Terms and Conditions: Relationships

Click here, accept this, check here.  You’ve seen the words.  And they all signify the same thing, that you have read and accepted the terms and conditions of something.

 

This is week two of our Terms and Conditions series.  Last week we defined Terms and Conditions this way: Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

 

But do we really read those terms and conditions let alone plan to abide by them?  If you did, here are some things that you would know.

 

You have agreed that Twitter will have rights to all your content, even if you deactivate or close your account.

 

You have given Facebook permission to use all your photos in any capacity they want.  Including in advertisements.

 

By clicking “I agree” you have given Instagram a royalty-free, worldwide license to use or modify your photos and videos any way they’d like

 

Netflix reserves the right to disclose all of your information to third parties (i.e., law enforcement or the government) should they deem it necessary.  And you’ve agreed that Netflix will not be held liable if it gets hacked and your personal info is stolen.

 

If you are a LinkedIn user you have agreed to not lie, or “misrepresent your current or previous positions or qualifications.” So, if you are a dishwasher you can’t say that you are a sub aquatic ceramic hygienic engineer.

 

And if you listen to your music on Spotify you’ve said you’re ok with the section in their terms and conditions that reads, “We may collect information stored on your mobile device, such as contacts, photos, or media files.”

 

That means that you have given Spotify access to pretty much everything stored on your phone, but you’re ok, because Spotify insists that your info won’t be exploited.

 

Today’s message comes from Matthew’s Gospel in what has traditionally been called the Sermon on the Mount.

 

And it here that Jesus is speaking of relationships, and after warning people about the dangers of anger in the lives of those who follow him he adds some terms and condition for how we approach God in worship.

 

If you have your Bibles turn with me to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:23  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you,. . . “

 

 

So, if we go back to our definition that Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

 

So,  let’s begin by looking at The Service

 

The service that is being provided in this case would be the opportunity to worship God.  Or to resume the fellowship that was broken by sin.

 

Remember last week we had looked at how humanity had been created to be in fellowship with God?  And how, when they violated the terms and conditions, that is they disobeyed God, that caused a fracture in their relationship.

 

It’s only when we experience God’s Grace and forgiveness that we can see that relationship restored.

 

You’ve probably heard me speak on forgiveness different times and how important it is in the life of the believer.

 

Forgiveness frees us from the chains of resentment and bitterness.

 

This summer when I spoke about the parable of the unforgiving servant you might recall I said:

 

The prison of unforgiveness is built by those who refuse to forgive, and the keys are held by the same person.

 

Catherine Ponder wrote, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”

 

And you understand that when you say, “I can never forgive them”, you are locking yourself into a cell of resentment and bitterness.  And the bizarre thing is that you hold the key, at any time you can unlock the door and free yourself.  If you choose to.

 

It was Lewis Smedes  who said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

 

Jesus was very clear in his teaching.   At the end of the Lord’s Prayer he told his followers, Matthew 6:14-15  “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

And there are times that you will need to forgive people who don’t even know they hurt you or haven’t acknowledged that they’ve hurt you or don’t think that they need to be forgiven.

 

I truly believe that, and in those cases, you forgive them for your sake, not their sake. You do that to set yourself free from bitterness and resentment.

 

Virginia H. Pearce writes, “Forgiveness is possible even when there is no restitution, no remorse on the part of the perpetrator.”

 

But that type of forgiveness will not mend a relationship.

 

When someone has been hurt or offended or betrayed then it causes damage to the relationship.

 

That’s what happens to our relationship with God when we are disobedient.  And disobedience to God is called “Sin”.

 

That’s why we are told in  Isaiah 59:2  It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

 

And so the bible tells us that if we want to worship God that we need to approach him with our relationships in order, and not just the vertical relationship with God, but the horizontal relationships we have with others.

 

God doesn’t just want us to have a restored relationship with him, but with those around us.

 

Let’s go back to the story, Matthew 5:23-24  “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you,  leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

 

 

So here are The Terms and Conditions

 

If you are seeking to be in a relationship with God in what we call worship, perhaps corporate worship or even private worship, your prayer time and Bible reading, and you realize that you have offended someone, then you need to make it right, before you continue to worship.

 

Roger Hahn, in the Wesleyan Commentaries writes, “Worship of God is meaningless as long as we live in broken human relationships. People matter so much to God that He requires that we mend our relationships with them before we come and offer our gift to Him. “

 

Sometimes we wonder why there seems to be a barrier between us and God and why our prayers only seem to go as high as the ceiling.  It may be that we have built the barrier or put that ceiling in place ourselves.

 

And so, Jesus tells us that when we realize that we’ve done something wrong to someone, if we’ve offended them or hurt them that we need to make it right.

 

But what does that mean?  Is it just a matter of saying “I’m sorry”?

 

Jesus told a great story about a family where there was hurt and a broken relationship.  You probably know it as the story of the Prodigal Son.  The youngest of two sons demands his share of his father’s estate, he then leaves home and squanders his father’s hard-earned money.

