Here for a Time Such as This!
The Best of Times and the Worst of Times Then!
We live in unprecedented days, friends. I don’t want to sound alarmist or sensational, but we live in days of incredible social upheaval, challenges that seemingly undermine our way of life.
But we are also living in times of incredible opportunities.
In some ways hasn’t that always been the way of the Gospel?
Think back to the times of the New Testament for a moment and you will quickly realize this.
The early Christians were a brand new group known in the societies of their day as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5) and “followers of the way” (Acts 9:2). They were ordinary people who were muzzling their way into very crowded rooms, full of various religious beliefs including some very entrenched and dominating religions such as Judaism and Emperor Worship.
You try muzzling your way into such crowded field and see what happens.
In those days, it resulted in considerable push back and outright persecution against this new religious group, especially since it demanded absolute allegiance with no accommodation to any other religious expression.
In other words, becoming a follower of Jesus was such an absolute commitment that you could not say Caesar is Lord and Jesus is Lord in the same breath anymore than you could become circumcised so as to be Jewish while claiming to follow Jesus.
So, in many ways, these were the worst of times for the believers but also the best of times because times of great adversity meant all hands on deck and a radical commitment to follow Jesus with “hangeroners” soon having fallen off the wagon.
It wasn’t worth being a half-baked Christian in those days, so you either jumped on the bandwagon or you didn’t bother at all. The cost was just too high.
The result was that a radical group of believers arose, who laid it all on the line as they pushed the Gospel outward in concentric circles.
Obviously enough, people were drawn to this radical faith so that thousands were added to their numbers so much so that the cultural ground tilted toward a Christian worldview.
So, while it might have been the worst of times, it was also the best of times.
The Worst of Times Today!
Now fast forward to the year 2015 and think about the global situation and the shifting sands of our culture and way of life, and you would have to acknowledge that this is also, in some ways, the worst of times.
At one point in our past we felt safe and our way of life felt somehow protected. Our Judeo Christian world would continue and with it the promise of prosperity for all as a birthright.
So much has changed. 9/11 changed geopolitical realities, 2008 changed our economic foundations, and we are still struggling with both.
On the economic front, we have incredibly fragile economies with many of them intricately interconnected. We are barely treading water in Canada, with every sneeze from China sending chills down our spine. Much of Europe is in far worse shape than us.
While we may be facing economic uncertainty, the greatest struggle of our time relates back to September 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists took 3000 lives and caused $10 billion worth of damage in what now is called 9/11.
You can easily link recent events such as the mass upheaval of entire societies in these last months in places such as Syria, Iraq, North Africa and the Middle East directly back to events at 9/11 resulting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people fleeing as refugees and in the process changing the social landscape of Europe.
9/11 has ushered in what some have called the clash of civilizations. While that might sound alarmist or sensational, there is no doubt that the hundreds of thousands of refugees (which has been called the biggest migration of people since WW2) is a result of the rise of the militant Islamic State.
With migrating humanity threatening to swamp social infrastructures in Europe, we brace ourselves for a flood of people at both sides of the pond.
We fear the worst, as they bring with them their religion, way of life, language and culture.
In many ways, this is unprecedented and we are entering what seems like new waters.
So, in some ways, these are very challenging times as we see the sands of change shifting under our feet.
The Best of Times Today!
But in many ways these are also the best of times because with these platonic shifts underway, and with it great feelings of uncertainty, come incredible Gospel opportunities both here and abroad.
In some ways. these are some of the most strategic days that we have ever had.
In times of great upheavals come great opportunities, and perhaps God has us here for a time such as this.
This is really similar to the days of the early church. If you think that the first century was the worst possible moment for the Good News of Jesus to come into the world, you need to realize that in many ways it was the best of times.
People were starving for a Messiah and not just in Israel.
The so-called ‘400 years of Silence’ that followed the close of the Old Testament in Israel, left Jews with a profound longing to hear God’s voice again which they did in Jesus.
Even though there were many false starts with pretend-Messiahs, when it became obvious that Jesus was the real Messiah sent from God to redeem humanity, Jesus’ message of forgiveness, rebirth and new life resonated deeply and caught on like wildfire.
Radicalized followers of Jesus just capitalized on this hunger. A great example of this is what Peter did in Jerusalem in engaging people who were stirred up in amazement and wonder at the spectacle of Pentecost.
It wasn’t limited to the Jews. Similar stories of expectations of divine intervention were recorded in various cultures among the Gentiles of their day.
In fact, so great was this longing for a God revelation, that in some cities statues were erected in honor of what became known as the unknown God to express their deep longing, which again these radical Christians just capitalized on:
“22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.” Acts 17:22-23
Sure, it was an incredibly challenging time in terms of opposition, ridicule and persecution, but seldom had there been a more committed group of believers than those first believers.
Persecution only radicalized them even more. Nothing could stop them or even slow them down.
Added into this was the unique infrastructure the Roman system brought to them, which made communication incredibly easy.
When they said that all roads lead to Rome they weren’t kidding! The infrastructure was highly advanced and ahead of its time by a thousand years.
They say that when the Roman Empire collapsed that societies actually reverted back by hundreds and hundreds of years into what is now called ‘the Dark Ages.’
Lost were the routes and highways that linked the four corners of the empire, and made taking the good news of Jesus incredibly easy.
Lost also was the unifying international language of Greek spoken everywhere that allowed for the communication of the good news of Jesus to spread in many lands.
It was a unique time in history and it allowed the Gospel to take hold in ways that otherwise never would have.
A Unique Moment in History
What I am suggesting this morning is that ours is also an incredible moment in history. The stars are as lined up in our days as they were in their days.
Don’t let the rise of the militant Islamic nationalism scare you, friend. No doubt it is an absolutely brutal regime with tentacles deep in the Mideast, Africa and regions beyond with a very real and serious threat to the West.
Instead, look at it this way: Its brutality gives its evil away. How many moderates and secularists will never join ISIS now that it’s utter brutality and perversion has become known.
Its claim to represent the true Islamic faith has resulted in many people reexamining their faith, and with it openness for the Christian message.
