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Sunday, 29 July 2012


Rev. Juliet Schimp
-by Rev. Juliet Schimpf   

Rev. Juliet Schimpf  is the Minister of 
First Baptist  Church in Perth, Ontario:

LINK to CFRA broadcast of Sunday, July 29th, 2012)

Broadcast Notes:


*  Definition of “guardrails” (taken from the work of Andy Stanley):
*  A system designed to keep vehicles from straying    into dangerous or off-limit areas.
*  Nobody pays attention to guardrails, unless you need one.  Invisible part of our driving experience.
*  3 main areas for guardrails:  bridges (little margin for error); medians (when close    to others moving in opposite direction); curves (unexpected conditions in
roadside  conditions).
*  guardrails are not located on the most dangerous part of the road; they are in place a few feet from the most
dangerous part--theory of guardrail:  keep us from moving into the area of will do less
            damage to yourself and the car if you hit the guardrail
            *  Guardrails are in place to protect us when we drive: 
            they both direct and protect

* According to Chris Stevens, a “guardrail” applied to our own lives can be defined as the following: "A personal standard of behaviour that becomes a matter of conscience."
*  Personal "guardrails" guide your conscience.  Standards of behaviour that, if you violate, you will feel guilty (i.e. your conscience is bothered).  If you "bump up against it", your conscience is pricked, and you receive a warning regarding finances, dating, marriage, etc.
*  We need to set up some "personal guardrails" so that we have some "conscience crashes" before heading head-on into the terminal areas.
* The Proverbs located within the Bible are like guardrails:  when applied to our lives, they direct us and protect us.



*  The book of Proverbs belongs to what scholars call the "wisdom literature" of the Old Testament, which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes
*  In 1:1, 10:1, and 25:1, we're told that King Solomon is the author of the proverbs in this book.  But other servants, guided by God's Spirit, were also involved in producing this book.  "The men of Hezekiah" (Proverb 25:1) were a group of scholars in King Hezekiah's day (700 BC) who compiled the material recorded in chapters 25-29.  In Proverbs 30 and 31, you meet "Agur the son of Jakeh" and "King Lemuel" (although many scholars think "Lemuel" was another name for Solomon.  Bottom line:  most of the material in this book of the Bible came from King Solomon.
*  The Book of Proverbs is all about wisdom:  the words "wise" and "wisdom" are used at least 125 times, because the aim of the book is to help us acquire and apply god's wisdom to the decisions and activities of daily life.
*  Derek Kidner:  "The book of Proverbs opens by breaking up the plain daylight of wisdom into its rainbow of constituent colours.  These all shade into one another, and any one of them can be used to represent the whole; yet there is some value in seeing them momentarily analysed and grouped."
*  1:2a, 3a:  "Instruction" or "training"--the first synonym for wisdom, giving notice at once that wisdom will be hard-won, a quality of character as much as of the mind
* 1:2b:  The second synonym for wisdom is "understanding" or "insight"--and it usually appears alongside the words "discern between" (e.g. "discern between good and evil")
*  1:3a:  The third synonym is "wise dealing"--i.e. good sense, practical wisdom, savoir-faire...Its particular character shows in its verb-form, which often means        "be successful"
*  1:4a:  “shrewdness and “discretion”:  the godly woman or man is in the best sense a man of affairs, who takes the trouble to know his way about, and plan his course realistically
*  1:5  "knowledge" and “learning"--implying not so much an informed mind as a knowing of truth and     indeed of God himself

*  Wisdom is no respector of persons.  It is available to everyone--regardless of race, wealth, profession, even intelligence!
*  Education does not necessarily yield wisdom:  I've   met educated fools, and uneducated sages.
*  Intelligence does not necessarily yield wisdom:  I've met intelligent fools, and I've met unintelligent sages.
*  Aging does not necessarily yield wisdom:  I've met   foolish elderly folks, and I've met wise young people.
*  Your past does not necessarily hinder your wisdom.  If you have done something foolish; do not despair:  Proverbs 8:1-4  "Wisdom has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; 'Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!  To him who lacks understanding she says, Come, eat of my food..."

