It’s how you say it

I was reading an article on Cross-Cultural Church Planting awhile back and came across a statement that read, “America has the second largest African American population next to Nigeria.”
Maybe I’m just being picky, but my first question was; how many African Americans do they have in Nigeria? It’s interesting how our language changes and we accept statements as correct even though they obviously aren’t.
Not that the term African American is wrong, any more than Irish Canadian or French Canadian would be wrong. However, to make that term inclusive to mean anyone of African descent seems to be a little condescending. Sometimes we need to swallow our intense desire for political correctness and use the proper term.

Often at Cornerstone, we refer to those who don’t know Christ as pre-Christians, perhaps that’s why we don’t feel an urgency to reach them. After all, how bad can it be just being a pre-Christian?
Perhaps it’s time to readjust our focus and realize that because they are pre-Christians they aren’t Christians, and because they aren’t Christians the Bible says they are lost, and because they are lost they will spend their eternity separated from a God they never knew.

And maybe knowing that will break our hearts.

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

Commended by the Giver

Everyone enjoys being recognized for the good they have accomplished even if they do the “No really, you don’t have to” thing.  They enjoy being thanked and acknowledged for what they’ve done, maybe not publically but people want to know they have made a difference in their world.  The scripture that dearest to the heart of many is the picture of Jesus welcoming us into heaven saying, “well done my good and faithful servant.”

But the same doesn’t always hold true for money, at least for a lot of us we aren’t comfortable when we are recognized publically for our giving.

Apparently, there are some things that shouldn’t be talked about in public, sex, your giving and being a Habs fan.

When we did the capital campaign to raise the initial funding for our building there were three of us who made our commitments publically.  It was part of the plan for the pastor and the campaign directors, to publically make their commitments as part of the leadership process and it was open to others on the leadership team if they desired to, and one other person chose to.  We had people leave the church over that very issue or at least that was the excuse they gave.

What was it the man said, excuses are like noses everybody has one and they all smell.  And so we were told that by publically stating what we intended to give we were putting people on a guilt trip.  Guess we should have talked about sex, actually that is next month.

Or maybe we aren’t comfortable with seeing other people being recognized for their giving.  We like to keep it a secret.

As a matter of fact people have a scripture that they trot out whenever the issue comes up, words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount, you are probably familiar with them Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Of course, that criticism was levelled at people who wanted others to see how much they gave, right? All you have to do is go back one verse and you read Matthew 6:2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get.

If the truth be known too many people use that scripture for the opposite reason, they don’t want people to know how little they give.  But if we look into the gospels we see a couple of examples where Jesus very publically commended people for their giving, what they gave and how they gave it.  And in doing so condemned others for their lack of giving or at least the attitude with which they gave.

So here we are in week last of our Stewardship month, “Giving to the Giver.”  You can all breathe a sigh of relief.  Money month almost over.

For those who are visiting with us or new to Cornerstone this is an annual event.  Each Spring I take the opportunity to teach the theology of stewardship, which is a fancy way of saying we look at what the Bible says about money, what got, how we get it and what we do with it after we get it.  Nice thing is that means I won’t ambush you about money throughout the year.

And we culminate Money Month with an event we call Step Up Cornerstone which happens today, and we will be talking more about that later in the service.

Sometimes pastors choose to not speak about money in church, maybe in hopes that somehow their people will learn about it on their own, perhaps by osmosis.

Or maybe it’s because they feel that talking about money is too personal or too obtrusive. but Jesus talked a lot about money, he talked about the way people make it and what they do with it after they have it.

And because money is talked about in the scriptures, and because Jesus seemed to attach a great deal of importance to it, to the point of linking it to our eternities it is something that needs to be addressed. And we can’t just ignore it because it bothers some people and offends other people.

Seriously, what would happen if every preacher prepared his messages in an effort to not offend or bother anyone?  You might as well open fortune cookies.

During Week one we spoke about “The Giver”, that would be Jesus.  In week 2 we looked at “The Giver on Giving”, last week was “Giving to the Giver” as we looked t practical examples of people giving to Jesus.

This week we are going to look at some folks whose were commended by Jesus for their giving.

The first story comes from the scripture that was read earlier.  Jesus has been invited to have dinner with one of the religious leaders, a man by the name of Simon.  In the social climate of the day it was probably a big deal for this young Galilean preacher to be invited into the home of a Pharisee.

And as they are sitting down to eat the well planned evening takes an unexpected turn.  The scriptures tell us this Luke 7:37-38 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

So, there you are at the Bishop’s house just getting ready for the meal and in prances a floozy in a vinyl miniskirt, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels.  Well, she probably wasn’t dressed that way, but she might as well have been because her hair was down and that sent the same message.

We think of the Hijab as kind of a Muslim thing, but Jewish women were covering their hair 2000 years before the Koran was written and Christian women for 600 years before Mohammed began to preach.

Not sure what is exactly meant by immoral woman, some versions simply say she was a sinner, but she had probably either been accused of adultery or was a prostitute.  Which understand, not trying to justify anyone’s actions but if she was a woman who had been widowed and had no family or her husband had left her and she had no one to care for her there would have been very few options open to her as far as occupations went 2000 years ago.

Regardless, she falls in front of Jesus and pours the perfume she had brought on his feet and starts wiping them clean with her loose hair.  Well their host is a little put out, at her for crashing his party and at Jesus for not stopping her or condemning her.  Continuing on in the story we read Luke 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

Makes perfect sense but after Jesus tells a story, he was pretty good at that, he makes this statement.  Luke 7:44-47 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

So, Jesus commended the woman and in so doing condemned Simon.

The second example we have is a very familiar story found in the gospel of Mark.  Jesus had been teaching in the temple and we are told that he moves over close to the offering box, which by the way is located on the back table by the sound booth if anyone is wondering, and we are told that he watched what people were giving.

That’s kind of rude, at least many people today would think that it was.  Just imagine if I stationed myself back by the offering box and checked your envelopes as you put them in.

