Busted flat in Baton Rouge…or at least Carl Junction! Yesterday I shared that the males sneaked our beds/belongings into another part of the church in which we are living in an effort to get better/more sleep. 2 things: 1. the first night was GREAT! We slept like babies! (You know, waking up every two hours, demanding to be fed!) BUT…yesterday we were BUSTED! Apparently moving to the rooms we chose was…shall we say…not an option! When we got back to the church yesterday, all our stuff had been moved out into the main area again! Oops! Oh well…we tried!
Like thieves in the night we moved. Skulking through the halls of the church in which we are living. Surreptitiously dragging belongings down endless hallways. Why? Because…THEY are coming! We heard a rumor last night that a new group was coming in to live among us…at ONE in the morning!! It’s hard enough to sleep with the guys who get up at 4:45 every morning…ONLY after they let their alarms sound for 30 minutes. It’s hard enough to sleep when they yell at each other across the sleeping area at 5:05 every morning to see if they’re ready. It’s hard enough to sleep when EVERY time some middle-aged man (like myself!), gets up and goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night, opening the bathroom door and momentarily flooding the room with light. It’s hard enough to sleep when the ladies (dear, SWEET ladies) who come in to fix our breakfast every morning start banging pots and pans and catching up on all the latest gossip at 6AM. Now a NEW group is coming in…at ONE in the MORNING?! The madness must end. So…we waited until the church staff left and went on a reconnaissance mission, boldly go where no mission worker has goner before, bravely scouting out as yet undiscovered territory in which to lay our precious, sleep-deprived heads at night! And…and…and…VICTORY! We found the promised land, which is why we have been skulking through the halls of the church with our bedding and belongings. The reality is that sleep is to a mission trip as cigarettes are to a prison- a valuable commodity. And the further into the week you go, the harder you will try for a decent night’s sleep. Which is why I slept RIGHT NEXT to a puppet theater last night. Oh, and by the way…it was heaven!!
We survived! Yesterday was a long day, a hard day…a GREAT day! Somebody was texting where the guys slept…until 2 in the morning! (It was GREAT to hear that “boop, boop, beep, boop” for half the night!) Then, that same guy’s alarm went off at 4AM, and because he had stayed up so late texting, he slept right through his alarm! But the REST of us heard it!! Someone from our group finally got up and shut the guy’s phone off! (He was STILL asleep at 8AM when we left! Oops!)
Well…we made it! 17 of us left the church at noon yesterday…and we drove! And drove! And drove! We stopping in…somewhere…for gas and bathrooms. Then, about 2 hours later, we stopped in…somewhere else…for dinner. We dined at a very fancy restaurant…McDonalds! (It was VERY special! I recommend the Big Mac…VERY continental!) Then, about 10 minutes before we got to our destination, I got a text that someone in another car had to “use the facilities”! (I’ll be honest- I thought to myself, “You have GOT to be kidding! Couldn’t they wait 10 more minutes!) But we stopped…only to find out that the text had been sent…THREE HOURS BEFORE! I had JUST received it! So we got back on the highway and finished the trip.
I was interviewed on the noon news program of a local TV station regarding a
benefit for a local family. It was a pretty simple, straightforward thing-
about 2 ½ minutes. no big whoop. A couple days later, I walked into the local
IGA in my shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap to get a few groceries. As I
walked in the front door, I ran into a high school kid who works there. He
stopped, pointed at me, and just…stared. I was a bit…confused…so I just
smiled. Then he said, “Weren’t you…weren’t you…you know…on TV?!” I
allowed as how…yes…I had been, a couple of days ago. “I SAW you! You’re the
pastor! I SAW you!” He walked away smiling. I just didn’t know what to do with
that…but it DID remind me of a Mission Trip I went on once. We were in the hills
of North Carolina. One day. we tore an old porch off a house and built a new
one. I am NOT all that handy, but no one else in my crew was handy…AT ALL.
