A Story of Weeds

If I could grow flowers like I grow weeds we would have the most awesome gardens in Kingswood.

I’ve kind of given up on weed control.   I’m through, I quit, I’ve thrown in the towel, they’ve won.

Ever since the municipality and then the province banned chemical weed control it’s been a losing battle.  I’ve tried all the organic solution and I have come to the conclusion that “Organic” is the scientific term for “Doesn’t work”

And I understand the hazards associated with “Weed and Feed” and the like, but our lawns sure were prettier back in the day.

Now if it’s green and it grows I just mow it and call it a lawn.

This is week four of our “Stories told by Jesus” series and we’ve been looking at some of the Parables, which is just a fancy term for stories, that Jesus told in the Gospels.

And so, over the first three weeks of this series we have seen how Jesus looked across the countryside looking for everyday events to illustrate the eternal nature of His Kingdom, a man working in a field, workers being hired to work in a vineyard and a farmer sowing seed and eventually gaining a harvest

Through the pictures he has drawn, his followers have seen the Kingdom planted and begin to grow and mature, having an impact on individuals and society as a whole.  And there has been no hint of problems, everybody having a wonderful time.

And sometimes that’s what we expect of church and life, just a meandering ride down a gently flowing river.  When I was a teenager we lived on the Hammond River, just outside of Saint John New Brunswick, and sometimes in the summer we would cart our big inner tubes upstream and drift down the river, just lying back in the sunshine.

But that isn’t life and it certainly isn’t the reality of God’s Kingdom, as long as there are people involved and as long as there are forces out there that oppose the kingdom of God.  Through these parables, Jesus was explaining what the Kingdom is really like not simply reinforcing how we would like to see the Kingdom.

And so Jesus looks out across a wheat field gently swaying in the afternoon breeze and says look, Matthew 13:24-26  Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.  But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.  When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

In another one of Jesus’ parables he talks about a farmer sowing seed and how some of the seed fell on the pathway and didn’t take root, and other seed fell on shallow soil and wasn’t able to survive and other seed feel into thorn bushes and was choked out, and finally how some seed landed in fertile soil and produced a flourishing crop.

In that parable, Jesus was illustrating how his words and teaching would be received by the world, how it would not be productive in everyone’s life.  And we understand that and we see it happen, but we kind of hope that when the seed finally begins to grow and reproduce that is the happy ending to the story, and everyone lived happily ever after.

But here we see the reality, the crop has been planted, the seed has taken root, the wheat begins to grow and then those tending the fields notice a problem, they discover that not all the plants are the same.  That the majority of the plants are indeed the wheat that was planted but in amongst the good wheat are plants that look like wheat at first glance but upon closer examination are something completely different.

In the NLT we read Matthew 13:25  But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.

But that doesn’t really say it all, because we aren’t really an agricultural society we don’t get the true meaning of Christ’s words.  When we think of weeds we think of dandelions and thistles and other nasties that invade our lawns.  And they are a nuisance and aren’t ascetically pleasing but not much beyond that.

In the King James Version, the verse reads this way Matthew 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Which means even less because nobody here really knows what a “tare” is.   But if we were to go back into the original language the word that the NLT translates Weed and the KJV translates Tare is actually the Greek word zizanion (dziz-an’-ee-on) but you probably already knew that.  And this story is the only place that this word is used in the Bible.  And it doesn’t just mean weed it refers to a very specific type of weed.

Those is the know tell us the weed that is spoken of here was what is known today as Bearded Darnel, or false wheat and that when darnel is starting to grow that it looks like wheat, here is a picture.  But the grain of the darnel was slightly poisonous.  William Barclay describes it this way “It causes dizziness and sickness and is narcotic in its effects, and even a small amount has a bitter and unpleasant taste. In the end it was usually separated by hand.”

But what does it all mean? There’s the farmer and the enemy, the wheat and the weeds, people wanting to tear up the wheat and others saying, “wait not yet”.  Kind of confusing in a parable sort of way, but unlike most of the other parables Jesus took the time to explain this parable a little more.  Apparently, he wanted to make sure that they understood the ramifications of this one, it was important, and he didn’t want any confusion.

And if it was that important to those who first heard it then it should be that important to us, so if you have your Bibles turn with me to Matthew 13:37-43  Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed.  The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.  The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.  “Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!


So, let’s take a look at the explanation.

First of all, There Is One Field.   Jesus tells us the “The field is the world”.  And there is only one world, sometimes you will hear the media talk about the first world, or the third world or people will try to define various parts of the planet as the “Christian world” or the “Muslim world”. But there is only one world and that is a world that Jesus came to live in, to preach to and to die for.

We all know John 3:16  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Jesus didn’t come simply to reach a specific people group while offering no hope for the rest of humanity.  His sacrifice wasn’t simply for one slice of the population he came for the world.

And he expects his people to take his message of hope and grace to the entire world.  The last command of Christ to his apostles if found in Matthew 28:19  Jesus said: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

 And for two thousand years, Christ followers have been doing that.  Within a generation of the resurrection of Jesus, his message had been spread across the Middle East, into Asia and Europe and down to Africa.  Before the first apostles died there were believers worshipping in India, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and beyond.  They had reached the world as they knew it.

It was Wesley who said, “The world is my parish.”  But he was simply following the command of Jesus and the example of those who went before him.  And it is why when the European nations started to colonize the “New Worlds” that they had “Discovered”, which is kind of like Newton discovering gravity, did things just float around before he made that discovery?

Sorry, a little bit of a tangent, when the New World was opened up the church was there with the message.  Was it because they wanted to eradicate the culture of the aboriginal people?  No, it was because they wanted to share the grace of Christ with them.  They truly believed the words that Matthew quoted in relation to the coming of Christ, Matthew 4:16  the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”

And that is why Cornerstone is actively ministering to people in Haiti and Ghana and Ukraine and Japan.  It’s why Pastor Deborah is planning a vision trip to Sierra Leone to see how we can develop a partnership with our work there because we are still obeying his command to spread the word of his grace to all people.

Christ came for the whole world, not just our little corner of it and there are people of the Kingdom all over the world.  The message is alive in them.  If they are doing their part, then we shouldn’t be asking “Well what about those who don’t know about Jesus?”  Wherever there is a Christ Follower then people should know about the Christ they are following.

So, There Is One Field.

And There Are Two Sowers.  In the parable, Jesus tells us that the farmer spread good seed and then his enemy came and spread bad seed.  And then in the explanation of the parable, Jesus tells us first in Matthew 13:37  Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed.”

And most people would like the explanation to end with that statement.  Most people that we know have no problem believing in Jesus, even if they never develop a personal relationship with him they have nice warm, fuzzy thoughts about him, the baby Jesus in the manger, Jesus feeding hungry people, Jesus holding a lamb.  But Jesus continues in the story to tell us Matthew 13:39  The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil.

A number of years ago I was in a conversation with a minster from a more liberal denomination who was talking about his time in Newfoundland and he said, “You know they still believe in the Devil there?”  Surveys show time and time again that the vast majority of North Americans believe there is a God, there are very few atheists in North America, they might live like there is no God, but they believe there is one.

On the other hand, the number of people who believe that there is an actual Devil is considerably fewer.  But Jesus had no doubts about the existence of Satan, nor does the bible.

Kind of like the two little boys who were talking about the Devil and one little guy said, “I figure in the end he just like Santa Claus, it will turn out to be your dad in a red suit.”

Jesus’ best friend, while he was on this earth, wrote in 1 Peter 5:8  Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Did you catch that, “Your great enemy”?  The Devil isn’t just some impersonal force, he is not just the personification of evil he is real and he is the enemy of those who serve God and he whispers in people’s ears, “there has to be more than one way”, “It doesn’t matter who you worship as long as you are sincere”, “You’re really not all that bad” and “A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.”  And all the time he is sowing seeds, seeds that take root.

Which leads us to the next point.

Matthew 13:38  The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.