Wouldn’t have to say anything I’m sure that my expressions would speak volumes. The Bible tells us in Mark 12:41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts.  In the King James and New King James versions, it reads a little differently.  Mark 12:41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.  Did you notice that the difference there?  It said that he saw how they were giving.  It wasn’t just a matter of the “what” it was a matter of the “how”.  He moved it from a decision of the head to a decision of the heart.  And if we continue the story Mark 12:42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

You may remember from Sunday school or church as a child that she put in two mites, or maybe you have even heard the phrase “a Widow’s Mite”. A friend of mine in Truro told me one time as a child he couldn’t understand why the widow put two “Mice” in the offering box, or how she got them through the slot.

But it wasn’t mice it was a mite, which is from an old English word for a small Flemish coin, but Old English wasn’t spoken 2000 years ago in Galilee and the woman didn’t put a Flemish Coin in the offering box. Instead, it was a Greek coin called a lepton.

Found this out on a website called “Forum Ancient Coins”.   I learned this:  The lepton is the very smallest denomination and is probably the true “widow’s mite.” In fact, the lepton is probably the lowest denomination coin ever struck by any nation in all of history!

As a matter of fact, the word Lepton literally means a thin one.

So realistically here is Jesus watching what people are dropping in the offering box and how they are doing it.  Rich people are putting in lots of money, the Bible actually says “large amounts” and along comes this widow lady and drops in her two cents. Now to be fair it doesn’t say how much the rich folks were putting in, it just comments on the quantity not the value of their gift.

Have you ever heard the expression “A Kansas city bankroll”?  It is a term for a roll of money consisting of a roll of one-dollar bills wrapped in either a fifty or a hundred dollar bill, to give the impression that the person had a pile of money.

There have been some commentators who have suggested that the rich folks weren’t necessarily putting in huge amounts of money, just large amounts of money.  That is they may have been throwing in a handful of leptons, just sounded like a lot when they landed.

That was free, but from a worldly perspective you would think the ones who should be recognized are those who put in much but instead Jesus points to the woman and says  Mark 12:43-44 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

Do you get that?  Jesus commended the widow and condemned the rich people.

 

What do we learn from these two very different stories?

Jesus Commended Giving that was Sacrificial

What Jesus was teaching us here is it’s not what we give but what we keep that matters.  When we did our capital campaign back in 04 our tagline was “Not equal giving but equal sacrifice.”  We challenged the people who made up the church to give sacrificially in order to see this building become a reality.

And we had gifts that ranged from $700.00 to over $70,000.00

And what was a sacrifice to me may not have been a sacrifice to someone else and vice versa.  That’s what

Jesus was looking for; the amount of the gift doesn’t matter nearly as much as it’s cost to the giver.  Both the widow and the woman with the perfume gave sacrificially.  They didn’t give from what they had they gave from what they didn’t have.

And God is still watching what we give and what we keep.  There are people in this congregation who do both.  Some give out of their means and some give out of their meanness.  You know what I mean, when it comes to giving some people stop at nothing.

And our giving to God should cost us something.  If you don’t miss it, then it probably isn’t a sacrificial gift.  God isn’t looking for a tip, what you put in the offering box isn’t the admittance charge to the service.  It is your sacrificial gift to God.  William Barclay said “It may well be a sign of the decadence of the church and the failure of our Christianity that gifts have to be coaxed out of church people, and that often they will not give at all unless they get something back in the way of entertainment or of goods.”  And that’s not a sacrifice.

Which brings us to the next point.

Jesus Commended Giving that Had A Certain Recklessness to It. In both of these cases there didn’t appear to be a great deal of wisdom in the gifts that were made.  Jesus said the widow gave all she had and if we read the story of the woman who washed Christ feet the perfume is referred to as both expensive and rare. This wasn’t dollar store stuff.

To some people the amount of money that others give to the church seems reckless, “How can you justify giving that much?  What about retirement or the kid’s college funds.”  Questions that could have been asked to both of these women.

For most of us we could figure out something to do with the money we give to the church, we could invest it or we could spend it we could save it.  There would be all kinds of options and none would seem as reckless as giving it to God.

But let’s look at a different story in the bible: in Luke 12 Jesus tells the story of a rich farmer whose did incredibly well, and so he did the wise thing, he reinvested what he made in order to make more.

He was wise, at least in most people’s minds he would have been wise, let’s pick up and let Jesus tell the story, Luke 12:16-21 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” ’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

It would appear that he made the right investments.  He may have invested for this life but he certainly hadn’t invested wisely in the next life.  And maybe that was the reckless investment.

And sometimes that means that it doesn’t work out right on paper.

There is another story and this one we wouldn’t have expected.

Here we find Jesus in another one of his discussions with the religious leaders of the day.  Those discussions never seem to end well, and this one is no exception.

Let’s pick the story up in, Luke 11:42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

Jesus Commended Obedient Giving

This is kind of cool, Jesus never said anything nice about these guys, in various places in the bible he calls them hypocrites, fools, snakes and corpses.  And yet here he is saying “Way to go with the tithe guys.”  He condemns them for ignoring justice and the love of God, but he goes on to say “You should tithe, yes.”

Now I understand that these guys weren’t necessarily tithing because they loved God, or with pure motives.  But they had taken to heart the commandments found throughout the Old Testament to return one-tenth of what God had given them back to God. They were even tithing their herbs which they weren’t required to do, that would be like tithing your winning Tim Horton’s Tabs.

They tithed because the believed it was the right thing to do and for all the things that Jesus condemned these men for he didn’t criticize them for their giving.

It is fitting that while God is honoured by our worship that he should also be honoured with our giving.  And if you are singing about how much you love God but that isn’t demonstrated in tangible ways he must be shaking his head in confusion.

Two thoughts to close, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:9 Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.  Are you doing that?  We mentioned a couple of weeks that compared to most of the world we are stinking rich, obscenely wealthy, so how do we honour God with that wealth?

And Martin Luther wrote these words 500 years ago, “People go through 3 conversions: their head, their heart and their pocketbook.  Unfortunately, not all at the same time.”  Where are you on that faith journey?

