What Will Be

Earlier this week I was in Indianapolis for a meeting to help re-envision a ministry that I am passionate about.

Fifteen of us gathered for a day to begin what will be a multi-year task of plotting the future course for an organization that has existed for over a hundred years.  And some might ask: “Why?”  Why change something that by most accounts seems to be working fine?

The answer might be found in my ride from the airport to the hotel on Sunday night.  I did something I’ve never done before… I took an Uber.  It was cheaper than a cab and more convenient than a shuttle.

Five years ago, taxi companies in Indianapolis thought everything was working fine, and then things changed, and only those who were willing and able to change were able to survive.

Things are not the way they were last year, and things will be different again next year, things change, and if we don’t change as well then we will be left behind.

It’s been said the seven last words of a dying church are “We have always done it this way” and that is a reality for ministries and businesses as well.

And so let’s celebrate what was and plan for what will be.

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

Mission Drift

Someone asked me on Sunday if my message was a response to the Maximizing Impact Weekend. The answer is: yes and no.   (If you weren’t here for the message you can find it here.)

While the message wasn’t in response to the Maximizing Impact report, it was in response to the Maximizing Impact weekend.  As I was preparing for my interview I realized that I had drifted from what I used to be passionate about, that is, pastoring a church that was helping to depopulate hell.  And so the message on Sunday was a reminder, first of all to me, about what Cornerstone is supposed to be about.

It’s easy to drift in life.  If we aren’t careful, what was important to us yesterday won’t continue to be important to us tomorrow, unless we focus on it and work at it today.

We see that in our education, our careers and our marriages, what used to thrill us has just become ordinary.  And sometimes we need a reminder of that.  And then, if we feel that whatever it is that we’ve drifted from should still be an important part of our life, then we need to follow the advice of Jesus and return to our first love.

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

Terms and Conditions: The Sabbath

If you follow me on Facebook, that’s assuming that you’ve read the terms and conditions for Facebook and agreed to them, then you might have seen some of my posts from the Babylonian Bee, which is a Christian Satire site, recently this one struck me as fitting.

 

BOSTON, MA—Local man Justin Fuller immediately fell dead after clicking “I have read and accept these terms and conditions” when installing a new piece of software Friday morning.

The Lord and Sovereign Judge, from which nothing is hidden, could tell Fuller had not even glanced at the twelve pages of legalese, and thus his checking of the box was a lie against which God took immediate vengeance.

 

“This is very scary,” said software analysis Terrell Bennett. “It makes me wonder if other people have not been reading the end-user license agreement. It’s an important contract between the licensor and the purchaser, and it could be chaos if people didn’t understand all the ramifications of what they were agreeing to. If you click you accept those terms and conditions without having read them, you’re lying to the software vendor, to your MacBook Pro, and to the Creator of us all who is always watching.”

 

CompuGlobal, the maker of the software Fuller was installing, has informed Fuller’s wife she will get a full refund for the computer program since the EULA was not properly agreed to. “Hopefully everyone in the future will take the time to read the terms and conditions,” said David Zimmerman, the lawyer who wrote the EULA.

 

“When we put the contracts in the install step, we assume everyone reads them and it is legally binding,” Zimmerman added before immediately falling dead.

 

 

This is week 4 of Terms and Conditions and in week 1 we defined Terms and Conditions this way; Rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

 

In week one we talked about the terms and conditions in the beginning that man and woman were created to be in fellowship with God, there was just one thing on the terms and conditions, don’t eat from that one tree, you can eat from any other tree in the garden, just don’t eat from that one tree.  And you know where they went fruit picking.

 

And because of their disobedience, humanities relationship with God was damaged.

 

The next week we looked at the terms and conditions for worshipping God, that is meeting him in a restored relationship.  And we discovered that God not only wants our relationship with him to be right but also our relationship with others to be right.  And we talked about apologies and forgiveness.

 

Last week we looked at the terms and conditions for Evangelism, remember Evangel means good news, so these are the rules and conditions for telling people the good news about Jesus.  And we started with the observation that God cares about lost people and wants them to be found.  The T & Cs of that is that in order for someone to hear the message someone has to share the message.  And out of that, I shared the vision and mission of Cornerstone.