Here's the “big idea” of this book is located in 1:7  "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
* There are at least 18 references to "the fear of the Lord" in Proverbs. 
            *  Charles Bridges:  "But what is this fear of the Lord?  It is that affectionate reverence by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father's law.  His wrath is so bitter, and His love so sweet; that hence springs an earnest desire to please Him, and--because of the danger of coming short from his own weakness and temptations--a holy watchfulness and fear 'that he might not sin against Him."
            *  Several benefits to "the fear of the Lord"--let me highlight just a few:

                        a.  Proverbs 10:27  "The fear of the Lord prolongs life,                                         but the years of the wicked will be shortened."
b.  Proverbs 3:7  "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones."

*  Wisdom was an important commodity in the ancient Near East.  Every ruler had his council of "wise men" whom he consulted when making important decisions--Joseph was considered a wise man in Egypt and Daniel and his friends were honored for their wisdom while serving in Babylon. 
*  God wants His children today to acquire wisdom:  Ephesians 5:15  "walk circumspectly [carefully], not as fools but as wise"
*  To the ancient Jew, wisdom was much more than simply good advice:
*  Dr.  Roy Zuck's definition:  "Wisdom meant being skillful and successful in one's relationships and responsibilities...observing and following the Creator's principles of order in the moral universe."
*  The word translated "knowledge" comes from a Hebrew root that describes skill in hunting (Gen. 25:27), sailing (2 Chron. 8:18), and playing a musical instrument (1 Sam. 16:16). 
*  The Hebrew root for "learning" means "to lay hold of, to grasp, to acquire or buy."
            *  The word translated "counsel" is related to the verb "to steer a ship"

The “basic test” concerning wisdom is for the person with knowledge to simultaneously obey God.  Let’s look at the life example of Solomon to see whether or not he passed the “basic test”.

*  God gave Solomon great wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-15), so that people came from the ends of the earth to listen to him and returned home amazed (1 Kings 4:29-34; Matt. 12:42)

*  God blessed the first 20 years of Solomon's reign.  He had peace on every side of his kingdom, God blessed him with wealth (an annual income equivalent to $ 328 million in our day); he completed the temple that David his father instructed him to build; he designed and built for himself a magnificent palace.

*  Solomon did not pay attention to the road signs--to the speed limits!

*  SIN 1:  he did not trust the protection of Lord:  God forbade the kings of Israel from accumulating horses and chariots because those could lead a king away from trusting olely in the Lord as his protector (Deut. 17:16)  But Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses (1 Kings 4:26)
*  SIN 2:  he did not trust the provision of the Lord.  The Lord forbade the kings of Israel from marrying foreign women and from amassing large amounts of wealth (Deut. 17:17), but Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) And he amassed great wealth!

*It would seem, then, that Solomon failed “the basic test” concerning wisdom—namely, he did not apply his knowledge to his life in a way that obeyed and honored God.

*  The first 9 chapters of Proverbs form a unit in which the emphasis is on "wisdom" and "folly" personified as two women:

Proverbs 1:20-23  "Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square.  At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:  "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?  And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you..."

*  In chapters 1, 8, and 9, Wisdom calls to men and women to follow her and enjoy salvation, wealth, integrity, truth, and life. 
*  In chapters 5, 6, 7, folly calls to the same people and offers them immediate satisfaction but doesn't warn them of the tragic consequences of rejecting Wisdom: condemnation, poverty, wickedness, deceit, and death.

*  According to Andy Stanley, “THE PRINCIPLE OF THE PATH” is the following:  “Direction--not intention--determines our destination”

*           It is the direction that you are currently traveling—
relationally, financially, spiritually—that will determine where you end up in each of those respective areas.  This is true regardless of your goals, your hopes, your education, your dreams, your wishes, or your wants.  The principle of the path trumps all those things." 

*  Think of high level government officials who fall from scandal:  John Edwards, the former U.S. Senator.  How did he suddenly fall?  Actually, there was nothing sudden about his undoing.  His fall was inevitable, and the end of this story was determined years ago when he chose a path that, from the beginning, had dishonor, disgrace, and dismissal as the destination.
*  NASB  Proverbs 27:12  "A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naive proceed and pay the penalty."  [NLT  A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.  The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”]

*  There's always something about the alternate routes that is powerfully appealing:  it promises shortcuts or more direct and oftentimes pleasurable routes to wherever it is we are trying to go:

            “zero percent financing and no money down...”
            “she makes me feel like I used to feel....”
            “he's mean to me....but he's rich....”
            “that's how business is done here.....”
            “no payments for twelve months....”

