Time travel has been a part of science fiction for years. From H. G. Wells’, the Time Machine, published in 1895 right up to this year’s Loki from the Marvel Universe, we seem to be fascinated with the concept of being able to travel through time.
I didn’t read Well’s novel, but I remember reading the Classic Illustrated version of it. And I remember when Star Trek dabbled in time travel with the 1967 episode, “Tomorrow is Yesterday.” But probably the most memorable cultural memory I have of time travel was the closing scene from the original Planet of the Apes.
Through October I have spoken a bit about what would happen if we could travel to the past, and what the danger might be if we upset the Space-Time Continuum. Two weeks ago, I actually put forth the hypothesis that maybe life has already worked out for the best, and any attempts to change history would end up changing it for the worse. That maybe even the worst of times, are the best of times.
But that danger wouldn’t exist in travelling to the future, because the future has already been set.
And there seems to be an inordinate desire to know the future. If you Google “psychics Halifax”, you will discover multiple listings of people willing to tell you what tomorrow holds, for a fee.
But really, do you want to know the future? What possible good could come of that? I mean, other than the obvious, picking winning lottery tickets and racehorses. Would you want to know about upcoming pain and heartache?
If you knew when you would die, would that make you live a fuller life? Or would it just make you obsess over that knowledge? It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote, “Work as if you were to live a hundred years. Pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”
The story is told that Saint Francis, hoeing his garden, was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow. His response was “Continue hoeing my garden.”
Realistically, we probably should live as if today was our last day because it very well could be.
Our series through October and November has been “Resetting the Timeline” and we have acknowledged that things are different now than they were two years ago.
Different for society as a whole, different for our families, different for each of us personally, and yes, different for our church.
But what isn’t different is God’s plan for us personally and God’s plan for Cornerstone. When we launched almost 27 years ago, there were many things we didn’t know about the future. We didn’t know where we would build or when we would build. We didn’t know who would be a part of our church family and who would have moved on. I think we can all agree with the truth of Yogi Berra’s words, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
And while we can’t go back and change what has already happened, we can move ahead in fulfilling God’s purpose for our church.
Remember, our mission statement is still the same today as it was the day before we heard about COVID-19 Cornerstone exists to provide a home for the spiritually homeless. Guiding them into a dynamic growing relationship with God and His Family.
We often shorten that up and simplify it by saying “We are here to help depopulate Hell.” We believe there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. And we want there to be more people in heaven because we exist.
Jesus defined his purpose for coming in Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Sounds like Jesus’ purpose for coming was to help depopulate hell.
And after the resurrection, just before Jesus ascended to his Father he told the disciples, Matthew 28:19 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Sounds like the reason that Jesus left the apostles was for them to help depopulate hell.
But how do we do that in this new climate? Regardless of what some people might think, I believe we do that as a church by continuing to do what God has called us to do.
And while I have given up trying to say this is what this will look like next week, or next month, or tomorrow for that matter, I do know the staff at Cornerstone can’t do it alone. If we are going to fulfil the mission that God has set before us, the mission to help depopulate hell, it will require every one of us.
Let’s go back to the scripture we started with, 1 Peter 4:7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.
It’s easy to get stuck on what Peter meant when he said, The end of the world is coming soon.
And we can say, “Well, obviously he was wrong. That was 2000 years ago, and the world is still here.” And there are a few different theories.
The first is that Peter and other New Testament writers were indeed mistaken. That they literally felt that Jesus’ second coming and the end of the world was imminent and would happen in their lifetimes. And it didn’t.
But if that was the case it would have been fairly easy for the early church to quietly delete those portions from the scriptures. But they didn’t.
William Barclay goes in a different direction when he wrote, “There is a strong line of New Testament thought which in effect, holds that the end has come. The consummation of history was the coming of Jesus Christ. In him time was invaded by eternity.”
But if that was the case, we would expect that the battle would have been over at that point, that evil would have been vanquished and we all would have lived happily ever after. But you don’t have to be a student of history to realize that isn’t a reality.
Others have suggested that “soon” was a relative term. That in the broad scope of history, that compared to the eons that had passed that even few thousand years would have been soon. King David wrote in Psalm 90:4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.
And Peter reiterated that in 2 Peter 3:8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A Day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.
Or maybe Peter was simply reinforcing the fact that, for all of us, there is the inescapable truth that the time is near. That every day we live is a day further from our birth and a day closer to our death. To go back to what I said earlier, none of us know what our future holds, and so we all live in the shadow of eternity.
Regardless of what Peter meant when he said that the end was near, the lesson for today is caught up in what Peter challenged his readers to do in light of that fact.
He didn’t tell his readers that things were hopeless. He didn’t encourage them to sell everything and wait on a mountaintop or to rack up debt that they wouldn’t have to repay.