 

Today we are going in a little different direction.  In the scripture that was read earlier, we heard these words, Isaiah 58:13-14  “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honour the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.  Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honour and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

 

So, let’s start with The Service The prophet tells the people of Israel that if they fulfil the terms and conditions the service that they can avail themselves of is the delight of the Lord.  But what does that mean?

 

Perhaps the “Delight of the Lord’ is most evident when it’s missing.  And most of us have felt that absence at times.

 

You ever feel like the Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”?  You know the one, he’s always rushing this way and that looking at his watch and muttering, “I’m late, I’m late”.  It seems that every hour of every day is filled to the limit with things that need doing and we never seem to have enough time to do it all.  How often have you caught yourself wishing for more hours in the day or more days in the week so that you could finally catch up and finish everything that you are supposed to do?

 

That wouldn’t do any good though, we all know Murphy’s law and some of us know about Newton’s law of gravity, but how many of us are familiar with Parkinson’s Law?  It was first set forth in the middle of the last century, 1955 to be exact, by C. Northcote Parkinson.  And Parkinson’s law states  “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

 

And so regardless of how much time you had available you still wouldn’t have enough.  And if you were granted your wish of having an extra day in each week your stress level would simply be added to, because you would have one more day to try to jam too much into.  Maybe instead we should wish for shorter days with fewer days in the week to limit our crazy schedules.

 

Modern technology promised us that all of the new conveniences would save us time and make our lives easier, but in the workplace, computers, and cell phones have increased the pace of our work rather than reducing it.

 

At home dishwashers, washing machines, vacuums, microwaves not to mention computers and cell phones have made life easier but to go back to Parkinson law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

 

And so, mothers lose the time they saved to schlepping the kids around to hockey, music and school activities.  Even our kids are stressed out because so much of their time is scheduled and there is so little time to just be a kid, playing and allowing their imaginations to run wild.

 

It is a never-ending circle that seems to escalate over time until finally, there is no more time.  Henry Twells an English poet who lived in the 1800’s wrote:

 

When as a child I laughed and wept,

Time crept.

When as a youth I waxed more bold,

Time strolled.

When I became a full-grown man,

Time RAN.

When older still I daily grew,

Time FLEW.

Soon I shall find, in passing on,

Time gone.

O Christ! wilt Thou have saved me then?

Amen.

 

And that doesn’t sound like what David was talking about when he wrote in Psalm 37:4  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

 

That’s cool but it still begs the question, how do we delight in the Lord?

 

Let’s go back to our original scripture again, Isaiah 58:13-14  “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day. Honour the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.  Then the LORD will be your delight. I will give you great honour and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken!”

 

 

So here are The Terms and Conditions  Very simply,  keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the LORD’s holy day.

 

Unfortunately, The Sabbath as a day of rest seems to be an archaic thought in 2018.

 

You’re thinking “Well sure, that was fine for back then when people didn’t have as much to do, as far to go, but no sir not for 2018, in 2018 we need every hour of every day and every day of the week to get done what we have to get done.”  And that my friend is a crock.

 

Please remember one cardinal rule of life, “You do, what you want to do.”  The fourth commandment was not given just for the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness, and it wasn’t just given for Jesus and his disciples and it wasn’t just given for John Wesley and the early Methodists in the 1700’s or and it wasn’t just given for your grandparents.  The fourth commandment is as valid today as it was 30 years ago, 200 years ago, 2000 years ago or 4000 years ago.

 

God didn’t just give it annoy people or to mess up their plans for the weekend he did it because he knew what we are like.  He knew that if he didn’t legislate a time out in our lives that we wouldn’t take one.

 

A tree has to take a break, it can’t say, “you know I really should produce leaves all year round and fruit in January when it’s cold and miserable.”   A tree can’t say that, it has no choice it must take a break because that’s the way it was created.

 

But people are different, we have our freedom and that is the problem.  We can drive our bodies, minds and emotions well past the breaking point.  We have the power of choice and because of that power, we are always in danger of destroying ourselves for some false set of values.

 

It might be work, it might be aging parents, it might be the desire to be the perfect parent and in a combination, it provides a deadly cocktail for burn out.

 

Because of this great hazard God gave us a great gift, the Sabbath day, a day set apart, the Lord’s day, a day of rest and worship, relaxation, recuperation and joy.  It is his gift to all of us, but it’s up to each one of us to decide whether or not we will accept it.

