of us have felt that stirring to connect with our creator.  But how?  How do we, finite men and women connect with an infinite God who created the universe?

 

Good question.   David was the King of Israel 3000 years ago, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and even though he had his struggles and wasn’t perfect it would appear that he had connected with God.

He wrote the majority of the Psalms in the Bible and Jesus was sometimes referred to as “The Son of David”. Which would be reflective of the fact that Jesus’ mother was a descendant of King David’s.

One of the Psalms that David wrote was Psalm 63 that was read for us earlier, and in this Psalm, David writes about some of the ways that he connected with his God.

So, a little bit of the back story here, this was written after the entire David and Goliath thing.  Now some scholars would date it to the period before David has become King.

David had become a soldier in King Saul’s court and has become a favourite of the peoples and Saul begins to feel threatened and puts a bounty on David’s head and David ends up on the run, living in the desert and hills of Judah until Saul is accidental killed and David assumes the throne.

Other scholars tell us that this was written after David was already king and his 3rd son, Absalom, led an attempted coup during which time David was in the wilderness again.  It would have been so much easier if David had of used Microsoft Word, then we could just check the properties tab to find out when it had been written.

But the timing isn’t nearly as important as the circumstances.

David is far from his home and far from his family, on he is on the run and fearing for his life.  And yet during some of his darkest hours, he is finding time to connect with his Creator.  So let’s start at the beginning:

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll Have to Want to Connect with God  David begins by acknowledging the relationship “Oh God you are my God.”  This wasn’t somebody else’s God that David was seeking to connect with, this was David’s God.

David had already connected with God in the sense that he knew God, we’d say that he had a relationship with God.  This was just going deeper in the relationship.

You can have a relationship with someone and not be connected to them.

There are marriages like that, where the husband and wife have settled into the equivalency of being roommates.  Technically they are husband and wife, they were married and they’ve never gotten divorced, or even separated, they live in the same house but they are no longer connected.

Or you perhaps you know of parents who are estranged from their children or the other way around.  There is still a relationship but no connection.

But David wanted more than just a de facto relationship.

There are folks who have a relationship with God, they have accepted the promise of forgiveness, they have partaken of his Grace.  But it hasn’t gone deeper than that.  But like the marriage without connection, there will be no joy in a relationship with God without a connection to God.

But David is craving to have a deeper relationship with God, he wrote “My whole-body longs for you.”

Preacher Alexander McLaren wrote in the Expositions of Holy Scripture “There is a great deal more in Christianity than longing, but there is no Christianity worth the name without it.”

Over and over again the bible reminds us that when we seek God that we will find Him.  Our grandkids love playing Hide and Seek but that isn’t God’s game.  God promises us in Proverbs 8:17  “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me.”

So, beyond longing to connect what were David’s next steps?

We can want to connect with someone, and long to connect with someone but never move beyond that longing to connecting.  Charlie Brown’s relationship with the little red-headed girl proves that.

So let’s keep reading,  Psalm 63:3-4  Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!  I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll have to Talk to God. 

 When you hear the word prayer what is your first thought?  For some, it involves prayer requests, when you ask someone to pray for you or tell someone that you’ll pray for them.  But is that it?

Is prayer just a shopping list and is God simply a vendor where we put in a request and pull out an answer?

Meister Eckhart, wrote “But many people want to look upon God with the eyes with which they look upon a cow; they want to love God the way they love a cow that you love because it gives you milk and cheese. This is how people behave who want to love God because of external wealth or inner comfort, but they do not love God properly: rather, they love their self-interest.”

If that is a reality than your prayer life probably isn’t going to increase your connection with God.

Have you ever had someone in your life who is always asking you for something?  A little confession here, through the years I have had names come up on my phone and my first thought is “What do they want now?”  I’m sure that you aren’t that shallow.  But I don’t feel like I’m connected to those people, used by them perhaps but not connected.

Mother Teresa defines prayer when she said “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”

Prayer is talking to God, telling him what your day was like, thanking him for what he’s done, and yes asking him to help you.  And sometimes it’s asking for things and healings and help, but sometimes the asking has to be for wisdom in dealing with situations.  That’s why we are told in James 1:5  If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

I don’t know about you but I’m a lot quicker to ask God to fix something or provide something then I am to ask for the wisdom to fix it or provide it myself.