Giving to the Giver

When people talk about their giving you will often hear them speak about giving to the church or giving to God and sometimes about their gift to Jesus.  And those are all valid expressions.  I do feel that we give to God through the church and that our giving is an expression of love and obedience to Jesus.

This is week 3 of “Money Month”, every year at Cornerstone I take a month to focus on stewardship.

We feel that this is the most responsible way for us to deal with our church finances.  Instead of me preaching on money when there some type of financial crisis it’s part of our church calendar, so you don’t feel like you been ambushed.

We end the month with an opportunity for those who call Cornerstone their church home to participate in what is known as “Step Up Cornerstone”.  That would be next Sunday and a card that looks like this, will be distributed to each person in the service and you will have the opportunity to fill it out.  And that is what next year’s budget will be based on.  You get to determine what type of church Cornerstone will be next year.

A couple of things.  We don’t put anyone on the spot.  I will not embarrass you in any way.  This is an estimate of giving card, you are simply estimating what you will be able to give over the next 12 months.  If something happens that you can’t do that, we just ask that you let us know so we can adjust our budget.  Just as you would do with your household budget if you discovered that your income had changed.

But we really hope that everyone will be able to take part.

This year our theme is “Giving to the Giver” that is Giving to Jesus.

Week one was “The Giver” and we looked at what Jesus gives us.  Himself, eternal life, abundant life, peace and rest.  The list goes on, so we concluded that he gives us all that we have.

Last week we looked at “The Giver on Giving” and we learned a few things that Jesus taught about money.   We Learned Why the Topic is so Important, We Learned to be Wise with What We’ve been Given, We Learned to be Responsible with What We’ve Been Given and we Learned to Trust the Giver.

This week we are looking at some of those who gave to the giver.

If you read through the gospels you can find several examples of where people presented various gifts to Jesus.

They weren’t nebulous, “I’m giving to the church so I’m giving these gifts to Jesus” they were actual gifts given by individuals to Jesus himself.  And I think if we take a look at why other people gave to the Giver then we can see the underlying reasons why we should be giving to Jesus as well.

So, you see the assumption I’m making? And that is that each of us is already giving, I trust that isn’t a false assumption.  And so now we are just looking at some of the reasons that make our giving valid.

And so, the story begins in a small town outside of Jerusalem, a young woman from Nazareth and her new husband had welcomed into the world their first child and as the woman rests and recovers from the birth of her son, before beginning the long trip home, mysterious visitors appear at the house they are staying at.

It is a familiar story but one that we normally limit to the yuletide season and here we are three months late, or nine months early.  We all know the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, but this part of the story had actually begun before Mary had any idea that she would deliver a child.

It is of course the story of the Magi, or Wise Men who came to visit the Christ child in the town of Bethlehem.  While Matthew only tells us that they came from the east Scholars tell us that the Magi had probably began their journey in what was then known as Persia and is now known as Iran, if we pull up our trusty map we see here is Israel and over here at the very edge of the map is where their journey would have originated from, meaning their journey would have encompassed over a thousand miles.

If they were to arrive in Bethlehem in the narrow window of opportunity that would have presented itself while Mary and Joseph and the Christ child were actually there,  we are told they would have to have left their home months in advance.  Remember they were travelling through hostile terrain, possibly on camels, that’s how they are always pictured, but they may very well have made the journey on foot.

Let’s pick up the story as the Magi arrive in Bethlehem, Matthew 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   A Gift of Adoration

From all that we learn the Magi arrived, presented their gifts as an act of worship, warned the family of the danger posed by Herod and then disappeared into the mystery that shrouded their entire journey.  So, what was up with that?  Seems like a long trip to just spend a day.

Have I mentioned that I’m flying to Uganda the end of April?  28 hours of travel and then I’m there for a weekend speaking at the annual Wesleyan missionary retreat and then 28 hours flying home on Monday, but I would suspect it will be more comfortable than the Magi’s trip.

Well they came for one purpose and that was to worship, and worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind.  Did you catch that?  Worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind.

And sometimes I hear people say “Well I give of my time” the wise men could have made that claim, they gave up a significant part of their lives to make the trip to worship Christ and then to travel home again.  But they also brought gifts with them.  We’ve discussed this before but each of the gifts was significant to who Jesus was and who he would become.

Gold was traditionally the gift for a King, we are told that in Persia it was customary that no one could approach the King without first presenting him with a gift of Gold, good work if you can find it.  And so, we need to remember that the child in the cradle was also the King of Kings.

The second gift was frankincense, which was a type of incense that was used in temple worship; as a matter of fact, it’s mentioned in the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament as a type of sacrifice.  And so, this was a gift for a priest, one who would open the way to God for the people.

The third gift was Myrrh and it was mixed with aloes by the Jews to embalm their dead. So this was a gift for the one who would die for us.

And those gifts were presented to Jesus as an act of worship because that’s what Worship is.
Collins English Dictionary defines worship this way wor·ship  (wûrshp) n.

  1. Reverence or devotion to a deity 2. Intense love or admiration

Did you catch the words?  Reverence, devotion, intense love.  They aren’t half-hearted words or mediocre words.  These are “travel for months across the desert” words, these are “bring your very best gifts to God” words.

The first act of worship we see in the Bible is where Cain and his brother Abel present gifts to God in Genesis chapter 4, let’s pick the story up in  Genesis 4:3-5 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift.

Why was one gift acceptable and one wasn’t?  Two words, Cain brought some Abel brought the best.  When we worship God with our gifts do we give him “some” or do we give him “the best”?  Just asking.

I have discovered this, you can tell what a person worships by what they are willing to make sacrifices for.  When you come to worship at Cornerstone what do you bring?

Another story, this one happens at the other end of Jesus life, less than a week before he was to be crucified.

We read the story earlier, Jesus is entertained by his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.  Lazarus is sitting with the guys, Martha is doing the Martha thing, hustling and bustling about the kitchen making sure that everything is just right, and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet taking in all that he says and suddenly she gets up, let’s pick up the story there:  John 12:2-3 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

This was A Gift of Gratitude.  You might remember the last time that Jesus had visited this home was when Lazarus had gotten sick and died and Jesus had raised him from the dead.  But it appears that these were more than casual acquaintances these were friends and Jesus ate with them on different occasions.