 

A lot of confusion, misunderstanding, dogmatism and hard feelings are generated by this commandment.  Almost everybody uses it to prove some point of view.

 

So, let’s move very carefully as we explore what it means to observe the Sabbath today.

 

Now at this point, we need to clarify that in the Christian church, in most cases, we do not celebrate the Sabbath.

 

The Sabbath was the last day of the week,  and the commandment to observe it is found in Exodus 20:8-10  Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.

 

The seventh day of the week or the Sabbath has historically been celebrated from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday.  And in its original form, it merely forbade the performance of work on the seventh day, it was set apart as a day of total rest.

 

And so, our Sunday, which is the first day of the week, is not the historical Sabbath.  But we are Christians, not Jews; most of us aren’t even Christian Jews like the early church.  I know that in our Christian vocabulary and in our hymns and poems we certainly use the word “Sabbath” as a valid figure of speech when referring to Sunday, but we need to understand that the two are not the same.

 

The fourth commandment is the only Old Testament commandment that is not repeated anywhere in the New Testament, nowhere.  Each of the other nine commandments is reiterated and often made even tougher in the New Testament, but not this one.

 

There is no record of Jesus ever teaching anyone to keep the Sabbath.  As far as we know, no apostle ever told anyone to observe it.  In John 5:18 we are told that Jesus violated the Sabbath and in other stories, we almost get the impression that he did so very deliberately.

 

 

But if the letter of the law, the seventh day Sabbath, is not applicable to us today, certainly the principle of the Sabbath still is.  Because it is grounded in the nature of God, in the nature of man and in the nature of creation.

 

Although the New Testament nowhere echoes the exact literal Saturday Sabbath command it certainly reinforces the divine principle behind the command.  That principle is that a specific and proportionate amount of time is set apart for rest and worship.

 

That principle was not first laid down in the book of Exodus but in the book of Genesis, which tells how God himself rested after six days of creative labour.  And even before the Commandments were given, earlier in the book of Exodus when God provided manna for the Israelites to eat, he told them to gather a double portion on the sixth day, so they wouldn’t have to collect it on the seventh day.

 

The Christians of the New Testament soon discarded the literal Seventh Day Sabbath but kept the Sabbath day principle.  Instead of keeping the last day of the week, they began to keep the first day of the week, which we call Sunday.

 

Why?   Because it was recognized as being the day Christ arose from the dead.  Paul follows 1 Corinthians 15 the great resurrection chapter with these words in 1 Corinthians 16:2  On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.

 

And so, Paul establishes a principle of a set time of the week when a gift is given to God.  The first day of the week.  But it’s not enough to know where the concept of the Lord’s Day came from, we need to understand why the principle behind the Sabbath is still valid today.  And we find the key in three spots in the scripture.  The first is from the command itself.  Exodus 20:8-10  Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.   And so, the first thing we need to see in this command is that we are called to Rest on the Sabbath

 

We live in a tired generation, we are chasing a brass ring that may never be able to be caught and we are willing to make way too many sacrifices for it, and we do sacrifice for it and it’s not necessarily a new phenomenon listen to what Robert Louis Stevenson wrote over a hundred years ago “Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business is only to be sustained by neglect of many other things.”

 

The rest that God commands us to take allows us to step back from the arena of life and evaluate exactly what it is we are trying to achieve.  Even from a purely physical perspective, it has been proven that people cannot go on indefinitely without things starting to go wrong with their bodies, their minds and their emotions.  God is basically telling us in the fifth commandment, “Take a break”

 

Barbara Brown Taylor writes,  “I do not mean to make an idol of health, but it does seem to me that at least some of us have made an idol of exhaustion. The only time we know we have done enough is when we are running on empty and when the ones we love most are the ones we see the least. When we lie down to sleep at night, we offer our full appointment calendars to God in lieu of prayer, believing that God—who is as busy as we are—will surely understand”

 

Will he?  We used to tell our kids that if they got in an awkward spot and they were being pressured to do something they weren’t comfortable with, that they could blame us.  “I can’t do that my parents would kill me.”

 

God is telling us that we could blame him.  “I know that there are all kinds of things I could do on Sunday, but the bible tells me to take a break.  What can you do?”