There Are Two Crops  There was the wheat and there were the weeds.  And remember they looked very much alike but they were different very different, one was good, and one was bad.  And again, most people don’t want to hear that there is such a clear delineation, they don’t want to see that line drawn that clearly in the sand.  Most folks, outside the church and inside the church would like to see the line fuzzier, they would like to think there are those who serve God and then there are those who are at various places and levels and almost serve God and only kind of serve the Devil, or don’t serve God but don’t serve the Devil, they serve. . . well, they are not sure who they serve.

But Jesus didn’t say there were 12 different crops, or 7 different crops not even 3 different crops, there were two.  One represented those who chose to serve God, those who belong to the Kingdom and there were those who chose not to serve God who don’t belong to the Kingdom, they belong to the Devil.  It goes back to the Bob Dylan song that says “You gotta serve somebody, it might be the devil, or it might be the Lord but you got to serve somebody.”

And Paul gives us this insight in Ephesians 2:2  You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.

Two thoughts here 1. If we are Christ followers, before we were Christ followers we were obeying the Devil but now we are obeying Christ.  2. If we are not Christ followers we are still obeying the Devil.

As much as we’d like to think that people who are good, nice, sincere people but don’t have a relationship with Jesus are going to be kind of ok, that isn’t what the word of God says.  Jesus tells us in John 14:6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Because if we could get to heaven by being good, nice, sincere people than there would have been no reason for Christ to come and for Christ to die and for Christ to be raised from the dead, and instead of John 3:3  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus would have said John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are good, nice, sincere people, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

So we have one field, two sowers, two crops and then Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:30  Let both grow together until the harvest.

There is One Harvest

Remember when the servants discovered that the weeds had been sowed they wanted to rip them up but the farmer told them to wait.  Matthew 13:29  “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.”

We need to protect our relationship with Christ, that’s important.  And throughout the New Testament, we see that we need to protect the local church from false teachers and false teachings, that’s important but from this parable, it would seem that Kingdom of Heaven is capable of taking care of itself.  That in the end, it’s not our mandate to try and dig up the weeds too soon.

That’s why the Inquisition was so wrong they were trying to tear up the weeds.  And that is why the witch trials were so wrong they were trying to tear up the weeds, and we just aren’t qualified to make that decision and what ends up happening is we burn people at the stake just because they weigh the same as a duck.

Any time we try to legislate morality or head down the path of our own private Jihad (holy war) against some particular behaviour in the world we end up doing more damage than good.  I read one day that if God hates the same people that you hate then you can be pretty sure you’ve created God in your own image.  In the end, we need to let God sort it out.

It was Samuel Johnson who wrote, “God Himself, sir, does not propose to judge a man until his life is over. Why should you and I?”

So, Jesus tells us that the weeds will be separated from the wheat at the appropriate time, and when is the appropriate time?  Matthew 13:39 The harvest is the end of the world, . . .

And there is no reason to get into great theological debates about when that is going to happen because it is enough to know that it is going to happen.

It’s going to happen corporately, that is the world as we know it has a best before date and we don’t know what that date is but someday this is all going to end.  But personally, there will be an “End of the World” for each of us individually.  That is that our existence in this world will end, and this is what the word of God tells us in Hebrews 9:27  . . . each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,

Every one of us shares that in common, we are all going to die, that is the end of our world and we are all going to be judged.  But that leaves us with the end of the parable, Matthew 13:30  Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”

There are Two Futures  There used to be a time that the church preached that there was a Heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned but then somewhere we decided that we didn’t like the concept of hell and stopped preaching about it, but that didn’t make it any less real, it just meant that we were shirking our responsibility. In Jesus’ explanation of this parable, this is how he spells it out.  Matthew 13:41-43  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!

When we tell people that Cornerstone exists to help depopulate hell we believe it.  We believe that there will be people in heaven who would have been in hell if this church didn’t exist to tell people there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned.

Will hell be fire and brimstone, and demons with pointy tales poking people with their pitchforks? I don’t know.  What I do know is that when it will be a separation from God and from love and from light and from all that is good and all that is pure.

I want to finish with one of my favourite stories and I know you’ve all heard it before but bear with me.  The story is told that when Calvin Coolidge was Vice-President of the United States he was chairing a congressional meeting that was becoming very heated.  During the meeting, one Congressman stood up and told another, “Sir you can go straight to hell”.  Well, the victim was understandably upset and looked to the Vice President for support and saw that he was reading a book.  “Mr Coolidge” cried the victim “Did you hear what he told me to do?” “Yes” replied the Vice-President, “But I checked the rulebook and you don’t have to go.”

Well, friends, I have checked the rule book and you don’t have to go.  The word of God promises us in James 4:7  So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

So, where you at?  When the harvest comes, and it will come, what will be your destination?

Choices equal Consequences

The bible teaches us to be careful because we will reap what we sow.  That’s still a valuable life lesson for people to learn today, the concept that our personal choices have consequences.

A Montreal woman recently posted negative comments on social media about her OBGYN, as well as calling the Doctor’s receptionist snooty, and then she was shocked when her doctor dumped her as a patient.

The woman, who is four and a half months pregnant says that she should be allowed freedom of expression and have the right to post her thoughts.  She actually has both of those things.   Nobody has said that she can’t express her opinion or post her thoughts online.  She just needs to learn that there are consequences.

She has the freedom to express her opinion about her doctor and her doctor has the freedom to no longer be her doctor, it’s just that simple.

I don’t remember a lot from physics, but I do remember Newton’s third law?  You know the one that says: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Every choice we make will have consequences, sometimes good consequences sometimes bad consequences, but we have to understand that they are our choices.  And maybe then, we will make better choices.

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




The Story of a Seed

It was the end of August in 1979. I was a 19-year-old fisherman on the herring seiner Rali 2 out of Paspébiac, Quebec. Don’t ask why a crew from Saint John and Grand Manan were crewing a seiner from Quebec, it’s a long story.

We had spent the summer in the Bay of Fundy and that season was over, so we had returned to Quebec to fish in the Gaspe before heading to Newfoundland for the fall.

The herring had been running and we were excited about our prospects when we received word that the department of fisheries had cut the quota in that area for a week. That seemed to be the story of the summer, if we had market we had no fish, if we had fish we had no market if we had both the DFO stepped in and we had no quota.

We were told the restrictions would be lifted in a week or so and we decided to go home for that week.

On Sunday, September 2nd, my best friend invited me to attend church with him, actually pestered me, nagged me cajoled me would be more accurate, but whatever.

And so that Sunday evening I found myself at First Wesleyan Church in Saint John New Brunswick. The second time I had been in a church service in 7 years.

The pastor, Jack McKenzie, was on vacation and a student from Bethany Bible College, Bob Coulotte was filling in for him.

I don’t recall what Bob preached on that night, but at the end of the service, I found myself committing my life to Christ and feeling a call to full-time ministry.

And it was completely unexpected. When I told people that I had become a Christian and that I was going to Bible college, they looked at me like I had said I had become a Martian.

There was no context, I wasn’t a churchgoer, I had expressed no interest in spiritual things, I wasn’t seeking God.

At nineteen if I was anything I was a hedonist.

Which is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as: Hedonist: Someone who believes that having pleasure is the most important thing in life.

My philosophy was when I got too old for wine women and song, I’d give up singing.
Although if you asked me, I probably wouldn’t have defined myself as a hedonist because as Mason Cooley once said “The philosophy of hedonism means little to lovers of pleasure. They have no inclination to read philosophy, or to write it.”

So, while I may not have identified as a hedonist, I was a hedonist.

But regardless of my philosophy of life, most people who knew me would say that my life took a 180-degree turn that night, and it was completely unexpected.

This is week three of our “Stories” series here at Cornerstone. And for the next couple of months as a staff, we are focusing on Stories told by Jesus. His parables. And Jesus really was a master storyteller.

I began two weeks ago telling the story of a found treasure, last week Deborah told the story of the workers in the vineyard and this week’s story was summed up in the scripture that was read earlier. It is sometimes known as “The Parable of the Growing Seed”.

