The Wrong Friday

I was sitting in Tims when I heard a teenage girl ask her father “Is Black Friday a holiday?”  When he assured her that Black Friday was not a holiday and that she would have to be in school she seemed puzzled as she was sure that it was.  After a little bit of back and forth he suggested that maybe she was thinking of Good Friday.  She conceded that it was Good Friday that she was thinking of and then asked the obvious question: “What’s the difference?”  And her father didn’t have an answer.  He probably knew what Black Friday was, after all it has gone from being a strange American phenomenon to becoming an important part of the retail culture in Canada in just a few short years. But Good Friday?  Not a clue.

That was a reminder again for me to not take for granted the continuing spiritual heritage of our community or country. But on second thought I’m not sure I would have been able to articulate the actual meaning of Good Friday before it actually meant something to me.

The crucial thing isn’t that people can simply explain events like Christmas, Good Friday and Easter but that they actually have the opportunity to experience why those events are so important.

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

Connecting with the Creator’s Future Kids

A couple of weeks ago I spoke about the pain that comes with stepping on Legos and I discussed the reasons why it hurts so much when it happens.  That our feet have a lot of nerve endings, and Legos are really really sharp and edgy and they are super strong so there is not give when we step on them, all the force goes right into our tender tootsies.

Now, some companies would try and ignore or negate the negative publicity that comes from such an act or at least minimize it.  Not Lego, they seem to relish in it.

After that service, Haupi and Grace told me about visiting Lego Land a few years ago and a mural they saw there which was made completely out of Legos.  And they sent me this picture.

Yep, it would appear that Lego embraces every aspect of their product, even the pain it brings.

This is week 7 of our connect series, and over the past couple of months, we’ve been looking at how we have been created to connect.  And what that looks like as we connect with ourselves when we connect with other believers and two weeks ago I spoke about our responsibility to help the very youngest of us connect with God.

Last week Rob did a great job talking about how we need to connect at a deeper level with other members of God’s family.

But what about those outside of the family, so to speak.

I know that there are those who would say that we are all children of God and that because of that, each of our salvation is assured, that everybody will go to heaven.   But that isn’t what the word of God says, and that isn’t even really what people believe, they believe that people they like will go to heaven.

But,  the bible tells us things like “You must be born again” and in John 1:12-13  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.  They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

So, to all who believed Jesus and to all who accepted Jesus is given the right to become children of God.

So, those who don’t believe Jesus and haven’t accepted Jesus, does that mean that they aren’t given the right to become children of God?  Seems to be what it’s saying.

But the scriptures are clear, God wants us to be his children, that’s why Jesus came.  Jesus himself tells us in Luke 19:10  Jesus said: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

And that was evidenced in the story that was read for us earlier.  What was read was the end of the story, and for the next few minutes we are going to look at the rest of the story and what it teaches us about  “Connecting with the Creator’s Future Kids.”

The story begins in John 4 where we read  John 4:1-4 Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee. He had to go through Samaria on the way.

It was early in Christ’s ministry and he was attracting the attention of the religious leaders, not wanting to clash with them just yet Christ headed back to Galilee.  Notice in verse four that it says that He had to go through Samaria on the way, If you we pull up our trusty map here is where Jesus was and here is where he was going and so you are probably thinking, “Of course he had to go through Samaria, that is the shortest route from Judea to Galilee”.

True enough, but believe it or not that isn’t the route that most Jews took from Judea to Galilee.  Why?  Because Samaritans inhabited Samaria and because of the cultural, ethnic, religious and political animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans they stayed well and truly out of each other’s ways, even if it meant circling all the way around Samaria via the Jordan River.

Even today people avoid going through neighbourhoods that are inhabited by people who are different then they are, if you were honest there are neighbourhoods you avoid in Halifax for that very reason.

But Jesus decided to travel through Samaria, as a matter of fact, the Bible emphasises that he “had” to take that route, not for practical purposes but for a spiritual purpose.  The first thing that Jesus’ actions demonstrate is

 If We are Going to Connect With God’s Future Kids– We Will Need to Go Where They Are.  Let’s face it most of us would rather not be with non-Christians.  After all, it is far more enjoyable to hang around with Christians than with non-believers.

We worship the same God, we speak the same language.  We don’t blister each other’s ears with smutty language or subject one another to the hazards of second-hand cigarette smoke.  And so we tend to gather into safe little gatherings of Christians.

But Jesus had a balanced life.  On one hand, he had a Macro-Ministry, you know an desire to reach the world.  And on the other hand, he had a Micro-ministry, which meant that he took the time to get to know, befriend lost people one at a time.  If we are going to spiritually connect some unconnected people with God then, first of all, we need to meet some unconnected people.  Do you have any pre-Christian friends?  There are lots of them out there honest.

