Customer Service Tips

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    I have strong feelings about customer service. I spent parts of about 3 years working in “fast food” in high school and early college. I spent about 2 years working as a magician at a restaurant near and at the end of college. I managed 20 retail photography studios. I was the Business Manager of a professional theater. And I helped run my brother’s restaurant and meat market during seminary…trying to help put food on my table! In other words, I have done a LOT of retail work. I have spent a great deal of my life working with the public- serving. I think everybody- did I mention EVERYBODY?- should have to do retail, restaurant or some kind of service job at least once in their life. And because of that…I have strong feelings about customer service.

    In the restaurant business, as well as in retail, taking care of the customer is Job One. Why? Because if you have no customers…you have no job! That’s how important they are. They simply do NOT need you. But…you NEED them! And if you don’t treat the right, there is another place, just down the street, that’s DYING to meet their needs.

    When you work in a restaurant, you greet the patrons as they walk in the door. We all know that there is nothing worse than being ignored when you walk into a place of business to spend your hard-earned money. You get them to a seat a quickly as you POSSIBLY can. You get them A. a menu and B. a drink immediately if possible. THEN you can take a little breather and check on your other customers. Once they order, if the kitchen is running behind, you DON’T ignore them…you go, tell them the kitchen is running a bit behind but their food will A. be out soon and B. be hot and fresh. Oh, and…fill their drinks!

    I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Take care of the customer. But I have found that there are people who simply take advantage of that fact to treat their server like dirt. WRONG! That is a decidedly non-Christian approach to the whole thing. Servers have a responsibility to behave a certain way. But patrons do, too! My wife and I take it as our goal, when we get a cashier at Walmart who hates her job and can’t wait to go home, to get her to engage in conversation, smile and…hopefully…laugh. If she says, “Have a great day!” when we leave- job well done!

    Christmas Day, 2003, my family drove 2½ hours to see my mom, who was too sick to “come to Christmas”. (She died 6 months later.) We got there, sayed for a while and then began the 2½ hour journey home. By now, it’s 7:30PM on Christmas Day. We haven’t eaten since about 10:30AM. And NOTHING is open. But then, about ⅓ of the way home, we found a Jack in the Box that was…OPEN! Huzzah!

    We stopped and went in. The people working there were, you might imagine, NOT to happy to be working…at 7:30PM…on Christmas Day. So, before we ordered, I acknowledged that I was SO sorry they had to work on Christmas and I thanked them all for being there. I shared about my mom fighting cancer and our trip to see her and how hungry we were. By the time we left, we were all best buds, wishing each other a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

    We have a responsibility to treat each other with respect, with love. If you are a “server”, then serve with a glad and gracious heart. Treat your customer like they are the most important person in the world. Make them feel valuable. If you are a “receiver” (customer/patron/etc.), be grateful for the person doing the work for you. Let them know you appreciate what they are doing. Make them feel valuable. In other words, “Golden Rule” it- treat others the way you would want to be treat…regardless.

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

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    Donna Summers loves to love you, baby. Peter Frampton loves your way. Bill Withers thinks it’s a lovely day. Tina Turner wants to know what love’s got to do with it. Paul McCartney thinks that his love does it good. John Paul Young thinks love is in the air. Dionne Warwick is never gonna fall in love again AND she’s never going to love this way again.  Earth, Wind and Fire wants to know what’s going to happen after the love is gone. And the Captain and Tennille are sure love will keep them together. Apparently not!

    Love is a fascinating thing. In English, there is one word for love: we love our pets, our chocolate, our family, Christmas and pizza…all with the same word. Anything that makes us feel good…we love. But in the Greek, there is a multitude of words for love, with 4 main types:

  1. Eros- passionate, romantic love that centers around desire and longing
  2. Philia- this is the “friendship” kind of love- a virtuous love focusing on loyalty to friends and community.
  3. Storge (storgē)- this is a natural affection- think “family relationships”
  4. Agapē- this is a more general, all-encompassing affection, when you hold others in high regard. It encourages us to be self-sacrificing and giving to all.

    The 1st 3 types of love are based on what the OTHER person does for you and what you receive- the benefits of the relationship. But it is agape alone that exists for the sole benefit of the one receiving the love. And in today’s passage, that’s exactly the kind of love we are talking about- agape.

    1John 3:16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters.