Find the time to pray.  Maybe you are a morning prayer person, you start your day with God or maybe you’re a nighttime last thing before going to bed prayer person.  Or maybe you find time through the day, at your desk, while you are driving or while you are going for a walk when you talk to God.

There isn’t a specific time or formula to communicating with someone you love.   Just find time to connect with God through your prayers.

But David wasn’t just praying to God.  Let’s read that verse again, Psalm 63:3-4  Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you!  I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.

The word Praise is used more than any other word in this Psalm.  In the next verse we read

Psalm 63:5  You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy.   And then just a little further along we read, Psalm 63:7  Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll have to Praise God.  David was a musician, and so it was natural for him to express his love for God in song.

And because most of us connect emotionally via music we still connect with him that way.  It’s not the only way to praise him, but for most of us it just works.

There are songs that touch our souls and allow us to express to God what mere words alone can’t.  Even for those of us who aren’t musical.

Sometimes it’s singing out loud, sometimes it’s singing in our souls.

And here is the thing, what works for you and helps you connect with God, won’t necessarily work for me.  And it doesn’t have to.

I don’t have to like, enjoy or even appreciate the same sacred music that you do.  Because you’re not singing it for me and I’m not singing it for you.

Sometimes we think that the only music that God likes is what we like, got news for you. . . you’re not God.

And even if it doesn’t entail music if you are going to connect with God it will require you to acknowledge who he is and thank him for that.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray the first line was Matthew 6:9 “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  That’s praise, when we recognize his name as holy, when we acknowledge his character, that’s praise.

But there is more to connecting with God than just talking to him and praising him.

And so David writes,  Psalm 63:6  I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll have to Listen to God   Sometimes meditation gets a bad rap.   When we hear about meditating we think of Eastern religions and the New Age Movement from the 1970s and 80s.  Sitting cross-legged, which would rule it out right there for me, and humming or repeating a mantra while opening ourselves up spiritually for whoever to fill.

So I thought maybe that was a mistranslation and David used a word in the Hebrew that meant something other than “meditate”.  So I looked it up, like Dr. Lennox told us to, and sure enough, the word in the original language meant. . . Meditate.

So I went to the Collins English dictionary and Meditate means

  1. to think about something deeply
  2. to reflect deeply on spiritual matters, esp as a religious act
  3. to plan, consider, or think of doing (something) 

When the people of Israel were going into the Promised land and God was giving Joshua direction for governing his people this was a part of those directions,   Joshua 1:8  Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

If prayer is us talking to God, the Bible is God talking to us.  And the only way you get it, is to read it.

Find a bible that you can read.  I personally enjoy the New Living Translation, but the New International Version is easy to read as well.

You can find an app for your phone or tablet, or you can get a real paper bible if that’s what you prefer.  And paper bibles are no holier than electronic bibles.  If you need a bible talk to one of the staff we have bibles.

Start with the Gospels.  Read the story of Jesus.  Then read the book of Acts, that’s the story of the church.  When you’re done with those five books check back with me and I’ll make another suggestion.

I can’t comprehend people who say they are Christians or Christ follower but have never read the story of Christ.   Seems like you’re taking a pretty big chance, gambling your eternity on someone you don’t know anything about.

Psalm 63:2  I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory.

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll have to Spend Time with God’s People  The sanctuary was where corporate worship took place for the Jews.  It’s where the scriptures were read, where public prayers were voiced and where the offerings were brought.  Kind of sounds like church.

And David said one of the places that he connected with God was in corporate worship.

22 times in the Psalms David writes about connecting with God at the sanctuary, for comfort, for instruction and for the opportunity to be in God’s presence.

And you will hear people say that they don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, but Christianity isn’t and has never been a solitary religion.  It was born in a group and it grew as a group.  And there are things that we can accomplish as a group working together that we could never accomplish alone.

And we are warned in Hebrews 10:25  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

And we will be looking at that a little more when we look at connecting with the Creators Kids.