Reminds me of a story that I heard, seems it was during the civil war and the union troops were taking a hiding from the confederate army and the retreat had just sounded when this young private jumped up out of the trench ran across no man’s land over the ridge into the rebels trench.  He belted a rebel with the butt of his rifle threw him over his shoulder and hightailed it back to his own trench where he dropped the unconscious soldier at his commander’s feet.  “Where did you get him” asked his captain, “Yonder over the ridge” came the reply “and there’s enough of them over there for everyone”.

Well, friends, that is the truth there are lots of them out there we just gotta go get them.

But you will have to venture into their environment, that means becoming involved in Parent Advisory meetings other parents involved with your children’s sports and band activities getting to know staff in our local stores and service stations and connecting with the people we work with.

We’re not talking about making people our projects.  People aren’t dense they know if they matter to us or if we are just looking for another scalp to hang on our church belt.

Jesus hung around with unreligious people enough that he was called a friend of sinners.  I’d be willing to wager that it’s been a long time since most of us were thought of as a “friend of sinners”.Let’s continue on with the story, John 4:6-9 Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food. The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

2) If We are Going to Connect With God’s Future Kids: We Need To Build a Bridge

In other words, you don’t walk up to someone and say, “Hey have you heard the good news, you’re going to hell.”  Jesus started by building a bridge, and he did it with five words.  It may not seem like asking for a drink of water would be a very effective starting place but when you put it into its cultural context that simple request packed a powerful punch.

Just by starting the conversation Jesus was tearing down a wall as high as the one President Trump wants to build on the Mexican border.

Normally you see, a Jew wouldn’t even drink from the same well as a Samaritan let alone their water bucket and here Jesus was asking for a drink from her cup or dipper.

Instead of shunning her though, Jesus used five well-chosen words to demonstrate his acceptance of her.  He opened a relational door by communicating to her that she mattered to him as a person.  And it worked.  You can tell that she was shocked that Jesus would even bother asking her for a drink.

There are a lot of these evangelistic turning points in our lives, and we make the decision about whether or not we will walk through the open door or simply continue on the path of our lives.  While we are taking a walk around the block we can stop to meet the new neighbour who is washing his car, or we can keep right on walking.

We can choose to take a few minutes and get to know the clerk at Tim Hortons, or we can dash home.  We can invite a co-worker to lunch or we can eat our meals with Christians.

How many times do we rush past the opportunities to make relational inroads with unbelievers?

Building those relational bridges isn’t very difficult, especially when you know the key: listening to the other person.  It’s taking a genuine interest in them and asking them questions, and finding out about their world.  It’s expressing authentic curiosity about their situation in life.

When you do that you are bound to find some common interests that you can use to deepen your relationship, and at the same time you are doing what Jesus did that day at the well, you’ll be affirming somebody’s value and dignity just by taking the time to sincerely relate to them.

Who is there in your life that you can build a relational bridge with?  The person who has just joined your company and is feeling like an outsider.  Or maybe someone at your gym or hockey rink, or maybe the person who you are in class with.

As for Jesus, he made a point to build a brief friendship with the woman at the well, but he wasn’t content to just engage in small talk let’s see what happened next.

John 4:9-10 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

John 4:25-26 The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I Am the Messiah!”

Jesus has come to the third turning point where he has to make a decision about what he’s going to do. And it is a critically important decision and Jesus chose to turn the conversation from the routine to the spiritual because he knew 3) If We are Going to Connect With God’s Future Kids: We Need to Be Able to Connect them to God  

It is imperative that if we are building a relationship to lead someone to the Lord that we will eventually have to talk about spiritual things.  Jesus made a conscious choice to steer the conversation into spiritual waters.  He could have simply taken a drink and left it at that, thinking well she’ll be convicted by my lifestyle.  But he chose to take the initiative and talk about higher things.

Now notice that he didn’t give her a tract asking her to read it when she got a chance, and he didn’t use a canned speech or the Roman Road.  Instead, he used the circumstances concerning their conversation, they were talking about water, so he used “Living Water” as an analogy for God.

He touched her curiosity, and he unfolded the messages at the pace that she had set allowing her to take it all in.  This is the step where most of us blow it.  We aren’t quite sure how to move the conversation toward spiritual things.

The key again is listening.  Because when we listen and pay attention and get to know the person a natural opening will evolve.  They tell you the kids are driving them nuts, and you can say, “I know what you mean, my kids drive me up the wall too.” or you can make that split-second decision to say, “You know, my kids can be a handful too, but I was amazed at what the Bible said about raising kids.”  The door has been open, maybe at that point, you can follow up with a Christian book on bringing up kids.

The openings are there if we are willing to spot them and willing to take them.  When those split-second decisions come, take a deep breath, trust God and take the spiritual road.

Once Jesus went through the door into a kingdom conversation with the woman, he came to the fourth turning point:  John 4:16-19 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!” “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.