*  But the Bible challenges us to follow God’s path.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths."

And so, friends, we need to choose the right path, today. We need to choose the path of wisdom, not folly. Because it is direction (that’s where we’re headed) ---and not intention – that will determine our ultimate destination.

As you can see, the Book of Proverbs is very helpful for directing our lives. Would you join with me in the coming days and weeks to live a life that chooses Proverbs, and chooses wisdom over folly?

Remember the big idea was to fear the Lord; and the basic test was to obey the Lord once He has given us wisdom, and then the best path wisdom over folly.

Would you join with me in prayer?

“Our gracious and Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word. We thank you that it guides us and protects us just like guardrails protect vehicles along the road.

Our Heavenly Father, we need wisdom, badly. We live in a falling world and we need your wisdom, and we ask for it this hour. God I pray for that listener who has not yet surrendered his or her life to you. I pray that they would stop running from you, and just give up and admit that you are God and we are not.

God, we pray this hour that we will love wisdom, and that we will fear the Lord at all times, for that is the beginning of wisdom. Forgive us, Lord, for the pride in our lives; for thinking that we can muster up intelligence. We know that isn’t true. James tells us that the wisdom that is pure and true, actually comes from above, not below; and so, Lord, we cry out for your wisdom. We choose this hour to fear you above all else. Help us, God, to obey, once we cry out for your wisdom. Help us to obey your tenets, to obey your word, for that is the basic test.

And lastly, help us to get on the right path. I’m praying, right now, for that listener who knows that he or she is on the wrong path. Maybe they’re just walking headlong into massive debt. Or maybe they’re seeking love in all the wrong place, perhaps even outside of marriage. I pray that that person would immediately, right now, be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and know that he or she is on the path of folly.

God, we thank you that you are merciful, and that you are the God of a thousand fresh chances; and so I pray that you just gently get us back on the right path: namely the path of wisdom. For we want our lives to bring glory to you in all we say and do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Rev. Juliet Scimpf

To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link:

Sunday, 22 July 2012


PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, July 22nd, 2012:

Rev. Brian Wilkie
by Rev. Brian Wilkie      

Pastor of St. Andrew's United Church, Rockland, Ontario

Broadcast Notes:
‘The Certainty of God’s Promise

Today our theme is “The Certainty of God’s Promise
Our Reading from the word of God is taken from the second of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Let me just put this into context for a moment: Paul is apologizing to the Corinthians for a change in plans the kept him from visiting Corinth as they had expected. He is clearly concerned that some of his detractors will insinuate that Paul cannot be trusted to keep his word. In this passage he reveals that he has tried to be reliable in every way, as a servant of a faithful and trustworthy Lord.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.  For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Because I was confident of this, I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice. I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia, and then to have you send me on my way to Judea. When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say, “Yes, yes” and “No, no”?
But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Co 1:12–22 NIV).

God is dependable. The whole life of faith depends on his trustworthiness.
Jesus teaching is that our words should always be true: in fact Paul here echoes the teaching of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel where he insists:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Mt 5:33–37).

With God a “yes” is yes, and a “no” is no. No oath adds to the certainty of his words, and no lack of oath takes away. God stands by what he speaks. And so should we, according to the teaching of our Lord. We ought to be careful what we speak, for Jesus himself says that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. Moreover, as Paul recognizes in his dealing with the Corinthians, a broken promise from the lips of Christ’s ambassador has great power to undermine the credibility of the Gospel.
Credibility is earned by keeping our word, not just by making promises. I often hear husbands admit that they laboured under the illusion that they could make a happy home by offering to do the unwelcome chores, and by promising to make special improvements for their spouse. Happy is the man who learns quickly that brownie points are earned, not by making promises, but by keeping them!

The apostle Paul did find himself in the awkward position of disappointing the expectation of the Corinthians, and he wanted to assure them that he makes every effort to come through on his plans. But in doing so he contrasts his one breach of expectation with the absolute dependability of the Lord. And it’s the absolute dependability of the Lord that we are going to explore today.