Therefore, late in the day, as we were finishing up, the matriarch of the
family said to me, “You’re a good carpenter!” I chuckled, thanked her and said,
“Even a sparrow appears as an eagle when there are no other birds!”
we begin a new sermon series called God Is… This series looks at the person
of God…who God is, and how He can transform our lives. Today we consider the
fact that the most basic truth is also the easiest to forget. And that truth is
that God is here. And you say, “Well…DUH! Kind of obvious, isn’t it pastor?”
But I would argue that no, it’s isn’t always that obvious. When electricity was
just becoming available in rural areas, a woman went to great trouble and
expense to have electricity installed in her home. A few months later, the
power company noticed the home didn’t use very much power. Fearing there was a
problem, they sent someone out to check. The power was indeed working properly
and so he asked the woman, “Do you use your electricity?” The woman replied,
“Of course we do. We turn it on every night…so we can see to light our oil
lamps…then we turn it off!”
ridiculous, doesn’t it- having all the power you need AND the ability to tap
into it any time you want, but only using just enough to “get by”? We’d NEVER
do anything like that…because it wouldn’t make sense…right? But the reality
is that we do the exact same thing all too often. We go to church and we worship…but
we often have minimal relationship with God the rest of the week. We face
difficulties every day, but only when we are at the end of our rope do we ask
for God’s help. We have the power of God at our disposal ALL the time, but over
and over we try to get by on our own strength. Perhaps we’re a lot more like
the woman who wouldn’t use her electricity than we would like to admit. Just
like electricity, when we remove the presence of God from our lives we remove
God’s power as well. What does the Bible say about God’s presence?
17:20-21- Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God
would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something
that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’
because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Being in the presence of celebrities
does interesting things to people…like the kid at the IGA!! Years ago, I was
the Business Manager at the
Westport Playhouse in St. Louis. We booked shows in, produced our own shows,
and also booked celebrities in for weekend shows. Since I was the Business Manager,
I paid all these celebrities. So they would come looking for me! Folks like
Pearl Bailey, Tennessee Ernie Ford, the Amazing Kreskin and Jay Leno would show
up at my desk, looking for rather large checks! I wasn’t that impressed by
their presence. But many people get goofy in the presence of “the famous”. Brad Pitt
got to see that first hand. A bouncer at a promotional event for his
movie The Strange Case of Benjamin Button failed to recognize him and
pinned him to a wall. The guard pulled Pitt out of a crowd of photographers who
had infiltrated a secure area and spun him around “quickly and
aggressively,” according to the the New York Post. Once he realized
who he had grabbed, the guard apologized and ushered Pitt into the theater for
a Q&A session about the movie. Pitt laughed it off as “just
another day in the life”.
The Bible is full of people who felt unqualified or simply did not
want to do what God was calling them to do. Moses was a reluctant follower.
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of
Egypt?” It took Samuel 3 tries before he realized God was calling him to
service. Isaiah was a reluctant prophet- “I am a man of unclean lips, and
I live among a people of unclean lips.” Jeremiah talked about his
unworthiness to answer God’s call: “Lord God! Truly I do not know how to
speak, for I am only a boy.” And yet they each came to recognize
God’s presence and that motivated them to answer the call that was before them.
God doesn’t judge by appearance or even skill but instead looks
into the heart. God is not only present in the powerful, attractive and
authoritative. God is present in everybody…but we run the risk of missing God
if we’re not careful. We have to be open to God’s presence and God’s
call. We can’t have any hope of holiness if we are not radically open to God. As
John Calvin said, we’re not worthy to stand before God. Yet, God accepts us for
who we are. God doesn’t call the equipped…God equips the called. He actually
chooses those who understand themselves to be unworthy. God provides that which is necessary to complete
the assigned task. So we have to step forward in faith, confident that God is
active in our world.
God’s call often feels like an interruption, a detour from daily
life. But it’s through a willingness to serve God, a willingness to change,
that our greatest opportunities for growth are found. God is all around
us…but are we open to that fact? God is present in the dawn each morning and
the dusk each evening. But God is most profoundly present in people…us AND
the folks we encounter every day.