 

But it’s not just a day of rest; the next scripture would indicate that there is more to Sabbath observance then simply staying in bed, sorry. Deuteronomy 5:15  Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the LORD your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the LORD your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

 

Not only does God call us to rest on a special day but he also calls us to Reflect on the Sabbath as well.  In this scripture, God is calling his people to reflect on how He had delivered them from the slavery of Egypt.

 

Today, for Christ Followers, I would suspect that it would be fair to reflect on how God delivered us from sin.

 

Now some people try to rationalize that a Sabbath spent golfing, shopping or going to the beach as fulfilling the spirit of the Sabbath.  Golfers, in particular, plead their case by saying, “I do more real praying on the golf course then I do in church”.  However, “Please God, give me a birdie,” is not recognized as part of any accepted liturgy, nor does it substitute for a good worship service.

 

Sunday is a day for God’s people to get together and to reflect and celebrate what He has done for us.  We do that by singing his praise, by reading and hearing from his word, by lifting up his name in prayer and by giving to his work.  In this case, it’s Cornerstone.

 

We had mentioned previously that it appeared that Jesus had a problem with the Sabbath, which isn’t exactly true, what he had a problem with was what people had done to the Sabbath.  Mark 2:27-28  Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”

 

And so we need to learn to Respect the Sabbath

 

Throughout history, the observance of the Sabbath or of the Lord’s Day has inspired two extremes.  People have found ways to misuse this gift just as they’ve found ways to misuse the other gifts that God has given us.  The first extreme are those people who have historically made Sunday into a day of gloom and depression instead of a day of joy and gladness.

 

This is what had happened in Jesus’ day.  The scribes and Pharisees had counted 39 letters in the original langue of the fourth commandment and multiplied 39 by 39 and came up with 1521 and that was the number of ways they had come up with to break the Sabbath.

 

We aren’t going to do the fourth commandment any favours when we turn it into something like “Thou shalt not enjoy life on Sunday.”  Many people mean well, but we cannot make people, especially children, enjoy God by forbidding them to enjoy anything else on Sunday.  Such a rigid observance of Sunday can become just as idolatrous today as it was in Jesus’ day and that is what he was warning us about.

 

But usually today that’s not our problem, is it?  Our problem today is probably the opposite extreme, we take a holy day and turn it into a holiday, a day of commercialized recreation, entertainment and profit.

 

Some of us have taken that passage in Matthew where Jesus says that if your ox falls into a ditch on the Sabbath that it’s all right to pull it out and have used that as an excuse for doing everything and anything on Sunday.

 

The truth is though if we are careful and avoid pushing the ox in the ditch on Monday through Saturday then we won’t have to spend Sunday pulling it out.  And if your ox has a habit of falling into the same ditch every week then you ought to fill in the ditch or get rid of the ox.

 

According to the Bible, God created the Sabbath.  It’s not just a day on which nothing happened, but God blessed it and made it holy.  It is intended as more than just a day of fun or rest.  Within that day represents one-seventh of our week and ultimately one-seventh of our life.

 

The first six days the bible tells us God called “good” the seventh day God made Holy.  So what can we do on Sunday or what should we do?  Good question.  I think I’ll close with a list that Dr. Laura Schlessinger gives in her book “The Ten Commandments, the Significance of God’s laws in everyday life.”  She tells us that we can observe the Sabbath day by:

 

  • Not working for wages or competing for awards
  • Making some time to relax and do nothing. (Although not specified in the Scripture, a Sabbath nap is certainly a divine gift.)
  • Reading and studying religious materials.
  • Playing with children, spouse and family.
  • Taking leisurely strolls.
  • Enjoying wonderful meals and discussions with friends and neighbours.
  • Talking with children about their everyday lives, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Attending religious services, lectures, and discussions.
  • Praying and contemplating.
  • Lovemaking with your spouse (reconnecting in mind, body and spirit).

 

So, enjoy the rest of the day.  Take some time to rest and some time to reflect.

Pardon me?

It’s always interesting to discover new things.  Not always pleasant, but interesting.

As everybody knows the recreational use of marijuana became legal two weeks ago.  Regardless of how you feel about that, and regardless of what politicians might say that genie’s not going back in the bottle.

The new question is; what about those people who were convicted of possession of marijuana through the years?  I have no horse in the race, I was never arrested for possession of marijuana, and so I have no record.  My Daddy would have said that was more the result of good luck than good management.  But half a million Canadians weren’t as lucky and they do have a criminal record.  Perhaps you were one of the unlucky ones.