Jesus had made a difference in their lives, a physical difference when he gave life back to Lazarus but more importantly he made a spiritual and eternal difference in their lives by teaching them about the Kingdom of God.  He offered them more than life, he offered them eternal life.

It’s interesting the details the gospels give in stories like this one.  John doesn’t just say that it was perfume we are told that it was from the essence of “Nar” and that was a substance that came from a flower called a spikenard which was harvested in the foothills of the Himalayas in India.  This was a very expensive perfume imported from a distant country.  And then later in the story, we are told that the perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii.

300 denarii, and you are probably wondering what the exchange is.

Those in the know tell us that a denarii was a day’s wage and this perfume cost 300 of them.  That’s quite a gift.

Some scholars think that Mary may have been collecting and saving this perfume for her body to be anointed with when she died.  And so, she took what she had saved for her funeral expenses to give to Jesus and don’t even get me started on the obscene amounts of money we spend to bury dead people.

And so, Mary gave to Jesus because she was grateful for all that he had done, for her and for her family.  And it wasn’t a tip or a pittance it was a gift of significance because in her mind and her heart the gift that Christ had given her was a gift of significance.

And her gift didn’t just make an impact on Jesus because we are told The house was filled with the fragrance.  Mary’s gift not only made an impact on Christ it made an impact on everyone present.

The question that we each need to ask is what has Christ given you and what has Cornerstone given you? And are you grateful for the difference that’s been made in your life?

Another story from the Gospels, this one more toward the middle.  Often when we picture Christ and his disciples we see them making their way from town to town, teaching and healing those they came in contact with.  Some kind of carefree existence somewhere between Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and Robin Hood and his Merry Men.    You almost expect them to break into song as they make their way through the countryside.

But from a practical standpoint, how did they survive?  Think about it, thirteen guys walk everywhere they went they had to be hungry at the end of the day.  But we don’t see them working part-time, or sitting on the corner with a sign, or doing the squeegee kid thing with Chariots stopping at the lights.  Oh, I know every once in a while you see them fishing or picking some grain as they walked along the road and that was fine when they were around Capernaum where Peter and Andrews’s fishing boat was, and the picking grain that was a snack not a meal.

But in order for Jesus and his happy little band of followers to have ministered for three years around Israel, someone had to be footing the bill, and there’s just one little mention in the bible to give us a clue as to what was happening.   Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterwards Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.  This was A Gift for Ministry

Plain and simple if these folks hadn’t been kicking in then Jesus and the 12 would not have been able to do what they did.  Sometimes we romanticize the church the same way we do the ministry of Christ and the 12.  You know it just happens, we come to church on Sunday morning and there everything is there and in place.  But we never stop to think about salaries and curriculum and supplies for children’s ministry and the like.

Some things stay the same and one of those things is that ministry cost money.  I would love to be able to work for the church for nothing, but it costs me the same to live in Kingswood as it cost you, and I get gouged for gas the same as you do and Superstore and Sobey’s don’t hand out free pastor food.  And the same goes for the rest of the staff.

And so, if you are availing yourself of the ministry of Cornerstone then understand that it needs to be supported, and just because you only come once in a while doesn’t mean that it only needs to be supported when you are here. Because in order for it to be able to happen when you need it to happen then it needs to be supported all the time.

Apparently, there was a group of individuals who took it upon themselves to support the ministry of Christ.  And things haven’t changed much today.

If we want Cornerstone in our lives, if we look forward to the Sunday Worship and the teaching, if we want to be able to call upon the church to Marry us and dedicate our children and call on us in the hospital and be there to pray for us and meet our needs and eventually say a few nice words at our funeral than there is a cost that has to be paid.

Now let us go to the end of the story, past the Last Supper and beyond the crucifixion to the morning of the resurrection.  And if we peer through the morning mist we see three women making their way toward the city of the dead, carrying spices to anoint the body of their Lord and friend.  It’s interesting to note that these women were mentioned as being the last at the cross and now we see them again as the first at the tomb.

Now you know as well as I do that it was a wasted trip, that when they got there the tomb was empty and there was no need of their spices, but that isn’t the point the point is that they were bringing the last gift they intended to give to Jesus.  Let’s pick up the story the night before in the gospel of  Mark 16:1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body.  This was A Gift of Necessity. 

It wasn’t pretty, it’s not a Christmas card with the Wise Men gathering around a manger in the stable, it’s not providing for Jesus so he could teach and heal the multitudes.  It’s not even Mary anointing Jesus feet with perfume and then wiping them dry with her hair in an incredible act of love and gratitude.

Instead it is the reality of anointing a dead body with perfume to help keep putrefaction at bay.  And maybe you are thinking what a strange thing to do and what a waste of perfectly good spices, using them on someone who was dead.

I warned you, don’t get me started on the subjects of funerals; you don’t want to go down that road.

I wonder if when they were getting the spices together to embalm Jesus if his Mother remembered the gifts that were given to Christ at his birth? I wonder if she still had the myrrh?  I wonder if it was part of the spices the women took to the tomb that morning? It must have been one of the very first prepaid funerals

You know it’s kind of cool and noble to give to ministry.  To know that your gift is changing lives and making an impact on the eternal.  But understand that there are just plain necessary gifts at Cornerstone as well.  Gifts that pay for the $7,000.00 a month mortgage, that will add up to $84,000.00, or the $12,000.00 we’ll pay for power this year. And gifts that will pay for snowplowing and lawn mowing, for cleaning supplies and paper towel and toilet paper.

And those things are just as vital to touching this community as staff salaries and the curriculum that’s used in Children’s church.

Each one of us will have a different reason for what and why we give to Cornerstone in order for our church to do God’s work in our community.

For some, you will give out of adoration, others will give out of gratitude for what God has done for them, some will give because they see and appreciate the ministry that happens through His church and some will give because they are practical, and they know that the bills need to be paid.