It is the story of a small seed that was sown, flourished, and eventually bore a harvest. But for the man who sowed the seed, the process remained a mystery.

Jesus told his listeners in Mark 4:27 Night and day, while he (the farmer) is asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. Sounds like a mystery to me.

But the farmer had been doing it for years even if he didn’t completely understand how it happened, he knew it happened.

But was it really a mystery?

So let’s start with Mark 4:26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.”

The first thing that needs to be noted is that The Ground was Prepared

I know that it doesn’t say that the ground was prepared, but it does say that the man was a farmer.

I’m not a farmer and I’m not a gardener, but any stretch of the imagination, I would be the person who would simply go out and spread seed on soil that hadn’t been prepared and then wonder why it didn’t grow.

On the other hand, Angela loves to garden, and I love Angela so there have been times that I have been called on to prepare the soil for her to plant her seeds in.

And you prepare the soil by removing any rocks, and breaking the soil up and tearing out the weeds and mixing in the fertilizer and eventually the soil is ready to plant in.

The hero of our story probably pulled the rocks out by hand and tilled the ground with a hoe and mixed in manure from his animals. Perhaps if he was a successful farmer with a lot of land he may have used a donkey or an ox to pull a plough to prepare the soil.

But regardless of the how we have to assume that since he was a farmer that he took the time to prepare the soil.

He understood that in order for the seed to grow there would need to be work done before the seeds were planted. And if you weren’t around for the preparation of the soil you might watch the farmer sowing his seed and not realize the work that had already gone into the process.

Very seldom do you hear about a person who had never heard the gospel suddenly embracing the claims of Christ.

The night that I was became a Christ Follower was only the second time I had been in a church service in 7 years. And both of those times were under duress.

But, I remember my parents having bedtime prayers with me when I was little, I remember as a child going to Sunday School at the Salvation Army when we were living in Germany and at the Baptist church when we were living outside of Fredericton.

I remember going to Vacation Bible School when we were vacationing on Grand Manan in the summer. I think my parents saw it as free childcare, but regardless of their motives, I was there. At the Wesleyan VBS, the Baptist VBS and the Pentecostal VBS.

When I was in my early teens a neighbour invited me to attend Christian Service brigade at Rothesay Baptist Church, I think I was their project that year.

And while those events didn’t seem to make a major difference in my life, the soil was being prepared.

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 22:6 Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Sometimes we wonder “Why?” when we don’t see immediate fruit, but the soil is being prepared. In the parable, the chances of the seed germinating and growing would have been drastically reduced if the farmer hadn’t taken the time to prepare the soil in advance.

And the chance of a person coming to faith is exponentially increased if the soil was prepared when they were young. Don’t give up on that person you love. To paraphrase Solomon, “Do your best when they are young and pray for the best when they are older.”

But it wasn’t enough that the farmer had prepared the soil.

Mark 4:26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground.”

The second thing we discover here was The Seed Was Sown

If the farmer had of prepared the soil but never planted anything, all of his work would have been in vain. The purpose of preparing the soil was to plant the seed.

Different times through the Gospels Jesus used “Seeds” as an illustrative device. And the seed represents an invitation to accept the grace of Jesus, an invitation to join the Kingdom of God.

And there are different ways to plant a seed. We had our lawn over seeded this spring and they spread the seed willy nilly with a broadcast spreader. But when Angela planted her carrots and beans this spring she planted each seed individually.

But regardless of how the seeds are planted they need to be planted.

I have heard people say they are just going to live their lives for Jesus, let their light shine and let God take care of the rest. But there is no seed being sown. You live your life for Jesus and let your light shine and people will just think you are a really nice person.

I mentioned that the night I became a Christian that I don’t remember what the preacher said, and I don’t. Except for a sermon illustration he used, I remember that, and that has been a valuable lesson for me as a preacher. Sermon illustrations are important, they might be the only thing a person remembers of the sermon.

But the seed was sown by my best friend who had become a believer the year before. And Reg shared the gospel with me several times without success. I brushed him off and told him maybe later, said I’d think about it. But I really wasn’t all that interested.

But he didn’t quit.

God’s word promises us in Isaiah 55:11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

And Reg believed that he believed that if he kept sowing seeds some of it would take.

There is a great story told about John Wesley’s mother Susanna. She and her husband Samuel had 19 children, 10 of who lived. A small family, Susanna was actually the 25th of 25 children.

And she home schooled all ten of her children. Boys and girls learned to read and write, as well as mathematics, Greek and Latin and an appreciation for the classics. She didn’t think a child should have lessons until they turned five, but the day after their fifth birthday lessons began. Beginning with learning their alphabet, which she expected them to learn on the first day. And 8 of her children did that, she considered the other two kind of slow.

The story is that her husband had the curiosity to sit by one day and count while she repeated the same lesson to one child over and over ” I wonder at your patience” he said, “you have told that child twenty times that same thing.”

“Yes” she answered, “If I had satisfied myself by mentioning it only nineteen times, I should
have lost all my labour. It was the twentieth time that crowned it.”

If Reg had of quit telling me about Jesus after the first or third or fifth time I wonder what would have happened? But he was faithful and that night when he invited me to church, once again, instead of coming up with an excuse I accepted. And that night Bob preached and extended an invitation to come forward to accept to Christ and I didn’t go forward. And the service finished, and people were leaving, and Reg looked at me and asked, “Do you want to go forward and talk to God about becoming a Christian?” And I said “Yes”.

What if he hadn’t asked? What if he just thought, “Well he had the chance, and he didn’t take it, maybe next time.”

The soil had been prepared and the seed had been sown.

But there more to the story of the seed than simply the preparation of the soil and the sowing of the seed.

Let’s go back to the story, Mark 4:26-28 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally, the grain ripens.”

It’s here we discover that Stuff Happened

Between the sowing and the reaping stuff happened, in this case, it was good stuff.

The sun shined just the right amount, it rained just the right amount and the seed grew and boll weevils or locust didn’t come along and eat the tender shoots.

Our first summer out of Bible College we took a position in Up State New York, close to the Quebec and Ontario border. The town was surrounded by farms. That summer it seemed to rain a little bit each night and the sun shone every day and all the farmers and gardeners had bumper crops. We know because we were given more zucchini then I’d ever seen before in my entire life.

For a crop to grow it needs sunshine and it needs rain.

Sometimes we get bummed out over rain. Last year I got to visit a land where it never rained, where the sun always shined, and the skies were not cloudy all day. Here’s a picture. Yep, that’s called the desert.

If the farmer had of prepared the soil and planted the seed and that summer had turned into a drought or the wettest summer they had ever seen there might have been no harvest.

And the farmer had no control over either one of those things.

The ground can be prepared, and the seed can be sown but sometimes there still doesn’t seem to be any results.

During the year before I became a Christ follower, there were things that were happening that I didn’t know about, and probably wouldn’t have appreciated if I did know about them. I was on a number of prayer lists at Bethany Bible College and at Saint John First I had become a regular prayer request.

And the change I saw evidenced in the life of my best friend that year was helping the seed to grow. I remember going to Sussex one night to visit Reg at the college. And on my way home I stopped at my favourite Auntie, who was a believer. And I told her “I don’t understand it, I have a good job, a nice car, everything I can ask for and I’m miserable. Reg can’t even afford to pay attention and he’s happy”

And she said, “Maybe you need what he has.” To which I replied, “No, pretty sure that’s not it.”

And that year I didn’t run into any Christians who acted like jerks. And God worked in my heart.

I’ve mentioned before that was the year I was introduced to both “Jesus Christ Super Star” and “God Spell” and they presented Jesus to me in a way that spoke to me. And I know there are all kinds of theological problems with Super Star and God Spell. But I didn’t know that in 1979, all I knew what that they showed me a Jesus that I kind of liked. And the mystery is that the seed that was sown by my best friend was watered and nurtured by all kinds of different things.

