Sermon October 3, 2021: Earnestly Seeking God (Laity Sunday; Kim Kueker)

Kim’s House

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/621213425

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cr6eeZV6Wop

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

HYMN “Be Still My Soul”
Be Still My Soul – A cappella – Eclipse 6
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqKVFYD8Obc

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference … living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN “All Creatures of Our God and King”
All creatures of our God and King – David Crowder
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cObXwn-EgGY

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Earnestly Seeking God
Jeremiah 29:10-14, Matthew 6:31-34, Mark 12:28-31
Laity Sunday – Kim Kueker, speaking

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Jeremiah 29:10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Matthew 6:31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Mark 12:28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

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HYMN “God Will Take Care of You”
God will take care of you w/lyrics – By The Heritage Singers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92_BfspZngQ

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

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.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Have you ever played the game “Hide and Seek?”

Let me tell you about my Grandma Johnson: a wonderful, sweet, Christian woman that modeled her faith to all that knew her; a huge influence on my life. When I was a baby, my parents lived in an old farmhouse built in the 1800s. One night, the adults decided to play and Hide and Seek. After a few minutes, everyone was found…except my Grandma. They looked and looked, called out her name…nothing. Where on earth could she be? Finally, after nearly AN HOUR, she came crawling out from under the old porch with the biggest grin on her face. Under this porch…soft, powdery, dusty dirt floor, full of cobwebs, open to all sort of creatures – snakes, chickens, mice, raccoons, and spiders as big as your fist. No one could BELIEVE that she actually crawled under there, let alone laid there silently for nearly an hour! She was committed to the game and determined not to be found!

My nephew, Tim, and his wife, Christine are wonderful Christian parents to 2 sweet little boys – Elijah and Malachi. They LOVE to play Hide and Seek. When it’s time to hide, Eli will call out, “I’m going to my room now! Come and find me!” If they don’t say where they’re going, but hide in the closet, they will be giggling the whole time. Tim will open the door and pretend not to see them, looking on the top shelf. He says, “I don’t see you, you must not be in here,” Eli calls out “Yes I am, Daddy. I’m right here!” So precious.

When it comes to seeking God, I’m so thankful that He is much more like Eli than my Grandma Johnson.

God has no desire to hide from us, in fact, He tells us exactly where He is and how to find Him. (Waves Bible at congregation.)

If you don’t see Him, He’ll give you hints where He is…whispers in a still, small voice and we need only to be still and listen.

You don’t go looking? He’ll offer you another chance when you’re ready. He is patient and full of grace.

It’s not meant to be hard to find God. But, if it’s so easy to find God, then why do we have struggles? Why do we have hard times? Won’t God just “make things better?”

Sometimes bad things just happen. We live in a world full of sin and evil and being children of God does not make us immune to that. Many new believers think that once Jesus is accepted into their heart, life will magically change for the good and be easier. If only that were so! Through the Holy Spirit we have strength and courage to face and endure challenges as they come – In His Word, God promises never to leave us nor forsake us. Bad things still happen, we just don’t go it alone.

Sometimes we struggle as a consequence of our actions. We cannot make bad choices and sin against God’s Word and expect nothing to happen. If we repent and ask for forgiveness, God will be faithful to forgive our sins, but we may still have to endure through the consequences.
Sometimes God is using a difficult situation to get your attention to cause a change in you, a conviction of the Holy Spirit. When you are tired of the way things are, you may seek God and He will lead you to the answers. Just beware…it may not always be in the form you want or expect.

So how do you know which one it is? Do you just ride out the storm until it passes or is there something you are supposed to change? What should we do?

First of all, realize that God always has a plan for your life. Romans 8:28 tells us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” There is no circumstance or situation in your life that surprises God. No matter what the reason is for the struggle you face, God can and will use it for His Good and His Glory. James tells us to “consider it pure joy…when you face trials of many kinds.” I’m not sure that my faith is at the level of being joyful under trials, but I have learned to trust God and find some peace in the midst of it.

Jeremiah 29 talks of God’s plan. This letter was written to the exiles in Babylon – (as written about in the book of Daniel). The royal family, court officials, craftsmen and artisans of Judah were carried off to Babylon as a result of disobedience and pride (among other things). Only the poorest and weakest people were left behind in Judah.

Jeremiah 29:10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

I find it encouraging that even in circumstances caused by their own actions, God still had a plan for His people. He still has plans for us.

If we seek Him, we WILL find Him. What does it mean to seek Him? Does this mean to seek God’s will for our lives? Should we be seeking our calling? In a video from our recent Bible study, Beth Moore answers the question, “How do I know if I’m doing my calling?” Her response – seek God, not your calling. If you know God, love God and seek Him, you won’t miss your calling, you’ll run right into it!