Instead, he tells them to keep hoeing in their gardens.
1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1) We All Get a Gift
But from the beginning, we are told that there is a gift for every believer. That there are no believers who don’t have a gift from the spirit.
There are believers who don’t use the gift or gifts they have been given, but we’ve all been given at least one.
And it wasn’t just Peter who taught this. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.
Now let’s clarify that your spiritual gift isn’t necessarily your God-given talent. Everybody has natural talents.
Lady Gaga is an incredible singer. She has buckets of talent, and most people would say that she was gifted. Others might say other things about her, but we’re not going down that road.
But singing isn’t Lady Gaga’s spiritual gift, it’s her talent. Talents are what you are born with, spiritual gifts are what you are born again with. Get it?
How do I know that? Because we are told God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. . .
And then we read in 1 Corinthians 12:11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.
Well sure you say, but couldn’t the spirit give his gifts to an unbeliever, well he could, but he doesn’t. Listen to Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Now in math, you may remember that the way we prove a mathematical equation is by reversing it 1+2=3, but only if 3-2=1.
So, we can do the same with scripture. Turn Galatians 5:16 around and it says: If you are doing what your sinful nature craves, then you aren’t living in the Holy Spirit. Listen to what James wrote in James 3:12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
So, can a person whose life is not controlled by the Spirit of God exhibit gifts which the Bible plainly tells us are given by the Spirit of God for use in the body of believers? I don’t think so.
Let’s keep going, 1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
2) We All Get Different Gifts Peter tells us that God has a great variety of spiritual gifts. The problem is that when anyone talks about the gifts of the spirit, most people automatically think that it’s the gift of tongues that’s being referred to. And that is limiting the power of the Holy Spirit because, in reality, there are at least 20 different spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament.
And Paul tells us over and over again that we don’t all get the same gift. He uses the analogy of a body to represent the Christian church and tells us that each part of the body performs a function that is essential for the body to properly function.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a body that was nothing but eyes would never get anywhere, and a body consisting solely of feet would never see anything. We need our eyes to see, our arms to hold, our feet to walk, our ears to hear, etc. A body without all its parts wouldn’t be whole and it wouldn’t matter if you tried to substitute, “Well, I might only have one leg, but I have three eyes.” It still wouldn’t be whole. And so, within the family of God, the church, we have people who each have a spiritual gift that is needed, and they aren’t all the same gift.
The gifts most clearly mentioned in the Bible, include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation, apostleship, teaching, helps, administration, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism, pastoring, hospitality.
Now, I’m not saying that this is an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts. I’m just saying that these are the most clearly defined. We don’t have time to define and deal with each of those gifts this morning. If you want more information, search for Spiritual Gift Inventory online and you’ll find all kinds of resources.
3) We Don’t All Need the Same Gift Sometimes as children, it is natural to compare ourselves with others. I wish I could run like Bob. I wish I had hair like Suzy. I wish I could sing like Mary.
Come to think of it, we never really grow out of making those comparisons. Within the Kingdom of God, sometimes we put certain gifts on pedestals and people look at them and say, “Wow I wish I had the gift of _____________.”
Now this isn’t a unique problem, Paul had to deal with it in the church in Corinth and he used the analogy of the body that we spoke of earlier 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.
4) We Have Our Gifts for A Reason God doesn’t just give us a gift, so we won’t feel bad because we didn’t get a gift. As believers, we are given our Spiritual gifts for a reason.
The scriptures are very plain that we aren’t given spiritual gifts for selfish reasons, and we’re not given them so we can gloat about them.
We are given them so we can serve God’s people, the church. Listen again to our scripture 1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
The gifts of the spirit are given to the believer for a very special purpose, and that is to advance the kingdom of God.
Each one of us is here for a reason, and each of you who call Cornerstone your home church is here for a reason. Maybe you’re sitting there thinking “I’m not sure if Cornerstone is my home church or not.” Here’s a hint, if this is where you come to church most of the time, it’s your home church.
And if you are getting fed spiritually, and your children are being fed spiritually at Cornerstone, but your time and money is somewhere else, that’s like ordering a Big Mac at McDonald’s and paying for it at Burger King. He was parking on somebody else’s nickel.
4) How Do Spiritual Gifts Work?
Some of you have heard me use this illustration before, and that’s ok.,
Let’s set up a scenario, you’re at a dinner party with seven other people, each of whom has one of the spiritual gifts that I listed earlier. You’ve all had a wonderful dinner and you’re just settling back for dessert. Your hostess is bringing out the tray with all your desserts when she drops it, breaking dishes and scattering dessert all over the floor.
The response of each person there should be governed by their spiritual gift. The person with the gift of serving would jump up and say, “Let me help you clean that up” They give practical help to fulfil a need. These are great people to have around because they are always ready to serve.