Could it be that this social upheaval, resulting in a loss of faith or at least a second and a more critical look at Islam, among the hundreds of thousands if not millions who are fleeing for their lives may actually be one of those unique God moments in history?
We know from experience that when people migrate into a new culture there is an incredible openness toward new ideas.
Canada is a land of immigrants and these immigrants are responsible for the growth of the evangelical church. If it weren’t for immigrants, evangelism in Canada would be on a steep decline.
While many bring their evangelical faith with them, many others come to faith in Jesus because they have come here with a new openness, and then when someone invites them to a church the result is that people come to know Jesus.
My own story is exactly that. I came to faith only because we came to Canada and I can honestly say that it’s doubtful I ever would have come to know Jesus as my Lord had we not migrated to Canada.
The same thing is being reported among the Muslim refugees.
One church in Berlin has seen its membership jump from 150 to 600 in a short time, with most of its new members being Muslim converts.
These new believers have been baptized in the name of Jesus and wish never to return to their home country to the intense persecution from radical groups like the Islamic State.
While some would be skeptical and assume political gain by converting, the drop off rate among new converts is only 10%.
Pastor Gottfried Martens of the Trinity Church in Berlin says: "I know there are — again and again — people coming here because they have some kind of hope regarding asylum. I am inviting them to join us because I know that whoever comes here will not be left unchanged."
Martens believes the Gospel message is really changing the hearts of these Muslim men and women with 90% continuing on in their faith.
This is Our Day!
This is a unique opportunity to showcase the living God who lives within us and among us. This is our opportunity to tell the world that our God saves!
We can vibrantly witness that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that as Father He wants all to be saved and come into his family. The Son of God has made this possible by his death and resurrection, and the Spirit of God applies this salvation to our hearts and lives.
In a day where immigration stokes the fire of the evangelical church, we say to God: “Bring your people to this land, Lord, and cause revival to break out among the immigrants and refugees of this world!”
We say to God: “Bring the world to us. We, who are a people of immigrants, open wide our hearts and wallets to what you are doing, Lord.”
“We know that the God of Elijah is the only true God and that there is no God like you.”
“Allah is not God nor is Mohammad his prophet. Buddha is not God. The gods of the Hindus are not God, just like in the days of Elijah Baal was not God, nor were his prophets of God.”
So we are not afraid of the monumental shifting of the sands of time. We see it as a God moment and we want to step into not only God’s dream for the north end, but also God’s dream for the entire planet.
That is what next weekend’s Harvest Mission Fest is all about.
Next week is about us saying that we have stepped into God’s dream for humanity, which is that God does not want “anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Pet. 3:9
The Harvest Mission Fest is about us using Paul’s words:
“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
While we may not be able to physically go into the entire world, with our financial commitments we are stretching our hands across the world and just look at where our hands reach.
Our hands reach into Paris, France as Sean Fast seeks to engage Muslim Youth from North Africa with the claims that the Biblical God is greater than Allah and that Mohamed is no comparison to Jesus.
Our hands reach deep into Haiti as we support the next generation of potential leaders with a Christ-centered education that confront voodooist’s claims that God is not distinct and can only be known through spirits.
Our hands are all over Thailand as we offer a Buddhist nation the chance to find a God who can be known and who forgives sins.
Our hands are deep in Colombia with farmers given the chance to disengage from the drug cartels with honest work tied into a local community of believers.
Our hands reach even into Sub-Sahara Africa where we provide medical support to Aids widows and orphans that position Jesus as Lord, Savior and Healer.
For a Time Such as This!
At a time when the winds of change are blowing, God has raised us up for a time such as this.
We live in one of the most prosperous nations on earth for a reason, folks.
We have a great responsibility to use our wealth in order that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is brought into the four corners of the world.
So determine this day how you will partner with God in seeing this happen. When you give your utmost and your best, you will see the same miracle of multiplication that the little boy saw with his few fish and loaves.
There is a Bible-based economic principle that says that if you give your very best to the Lord, no matter how little that is, the Lord will miraculously multiply it to still the hunger for living bread in the hearts of every human being.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a little oil in the bottom of a jar as with the widow in the days of Elijah, or the two mites that the widow in Jesus’ day threw into the temple treasury, or even the few fish and loaves of bread the boy had, the principle is the same:
Share with God your very best, no matter how little it is and see how the Lord will multiply it to so that the Living Bread is brought to nations of the earth.
That is the call on our lives! That is our destiny. That is why we are here for a time such as this!
Purses With Holes In Them
Haggai 1:6-7, Mal. 3:6-12
Influencing the Ebb and Flow of Christ’s Return
Billy Graham, in his book Approaching Hoofbeats, makes the point that throughout history humanity has heard, in various degrees, the distant sound of the hoofbeats of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, depending on what was happening on the planet at the time.
If you don’t know who or what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are, you will find them described in the post tribulation world of Rev. 6. This is where, upon the removal of us as believers and with it the restraint on evil, the world is plunged into a nightmarish tribulation period.
It is the emergence of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse including the white horse of pestilence, the red horse of bloodshed, the black horse of financial collapse and famine, and the pale horse of mass death.
This nightmarish scenario has been restrained by the presence of Christians all over the world.
Billy Graham’s point was that throughout history the hoof beats of these horses have been heard to various degrees (almost like the minute arm on the doomsday clock being adjusted depending on current world conditions).
What he meant by that is that the closer we have come to Jesus returning to take us away the louder the sound of these hoof beats become.
Graham suggested that we are actually the ones who create the conditions that cause Jesus to come back and take us to heaven.
This is dependent on what we do here on earth, either hastening or delaying his sweet return.
That was the point of the book. Had it come from anybody other than Billy Graham it would have been ignored as the musings of a mad man.
The truth of the matter is that we do control in many ways the timing of Jesus’ return. That the sound of his appearing ebbs and flows just like the sound of the hoof beats come and go, depending on what we as Christians do on earth!
We Have the Means to Do It!