The farmer didn’t understand all the things that made the seed grow, he knew that he couldn’t control everything, like the sun and the rain.

But there were things he could control. He could pull weeds, he could work at keeping critters from eating the plants. If need be he might have even been able to water his plants if there wasn’t enough rain.

When we’ve shared the gospel with people, we can never completely understand what happens in their hearts. We don’t know their history and the baggage they might carry. But we can do our part to not be jerks and to show them the love of Christ. And let God do his part.

Mark 4:29 “And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

And finally, There was a Harvest

At the end of the day, the farmer harvested what he had sown. And it wasn’t a one to one process, instead, that one seed produced a plant that had many seeds.

When I was teaching “Strategies for Church Planting” at Kingswood I would ask my students what an apple seed was supposed to produce. And they would say apples. Well no, an apple seed doesn’t produce an apple, it produces an apple tree which in turn produces an apple orchard.

There is a warning that Paul gives to the Galatian church that is also a promise. Galatians 6:7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. The warning, of course, is that bad behaviour and bad choices result in bad consequences. But the promise, of course, is that You will always harvest what you plant.

Gertrude Stein once wrote, “A vegetable garden, in the beginning, looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.”

The kingdom of God exists because the ground was prepared, seeds were planted and eventually, believers were the harvest. But not just a believer. Remember the fruit of the apple seed isn’t an apple it’s an apple tree and eventually an apple orchard.

The fruit of the seed that Reg Thomas planted wasn’t a Christian, it was 38 years of ministry. It was each person I have led to the Lord either personally or through my preaching, and each person they have led to the Lord.

There are people here who are the fruit of that seed that Reg began to sow a year before I made a commitment.

And maybe you are sitting there thinking, “So what? What does that have to do with me?”

Well, Jesus told those who followed him 2000 years ago, Luke 6:43-44 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on bramble bushes. And today, July 22, 2018 trees are still identified by their fruit, and part of the fruit is seeds.

Each one of you will plant seeds of some kind, and while you might not have control over what happens once you’ve sown the seed, you will choose what type of seed you are going to sow.

And after you sow the seed it’s simple, love God, love others and don’t be a Jerk.

God speaking through the prophet Hosea tells us in Hosea 10:12 I said, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love.”

And so let me leave you with the words of Paul to the Corinthians 2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.

Free PowerPoint may be available for this message, contact me at denn@cornerstonehfx.ca

It’s Pretty Important for Me

A number of years ago, a friend of mine bought a book entitled, “The 100 Most Important Events In Christian History.”

In the course of a conversation, he asked me what I would consider fit into that category.   It didn’t take me very long to come to my conclusion, “My salvation”, I replied.

And maybe you are thinking, “ . . . but what about the Reformation, the Crusades, Wesley’s conversion and Billy Graham’s 1949 crusade in Los Angeles?”    Oh sure, they were important and maybe even earth shattering but in my opinion they pale in comparison to September 2nd 1979 when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.

I wasn’t terrible, hadn’t robbed a liquor store or killed anyone, but I was in need of God and had done nothing to deserve His favour and yet he reached down from heaven and forgave the sins of a young fisherman and made me a child of the King.

My conversion story may not get into my friend’s book, but it did get me into Gods book and that has to be one of the most important events in Christian History, at least that’s the way I see it.  And your salvation is every bit as important as mine, or Wesley’s or Augustine’s.    Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible


Wisdom for the Ages

Recently I have found myself immersed in a book of wisdom. I’m sure Angela is growing tired of my constant interruptions as I regale her with yet another new discovery. As I read I am constantly thinking:” Wow!” “Amazing” & ”I didn’t know that.” Stories of great achievements by folks with obscure names and stories of inspirations share the pages of this book and I want to share many of the things I have discovered with those around me. Of course, you realize that I’m talking about Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.

I have also discovered a few mistakes in my reading. Not major mistakes but enough that I tend to read the rest with a grain of salt. Uncle John, I am sure, would remind me “To err is human, to forgive divine.”

And then he would let me know that quote came from Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism that Pope wrote in 1709 but wasn’t published until 1711. But I digress.

Too many people view the Bible the same way. It’s an interesting book that is full of neat things, but they aren’t sure they can trust it and it certainly isn’t life-changing. And it will never be life changing until we embrace it for what it is: the Word of God.

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

Be Careful What You Share

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the warnings and maybe you’ve even shared them. Many of the warnings have been showing up on Facebook and other social media. They involve Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) and they are alarming and true. People are being warned that DHMO is used by the nuclear power industry, that it is used in the production of pesticides, is present in most poisons and it is guaranteed to be fatal to humans in large quantities and yet it is still used in everyday products and food.

And it is amazing how many people simply hit share in order to warn their friends about the dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide without further investigating the claims about this mysterious and supposedly deadly compound. If people checked, they would discover that DHMO is a colourless and odourless chemical compound, and is simply another chemical name for. . . water.

And that’s just funny and pretty much harmless. But not everything that people share on social media is funny or harmless and if you share it then you are responsible for it. Be sure that what you are sharing is consistent with your faith and your witness and maybe even ask yourself: WJST? Would Jesus share this? Because if He wouldn’t, chances are, you shouldn’t either.

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

The Story of a Treasure

It is a serendipitous story, which is a story about serendipity.

Serendipity, isn’t that a great word?  It is probably one of my favourite words.

In 2004 it was included in a list of the ten hardest English words to translate.

You know what serendipity means right?  Serendipity means an unplanned fortuitous discovery.  And if you didn’t know what serendipity meant then you just made a serendipitous discovery

Fleming’s accidental discovery of Penicillin is a great example of serendipity.

It sometimes happens to me when I am reading; I will be enjoying a novel, kind of zoned out, I read fiction for the same reason we watch TV, for entertainment, not enlightenment.  And then all of a sudden, I will come across the most incredible phrase or an idea for a message.  And that wasn’t what I was looking for.  It is serendipity.

And this is a serendipitous story.  The hero of the story is working in a field that he does not own, we don’t know if he was hired to do whatever he was doing or if he was helping someone out as a favour.  All we know is that in the process of doing something he unexpectedly found something and the something that he found was of greater value than the something he was doing or even of the field he was doing something in.

We are told that he immediately covered the treasure up, went and liquidated all of his assets and bought the field, and presumably the treasure as well.  I don’t know how he explained his sudden affinity for the field to the previous owner, but it is just a story.

This summer our preaching series is “Stores told by Jesus”.  And through the next couple of months, we are focusing on the Parables that Jesus told through the gospels.

A parable is simply a story with a meaning.   Kind of like a fable but parable sounds more spiritual.  Aesop told fables, Jesus told parables.  They could also be called allegories, but they aren’t they are called parables.

This particular parable is one of the eight times in the New Testament that Jesus begins a parable with the words “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “The Kingdom of God” is like a . . .

So, in this parable, Jesus begins to draw a picture which describes his Kingdom.  Matthew 13:44  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

And you might be smarter than me, and this might make perfect sense to you, but these thirty-six words make me ask a whole pile of questions.  What was the man doing in the field?  How did he find the treasure?  What type of treasure was it?  Was what he did entirely on the up and up?  What is actually buried on Oak Island?

Well, the last question didn’t come out of the scripture, but it had to do with treasure and the scripture made me think of the Oak Island Treasure.

I personally am torn between it being Captain Kidd’s treasure and the lost treasure of the Knights Templar.  But I regress.

The answer to most of those questions, including the Oak Island one is that we don’t know.  And it obviously wasn’t important, or Christ would have told us, it’s just a parable.  The important part of the story is that the man found something he wasn’t necessarily looking for and was willing to give all he had in order to obtain it.

Upon first reading and without putting it in a historical context it is easy to question the ethics of the man in the story.  He finds this treasure that doesn’t belong to him and he doesn’t tell the owner of the land about it, instead he reburies the treasure and negotiates the purchase of the land, which apparently would have been worth more if the treasure had of been figured into it.