There are many different reasons to give, but I would say this morning, without apology, if you love Jesus and love Cornerstone there is no reason not to give.

Winter. . . Yuck!

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate winter? My mother says I have always hated winter but that’s not true.

There were four years that I kind of enjoyed winter. Of course, those were the four years that we spent in Australia. And the past couple of storms haven’t helped.

However, there are a couple of things to be thankful for. The first is that as we get older this will provide us with the mandatory “winter storm” story to tell our kids and grandkids.

“Why this isn’t a storm, why I remember back in the winter of ‘18……now that was a storm! The snow was clear up to the second story windows. (The depth of the snow is proportional to your age. The older you get the deeper the snow used to be.)

The second thing we have to be thankful for is that winter doesn’t last forever. Even if the groundhog was wrong, Spring will be here eventually and then comes Summer.

Our Christian life is a lot like the weather. We may not always have sunshine, but we have the promise that the rough times won’t last forever. And hopefully, we won’t have to shovel the driveways of our mansions in Heaven.

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

The Giver on Giving

If there’s anything more annoying than a preacher who is always bringing money into the mix, it’s one who sneaks money into his messages.

One minute he’s talking about love and prayer and then wham the next minute he’s talking about what people give and don’t give and then he has the audacity to draw lines between people’s hearts and their wallets and back again.

I’m sure more than one person in the congregation was thinking: “It’s one thing to talk about money it’s another thing to try to make a spiritual connection. After all what’s how I handle my money got to do with my relationship with God? They are two different things and I want to keep them separate.”

I’m sure that over the past thirty-seven years there have been people who sat in churches who had those very thoughts about my preaching. Because believe it or not after having pastored since 1981 and having been though three building projects there have been times that the topic of money has been part of my sermons.

And I’m probably guilty of sneaking it in from time to time. When we built in Truro in 1988 our treasurer, Gordon Sabine, said on at least one occasion that when I died they were going to engrave Luke 16:22 on my tombstone: “And the poor beggar died.”

Which I thought was a little bit of an insult, because while I may be a beggar I can assure you that I’m not a poor beggar, I do it very well.

But this morning we aren’t talking about Denn preaching about money. This morning we are talking about Jesus preaching about money. Because you kind of expect it of me, especially during money month. But we think Jesus must have been above that, after all he was . . . Jesus. You know love your neighbour and turn the other cheek Jesus, certainly not “Let’s talk about money” Jesus.

But is that a fair characterization of the Jesus from the Bible? Probably not. Those in the know tell us that Jesus spoke more about money, how we make and what we do with it, than he did any other single topic and he wasn’t all that sensitive about how he approached the subject.

He said what he had to say and didn’t always make friends, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. You might recall the story of the man who came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to get to heaven and Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. The man’s response is found in Matthew 19:22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. And the amazing thing is Jesus didn’t chase after him, saying “Let’s not be too hasty, I didn’t actually mean everything, I meant half of everything.”

Or in the scripture that was read this morning, after Jesus finished talking about money, how we spend it and how we make it, we read this response. Luke 16:14 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. In the original language we are told that it literally said they turned up their noses at him.

But time and time again Jesus came back to the topic of money because he knew that if he didn’t that he wouldn’t be faithful to the will of God and that he wouldn’t be fair to those who heard him.

Each year I take a month in the spring to talk about money.

I didn’t always do it that way, for the first twenty years of my ministry I only spoke about money when there was a financial crisis in the church, and then it came across as scolding or as a guilt trip.

Now it’s just a regular part of our church calendar and you know that after this month you won’t get ambushed about money in the months ahead.

Our theme this year is “Giving to the Giver” and last week we looked at the giver, Jesus. And how he gave us himself and as a result of that gift he gives us eternal life, abundant life, peace and rest. As a matter of fact, we can to the conclusion that he really gives us everything.

This week we are going to look at the “Giver on Giving” or what we can learn from Jesus about our money.

We Learn Why the Topic is so Important Let’s go back to the story about the rich man that Jesus told to sell everything, and how he went away very sad. Well as Jesus watched him walk away he shook his head turned to his disciples and we read in Matthew 19:23-24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And then he tells them exactly how hard it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again-it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

When you think about it that would be pretty tough. I mean it might just be me, but I find it difficult to put a little skinny piece of thread through the eye of a needle and here Jesus is talking about putting a great big camel through the eye of a needle. Have you ever touched a camel? They aren’t the softest critter out there, their fur or hair or whatever it is that a camel is covered in is pretty coarse and pretty thick, I’m thinking that it would even pretty tough to put a camel hair through eye of a needle, unless it was a really big needle.

Now I understand that in a crowd this size that someone is thinking “Well that isn’t actually what Jesus meant pastor.” And if I took the time and gave you the mic you would be able to wax eloquently about how there was a gate in the wall that protected Jerusalem that was very low and narrow and when the main gates were locked at night that the only one you could gain entrance through was this one, which by happenstance was called the “Needle’s Eye.”

And you would explain that the gate was only designed for a person and if the person had a camel with them they would have to completely unload the camel and make it get down on its knees and crawl through this gate. The lesson being that the rich person would have to unburden themselves of their possessions and humble themselves before they would be able to make it into the kingdom of God.

Which is a really good story but as far as we can tell it was just a story. There is no historical evidence that such a gate ever existed.

Instead if you research the story you discover that it was first used by a preacher, which should say it all, by the name of Theophylact of Bulgaria in the eleventh century. And as often happens, if something is repeated long enough people start to believe it.

And there are some who might be thinking, “No that wasn’t what I was going to say.” And if I gave them the mic they would tell me the Greek word for Camel was kamelos and that is very similar to the Greek word kamilos which meant a large rope.

Oh, give it up. All that is doing is trying to take the sting out of Jesus’ words, something we try to do on a fairly regular basis. Jesus wasn’t talking about something being difficult, he was talking about something being impossible. That’s why he went on to say Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

But what do we know about camels? Jesus probably looked over and saw a camel and used it as an illustration. But look around, we don’t have camels, that’s why we’re confused.