And then finally David writes,  Psalm 63:8  I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. 

If you are going to connect with God, You’ll have to Trust God  Do you trust God?  I mean really trust God?  Do you trust him with your today and your tomorrows?

Jesus told those who were following him in  John 14:1 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”

Jesus spoke those words 2000 years ago but the reality is that they are for us today.  In a world filled with trouble and turmoil, Jesus is saying “trust me”

When we trust God, we draw closer to him.  When we begin to trust him with our family, our finances and our future we begin to lean on him.  And you have to be close in order to lean.

Have you ever gone to lean up against a wall and discovered that it was further away then you thought it was?  No?  Me neither, but I read about it in a book.  I understand that it can be a little disconcerting.

As you trust in God you lean more into his presence.  And you can’t trust from a distance.

It was Martin Luther who wrote, “Pray, and let God worry.”

If you are a Christian then you have already trusted God with your eternity, shouldn’t you be able to trust him with your today?

And so I leave you with the words from one of Jesus’ best friend Peter, who wrote to the early church   1 Peter 1:8-9  You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

 

 

When a Deal is Not a Deal

So, an unidentified woman in Toronto has lodged a complaint with the Police because a cosmetic surgery procedure that she had performed had gone wrong and resulted in an infection.  It was only after she had to undergo corrective surgery that she made the complaint.

And you almost feel bad for the lady until you keep reading in the story and discover that the original surgery was performed in a home basement by a 19-year-old who advertised herself as “Dr Kitty.”  Dr Kitty?

Now the pretend doctor, 19-year-old Jingyi Wang has been arrested and charged with one count of aggravated assault.  I wonder if they can charge the patient with stupidity?

That’s a little harsh but still, at what point does allowing a 19-year-old, named Dr Kitty to operate on you in a basement seem like a good idea?  It must have been a great deal, as a matter of fact, it must have fallen under the category of a “too good to be true” deal.

The Bible tells us that there is a way that seems right but in the end, leads to death.  And yet many choose it for the same reason people chose Dr Kitty as a surgeon because it provides what they want today, with little regard about tomorrow.

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

Created to Connect

How many of you grew up with Lego?  Not me, I had the little soft red building blocks when I was a kid. Other kids had Lego, but I had these little red building blocks.

They looked like bricks but they only connected at two points and those points were square, so everything you built had to be square.

You couldn’t do all the cool things with them that you could do with Lego.  Like, you couldn’t build a car, but you could build a wall.  And you couldn’t build a spaceship, but you could build a wall.  You couldn’t build a person, but . . .  you could build a wall.

And I built many a wall when I was a kid.  And I remember being at a friend’s place and discovering Lego for the first time.  All the different sizes and colours, and the different ways they could connect.  Suddenly my walls were unlimited in their potential, all because of the ways the Legos connected.

A few years ago, I was reading a book called “The Sticky Church” and the author Larry Osborne made the observation that most people were like Lego blocks and had a finite number of connections that they could make.  And when their connections points were full that they couldn’t add any more meaningful relationships without removing one or two of the existing connections.

And in the same way that different Lego blocks have different numbers of connection points, 2 4 or six we are all different in our capacity for relationships.

Some folks seem to be fine with only a couple of those relationships, and that’s really all they can handle.  Others are like those Lego mats and the point of connection seem unlimited.

And there have been building blocks around since a carpenter figured out there was a market for smooth symmetrical pieces of wood.  But they didn’t connect, they just stacked.

The difference between Lego and traditional building blocks is that Lego was designed and created to connect.

 

And people were designed and created to connect as well.  When God created each of us, he created us with a need to connect with others.

 

If we go back to the scripture we started with we find ourselves in the Garden at the point of creation.

Which is our first point  We Were Created

Now if you are familiar with the creation account of Genesis then you are aware that there are some differences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.   Genesis 1 begins with these words Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And then we read the account of creation.  The Creation of the universe, the creation of the world and all that is in the world.

That is called intelligent design. Didn’t happen with a big bang and it didn’t happen by chance, it was a choice and it was the decision of the God of the Universe.