One of the most startling passages of the New Testament is Matthew 24:14, which is set in the midst of a teaching on the challenges of living in the end times when many will oppose the Christian witness.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
This clearly links the end of this age, which is what the return of Jesus signals, with the gospel being preached in the whole world.
Since it is us who takes the Gospel to the four corners of the world, our commitment to seeing that happen influences the return of our Lord.
If we are not committed to seeing that happen, then we in fact can delay the return of our Lord.
Now it’s true that no one knows the hour nor the day when the conditions are ripe for his return save the Father in Heaven, but throughout history that moment has ebbed and flowed depending on our commitment to world evangelism.
Sometimes it’s been closer, other times more remote.
The challenge we face is 7 billion people and the fact that God knows no grandchildren; which means each of these 7 billion needs to hear the Gospel in such a way as to make a personal decision for Jesus.
As daunting as that is, the opportunity we have in our times is unbelievable. With everyone wired, we now have the online tools to engage much of this world with the claims of the Gospel.
The Most Expensive Undertaking in This World
Yet doing that is unbelievably expensive, because at the end of the day it is not virtual communities that Jesus had in mind when he told us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Matt. 28:19, 20) but real communities.
While going may be virtually easy, especially in the forbidden places of our world, the making of followers of Jesus always happens within physical communities we call local churches.
So while sowing the seeds has, in the onset of the online world become very doable in our days, the bringing in of that harvest, the threshing and the storing, remains as it always has been, namely within local storehouses called local churches.
If the sowing is an expensive undertaking, how much more is seeing viable local congregations established, like this one here as well as all over the world, that can harvest the fields ‘white unto harvest.’
For our church to be a center of outreach that sows the seeds over the airwaves or online, in our neighborhood or wherever we live in such a way that people come to Jesus and grow in Him takes great resources.
Our willingness to finance the Kingdom of God in this world determines where the ebb and flow of Jesus’ return goes.
Becoming a Kingdom Financier
If you want Jesus to come back sooner rather than later, then help finance the Kingdom of God. If you want to see more and more people come to know Jesus, then write a cheque.
If you want to see churches like this one become viable thriving faith communities where people come to know Jesus and grow in that, then be a financier of the Kingdom.
To do that, God wants to change your financial position!
No, not through a lottery win nor through some other windfall, nor by you figuring out how to better hold on to what you have so that you can keep as much of it as possible.
That’s not how God wants to change your financial position. But instead God wants to do it through the tithe, the offering and the seed money.
The tithe is at the heart of God’s financial system, and if you commit to that system you will prosper. No, this is not prosperity gospel or a get rich quick scheme, but instead these are Biblical principles that have withstood the test of time.
If you are a child of God and come under God’s financial system, far from hurting you, tithing will actually prosper you not for prosperity sake but for kingdom finance sake.
“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
‘In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the Lord Almighty. 12 ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Lest you think that this was for those under the Mosaic Law and thus doesn’t apply to us, let me set the record straight by reminding you that the principle of the tithe was instituted long before Moses, which is why it says:
“ ‘I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Not only was Jacob long before the Mosaic Law, but Jesus was long after it, and it was Jesus who said:
“You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matt. 23:23
Practise justice, mercy and faithfulness Jesus says, without neglected the giving of the tenth.
You do that and the Lord will prevent pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your field will not cast their fruit before their season.
You do that and the Lord will open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it!
Not so that we can hoard it, but so that we can bless the nations by bringing the beautiful Gospel of the Lord Jesus to every human being.
Two Financial Systems
The key to this is operating under the system you are in. If you have given your life to the Lord, then you are in God’s financial system based on releasing the tithe. Anything less than that will cause you not to prosper.
If you have not given your heart to the Lord and are not a child of God, then the idea of giving away or releasing the tithe makes no sense whatsoever.
The world does not release finances. The world raises finances. In the world of philanthropy we use the term fundraising and that is what the world does. It raises money.
In the kingdom we do not fundraise, we do fund-releasing.
The world raises funds any which way it can. The mighty dollar rules in the world. So you grab as much of you can get and hang on to as much of it as possible, even if you have to cut corners, cheat a little, steal a little and lie a little.
The world is tightfisted and stingy; it grabs as much as possible and lets go of as little as possible.
This is what the Bible calls “unrighteous mammon” and those who are of the world and operate in the world as one of their own should do quite well in that system.
The Example of Zacchaeus
A great case in point was Zachaeus. The Bible calls him a chief tax collector and a wealthy man. He was somebody who was of that system and operating within its principles of hoarding, cheating and tightfistedness, and he prospered as a result.
He became incredibly wealthy on the backs of the poor. That is the world’s financial system.
God’s financial system is the exact opposite, and those who are in a covenant relationship with God will not prosper if they remain in the world’s financial system of hoarding, being stingy and holding on to as much as you can.
If Jesus is not in your heart then that’s how you get rich. But if he is and you live like that you will never prosper.
Those in the kingdom who operate under its system release their funds. This is called sowing and reaping. You sow and you will reap.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.” Prov. 11:24-26
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Cor. 9:6
It’s like the old saying, “There was a man some called him mad, the more he gave the more he had.”
To the world this seems like madness but to us this is God’s way.
Zacchaeus did exactly that. You know the rest of the story; of how he came to believe and call on Jesus as his Lord, which Jesus confirmed when he said that salvation had come to his house.
What happened is that Zacchaeus moved from the world’s system to God’s system, and with it his financial plan shifted.
Not only did he pay restitution for all this fraud in a way that was way beyond what the Lord required, but he also began to release his finances in a way that he never did before.
“Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor.”
Thus he began to operate within God’s financial system.
I can almost guarantee you that he guaranteed himself a tremendous release of kingdom finance, not for his personal wealth but to finance the Kingdom of God in his day.
I’m not saying that we should all begin by releasing half of our possessions to the Kingdom of God. Zacchaeus was a very wealthy man, and for him to give half of his possessions away was not a problem.
This is not about you becoming poor anymore than this is about giving half of it away.
Releasing the Tithe
The call is release 10%, or the tithe, of all your income into God’s kingdom.