 

Starting to sound familiar?  And when the son decides to return home, because he eventually ran out of money and friends, he realizes that he has some work to do in mending the damage he had caused in his family.

 

Let’s pick up the story in Luke 15:20-21  “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’”

 

So first you need to Own It

 

This is where we acknowledge that what we did was wrong and that we shouldn’t have done it.  This is what the son did when he said, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

 

It’s what we are doing when we say, “I shouldn’t have said that, I shouldn’t have done that, I hurt you, I was wrong.”  We are owning our behaviour.

 

The person you hurt needs to know that you know that what you did hurt them.

 

And maybe you’re thinking, “But it was unintentional, I didn’t mean to hurt them.”

 

But if I was in Tim’s, as unlikely as that may sound, and I stepped backward and jostled you and you spilled your coffee, what would I say?  I’d say, “I’m sorry”.

 

I didn’t mean to do it, but it happened, and I would apologize.

 

And maybe you are thinking, “But if it happened to me, if those words were spoken to me, it wouldn’t have hurt me.”    But it didn’t happen to you, it happened to them, and the words weren’t spoken to you or about you, they were spoken to the other person, and whether or not you would have been hurt is irrelevant if they were.   So, own it.

 

And listen up, an apology with an excuse isn’t really an apology.

 

When you add “but” to your apology it stops being an apology and becomes an explanation.

 

“I’m sorry I got angry, but . . .”  “I’m sorry I cheated on you, but . . .” “I’m sorry I stole from you, but . . .”

 

Remember that after the but comes the truth, and when you add “But” to your apology you are in effect saying, “I’m not really sorry.”

 

The second thing is you need to do after you own it is to Say It  This is where it gets difficult.  Where you have to swallow your pride.  When you have to say, “I was wrong”.

 

If we go back to the story of the prodigal son, before the son returns to the father he has this conversation with himself, Luke 15:18-19  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

 

He was sorry, he acknowledged to himself that what he did was wrong, but he also had to acknowledge it to his father.  It was his father whom he had hurt.

 

But it’s not just saying “I’m sorry, I was wrong” It’s also asking the person who you hurt, “Will you forgive me?”  And that can be even tougher, because what if they say “No”?

 

Hamilton Beazley author of the book “No Regrets” writes “Apologizing is making an admission that we erred, and we don’t like having to do that. . . . It makes us vulnerable because we are requesting something — forgiveness — that we think only the other person can grant, and we might be rejected.”

 

The next thing that we need to do is to Correct It   This is called restitution.

 

In the Old Testament the Law lays down specific examples of restitution, Exodus 22:1  If someone steals an ox or sheep and then kills or sells it, the thief must pay back five oxen for each ox stolen, and four sheep for each sheep stolen. It goes on to say in Exodus 22:3   “A thief who is caught must pay in full for everything he stole. If he cannot pay, he must be sold as a slave to pay for his theft.

 

There is a great example of this in Luke’s account of the Jesus story.  The story is told that a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus meets Jesus and his life is transformed.

 

And in reaction to the grace and forgiveness that Zacchaeus was offered we read his response in Luke 19:8  Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

 

Zacchaeus didn’t just acknowledge that what he had done was wrong, but he set about correcting that wrong.

But what if the injury wasn’t intentional?  Exodus 21:33-34  “Suppose someone digs or uncovers a pit and fails to cover it, and then an ox or a donkey falls into it.  The owner of the pit must pay full compensation to the owner of the animal, but then he gets to keep the dead animal.

 

You may not have meant it,  but if you have taken something from somebody, or cost somebody something, then you need to return it and make it right.

 

It might be material or financial or it might go deeper than that.  It might be that through your words, or innuendo or lack of words that you cost someone their character, and you need to correct that.  And that can be tougher than fixing the material wrongs, but it has to be done.

 

Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of the Nazi prison camps and she wrote, “Four marks of true repentance are: acknowledgement of wrong, willingness to confess it, willingness to abandon it, and willingness to make restitution.”

 

And sometimes, unfortunately, there is no correcting the wrong.  The Nazis killed Corries family, stole her dignity and years of her life.  Those things couldn’t be corrected.

 

When someone has lost their life, their health or their innocence because of your actions you can’t make restitution.

 

If your actions cost someone their marriage, how do you make restitution for that?

 

And don’t expect an apology and forgiveness to be a magic wand, some things can’t be repaired.

 

You need to try and make it right but, in some cases, there will always be reminders of the hurt.  That doesn’t mean that forgiveness hasn’t happened, it does mean that some scars last forever.

 

Shannon L. Alder writes, “How you correct your mistakes will define your character and commitment to a higher power.”

 

If you are letting things go uncorrected it is a reflection on your Christian character.  And if you can’t make it right, then acknowledge that.  “I can’t give you back what I’ve taken from you and I’m so sorry”

 

But it’s not just restitution, when Paul was preaching to the crowds early in the book of Acts we read this excerpt from one of his sermons.  Acts 3:19  Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.

 

The next thing we need to do is Stop It It’s not enough to say you’re sorry, to ask for forgiveness and even to offer to correct the offence if you’re just going to do it again.