Up to this point, the woman seemed intrigued by what Jesus was saying, but she may have been a little sceptical and thought he was a little odd with all this talk about the living water.  She may not have been taking him too seriously.  And it was here that Jesus came to a turning point and decided to produce evidence that would bolster his credibility.  4) If We are Going to Connect with God’s Future Kids: They Will Need to Have Confidence in the Connection 

Bottom line people don’t want to jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire, if they are going to be rescued they want to make sure that what they are being rescued to is a better option then what they are being rescued from.  They want to be sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease.

People aren’t expecting you to be a bible scholar or an expert in apologetics but they want to be able to see that Jesus made a difference in your life and want to know how that happened.  It’s been said many times but it remains as true today as it was the first time it was said, “You will be the only Bible most people read”

People will want to see what being rescued looks like and they will need to see that in your life.  If what you do and how you live is no different than the rest of the world, then what does it matter what you say?

Because in people’s minds if Christ hasn’t made a difference in your life then he probably won’t make a difference in their life.  But when they see the difference and how your life has not just changed but changed for the better then be ready.

 

Which is probably why the apostle Peter, commanded us, in 1 Peter 3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

The final turning point in the story comes after Jesus has offered evidence of His being the Messiah, and the fifth turning point is the woman’s response:  John 4:28-30 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

The Samaritan woman makes her decision so quickly that she leaves behind the precious water jug that she has carried all the way from town, and rushes into town to invite people to come and hear Jesus themselves.

Interestingly, when the disciples went into town, they only came back with some bread and dried fish, This woman on the other hand, fresh from her encounter with Jesus bring back a crowd of spiritually lost people.  What does this tell us?

 5) Those who have been Connected Need to Help Others Connect   Can you remember how you were knocked to your knees by “Amazing Grace”?  Someone commented that as time goes along, that the freshness wears off and it becomes “fascinating grace”, and then “interesting grace” and then merely “grace”

What about it?  Do you still have the urgency?  Are you saying “I know people who have got to experience what I experienced!  They’ve just got to!  And time’s running out”

Our biggest excuse is “It won’t work, they’ll turn me off or I’ll turn them off in Leo Tolstoy’s book “War and Peace” he states, “We lost because we told ourselves we lost.”  Don’t talk yourself into a failure, instead of trying relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.  People say, “What if I drive them away?”  and I wonder, “Where are you afraid you are going to drive them to, Hell Number 2?

The good news is that there will be people in heaven that you were instrumental in getting there.  The bad news is that there may be people in hell that you could have been instrumental in getting to heaven if you had taken the opportunity.  C.S. Lewis said, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is either of overriding significance or it is of no importance at all, it cannot be moderately significant.”

What is it to you?  Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the desire to spread it here and around the world of overriding significance or is it of no importance at all?   Only you can answer that question.

Dying Well

And here I sit preparing a funeral message for a friend.  It was just a year ago that Matt told me the doctors had discovered lesions on his spine.
He was confident that it wasn’t anything to be concerned with but told me regardless of the outcome he was trusting God.

And trust God Matt did. He trusted God with his health, his life, his family and eventually he trusted God with his death.

And this week I’m writing a farewell tribute to my friend and ministry partner.

The joy that Matt had was evident and contagious, and the love he had for Jesus was evident and contagious. And when Matt led worship at Cornerstone that joy and love were always a special part of the day.

It was John Wesley who said, “The world can say what they like about us Methodists,
but they have to admit: we die well.”
Matt lived well and he died well, and we know that he is now with the One he loved and worshipped.

I don’t pretend to have answers as to why this happened to Matt and Amy and the kids,  but I’m pretty sure that there will be people in heaven because of the way Matt lived and because of the way Matt died.

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

Because they Believe

Have your read the story about the Alberta couple whose application to adopt a child has been rejected because of their beliefs?

The evangelical couple has been told that even though they submitted the adoption application and passed the required courses necessary for the adoption, that they won’t be approved because of their religious views on same sex marriage.  The couple says they understand that same-sex marriage is a reality and the law in Canada, but they don’t support it. instead they believe in the Biblical view of marriage.

The case worker supervisor explained that their religious beliefs regarding sexuality were incompatible with the adoption process.  When the decision was appealed, they were told that this was the official position of the Alberta Government.

So, with that decision, the Alberta Government has said that children will not be permitted to be adopted by many Christian, Muslim or Jewish families.

The government has decided that anyone who has a moral compass that differs from the secular society can’t be trusted to raise children. And they are in effect saying that parentless children would be better off in the system than to be adopted by evangelical Christians.

To again quote the warning of the Prophet Hosea “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

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

 

Connecting with the Creator’s Kid’s Kids

Have you ever stepped on a piece of Lego, in the dark?

Have you ever wondered how something so small that provides so much enjoyment can cause so much pain?

Well, you’re in luck, because I’m going to explain the science behind the pain.  There are basically four reasons that are wrapped up in this.