Research has shown that drug use is pretty consistent regardless of race, but studies have shown a major difference in the likelihood of arrests.  One study discovered that between 2015 and 2017 that first nations people in Regina were nine times more likely than white people to get arrested for possession of pot, and in Halifax, if you were an African Nova Scotian you were five times more likely to be arrested for weed than if you were white.

And that study alone may show why a blanket pardon is necessary.

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

Terms and Conditions: Evangelism

In 2013 Apple upgraded the operating systems on their phones to IOS 7 and everyone with an iPhone dutifully clicked “I accept” in order to install the new software on their devices.

It wasn’t long after that that someone posted a screenshot of Page 46.   Apparently, buried deep within the Terms and Conditions were these words.

Oh you know what? This is page 46, nobody’s still reading this. I bet only about five people clicked to read the T&Cs in the first place – we might as well just say anything we like.

Tony on floor 5 of Apple HQ smells of sardines.

When someone sends a funny email around the offices we have to reply with iLaughed. It’s in our job description.

Remember that legal kerfuffle over Apple & Apple studios? Want to know how we fixed it? We bought The Beatles. We have the surviving ones come and sing to us for scraps. We’re looking at ways to reanimate the dead ones.

The canteen only sells apple products. Apples, apple juice, apple flapjacks, toffee apples. We get fired if we’re caught eating anything without apples in it. I’M ALLERGIC TO APPLES AND I’M ALWAYS HUNGRY.

We faked the moon landings. Did it in 2008, then brainwashed you all to believe it happened in 1969, just because we could. If anyone finds out I’ve leaked this information, I’ll be killed. But no one will ever, ever read this.”

 

I would love to tell you that page 46 really existed in Apple’s terms and condition, well I’m sure it exists, just not in that form.

Sadly, it turned out that those terms and conditions were just a joke created by the Huffington Post’s UK Comedy team.

However, in 2017 students at York University in Toronto and the University of Connecticut were offered the chance to join a new social network called NameDrop.

Only a quarter of the students who signed up said they looked at the terms and conditions, but that doesn’t mean they read the terms and conditions, because by clicking “accept” hundreds of students agreed to give NameDrop their future first-born children.

Luckily the students were simply subjects in an experiment run by two communications professors who subsequently wrote a paper about the “Biggest Lie on the Internet”.

This is week 3 of our Terms and conditions series here at Cornerstone and in the first week, we defined Terms and Conditions this way Rules by which one must agree to abide in order to use a service.

In week one we talked about the terms and conditions in the beginning that man and woman were created to be in fellowship with God, there was just one thing on the terms and conditions, don’t eat from that one tree, you can eat from any other tree in the garden, just don’t eat from that one tree.  And you know the end of the story they ate themselves out of house and home.

And because of their disobedience, humanities relationship with God was damaged.

Last week we looked at the terms and conditions for worshipping God, that is meeting him in a restored relationship.  And we discovered that God not only wants our relationship with him to be right but also our relationship with others to be right.

This week we are going into a letter written by Paul where he tells the believers in the church in Rome part of what was expected of them as Jesus Followers.  Let’s pick up the letter in Romans 10:13  For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

So, let’s begin with The Service

The service, in this case, is the premise that Jesus cares about lost people and wants them to be saved.  Over and over again we see this reflected in the Jesus story, from 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.

To Luke 24 where after his death and resurrection Jesus tells those who followed him this, Luke 24:46-47  And Jesus said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day.  It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’

In the second letter that Peter wrote, he is addressing the concern that some believers felt regarding the fact that Christ hadn’t returned and he writes this,  2 Peter 3:9  The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

 

When you say, “Oh how I wish Jesus would return soon.”  You are asking for a line to be drawn in history and for judgment to come.  You are in effect saying that you’ve given up on your loved ones who don’t know Jesus.

 

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables in a row to remind us how important lost people are to him.

 

The first is about a man who went looking for a lost sheep, just one of the hundred that had been entrusted to his care but that one was very important to him.  And how he left the 99 found sheep to find the one lost sheep.

 

Pastor Deborah preached on that parable back in July.

 

Then Jesus told the story of the woman who had ten silver coins and how she lost one and then how she frantically looked for the one.