  • Jesus Christ is always “Yes” – he confirms every promise of God.

o Salvation from the opening chapters of Genesis
o Promise to David, that his descendent would have an everlasting throne
o Promise to Abraham, to bless all the nations through him.
o Promises of the Messiah; that he would carry our sorrows, and bear our iniquities.
o Even The darker promises that Sin would be punished, and ultimately destroyed 

  • His faithfulness in making us stand firm.
  • Paul makes a point of showing the lengths God has gone to, in order that we might be assured of his faithfulness.
  • At other times he speaks of the Cross, of the long history of salvation, of the continuing ministry of Christ, but here he speaks of what the gift of the Spirit signifies in the believers’ life.
o Anointed: chosen- like King David, or Jesus Christ himself (Christ means anointed.) chosen in love.
o Strengthened: the spirit makes us stand firm. How often our strength, even our faith wavers, but the Spirit carries us. Even when we falter the Spirit does not depart.
o Seals us: a seal on a Jar preserves the contents, and so it is with us: the spirit preserves us, keeps us in the grace of God. But Paul likely has in mind the seal that makes a contract binding, a king’s signet pressed into sealing wax to confirm that His authority has been given to fulfill this matter.  It is even a seal of ownership such as on a deed of property, declaring, “This is Mine!” It is like brand, an irreversible mark, revealing to which flock this creature belongs.
o The Spirit is a deposit, an earnest as the KJV reads.  An earnest is the old word for deposit: when ordering from a store a sum of money was put on deposit to demonstrate that the buyer was “earnest” about desiring the product.
§The Spirit as a deposit implies a greater fulfilment in the future!
o The spirit as a guarantee.
  •  In so many ways the spirit of God is given to us to assure us that God has saved us, and will keep us to the end.
  • The promise that he will complete the work begun in us. The promise to transform us!! There is no getting out of holiness, if God has put his spirit in you!
  • That we have the spirit is certain, for the bible teaches that all who receive Christ have received the Spirit of Christ. Do you confess Jesus as Lord? Only the Spirit of God can put that serious confession on your lips! Do you believe that God raised his Son Jesus from the death, confirming that in his sacrifice on the cross the love of God set aside your guilt? Then you are saved! And the promises of God, and the multiple assurances of the spirit are yours.
  • Now there are two applications of this truth.
o First is the application Paul is making right at this time: How reliable are you? Do you shrug off mistakes with a careless declaration that “I’m only human”? Paul does not wallow in his guilt, but he makes it clear that his credibility is of great importance. He failed to keep an appointment, and he is worried, not about how it will reflect on him, but on how it reflects on the preaching of the Gospel.  We too have to consider this. When we speak without knowledge, deviate from our promises, allow careless words to fall from our lips we reduce our credibility when we would speak of the things of first importance.  – cheating at games “it’s just a game” – but if someone will lie when nothing is at stake, what will they do when important matters are at hand? So promise little but deliver much. Speak carefully, and prove trustworthy in little things so that you will be trusted in greater matters. Like Paul we must own up when we have not kept our word, and demonstrate how seriously we are trying to be sincere. It’s a hard teaching but really quite important.
o The second application is one of assurance. I always like a message that reminds me of God’s faithfulness, and so I give this to you. If God is faithful we need never despair. We can persevere against all odds. In prayer, in service, in preaching and witness. In forgiving, and in seeking forgiveness from God. 
§  From Moody Bible Institute’s Pastors’ Conference,  Stuart Briscoe preaching: Christ’s victory parade- many great insights, but the oddest thing struck me as encouraging: in a Roman victory parade the captives followed the Lord’s chariot, roped together and fastened to the chariot. Stuart used the phrase “carried forward by the momentum of the Victor’s chariot.“ Now for a prisoner, that image may be degrading, but for one being led to freedom and eternal life in the Kingdom of God, what an encouraging thought! I cannot be left behind! Even if my strength fails completely, I will be carried forward by the momentum of his triumph!
§  Never Give up! Never give up! God is never going to give up on you!

Would you pray with me? 

Loving God, Thank you for your eternal faithfulness. Thank you for your endless grace. Lord, keep us; and as you keep us, keep us hopeful. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

May you know Jesus Christ personally and profoundly. May the Holy Spirit reside deep within your heart.  And may the heavenly Father surround you with his constant and abiding and accompanying love.