So how do we seek Him? When asked about the Greatest Commandment, Jesus answers:
‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.’
The Scripture does NOT say to love God a little bit, to kinda love Him, to sorta love Him, not love him half-heartedly or “just enough”, but to love Him in every way possible with everything you have – your entire being! God wants us to be “all in.”

When the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon, God’s words were to seek Him with all their hearts. THEN they will find the Lord.

Sometimes when we seek God, we don’t find Him, or don’t find the answers we are looking for. He may answer in a way we don’t want to hear; or perhaps we’re not ready for the answer. Remember that God knows what is in your heart and whether we are ready or not. Perhaps we need to wait until the right time.

Maybe we didn’t EARNESTLY seek Him. There have been a few times in my life when I can say I fervently sought the Lord in prayer. The responses were abundantly clear…and quite startling at the same time. Even as my life changed over and over again, I kept seeking Him, and I still do.

Ever since I can remember, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, the answer was always the same: a teacher. I did not have a clear picture of what that looked like, but I always knew it was a teacher. In high school, time was getting short and I had to decide what college to attend and what to major in. Instead of making my decision based on passion and gifts, I saw the challenge of so few females in the sciences and administration. My brain decided to accept this challenge – I was going to show the world and do all of these things: Math Teacher, principal and superintendent, one step at a time.

I chose SEMO State because of its excellent teacher education program. I was determined to graduate in only 4 years, so I carefully planned out my entire schedule, including summer classes. When my final semester arrived and it was time to student teach, I was only 20 years old and the thought of going into a high school and teaching 18 year olds was terrifying. I must have gotten it wrong. I’m no good at this. I don’t really enjoy my classes and I don’t want to be a teacher after all. So, I dropped student teaching, enrolled in 5 senior-level PS classes, and graduated in May. I pursued what I thought I really wanted. Time and again I would fall just short of achieving my “dream.” I found that I was miserable.

Since I only had one semester left to complete my education degree, I decided that I should go ahead and finish what I started before they changed the requirements. 2 ½ years after graduating, I went back to complete my student teaching. I loved it! It felt very natural – and I was good at it.

The next fall I took a job at a small, rural high school in middle-of-nowhere Missouri. I had 10 preps in 8 hours – it was interesting to teach Computers/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus/Calculus at the same time. Many times that first year, I remember driving to school thinking, “I can’t believe I actually get paid to do this! This is awesome!”

But, as I came to understand much later, it wasn’t really the work of teaching that I loved so much, it was the relationships I formed with students, parents, colleagues and members of the community. During the three years I was there, there were 4 funerals of students (different times for different reasons). I felt like I was burying my own children, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I accepted a different job in a MUCH larger school district that was 2 hours closer to home. Instead of 10 preps in 8 hours, I had one prep 8 times. Instead of being the entire math department, I was one of 6, then later 8. Instead of 85 students in the high school, there were over 1,200. It was not possible to have the same kinds of relationships as before, so my focus was much more on the art of teaching. I achieved tenure, was co-leader of our math teams and scholar bowl teams, and enjoyed a lot of success. This led to a great deal of pride and arrogance in me. As I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior, I began to seek God’s will for my life. One night, I earnestly sought His help in changing my heart. Well, the next day, He did…but not at all like I expected – He humbled me publicly. Instead of being angry, ashamed and running away, like everyone expected me to, I immediately saw the Hand of God at work in my life. My first thought was, “You have to be careful what you pray for!”

Instead of being angry and prideful, I saw this as an opportunity to become the best teacher I could be. I had already begun my Master’s program, so I took as many classes as I could, went to every workshop that I could, and finished my degree in one year. I had never worked so hard at becoming a better teacher. Unfortunately, it seems the harder I worked at it, the worse I felt – completely inadequate and not a clue what I was doing. I would often say I felt like I was teaching with my feet. The subject matter was easy, but it was everything else that left me feeling like a complete failure.

I felt I had done everything in my power to succeed, and nothing worked. The more I prayed and sought wisdom from God, the more it felt like teaching HS was not for me. During my eighth year, in February, 2007, I turned in my letter of resignation effective at the end of that school year. The only thing I knew God wanted me to do was to move to Highland, IL, become more active in my church and go through training to be a volunteer Stephen Minister. That’s it. That’s all I got. As the semester went on, I sent out resumes and went on several job interviews, but nothing happened. Before each resume went out, I prayed that if this was the right job and in God’s will, that I would stand out above all other candidates; and if it wasn’t, that God would help me deal with another loss. He did.

