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- Audio 11 18 2018.mp3
I showed you this picture last week. Friends, there’s some things we learn the hard way. Those are not baby kittens with white stripes. Last week we talked about how our perspective, what we think is true, can lead to a lot of difficulty, can lead to suffering, because if you move forward thinking that there’s a not a pothole in the road, and then your tire finds one, it’s going to hurt. That’s just how life works. Mistakes in our perspective, what we think to be true, often lead to trouble, to mistakes in life, because we make decisions based on how we see things.
And sometimes, we need to question what we believe to be true. And that’s because the truth is patient. It will wait for us to wake up. And sometimes if we are in denial about the truth, it will be hard. Until we learn. We need to pay attention to our perspective.
Particularly in this day and time, when we are so busy. Because you can’t know the truth if you’re too busy to pay attention.
One of the most dangerous things you can do is to drive distracted. We all hear about how bad texting is, but I actually once knew a man who would shine his shoes while he was driving. I thought that was bad until I was commuting from one place to another during work hours, between Jacksonville and Springfield, and I saw a very well dressed woman actually reading a book that she laid on her steering wheel while she drove down the interstate. Oftentimes, we’re too distracted to notice what we need to notice. And sometimes, a great tragedy can happen.
We need to notice, because all wisdom comes from noticing the truth. And when we know the truth, then we can pray according to what’s true, and begin to see God at work. But it all starts with us paying attention, with us noticing.
People wonder – they may not put it into words, but they wonder – what does God want? What does God want from me? And this requires us to pull back from all the details to the most simple overview of the truth. So here’s the truth, and we’ve mentioned it several times, but really almost it’s so true we can mention it every single week. Here’s the truth. This is what God wants. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And one of the other gospels adds, “With all your strength.” And Jesus says this is the great and first commandment. It embodies everything as we look toward God.
And how do we love God? We notice God. Not just that God is, but we notice what God does. We notice God – God at work around us, and your noticing that is the basic idea behind your prayer chair. The reality is that every single day, there should be a place to where you stop to pray and give your life to Christ. Now for me, that’s my La-Z-Boy recliner in my living room. For some of you, it’s another chair, but there are some people who do this when they go jogging. There are some people who have their prayer time as they drive down the road. It might not involve a literal chair. But it’s in our prayer time that we begin to notice what God is doing.
And Anne Lamott wrote a little book where she talked about the fact that all of our prayers, no matter how complicated we get, pretty much boil down to three simple things. Those three simple things are these: help, thanks, and the one we don’t think about that often, necessarily, wow.
I’m not quite sure, but this whole month as I think toward Christmas and the holidays that are coming, those three words have been really on my mind. Help, thanks, wow. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, for 40 years, I have preached the sermon about how to be thankful, but it seems to me that today I need to widen that out to include help and wow. Because certainly this is a season where we need all three, not just to be thankful, but we need all three.
Here’s a quote from Anne Lamott’s book. “Prayer means that in some unique way, we believe that we are invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence.” That word help is always heard by a loving God.
“Prayer,” she goes on to say, “is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen and we do not have to get it together before we show up.” When we pray, we come to God broken. You don’t have to get fixed before you ask God to fix you. You come, as the hymn says, “just as I am.” Help. And God answers that prayer.
What does God want? If you said, “Pastor Dave, let’s get really specific. What exactly does God want from me?” This would be my answer. The rest of that commandment goes like this, “And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Don’t just love yourself. Don’t love your neighbor and harm yourself. Find a balance there.
And then Jesus says this amazing statement in verse 40. “On these two commandments,” these two phrases, all of the Old Testament law, all of the Prophets and the Torah rests upon these two. If you do these two perfectly, you will fulfill every desire and expectation that God has. They are the biggest of the big picture. And then we have to figure out how to do them. What does God want again, I don’t think you can love your neighbor unless you notice your neighbor, and when you notice them, I think in your heart you’ll realize how they need to be loved, and to be very honest, I don’t know of anything you can do that is more loving toward your neighbor than to pray for your neighbor.