    Love- true agape love- expects nothing in return, demands nothing in return. Agape love is doing something for someone simply because it’s the right thing to do. Agape love is the love that Jesus shows us…and that we should mirror to others.

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Revealing the Book of Revelation

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    I have been neck-deep in the New Testament Book of Revelation for…a WHOLE lot of weeks! I taught a study on it in my Tuesday morning Bible Study. WE decided right up front to spend 1 week/chapter. Now, that is NOT 1 week/chapter of the STUDY GUIDE, but 1 week/chapter of…the Book of Revelation! That means we spent 22 weeks studying that book. Right about the time we finished that Tuesday morning study, I started the SAME study for my Wednesday night group! By the time the dust settles, I will have spent basically 44 straight weeks on the Book of Revelation! That’s a lot!

    But if you have read the Book of Revelation, you know that you could spend 144 weeks studying it and still not really have a great handle on it! It is a TOUGH nut to crack! I would argue that it is THE toughest book in the Bible to get your head around!

    Why is that? Well, for one thing…it’s pretty doggone scary!There’s LOTS of mayhew and killing. Horrifying beasts. Locusts with human faces and women’s hair. Dragons. Pits of fire. I mean, this could be a Stephen King novel…right?

    But I think there is more, underneath all the overt “scare-fest”, that makes us stop dead in our tracks. (EVERY pun intended!) If you are a believer, then the Book of Revelation is the Apostle John’s way of describing what he saw when God revealed what was to come. And while he may have struggled to fully understand, and therefore adequately describe, what he saw, if what comes to pass is ANYTHING like what he describes…it’s going to be nasty!

    And because of that, there is a sense, when we read the Book of Revelation, of, “What if I’m not ready? What if I can’t make the cut?” You know what I mean? We go to church every week. We put our offering in the plate. We say our prayers. (And, if you are Hulk Hogan, you also take your vitamins!) We try to live decent life. But are we THAT “good”? Are we “Christian” enough to be on the RIGHT side when all of this stuff goes down? Will we be able to handle it?

    But for me, the answer to all of that can be found in the Book of Revelation itself. The first 7 verses of the 21st chapter, to be exact. Those verse offer a hope that is amazing in its scope. They help put everything in some perspective. And here they are.

    Revelation 21:1-7 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

    It just doesn’t, for my money, get a whole lot better than THAT!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

God’s Promises: Forgiveness

Gods Promises Forgiveness    Once upon a time in their marriage, a husband did something really stupid. His wife chewed him out for it. He apologized, they made up. However, from time to time, she would mention what he had done. “Honey,” he finally said one day, “why do you keep bringing that up? I thought your policy was ‘forgive and forget.'” “It is,” his wife said. “I just don’t want YOU to forget that I’VE forgiven and forgotten!”

    Tonight, we begin a new Sunday night series. It’s a 147-part series and, y’all, I’m REAL excited about it! No, seriously, it is a 5-week series that will take us to the beginning of Advent- the season of Christmas. Imagine that for a moment- in 5 weeks, we will be on the threshold of the Christmas season! How did THAT happen?!

    This new series is called God’s Promises. Since we just completed the 6 steps to God’s grace, I thought it appropriate that we spent some time focusing on some of God’s other promises. There are lots of promises God makes to us- this is NOT an exhaustive list. But we will look at 5 important promises- what they are, WHY they are and what they mean for our lives.

    We start with one of the most basic, elemental promises God offers us- forgiveness.

Question #1- How would you define “forgiveness”?

To forgive means: “to grant pardon for an offense or debt, to absolve, to stop feeling resentment against, to cancel an indebtedness to”. There are people in this world who seem to think that forgiveness is a flaw of the weak. But God makes it clear- forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.

    Matthew 18:21-35 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Question #2- Which is harder- to give or receive forgiveness? Is it harder to forgive someone else…or yourself?

    So Peter- impulsive, “shoot first and ask questions later” Peter- comes to Jesus looking for clarification. Let’s be honest- he wants Jesus to define for him the bare minimum- “What is the absolute LEAST I can do in this circumstance?”

   In Jewish rabbinical law, the consensus was that someone might be forgiven for a repeated sin three times. On the fourth offense, there would be no forgiveness. But Peter, wanting to show himself as big-hearted, volunteers “seven times” in answer to his own question. Seven here would be a rather generic larger figure that was often used- it was, after all, the umber of perfection. It was meant to be seen as a perfect, “round” number.