The economy of God is based upon us releasing our tithe, an amount that God has always laid first claim on.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” Lev. 27:30
Clearly, the Lord considers the first 10% to be his, which makes this non-negotiable. In many ways, this should be the first payment you make. This is not discretionary money that is left over at the end of the month.
Not releasing it first, is to withhold what God has claim on, which makes it robbery.
I realize that is strong language, but notice what the Lord said in Malachi:
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” Mal. 3:8-10
So why would somebody on purpose withhold the tithe? No one on in his or her right mind would set out to rob God.
There’s usually three reasons why people without their tithe:
Rebuking the Devourer
The truth of the matter is that if you are not tithing, then you will feel as though you can’t afford it for the simple reason that the 10% that should have been God’s, you will not be able to use.
It will slip through your fingers and dissipate in front of your eyes. So those who claim they can’t afford to tithe are in a way correct.
Not only is there no financial blessing, abundance and increase but the extra 10% you thought you had will have been devoured.
You can never keep your hands on the 10% that belongs to the Lord. Either you will give it to the Lord or the enemy will devour it.
Do you ever feel as though there isn’t enough? That’s the devourer.
“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:6-7
Tithing reverses that!
By tithing you will stop the devourer: “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe.” Mal. 3:11
By tithing you will remove the curse: “You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.” Mal 3:9
By tithing you will open up the storehouses of blessings: “Test me in this, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Mal 3:10
You would not be worse off at all by tithing, since you can’t keep that 10% anyway. But divine protection will come over the other 90%, which will make it feel like 100 % plus, AND the windows of heaven will be opened which will make it feel right off the scale.
Not only will no pests devour your crops and no fields drop their fruit before its ripe – which is what protecting the 90% from the devourer is all about - but also over that 90%, will come the blessing of heaven so much so that the floodgates of heaven will be opened and you will not be able to contain all the blessings!
“Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land.” Mal. 3:12
“Test me in this,” God says. See if it ain’t so!
In doing so, you provide the food for God’s storehouse in terms of releasing the funds to usher in the return of the Lord.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” Mal 3:10
Making This Place Our Home - Side Doors & Big Windows
Building Your Dream House
I think it’s everyone’s wish to at some point to build their own dream house. From scratch. Just the way you want it.
Not everyone, of course, gets that chance but oh what a thrill if you could build your own house just the way you want to.
It would be great to have the rooms laid out just so. The finishing touches would be the way you always wanted them. Windows and doors would be the sizes they should be.
Nothing would be cookie cutter. There would be no building off someone else’s blueprint. Everything would be done from scratch.
What would your dream house look like? How big would your kitchen and living room be? Where would you put the bedrooms and how big would they be? What would the bathrooms look like? What would you do with the basement? How would you have your windows? What colors and finish would you choose?
Everybody wants a nest and, for most, the idea of their very own dream home remains very much a dream. But imagine if you could!
Come on, dream with me a little today.
Mission, Values, Vision
Dreaming is what we’ve been doing at Scott St Church for the last couple of weeks. Actually, it’s more than a dream. We’ve put some wings underneath our dreams and are determined to make our dream home a reality right here at our church.
After all, a family needs a home, right? Here we are the family of God and we need a home. Not a physical home, since we already have that, but a spiritual house.
Scripture is very clear that the family of God needs a spiritual home to be housed:
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5
Among the Corinthians, Paul saw himself and his peers as the developers and builders:
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.” I Cor. 3:10
So for us to talk this way is very biblical. Who are the builders and developers here if not the pastors, elders and ministry leaders?
In fact, our leadership team sought your input and ideas with a good number of you choosing to respond and participate in our survey and round table conversations, with the result being the blueprints of our very own Scott St dream house that we have outlined the last couple of weeks.
Just a quick recap (in case you missed it), we talked about the foundation as being none other than Jesus Christ as our Savior.
Here is how we stated it: “To be a loving family who embrace the good news of Jesus and share it with everyone” with the optimum words being the good news that Jesus saves even as Peter wrote:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2:6.
Some call this their mission, but for us it’s our foundation and what everything gets built on.
Then we talked about the ingredients or texture in our cement that we would build with. This is like taking the cement, sand and water and mixing it up to help the living stones be set right.
Things such as:
All of these find their inspiration in the Great Commandments with passion for God, prayer, worship and devotion to Christ being all about loving God.
Families should be strong, the church should be a safe place, and everyone welcomed as being all about loving our neighbors.
Some call these ‘core values’ but for us they are the cement that sets the stones in place.
So this house we are building has a strong foundation and some great materials we are building with.
Then last Sunday we talked about the blueprints we are building from, which point to both location and the shape our house should be:
This is how we worded it: We want to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
Some call this the ‘vision’, but for us it’s the shape, size and positioning of the house we are building.
It’s like saying this is the lot where we want to build it and this is the look of it.
Positioning the House
Then the last thing that we should be thinking about is making sure it’s warm and cozy, with lots of windows for looking out and doors for coming in, and positioned in such a way that it can capitalize on its environment.
You want a house to capture the natural movement of the sun for maximum exposure, right?
You want a house to capitalize on its natural environment. You don’t want to be staring at the back of a condo tower. You want to see trees, rolling hills and sparkling water.
This is your dream house, so the last thing you want is to have it be positioned wrong.
This last piece of our dream house is about positioning.
Again, if you think that is a secular concept and we shouldn’t be talking about positioning our church in the environment outside of us, then you need to see the Scriptures with a fresh set of eyes.
I see positioning among the churches of the New Testament. Not only among the seven churches of Revelation, where each church was positioned to reflect the local dynamic of a particular city both good and bad but also in the Book of Acts you can see the positioning of churches to reflect local dynamics on the ground.
For example, the church in Jerusalem very intentionally opened itself up to its surroundings. The 120 who were the core of that church had to be pulled out of the insular upper room to position the Gospel within the wider culture of Jerusalem.
So as they looked out their windows, they saw a Jewish culture consisting of Jews from the Diaspora:
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Acts 2:5-8, 12
They could have kept themselves hidden in their bunker but the house they were building was not for us four and no more but for those around them. In their case it was “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.”