Rev. Brian Wilkie
To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link:

Sunday, 15 July 2012


PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, July 15th, 2012:

Rev. Brian Wilkie
by Rev. Brian Wilkie      

Pastor of St. Andrew's United Church, Rockland, Ontario

Broadcast Notes:
‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Today our theme is “Forgiveness and Reconciliation”
Our Reading from the word of God is taken from the second of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, (2 Corinthians 5:14-15), as he talks about his mission, and indeed the mission of all believers:

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

 “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
“I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. “   - 2 Corinthians 5:14–6:2  (NIV).

There is no doubt that forgiveness is central to the message of the Gospel, and to the life of the believer. The bible overflows with the message of forgiveness. God is described over and over, in awestruck tones, as the God who forgives sin and pardons sinners. The principle characters of Scripture turn to God for mercy, for their own sins, and for the sins of their people, and they find mercy. Jesus teaches us to recognize our need for forgiveness, to pray for forgiveness and to earnestly forgive others who have sinned against us.

What is forgiveness? Releasing letting go. It is letting go of vengeance, punishment, relinquishing the claim to repayment. To forgive is to suffer loss- that is to say it is to write off the loss.  Consider the parable of the two servants, Jesus told this parable to teach about the connection between forgiving others, and being forgiven. – expand. – the master who forgives, is suddenly out of pocket  the full amount of the debt.  – debt forgiveness is not an easy thing! corporations write off debt, and shareholders suffer.
     Forgiveness is clearly important, and yet it is really only a part of the process. Forgiveness has a purpose, It is a means to another goal,
          The Goal of God in forgiving us is to reconcile us to himself. Jesus died on the Cross so that we could live eternally with him. How pitiable the person who seems to think that now their sins are forgiven they have no further need of God! Yes there are such people. 

·         Forgiveness is a step toward setting us free from sin. Our guilt and alienation from God are part of the mechanism that keeps us in bondage to sin.

All these things emphasise that forgiveness plays just one part in the larger picture of salvation. Today I want to explore with you the connection between forgiveness and reconciliation.

We must forgive our brother from our heart.

·         Problem:  you don’t forgive others in order to feel better.  That’s a popular notion, that it’s not about them, it’s about you. –(Yet forgiveness does benefit you)

·         You can’t say “I forgive you but I won’t have anything to do with you.” Imagine if God acted like that? Forgiveness would be no use at all!

·         So Forgiveness means willingness to reconcile, 

·         Do you love the person you are forgiving? Do you want them to be free from sin, reconciled to God. Do you want them to be fitted for heaven, blessed by God, and free from guilt and sin?

·         Can you be angry and forgive? Can you be hurting and forgive? Illustration: Patricia- deeply hurt, finding it hard to forgive.  Willing to be made willing. Because Patricia, so deeply hurt, was able to forgive, I am much more confident of this message, than I was as a younger preacher.

·         Can you forgive someone who hasn’t repented? How is that different? – When you forgive them, you know that in order for them to benefit from this second chance they will need to repent. 

·         Can you forgive multiple repeated sins (70 times 7) 

·         How can we help someone come to repentance? Pray for workers in the harvest, maybe keep them from temptation! Pray for wisdom. Remember how God led us: Romans 2:4 “His kindness leads you toward repentance”.

·         And once they do come to repentance!!!! Patience, rebuilding trust. Confronting your own anger. Any desire to make them suffer, should be supplanted by the desire to see them grow in faithfulness. 

Let’s not forget that this is exactly how God has treated us. While we were yet sinners Jesus died for the ungodly. God forgave us, and in his grace he has worked long and hard to bring us to repentance. Having received Jesus we have consented to a transforming work to root out all sinfulness within us, so that we can be fitted for eternal life.  How incredibly patient God has been while waiting for sinners to repent.  He has decided to bless us, both tenderly and firmly leading us to repentance.

I encourage you to learn from the loving kindness of God; to turn to Him even more fully, and especially in this area of forgiving others; asking God to forgive them with the same kindness that He has led you out of sin.