And you can believe in the evolution of the complexity of humanity from a single cell creature that miraculously appeared tens of millions of years ago.  But I just don’t have that much faith.

I was talking to Euan McGinty an optometrist the other day and he mentioned that for him the complexity of the eye itself was evidence of a creator.  Each aspect of what we are and who we are points to a creator.

3000 years ago David wrote these words Psalm 139:13-15  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.  You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

I love that David would talk about being knit and woven together even though it wasn’t until 1953 that James Watson and Francis Crick would discover the DNA Helix that literally knits us together in our mother’s wombs.

200 years ago William Paley wrote “Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity” and in that work, he pondered creation and speculated that if you found a watch, you would assume there was a watchmaker.  Which seems to make sense.

Noted atheist Richard Dawkins has tried to refute Paley by stating “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind force of physics, albeit deplored in a special way”

As I said earlier to believe that all this was created by the blind force of physics requires more faith than I have, but that is a sermon for another time.

So let’s go back to our story, the account of the the creation of people and we find that in two verses,  Genesis 1:26-28  Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like ourselves. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”  So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

And the creation account ends in Chapter 1 with these words Genesis 1:31  Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.

And so, chapter one details the creation of everything, culminating in the creation of humanity.

Chapter 2 begins with God resting and setting into place the concept of the Sabbath and the need for us to rest.  We read this account in the opening of the second chapter of the Bible, Genesis 2:1-4  So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed.  On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.  This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. . .

And the focus here isn’t on the fact that God rested, it’s on the fact that he blessed and made holy the time following His period of creation.

He was now creating the Sabbath for his creation.  And that is a sermon for another time as well. 

And it is in verse five that we see the story shift.  From the creation of things to the creation of life.

As people, we are good at creating stuff, and we have been creating stuff for thousands of years.  Look at the pyramids and at the international space station, humanity can create some really cool stuff.

But now we read in Genesis 2:7  Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

A little boy had been in church and heard his pastor preaching on our lives and the preacher referenced both Genesis 2:7 as well as Ecclesiastes 3:20  Both go to the same place—they came from dust and they return to dust.  Later in the day and he came out and asked his mother, “you know how the preacher said that we came from dust and we will return to dust?”  His mother, sensing a deep conversation replied “Yes”.  “Well,” he said, “I just looked under my bed and there is someone either coming or going under there.”

 

 

One author said that Chapter one was creation from God’s perspective, how he saw it from outside of the universe as he spoke everything into being, in an orderly fashion and while creation ended with the creation of Adam and Eve they weren’t the primary focus of the story, creation was.

 

In chapter two the focus narrows from the Universe, from the Heavens and the earth to the story of humanity in the garden. It literally zooms in on a little spot on earth.   And as the story of creation is retold from a more intimate perspective a shift takes place in how God is referred to.

In the first part of the creation story, the Hebrew word that the author uses for God is Elohîm, one author describes this as being “Creator God, transcendent and majestic”.

But when the story shifts, from the immenseness of the universe to the intimacy of the garden now God is referred to as Yahweh Elohim, a personal God who desires a relationship with his creation.

And it’s here we discover that We Were Created to Connect with God    There isn’t much told in the story of the garden with details of God’s interaction with man.  However,  there is enough to come to the conclusion that God didn’t just create man and leave him alone.

What we do see is that there was a relationship there, that God connected with his creation.  He talked with him, gave him instructions and gave him warnings.

And God gave man a task.   God and man had a relationship, they had connected.

And for the rest of the Bible, we see God connected with his creation.

He guides them, protects them gives them instructions and gives them warnings.

And his creation responds in their praise and worship.  By writing poetry to God, singing songs to God, praying to God and making offering and sacrifices to God.  And it had one goal, to connect with the creator.

And it all started in the garden.

But even with that, God understood that his creation would need more than simply a connection to the creator.  And so we read in  Genesis 2:18-20  Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  So the LORD God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one.  He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. . .

We Were Created to Connect with Creation  You may or may not be an animal person, but Adam was .  How cool was it that he got to name the animals?  Did he line them up and name them that way or did God offer him a vision of all the various animals?