They positioned their house so as to find connections between the Gospel and their culture with incredible results: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:41
It’s all about positioning the house of the Lord. You see the same thing again in the Ephesian house of the Lord. They were never meant to huddle as a small group of 12 tucked away somewhere for 25 years.
That’s like saying the church exists only for us and we really don’t want anyone coming in here. How absurd would that be?
Under Paul’s leadership, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, they positioned their church to become this great multicultural church reflective of the surrounding demographics and opportunities.
Take a look at what happened: “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Acts 19:10
Another example of this was the church in Antioch.
It came from incredibly humble origins. It started as no more than a beachhead of believers, but who saw the potential of this port city which would eventually would give rise to this amazing “sending forth” church that was responsible for overseeing the missionary journeys outlined in Acts:
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3
Every one of these churches had the same thing in common namely they positioned themselves in their local environments so as to capitalize on the natural bridges for the Gospel.
The same thing is true for us. There is no sense building a house if its windows and doors are positioned wrong. You want windows facing the vista just beyond and doors that open widely and easily to the whosoever around us.
This is what we mean when we say: “To position our church as an intergenerational family church among those looking for a community that values biblical faith connecting with contemporary culture.”
Some call this strategic positioning; in fact, that is what we are also calling it as well but in reality it’s all about windows and doors.
Windows so that we can look out and see the opportunities and windows, and also so people can look in and check us out.
Doors so that we can go out among our neighbors to invite them in, and also for those around us to come in through our doors and find a home right here.
So what does that look like for us? Who are the people of Ephesus and Jerusalem right here in the north end near Scott and Vine?
Thankfully, we don’t have to look hard or scratch deep since it’s pretty obvious who is around us.
Surrounding us and right in front of our noses are four key groups of people namely recent immigrants and refugees, low-income families, community seniors and well-to-do boomers.
We want to position our spiritual house much like they did in Jerusalem, Ephesus or Antioch which for us means the following:
To develop a community-based outreach called Families Matter that focuses on and embraces low-income families – Sabrina/Kelly
To develop an outreach with a focus among boomers (from age 50-69) called Boomerang – Katie/Ruth (ghostwriting)
To develop a community-based outreach that embraces and supports land-based immigrants called Welcome Home – Andres/Bill & Diana
To develop a community-based outreach that embraces seniors (65+) called Seniors First- Mel & Helen Thiessen, Carol Lay
Home Sweet Home
In wrapping this up, I want to tell you that each of our ministries is committed to building our dream house of the same set of blue prints, using the same raw material, on the same foundation, with the same commitment to positioning!
We all want to be on the same page since we know Jesus’ warning on a house divided: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mk. 3:25
It makes no sense for everyone running off doing his or her own thing. We all build off the same set of blueprints around here.
And as we do – and with this I close – we want our house to be a home.
We want our porch light on, the house lights warm and inviting, we want a Great Room that serves as a family rec room where we can hang out, talk and build community.
And let’s include a big old country kitchen where lots of yummy food for the whole person – body, soul and spirit – is served up hot, steamy and tasty.
We want our bedrooms to be big and warm, as people find their spiritual rest.
We want there to be a big old mudroom as people throw off their old garments and dirty boots, and washrooms with showers that can wash away the filthiest stains.
We want a main floor laundry room for garments of white and an oversized and yet warm library for unhurried study and learning.
We want lots of doors for people to find their way in with doors that are never locked. Of course there are windows; big windows and lots of windows so that those on the outside can almost taste and see that the Lord is good.
They should see it on our faces, see it in our smiles and see it in our joy. That actually brings me to how I think we need to end the Service today.
Today is the day we officially dedicate our new foyer space called the Gathering.
(Jurgen to walk down the isle, inviting people to follow him while Matt plays ‘Home’ from the foyer)
Make This Place Our Home: Dream Blueprints
I Peter 2:4-6
I Love a New House!
There is nothing like seeing a house being built, especially when it’s your own. We’ve had the privilege of seeing four of the homes we have lived in over the years built from scratch.
While the first one we built was a bit of a blur with us living in a different city, the last three were absolutely enjoyable to watch go up in front of our eyes.
To walk through the unfinished house and imagine what it will look like once finished, and where furniture will go, was incredible. To be able to choose where the doors and windows will go along with outlets and flooring was a treat.
Of all the houses we lived in there was only one that was pre-owned and while we could still give it our feel and decorate it to our liking, the house was essentially there and in place.
The walls were the walls, the doors were the doors and the windows were the windows. It came to us as it was and there was very little we could do about it.
And I can tell you that between the two I would much rather see a new house go up.
The Life Cycle
In some ways this is what we have here in front of us at Scott St Church.
We have the opportunity of a clean slate and of giving shape to something marvelous right here at our church.
The surveys could not have been clearer in pointing this out.
You may recall that we invited you to fill out a survey about nine months ago that started this whole thing rolling.
It was actually an identical survey to the one done a number of years back asking the same sort of questions about our church and the answers could not have been more different.
Both surveys had to do with where we were on the life cycle.
Everything has a life cycle with a beginning, the surge of new life, a leveling off, and an eventual decline until death. That’s the cycle of life and the way all living things go.
Just like all living things have a life cycle, so do churches like ours.
We don’t need too look to far to realize that sometimes churches die (Maranatha Reformed, Carlton United) and other churches are on life-support with the end not far up ahead.
When we did the two life cycle surveys, the responses could not have been more dramatic.
Only a couple of years back we thought we were nearing the end of our life and that things did not look good for us. I don’t need to go into details but those of you that were here know exactly what I am talking about.
But that same survey done earlier this year showed a completely different feel and perception. Overwhelmingly, the responses showed a sense of new birth, optimism in the future, and a new day.
The only uncertainty was what that would look like. What shape, what direction and what focus would this new thing would be?
That led us to do all of that work that we have done with our town hall meetings, round tables, committee work and finally the rolling out of exactly the shape, direction and feel of this new thing.
The Spiritual House
This new thing would be like a new house being built. This idea of building a house, so to speak, is absolutely scriptural.