Let us pray:
Thank you Father, that while we were yet sinners, you loved us and you forgave us of our sin; and you led us to repentance and a new relationship with you. Lord, let us trust you with the rest: to follow your commands, to forgive others, and to lead them with kindness to your grace. 
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Rev. Brian Wilkie
To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link:

Sunday, 8 July 2012


PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, July 8th, 2012:

Rev. Brent Russett
God wants you to THRIVE’ 

By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:                

            I want to talk about something that I believe is written deep within the heart of God. It is this: God wants us to thrive. God really wants us as human beings to thrive.  In fact Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” -(John 10:10b). This morning I want us to see more clearly the plan that God has for us.

            I don’t know about you but I have some days where it seems like the sun is shining, there is a bounce in my step, and it feels like I am on top of the world. But there are other days, days when I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders. I don’t feel like I am thriving – in fact I feel lucky to be just surviving.

            That is why I am so glad we have God’s word. God’s word reveals God’s heart for our lives. The best view of God’s heart comes when you look at his son Jesus. Jesus said of himself, “If you have seen me, you have seen the father”. When you see Jesus’ attitude toward things, you can see God’s attitude towards things.

            With that in mind I want to take a Jesus story found in Mark chapter 3. I am reading it from the NLT

3: 1Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

            Remember if you have seen Jesus you have seen the father.

            Jesus walks into the synagogue and he noticed the man with the deformed hand. The easiest thing would have been to pretend to not notice the man. Or at least not to make this man’s business his business.

            He knows what was going on in the heart of his enemies. They wanted to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. They want to accuse him of being a law breaker.

            But Jesus doesn’t take the easy way. He seldom will let sleeping dogs lie. In fact he shines a light on them. He says to the man, come and stand in front of everyone.

            Now the clash of values is profound, Jesus cares about the man with the withered hand, his enemies care about keeping the law – or at least their interpretation of the law.

            Watch how Jesus frames the argument.  “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? In Jesus mind, healing this man would be good, doing nothing for this man on this day would be doing evil.  He goes on to frame the argument a little further. Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?  In Jesus’ mind healing this man’s hand was saving his life, leaving it as it was, was destroying it.

            Now step back for a moment. It was a deformed hand. Of all the miracles Jesus did, maybe this was, in the natural, the least consequential. Leprosy, blindness, paralysis these are the big one. This guy has one hand that doesn’t work. Sure that is problematic, but it seems like Jesus is saying, if I don’t heal this man today, that would be doing evil. If I don’t heal this man today I would be destroying life rather than saving it.

It is in the heart of God to save life. It is in the heart of God to give fullness of life. Jesus is showing us God’s heart.

            God’s heart is that we would know the fullness of goodness. God’s heart is that we would know the fullness of life – body soul and spirit.

            So Jesus asks his questions.  “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But the people would not answer him.

            Now catch this next verse. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Remember Jesus is exposing the heart of God.

            Why was Jesus angry? Jesus was angry because they were using a law that was intended for good to thwart good and actually promote evil. They were using a law to destroy life rather than to save it. They were using a law to promote death and thwart life. All of that made him angry.

            The bottom line was they were trying to get in the way of Jesus doing good – and in Jesus mind that was really problematic. Jesus wanted this man to thrive – and they were getting in the way.

            If you were this man’s mother, or best friend, and you saw the dynamics going on here you would be angry too. Things that get in the way of people thriving make Jesus angry. Why? Well if you really love people, then of course you are going to be angry when things get in the way of them thriving.

            Remember, Jesus is exposing the heart of God.

            What are the things that make you fail to thrive? Now I recognize that when I ask that question that it becomes very easy to blame others. If my boss was better, if my finances were better, if my marriage was better – those may all be valid things. I also recognize that  many times when I am tempted to blame others, I am failing to thrive, not so much because of what was done to me, as it was my response of what was done to me.  So I want to encourage you not to go there too quickly.

            Some times it is my handling of money, my attitude towards what is going wrong, my stuff that gets in the way of relationship.

            I also realize that many of things that cause us to fail to thrive are past messages and past hurts. The messages you tell yourself about yourself. “I’m a failure. I can never do anything right, I am so stupid and the messages go on. –Some of you have been caught by legalism and you are stymied by messages that you heard growing up.

            Some of you have been hurt by the church. Some of you have been hurt by clergy. What do you think Jesus would think of those things. Those things that get in the way of you thriving.

