Fresh Vision

January 5, 2014

We are not drunk! 
Interesting way to start a conversation but that’s basically how today’s
scripture begins.  And if you are going
to start a conversation by telling people that you aren’t drunk it’s safe to
assume that at least some of the folks you are talking to thought you were
drunk.
So let’s put things into
context here.  The passage that was read
earlier is a part of the description of the Day of Pentecost.  You might recall that Jesus has ascended back
to heaven and has left the Apostles behind to wait for the Holy Spirit to
come.  And come he has.  In the first thirteen verses of the second
chapter of the book of Acts we see the coming of the Holy Spirit described.  There is the sound of a rushing wind.  Then what looked like flames settled on each
of those who had gathered together.  And
then we pick up Acts 2:4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and
began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.  Now the languages that they began to
speak in were not unknown languages, but other languages.  If we continue with the story we discover
that there were Jews in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, from various
Roman provinces who spoke different languages and they all heard the followers
of Christ praising God in their own language. 
That would be cool.  There are
folks in Cornerstone whose first language is not English, think if while I was
preaching in English they were hearing in their native language. 
Some thought it was a miracle,
but not everyone, Acts 2:13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just
drunk, that’s all!”
And that was where we come in,
as a response to that Peter stands up and preaches his first recorded
sermon.  I heard Andy Stanley a preacher
from Atlanta sum up Peter’s message this way: 
God sent his Son, you killed him, say you are sorry. And while that is
the essence of the message there is a little more.  And part of it is the foundation that the
church will be built on. 
And Peter is telling them that
what is happening shouldn’t be a surprise, that one of God’s prophets, a man by
the name of Joel had pointed people toward this particular event.  The prophecy that Peter is referencing comes
from the Old Testament book of Joel 2:28 “Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my
Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men
will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.”
And that is neat, it includes
both sons and daughters as well as multi generations.  The young and the old.  And they are all doing the same thing, they
are pointing people toward what could be. 
Prophesies, dreams and visions all look ahead.   I love dreams and visions, and I realize
that there are times that I spend too much time in the future and not enough in
the present.  But I can live with that.
One of my favourite passages of scripture is usually taken
out of context.  As a matter of fact it
is when it’s taken out of context that it becomes my favourite passage of
scripture, which makes it really difficult to preach on because I’m really not
being true to what the passage means. 
But I guess if I’ve warned you that I’m taking it out of context then
I’ve absolved myself a little bit of my responsibility to you.  The passage that I’m speaking of is Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish
Now what Solomon actually was
trying to say is more accurately conveyed in the New Living Version where the
passage is translated Proverbs 29:18 When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But
whoever obeys the law is joyful.  And that is a great passage and tells us a lot
about our society as a whole right now.  And
some day I might preach on it the way it is, but not today.  So let’s go back to Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish. 
Time and time again when I talk to people who are in
churches that seem to be in trouble I discover that they are so concerned with
today that they have no vision for the future. Because there is no vision . .
.  well you know the rest.
This morning I want to talk about vision and so the first
thing that we need to do is to define what vision is exactly.  Collin’s English Dictionary defines vision four
ways: The
Power of Seeing,  Something seen in a
dream, A mental image and the ability to perceive something not actually
visible.  What I want to do this
morning is focus on the last meaning and that is the ability to perceive
something not actually visible. 
Now we live in a world where people don’t talk much about
dreams and vision and if they do, people think they are a kook.   But I truly believe that as people of God we
need to have a vision for what God wants us to do and where God wants to take
us.  And it has to come from some
place. 
And visions don’t always happen
late at night or when we are in a trance. 
Sometimes they are given to us when we are wide awake in the bright
sunshine, because often times our visions are simply revelations from God, or
guidance from God.  One of the first
questions that need to be asked is who gives these dreams?  Well let’s look into the Bible. Genesis 15:1 Some time
later, the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision . . .
Genesis
46:2
During the night God spoke to him in a
vision. “Jacob! Jacob!” he called. “Here I am,” Jacob replied.
Acts
9:10
Now there was a believer in Damascus
named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes,
Lord!” he replied.
Numbers 24:4, Ezekial 8:3, 1 Kings
3:5, Revelation 1:1, They all agree, visions come from God.  At least the visions I’m talking about this
morning come from God. 
And throughout the Bible we see all kinds of different ways
that God spoke to His people, in Matthew 1:20 an Angel spoke to Joseph, in Acts
10:13 a disembodied voice spoke to Peter, In Exodus 3 God spoke to Moses
through a burning bush, in the book of Numbers God spoke to Balaam through his
donkey but in Exodus 20 God spoke to Moses face to face.
In the book of Nehemiah, God didn’t appear himself, he
didn’t use an angel, or a voice, or a burning bush, or a donkey, instead we are
told that God simply reached down and broke Nehemiah’s heart.  And I am convinced that is how God has given
us the vision that we have for Hammonds Plains, the HRM and for Cornerstone. 
It was twenty years ago in Brisbane Australia that God
started speaking to me about a new church that would be planted on the other
side of the world.  I believe that God
sent me here and that God gave me the vision for the church that would be
called Cornerstone.