Peter talks about a spiritual house being built, with us as living stones:
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Pet. 2:4-6
Peter talks about the spiritual house being built, with Jesus as the cornerstone and them as the living stones that would be cemented in.
Paul says the very same thing within the Corinthian setting:
“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” I Cor. 3:10-13
Paul talks about his work in laying down the foundation of Jesus as Lord and then acknowledging that others are now building on it.
This is really key, since quite often others are building on the foundation we have laid.
My church in Lindsay is a great example of that. I am sure that I would not recognize the place some 11 years later. New pastors have given shape to the ministry, with God raising up new workers who are giving it a different shape and look from my day.
I knew that I was never the owner, any more than we are owners of this church. We are mere stewards entrusted with building the house of the Lord in our day.
So Peter talks about the foundation and the living stones being used.
Paul also talks about the foundation as well as ownership and the raw materials being used (hay, wood, straw, gold, silver, precious stones).
What neither of them did was talk about the shape, size and positioning of the houses they were building.
The reason for that is that no two houses are the same, with each one reflecting the mission field around them.
So in Jerusalem it was going to be this great multinational Jewish church with Peter leading the building process. While in Ephesus, it was going to be this amazing multicultural family of God, as diverse as the colors of the rainbow, with Paul at the helm. In Antioch, it was going to be this great mission and sending forth church, under the direction of prophets and teachers including Barnabus.
Here at Scott St. Church we are building on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that our fathers laid down using the raw materials – the sand, cement and water – of loving God and loving others - with God providing the living stones to be cemented together.
Oh friend, be a living stone in this building. Be a part of what God is doing here!
Don’t be standoffish; don’t opt out by criticizing everything that is happening here.
Don’t grumble, complain and murmur about either the raw materials of loving God and loving others, nor about the kinds of living stones we are schlepping back from the quarry.
Most of all, don’t grumble and complain about the shape, size and feel of the house we are building.
As in Paul’s day, so it is also in ours. Yes, someone else may building on it, but with great care. The foundation has been laid. Gold, silver and precious stones are being used to cement in the living stones.
God will bring living stones with or without us.
What it Looks Like
Here is what we are building. Here is what we heard you tell us needs to rise up on this spot:
We want to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
This is the artist’s rendering of the house. This is what a sketch of it looks like. This is like saying “we envision a 2000 sq. ft. house with three bedrooms, two baths and an open concept kitchen/great room.”
This is what we envision our house to look like at Scott St Church. Again, we didn’t just pull this out of thin air but this is what our surveys and roundtable conversations told us.
Build it as a welcoming spiritual community. That’s like saying have a big old country kitchen that is warm and inviting, with a rec room that puts people at ease so that everyone feels welcome and at home.
Don’t have it so sterile and cold that no one feels welcome. Furnish it in such a way that makes people want to stay and, for gosh sake; take the plastic off the couch.
And don’t mind the mess, the dirt on the shoes and the fingerprints on the glass. Our neighbors and friends are not perfect people and they will bring their messy lives with them so yeah there is going to be mud on the rug sometimes.
It’s not a model house nor a museum, but a livable place that puts everyone at ease in this welcoming spiritual community of ours. In that old house of ours no matter which room you go into……
What does that look like? While I could easily pontificate on what this looks like, how much better to hear it directly from the horses’ mouth.
1. When I think of living out passionate faith, many come to my mind including Bob Ratelle. I love his passion for the Lord, love his strong commitment to God and his deep prayer life.
2. When I think of supporting personal growth, I think of the many here who have grown in their faith and development none of whom has taken greater leaps forward than Aaron Giesbrecht.
3. When I think of someone who has stayed above the water despite struggles in many areas of life I think of Bev Klassen who can testify to benefiting from the holistic support we have provided in her physical, spiritual and emotional struggles.
How Do We Do That?
In this house of ours you will find an incredibly welcoming spiritual community – and no matter how muddy you are or where you’ve been – you are welcome here!
And here you will find a home where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care.
How do we do that? Notice the last two things in our artist rendering: By matching resources with needs and by sparking innovation and creativity!
Matching resources with needs means we are not going to go into debt financing, so to speak. We are not going to overreach or over promise. We are not going to build bigger or offer more than what we have available.
It’s the old story of figuring out the financing before you build the tower:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ” Luke 14:28-30
There is nothing worse then the guy who overreaches in his build and has to leave the place half finished.
So this won’t be a mega church but will be within our means and within who we are. This spiritual house will not be more than what and who we are.
Yet it’s also going to be a house of faith, meaning that it’s easy to settle for the little that seems to be apparent when with eyes of faith we see bigger, greater and more.
That by reaching in faith to feed the multitude at our doorstep we will see the Lord provide the same miracle of increased resources we saw with the boy and his few fish and loaves.
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish …. he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Matt. 14:19-21
That’s the flipside of matching resources with needs. Don’t overreach but also be sure to step out in faith.
That is how we will be this spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth and provide holistic care.
And we do all of that in the most creative, innovative and ‘out of the box’ way possible.
Not only do we want to see a spark of creativity and innovation in our church, but also in our desire to create a welcoming community we want to try new things for the Lord, venture out into new areas of ministry and enjoy a new breath of fresh air
All of it as we seek to “to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.”
Make This Place Our Home: Framed Right
I Cor. 3:10-15
My dad was a bricklayer from the old country, who ended up as a concrete worker in Canada and became quite good at pouring foundations and footings.
Maybe it’s because of this that I have always noticed foundations being poured, and to this day will notice the hole in the ground and wonder about the kind of building will go up.
So the weirdest thing for me is to see a foundation poured and then nothing else happens? That’s just plain crazy. It’s like: “Ok, what happened there? Who messed up here?”
I remember driving by a particular site one day where somebody had put in a foundation and framed it up to ground level and then seemingly walked away. They had let it sit there, with nothing else being done to it.
Being the son of a foundation framer, I would notice that and it drove me crazy. I had no idea what happened.
