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.”