And I’d better be careful in
that because the scriptures are very clear in their warnings concerning calling
our visions God’s.  Jeremiah 23:16 warns
us of the consequences for those who speak visions from their own heart. Jeremiah 23:16 This is
what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to his people: “Do not listen to these
prophets when they prophesy to you, filling you with futile hopes. They are
making up everything they say. They do not speak for the LORD!”
One good example is found in 1
Chronicles 22:7-8
“My son, I wanted to build
a Temple to honor the name of the LORD my God,” David told him.
What was David saying, “I have a dream, I have a vision” and
yet in the very next verse we read  But some time ago, God told me, “David, you
have killed too many people and have fought too many battles. That’s why you
are not the one to build my temple. David started by saying “This is
what I wanted to do”, but God checked him and said, “but that isn’t what I want
you to do.”
When we are walking in step with God then our visions are
his visions and his visions are our visions. 
And when we are walking with him and our visions aren’t his visions then
he will correct us, and we’d better be listening.  Because at that point we will have one of two
choices, we can listen to him and stop or we can ignore him and continue on
with our plans without him.  But we do
that at our own risk.  David could have
built the temple, but God wouldn’t have blessed it or him.
God gives us specific dreams, directions and goals, and if
we are to be obedient in our Christian walk then we are going to have to follow
his direction for our lives.
Some of those guidelines are
pretty general, like the one found in Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
That is God’s direction for all churches and for all
believers.  Other dreams and visions are
specifically ours and ours alone here at Cornerstone.  But God will never, never, never leave his
people without direction. 
During the Exodus God led his people out of Egypt and through
the wilderness with a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.  You say, “But Denn, what about the time they
were wandering in the wilderness?”  God
was still leading them, through their disobedience they had to wait to enter
the promised land but God was still leading them. 
And there may be times that we are called to wait, the ten
years between when Cornerstone had it first service and when we moved into our
building seemed like forever.  And I was
often reminded of John Wesley’s words when he said,  “The difference between me and God is that I am in
a hurry, and God is not”
Ok, if it is God who gives vision then to whom does he give
the vision to?  Well if we were to look
into the scripture we would see that Abraham, Isaac, Samuel, Joseph, David,
Daniel, Obadiah, Nahum, Solomon, Ezekiel, Micah, Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, Annias
and John all had a dream.  Princes,
priests, prophets, peasants, king, Pharisees, fishermen and farmers.  In other words they were God’s people.  The criteria for a vision from God is a
proper standing before God.
We need to be  “People who see
the invisible, hear the inaudible, believe the incredible and think the
unthinkable.”  In other words we
need to catch the dream that God has for Cornerstone.  And if we are to know what direction God
wants us to go in as a church first we need to know where God want us to end
up.  It was Yogi Berra who said “If you don’t
know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
And once you settle on a destination it is easier to
determine a direction.  If you wanted to
go to Florida then you would go on google maps and find the easiest way to get
there, and chances are it wouldn’t be through London.  And it is unfortunate that too many churches
have never looked to a destination other then heaven.
William Burroughs wrote “There couldn’t be a society of people who didn’t dream. They’d be dead in
two weeks.”  Sounds suspiciously
like “Without a vision the people perish.” In this life do you know what the
thing is that separates the mediocre from the great?  A goal, a dream, a vision.  Whether it’s in business, education, personal
or the effect the church will have on the local community the thing that will
set us apart from all the rest will be our vision.
If you can’t dream it then you can’t have it.  You will only grow as big as your dreams, you
will only go as far as your vision permits. 
Vision very simply is the ability to see beyond tomorrow.
And for years it seemed as if our vision was; we need
property and our own building.  And that
was the vision that I cast at Cornerstone, some would say Ad nauseam.  And here we are, with property and our own
building.  And it’s a nice building, but
is it the fulfilment of the dream?  I
hope not. 
You understand the building and the property weren’t the
dream, they were simply tools to help us reach our dream.  Our dream when we moved from Brisbane to
Bedford was to establish a church that would reach the pre-churched the
unchurched and the de-churched for Christ and to impact and change our
world.  And we discovered that one of the
obstacles that we had in seeing that dream fulfilled was that we didn’t have a
permanent facility.  It was the vision to
reach people that allowed us to see over the mountain of not having our own
facility and to see around the obstacles that stood in our way of having that
facility.  And the vision and the dream
are the same today as they were when we started worshipping in rented space,  to establish a church that would reach the
pre-churched the unchurched and the de-churched for Christ and to impact and
change our world. 
The majority see the obstacles, the few see the objectives,
history records the success of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the
former.  Through the years I have quoted
the words of  George Bernard Shaw who said You see things; and you
say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
Alexander Smith  said: “A man gazing on the stars is proverbially at the mercy of
the puddles in the road.”  Well
I’d rather see the stars and step in a few puddles then watch the puddles and
never see the stars.  It was reality that
caused the Israelites to see the height of Goliath standing.  It was the vision that allowed David to see
the length of Goliath lying down.  The
poorest man in the world is not the man without a cent it is the man without a
dream.
So let’s take a few moments and look at visions.
Vision Needs Proper
Perspective.