Then Denn told the people of Cornerstone Verily, Verily I say unto you -it is easier to drive a bent nail into a piece of hardwood with a banana than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

But who was Jesus talking about when he used the word “Rich”.

Well, Matthew Spencer the Director of Campaigns and Policy, Oxfam made this statement, just last year, “You could get the number of billionaires that have the same wealth as half of the rest of the world on one golf buggy.”

He was exaggerating a bit, it would have to be a big golf cart. But in theory these eight men, have more wealth than the combined worth of half the world’s population. Did you catch that? These 8 people are richer than 3.6 billion people combined.

And you are sitting there thinking “Wow am I ever glad that I’m not rich.”
Well maybe not in this neighbourhood but globally we are obscenely wealthy.

A couple of things to think about 15% of the world’s population live on less than $2.00 a day, 7% live on more than $50.00 a day and the other 78% fall somewhere in between.

http://www.globalrichlist.com is a great website, you put in your income and it tells you where you rank in the world.

For example, if you made 75,000.00 last year, from all sources. You push the button and discover that there are only 12,508,459 people in the world who made more than you last year. Which means 6,987,491,540 people made less than you last year. You are not in the top 1% but the top .21 %.

And I understand that the cost of living in Canada with housing etc. is much higher than in most of the developing world. But if you were willing to live in a mud hut with no indoor plumbing, grow your own food and walk everywhere you went you could get your costs down as well.

Instead of patting ourselves on the back we probably should be figuring out how to grease up that camel.

But still, why is it so difficult for a rich man, however you define rich, to get into heaven? It goes back to the statement that was read earlier that made the Pharisees scoff. Luke 16:13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

And if you want to find out which one you serve then look to where your priorities are, look in your cheque book, or go online and check your bank statement. Where do your priorities lie?

Look in your calendar or your smartphone or whatever it is that you record where you spend your time. And then ask yourself, am I serving God or am I serving money?

Because it’s only when we answer that question that We Learn to be Wise with What We’ve been Given

Everybody likes good investments. They expect their investments to be secure and profitable. If you had all of your life savings tied up in one particular stock and your Money Guy called and said, “I have bad news, Acme Widgets has just tanked and you are wiped out.” Probably wouldn’t make your day. And it probably wouldn’t have been a wise investment.

And I know that this is a generalization and all generalizations are wrong, but often when the happens it’s because someone heard that a stock was going to perform astronomically, and they based their investment on greed.

Let’s never forget the old adage “When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

And so, Jesus had this to say about investments Matthew 6:19-20 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

We all know, without exception that we can’t take it with us when we go. We might say we can, we might hope we can, we might act like we can but deep down in our hearts we know that we can’t

Because as Job said, Job 1:21 He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.” Billy Graham said something very similar when he said, “There won’t be a u-haul following your hearse.” And Edmund Burke said, “everything you own will at the end of your life belong to somebody else.” friends you can’t keep what you have, the only thing that will be yours for eternity is what you are.

Jack Benny said “If I can’t take it with me then I’m not going,” well he went anyways and he didn’t take it with him.

Even when we try to take it with us we fail, a number of years back it was reported that a lady in California was buried sitting behind the wheel of her rolls Royce silver shadow, wearing her fur coat and a fortune in jewellery.

Man she didn’t take it with her, if you went back there today and dug up that grave she’d be gone but what ever hadn’t rotted, rusted or been ripped off would still be there. Or as Colonel Sanders the founder of KFC said “There’s no good reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.”

The bumper sticker might proclaim “The Man With the Most Toys When He Dies Wins”, but the reality is “The Man With the Most Toys When He Dies, is Still Dead.”

And so, will you choose to invest your money in things, things that will belong to somebody else at the end of this journey or will you choose to invest into people’s eternities?

I hope and pray that Cornerstone doesn’t just exist to fill this lot, provide employment to a few people and give you some place to go and something to do on Sunday mornings. Because if that is why we exist than we might as well lock the doors, board up the windows and put a for sale sign on the front lawn.

We are here to change lives, save marriages, point kids and teens in the right direction and we say it over and over again we are here to help depopulate hell. At the end of the day we want to be able to say that there are more people in heaven and fewer people in hell because Cornerstone Wesleyan Church made a difference in people’s lives.

And that difference will only be made if we continue to exist, and from a worldly perspective your giving is what enables Cornerstone to exist. There are no government subsidy, there is no denominational help, we don’t hold bingo games or bean suppers.

My paycheque, the mortgage payment, which by the way is $7,000.00 a month, the heat, the lights and everything else right down to the toilet paper is paid for by people who love Jesus and love Cornerstone.

And every person who is connected with this church will have to decide how much they are willing to invest in what we do. Because you will spend your money somewhere. And you will choose what investments you make, and Jesus said it would be litmus test of who we are, in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

From the Giver We Learn to be Responsible with What We’ve Been Given

Sometimes we get the impression that God wants it all and He doesn’t care what happens to us or our families. That isn’t the plan, God doesn’t ask for 100% of our finances or 90 or 50 or 40 or 25. In the scriptures it speaks of God’s people returning 1/10 of our income to God. Note I said returning because the assumption is that all that we have comes from God.

And so we have scriptures like Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

God doesn’t want us to lose our homes, he isn’t interested in us not feeding our children or defaulting on our taxes, that’s what the 90 % is for.

In the book of Mark, we read an account where the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by asking if they ought to pay tax. The idea was that if he said no then he was being disloyal to the Roman Empire, but on the other hand if he said yes than he was condoning the occupation of Israel by Rome.

So Jesus asked to see a coin and he asked the question “Whose picture and title is on the coin.” Well the obvious answer was Caesar’s and so Jesus replied Mark 12:17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them. God just wants what’s rightfully His.

And the great thing about our Country is that if you give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and if you give to God what is God’s then at tax time Caesar will give you back some of what you gave to God. The reality is that in Canada if you tithe it doesn’t mean you give 10 % it’s closer to 5%.

We have a responsibility to our families that’s why the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.

But you do have to ask yourself what it means to “Care for” your family? and if HD TV’s, cell phones for kids, luxury automobiles, and outrageously expensive sneakers fall in that category, then again it might be a priority issue.