We don’t know.  This one looks like a hippopotamus and that one looks like a hamster.  I don’t know what that one looks like, let’s call it a platypus.

But at creation, there seemed to be a connection between man and the animal kingdom.

Albert Einstein once stated, “Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”

And French philosopher Anatole France wrote,   “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

I don’t know if Adam was a dog person or a cat person.  Personally, I’m a cat person.  Don’t judge me.  I kind of agree with Mark Twain who said: “If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.”

Adam seemed to connect with the rest of creation.  There wasn’t any fear of his fellow passengers on spaceship earth.

And I have observed through the years that you can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals.  People who are cruel to animals are often cruel to people.

St. Francis of Assisi made a similar observation when he wrote:    “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

It’s funny and kind of sad that it doesn’t always work the other way, I’ve met people who treat animals with a lot more respect and kindness than they treat their fellow humans.

But it wasn’t enough that man had connected with the animals.  Every once in a while you’ll meet someone who is a bit of a recluse, it’s just them and their dogs or cats.  And they say, “All I need is fluffy or Spot or whoever.”

But God knew that we need more than the companionship we can get from our pets.

Let’s go back to Genesis 2:18-20  Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  So the LORD God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one.  He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

Did you catch that?  But still there was no helper just right for him.

Let’s finish the story, Genesis 2:21-22  So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the LORD God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening.  Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

We Were Created to Connect with Others  This was the beginning of our social connection, our family connection and our sexual connection.

And Adam gets it.  If we keep reading we discover his response when he looks at Eve and says “Hubba hubba”.    Actually, what he said is found in Genesis 2:23  “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”

Adam Clarke was a Methodist preacher and scholar who lived 200 years ago and this is what he wrote concerning this scripture  “If the word be rendered scrupulously literally, it signifies one like, or as himself, standing opposite to or before him. And this implies that the woman was to be a perfect resemblance of the man, possessing neither inferiority nor superiority, but being in all things like and equal to himself.”

And the Apostle Paul wrote to the early church,  1 Corinthians 11:11-12  But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women.  For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God.Understand that the process of creation wasn’t an “Oops that didn’t work, let’s try something else.”  God wasn’t playing trial and error, “Oh man’s connection with me isn’t enough.  Let’s try animals, nope that didn’t work either let’s try something else.”

Instead, it was God revealing to man what that connection would look like.  That it’s not enough to connect upward or to connect inward or even to connect with Fido, that there is a social element to who we are.

And so when man had someone like him he had a social connection.  But more than that there was an intimate connection.

The story continues in Genesis and we discover Genesis 2:24-25  This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.  Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.

It didn’t seem to take long for them to discover what it meant for two to become one.  You can use your imagination.  But everything fit, so to speak.

And that one line “The two are united into one”, or “become one” is the mystery of marriage.

And it’s why the bible teaches monogamy because if two become one, how does that one become two again, without leaving something behind.   It’s why it so hard to lose a spouse to death or divorce because it is literally tearing apart the one apart.

This entire concept of two becoming one is so important that Jesus reinforces it when he was questioned by the religious leaders about his view on divorce, he told them Mark 10:6-9  But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation.  ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife,  and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one,  let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

Sometimes people act as if the church and God are against sex, but it was part of the original design.  And throughout the bible, it is seen as something to be celebrated and enjoyed.  And it is because of the very depth of that relationship that relationship that God’s word reminds and warns his people over and over again that there is no such thing as casual sex.

I had a conversation with a young man awhile back and he told me “You have to be careful when you have sex because each time you give the other person a little bit of yourself.”  Not a believer mind you, and he had it pegged.

But that is a sermon for another time.

Later in the New Testament Paul would use these same words to describe the relationship between Christ and his church, Ephesians 5:31-33  As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.  So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And two thousand years later wives are still looking for love and husbands are still looking for respect.  And that is a sermon for another time.

And so, we have been created to connect.  And over the next two months, we are going to be looking at how we connect with our creator and how we connect with our creator’s kids.

 

 

 

The Saint Who Keeps on Giving

They may have found Santa Claus and he’s not at the North Pole.