    Jesus’ response to Peter refers back to Genesis 4:24, which says- “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” Lamech was a sixth generation descendant of Cain- he of Cain and Abel fame. And Jesus takes Lamech’s “seventy and sevenfold” revenge and transforms it instead into a principle of forgiveness. He then punctuates the whole thing with this powerful parable about forgiveness.

    To give you some idea of the size of the indebtedness owed to the king- 10,000 talents- David donated three thousand talents of gold and seven thousand talents of silver for the construction of the temple. Such indebtedness couldn’t possibly be covered by selling the family into slavery: top price for a slave was about one talent.

    Or let’s look at it this way- a denarius was one day’s wage for a typical day laborer. He would work six days a week and, taking Jewish holidays into consideration, would work about 50 weeks a year- earning 300 denarii/year. It took 6,000 denarii to equal one talent, meaning it would take you 20 years to earn a talent. But this guy owed 10,000 talents. That would take…ready?…200,000 YEARS to earn! Extrapolate the numbers out, looking at current minimum wage, and what he owed, in today’s dollars, suddenly blossoms into the billions with a “B”! The servant’s plight is desperate. He has neither the resources or the hope to ever pay this back. But the master takes pity on him and cancels the debt.

    And instead of carrying that forgiveness on to the next person, the servant behaves horribly to the one who owes HIM money- a LOT less money, I might add. The king gets wind and has the servant thrown into prison and tortured until he can pay back what he owes- which, as we just established, will be…never.

    People read this parable and they understand that the king is God and we are the servant. But they blanch at the notion that a loving God Who would forgive such a debt would be the SAME God Who would mete out such awful punish. “My God would NEVER do THAT!”

    But Jesus sees no with the actions of a heavenly Father Who forgives so extravagantly and yet seems willing to punish so ruthlessly. But if you think about it, it’s exactly BECAUSE He has such compassion and mercy that He can’t possibly accept those devoid of such things. Let’s be clear here- Jesus is NOT saying that 77 times is the upper limit of forgiveness. Instead, He is saying that forgiveness should not, and cannot, be limited by numerical limitations like frequency or quantity.

Question #3- Do “forgive” and “forget” truly go hand in hand?

    Who do you need to forgive? What are the things that you have been unable to let go that threaten to keep you bound forever? Here’s my advice- let go of them. Or to quote those great theologians over at Frozen- Let it Go! Holding a grudge has NO negative impact on the other person. They’re sleeping just fine at night, thank you very much! It’s YOU who suffers when you refuse to forgive. It eats you alive, from the inside out. AND it separates you from the love and forgiveness of God.

     Actor Bradley Whitford said this, “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” In other words, seek forgiveness with all your heart…and offer it that same way.

A Church…Celebrating Halloween?!

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    This Saturday will be the 4th Annual Trunk or Treat event at the church I currently serve. We started it the first October I was here. (Good month to do Trunk or Treat, huh?!) The first year, we were pretty much making it up as we went along. We got permission to close off the street alongside the church. We lined both sides of the street with decorated cars- trunks sticking into the street- and then..the games began!

    We had maybe 150 people that first year. We were thrilled and immediately started making plans for the next year. Year 2, we added free hot dogs to the mix. Our United Methodist Men put the grill up out by the main street and grilled “dogs”. We had about 300 people that year and gave away about 200 hot dogs. (People REALLY struggled with the concept of “free food”!)

    Last year, we stepped up our game again. Along with the hot dogs, we added free bottled water. We gave away about 400 hot dogs, 300 bottles of water and had about 500 people come through. This year, we have 23 cars signed up to participate and somewhere north of 500 hot dogs and 600 bottles of water ready to go. We have a MOUNTAIN of candy accumulating in the church office and…let the games begin…again!

    Every year, I have people who question why we do this. “A church? Celebrating Halloween? That’s just…wrong!” And I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion. But here’s my thought on the whole thing. The community we serve is GOING to celebrate Halloween…period. And so, the church has two choices. There are two possible responses to the community’s involvement with Halloween.

    Response #1 is…perhaps…the obvious one. “Halloween is evil. It is based on a pagan holiday. It celebrates monsters, death, blood, gore…evil. We will NOT participate in that type of event!” And everybody has to decide for themselves how they want to react. But for me, that approach, whether you actually say it or not, ALSO says, “What you are doing is evil. You are, therefore, not welcome here because we have higher standards than you do…clearly.” Argue with me all you want, but if you tell Joe or Josephine Citizen that celebrating Halloween is evil, they are GOING to her the unspoken response as well. This approach simple widens and deepens the perception that many “unchurched” folks already have about the Church- that we have lost all connection with the world around us and are simply irrelevant.