Now, you know that I frequently say that I’m sports impaired. I know very little about sports. I know even less about fishing. Some of you here know a lot about fishing. It’s my understanding that thing in the middle of the lake there is called a bobber. Is that correct? And I understand that if a fish gets curious about what you’re using for bait, the bobber will begin to send you a signal, and when you see the signal of the bobber waving, you’ve got a live one, but if you dozed off and you’re not paying attention, if you’re not noticing, the fish will just nibble all your bait off the hook because you didn’t notice.
When you look at your neighbor in your spirit, in your soul there’d be some little thing that’s like a bobber that says, “Hey, pay attention to this.” And what you’re about to notice when you pay attention is there’s a need for someone like you to pray help for your neighbor. Maybe God has already helped them and the message of the bobber is there’s a need for someone like you to pray, “Thank you, Lord, for what you’ve done in that person’s life.” And sometimes we’re just amazed by grace and all we can say is, “Wow.” But when you interact with your neighbor look for the bobber. God may be sending you a signal that prayer is needed. Each of us has four neighborhoods. You might split it up differently than this. But there’s your family. And I’ll guarantee between now and New Year’s you’ll have more interaction with your family than you might the whole rest of the year. For some of us if our families are stressful, that’s not easy, but when you get with your family, look for the bobber. “Oh, Lord, I need to pray for her. She’s messed up. Oh, Lord, you really helped him. Thank you.” And whatever would cause you to say, “Wow, we give grace.” But it’s not just your family. There’s also the people that you have fun with, your friends, people who share your interests and hobbies. There’s the people you work with, the people you volunteer with if you’re retired, and also your literal neighbors, just the people who live around your house, as you walk among your neighbors, you can see the bobber calling you to pray. When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” I think that the place to start. And along with that sometimes the Lord will say, “Wow, they need to borrow a lawnmower and I’ve got one,” and maybe that’s how that need will be met. Once we are tuned into loving our neighbor and loving God, we’re going to find that we’re listening to God so that we can learn when you sit in your prayer chair and you open the Bible, you’re going to listen to God and learn, but you’re also going to listen to your neighbor and you’re going to find yourself called to [service?]. God is working all around you. And as Henry Blackaby said, watch to see where God is working. Watch to see what God is doing, and then cooperate. Join in with what God is already doing. And you’ll find that you’re in the flow of the Holy Spirit to all the people around you in this life. Thanks is a prayer. Anne Lamott says gratitude begins in our hearts, but then it dovetails – it flows – into behavior. It’s almost always being thankful that makes you willing to be of service. And it’s being in service that creates joy within our hearts. Now there’s one other thing that’s very, very significant that could also happen. The very last words that Jesus speaks in the book of Matthew are, “Go and make disciples.” And Jesus just simply assumes that the disciples know exactly what they’re supposed to do. You might read those words and not know what they mean. Let me make a quick suggestion to you. What it means to go is to go among your neighbors. And as you’re praying for your neighbor, you may feel your heart drawn to a particular person. Their pain hurts you in your heart. When good things happen, you notice joy in your heart. And it may be that God is calling you to adopt them for some special attention.