 

If your behaviour results in someone being hurt or betrayed, then stop it.  And when we choose to stop a behaviour it’s called repentance.  To repent literally means to turn from something.

 

So, if I’m walking across the platform, and I realize that I’m going in the wrong direction, I repent.  Right there, that turn, did you catch that?  That’s repentance.

 

There is a passage from the Old Testament, that also falls under the Terms and Conditions category, and it says in 2 Chronicles 7:14  Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

 

When will God hear his people?  When they turn from their wicked ways, when they repent.

 

It’s really hard for someone to take your apology serious when you keep doing what you were doing.

 

Paul was writing to the church in the city of Corinth and he was referencing something he said in an earlier letter, let’s pick it up in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9  I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.  Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way.

 

Sometimes it takes the pain of a broken relationship to lead us to repentance.  And sometimes it takes someone challenging us on our behaviour to bring us to the same point.

 

Those are the steps that each us will have to take at some point in our lives.

 

And here is what needs to happen when someone has taken those steps with you, Accept It

 

In the book “When Sorry isn’t enough: Making things right with those you love”  Gary Chapman writes  “The choice not to forgive pronounces the death penalty upon the relationship.  Without forgiveness, relationships die.”

 

And remember Corrie Ten Boom, she had a lot more to forgive people for them most of us ever will have and she said “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

 

Because an apology alone cannot restore a relationship, there has to be forgiveness.  In God’s grace that is what each one of us is offered.  If we go back to the sermon that Peter preached at the temple, we read, Acts 3:19  Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.

 

Our part of the equation is to repent, God’s part of the equation is to forgive.  And we see that over and over again through the scriptures when we come to God and we confess to him that we are sinners, and we repent and ask him to forgive us, he forgives us.  He doesn’t make us grovel or repeat the words over and over again.

 

You’ve heard it before, actress Marlene Dietrich once said: “Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”

 

God doesn’t reheat our sins for breakfast and he doesn’t want us to reheat the sins of other’s for breakfast.

 

If you say you have forgiven someone, then act as if you’ve forgiven them. Some people say they’ve buried the hatchet, but they keep the handle visible just in case they need it again.

 

Most of us can recite the Lord’s prayer from memory, and if not here is a reminder of how Jesus taught his followers to pray, remember right in the middle when he said, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

 

And just in case those who heard him missed it he adds to the end of the prayer, Matthew 6:14-15  “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

Here is an addendum, we often talk about forgiven ourselves, but sometimes before we can forgive ourselves, we need to apologize to ourselves.

 

We need to acknowledge that we made the wrong choices and made wrong decisions and that those choices had consequences.  We need to make a commitment to stop that behaviour, and then we need to forgive ourselves.  And forgiving ourselves is like forgiving others, it means we are no longer going to keep going back to that offence over and over again.

 

Gary Chapman writes, “No positive purpose is served by berating ourselves explosively or implosively.  All such behaviour is destructive.”

 

I don’t know where you are at this morning, or what you may have to do.  But you do, so let me pray that God will give you the grace and the courage to take that step.

 

 

 

 

David and Who?

Are you a Survivor fan?  Have you been following the new season?  Maybe like me, you’ve only seen the commercials.

I don’t think I’ve seen an episode of a Survivor in ten years and it’s probably been fifteen years since I’ve watched an entire season.  But other people are apparently watching it because it’s now in its 37th season.  And the title of this season is “David Vs. Goliath.”

I wonder how many people understand the significance of the title?  I mean, they know that it means the weaker vs the stronger and they may even know there was a giant involved but do they know the story originated in the Bible?  Did you?

There was a time, that most people could have told you most of the story of David and Goliath because they learned the story in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School or church.  But that is no longer the case.

The Bible tells us that God’s word will not return void, meaning it will always be effective in people’s lives.  So I wonder if somewhere out there, someone has picked up the Bible to delve more into the origins of “David vs. Goliath”?

It might be a really cool story that we only get to hear in Heaven.

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

 

Terms and Conditions: In the Beginning

Until 1991 I don’t think I ever heard the words “Terms and Conditions”, at least not together, and then I installed my first software package and I had to “Click here”.

 

And over the past 27 years, I’ve probably clicked on a million Terms and Conditions boxes, I just made up that number.  And you probably have as well.

 

So, what are terms and conditions?  Well, here is the definition that we will be using over the next several weeks: 

Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

 

And the service might be software that you are installing, or a website you are visiting, or content you are downloading.

 

But regardless of what the service might be,  there are rules that you’re expected to follow if you avail yourself of that service.

 

But have you ever stopped and read the Terms and Conditions that you are agreeing to?  Probably not, after all not only are they daunting but they are quite voluminous as well.  That means long.