    Response #2- Accept the fact that the community is going to celebrate Halloween…and figure out a way to partner with them that invites them in without compromising what you believe. Are we going to have a Haunted House in the church basement? Nope. Are we going to have headless dummies skewered on pikes out by the street? Uh uh. Are we going try our best to scare the wits out of every small child who comes? Of course not. We are simply going to try and be gracious hosts and provide a safe, welcoming environment in which their kids can Trick or Treat. We’ll give away a LOT of hot dogs and bottled water- we will struggle a bit less with the “free” notion this year, since many of the folks who will come will be “repeat customers”.

    My approach to ministry is pretty simple- meet folks where they are. Charles Wesley, prolific hymn writer and the brother of United Methodist founder John Wesley, put many of his lyrics to the tunes of English drinking songs. Why? Because people KNEW them! A pastor friend of mine used to (probably still does!) hang out in bars, sitting intentionally by the bathroom. We would sip his water and tell people who went by, “Jesus loves you.” (He said that, as the evening went on, people got more receptive! Imagine that!) Why did he do that? Because that’s where the people were!

    The instant…the INSTANT…that a church refuses to meet people where they are simply because “it’s not the way we’ve always done it”…they begin the rapid slide to irrelevance. Don’t sacrifice your beliefs. Don’t water down the Gospel broth. Don’t give an INCH on “the main stuff”. But be as flexible as you POSSIBLY can…on everything else!!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

I Only Work One Day a Week!

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    What a day! Since I ONLY work one day a week, I have to make the most of Sundays! AND…I made the most of yesterday! My day started at 5AM when the alarm went off. By 5:15AM, I was dressed for church and in the kitchen making coffee. By 5:30AM, I had taken the dogs out, given them their medicine (they live better than me, I swear!) poured my coffee and walked next door to the church. I unlocked doors, turned on lights, printed some things out for the morning and went over the three…yes, THREE sermons…I would preach throughout the day!

    At 6:35AM, I was in the sanctuary, loading files onto the worship computer for the three “in-house” worship services we do. After getting all loaded and test-driving three videos that would run at various times throughout the day, to make sure they worked, it was time for the band to warm up and do sound check.

    We spent from 7AM to about 7:40AM going through the music for the morning. (As a drummer for the past…oh my goodness…44 years, I thoroughly enjoy those 40 minutes! Then I spent from 7:40AM to 8AM “meeting and greeting”- saying hello to folks as they came in the sanctuary.

    From 8AM to 9AM, I led our Contemporary Worship Service. Prayers were lifted up. We had an altar call. We played and sang a total of five songs. There was a Children’s Moment. There was a call to worship video about Moses killing and Egyptian and running from God and set to the song Take On Me by one-hit wonder A-Ha. And I preached Week 3 of a series called The Exodus. Today’s topic was running from God.

    Then, at 9AM, I went into our Fellowship Cafe, where I got some breakfast (English Muffin toast with Nutella, some cheese and some fruit) and refilled my coffee (snickeroo coffee with pumpkin pie spice creamer!).

    From there, I went to my Sunday School class. I spent from 9:10AM to 10AM leading the class discussion. We are working through the Ten Commandments.

    Then, I went back to the sanctuary, where I spent from 10AM to 10:15AM doing another “meet and greet”. Then, from 10:15AM to 11:15AM, I led our Blended Worship Service. Again, prayers, were lifted up. We played and sang a total of four songs. There was a Children’s Moment. The choir did a spectacular job on their anthem for the week. And I again preached Week 3 of a series called The Exodus. Today’s topic was, again, running from God.

    Then, at 11:15AM, I went down to our dining room to help my wife serve lunch to our Senior Citizen’s group- CIA (Caring Individual Adults). The ministry is intended for folks who often find themselves eating alone. It is meant to be a chance for them to share food and fellowship. And it is a thriving, growing ministry!

    After lunch was done and everything was cleaned up, I locked up the building and turned off the lights. That got me home about 12:40PM. That meant I had a grand total of 30 minutes to sit down. And sit down I did! In fact, I threatened, more than once in those 30 minutes, to fall asleep! But then, at 1:10PM, I was out the door!