So first of all, you hear people talking about stepping on Lego more then stepping on say “Hot wheel” cars or “My Little Ponies” or Barbie Shoes.  That’s because there is an incrediable amount of Lego bricks in the world. According to the Lego corporation, there are enough Legos in the world for every person on earth to have 83 bricks.   And while the Pinterest group will tell you all about their Lego tables more times than not it ends up being played with on the floor.

 

Secondly, we step on those little torture devices with the sole of our foot which is loaded with nerves, making it quite sensitive. There are so many nerves in our feet because they are needed to keep us balanced.

Thirdly, Lego have sharp corners and knobs and that helps aggravate all those nerve endings in your foot.

Finally, Legos have no give to them,  they are really well made. While many toys might give and break when you step on them, LEGOs don’t. Those in the know tell us that a Lego has to be subjected to approximately 4,240 Newtons of force before it deforms.  And a single brick can support 953 pounds of pressure before it compresses.

That means when you step on a LEGO, instead of giving way and absorbing some of the force it transfers all that force right back into the nerves in the sole of your foot.  No wonder you say ouch and other fun things.  And if you step on a Lego you want to hope it’s on carpet and not tile so some of the forces is absorbed.

I read a fun article this week, at least fitting.  Drew Dyck an editor at Christianity Today wrote that he recently heard his five year old son preaching to his 3 year old sister and he finished his Gospel presentation by telling his sibling, “When Jesus came back from being dead, he could do anything. He could even walk on Legos!”  That’s almost as impressive as walking on water.

This is week 5 of our connect series and over the past few weeks we’ve looked at how we were created to connect.  How we need to connect with our Creator.  How we need to connect with the Created, that is ourselves and last week we looked at how we need to connect with the creator’s kids, that is other Christ followers.

Today I want to go a little deeper into that as we look at how we connect with the Creator’s Kid’s Kids.  That is the children at Cornerstone.

Now some people are like W.C. Fields in their philosophy of children, you might recall that someone once asked him “How do you like children?” and he replied “Fried.”

But Jesus had a different view of Children, we all know the stories of parents bringing the children to Jesus to be blessed and what happened.  Here is Mark’s account

Mark 10:13-16  One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him.  When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”  Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.

And even those who have never read the King James Version of the Bible know the lineSuffer the little children to come unto me,”  Or maybe they only know it from the Stephen King short story.

But it certainly says something about Jesus’ personality and character that people would bring their children to him.  Most parents don’t take their kids to creepy or grumpy people.  Well, grumpy grandparents are acceptable, as free babysitters.

And they did, they brought their kids to Jesus to be healed and to be blessed.  And he did both.  Once we even read how he raised a little girl from the dead.  And it would appear that Jesus liked kids and that kids like Jesus.

The Bible tells us how Jesus took children in his arms and blessed them and it didn’t say that the kids fussed or screamed at that point, instead, they seemed to want to be held by Jesus.

And throughout his ministry, Jesus spoke about how we had to become like children and used terms like being born again and the new birth.  And it was in relation to how we interact with children that Jesus issues one of his harshest warnings, and that was read for us earlier.

Let’s read those five verses again, and let’s read them together Matthew 18:1-6  About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”  Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.  Then he said, “I tell you the truth unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Wow, I mean we want to stop after we hear the part about little children being the greatest in God’s kingdom.  That’s kind of cool and very much like Jesus.

But then there is the entire having a millstone tied around your neck and being drown in the depths of the sea.  That doesn’t sound very Christ-like at all.

Same Jesus, and he seemed a little intense on this one.  Now there are those who would say that Jesus shifted gears and direction here and was no longer talking about children but was talking about those who were young in their faith.  But sounds like he was still talking about children to me.

So, it would appear that we have a responsibility for the spiritual welfare of children but more than that we have an obligation to not do anything that would cause them to stumble in their faith.  And that can be a little daunting.

So you can just picture Jesus with a child on his knee saying:  Matthew 18:5  “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

But what does that mean?  How do we welcome children at Cornerstone?

When You Welcome Kids You’re Investing in Kids  When you invest in something you are preparing for the future.  You don’t necessarily invest in stocks so that you will have a return for tomorrow.

Warren Buffet who knows a thing or two about investing said “If you aren’t thinking about owning a stock for 10 years, don’t even think about owning it for 10 minutes.”

Jesus’ brother James reminds us in the letter he wrote,  James 4:14  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.   

 Here is your positive thought for the day:  You’re all going to die and if we don’t invest in children at Cornerstone this local church will die when the last hearse drives away.

And that goes for every local church and because of that it applies to every denomination and because of that it applies of all of Christianity.

And our church is here because of investments people made years ago.

Going back to Buffet, he also said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  Many of the adults who are sitting here today are Christians because a church invested in them when they were children.