            Back to verse 5
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

            Now please hear this, Jesus is not angry at you, but he is angry at the things that get in the way of you thriving.

                        He looked at his enemies, and was deeply saddened.  He was angry at what they were doing, he was saddened for them. He was saddened at the hardness of their hearts. He was saddened that they couldn’t see what God’s plans and purposes were, and so they were stuck in this trap of promoting death rather than life.

            You would think, these people are his enemies, why should he care. But if your son or daughter were to astray, and were doing stuff that brought them death, you would be deeply saddened. If your enemies were doing something that were poisoning them, you might be secretly glad. Jesus was not glad. Jesus, exposing the heart of God, loves those who stand opposed to him. They are his enemies, he is not their enemy.

            Think about this, all life comes from God and is sustained by God. So God is actively sustain the lives of those who are doing their best to thwart his purposes. That is grace.

            In this vignette of Jesus‘ life, Jesus really loves and cares for the man with the deformed hand but he also really loves his enemies. His heart is that they would both thrive.

            Jesus said in John 10:10 The thief comes only to kill steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.

            Jesus wants you to have full abundant life. God cares about the diet I am on right now. God cares about what you watch and listen too. God cares about how you deal with your money. God cares about how you use your free time. God cares about you having great times with friends. God cares about your career and how you do in it—and how fulfilled you are in it. God wants you at a level that you can really thrive – He wants you in the sweet spot.

            I believe that many of us fail to see many of those parts of our lives as only tangential to the purposes of God. Going to church is spiritual – going to a good party where there is celebration and joy – that is not. – that is not scriptural thinking.

            And you know what? I think God is deeply grieved over the hardness of our hearts and mediocrity of our lives. He wants so much more for us.

            But here is what you need to know about becoming really alive, about thriving. The opposite to thriving is sin. The bible says that sin brings death. The reason why God hates sin so much is that sin brings death – and death is against everything that God is.

            The reason why Jesus came and died on the cross is to take your sin and my sin, so that we could really live.

            I know that sometimes we think that if were just to indulge in sin, that that would be real living.      Sin will never get you to where you want to go. Don’t get me wrong, sin is tempting – and some sins are more tempting for you than they are for me – and some sins are more tempting to me than they are for you. The temptation is always, if I indulge I will thrive more.

            If I could get hook up or misuse power or get unearned money; If I could indulge in pornography, or drunkenness, or overeating; If I could manipulate that person, or that situation, or blow my stack – it will feel better. I will thrive, at least in the short term. Some sin does allow you to thrive in the short term. But sin has a shelf life--- some a shelf life of moments, others has a shelf life of a few years. But sin always leads to a failure to thrive.

            Many of you now are failing to thrive now. You know your heart is burdened down. But remember God’s heart. God’s heart is that you would really thrive.

            Some of you are thinking that if sin brings death, that I must really be dying. I have done a lot of bad things. The reality is that sin disconnects your with God – and whenever you are disconnected from God your soul will shrivel and it will die.

            The bad news is this, you can’t do anything about your sin. Some people try to make their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. Some people try to earn they way into God’s good graces. It doesn’t work like that.

            The only way to deal with you sin is through Jesus. Remember his heart. He wants you to thrive. Sin will block you from thriving. Jesus came to take away your sin, and give you real life. All you have to do is ask. Tell Jesus that you want his plan for your life. Tell him you want to really thrive. Ask him to take your sin away. Tell him that you will follow him, because he knows the way of life. When you do that you are on the path way to thriving.

            I know that there are many of you who are on the pathway already. Some of you see God’s heart, and you see your life and you see the road blocks to thriving. I know some of you have some really difficult situations right now.

            God does not promise to change your circumstances, but God does want to give you life where you are. He is able to give peace in the middle of turmoil. He is able to give a sense of well being even in the middle of grief. He is able to give you joy, peace, love. God wants you to thrive.
            I want to invite you just to pray this simple prayer along with me:

Dear Jesus, I see there are areas in my life where I am failing to thrive.
I need you to come into my life, forgive me of my sin and to put me on this pathway to life, full and abundant. That is what you promised and that is what I want.
God, help me to follow you into the life that is really life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

- Rev. Brent Russett

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