And finally, when we listen to the Giver on Giving, We Learn to Trust the Giver

The question that we have to ask ourselves when it comes to our finances and whether or not we will support the church is very simple it is “Can I trust God to take care of me and mine?” You say “But Denn!”

Nope no buts, that is the question, it is all a matter of trust and this is what Jesus said about that. Luke 12:22-31 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

Though March we are talking about money, how you make it and how you spend it, but the question that you need to be asking in your heart is “Can I trust God to take care of me and mine?”

Giving it up for. . .?

So, what did you give up for Lent? Anything? I gave up brussel sprouts, snow shovelling and Barry Manilow music.

In some churches, that are more traditional than we are, Lent is the 40 days (less Sundays) before Easter and has traditionally been seen as a time to “fast” or give something up for God.

Most of us are quite willing to give up things that don’t appeal to us.  On the other hand giving up things that we enjoy,  actually making a sacrifice, is a little tougher. That might be why it’s called, “making a sacrifice.”

So, what have you given up for God? Not just during Lent, but all year round.  Is your life any different because you are a Christ Follower than it would be if you weren’t a Christ Follower?  Has following Jesus cost you anything?  Financially?
In LifeStyle choices? In what you do and who you do it with?

If it hasn’t made a difference in your life, then I would wonder if it has really made a difference at all.

Lent is a time to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us and a time to reflect on what we do for Him.

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

Giving to the Giver: The Giver

Things change, they don’t always stay the same.  And today you are part of change.  For sixteen years April has been “Stewardship Emphasize” month at Cornerstone, or as many like to call it “Money Month.”

And you may have noticed that this isn’t April, it’s March and yet here Denn is getting ready to talk about money.  And maybe you are wondering “why?”  Or maybe you’re thinking “That’s just not right.”  But take a deep breath and relax, it’s just an experiment.

For years I’ve always regretted making April “Money Month” because Easter usually falls in April, which for some is good news because it means there is one less Sunday for Denn to talk about money.  The downside is that when we have folks visiting on Easter it’s really difficult to invite them back for the family discussion we are having about finances.

And so, last year after mulling over possible solution I had a brainwave, move Money Month to March.  Sometimes I even surprise myself with my brilliance.  As my cousin used to say about me when we were fishing, “Strong like ox, smart like fridge.”

In case you are wondering what “Money Month” is, back in 2001 as a small church we were struggling with our finances and came to the conclusion that we were doing what a lot of churches do

Each year the church board would carefully craft a budget without really knowing what our income would be.  I mean we kind of knew what the previous year was, so we’d increase it by a few percentage points to show we had faith and away we’d go.

Imagine, trying to do a personal or family budget without knowing what your income would be.

Some of you are sitting there trying to figure out what a budget is.

And so, every year it seemed that we would get to a point where reality would set in and we would realize that we weren’t able to meet our budget.  And the solution was always the same, it would be suggested that we put the offering information in the bulletin, so people would know the dire straits we were in, and that Denn needed to preach on money.

And that never worked. So, in 2002 we decided to try something different.  Each year I would spend a month teaching on the theology of stewardship, what we have, how we got it, what we do with it after we get it and how God and the church figure into that.

So now, people know that this is just part of our calendar.   You know that I’m not preaching on money because we are in financial problems, I’m not trying to guilt you into giving more, well maybe there’s a little of that, but mainly, I’m simply teaching biblical principles about our finances.

And then, at the end of the month we have what we call step-up Sunday and that’s when we offer the Cornerstone family the opportunity to estimate what their giving will be in the upcoming year.

And if you are part of the Cornerstone family we hope that you take part, because that’s what we base our budget on.  On Step-up Sunday you get to determine what you would like your church to look like in the upcoming year.  Because our budget for operation and staffing is based on what the Cornerstone family commits to give.

And we take it seriously.  The first time we did this we discovered that we couldn’t afford a full-time pastor.  Which came as a shock to the full-time pastor, and I became a part time pastor.

This year our theme is “Giving to the Giver” or Giving back to Jesus.

The scripture that was read for us earlier contains probably one of the best-known passages in the bible.

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 let’ start with the fact that Jesus Gives Us Himself 

To understand this verse there are a couple of things we need to get our head around.  And the first is we need to be able to understand: Who sent whom?

You see, the trinity is really hard to understand.  This isn’t a case of God the father saying, “Here am I, send Jesus.”

Jesus is God.  This wasn’t an arbitrary decision, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit weren’t huddled over in a corner, casting furtive glances at God the Son while plotting his demise.

Sometimes people will ask me if I can explain the Trinity, the answer I usually give them is “No.”   But that’s fine, there are all kinds of things I can’t explain.

I can explain how the solar system on the roof of our house makes hot water, but I can’t explain how the solar system on the roof of the church makes electricity.

I can’t explain E=mc2, I can’t explain where the white goes when the snow melts, I can’t explain women and I can’t explain the Trinity.

 

But even though I can’t explain those things the solar system on the roof still produces energy, E still equals mc2, the white disappears when the snow melts and the Trinity exists.

 

Augustine wrote a book called “On the Trinity” and he couldn’t explain the Trinity.  In 1953 in their book “A Handbook of Christian Truth”, Harold Lindsell and Charles Woodbridge wrote “The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who has tried to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind; but he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul.”

So when we are told that God sent his Son, realize that God sent God.

Jesus told his followers in  Matthew 20:27-28  “and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”   The Son of Man came to give his life, he wasn’t forced to come, it wasn’t the decision of a committee.

Later in John 17:19  Jesus said “And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”   Jesus came willingly, and Jesus gave willingly.

But why did he give himself?  Let’s go back to our scripture,  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.

Jesus Gives Us Eternal Life 

 Eternity is almost as hard to explain as the trinity.   Eternity is forever and forever is really hard to get your head around because it’s . . . forever and sometimes we can’t even conceive of forever, what would we do. . .forever?

It’s because our realization of time is defined by our experience.