Turkish archaeologists believe they have found the remains of Saint Nick, not the Saint Nick who came down the chimney last Christmas but the Saint Nick that Saint Nick is based on.

Nicholas was the bishop of Myrna in what is now Turkey and he passed away in 343.  The story of St. Nicholas has lived on because of his generous spirit.  History tells us that the Bishop secretly gave gifts to poor children and at least one legend had him climbing down a chimney to leave gold in the stocking of a poor girl who had no dowry.

His bones were said to have been removed from Demre in 1087 during the crusades. They were spirited off to Italy where they have been housed in the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari.

Experts are now speculating that they may have gotten the bones of the wrong priest, oops.

Demre like most of Turkey is now predominately Muslim, but the community is celebrating the news because of the possibility of increased tourism traffic.

Baris Yuksel, a shopkeeper in Demre observed: “After lots of centuries, we are earning money thanks to Saint Nicholas.”

It’s good to know that Nick is still giving.

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

Charting the Decline

Over 50 dead and more than 500 injured in what has been described as “The deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. History.”

When I was a teen that distinction was held by the University of Texas tower shootings when 16 people were killed and 31 were injured by Charles Whitman in 1966.  After fifty years that shooting now ranks 7th.  And while the United States has had the most mass shootings of any country it is a global epidemic.

Whether we see it in mass shootings, terrorist attacks or “oops that was an innocent village not an ISSI base” the disdain for human life seems to be on the rise.

It’s easy to place the blame on gun control or violence in the media, but it would be interesting to chart the correlation between that disdain for human life and the decline in people’s connection with God and His church.

Because, if there is no God there are no absolutes and if humanity wasn’t created in the image of God than then there is no reason that human life should be treated with respect and the trajectory for society as a whole isn’t looking all that promising.  And that is a problem that society can’t fix on it’s own.

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

God Haters: John 15:18-25

If you remember reading the August 22 1949 edition of Time Magazine then you would remember seeing a young Elizabeth Taylor on the cover and various articles that almost sound current.

Under the National section, for example, there was a little bit of a scandal in the white house.  Really?  A scandal in the White House?

There were concerns that even though nationally the economy was doing well that there were various areas in the US where they were dealing with a 12% unemployment rate.

In the main article for the world section it was interesting to note that as the United Nations was being ramped up that the decision was made that the sessions would not be opened in prayer.  Bowing to the fact that the UN is made up of many faiths and no faiths it was decided to simply open and close each annual session with a moment of silence.

And the concern in the Business section?  Well, the main article was entitled: “Railroads: The Danger Signals.” And it asked the question: Are U.S. railroads pricing themselves out of business?”

But what captured my attention was the article in the religion section that was simply entitled: “The God-Haters”

And no, I didn’t read the article in 1949, I read it the other day online.

So how did I get there?  It was a Denn journey, a while back I had lunch with a gentlemen and he was telling me about an in-law of his and he said “It’s almost as if they hate God.”   Hmmmm.

 

And that made me think about a book I purchased this summer that has been sitting on my bedside table, written by Bill Myers who wrote one of my favourite books, the book I had read before was entitle “Eli”.  And I assume that some of you have read it, considering that all three of my copies are missing.

But the new book was simply entitled “The God Hater” and I just finished it this week, and it was a great read.

Add to that our Tuesday early morning guy’s group has dove into the book of Romans and during the first couple of weeks we’ve been reading the first chapter of Romans and it in I stumbled on these four verses.

Romans 1:28-32  NIV Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

So, I thought maybe I should preach on God Haters. And that’s how we got here.

I’ve often said that writing a sermon is a lot like making sausages, you are often better off not knowing the process.

 

So, I googled the phrase and the first hit I got was the Time Magazine reference, and it was about the rise of atheism in the United States.

 

Part of the article quoted Roman Catholic Philosopher Jacques Maritain, who wrote. “The genuine, absolute atheist, with all his sincerity and devotion, is but an abortive saint and, at the same time, a mistaken revolutionist.”

Personally I kind of like the definition on the tombstone that said “Here lies an atheist.  All dressed up and no place to go.”