Every single one of us was raised by parents who watched over us. But for a lot of us, there was someone else– that teacher in elementary school, that coach in Little League, that other person who helped us to grow up, who cared about us. And friends, I want to tell you, it is the same thing in faith. Someone is supposed to help every single one of you become a better Christian. And unfortunately, one of the sad things we’ve done with that is we’ve said that can only be the pastor. Now I want to be very honest with you. I will spend time with each one of you every single week to help you to grow as a Christian. It’s one of the reasons why I’m here. But sometimes God ministers to lay people through other people who are their friends and neighbors. I want to tell you very plainly, that’s what the Bible teaches. In AA and 12-Step programs, they call this having a sponsor. And you very likely have such a person who has blessed you to that degree, and if not, come and see me. I’ll let it be me. But I don’t want us to forget there are other people who need you. And God may draw you to one of them. Well, Pastor Dave, if that’s true, what should I do? Well, here’s what I would suggest you do. I call it the prayer [inaudible]. It’s a way you make disciples the way Jesus taught. That person that’s on your mind, if you pray about it, if God says, “I want you to be their mentor. I want you to be their sponsor. I want you to be someone who looks after them, who prays for them, even if their own parents don’t, even if no one else does, it will be you.” “Oh, Pastor Dave, what exactly do you want me to do?” Pray for them every day. Put their name on a list. Put their name on a sticky note, on your mirror where you shave or put on your makeup. Every single day. Lord, help that person. Once a week, make sure that you have the chance to say hello to them and ask them how they are. You want to stay in touch with this person that God has given you responsibility for. At the beginning of the service, before we started, Cathy said, when she was a little girl, she was always singing that hymn, Bringing in the Sheaves. That’s the hymn of harvest. Bringing in the sheaves is bringing in people into the church. And she said to me, “When I was little, I always saying in this bringing in the sheep.” Friends, if you want more sheep inside this room at 9 o’clock on Sunday morning, you’ll say, “Lord, I’m willing to pray daily for one person. I’m willing to talk to them once a week to make sure I’m up-to-date on how I need to pray for them. And one more thing, almost an afterthought, I’ll invite them once a month to something where our friendship grows stronger.” That could be a [inaudible] Club. That could be a Southern gospel homecoming choir concert. But you can also just simply be over in your house for lunch. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s just something that lets the relationship grow. And if the person says, “I’m busy that day,” or if they say, “I don’t have time, or if they say, “I don’t like Southern gospel music–” who couldn’t like that kind of music? It’s all right. You get credits for inviting them. And after you keep doing that for a year, letting God work in their lives after you keep doing that for a year, I think you would be amazed at what God can do in the life of a person. Oh, one other thing. There’s some of you who are so kind-hearted. So if you who are so open-minded, it would not be very long before your list would have 100 people on it. If that’s what God tells you to do, you go right ahead, but I would like to remind you that Jesus spent three years developing 12 disciples. One betrayed Him. But what the other 1 were able to do because Jesus watched over them has created everything that the Christian Church is [that would-be?] centuries. 12 is probably enough for anyone of us. But one would be amazing. What would it be like if we focused on praying for our neighbors and brought in the sheep? So that next year, on this day, they were twice as many sheep in this room. Would we say wow? Awe, amazement of what God can do. Awe and [a lot?] says is why we are here? In this state is the simple prayer. Wow. It is a prayer of praise because when Jesus walks with us and then we become like Jesus and walk with someone else, it will bring amazement into our lives. So what does God want? Please notice. Notice God. Please notice neighbor and share love all through. And again, I think the best way to love is to pray. There’s three basic prayers. So look into the lives of people. And when you see God signaling you to pray, it’s either a help or to thanks. And sometimes, it’s just wow. Earlier this morning, I said to somebody here that I was going change something and he said, “Oh God. No, please don’t do that.” But I did change something. See this hymn? It’s supposed to say, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations.” And that’s true. But most of you aren’t going to get out to the nations. God says, “If you have a story to tell to the neighbors, and it’s a story that your neighbors need to hear, and it’s a story that the most easy way to tell is this I saw you needed help and I pray for you. I saw that you needed help, and I give thanks that God help you. Wow. Isn’t God amazing? So if it doesn’t hurt you too much to change, I’d like you to invite to stand up and sing this hymn as We’ve a Story to Tell to the Neighbors. Let’s stand
The photo …
This post is based on the sermon “___” from the sermon series “___”
*date*, at Kinmundy United Methodist Church.
Slides and audio for this message can be downloaded from http://www.disciplewalk.com/K_Sermons_June_2018.html
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.