  Remember David and the
dream of his heart.  Anytime we catch a
vision we best examine it.  What is our
reasoning?  What is our rationale?  Why do we want to grow?  Why do we want expansion?  Is it to share Christ?  Is it to maximize the effect Christ can have
on this community, this city and this province? 
Or do we want to be able to say “Hey look at us, see how big and wonderful
Cornerstone Church is and what a great man of God Denn Guptill is”
Probably one of the greatest factors in your perspective is
your position.  If you go out into the
parking lot what can you see?  The
Hammonds Plains Road, across the road to Tim’s and the new construction,  on the other side of Gatehouse is the coming
soon sign for Esso that’s been there for almost three years.  But if you were to go up to Hammonds Plains
road at night, you can see the lights of Bedford, Dartmouth, Halifax, and Sackville.
In Ezekiel
40:2 the prophet writes Ezekiel 40:2 In a vision
from God he took me to the land of Israel and set me down on a very high
mountain.
If you want to expand your vision you gotta get on the
mountain top with God, because the higher you go the more you’ll see, beyond
today and beyond tomorrow, and into the future that God has prepared for
us.  The day before he was assassinated Martin Luther King  Jr. made this statement I just want to do God’s
will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and
I’ve seen the Promised Land.
We have to stand high and to dream, heed the words of D.L. Moody who on his death bed called his children
to him  and said “If
God be your partner then make your plans big.”
Vision is Often Solitary And Then is Shared  God often gives his people vision through
their leaders.  God didn’t take the
people of Israel up Mt. Sinai, he took just took Moses.  God didn’t burden the hearts of all the people
in exile about the temple walls, only Nehemiah.  
It was Gideon who was given the dream, not the 32,000 people
who chose to follow him. 
As one wit put it, for God so loved the world that he didn’t
send a committee. 
Listen to what King David told
his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:10 So take this seriously. The LORD has chosen you to build a
Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”
Who had God chosen? 
Solomon didn’t build the temple buy himself, he may not have even lifted
one finger to do it, but it was to him that God gave the dream, the vision of
the temple.  Time after time God gives
his dream and his vision to a leader and then commands that leader to share the
dreams and the visions with his people. 
And it is at that point that the people have the option of either
accepting the dream or rejecting the dream. 
God gave Caleb and Joshua a vision of the Promised Land, and they gave
that vision to the people of Israel and the people of Israel rejected the
vision and because of that they were denied entrance for 40 years.
As Martin Luther King Jr. stood at the foot of the Lincoln
Memorial he uttered those immortal words, “I have a
dream.” 
Well friends, I have
a dream, a dream of what God is going to do through Cornerstone and what God is
going to do through you.
Vision Requires Sacrifice 
Dreams don’t come cheap.  Boy
that’s a shocker isn’t it?  Let’s try it
again, Dreams don’t come cheap.  And a
dream without a sacrifice usually remains nothing but a dream.  And my dream is not different; it will
require sacrifice from each person who embraces the dream.  And as part of that you can be sure there
will be financial sacrifice, because everything Cornerstone does will be funded
through your giving.
Your giving is directly reflected in our ministry and our
ministry will be directly tied to your giving. 
And you can always be assured that the church leadership team will
always be accountable to you on how God’s money is spent. 
And it’s not just money, it’s also going to cost us
time.  Every person here has something
that they can contribute to the ministry of Cornerstone.  I know I beat this drum a lot but there is
something for everyone at Cornerstone to do. 
From greeting people as they come in, making them feel welcome with a
hot cup of coffee.  Providing a safe and
clean nursery and children’s ministry, do you know that there are people who
come in on a regular basis to wash and clean every toy that the children in the
nursery play with. 
Christianity involves sacrifice and being a part of the
ministry at Cornerstone will require sacrifice. Remember if it wasn’t for
someone else’s sacrifice you probably wouldn’t be here.
So where does this leave us on January 5th 2014?  Good question so let’s end with two
scriptures and a quote.
In Acts
1:8 Jesus has appeared to his disciples for the last time, you might
recall that he has been crucified, he was raised from the dead and he has spent
the last six weeks with the ones called apostles and now he is about to return
to heaven but before he leaves he makes a promise: Acts
1:8
But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me
everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the
earth.”
That promise wasn’t just for that small group two thousand years
ago, it is the same promise that Jesus Christ is making to us today, he will
still send the Holy Spirit and with the Spirit’s coming we will receive the
power we need to touch our communities for God. 
And in the next chapter in the book of Acts the promise is fulfilled,
the Holy Spirit comes, the apostles are changed and ultimately they change the
world.  Now listen to what how Peter
explains the coming of the spirit, Acts 2:16-17 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your
sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old
men will dream dreams.
I used to talk about the vision that God gave me for Cornerstone,
lately I’ve begun to see it as a dream. 
But whatever we want to call it, it remains the same.  My dream, my vision is to reach this
community for Christ, and to do my part to make Cornerstone Church everything
that God would have it to be.  And I’m
willing to pay the price.  Are you?  Now the quote.   It was W. B. Yeats who wrote, “But I, being poor, have only my
dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread
on my dreams.”