Maybe they ran out of money, or maybe there was a zoning issue, or someone shut them down; but this half-baked thing would sit there as a monument to someone’s failure.
Foundations are meant to be built upon. Foundations are not to sit as holes in the ground or as unfinished cement bunkers but are meant to be built on.
In fact, foundations are not to be seen. They are to sit underneath, and undergirding what is built on top of it. They are meant as invisible support systems underneath the structure.
What is to be noticed and seen is the structure itself. So there is nothing worse than a foundation with nothing built on it.
The House of the Lord
My point is that we are building a house at Scott St Church and it goes far beyond a foundation. It’s not a physical house, but a spiritual house, the house of the Lord.
Peter talks about this when he wrote: “You are being built into a spiritual house.” I Peter 2:5
And, of course, the context is making sure that this spiritual house is being built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ, which is what we talked about last week.
Our foundation is who we are at our core, our mission, if you will, the thing undergirds everything we do and are about.
For us our foundation is the good news of Jesus as Savior, lived out within our church family and shared with all.
That’s our mission: “to be a loving family who embraces the good news of Jesus and shares it with everyone.”
That’s our foundation – the good news that Jesus saves, which we live out within our church family, and share with all.
Yet a foundation by itself makes no sense. It’s meant to hold up something and to have something built on it, which is exactly what we are doing here at Scott St.
The family of God needs a home; and a home we are building.
With a strong foundation of the good news of Jesus we are seeing a structure rise up that is a spiritual home for many in the north end of St Catharines.
What that looks like is thrilling and exciting. Our blueprints and architectural design looks something like this:
“We want to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.”
That is our vision and dream. This is our version of what Peter said: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
The house that we are building, in which we are these living stones that make it happen, is about us as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and God’s special possession to the glory of God.
This is like us saying this is what we want to be: “a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.”
That’s what it looks like. That’s the artist’s rendering and architectural blueprints. That’s the shape and look of this dream house of ours right here in the north end.
Next time we are going to unwrap what that looks like in greater detail.
Gold, Silver and Precious Stones
This morning the question is: “What are the raw materials that we are building with?”
Paul talks about raw materials. In his day people would be built with hay, wood or straw, or they would build with gold, silver and precious stones.
“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Cor. 3:10-15
That was the house of the Lord that Paul and his peers were building in the city of Corinth.
He laid down a foundation that was meant to be built upon.
The foundation was rock solid: “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”.
So people came and began to build using a variety of raw materials, some of which were cheap and wouldn’t last, and some of which would last forever.
Raw materials were as essential as the foundation. There was no sense using great raw material on a flawed foundation, and also no sense building on a strong foundation using raw materials that would blow over.
They wanted to be careful to use gold, silver and precious stones for these would last and stand the test of time.
Our Raw Materials
So what are the raw materials that we are to use? What are the gold, silver and precious stones for us?
So here is what we are building with. This is what we are about. These are our raw materials:
But really, what these are are the raw materials that we are using and the things that we are all about.
This is our cement and sand that gets mixed together. These are our deeply held convictions and priorities. This is what matters to us and what we keep in mind as we give shape to the house of the Lord.
Now notice something really interesting about these raw materials. Notice how they actually fall into two categories.
One category has to do with God and the other category has to do with “the other” with both finding their inspiration in the two Great Commandments.
What are the two Great Commandments? It was what Jesus gave in response to being asked that very question:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:36-40
Love for God and love for your neighbor. Nothing more matters. Righteousness and justice. Vertical and horizontal.
Those are the building blocks and raw materials we are using. That’s what we are mixing together into our cement.
I can tell you that none of us started out with this. No one sat down and tried to figure out how to flesh out the Great Commandment.
We simply asked people what mattered to them and was important, and we came up with this list of raw material or core values and interestingly enough it mirrors the Great Commandments!
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”
If that isn’t PASSION FOR GOD running deep in our hearts, PRAYER guiding all of our movements, WORSHIP that is meaningful and heartfelt and DEVOTION to Christ and His cause as normal for every believer then I don’t know what loving God with all your heart, soul and mind is!
“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If that isn’t seen in how everyone should be WELCOMED AND EMBRACED, how FAMILIES should be strong and united and how the church should always be a place of SAFETY then I don’t know what loving your neighbor as yourself means.
In fact, I am going to ask Tim and Lydia to speak to these two groups of raw materials that we hold near and dear.
Raw Materials Matter
In wrapping this up, I think we know that next to the foundation the kind of raw materials we use matters the most.
If you build with wood, hay and straw, then you know what will happen. It will flare up, blow away or simply collapse. You might be able to throw something together but it simply will not stand the test of time.
I am so glad that our church is using the gold, silver and precious stones of the Great Commandments.
So glad that our church is not only building on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ our Lord as the chief cornerstone but that our church is building with the raw materials of love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
The shape of what we are building and the size of what we are building matters less than the foundation it’s built on, and the raw materials it’s built with.
Next time we are going to talk about the shape and size but I needed to first talk about foundation and raw materials.
So do you like what you are hearing thus far? Are you with us so far? Are you ready to put your hands into the raw materials and mix up the cement of loving God and loving others?
Remember that none of us are bystanders but that we are the living stones:
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5
Make This Place Our Home (1) : A Strong Foundation
When I think of things leaning, being unstable and in danger of collapsing like a deck of cards, the first thing that comes to my mind is the bell tower in the cathedral square in Pisa, Italy, famously known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Who of you has been to the site and seen the tower? This is how not to build a tower, folks.
They got as far as the second floor in 1178 when the one side began to sink away. The work was halted for over 100 years not because of the tower leaning but because of military conflict. They would have kept on building had it not been for war with neighboring cities.
Had they kept on building, the tower most certainly would have toppled over at some point. The 100-year break allowed the soil to settle enough to continue the work.
Amazingly, instead of trying to fix the foundation somehow, engineers decided to build the upper floors with one side taller than the other to compensate for the lean, giving the structure an actual curve.
Even if it could be straightened out, the tower would still have a curve because of the uneven floors. What a crazy mess!
Do you know what the culprit was? The culprit was a shoddy foundation only three meters deep in unstable subsoil.