When I was at Dad’s 80th birthday last month a man came over and introduced himself, I hadn’t seen Dale for over 40 years, but when I was a kid he went out of his way to take me to Christian Service Brigade at Rothesay Baptist Church. And while I didn’t make a commitment to Christ during that time it was laying the foundation for when I did.  Dale Carson didn’t know it at the time, but he was investing in the future of Cornerstone Wesleyan church.

Investing in Kids Comes With A Cost  Here is a truth of life, anything worth anything will cost you something.

If you are a parent then you know how expensive kids can be.

In 2015 According to Money Sense magazine the average cost of raising a child to age 18 in Canada was a $253,954. That is over $13,000.00 a year.  That represents what you will spend on food,  clothing, the increase in the cost of transportation and housing.  As well as school supplies, healthcare and sports equipment.

That’s over a quarter of a million dollars, per kid.

When a church commits to being a kid-friendly church that comes with a cost as well.  If you look at our budget you will discover just how much we invest in children.

There is the cost of Curriculum and equipment.

The cost of staff, Pastor Marilyn’s primary focus is our Children, one of Pastor Deborah’s focuses is the nursery.  One of Pastor Stefan’s responsibilities is the Youth group.  One of Mike’s duties is handling all the of the back checks for the volunteers who work with our children.  There are additional costs for the building

There is a cost to the building, kids are a lot harder on carpet and gyprock then adults are.  Mike has become super proficient at fixing holes in the wall.

And I have been in churches that look like museum pieces, the paint is pristine, the carpet is spotless, the glass is fingerprint free and that is because there isn’t a kid to be seen.  And the building is in perfect condition, just before it closes for good.

There’s even a cost as far as our preferences and our comfort.

There are churches that are very deliberate about saying that children aren’t welcome in the adult service.  What we say is they we work hard at having age-appropriate programming for your kids, and that’s where they are going to learn the most.  And sometimes the message isn’t always kid friendly, that’s because it was prepared for adults.

But if you bring your children in just be considerate if they begin to fuss.

I was talking to a fellow pastor a while back about children in the service and he said, “I wish fussing children bothered people without kids less. . . And I wish they bothered people with kids more. “

If a child is fussing in the service, glaring won’t fix the problem, and if it means that a parent doesn’t bring their children back to church, then we are into the millstone around the neck scenario.

On the other hand, parents you’re used to hearing your children fuss and whine but other’s aren’t.  Just be courteous.

And there is also a cost involved with our volunteer staff.    We aren’t just looking for warm bodies we are looking for people who will impact the eternities of these children.

We are asking you because we think you can make that impact, we are asking you because we think you are willing to invest in the eternity of these children.  And we know it’s going to cost you a service a month, and thank you for being willing to make that sacrifice. And we can’t do it without you.

But understand you aren’t just filling a spot on the teaching roster, you are having an impact on a child’s eternity.  Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to offer the programs that we do.

Please remember that it’s not just your kids it’s other children as well.  And please don’t ever use the line, “Well I’ve done my time”.  We’re not talking about your serving a sentence we are talking about you introducing Children to Jesus and teaching them about him.

And if you don’t, then it might not get done.  We have a really good curriculum and if you teach then you realize that it doesn’t take hours of preparation to get ready for Sunday.

Thank you to each of our children and youth ministries volunteers, we seriously couldn’t do what we do without your help.

I know that we ask a lot, but there’s a lot at stake.

And if you are feeling a tugging at your heart to impact those lives then talk to Pastor Marilyn, or Pastor Deborah or Pastor Stefan.

And parents, sometimes there is a cost of simply being the parent and bringing your kids to church.  You say but they don’t want to come to church.

For most of 12 years, I didn’t want to go to school but my parents made me.  I wasn’t overly keen on going to the dentist, but my parents made me.  And because of that, I have an education and teeth.

I was talking to a lady at the Berkeley a couple of weeks ago and she told me that when she was a kid her parents had her in piano lessons and she got to the place that she didn’t want to take any more lessons and her mother said she could quit piano lessons but it came with a warning.

Her mother said, “Someday you will be in a room with a piano and someone will ask, ‘Can anyone play the piano?’ and you are going to have to say no and you’ll regret this decision.”  And this lady, her name is Margaret said, “Every once in a while, that happens and I think, ‘mom was right.’”

And not being able to play the piano will be very insignificant in the big scheme of things.  Knowing about Jesus won’t be.

And you can’t make the decision for your children to follow Jesus. But you can do everything in your power to make sure they do, and you can do everything in your power to make sure that you don’t put anything in their path that will hinder their decision.

And that even includes good things, that aren’t the best things.

And that leads us to the fact that Investing in Kids Comes with a Return   

The first practical return is that if we invest in kids the church will continue to survive.

But more than that, when we invest in children we are investing in their eternities.

There will be adults in heaven because of the money we spend and the hours we spend investing in them when they are children. 