But have you ever wondered whether God was REALLY present in your
life? Times are hard and the pain seems endless. You work long and hard every
day but there always seems to be too much month left at the end of the money.
And you cry, “God, where are you?” God is always with us,
even during our most trying times. Here are three truths about God’s presence.
1. God always hears the
cries of His people. God is like a loving parent with a small child. When the
child cries, the parent hears…and responds. God hears our cries just like a
good parent because God cares. When things fail to go as planned, what do you
do…when you don’t know what to do? What do you do when the situation is
beyond human capabilities? When everything you’ve tried has failed, what do you
do? You cry to God…because God is here, and God is listening. God knows our
every hurt and disappointment and wants to help us.
2. God chooses His
people. We aren’t announced
candidates elected by the people, but rather, chosen by God to serve. Romans 10 says:
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then,
can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in
the One whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone
preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is
written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news…” The
certification of the servant doesn’t have to come from ordination or the laying
on of hands. We are authenticated as proclaimers of the Word when God says,
3. God delivers when we
are obedient. God doesn’t find disobedience acceptable. He tells us to “go and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy
Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” And that’s
awesome! But then He adds those extremely important words- “surely I am with
you always, to the very end of the age.” God is always with us,
but the benefit of God’s presence isn’t maximized until we acknowledge that
pastor traveled often, and when he flew, he liked to be left alone. He didn’t
want to be pestered by the person sitting next to him, so he employed a simple
procedure. He would take out his Bible, open it, and set it in his lap…and
everyone left him alone! How many of us come to church week after
week…and have no real experience with God? What’s the problem? The problem is
we settle for the status quo and leave our lives parked right there. But if we
settle for what we’ve already experienced with God, we can’t grow. When we
settle, we can’t move forward in our walk with Him. I’m here this morning to
say we simply can’t settle anymore! People want a deep
relationship with God but don’t want to pay the price for it. Developing an
intimate relationship with God takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen
overnight. If we want to have a deeper relationship with
God, we need to ask Him 3 things:
1. “Teach me Your ways.”
It’s only when we know the ways of God that we can truly follow Him.
2. “Let me know You.”
There’s a direct connection between knowing the ways of God and knowing God.
It’s only when we know God personally that we can be called His people.
3. “Let me live in Your
favor.” Once we know God’s ways and know God personally, then God’s favor can
rest on our lives. It’s impossible for you to have the divine favor of God in
your life if you don’t know God. When we do these things,
it opens our lives to the presence of God. When we strive to know God’s ways
and know God, He throws open the floodgates of heaven and pours out His divine
favor into our lives.
created us to have a deep personal relationship with Him. He walked
with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Think about that- God literally walked…and
talked…with Adam and Eve. They were able to fully experience His presence.
God’s greatest desire is to have that same kind of relationship with you. He
wants you to walk in His presence. Do you want to truly see
the majesty of God? Do you want to see Him without the barriers? Do you want to
see Him in all of His glory? Then you need to live daily in His presence. Are
you seeking more of God every day? The only thing holding you back from a
deeper experience with God is…you. God wants you to know Him more and
experience more of His presence. If you want more of God’s presence…ask Him
Thanks for stopping by today- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus.
Well, it’s finally here! Months ago, I began planning this year’s Mission Trip. Initially, we were to go to Manhattan, KS and work with folks through Kansas State University. The plans for that were coming along nicely and were pretty much all set. Then…life got in the way! The community of Joplin, MO was devastated by a tornado. (I lost one cousin and had several other relatives displaced.) Several of the folks who were going on the Mission Trip felt pulled to change course and go instead to Joplin. I hated to do that because we had already committed to the awesome folks in Kansas. But the more I prayed about it, the less I could ignore God’s call. SO I reluctantly contacted the folks in Kansas, told them of the news, apologized profusely, then began to go a new direction!
“The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”…. remember that song? OK…but do you remember who SANG it? Ah! It was…ready?…none other than Vicki Lawrence of the Carol Burnett Show and Mama’s Family fame. Who’da thunk it?