 

And the last story was the story of the Prodigal Son, where a man had lost one of his two sons.

 

The sheep was lost through its own carelessness, the coin was lost through the woman’s carelessness.  And the son was lost through his own decision, but they were all lost, and they all needed someone to help them be found.

 

And if lost people are important to Jesus, then they ought to be important to us.

 

Which leads us back to our scripture, Romans 10:13  For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” And of course, the service leads to the terms and conditions Romans 10:14-15  But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

These are The Terms and Conditions 

If the service is, that whosoever will can be saved, then the rules are that someone has to tell people about Jesus if they are going to hear about Jesus.

And that is called Evangelism.  Evangel simply means good news, so Evangelism at its simplest is sharing the good news of Jesus and his grace.   Someone once defined evangelism as one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Even when we hear stories from Muslim countries about Jesus appearing in the dreams of people, there still is a person involved who leads them from their dreams to reality.

One of the outcomes of the Maximizing Impact weekend for me is that it brought back into focus what it is that Cornerstone is supposed to be doing.

24 years ago, I wrote the mission statement for Cornerstone and it says: “Cornerstone Wesleyan Church exists to reach pre-Christians through dynamic worship and relevant preaching, bringing them to a life expanding relationship with Jesus Christ and guiding them into a practical holiness as evidenced through the fruit of the Spirit.”

Or simplified: Cornerstone exists to reach Pre-Christians

Or the simplest of all:  We are here to help depopulate hell.

The reality of these terms and conditions are why we do what we do.  And why there are some things that we don’t do.

It is the Reason We Exist

When I planted Cornerstone 24 years ago, when met with people to share the vision, I always came back to the reason that Cornerstone would exist.  We would exist to reach people who need Jesus. We defined them as the pre-churched, the de-churched and the un-churched.   Or simply, we wanted to reach people for whom the church wasn’t a regular part of their lives.

That didn’t mean that believers weren’t welcome at Cornerstone, but it did mean that our primary focus would be those who were pre-churched, de-churched and un-churched.

Along with the mission statement, we also developed 7 core values defining who we would be.  And those are both available at Cornerstonehfx.ca, just click about us and values.

Our first Core Value says:  1)  Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to the reaching of pre-Christians through relational evangelism. Evangelism is and will remain a priority.

What does that mean?  It means that our primary strategy for evangelism is . . . you.  That you will tell people who you know and love and who need Jesus about Jesus and about Cornerstone.  That you will invite them to experience what it is that you have experienced.

Not only is reaching people why we exist, But It Is also The Reason Why We Do What We Do, It is the reason Why our Services Look the way they look

While we were pastoring in Australia, I attended a week-long conference on creating a church for the unchurched, that led me to read the book “Inside the mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary” by Lee Strobel.  And I began to dream of a church where Jesus followers could invite their friends to meet Jesus.  Which is why the second of our core values says,    2) Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to providing a service which incorporates dynamic worship through the use of contemporary music and relevant preaching.

The idea was to present the gospel in an appealing way, in a service that people enjoyed and with a message that people understood and was relevant to their lives.   And we felt that we could do that in one hour.  And not just say one hour, it would be one hour.  That it would respect people’s time, that it would begin on time and that it would provide a message of hope for their lives, using words that they would understand and that it would provide music that they would enjoy.

We don’t want to compromise the message or dumb the message down, we simply want to present it in a way that people will understand and enjoy it.

And if you are wondering why they need to enjoy it I will speak slowly, “If they don’t enjoy it they won’t come back and if they don’t come back they may never meet Jesus.”

And understand that this isn’t the only way to do what we are doing.  It’s just our way.  There are all kinds of churches who are committed to reaching the lost that do it differently than us, and in no way am I trying to say that what they are doing is wrong.

When we were in the initial stage of starting this church, I drove thousands of km around the Maritimes sharing the vision for what would become Cornerstone and inviting people to join the vision and help us with our initial support.

And some pushed back because they felt that by saying “this is what we feel that we are supposed to do to win the lost, it’s what everybody should do.”

Not at all, people are coming to know Jesus all over our city in all kinds of diverse churches, and that’s because different things will reach different folks.  But churches need to keep in mind, that lost people mattered to Jesus and they should matter to those who follow him.