Einstein is reported to have explained relativity this way “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

And forever there isn’t going to be the same as forever here.

The eternity that Jesus promise us is an eternity with God as opposed to the other side of the coin, which is an eternity without God.  The Bible is clear, we will all live forever, the difference will be the address.

Again, Jesus reiterates the promise to those who follow him in   John 10:28-30  Jesus said “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.”   There’s that mystery again.

 And sometimes people see Christianity as the ultimate “Delayed Gratification” scenario.  You know, you give up the pleasures of this life for the pleasures of the next life.

But Jesus doesn’t just promise to give us eternal life, his promise for the here and now is found in  John 10:10  The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

 Jesus Gives Us Abundant Life 

 This is a little more down to earth, so to speak.  Jesus didn’t just come so we would have a better life . . . sometime, he came so we would have a better life now.  So we would have rich and satisfying life.

Some of you would be more familiar with Jesus words this way, John 10:10  NKJV Jesus said “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”   In his Daily Study Bible, William Barclay tells us that “The Greek phrase used for having it more abundantly means to have a superabundance of a thing.”  Not just a little bit more but lots more, more to the point of running over.

More love, more faith, more grace, more life then before we met Jesus.
How does that happen?  The abundant life he gives is a product of some of the other things Jesus gives us.

As I got into this message I realized that it really needed more than a message.  So today are just some highlights of those promises but we are going to come back in a couple of months to look at the “Promises of Jesus.”

Matthew 11:28  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

 Jesus Gives Us Rest

 Life 2000 years ago in Israel for most people was a day to day existence.  If you didn’t grow it, catch it or prepare it today, you wouldn’t eat it tomorrow.  Add that to the constant strain of being an occupied country where you could be called upon at any time to do the will of the empire and you begin to understand what Jesus was saying when he spoke of those who were weary and carried heavy burdens.

But he wasn’t just talking about physical rest, because physically,  life stayed the same for those who embraced his teaching, they still had to farm, and they still had to fish, and they still had to raise their families.

But here Jesus is speaking of a spiritual rest.  The Jewish religion had evolved into a religion of minutia.  There were rules and regulations for every facet of life. And each of those rules was broken down and defined by the Rabbis and Pharisees.

So, it wasn’t enough to rest on the Sabbath there was a plethora of rules telling you what rest wasn’t.  There were rules telling you how far you could travel on the Sabbath, how much you could carry, and it went on and on.

The Jews were told exactly how they needed to wash their hands, what clothes they could wear or not wear, what they could say and not say.

And their eternity depended on them doing everything just right.  I saw a guy wearing this T-shirt while we were on vacation.  (Running, you just need the right motivation).  Well, their motivation was to go to heaven.  But they were exhausted getting there, and the journey was no fun.

And it was to those people that Jesus offered grace and forgiveness and the rest that came with those things.

And the promise is still there which is why Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

And one of the benefits that this rest brings is spelled out by Jesus 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.”

 Jesus Gives us Peace

 Who remembers “Herman” from the weekend comics?  We loved Herman in our house and Christmas usually included a Herman collection.

One of the panels I remember was a reporter asking people to define peace. And people were saying things like “No war” and “an absence of Conflict”.  When the reporter asked Herman how he would define peace he replied, “A small round green vegetable.”

But that wasn’t what Jesus was talking about, not the vegetable or the absence of war.

He was speaking of an internal peace, a peace of mind and heart.

Understand that while the words that Jesus spoke and the promises that he made are for us today, that originally Jesus was speaking to people who lived in a world where there was no guarantee of tomorrow.

 

They lived the reality of 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.

The lived a life of subsistence compounded by the fact they were an occupied country and they went to sleep each night wondering what tomorrow would hold or if there would even be a tomorrow.

2000 years ago there was no peace in the hearts of the people of Israel, every day was a struggle, and into that struggle comes Jesus telling them, Luke 12:22-26  Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear.  For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.  Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

What was he offering them?  He was offering them peace, peace of heart and mind.  And two thousand years later as we chase the brass ring on the Merry Go Round of Life, Jesus still asks us Luke 12:25-26  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?  And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?  And he still tells us Matthew 6:34  “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

And so two thousand years later Jesus wants you to know.  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.”

So here are a few things I’ve discovered through the years when it comes to giving.

The first and the biggest is that It’s not mine to keep.  So, as we go into money month, if your attitude is “God wants what’s mine”, it’s going to be a tough month, but it becomes easier when we realize that God simply wants a little bit back of what he has given you.

Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Jesus Gives Us Everything

 Over and over again we are reminded in the scriptures that all we have and all that we are comes from God.

Jesus’ brother James tell us in James 1:16-18  So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.  Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.  He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.

From our first breath, all that we have is a gift, and so we aren’t giving so much as we are returning.

The second thing I’ve discovered is, it’s easier off the top than off the bottom.  Which is why the bible often talks about us offering up our first fruit.

Here’s what I mean.  If I give at the first of the pay, it’s done, the temptation isn’t there to spend what isn’t mine to spend.  That probably wouldn’t be a struggle for you but it is for some people.  Begin by giving to God.

And the third thing is make it a part of the budget, there’s that annoying word again.  The reality is that those who fail to plan, plan to fail and if you don’t have a plan for your giving then it probably won’t happen.  And when it goes in the budget then it becomes a priority.

I understand that isn’t not just a nice idea to give to God’s church.  There were weeks when the church was small that not only was my tithe dependent on my pay, but my pay was dependent on my tithe.

And Cornerstone exists only because those of you who make it your church home give.

Because of Angela and my commitment to tithing we’ve decided to make it easy on our estate.  Our wills stipulate that before the estate is divided up that 10% of what we leave behind will go to the church we are worshipping in at that time.   They probably won’t be naming a new wing after us.

And let’s end with two quotes by Billy Graham, just because.  First  “God has given us two hands–one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”   And secondly, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”

If we go back to the Gospels we read these words   Luke 22:19  He (Jesus) took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”

Which brings us to the realization Jesus Gave us Communion.  What we are inviting you to take part in today didn’t come from Denn or the Wesleyan Church it came from Jesus.