So here is the question, who owned the treasure?  The simplest answer would be: Whoever hid the treasure in the first place.  But apparently, they were no longer in the equation, it couldn’t have been the landowner because he was willing to sell the land with the treasure still buried, so it can be assumed that he didn’t even know the treasure was there.

So, if the original owner was no longer present than the short answer is: whoever owned the land owned the treasure.  But here is the caveat, only if he knew about it.

Let’s put it in a modern setting.  Next Saturday as you are driving out of whatever estate you live in you notice a yard sale and so you stop and as you go through the treasures that the homeowner is selling you come across a really ugly painting that has $8.00 marked on it, you ask the person if that is the best they will do and they agree to drop their price to $5.00 and you purchase the painting.   Now if the painting had been done by Bob Smith it would be worth $5.00 and the seller would have received what he wanted, and all would be well with the universe.  But what if the painting was a Jackson Pollock and was worth $50,000,000.00?   The seller still got the $5.00 he wanted from the painting.

You ask, “But, shouldn’t he get some of the $50,000,000.00?”


I don’t know, what about the person he got the painting from? And perhaps the person that person got the painting from?  And what if it was a painting that Jackson Pollock had sold in 1948 for $5.00 because he wasn’t famous yet and sold it for the price of the canvas.  If you knew it was a Pollock would you have a moral obligation to tell the seller what you knew?  Or would you be within your rights to simply give him what he wanted for the painting?

Sources tell us that 2000 years ago it was very common for people to bury items of value.  There were no banks or investments companies as we know them, no safety deposit boxes and the area was constantly being conquered and re-conquered.  There had been the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, and the Greeks and now the Romans.  And so, if it appeared that the occupiers were going to take your valuables you might bury them, or if you were going on a trip and wanted to make sure that your valuables were safe while you were gone you would bury them.

Remember the story of the man who gave the money to his servants to invest?  Two of them did exactly that and saw the money increase but do you remember what the remaining servant did with the money he was given?

Sure you do, Matthew 25:18  But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

The downside, of course, was if something happened to you and nobody else knew where you hid your money, oh well.

In the Daily Study Bible, William Barclay tells us “Jewish Rabbinic law was quite clear: “What finds belong to the finder, and what finds must one cause to be proclaimed? These finds belong to the finder–if a man finds scattered fruit, scattered money…these belong to the finder.” In point of fact this man had a prior right to what he had found.”   Or roughly translated “Finders Keepers.”

So if the man was ploughing or digging or whatever he was doing and found the treasure and the owner of the land did not know it was there than it belonged to the person who found it, that was the common law at the time, and we wouldn’t even have been having this discussion because everyone would have understood the concept.  When people heard the story, their reaction would have been “dude that is so cool, wish I found a treasure.”

I think it’s interesting that instead of just taking the treasure, which apparently he was entitled to do, that instead he purchased the land before he claimed the treasure.

And so as I worked on this message I was thinking about what the treasure was.  Was it God’s love?  Was it God’s Grace?  Was it Salvation?  The answer is: Yes.  Because the treasure is: The Kingdom of Heaven.  The question that Jesus is answering here is not: what is the treasure?  That is the answer, not the question.  The question is: what is the Kingdom of Heaven?  And the answer is Matthew 13:44  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”

 And we all know what a treasure is right?  It’s a treasure.  It’s not ordinary and it’s not every day, it’s special and it’s valuable.  In this case, it was worth more than everything else the man owned.

The Treasure Was There For Whoever Found it the scripture doesn’t say that he was a special man, just that he was a man.  He didn’t find the treasure because he was special, he was special because he found the treasure.

I think it’s interesting that the man wasn’t even looking for treasure, he was just going about his life.   We talk about those who are on a spiritual quest, looking for answers and seeking a higher meaning. And that is wonderful because the word of God promises us in Hebrews 11:6  And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.


But it’s not always like that, most times God simply interrupts our lives, but too often we ignore him.

The night I met God, that wasn’t the plan, it wasn’t on my agenda, I wasn’t seeking God that day.  My day planner didn’t say: get up, putter around the house, go for a long drive with the roof down, have supper, go to church as a favour to a friend, become a Christ Follower and feel called to the ministry.”

I was just a fisherman home from the Gaspe for a few days; I wasn’t on a spiritual journey or on a quest, certainly wasn’t looking for a treasure.  And yet I found it, or maybe it found me. In this story, the Kingdom of God was hidden but it could be found, and it could be found by whoever was open to finding it.  We don’t know if others had come close or perhaps it had even been stumbled on before but those who found it either hadn’t recognized it for the treasure it was or perhaps they didn’t know what it was they had found.

What I love most about the Gospels is the calling of the individual apostles.  Some like Andrew came looking for Jesus, but for many of them, they were just ordinary people going about their ordinary lives when they discovered the Kingdom of Heaven.  They were fisherman and government employees and accountants and people trying to overthrow the government, in other words, they were just people.

Some of you already know the story eight years ago I received an envelope that had for a return address “The Protocol Office”.    It was an invitation to a reception being held in the presence of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh.

It was an intimate affair, just Angela and 10,0000 other people, but that is beside the point.  It was a very classy invitation.  I later discovered that I was put on the list because I am considered to be a community leader.  Cool.  But that isn’t what I was trying for, I am just doing my job.

There is a great statement that closes the Bible, in Revelation 22:17 we read “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.  In the King James Version, it says whosoever will”.     The Kingdom of Heaven is not limited by our nationality, or our skin colour, or our gender, it is open to whosoever will.   The invitation 2000 years ago was Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. And the invitation is there for you today.

You may never receive an invitation to a reception for the Queen of England, but the opportunity to meet the King of the Universe is extended to everybody, and that trumps the House of Windsor.

The Treasure was Free: It was not Cheap We understand that the Grace of God is free and it is there for whosoever will, but it is not cheap.  Several times in the Gospels Jesus is asked by people what they needed to do to follow him or to have eternal life and his answer was “Go sell all you have and give it away.” But that wasn’t a requirement of everyone.  How come?  Because it wasn’t about what they possessed it was about what possessed them. And the fact that Jesus didn’t require it from everyone only brings comfort to those he would require it from.

But it’s not our possessions that Jesus wants, it’s our loyalty.  He wants to be number 1 in our lives, not number 37 or 25 or 4 or even 2 he wants to be number 1. He wants to be the priority. Luke 16:13  “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

You may think you can serve two masters but there will come a time in your life that you will have to decide: where do my loyalties lie?  What is my priority in this situation?  Where will I give my time?  Where will I give my money?  One of the stories that I was talking about is found in Matthew 19:20-22  “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”  Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  But when the young man heard this, he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.


The young man discovered what he owned and what owned him.

Jim Elliot was a missionary who was working with Wycliffe  Bible Translators to bring the gospel to a remote South American tribe in the late 1950s, and he was killed in the process.   And just days before he was killed he wrote in his journal, “He is no fool – who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”  In a very real way, the hero of our story gave up what he could not keep to gain that which he could not lose.

Whatever the treasure was that the man discovered, it was worth everything the man had.  And that is the lesson that Jesus is teaching.  The Kingdom of Heaven is worth everything we have.  We might think we have it “all”, but “all” will pale in comparison to what God has to offer.  The offer of a past that is forgiven, and of a future that is assured.

Because the secret of the Kingdom is that in giving up you get more.  You say “But Denn, my family has to come first” or “My career is a priority” or, or, or.  But remember the words of Jesus when he said Matthew 6:33  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

When the Kingdom is your priority and you live the way that Jesus wants you to live then you become a better parent and you become a better spouse and you become a better employee and you become a better employer and you become a better person and ultimately you gain what you were seeking all along.

And if there is a conflict between the Kingdom and what you want, it may appear that in the short term your way is the most advantageous, but it won’t prove that way in the long term.