Today in the two services we are baptizing a total of seven children between the ages of 7 and 11.  They are putting a stake in the ground about their faith.

And next week we have some more teenagers who are being baptized and some more children.

And some people wonder about baptizing children, but if they know they’ve made a decision to follow Christ than they need to take the step.

This will give them something to look back at when the temptations come in their teen years and adult years.  Where they can look back at a pivotal event in their lives and say, “On that day I publically declared my commitment to Christ.”

There is a great story in the book of Acts chapter 16, about Paul and Silas being put in prison for preaching the Gospel and an earthquake caused the doors of their cell to be opened.

The guard thought they had escaped and was about to kill himself because he knew what the punishment for allowing his prisoners to escape would be.  Paul assures him that they are still there and the guard asks the all-important question: What must I do to be saved?  And we pick up the story in Acts 16:31-34  They (Paul and Silas) replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”  And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household.  Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized.  He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.

So no, I don’t have a problem with baptizing children who have made a decision to follow Christ.  I love the quote from Max Lucado who said “Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.”   And that applies to children as well as adults, they know that this was a decision that they made.

And the great thing is that the majority of the kids we are baptizing today, were led into their relationship with Christ by their parents.  And that’s how it’s supposed to be, if you are wondering how to do that you need to talk to Pastor Marilyn.

So Why Should we connect with the Creator’s Kid’s Kids?  Well because it’s an investment in the future of our church and the church.   More important it is an investment in their eternity.  And more important still is that we were commanded to.

But We Can’t Forget the Warning  Listen again to the words of Jesus, Matthew 18:5-6  “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.  But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Let’s make sure we do everything in our power to make sure that kids are welcomed in Jesus’ name and everything in our power to make sure we don’t put anything in their path that will hinder their journey.

What it is About

Authorities in Texas are stating that Sunday’s mass shooting that left 26 dead in a small Baptist church, did not appear to be religiously motivated.  Freeman Martin, the Regional Director of the

Texas Department of Public Safety stated, “The massacre appeared to stem from a domestic situation.”  But he didn’t elaborate further.

It seems that the shooter’s mother-in-law sometimes attended First Baptist church and the speculation is that she was Devin Kelley’s primary target.

So the Department of Public Safety said it wasn’t about religion and the President said it wasn’t about guns.

But with all respect to the police and the President, because Kelley shot up a church and not a supermarket, it was about religion and because he used a gun and not a stick it was about guns.

But ultimately the shooting was about sin and unfortunately it is an indictment of a society that has failed.

We can talk about mental health issues and gun control issues, but ultimately the failure is that we live in a society that has rejected God. And as the Prophet Hosea warned us, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

But while society may have rejected God, God hasn’t rejected us, He is just waiting for us to return.

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

Connecting with the Creator’s Kids

Last week I mentioned that the largest Lego kit every produced is the new Millennium Falcon kit which was released a month ago.  The kit has 7,541 pieces is 33 inches long and 22 inches wide and weighs almost 19 pounds.

But, more impressive than what you can create with the kits are the artists who have created some truly incredible sculptures, and they did it without a direction book.

Here are a few I found, my favourite is this model of the Titanic breaking in half, created by Ryan McNaught it contains over 120,000 pieces of Lego.

I built a really cool wall once.

This fall our theme at Cornerstone has been connect and we started with how we’ve were created to connect, then we looked at how we connect with our creator and last week we looked at way that we need to connect with the created, that is ourselves as Christ Followers.

This week I want to look at how we need to connect with the Creator’s Kids.  That is: other Christians.

Often when we think of the early church we have a very idealistic view.  Everything was peachy keen, it never got messy and nobodies feelings ever got hurt.  They only sang music that everybody enjoyed, the preacher never offended anyone and everybody loved them.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say “I wish the church was more like the New Testament Church”.  What they mean is that they wish the church was more like the church described in the passage that was read for us earlier, let’s read it again,

Acts 2:41-47  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—  all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

And that is awesome.  It was also the description of a brand-new church, still had the new church smell.   But you don’t have to go very far into the New Testament to discover that like a new car, the new church started to develop a few rattles.

It’s kind of like that prayer that most of us need to start each new day with:  Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m really glad about that.
But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m going to need a lot more help.
The early church was perfect, right up to the point that they added imperfect people.

But it was and it still is God’s plan for believers connecting with believers.  Matthew 16:15-18  Then he (Jesus) asked them, “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.  Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

Before Jesus was arrested, before he was crucified, before he was raised from the dead, the church was on his mind.

Let’s start with what the church isn’t about.

At the close of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he concludes with these words,  1 Corinthians 16:19  The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.


Let’s start with It’s Not About the Where  In the book of Acts the church mostly met in homes.

It wasn’t that houses were sacred and special, it’s what they had.   Earlier in the Acts passage we read that they worshipped in the temple daily.  That was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.  There are other places in the New Testament when we see the early Christians worshipping at the local synagogue.