 

When you clicked to agree to your iTunes account you were saying that you had read the 19,972 words of the contract and that you agreed with them.  The iTunes terms and conditions are longer than Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

 

But that pales in contrast to what you agreed to if you are a PayPal user.  The PayPal terms and conditions, that you said you read and agreed to, are 36,275 words long, that’s the equivalent of 10 of my sermons and longer than Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

 

But those who wrote the PayPal terms must not have read Hamlet and if they did they must have missed the line from Polonius when he says, “Since brevity is the soul of wit / And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief…”

 

This summer, as I was about to click and agree to a new set of Terms and Conditions I realized that it’s not just with software, iPhones and websites where we are required to play by the rules.  The Bible is full of examples of terms and conditions.

 

This morning we are starting at the beginning, which is usually a good place to start.  The scripture that was read for us earlier today, lays out the Terms and Conditions that God laid down for the first couple in the Garden of Eden.

 

Let’s pick up the story in Genesis 2:15  The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.

 

Remember the definition we started with, Terms and Conditions: are rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

 

So let’s start with The Service

What was the expected here?  Well, if you know the story, God had created the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve.  And they were placed into a perfect world to live and to have fellowship with God.  God placed them in a perfect world and it would appear that in that perfect world God had provided everything the couple needed.

 

They lived in a beautiful garden in fellowship with their creator. We don’t know exactly where the Garden of Eden is or was, although some have tried to guess

 

First of all the Garden was situated in an area called Eden, so the Garden was not all of Eden, It was just a part of Eden.

 

The garden we are told was filled with trees and not just any trees we are told they were beautiful, and they produced delicious fruit, which tells us that God wasn’t just concerned with the practical but also with the aesthetics.

 

And if we pull down a map here, we are also told that the Garden was watered by a river that eventually became four rivers, today we know about the Pishon and the Tigris and the Euphrates, we don’t know where the Gihon may have flowed but with the other three we can guess that Eden may have been about here.

 

 

However, with the changes that would have happened to the geography after the great flood, we really don’t know.  We’re not even a hundred percent sure what the climate was like,  but considering we are told in Genesis 2:25  Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. We have to assume that it wasn’t Nova Scotia weather.

 

As a matter of fact, we have a photo of what many people feel is the entrance to paradise. (show pic of Grand Manan)

 

And after God had created them he had given them pretty explicit instructions of what he wanted them to do he said in Genesis 1:28 we read Genesis 1:28  Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. . .”

 

Which considering they were running around the Garden naked that probably wasn’t that much of a stretch.

 

 

But there was more to the story,  God also told them what they weren’t supposed to do Genesis 2:16-17  But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—  except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

 

These were  The Terms and Conditions

 

So, they are supposed to make babies and fill the earth, but they aren’t supposed to eat the fruit from just one tree out of all the trees in the garden.  Good work if you can find it. I mean that seems like a pretty good gig to me.  The only condition is that they couldn’t eat the fruit from one tree.

 

32 words, that was it.  Not 32,000 words, not 3,200 words, not even 320 words.  Just 32 words.

 

And you know what came next, right?

 

The Violation

 

Everything is going good and the devil crashes the party.  Adam and Eve are in the process of doing what they supposed to do and not doing what they weren’t supposed to do.

 

And Satan arrives and says “Yo kids, what’s happening?” And they say “Not much we’re just hanging around the garden working at making babies and not eating from that tree.”

 

And Satan says “Excuse me if I’m being nosy but how come you aren’t eating from that tree? That’s a great tree, as a matter of fact, it’s probably got the best fruit of any tree in the garden.”

 

“Well,” says Eve, “God told us not to eat from that tree because he said we would die if we did.” “That’s a crock” replies Satan, “The only reason He won’t let you eat from it is because it’s the best fruit in the garden and he knows that if you eat from it you’ll be just like him.  Besides a loving God wouldn’t let you die just because you ate one little tiny piece of fruit, go ahead, Bon Appetit.”

 

You know the story, Eve took the fruit took a big bite and said, “This is delicious Adam, you should really try it.”  And he did.

 

And those two bites signalled the end of the world as they knew it.  Their innocence was shattered, and mankind was steered unto the path of sin.

 

I read once that the trouble wasn’t the apple in the tree it was the pair on the ground.  And yes, I know that it doesn’t say apple anywhere in the bible and the climate wasn’t cold enough to grow apples, enough already.  It was just a joke.

 

So where were we in the story?

 

Oh yes, Eve has been tempted by the devil to disobey God and she, in turn, tempts Adam and it is literally the bite that changes the world.

 

With that bite, their eyes were indeed opened and they were overcome with shame and tried to cover their nakedness.  Up to that point, there had been no shame, no sense of right and wrong.  I don’t know if there was any magical power in the tree of knowledge of Good and evil or if it was the simple act of disobedience that made them realize the difference between doing what they should do and what they shouldn’t do.

 

Regardless of what caused it to happen their innocence was no more because of The Violation

 

The directions that God gave were very simple, don’t eat from that tree, you see that tree over there?  Don’t eat from it, get it?  And I’m sure that they nodded and said, “Got it.”