You probably all remember the WWJD phase that the church went through.  What would Jesus do?  But that isn’t the question, because we aren’t Jesus.  The question is WWJHMD “What would Jesus Have Me Do?”  And it’s only when we are focused on his Kingdom that we are able to ask that and answer it.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

So, if you have determined in your life that your treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven then your heart will follow.  But don’t expect everyone to see the value of the Kingdom, it was Wesley who said “The kingdom of God within us is a treasure indeed, but a treasure hid from the world”  and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:18  The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

Here is the confusing thing: Even though the man found the treasure The Treasure is Still There.  It wasn’t that the man didn’t find all the treasure, it is the mystery of faith that the same treasure that was found by Peter and James and Paul, the same treasure found by Augustine and Wesley and Calvin, the same treasure found by Mother Theresa and Billy Graham is still there for us today.  The Bible promises us in Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And God’s Kingdom is still waiting to be discovered by you.



Why Worry?

A couple of weekends ago I broke a tooth.  It was nasty. I could feel it with my tongue and half of the tooth was missing.  I wasn’t sure if it was the tooth or the filling that was broken, but I knew that something had to be done.

First thing on Monday I called our dentist who was able to fit me in in three days.  And during that time, I wondered if I would need a root canal or a crown, how much insurance would cover and how much I would have to pay.

When the dentist came in I told her what had happened, and she told me to open wide.  As she examined the damage she exclaimed “that little thing?”  And I said “No,
there’s a massive part of my tooth missing.”

The reality is that a massive part of the tooth wasn’t missing, I had simply chipped the tooth, she smoothed it out, touched it up and my portion of the bill was twenty bucks.

I spent four days, worrying about something that I couldn’t do anything about and ultimately never happened, time that I’ll never get back.

But, you probably never worry and fret only to discover what you thought was major was simply minor.   Or do you?

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

Praying for Canada

It was his custom to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. And that morning was no exception; he felt that before he attended to the business of his country that first, he must attend to the business of his soul.  And as he read from God’s word his heart and eyes were drawn to Psalm 72:8  May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth. Actually, he was reading from the King James Version and so the words he read were Psalm 72:8  He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

The thirty-three Fathers of Confederation had gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North America Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.”

The leading suggestion at that point was John A. McDonald’s preference “The Kingdom of Canada”.

That morning Samuel Leonard Tilley, who by the way was from Saint John, had read from the Bible and became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the conference session, he presented his suggestion based upon his morning Bible reading, and that was the “Dominion of Canada.” The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted his inspired concept.

If we look around our fair nation today on her 151st birthday it because painfully obvious that God no longer has dominion over this country.  What would it take to change a country?  You ever wonder that?  Listen to what God tells us in his word.

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.

That promise was for Israel originally, but it is for all those who are called by God’s name.

But how are we to pray, is it as simple as adding a line to our bedtime prayers, “And God bless our country?”

The 1908 version of Oh Canada written by Robert Stanley Weir

actually ended with a prayer.  This is the last verse:

Ruler Supreme, Who hearest humble prayer,

Hold our dominion within Thy loving care.

Help us to find, O God, in Thee

A lasting, rich reward,

As waiting for the Better Day,

We ever stand on guard.


And for those of you with your knickers in a knot over the most recent change to O’ Canada, here is the first verse from 1908:

O Canada! Our home and native land!

True patriot love thou dost in us command.

We see thee rising fair, dear land,

The True North, strong and free;

And stand on guard, O Canada,

We stand on guard for thee.


The early church was defined by prayer, over and over again we read how they prayed, why they prayed when they prayed.  And because of that prayer, they were able to change not just a country but eventually the face of the entire world.


In Acts 4 the church faces its first major crisis.  The two major leaders of the church, Peter and John have been thrown into Jail for preaching the gospel; they are released after being ordered not to preach again.  Although they didn’t quite promise to follow the order instead they asked a question, a question which we should each memorize and ask on a regular basis and it was found in Acts 4:19  But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?


As soon as our two heroes are released they high tail it back to the other believers and called a prayer meeting.  The scripture that was read this morning was an account of that prayer meeting.  This morning we are going to take a look at how the early church became a movement through prayer, and eventually went on to change the world.

Acts 4:24  When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God:


1) They Were Agreed in Prayer


The key word here, of course, is the word “Together”  When they started to pray they had obviously thought back to that incredibly powerful promise that Jesus had made to them in Matthew 18:19  “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.


Now John & Peter must have figured that if two was good then a whole bunch must be better so they rushed back to the entire group and said: “Hey guys and girls this is something that we really need to pray about, and we need to all be on the same page.”


It is critical that Cornerstone is not only a church that prays but that we are a church that prays with unity.  You think how confusing it must be for God when some churches pray.  Like group “A” is praying for one thing and group “B” is praying for something that is diametrically opposed to group “A”.  Meanwhile, group “C” in the back is praying for something that has absolutely nothing at all to do with the situation.


One of the major criteria if a church is going to go somewhere is that they will need to go there together.  In reality, a church is like a bunch of people who get together and charter a plane.  If the people in the front want to go to Vancouver but the people in the back want to go to Dublin and the people over the wings want to go to Orlando who does the pilot listen to?


The people who yell the loudest?  The people who pay the most?  The people who plead the most earnestly?  It’s only when all the passengers get together and decide on a common destination that the plane can take off.


I am convinced that one of the major reasons that churches don’t grow is that they can’t figure out what they want God to do.  If we are to succeed and become everything that God wants us to become then we are going to need some common goals and some common dreams, and we are going to have to pray together, and not just physically.


In the years ahead we need to make sure that whatever we do as a congregation, members and adherents, young and old, newcomers and old timers that we have a God-given goal and that we all pull together in that direction.  We could take a lesson from the mule who has learned that you can’t pull and kick at the same time.  And we will need to pray in that direction as well.  A powerful church will pray together.


Acts 4:24  When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—

Not only did the church pray together but 2) They Prayed under the sovereignty of God


Regardless of how precise our goals are, regardless of how well-honed the focus of the church is, regardless of how carefully we have defined our purpose if they are not God’s goals, if it isn’t God’s focus, if it isn’t God’s purpose that we’re serving then we are going to be way out in left field.  The biggest mistake that we will make as a church will be to follow the temptation to “Do it ourselves”.


I’m sure that there was someone in that early church who said: “Let’s just get together and present a petition to the Sanhedrin and they’ll leave us alone.”


It doesn’t matter if we think God can’t or won’t answer our prayers both are blasphemous because through them we limit the power of God.  These believers started by stating right up front “You are God and you can do anything.”  Do you believe that this morning?  Can you say that in your life and in the life of the church? “I believe that God can do anything?”


When Martin Luther stood before one of the Papal Delegations who came to him they asked: “Where will you be when all of your supporters desert you?”  His reply, “Where I’ve always been, in the hands of the sovereign God.”  Don’t use God as a last resort but instead realize that he is all that you can really depend on.

So, not only does a powerful church pray with one voice but it also recognizes the sovereignty and power of almighty God.

Acts 4:24-25  When they heard the report, all the believers lifted their voices together in prayer to God: “O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—  you spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans?


The early church knew enough not to just stand on experience but 3) They Relied on the Word of God.


Experiences differ.  Yours may or may not be the same as mine.  The neat thing about Christianity is that Christ approaches each one of us as individuals and deals with us as individuals and so our experiences with Christ will be as distinct and individual as we are.  But as different as our experiences might be the word of God is unchanging.  Don’t forget what the Prophet Malachi wrote in Malachi 3:6  “I am the LORD, and I do not change.”


That is echoed by King David in Psalm 110:4  The LORD has taken an oath and will not break his vow:


Our directions need to be guided by Biblical precedent.  And our prayers have to recognize the validity of the scriptures for today July 1st 2018


This is not simply an antiquated volume of cute stories and witty sayings.  This is the living breathing word of God.  And it is absolutely worthless to you if you never open it.