But as the divide between the Christ followers and the Jews increased the Christians were less and less welcomed in the Jewish places of worship.

And so they ended up in each other’s homes, out of necessity.

When Cornerstone started we started in our living room on Basinview Drive.  We were for a time a house church.

Historically, we are told that when persecution broke out against the church we are told that the early church began worshipping in hidden places like the Roman Catacombs.

Again, nothing sacred or holy about the catacombs, they were a safe place to meet when they could no longer meet in homes.

And so, they ended up in the catacombs, out of necessity.

It was about the third century when buildings started being built and modified exclusively as places of Christian worship.  Why?  Because they had outgrown the houses they were meeting in, or folks didn’t want their home disrupted by a couple of dozen of their closest friends every week.

The oldest church that has been discovered is the Dura-Europos church, located in Syria, which dates back to around 241 AD.

In our 23 year history we have met in homes, schools, the Lions Den at the LeBrun Centre, the rec room at the Berkeley, a couple of different company board rooms, a movie theatre, Sunnyside Mall and once under the trees at Fish Hatchery park and now in our own building.

And in all the different places we were meeting we were the church.

So, it’s not about the where.

In the book of Acts Luke writes this account of one of their worship experiences, Acts 16:13  On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.

The Sabbath that is mentioned was the Jewish Sabbath and it occurs on the day we call Saturday, and if that was all we had it would be easy, we’d all worship on the Sabbath.

But later in the book of Acts we read Acts 20:7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.   It would appear that as Christianity became more and more distinct from Judaism that worship shifted from Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the day of the resurrection.

So not only is it not about the where,  It’s Not About the When

 For many years going to church meant church at 11, and then church again at 7 in the evening and it was always on Sunday.  But that was traditional not biblical.  The 11 am start gave the farmers time to milk their cows and get cleaned up and ready for church.  It meant that there was time to have Sunday School at 9:30.

But it doesn’t have to be 11 am on Sunday Morning.

If you’ve been wondering where Pastor Mike White and Nicki have been lately, the answer is Abi Dhabi, where Nicki is teaching school for a couple of years.

They are presently worshipping at a church called Cornerstone International, which meets on Friday.

Many churches in the middle east meet on Friday, because that is the Muslim holy day and day of rest and Sunday is just another work day.

When we first started worshipping together we met at 10 a.m., then we changed it to 10:30 and then to 9:30 and 11:00.  For a little while we met on Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m.   And a long time ago in a galaxy far far away we met once a month on Sunday Evenings at 6:30 and ate together and worshipped together.

On any given weekend, you can go to some church in Halifax on Saturday or Sunday at any number of times.

So the where isn’t important and neither is the when.  But here is the shocker for many people

It’s Not Even About the How   We like to think that our church does “it” right, whatever “it” is.  We can point to other churches and why they don’t get “it”.  Cornerstone seems pretty normal now, but 20 years ago when we weren’t singing hymns and people were drinking coffee during the service and the Pastor wasn’t in a suit and we had one of those new fangled video projector thingys.

Well, there were churches and Pastors who were a little critical of how we did “it”.

I don’t remember having to defend our theology to anyone back in the day, but I spent a lot of time defending our one hour service style, that we met in a movie theatre and our music and my preaching style.

When I first began pastoring, evangelical pastors would sometimes refer to those other churches as being “more liturgical” then us.  Meaning they relied more on liturgy in their service, they were less free in their worship.  And liturgy is just a fancy word for the pattern we use for worship.

But the reality is that if you visit churches all over Halifax, and all over Nova Scotia, and Canada and around the world you will discover that we all do the same thing, and we’ve been doing the same thing for 2000 years.  We all have a liturgy and it is remarkably similar.

We come together and for an hour or three, we say some prayers, read some scripture, sing some songs, listen to a sermon and receive communion.  And we may differ a bit in how those prayers are said, and how long the sermon is, and what songs we sing and how often we serve communion but it is what it is.

And here is the reality folks, you don’t have to criticize other churches about how they are doing what they are doing just because they aren’t doing it the way we are doing it.

Because nobody is doing it the same way it was done in the New Testament church.  And we aren’t expected to.

So if it’s not about the where or the when or the how, what is it about?

Well, let’s go back to that first description of the church, Acts 2:41-42  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

So first of all It’s About the Who  The church is made up of God’s people.  Time and time again in the New Testament descriptions of the church begin with the words “those who believed” or “all the believers”.

The church is a place where believers come together.  It’s not for everybody, but it is for everybody who believes.

Sometimes there is a desire and a felt need that the church needs to be super inclusive, but it’s the church.  It’s not a service organization, it’s not a social club it not a community gathering it is primarily a place for believers, and because of that some people won’t feel comfortable.

It is where God’s people come together.  And church is an important part of being a Christian.