 

It wasn’t rocket science; there was no ambiguity about the command.  “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it on Saturday or we shouldn’t eat from it on Sunday?”  “Did he mean we shouldn’t eat from it at all or that we could eat from it as long as we didn’t eat from it to excess?” or “Maybe he meant that we could eat the fruit that was rated ‘g” but not the fruit that was rated ‘AA’ or ‘R’ and we’d have to exercise our own judgment on the fruit that was rated ‘PG 14’.”

 

God has given us a book that tells us what he wants us to do as well as what he doesn’t want us to do.  In its simplest form, it is the Ten Commandments but there is more than that.

 

Throughout the book you discover verses like Galatians 5:19-21  When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,  idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

 

It’s not like God has a whole list of unwritten rules that he is expecting us to follow listen to what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-17  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

 

And so regardless of what some people want you to think there are things that are right and things that are wrong in this life.

 

The Result

 

When Satan showed up and began his temptation he asked Eve “Did God really say you must not eat any of the fruit in the garden?” and listen to what Eve said “Of course we may eat it, it’s only the fruit from the tree at the centre of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God says we must not eat it,”

 

It would appear that she had a pretty firm grip on what they weren’t supposed to do,  now notice what else she adds “or even touch it or we will die.”   God hadn’t commanded them not to touch it, he just told them not to eat the fruit.  For that matter, they could have cut the tree down chopped it up and used it for firewood and been done with temptation.

 

In our lives how much of the wrong that we do is done in ignorance?  How often can we honestly say, “I didn’t know that was wrong.”? “You mean I shouldn’t have cheated on my wife, stole from my employer and lied to my parents.” “Who would have thought that was wrong?”  Duh.  You.

 

Parents, did you ever have a situation where one of your children did something they knew was wrong and then they hid from you? Because they knew that they had done wrong.  I’m not sure if they thought they could hide forever or just until you got over being mad.  That’s what happened with Adam and Eve.

 

God came looking for them and they hid, broke fellowship with God.  Up to this point Adam and Eve enjoyed being in the presence of God but all of a sudden, his Holiness revealed their disobedience.

 

But why did they hide?  Because they were afraid.  But afraid of what?  Genesis 3:9-10  Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”  He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

 

Was it being physically naked that made Adam afraid, it would appear so because the first thing they did was to cover themselves.  But these two had been walking around buck naked since day one and it hadn’t bothered them, why now?  I think that Adam and Eve were overcome with shame and they covered themselves physically because they couldn’t cover themselves spiritually.

 

Have you ever noticed that little kids have no qualms about running around starkers?

 

Indeed, they seem to enjoy it.  But there comes a time when their innocence disappears, and they feel compelled to cover up.  You say that’s cultural Denn, well to a certain degree yes.  But even in cultures in much warmer climates where in the past they wore considerably less than would be considered acceptable by western standards most still wore something.

 

As a believer have you ever been ashamed to be in the presence of God because of disobedience in your life?  Maybe during your own quiet time, or during a worship service or maybe during communion.

 

Adam and Eve knew that what they did was wrong, and it caused a tear in their relationship.

 

Even though they did what was wrong, and they knew it was wrong they refused to accept responsibility for what they had done.

 

Let’s go back to the story, Genesis 3:11-12  “Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

 

Boy does that sound familiar. How often when confronted with doing something they shouldn’t be doing have you heard your kids say in response “Yes but.”?

 

As a matter of fact, how often when confronted with doing something that you shouldn’t be doing have you heard yourself say “Yes but.”?

 

Adam was frantically looking for a way out.  It was Ashleigh Brilliant who said, “If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.”

 

And Adam and Eve seemed to embrace that because they started by Blaming Each Other

 

Lady Nancy Astor said, “In passing, also, I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.”

 

But it wasn’t so much Eve that Adam blamed, let’s go back to Genesis 3:11-12  “Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

 

It wasn’t just “The woman”, it was “The woman you gave me.”  Adam was blaming God.

 

And what was Eve’s response to Adam’s charge?  Genesis 3:13  Then the LORD God asked the woman, “What have you done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.”

 

She blamed the devil.

 

It was the classic “The Devil made me do it.” Defence and the poor Devil didn’t have a leg to stand on.

 

Yes, the Devil will tempt us to do wrong, yes he wants you to fail as a Christian.  But you don’t have to.

 

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

 

 

The bible never says that we won’t be tempted, but it does say we don’t have to give in to temptation.  There isn’t anything that you will be tempted to do that somebody else hasn’t already been tempted to do and yes some did give in to that temptation, but many didn’t.

 

All Adam and Eve had to do was whistle and God would have been there and turfed the Devil out on his ear.  But no they were enjoying the conversation.

 

And you know and I know that when we are being tempted, that if we actually stopped and prayed about the situation things would probably go in a different direction, but then again maybe that’s what we are afraid of.

 

It was Margaret Oliphant who said, “Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.”

 

How often in our lives do we seek to blame our behaviour and our failures on others?  “It was because of my parents or my teachers or my friends. They led me astray.”

 

Or “God, if you hadn’t made me this way.” Or “God if you hadn’t brought that person into my life.”

 

Motivational speaker Dr. Robert Anthony claims “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”

 

And so, you don’t need to change if it was someone else’s fault that you sinned.