Who would build anything, let alone a tower in unstable soil? Yet it happens all the time.
There have been all kinds of other structures from buildings to bridges and maybe even a tower of two that have collapsed because of a poor foundation.
None are more famous than the Leaning Tower Of Pisa.
Any engineer will tell you that the most important aspect of a build is the foundation. If you don’t get that right you face the danger of the whole thing collapsing unto itself.
More than once, the Scriptures talk about laying strong foundations so that things don’t topple over.
The classic passage is the Wise and Foolish Builders at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Math. 7:24-27
The one house topples over and the other one stands tall and proud.
What is the difference? It’s not the environment, since the same storm rages in both instances.
The difference was that one house was built on rock and the other on sand. This all comes back to the foundation. It comes back to what you are building on.
In this case it had to do with whether we live out the life principles of the Sermon in the Mount.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Building on a strong foundation – that’s what I am talking about!
What’s true of our homes and our lives is also true of our church!
We have just come out of a series on Ephesians where for 13 sermons we hammered home the idea that the church is the family of God.
The House of God
Well, the family isn’t the only imagery of the church in the Scriptures. There are many other images or pictures that capture what the church is, including this idea of the church as the house of God.
Peter says that we “like living stones, and are being built into a spiritual house” and with it, he introduces us to the church as the house of God.
Just like any structure, the church rises or falls based on the foundation.
I love Peter’s imagery in I Peter 2 of the family of God as a spiritual building that is being built on a strong foundation, with us in it as living stones.
“As you come to him, the living Stone you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:4-5
Even though we are the family of God, we are also a spiritual house, that houses the people of God so as to be what Peter says in I Peter 2:9.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” In that house are not only living stones being cemented, in which are you and I, but also cornerstones which serve as foundational anchors that hold up the entire spiritual house.
Peter reminds us of this when he wrote:
“For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6
This is the foundation upon which the spiritual house is built.
The Chief Cornerstone
Key to the foundation is its cornerstone, which sets the tone and strength for the entire foundation and eventually the structure build on top of it.
Cornerstones were the principal stones carefully positioned at the corners of the foundation.
Who was that cornerstone? None other than Jesus Christ who was hinted at in the Old Testament and realized in the New.
The Book of Isaiah, for example, has many references to the Messiah to come. In several places He is referred to as “the Cornerstone” such as in Isaiah 28:16-17:
“So this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
God is speaking to scoffers and boasters when He refers to the Cornerstone—His precious Son—who provides the firm foundation for their lives, if they would but trust in Him.
In the New Testament the cornerstone metaphor is continued and clarified. Jesus is the cornerstone! Not only do we build our lives on him but also our churches and ministries.
Both Paul and Peter are very clear as to who is the Cornerstone:
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Eph. 2:19-21
Jesus is the chief cornerstone within the foundation of the spiritual house that the apostles and prophets laid down in the city of Ephesus.
As we know, this magnificent organic structure called the House of God thrived in the city of Ephesus with thousands coming into the family, and all because the foundation that the church fathers laid was Jesus as the chief cornerstone.
If we do the same then it bodes well for us. Any time you build on Jesus as the chief cornerstone, it will go well regardless what you build, and regardless the size and shape of the structure.
The House of Dreams
You know we are building, don’t you? Not physically, at least not yet. We are building a house of dreams.
We are endeavoring to listen to what the Spirit is saying about how to build our House of Dreams right here in the North End.
If you joined us at our June Family Chat you may recall that we envision our House of Dreams to look like this:
We want to step into God’s dream for the North End that sees us becoming a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
This is the spiritual house we are building. It visualizes God already at work in the North End and us stepping into God’s work.
With all of the discerning we did in our roundtables this past spring, along with our elders, the sense we have is that God is calling us to build a welcoming spiritual community where we live out passionate faith, support personal growth, provide holistic care, match resources with needs and spark innovation.
In a couple of weeks I will unwrap this further for us.
What we need to realize though is that no matter the shape of our spiritual house, if it’s not on a strong foundation it will shift and possibly collapse like the Tower of Pisa.
You Are the Messiah!
So more than the shape and size the question is “yeah, but what about the foundation”?
With this I point us back to Jesus as the chief cornerstone. We actually need to be very clear on how we see as Jesus.
You see, Jesus is so many things to so many people. You can ask 10 people who Jesus is and you will get 10 answers, none of which may be true.
In fact, even in Jesus day there was ambivalence as to who Jesus was. Listen to Mark 8 for a moment:
“27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.”
If that was so in his day it is also so in our day.
“Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” That’s like building on sand! It may be a version of Jesus but the not the right one.
It’s like saying Jesus is a teacher, social activist, defender of the poor of personal guru.
You build your house on that and I promise you it will collapse.
And I promise you that this more than just being a stickler for details. When it comes to Jesus the i’s have to be dotted and the t’s crossed.
So Jesus comes to us and asks “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” to which we echo Peter’s amazing answer of “You are the Messiah.”
When you unwrap that, and when you own that you will have found the chief cornerstone of your foundation.
You are the Messiah! Messiah means Savior. What does it mean to be a Savior, except to say that he saves his people from their sins?
His very name means this: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21
The name Jesus comes from the Greek name Joshua which literally means the Lord saves.
When Peter realized that and declared his allegiance to Jesus as the Saviour of our sins, at that moment he laid down an incredibly strong foundation upon which the church would be built.
“Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”
The foundational rock Jesus is referring to when he said “on this rock I will build my church” was Peter’s firm conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Any believer that believes this is standing on rock solid ground.
Any church, regardless of the shape and size of the house of God it wants to build, if it believes at its core that Jesus is the one who saves people from their sins has built on solid rock.
On this rock – on this confession and belief – I will build my church Jesus said. And furthermore when the storms of hell blow “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
That is our pledge to you: We will continue to lay down a strong foundation with Jesus, the Savior as our Chief Cornerstone!
Even as we build our dream house, as well as follow the Spirit’s leading, our pledge is that we will seek to build on the sure foundation of Jesus our Savior.
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.