    By 1:15PM, I was at the local nursing home. At 1:30, I led a worship service there. (Local churches take turns doing those services.) We sang 3 songs, spent some time in prayer and I preached a sermon about love. Then, by 2:30PM, I was across town at the local physical rehabilitation center for a 2nd worship service. It was similar to the one at the nursing home, except that, due to the small number of people, I turned the sermon into a discussion-centered Bible study.

    At 3:30PM, I was at a parishioner’s house who is sick, taking him some soup from the luncheon that my wife packed up for him. I was back home by 3:50PM and in bed by 4PM! After a brief nap, I was back up at 4:35PM and getting dressed.

    At 5:15PM, I went back to church, where I spent the next 45 minutes getting ready for the evening service and “meeting and greeting”. At 6PM, I started that evening service. We sang 3 songs, lifted up joys and concerns and shared Communion. I preach the first night of a new sermon series- God’s Promises. The topic was forgiveness. That service features a conversation piece- I ask questions during the sermon and then “Phil Donahue” it with a microphone, running from person to person to get their input. By 7:20PM, the service was over, everybody was gone and I was locking up to go home. I got there at 7:30PM.

    So, let’s check that tote board! 5 worship services in a total of 3 different locations. 3 distinctly different sermons. A Sunday School class. A luncheon. A pastoral visit. And over the span of 15 hours, about 13 hours of ministry. And you know what? I. Love. IT!

    Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Exodus: Running

The Exodus Running

Both of my sons were distance runners at some point in their lives. And when my older son was a member of the high school Cross Country team, he was out running. The town in which we lives was a smaller town that sits in the middle of good ‘ol Illinois farm land. So when you run distance there, you can’t help but end up out in the middle of nowhere.
One day, he was exactly there- the middle of nowhere- running right down the middle of the road. Suddenly, one of the county’s finest- a sheriff’s deputy in a patrol car, pulled up. He jumped out of the car and yelled at my sone to stop. Now, you need a brief aside here to better understand the situation. My older son is about 6’1”. He has BROAD shoulders. (I have NO idea where her gets that!!) And he had LONG hair back then- “halfway down the back” long. So he was NOT the stereotypical distance runner!
So the cop stops, jumps out and says, “I GOT you!!” My son was, to say the least, a bit surprised by that. “What are you talking about?” “Don’t play dumb with me. You thought you could run away, but I caught you! Get in the car!” After some hassle back and forth, and a little nod to the fact that there was a gun on someone’s hip…and it wasn’t the runner!…he got in the back of the squad car. As they drove, the cop informed my son that he was the driver in a hit and run accident that had happened a few miles away. He had hit another car and fled the scene on foot. My son denied that fact and point out, “If I was running from you…would I be running right down the middle of the road?” The cop told him to shut up and kept driving- back to the crash scene. A minute later, a voice came over the radio, “Everybody can come back- we caught the guy.” The cop looked in the rearview mirror and said. “Um…I guess I was wrong!” My son said, “You think?!” He stopped the car and said, “Get out.” They were, by this time, MILES from where he had been picked up! “Couldn’t you at least take me back to where you found me?!” The cop sighed really big, put the car in drive and grudgingly drove him back. Sometimes, you aren’t even aware of what you are running from!
Jonah 1:1-3 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish . He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.
Today, we continue our current 7-week sermon series- The Exodus. The 2nd book of the Old Testament recounts the story of the Hebrews as slaves in Egypt and beyond.     The first week, we looked at their beginnings in Egypt- welcomed with open arms but later enslaved. Last week, the story of the Hebrews took a massive leap forward as a mother made an incredibly painful decision- toss her infant son into the Nile River…to save him. Today, we look at Moses as he makes a snap decision, with the best of intentions- one that causes him to run for his life…and try to run from God.
 Exodus 2:11-15 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.
Two gas company servicemen, one a senior training supervisor and the other a young trainee, were out checking gas meters. They parked their truck at one end of the block and worked their way to the other end. The whole time, the trainer gave his supervisor good-natured grief about being old and out of shape. At the last house, an old woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men check her gas meter. When they finished, the supervisor, tired of the trash talk, challenged his trainee to a foot race back to the truck- to prove he could outrun a younger guy. They took off running. And as they got back to the truck, the old lady from the last house was suddenly right alongside them, huffing and puffing in her housecoat and slippers. Shocked, they asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath and holding her wig in place, she replied, “When I see two gas men running away from my house as hard as you two were, I figured I’d better run too!”
So, Moses was born a Hebrew slave. He was sent down the Nile in a basket in an attempt to save him from Pharaoh. He ends up being raised IN Pharaoh’s palace. One day, he’s out walking around the construction project, checking on things, and he sees an Egyptian guard bating a Hebrew slave…and something in him snaps. He kills the guard and hides his body in the sand.
The very next day, he’s out again and comes across two Hebrew slaves fighting. He asks them why and they respond by asking him if he is going to kill them…just like he killed the Egyptian guard. So either someone else was watching or the Hebrew slave he saved the day before has been talking. And if good news travels fast, then bad news travels even faster- Pharaoh finds out, is incensed and tries to kill oses. But Moses manages to get away and runs off into the desert, ending up in a place called Midian. On the surface, he is running from Pharaoh and the threat of death. But deep down..he is running from God. And while we might be able to run from our mistakes, we can’t hide from God.
Running from problems is a decidedly human reaction. Don’t get me wrong- there are probably some of you right now who are saying, “I take offense at that, Pastor. I do NOT run from my problems- I face them head-on!” And I appreciate that. I was raised with that same Bootstrap Theology- don’t rely on anybody else…pull yourself up. And in many ways…that’s a good thing. That pioneer spirit is what, in part, helped make this nation so great so far- historically speaking.
But to quote that great theologian Barbra Streisand, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” We need each other. And we need God. And yet it is God that we so often try so hard to run so far from. We think that if we just get far enough away from Him, then whatever it is we are trying to hide will be kept in the dark. But let me assure you- there is NO place that is “far enough away” from God. There IS no place you can go and be beyond the reach of God.
I have shared before- I ran for years from God’s call on my life. I couldn’t imagine a worse idea than going into the ministry. Why in the WORLD would I want to do THAT?! And so I kept running. And yet, it does NOT go unnoticed with me that, even in the midst of my running away from God, I kept drawing closer to God at the same time. I stayed involved in Sunday School and Church committees. I even let a fellow church member talk me into going with him, for I think it was 6 consecutive Sundays, to a Lay Speaking School that was being offered 2½ hours away! So we drove, idiots that we were, 5 hours round trip…EVERY Sunday…for 6 weeks to complete this course. I must have been stupid! And yet, that guy I rode with every Sunday? He is also now a United Methodist pastor in our conference!
Saul of Tarsus- one of the worst excuses for a human being in the whole of the New Testament. Persecuted and killed Christians at every opportunity. And did it in the name of God! But all the time that he was supposedly working FOR God…he was running FROM God. He was trying as hard as he could to escape the destiny God had for him. And then, one day, he could escape it no more. He was travelling to Damascus when he had an encounter. It was with Jesus Christ Himself- the very same Jesus that he was killing people for worshipping. And that encounter caused a challenge- a challenge of faith. Saul, a highly religious man, was suddenly and unexpectedly challenged with ending his running and facing the truth that what he believed, what he held so dear…was wrong. And he stopped running, worked through that challenge and became a new person in Jesus Christ. Saul, the man who had gone to great lengths to make sure the Christians were wiped completely out, became Paul, Jesus’ newest brother. The preacher of death became the proclaimer of life- all because he stopped running.
John 3:18-21 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
From what are you running? What are you trying to hide from God? What is God calling you to do that to are trying to distance yourself from? I just stopped by this morning to tell you this- stop. Stop running. Let your running days be over. Put an end to the life of aimless wandering and turn fully and completely to God. The truth is- you can’t hide from Him, anyway! He’s like your mom- eyes in the back of His head! Do you ever find yourself saying, “I just don’t have time for church? I don’t have time for God.”? You know what I mean- the kids, the sports, the concerts, the practices, work, mortgage, vacation…the list goes on. And those things all vie for your attention…and your time. Wht? Because they are urgent.
But I learned a long time ago that “urgent” and “important” are not always the same thing. There are a LOT of urgent things that really aren’t that important. But they get our time and our attention because they are the barking dog, yapping at our heels. What’s REALLY important in your life? What lasting legacy do you want to leave for family and friends when you finally shuffle off this mortal coil, bring down the curtain and go to join the choir in Heaven? Stop running, turn to God and fulfill your destiny.