 

Very seldom do you hear someone say, “I sinned, it was my choice, nobody forced me tempted me or enticed me, I did it because I wanted to.”

 

The Consequences

 

I’m not sure what would happen if you didn’t live up to the terms and conditions of PayPal, I do know that technically they can take your music away if you don’t live up to the terms and conditions of iTunes.

 

In this case, the relationship between God and man was severed.   God had asked them to not do one thing and trusted them to not do it, and they did it.

 

But you know the story could have had a different ending.

 

If we went back to Genesis 3:11-12  “Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”  The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”

 

“Yes,” Adam admitted, and then if instead of trying to shift the blame I wonder what would have happened if he had of said, “I was wrong and we are so sorry, next time we will call out to you and we’ll resist temptation.”

 

Do you think God would have forgiven Adam and Eve?  I do.  And while that might be a hypothetical question what happens when we sin isn’t, the word of God promises us in 1 John 1:8-9  If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

 

So where are you at?  Let’s see if we have all of the story straight.  In the beginning, God created Man and Woman and they lived in fellowship with him and when sin came into the world it separated us from God.  And it continues to separate us from God.  Romans 3:23  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. And ever since that first sin we have tried to bridge the gap with our own efforts, with religion, giving, good deeds but they are never enough.  The consequences for Adam and Eve was spiritual death, and that holds true today, Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

The gap can only be bridged with the cross of Christ, and that’s why we are told 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.

 

So, where are you?

 

If you’ve never experienced that forgiveness if you are still on the other side of the separation, then today would be a great time to move across.  It’s as simple as asking, here’s a suggested prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And That’s why we Need Grace

Last week I read an article about how the Nova Scotia Government has brought forward new laws which defined pedestrians, cyclists and certain others as “vulnerable road users”.  Under the new laws, the fines have doubled for accidents that seriously injure or kill them.

And my first thought was, that’s a good thing.  But then I stopped and thought, what exactly will the new fines do?

Will people be more careful as they drive? Will there be fewer fatalities because of the increased fines, or will the provincial government coffers be the only ones that benefit.

Kelsey Lane, transportation coordinator for Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre, said the change was “huge” and said it should help make roads and highways safer for everyone.  Really?

The fines were doubled in 2015, but apparently, the bureaucrats have decided that wasn’t enough.   But, I’m not sure that the decision to accidentally run over someone, regardless of who they are, will be affected by the size of the fine

If the new fines are to be a punishment, then so be it.   But, if the fear of punishment is enough to change human behaviour than hell itself should be enough.  But it’s not and we still need Grace.

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

Storms of Life 4

Dad told me that once as a teen he was with his father on their fishing boat when the weather turned nasty.  Dad was whining and complaining about how rough it was and how he wished that they had of stayed home instead of going fishing.

 

And his father told him, “you wouldn’t want to be ashore in a storm like this, it’s much safer out here if you were ashore a tree could fall on you.”

 

And the reality was my Grandfather probably wouldn’t have headed out in the Bay of Fundy in a small fishing boat if he knew that rough weather was coming, on the other hand, they were already there.  To turn around would be to lose valuable time and spend valuable money on fuel when they were already where they had to be.  And so they safely weathered the storm without a tree falling on them.

 

This is week four of our “Weathering the Storms of Life” series.  Over the past three weeks, we’ve focused on storms that happened at sea.

 

In week one we looked at the Old Testament story of Jonah and the storm that he found himself in when he was disobedient to God.

 

And you’ll remember that we learned five things from that story.

 

1) Not Every Storm Is Our Fault

2) Every Action Has Consequences for Others.

3) Don’t Make Major Decisions When You Are in The Midst of a Storm.

4) No Storm Lasts forever

5) The Remedy for Disobedience Is Obedience.

 

Two weeks ago we looked at the time that Jesus calmed the storm that he was in the with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee.  And from that story we learned:

 

1) Sometimes Obedience Leads Us into Storms

2) Jesus Is Always With Us In The Storm

3) The Storm Teaches Us About Ourselves

4) The Storm Teaches Us About Jesus

5) It’s Easy to Nap When You Know Who’s in Control.

 

Last week we looked at the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome and the multiple storms he encountered.  And there were five lessons there as well:

 

1) Sometimes a Storm is just a Storm

2) Storms Don’t Always Come Alone

3) If There’s Something You Can Do, Do It

4)The Consequences of the storm Can Outlast the Storm

5) Never Forget, God is There

 

But not all storms happen at sea; I happen to think the cool ones do.

 

This week the storm story is a story of a story.  We are going back to the Parables of Jesus, the stories that Jesus told to illustrate the Kingdom of God.  Matthew and Luke both record this story, and we are going to settle into Matthew’s account.

 

Matthew 7:24 & 26  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. . . But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.

 

So let’s start with The Back Story  Jesus begins by telling the story of two men, because one man wouldn’t have been enough and three men would have just confused the issue.

 

And the two men had some things in common, they both heard the teaching of Jesus, they both embarked on a project, they both made choices, and they both encountered a storm.