If I was to ask how many of you had read your Bible more then twice this past week there would be a few embarrassed Christians in this congregation.  The worst part is that some of those would be quote-unquote “Mature Christians” and if quoted Hezekiah 3:21 I wonder how many of you would realize that the book of Hezekiah only exists in my imagination?


If you are a Christian, then you need to get into this book.  I don’t care how you do it, but you need to read and feed on the word of God.


You need to get a Bible that you’re comfortable with and read it.  And a Bible that you’re comfortable with is one that you can easily read.  Read it, mark in it, devour it.


A lot of people are using “Bible Apps” on their phones and many of those apps allow you to listen to the bible being read.  So, you can listen to it in your car, or when you are at the gym or going for a walk or run.


But find out what works for you and do whatever you have to do and feed on the word of God.  It’s only as you know the word of God that you can find out what he wants from you because you can be assured that God won’t want anything from you or for you, from this church or for this church that is contrary to His word.


So a Powerful Church in bold prayer prays with one voice, under the sovereignty of God relying on the truth of the word of God.


Acts 4:29  And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.


4) They Offered Specific Requests.


These people knew what they wanted and they weren’t afraid to verbalize it.  They didn’t beat around the bush with maybes, ifs and perhaps.  Instead, they stated what they wanted.


I like the fact that they did it differently then I would have done it.  My prayer would have been “Now, Lord, consider their threats and shut them up.” I might have embellished it a bit more, “May their vocal cords dry up and their tongues fall out”  but you get the picture.  But that wasn’t the approach that the early church took.  They didn’t ask that the mountain be removed instead they asked for the courage to climb the mountain.


We need to step out in faith and claim the promises of God and one of those is that we serve a prayer answering God.


We deny the power of prayer not because we don’t believe it but because we don’t practice it I love the story of a small town in Kentucky whose only distinction was that they had two churches and one distillery, which was owned by an avowed atheist.


It seems that one night the people from the two churches called a special prayer meeting and spent the night praying that the distillery would close down.  Well, you can guess the rest of the story shortly after midnight a storm blew in, lightning struck the distillery and it burnt to the ground.


Well, the churches were elated; the atheist wasn’t and imagine how he felt when his insurance company informed him they couldn’t pay the claim because it was “an act of God”.  The outcome of the story is that the owner took the two churches to court to sue them for damages, which they claimed they weren’t responsible for.


The presiding judge supposedly said, and I quote “This is the most perplexing case I have ever sat on because on one hand, I have an atheist who claims to believe in the power of prayer and on the other hand I have two churches that deny it”

Is it true?  Probably not, but it’s funny.

Let’s not be afraid to ask for specific things and when we receive them let’s not be afraid to give credit where credit is due.


A Powerful Church that prayed with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of the word and offered specific requests.


Acts 4:31  After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.


5) They Witnessed the Supernatural Power of God


When was the last time you gathered in prayer and the building you were meeting in started to shake?  “Well Pastor, God used signs and wonders in a different way in the New Testament Church then he does today”


OK, but what do you do with scriptures like Malachi 3:6  “I am the LORD, and I do not change.”?


Is the absence of the visible supernatural in our churches today because God has stopped doing that kind of thing or because we have stopped expecting that Kind of thing?  Now I’m not suggesting for one moment that we need to have our building shake when we pray, I’m not even sure that our insurance company covers that, but I am suggesting that when we pray we pray for results.


Do you remember what they prayed for in Acts 4:29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Now, do you remember the last part of Acts 4:31  After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness.


The miracle wasn’t the building shaking the miracle was that they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  We don’t get results because we don’t pray as we should.


If we want to see Cornerstone fulfil all the great things that God has in store for us then we not only need to be praying as individuals but corporately, that is as a group, we need to be praying together for our church and for our pastoral staff.


We need to pray with one voice, under the sovereignty of God, relying on the truth of his word with specific requests expecting a supernatural response.  And 220 in the afternoon is a great time to do that.


And if we want to see our Country truly be the Dominion of Canada then we need to heed God’s promise when he told us 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.


On this, Canada’s 151st birthday are you praying for our Country?  Are you praying for our leaders?  Paul reminded Timothy of this truth in 1 Timothy 2:1-6  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  This is good and pleases God our Saviour,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.  For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.


Too often when we think of praying for the Government and our rulers we are like the characters in Fiddler on the Roof, when someone asked the Rabbi: if there was a proper blessing for the czar


And the Rabbi responds with these words:


“A blessing for the czar?  Of course!  May God bless and keep the czar… far away from us!”


Do you know why we pray for our leaders?  It’s not so they will do what we think they should do, the Roman government still persecuted Christians even after Paul wrote these words.  Listen again to what Paul tells Timothy 1 Timothy 2:1-2  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.


And you’re thinking the answer is: so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.


But Paul doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say,


Perhaps that could be read, 1 Timothy 2:3-4  This is good and pleases God our Saviour,  who wants Justin to be saved and to understand the truth.


God wants everyone to be saved.  I wonder what would happen if every Christian in Canada was praying for the Prime Minister’s wisdom and salvation?  What if we believed the promise that God’s word will not return void.  That promise is found in the book of Isaiah, in the NLT it reads this way.  Isaiah 55:11  It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.


You may or may not know that shortly after the death of Justin’s younger brother he was invited to attend an Alpha course, and he did, all twelve weeks.  What if the church in Canada prayed that God’s word that was spoken into Justin’s life would bear fruit?


What if we prayed that the supreme court justices would be introduced to Jesus, do you think that would help them make decisions that honoured God and his word?


What if we prayed that everyday Christians would represent Jesus well in their daily lives.


What if those of us who are called by his name humbled ourselves and prayed and sought God’s face?  Do you think that God would keep his promise and would restore our land?  If instead of whining and complaining about the government policies that we don’t like or don’t agree with if we prayed for our leaders, I wonder what would happen?


I can almost guarantee you this if we don’t humble ourselves, seek God’s face and pray then Canada will never be the land that God wants it to be.




Promise of a Return

It was March 21st, 1942 standing in the Terowie Train Station in South Australia, following his retreat from the Philippines that General Douglas MacArthur promised the people of the Philippines “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.


And he did.  Two and a half years later, after wading ashore on the Island of Leyte, MacArthur made a radio broadcast announcing, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”


In the 1984 movie the Terminator, the main Character was rebuffed at a Police station as he looked for Sarah Connor and the Terminator said, “I’ll be back”, and he was.  Just moments later he drove a car through the front doors of the very same police station.  As a matter fact the terminator made that promise again in 1991 and in 2003 and 2009 and 2015.


This is week five of our Pinky Swear:  The Promises of Jesus series.  And through the month of June we’ve been looking at various promises Jesus made in the gospels to those who followed him.


And so, over the past four weeks, we’ve looked at Jesus’ promise of rest, his Promise of the Holy Spirit, His promise of inner peace and last week at his promise of a relationship with God the Father.  A Father who loves us, affirms us and will protect us.


Depending on the translation of the bible that you are using the heading for the scripture that was read earlier could be “The Coming of the Son of Man” or “Jesus foretells the Future” or “Signs of the End of the Age”.  And it is in the chapter that we read Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:30-31  Jesus said “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.  And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”


This, of course, is Jesus’ promise of his return.  Now at this point, you are probably expecting me to break out the charts and the timetables that will pinpoint all of the appropriate events and happenings with an appropriate guess as to when it may happen.


And there was a time that I would have done that.    Oh, did I have charts and timetables.


But the older I get, I don’t know if I become smarter or simply more aware of my ignorance.  Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to be identified with the chart and timetable people.   So, we aren’t going there.


Through the years I’ve come to understand the truth of the statement that William Barclay made about the study of the end times when he said


“The result is that it . . . has sometimes become the playground of religious eccentrics, who use it to map out celestial time-tables of what is to come or find in it evidence for their own eccentricities.”


So, let’s start this morning with what we Don’t Know


Matthew 24:36  Jesus said “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”


We Don’t know when Jesus Will Return


There is a natural curiosity as to when Jesus is coming back.  For the past two thousand years, Christians have been wondering, and the apostles themselves wondered that same thing.