The school year came to an end and June began. Still no job, which meant I could not look for a place to live – landlords don’t like to rent to unemployed people. Plus, my Dad was really having a hard time understanding my decision. “What are you going to do? How are you going to live?” “I don’t know, Dad, I just know this is what I’m supposed to do.” He could not accept this answer. My mom, who had been praying over me, tried to tell him to have a little faith. It still made no sense to him.

I owned this little house on one acre down a dead-end road just outside the city limits. I needed to sell it in order to find a place to live in Highland. If you remember 2007, this was the beginning of the downtrend in the housing market and prices were falling. The house was 50 years old and needed some pretty major repairs – a new roof, plus I busted up what I thought was a concrete patio that turned out to be the top of an old cistern. I had a mess that was far beyond what I could handle myself, but if I didn’t do the repairs could I even get my money back out of the house to break even?

I found myself back on my knees, praying earnestly to God. Did I get this wrong? Did I misunderstand? Maybe I should call the school district and beg for my job back. They still had not found a suitable replacement… God, please show me a sign to let me know I’m on the right path.

Here’s what happened the next morning:

A yard sale was planned to generate traffic to the house and my parents arrived early to help me set up. The For Sale sign went up at 8:30 am. By noon, I had a cash deposit in my hand. The people buying the house had a construction business, with equipment and crews, and had built half the recent commercial development in town. They were simply looking for the right location for their son’s new family. “How soon can you move out? 2 weeks? Don’t worry about any of the repairs, we will take care of that ourselves, just please pack and move as quickly as you can.” As soon as their car pulled out of my driveway, my mom turned to my dad and asked, “Now do you believe that God has got her? It’s going to be ok.”

Two weeks later, the cash sale was closed on the house. The buyer had her real estate license and filed all the paperwork, there were virtually no fees to be paid. Not only did I get my equity back out of the house, but I made enough money on the sale to live comfortably for the next 10 months of unemployment.

It was during this time my spiritual growth exploded. I went on my Walk to Emmaus (through which I later met my husband); began to lead Bible studies for both women and youth; became a leader in Upward sports; took an Alpha Class, Financial Peace University, and Disciple Bible study; and of course my 2-year commitment of training and serving as a Stephen Minister. During those 3 years in Highland, I had part-time jobs that left me plenty of time for ministry work, but not enough money to cover all my expenses without going into debt. Money was pretty tight, but God’s economy was different from mine and somehow every bill got paid (after my tithe, of course).

Even though God had clearly and powerfully answered my question about my calling, it was not an easy time. Less than a year after I moved into a beautiful new duplex, I could no longer afford it and had to move to an apartment. It looked ok at first, but the old couple below me never left their apartment and chain-smoked all day long. The floor in the spare bedroom had a steep and noticeable slant. I was miserable, but I couldn’t really afford anything else. Was I being punished? If I was following God’s plan, then why wasn’t it easy? Why was I suffering so? I now understand that I still had a lot of growing to do. I wasn’t really ready to fully step into the life God had planned for me. Many times I talked with friends about how when I was teaching I had very little time for ministry, but enough money to live comfortably. Now, I had plenty of time for ministry, but not enough money. All I wanted was to find a balance of the two – a job that would provide enough for my basic needs and still leave me plenty of time for God’s work.

What would this look like? A dear friend pointed out later my time in Highland was the perfect training to become a pastor’s wife! God’s answer to the desires of my heart. God knew all along what His plan was for my life – I had NO IDEA!

I left Highland to return to teaching in the “perfect for me” school district. I worked hard, I was successful, but it became more and more clear that God’s path for my life was something different. When you seek God, you find that he changes the desires of your heart. David and I began dating within a few months of me moving back to Missouri, and we were married a year later. I never could have imagined the life that I’m living today. Thank God that He knew and had the perfect plan for me all along. It just took me about 7 years to get ready.

So when you find yourself in a difficult situation or going through a tough time, it doesn’t really matter what caused it – just something that happened on earth, a result of your bad choice or a situation used by God to get your attention to affect a change. As humans, we spend far too much time and energy on the wrong things. We don’t need to figure out the WHY, it’s all about the WHO. Trust that God has a perfect plan for your life and keep loving Him with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you as well.

Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us just as we are. We live in a broken world full of heartaches, struggles and fears. When we need you most and are seeking you, thank you for making it so easy to find you. You go before us to prepare the way for your perfect plan in each our lives. Help us to keep the Greatest Commandment – to love you with all our hearts, souls, minds and strengths; and to love our neighbor as ourselves, each and every day. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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