I love the story I heard years ago, someone once told D. L. Moody they didn’t like his method of evangelism.  And Moody responded by asking, “Oh? And how do you evangelize?” To which his detractors responded, “I don’t.” Moody simply answered, “I guess I like my way better.”

And It is the reason Our Building Looks the Way it Looks and Why It’s Open So Much

When the time came for us to have a permanent home, we wanted it to be strategic.  If we were going to invest a major portion of our finances in a building, we wanted it to be a wise investment.

Sometimes people will comment that our Church doesn’t look like a church.  That wasn’t an accident.  I’ve lived in Kingswood for over 20 years and when we were dreaming about the church that would sit at the entrance to our community, we wanted it to fit in with Kingswood and not be a jarring contrast to how Kingswood looks.

And really, the only people who grumble about Cornerstone not looking like the church they grew up in are people who already go to church that looks like the church they grew up in.

There are all kinds of things that stand in the way of people coming to church, we were committed to how our building looked not being one of them.  If every time someone drove by the building, they grumbled about how it looked and how it just didn’t fit in with the community, that would be a hindrance to them eventually attending a service here.

We designed our church home so it would feel like home and so it would feel welcoming and be a place you’d be pleased to invite your friends to.

And we were committed to opening it up to the community as much as we could.

So, when someone comes to a service, that it doesn’t feel awkward or strange.  That they’ve already been here to give blood, or to vote, or pick up their kid’s ball uniforms 

And agreeing to the terms and conditions is The reason we Give Where we Give

I mentioned a couple of our core values earlier, number 3 says this 3)  Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to reaching the lost and will make tithing our general offering to world and home missions a priority.

From day one we said that we can’t do this ourselves, not globally and not locally and so we decided that we would give 10% of what came in to those who were doing it where we can’t do it.

And one of the first things we did as a church was to make a commitment to support Cora Gorman who was going as a missionary to Indonesia.  We couldn’t go to Indonesia, but we could help Cora go.

And it’s why we now help Carl and Maya reach lost people in Haiti, and why we help Robin White reach lost people in Japan, and why we support a little church in Slave Lake Alberta who minister to First Nation Kids.  It’s why we support Hope House, getting teen girls off the street in Odesa Ukraine.  It’s why we partner with World Hope to drill wells in sub-Saharan Africa.

Locally it’s why we support Open Doors in their effort to battle human trafficking in Halifax, and why we support Souls Harbour who help feed the disadvantaged on the peninsula and why we collect soup and milk for Feed Nova Scotia.

And it’s not just to help feed people and provide them with clean water, whenever we can we partner with people who will also tell people about Jesus.

We can’t tell everyone, but we want to help tell as many as we can.

And part of that is the realization that the most important people are those who haven’t come yet.  And that can be a bit disconcerting for some.  It’s not about me.

Early in my ministry, I discovered that evangelism, telling people the good news, was kind of like the weather.  People talked about it but didn’t do anything about it.  And while there isn’t much we can do about the weather we can all do something about evangelism.

People have commented about the Maximizing Impact Weekend and have said they don’t know if they would have done it, or commented on the fact that it must have been tough.  It was, but the staff is committed to reaching the Pre-churched, the de-churched and the Un-churched and if the recommendations in the MI report help us to do that better and help us to fulfil our mission, then it was a great weekend and a great experience.

Because if we go back to the terms and conditions, they say Romans 10:14-15  But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?  And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

And when I get to heaven, I want Jesus to say, “Nice feet”.

 

 

I Did It!

I did something the other day that I have never done in 58 years.  I had thought about it before but had always thought it would be too difficult to learn, and besides why bother?

But then I did it, and it turned out that I did a pretty good job of it.   And perhaps you are wondering what it was that I learned to do.  I taught myself to tie a bow tie.  And maybe you’re thinking: so what’s the big deal?  Which would lead me to believe that you don’t know how to tie a bow tie.

And I realize that it’s not like I taught myself to do brain surgery, but there might be fewer people in Halifax who can tie a proper bow tie than who can do brain surgery.  Just saying.

I have an occasion to wear a bow tie coming up in February and I know I could have gotten a pretied bow-tie, but I’ve prided myself in the fact that I haven’t worn a clip-on necktie since I was a child.

So, at the end of the day, I put my mind to it and learned how.  What is there in your life that you just need to put your mind to?

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

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 fbl

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.