The one with the gift of teaching would say “Now the reason that fell was that it was too heavy on one side and it was off-balance” Their gift allows them to bring life lessons in such a way as to bring clarity to difficult situations.
The guy with the gift of prophecy says nothing because he had already said, “Don’t bring them all out at once, the tray will be too heavy” Often when we think of someone with the gift of prophecy we think of someone who can tell the future, when in reality it is usually someone who can tell us the consequences of our actions, especially in our spiritual life.
The person with the gift of encouragement would say, “Hey that’s ok, we didn’t need dessert, anyway.” Don’t you love having someone around who always says the right thing to lift our spirit; the person with the gift of encouragement is there to give a positive attitude for the future.
The person with the gift of giving has already excused themself to run over to Tim’s and buy a box of donuts to serve as dessert.
These people don’t ask “how much should I give” but “How little do I need to get by on.”
The one with the gift of leadership is saying “Fred go get a mop, Mary could you and Tom make sure that all the glass is picked up” His or her gift is to cast the vision and get people moving together toward a common goal.
And the person with the gift of mercy would have their arm around the hostess saying, “Don’t feel bad it could happen to anyone.” The gift of mercy is not the gift of pity, it is the gift of empathy, and it is sensitivity to the feelings of others.
And the hostess had the gift of hospitality. Now I know that really oversimplifies things, but hey I’m a simple kind of guy.
Now there are a couple of warnings that need to be issued here. Don’t use your gift blend to excuse you from doing other things. Well, I haven’t got the gift of hospitality so I don’t invite people over, that may be but don’t forget we have scriptures like Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Others say I don’t have the gift of giving so I don’t give. Uh-huh, we are commanded to give the tithe or 10% if we are a believer. The person with the gift of giving gives over and above that.
God does not give us gifts to excuse us from doing other things; instead, it’s allowing us to go over and above in our areas of giftedness.
Sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zone in order to remain in obedience to God. So sometimes even though we may not feel that we have the gift of teaching, we may have to teach, or that we don’t have the gift of leadership we may have to lead. Get it?
If you were out for your evening walk and saw a house on fire you wouldn’t say, “Look, there’s a house on fire. I can’t do anything to help because I’m not a fireman.”
No, you’d do your very best to help the people inside and put out the fire until the professional arrived.
If you happened on the scene of an accident and there were those who needed first aid, you wouldn’t ignore them because you weren’t a paramedic. You’d do what had to be done until the right person arrived. Once the experts arrived, you step aside because they were better equipped to deal with the situation.
And so, in the work of the Kingdom of God, there may be times you need to step outside of your giftedness in order to meet a need until the right person comes along to meet that need.
There is a great story in the book of Acts. The Apostle Paul is on his way to Rome when the ship he was on hit a reef and everyone had to abandon ship. They were in shallow water, close to land, so they were able to make their way to shore with no loss of life.
So here they are on the beach at Malta, wet, bedraggled and cold. And in Acts 28:3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire. . .
And you are thinking, so? Paul was probably the most highly educated person on the ship. He had at least the equivalent of our Ph.D. He was one of the most highly respected figures in the early church and he was gathering sticks. Do you want to know why? Because right then, the sticks needed to be gathered.
The other danger is the danger of transference or expecting that others should do what you are gifted to do. You know that what you have to do to be obedient to God and you presume that all believers have to do the same.
So, the person with the gift of mercy can’t figure out why others are so callous. They may not be callous, they just might not have the gift of mercy. Those with the gift of giving shouldn’t expect everyone to feel compelled to give like they do. Those with the gift of leadership shouldn’t expect everyone to lead.
Bottom line is that you are responsible for your gift and nobody else’s and you’re responsible for being obedient to God in using that gift. When you get to heaven, God will ask you what you did with the gift that he gave you.
He’s not going to ask what your spouse did with their gift or what the pastor did with his gift, but you will be held responsible for your faithfulness with your gift.
Can people have more than one spiritual gift? Sure, but there are usually one or two prominent ones. How do you find out what your gift mix is? There are several tests out there that you can take, but here’s a simple way, if you enjoy it and you do it well, that is probably where your spiritual gifts are.
And the two go together; you can enjoy something and not be good at it.
Red Green says “You are not good at something just because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because you are good at it.”
And you can be good at something and not enjoy it. but when the two come together, it’s magic.
But you won’t know unless you try it. And here’s my promise to you, if you try a ministry at Cornerstone and it doesn’t fit, we’re not going to make you keep doing it. We don’t want you to be doing something just because we need it done. We aren’t interested in jamming square pegs in round holes. We want you to fit where God wants you and where you will feel fulfilled.
But at least be willing to try.