 

In the story, the project they embarked on was the task of building a house, which of course was an analogy for the life that each one of us creates for ourselves.

 

 

And although we didn’t actually “Build” them, we designed both of them, and we were on site every day, checking progress and bringing the contractors home-made chocolate chip cookies.  It’s incredible how far home-made cookies go.

 

And over the past thirty years I have been involved in 3 church building projects, and in each of those I was involved in the design, I was on site every day and I took part in the building project.  Swinging a hammer, lugging stuff and painting.    I love building.

 

And I have discovered that in each of those cases you need to be careful about what’s happening while the building is under construction because you will pay later for any shortcuts that were taken during the building process.

 

And trust me when I say that nobody will care more about how your house is constructed then you will.

 

 

And so, the two men, both build their homes.  One chose to build on bedrock; the second man built his house on sand.  The commentators tell us that this would have been a story that would have had people nodding.  It made complete sense in their culture, time and geography.

 

Barclay writes in his Daily Study Bible, “There was many a gully which in summer was a pleasant sandy hollow, but was in winter a raging torrent of rushing water. A man might be looking for a house; he might find a pleasantly sheltered sandy hollow; and he might think this a very suitable place. But, if he was a short-sighted man, he might well have built his house in the dried-up bed of a river, and, when the winter came, his house would disintegrate.”

 

Ultimately both men made decisions, decisions that would dramatically affect the quality of their lives later.

 

And Jesus explains very clearly what he was trying to say:  He didn’t beat around the bush or try to sugar coat his words.  Let’s listen to his words again.    Matthew 7:24 & 26  Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish.”

the same as wise and foolish.

 

Because it’s easier for a wise person to gain knowledge than for a smart person to gain judgment.

 

And we’ve all met people who are incredibly smart but dumb as dirt when it comes to making practical decisions about life.

 

So, one of these men, the wise man, hears the teachings of Jesus and chooses to make those teachings the foundation of his life, even though it’s not necessarily the easy choice or even the popular choice.

 

The second man heard the same message but made a different decision about what he would do with that message.  He chose to ignore the message.

We don’t know what the philosophy was that he built his life on, but we do know what it wasn’t.  It wasn’t the teaching of Christ.

 

In this parable Jesus first of all, demands that people listen to his message and then he demands that people do something with what they heard.   Knowledge only becomes relevant when translated into action.

 

When I first went to work with Dad on the tugs, he gave me a big lecture about doing as I was told and not questioning him or anyone else, that it expected that as soon as they told me to jump that I’d be in the air asking how high?

 

And as I looked at him with that 15-year-old, “I know everything” look, he explained that if we were towing something and the cable or rope broke, and someone yelled “Get down!” and I didn’t I might get my head cut off.  That made sense, even to a 15-year-old who knew everything.

 

And the same way you don’t build a house overnight, you don’t build your life overnight.

 

Stephen Covey wrote, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

 

So let’s continue with our story: Matthew 7:24-27  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

 

Which of course is The Storm Story

 

Presumably, the houses weren’t built in the midst of the storms, but the storms eventually came.  And it seems that they came from all directions.  The story tells us that the rain didn’t just come, it came in torrents.  And the heavy rains caused the floodwaters to rise, and the wind was beating against the house.

 

Last week I spoke about how there are times that one storm seems to follow right on the heels of a previous storm.

 

But even within the same storm, there are various elements to the storms.

 

You get sick, and then you can’t work so you can’t pay your bills, and you lose your car.  Not multiple storms, but elements of the same storm.

 

In the story that Jesus told the storms are identical, torrential rains, flood waters and wind.  But it is in the end result that we see the difference.

 

At the end of the day, one house is

 

So, what are some of the  Lessons from the Story

 

1) Storms will Come  Regardless of how nice the weather is when you are building your house, you can be assured that at some point storms will come.

 

So, If you are building a house in Canada, you ought to prepare for snow and if you a building a house in Florida ought to prepare for hurricanes.

 

But sometimes we get hurricanes in Canada, and there have been times they’ve gotten snow in Florida.

 

There may not be a storm today, but storms will come.   Your life may seem peachy right now, but the chances are that at some place in your future a storm will come.

 

 

My first pastoral family was Jack and Charlene Mackenzie, or as we all called them “Pastor and Mrs.” And they have been the Godliest people I have ever met, an incredible example of faith and personal holiness.  If faithfulness exempted us from storms, then life should have been cloud free for the Pastor and the Mrs.

 

Lou Gehrig’s diseaseDisease.

 

Jesus reminds us in  Matthew 5:45  For He (God)  gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

 

But with that in mind, listen to the promise that Jesus made to his followers in John 16:33  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

 

 

Or as Shannon Alder reminds us, “There is always a storm. There is always rain. Some experience it. Some live through it. And others are made from it.”

 

And remember the wisdom of Bee Stanton from last week: “A wise old mariner perhaps once said ‘Never grumble of how the winds they howl, tis one of the few things in life you cannot change.”

