Back to the Garden

Read portions of Genesis 2:7-3:24 to start.

In 1969, there was a large music festival held near the town of Bethel, New York. This was of course the Woodstock festival, which was the biggest music festival that had ever happened up to that point, and remains easily the most famous gathering of that type in history. Dozens of musicians and hundreds of thousands of people attended, and it is considered a watershed moment of an entire generation.

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Correction and Discipline

Read Proverbs 23:12-19 to start.

When I was a kid, I frequently had the opportunity to spend time at my friends’ houses. That’s pretty normal for most children I would think, unless they don’t have any friends. The reason I bring this up is because I remember at one house in particular, and I won’t tell you whose house because many of you would know him, or at least know the family, but at this one house there was a sign posted on the fridge. It was there as a joke, no doubt, written as it was in old-fashioned script letters, and I’ve seen the same thing printed on T-shirts more recently. Posted on their refrigerator was the motto Beatings will continue until morale improves.

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Evaluation and Condemnation

Read Matthew 7:1-20 to start.

When I was younger, there was a topic that many of my friends and I were frequently concerned with. It kept coming up, and was never adequately resolved, because some people took a firm stance on one side, and some on the other side. Some people did not care either way, and some said that it was too difficult to really tell the difference. I recall once actually testing some friends to see if their imagined preferences actually lined up with reality, and could they tell the difference.

This is not some great and important spiritual or philosophical matter. This is not about right versus wrong. This is about Coke versus Pepsi.

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A Prudent Man

Proverbs 22:3 & 27: 12 A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Sometimes when you read scripture you might encounter a verse and think that it sounds familiar. This can apply to well known verses as well as less familiar ones. For example, if you read John 3:15, that would sound very familiar indeed, because John 3:15 says 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. That no doubt sounds like something you’ve heard many times before, something that comes one exactly one verse later. The verses we read from Proverbs are of course not so well known. Some time ago when reading Proverbs I read chapter 27 and thought that verse 12 sounded like something I had read a few chapters earlier, which of course it did. It didn’t just sound similar, it was in fact the same. The two verses are a word-for-word match. To be sure of this checked and confirmed that the same Hebrew words are used in both verses.

This is not a sermon about repeated verses, although that could be an interesting topic for another day. This is a sermon about the verses we read, and what it means to be prudent, and what it means to be not so prudent. Continue reading A Prudent Man

Roles, Reminders, and Responsibilities

Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-18 to start.

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. This is not a sermon about spiritual gifts. Not that that would not be a worthwhile topic, and probably one that we could all benefit from learning more about. I’m sure I could. Maybe some day I’ll preach a sermon about spiritual gifts. They say that the best way to learn about a topic is to teach it to someone else, and I think there is a lot of truth in that. Continue reading Roles, Reminders, and Responsibilities

Darkness, Lies, Truth, and Light

1 John 1: 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Continue reading Darkness, Lies, Truth, and Light

Authority, Divine or Otherwise

Read Psalm 91 to start. Then open in prayer.

1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. 5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; 6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. 8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. 11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. 13 Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. 14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. 15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. 16 With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

The passage we just read is actually one of my favourite Psalms. I’m not doing a study on that Psalm today, but we are going to reference part of it in a few minutes. But right now, I have question to ask. Have you ever heard the term confirmation bias? It’s something we all experience, but may not realize it. When we encounter new information, we tend to use it to confirm what we already think. What’s more, confirmation bias says that we are a lot more likely to listen to answers that we already agree with or expect. We hear what we want to hear. We interpret things to agree with us, and we generally want to hear voices that agree with us. This is a common and normal thing, we generally don’t like to be challenged about what we think, what we believe. Continue reading Authority, Divine or Otherwise

Location and Loyalty

Let’s talk for a moment about invitations. We associate them these days with weddings and with children’s birthday parties in particular, but there are all sorts of invitations. I recently, well, back six months ago, received an invitation to a wedding in Calgary. It was for my cousin’s son’s wedding, someone who I hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years, he must have been in kindergarten back then, don’t think I’d recognize him on the street unless he was holding a sign that read “Hey Marko, my mom is your cousin”, and even then, it might take a minute. I was not expecting to be invited to his wedding.

When it came, I assumed it was just a courtesy invite, they were inviting all the relatives, and they were not expecting us to travel out to Alberta on the Canada Day weekend. I promptly forgot to actually RVSP. At least until I got a message from my cousin in April wondering if we’d be able to make it. Apparently it was a real invitation, and they were quite prepared to have us, kids and all. Not that it was viable to go, mind you, but the invitation was real. Continue reading Location and Loyalty

The Valley of Decision

Read Joel 3: 11-14 to start. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. 12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.13 Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

Let’s talk for a moment about geography. Not about nations and borders, but about land, and topography, the actual surface of the earth. Ever look at a topographical map? It’s a map that shows the land features rather than the political lines, showing the height of hills and mountains, that sort of thing. When you think about valleys, that’s the sort of geography we’re talking about.

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Rulers, Respect, and Responsibility

10 A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment. 11 A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work. 12 It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness. 13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right. 14 The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it. 15 In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.

Who here has ever wanted to be a king? Or queen, or emperor, or president, or any other title you can think of, really, for that matter. I don’t mean any sort of serious intention here, I can’t imagine that anyone has actually taken steps to try to become royalty, but more of a fanciful wish or a dream. We probably all have had that thought. I know I have. Oh, to be king for a day. It sounds so very wonderful. The things you would do, the things you would change. The things you could fix, the problems you could solve. Continue reading Rulers, Respect, and Responsibility