In the book of Mark Jesus had been talking about the end times and the apostles demanded an answer to the question in Mark 13:4  “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”


And in verse 32 of the same chapter Jesus answers them by saying, “It’s none of your business” well actually that isn’t exactly what he said, but it’s close because he says  Mark 13:32  “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.


But that reply hasn’t kept men and women from playing neat little mathematical games with Biblical prophecies over the past two thousand years in an effort to figure out some kind of time frame for the last days.  Through the years many sincere men have sought by various formulas and mathematical techniques, primarily using the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation to arrive at; if not the day and hour of Christ’s arrival then at least the month and year.


500, April 6 – 793, January 1 – 1000, January 1 – 2000, February 20 – 1524, October 22 – 1844, August 7 – 1847, September 28 – 2015 are just some of the various dates that have been suggested for the return of Christ.


Scientist Isaac Newton predicted it would happen in 2000, as did Timothy Dwight a one-time president of Yale University.


The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted that Christ would return in 1914, Hebert W Armstrong of The World Wide Church of God predicated 1935, 1943, 1972 & 1975.


Even John Wesley took a crack at it, predicting that Jesus would return on or around 1836.  Wesley based his prediction on the account of Revelation 12.  Here’s what he wrote in his commentary on Revelation 12:,    “. . . And comparing the prophecy and history together, they seem to begin and end nearly thus:


  1. The non chronos extends from about 800 to 1836
  2. The 1260 days of the woman from 847-1524
  3. The little time 947-1836
  4. The time, time and half 1058-1836 “

I guess they would all agree with Maxwell Smart when he said, “Missed it by that much.”


But the truth of the matter is that neither Isaac Newton nor John Wesley knew when Christ would return and neither does anyone else.


Seven different times in the New Testament it says that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  And how does a thief come?  Well if he is a good thief then he comes very, very quietly.  Now realize that the return of Christ is not what is referred to as the rapture which is the when Christ calls the church to be with him.   And we aren’t going down that rabbit trail today.


Eschatology or the study of the end times is like golf, it’s fun it gives you something to do but in the long run, you end up arriving at the same place you left from.  And just like anything else it can become an obsession and prevent us from doing what we were put here to do and that is to win people to Jesus Christ.


But one thing is certain and that is that Christ will return. It may not have been in 70 or 1836 or 1941 or 2000 but Christ will return.  And when He does, He will be more pleased with the Christian who led one person into a relationship with God than with the person who spent all his time debating and writing books about the end times.


I am a countdown person, probably a character flaw.  When I was a kid I counted down to my birthdays and to Christmas.  I counted down to our wedding date, I counted down to my various graduations, each year I count down to our vacation.  I just do, and I would suspect that I’m not alone.


And that was why Jesus didn’t want the apostle or us to have a date.


Which is why he is very clear when he told the apostles in  Mark 13:32-33  “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.  And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

What part of “No one” don’t some people understand?

Jesus knew if we had a date that we would do the countdown thing, and people would be saying “I have lots of time”.


Jesus made it very plain that the timing of the His return is neither our responsibility nor our business, and personally, I think that we border on blasphemy when we try to wrestle that information from God.


We look very much like Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil so that they could know everything God knew.


So while we don’t know when the return of Christ will happen there are some things we do know.


Let’s start with Jesus statement in Mark 8:38  If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


We Know that Jesus Promised That He Would Return


Biblical scholars tell us that the book of Mark was the first Gospel account put into writing.  And according to Papias, who was one of the early Christian writers and a man who had known some of the apostles personally, Mark had acted as a scribe for Peter.


Now taking that into account if we look into the book of Mark we see Christ making three direct statements referring to the end times.


The first reference was the one I read from Mark 8:38, the second was two days later, after Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem  Mark 13:1  As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”


Boy, it wasn’t hard to tell these guys were CFA’s, that’s Come From Away if you didn’t know.  Talk about a bunch of hicks, Gawking around and staring.  You can almost hear them, “Golly look at them buildings, ain’t got nothing like that in Galilee.”


Can’t say that I blame them I have done a lot of travelling but remember that I grew up in New Brunswick and to me, a big city was Saint John, it had a hotel with 8 stories and two elevators.


So for a few minutes the apostles stood in awe as they looked at the massive temple building in front of them, and then Jesus told them in the next verse Mark 13:2  Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”


Now the disciples didn’t say anything right off but when Peter, Andrew, James and John were on the Mount of Olives they asked Jesus when this would take place.


And in reply, Jesus gave them a three-part answer.  The first part is given in Mark 13:5-13 when Jesus spoke of the tribulation that the Apostles would personally go through.


The second part is found in verses 14-23 and Jesus told them about the tribulation that Jerusalem would go through.  And in 70 AD Jerusalem was totally destroyed by the Romans.  One contemporary source claimed that a man could plough from one corner of Jerusalem to the other without hitting a rock.


And then In Mark 13:26-27  Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.  And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.


There can be no mistaking what Jesus was talking about.  He was saying that there would come a time that he would return, and all of mankind would see him coming.  Which 2000 years ago sounded miraculous that they entire world would see him, but now it’s just everyday technology.


Now then the third instance that Mark records Christ speaking about his return was in Mark 14:61-62  When Jesus was on trial before the high priest, let’s listen in


Mark 14:61-62  But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”


Listen to the response of Christ  Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  Jesus couldn’t have made his message any plainer.


And John records in His gospel the conversation where Jesus is telling the apostles that the time had come for him to leave, and we pick up the story in John 13:36 Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”

But then in the next chapter, only five verses later we read  John 14:3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.


And following the resurrection when Jesus meets the apostles on the beach at the sea of Tiberius.  And it’s here that Jesus asks Peter if he loved him, gave him instructions for leading his church and then gave Peter a little peek at how his life would end.  In response in John 21:21 Peter asks Christ “Hey what about my old buddy John?”  and in John 21:22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

Jesus said “when I return” not “If I return”.

But Jesus saying he was coming again isn’t the end of the story, if we continue to read in the New Testament we discover passages like  Hebrews 9:27-28  And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,  so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

And not only did Jesus promise that he would return, We Know that The Early Church Believed That Jesus Would Return


Through the writing of the New Testament, the church is instructed on the second coming of Christ and corrected some errors on how they viewed the second coming.


John wrote in 1 John 3:2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  Not if he appears, but when he appears.  John was there on multiple instances when Jesus promised to return and time hadn’t dimmed that hope, John was evidently pretty certain that Jesus was coming again.


And it was the same with Peter.


In his second letter, he is dealing with those who claimed that Jesus’ promise of coming again wasn’t a reality.  We pick it up in 2 Peter 3:3-4  Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.  They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”  That sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?  “Sure, Jesus is coming again, the church has been saying that for 2000 years.”


And Peter describes the power of God in the next three verses and then writes, 2 Peter 3:8-9  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.  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.


I often hear believers say they can’t wait until Jesus returns, and while that may be valid, understand he may be waiting until your spouse, child or parent makes a decision to follow Him.


There are people who just this past week accepted Christ’s offer of grace and forgiveness.   What if Jesus had returned eight days ago?


And yet Peter goes on to warn the church that eventually Christ will return   2 Peter 3:10  But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.


And as C.S Lewis’s wrote in relation to the return of Christ “When the Author walks on the stage the play is over!”


When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica he said that people all over the world talked about the faith of the believers there, part of that is recorded in   1 Thessalonians 1:10  And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.


And then later in the letter he writes,  1 Thessalonians 4:13-14  And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  Again, not if Jesus returns, but when Jesus returns.  There was a certainty about the belief that Jesus was coming again.



I don’t know where everybody in this room is spiritually.  I hope that everybody here Is ready for the promise of Jesus’ return to be fulfilled.  But I would suspect that not everybody is.  But you can be.


2 Corinthians 6:2  For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.

And it’s as easy as asking him.