The next hit in Google was entitled “On the Death of a God Hater” and it was about the death of noted atheist and writer Christopher Hitchens.

So, the first question has to be Who Are God Haters?  Well, in the Time article from 1949 they were talking about atheists.  And certainly, today those who spew the most venom about God are those who claim they don’t believe in him.

Men like the late Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins have made millions of dollars writing to disparage someone they claim to not believe in.  They don’t seem to feel the same about leprechauns or fairies.  And it’s interesting that it is primarily the God whom we worship that they seem to take issue with.  It seems that if you were to suggest that Allah was a myth that you would be branded islamophobic  not to mention that it would be fairly dangerous.

This brand of God Hater was best described by George Orwell in Animal Farm when he wrote “He was an embittered atheist (the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him).”

And there have always been atheists it seems, 3000 years ago King David wrote Psalm 14:1

Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” . . .

But it’s not just those who don’t believe in God who hate him, that sounds wrong just saying it.  How can you hate what you don’t believe in?

I don’t believe in unicorns but I don’t hate unicorns.

And then there are those who don’t disbelieve in God so much as seem to bear a grudge against God.  They seem to feel that somehow God has done them wrong.

Perhaps it was something personal, maybe the death of a loved one, or maybe they just feel like they got the short end of the stick in life and blame God for the various misfortunes that have befallen them.  Or maybe they were disappointed by the way a Christ follower behaved or perhaps at some point the church failed them and that is unfortunate.

Which brings us to the second question which is Why Do God Haters Hate God? 

 I’m not sure that atheists are born.  They would like you to think that, but the default for people is to believe in God.  Since the beginning of time, in all kinds of cultures there has been a quest for God.

And while the majority of peoples believe in something some people believe in nothing, and so I think that atheists are they are the ones who are taught.  God haters in most cases are taught to hate God, by someone.

Actor Kirk Cameron took a crack at answering that question when he said   “Why do people hate God?… One, they hate the moral standard. Two, they hate the way he’s transforming the world even in the midst of suffering and tragedy.”

And that’s true, but sometimes it goes back to carrying a grudge but not a personal grudge.

These God Haters wouldn’t be able to pin point a particular incident or tragedy in their life that they’d blame God for.

Instead it’s their world view.  If God was a loving God then how can there be . . . poverty, war, earthquakes, hurricanes or cancer? . . .  you can fill in the blank.

Even when it seems that mankind is the author of some of these things or could make major strides in preventing them or dealing with them, God still cops the blame.

And don’t even get them started on things like the crusades and the inquisition.  They will cite all kinds of facts about the atrocities committed through the years by Christ followers.   You ever get that?  You ever feel unable to respond?  You feel like you need to apologize for God and the misbehaviour of his people?

Here’s something they don’t tell you.  The crusades lasted about 200 years and during that time best estimates would place the total death toll, of combatants and innocent causalities at about 1,000,000.  And that is a lot.

Understand that the original crusades happened because Christians and Jews were being killed while attempting to visit the Holy Land and Pope Urban called on various governments to provide armed escorts for the pilgrims, and that kind of morphed into trying to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims and one thing leads to another, for 200 years.

And while that in no way excuses the abuses that happened or negates the loss of innocent lives it does help explain the why of the crusades.  Something that isn’t often mentioned today, it’s like the church just suddenly one day decided to go on a crusade.

And there were no doubt excesses and innocents killed but most historians would put the total number at around 1,000,000

The next thing the God Haters bring up is the Inquisition, like nobody expected that. And they will talk about the tens of millions of deaths that happened as a result of the inquisition.  The inquisition wasn’t so much an event as a series of ongoing events covering a 350 year period of church history.

And the inquisition wasn’t directed at Jews or Muslims as much as it was heretics within the church.  There weren’t millions of deaths. Scholars range in their estimates as low as 3,000 to a high of 50,000 killed over the 350-year period.  Still a blot on the church, not so much on God.

“And what about the Salem Witch trials?”  They ask, “and the thousands of innocent people killed in those?” Actually, it was only 20 who died.  Which if you or one of your loved one was one of the 20 , would have been 20 too many.  But it wasn’t thousands.