There are things that we can only do in community that we can’t do alone, so let’s keep reading.

Acts 2:41-42  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

It’s About the What 

There was a purpose for the church gathering together.  Not only were 3000 people baptized and added to the church but they began to do things together.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, today that comes in the form of the Sunday morning message.   They devoted themselves to fellowship.  That was hanging out with one another.

What a relief it must have been for the early believers to escape the immorality and godlessness of their world for a little bit and be with people who served and worshipped the same God.

To not have to hear God’s name taken in vain, to not have to listen to coarse language and lewd jokes. It must have been like a breath of fresh air to be with people who believed as they did.

And we are told that in the community they celebrated the sacraments.  And both communion, or the Lord’s Supper and Baptisms are events of community memory.

But as time wore on, life began to get in the way, and some in the church weren’t getting together as often as they should and the author of Hebrews reminds them of the danger of skipping out on this time together.

Hebrews 10:25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

And It’s about the When  I know that I already said that it wasn’t about the “when”, but it really is about the “When”.

Not in the sense of the actually time that you come together for worship, instead about the reality that you worship on a regular basis.

In the accounts of the early church, it spoke about them meeting daily, on the Sabbath and on the first day of the week.  But it never talks about them meeting twice a month or once a month, or at Christmas and Easter.

And I have to be careful here that I don’t across as scolding, or judgmental.    And if I do, I apologize it is not my intent.  My intent is not to scold but to caution.

Missing church is like missing anything you do on a regular basis, it is a slippery slope.  Talk to folks who attend Weight Watchers or AA and ask what happens after they’ve missed a couple of meetings and how hard it is to get back in the groove.

Talk to people who used to attend church and you’ll hear the same story.   There are all kinds of folks who used to attend Cornerstone, and if you asked them where they go to church they’d tell you that they go to Cornerstone.  They probably don’t even realize how long it’s been since they’ve been at Cornerstone.

We are the church they don’t go to when they don’t go to church.  But it isn’t because they don’t like Cornerstone, or the preaching or the music.  It’ because they got busy with other stuff.  Not bad stuff, just stuff and then it’s awkward to come back.

And when you skip church for whatever reason you are teaching your children a lesson about life’s priorities, and maybe that is what you are trying to do.  And we’re going to talk more about that next week.

As Christians, we are like a part of a fire that needs the rest of the fire.  If you have a fireplace you know that if you have a fire going and you pull one of the pieces of fire wood out and put it by itself, that it doesn’t take long for it to lose its fire.

That is the reason why the early church met so often, to encourage one another, to teach one another to keep the fire going.

In the same way, Dwight L. Moody reminds us that  “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”

The first two weeks in October there was a young couple who came out to church and sat right down there.

Now I get excited when I see a new couple in church, and after the second week I introduced myself to them and discovered that they were from Germany and were visiting Nova Scotia for a two-week vacation.

And as believers, they felt it was important to be with other believers, even when they were on vacation.

And I love it when parents work around hockey schedules, and cheer schedules and soccer schedules and kids show up in their uniforms, because life lessons are being taught.

And the reality is that many of things that people skip church to do on Sunday morning could be done on Saturday morning, or Sunday afternoon.

And if we go back to Hebrews 10:25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

We discover that It’s about the Why  

 Many people would agree with Justin Bieber who said “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.”
No, going to church won’t make you a Christian any more than going to Taco Bell will make you a Taco.  But the bible doesn’t tell us to go to church so we can become a Christian, but it does tell Christians to go to church.

By the way, Justin is a member of Hillsong Church NY.

So, why do we connect with other believers?  Because we were told to connect with other believers.  The church is part of God’s plan and as believers we are told to come together, to worship together, to sing together, to learn together and to be the church.

We are in this together.  When Paul was writing to the church in Colossae he told them   Colossians 2:2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.   Who was the “them” Paul was talking about?  It was the church, in the previous verse he said Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally.

And so today I want you, the church, to be knit together by strong ties of Love.  Let me pray for you.

 

It’s not that Serious

So, were they, or weren’t they?  Perhaps you’ve read the story of Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, the Hawaiian women and their two dogs who were supposedly rescued after being stranded aboard their disabled sailboat for five months.

Recent inconsistencies about their stories are now causing authorities to question the sailors account of their ordeal.

Questions about storms that never happened, the damage that was less than claimed, the year of food the women had taken on board for an 18-day trip.  Questions about things that make you go, hmmmmmm?

The biggest question the U.S. Coast Guard has raised was why the survivors had never activated the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon they had on board, a device that would have brought help within a day or two.

The response from Appel is that she understood that the EPRB was only to be used in life and death situations, not for little emergencies like when you had been adrift in the South Pacific for five months.

But isn’t that like those who know about the grace and forgiveness that God has to offer, but have decided that they’ll only reach out when death is imminent? Let’s hope they can stay afloat long enough to make the call.

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