 

Which leads us to the next thing we learn,  The Best Time to Prepare for a Storm is Before the Storm  Kind of like the old guy who never fixed his roof because when it was sunny, it wasn’t leaking and when it was raining it was too wet to work on the roof.

 

The time to prepare for the storm is when the sun is out.  The best time to build a house and to build a life is when the storm isn’t raging around you.

 

Sometimes we get the warning, “a storm is coming get ready. ” But often times we miss the warnings, or we underestimate the power of the storm.  And it’s at those times that we discover how prepared we are.

 

When Angela and I first started dating, we took a group from the bible college out on Dad’s pleasure boat for the day.  It started as a really nice day, but the time we were done our three-hour cruise the wind had really blown up.

 

Dad had a new window that he was planning on installing in the boat, and he had it laying on the deck in front of the cabin.  I didn’t notice it until a gust of wind picked it up and blew it overboard.  Probably should have secured it before the wind came up.

 

The middle of a hurricane isn’t when you should be putting your patio furniture away, and the middle of the snowstorm isn’t when you should be discovering that you forgot to put gas in the snow blower.  Not that I know anything about that.

 

But I do know for a fact that sea sick medicine is a lot more effective if you take it before you get sick.

 

Your Foundation is Important in the Storm  We’ve all seen pictures of icebergs.  In 1981 I had a great summer job on the Irving Cedar which took me to the magnetic North Pole, and we got to see Icebergs on our way there.  And there were a few days that it got stormy and we were bouncing around, and they were just floating placidly along, it was so cool.    And that was because so much of the berg was beneath the surface.

 

Luke’s account of this parable is a little different than Matthews.  Luke 6:48-49  It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

 

Jesus told another parable where he compared our Christian experience to plants and explained how the plants that had developed deep strong roots were more likely to survive than plants with shallow roots.

 

And how do you make sure that you have a strong foundation in your Christian life?  Start by reading your Bible.  Paul reminded the early Christians in Ephesus of this truth when he wrote, Ephesians 2:20  Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.

 

And the way you build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets is to read them.  And if you don’t have a bible to read, let one of the staff know, and we will get you one in a modern translation.

 

But it’s not just reading your bible, make prayer a habit, join a small group and make regular worship a part of the routine for you and your family.

 

 

The time to be preparing your foundation isn’t when you just found out you are ill, or unemployed or there are problems with your kids, the time is now.

 

It has often been said, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Nobody knows who said it, but nobody argues with the truth of the statement.

 

You should have started laying the foundation of your faith a long time ago, but if you didn’t then start today.

 

The Results of the Storm Will Differ for Each of Us

 

Everybody goes through a storm differently.  Before we moved to where we are now, we lived further into Kingswood.  And our house was down in a sheltered area, and I remember the night that Hurricane Juan went through.   The power had gone off in the middle of the night, and it was still off when we got up in the morning.

 

I remember looking out the window and thinking, “Well that was much ado about nothing.”  And then our son came home from working in Bedford and told us about how much damage there had been in town.

 

Both men went through the same storm, one man’s house stood, and the second man’s house fell.  In their case if was because of poor planning and poor preparation.

 

But understand that every storm is different, and so are the people who experience the storm.  Their life experiences, the faith background the foundation they have established and all of those things will dictate how we weather the storms.

 

Don’t try to project on others how you think the storm should affect them. You can be there for them, but you aren’t them.

 

And finally, and most important, God is With Us in the Storm.  Maybe You are wondering where it said that in the story.   Remember how the story began, Matthew 7:24  Jesus said: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”

 

And in Jesus teachings, he reminds us how much God loves us and cares for us and how he will always be there for us.

 

The prophet writes in  Nahum 1:7  The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.

 

If you’ve never accepted the forgiveness and grace of Jesus, those promises are just a prayer away.

 

And here is the promise from the past three messages:   Proverbs 10:25  When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

 

And a new promise for today from the book of Romans, Romans 8:35-39  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Benediction:

Numbers 6:24-26  ‘May the LORD bless you and protect you.  May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.  May the LORD show you his favour and give you his peace.’

Who’s to Blame? FBL

The question that people are asking is:  Who’s to blame?  Last week in Quebec, a 52-year-old man was hit and killed by a vehicle outside of Montreal.  There seems to be a simple answer there.  Obviously, it must have been the man himself or perhaps the driver of the car that hit him.

But nothing is that simple.

Earlier in the evening, the man had been taken to the hospital by the police, who had responded to a call that the man was intoxicated.  Shortly after midnight the man checked himself out the hospital and stumbled into the night where the police found him staggering along the road.  After speaking with the man, the officers decided to let him make his own way home.  25 minutes later, a motorist called 911 to report that she had just hit something.

Quebec’s independent police watchdog has launched an investigation, but in looking at public opinion, some are blaming the hospital for releasing the man, others blame the police for allowing him to walk home, but very few people blame the driver or the inebriated man.

It’s interesting that nobody is blaming alcohol and maybe that’s because that would lead to too many awkward questions about the view of drinking in our society.

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