So in the big three that the God haters bring up we have a little over a million people killed. Let’s double it and call it 2,000,000 killed over the past 2,000 years by misguided Christians.  And there is no way to excuse that, as C. S. Lewis wrote  “When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”

But, what about the other side?  The ungodly? The God Haters?  Well we all know that Hitler was responsible for the death of 17 million civilians.  And one of his goals was to de-Christianize the Third Reich.

But really Hitler was just a beginner, it was estimated the atheist Joseph Stalin was responsible for the death of 23 million civilians through various purges including some of my family in Estonia.

And then there was God Hater Mao Zedong who conservatively was guilty of 60 million deaths.

So in 2,0000 years of Christianity we come up with 2 million deaths which is obviously very wrong, and in the last 100 years just three God Haters have been responsible for over 100 million deaths.

Wow, and the God haters blame God for the excesses of His followers.  Their team seems to be in the lead in that one.

And while their misbehaviour doesn’t justify our misbehaviour, what is the old saying about people who live in Glass Houses?

And we really need to look at the The Problem with the God Hater Philosophy

The main problem isn’t that the God Haters don’t agree with us, it’s that they don’t believe in God.  And they don’t want anyone else to believe in God either.

And there are problems with not believing in God.  The first is when you don’t believe in God then there are no absolutes.  There can’t be. So the question becomes, who decides what’s right and what’s wrong? Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre expressed it like this: “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. . . Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behaviour.”

And again, that is nothing new.  In the Old Testament, we read about a time like that, Judges 21:25  In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.  And it was a mess.

And without some type of moral authority, things will eventually disintegrate. Malcolm Muggeridge the British journalist was an agnostic most of his life until his conversion to Christianity in 1969.  Writing of a world without God he said  “If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will be megalomania or erotomania, the drive for power or the drive for pleasure, . . . Hitler or Hugh Hefner.”

We only have to look around society today to see that Muggeridge wasn’t far off.

But it’s not just society that God Haters place into danger, it is their own souls.  Proverbs 14:12  There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

Do you remember the passage from Romans that I read earlier that listed God Haters with all the others who had rejected God?  It end with these words.  Romans 1:32  They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

And so to hate god is to sentence yourself to spend an eternity separated from the very God that you hated.  And while some might think “That’s not so bad” it also means being separated from the love and goodness and light of God and instead being in the presence of all that isn’t godly, or good or loving.

But here is the good news,  They might hate God, but God does not Hate Them 

 John 3:16 reads 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.” 

 It does not say that God loved everybody who loved him, or that he gave his Son for everybody except for atheists.

But it says God loved the world, the whole world, even those who hate him, so much that he gave his one and only Son.

And Paul wrote in Romans 5:8  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.  While we were still God haters.  And Paul would know because Paul was a God hater.

Before Paul was Paul he was Saul and for whatever reason he had a hate on for Christ and those who followed him.  He was present and gave his approval when one of the early church leaders, a man named Stephen was stoned to death and became the church’s first martyr and then we read in Acts 8:3  But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.

Paul describes that part of his life this way: Acts 26:9-11  “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene.  Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.  Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.”

And Saul might have defended himself saying “I didn’t hate God, it was Jesus and his church I hated.” But do you remember what Jesus said in the passage that was read for us earlier in the service?  No?  I’ll refresh your memory.  John 15:23  Jesus said “Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.”

And while Paul was trying to destroy the church of Christ, even then he was loved by God and was offered God’s love and God’s grace and God’s forgiveness.  And all Saul had to do was accept those gifts and he crossed over the line from God hater to God lover.

 Karl Barth the Swiss theologian writes  “Man can certainly flee from God… but he cannot escape him. He can certainly hate God and be hateful to God, but he cannot change into its opposite the eternal love of God which triumphs even in his hate.”

To the God hater God offers his salvation and his grace.

I don’t know where you are this morning.  Maybe you are a God lover and that’s great.  But regardless of how you feel about God, God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it, you can reject that love and choose not to accept that love, but it doesn’t change that love.