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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

You are REBUILT by God

2011-09-04 You are REBUILT by God
Part 4 of "Come as you are, be empowered by the Spirit"
Psalm 104:27-35, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

We're continuing our series called, "Come as you are, be empowered by the Spirit." We've talked over the past weeks about how we all are, in terms of stuff that doesn't change. You know, most of the time, when someone says, "How are you?" you say, "Fine." Which is the truth. Sometimes. We're all "fine" sometimes. Probably not as often as we say it. If you were to answer truthfully, your answer would change depending on the day, your mood, your hormones, the stock market. But how are you in terms that don't change? That's the point of this series of sermons. "Come as you are," well... How are you? Really? And so we've talked about how you are CREATED by God, LOVED by God, and SENT by God. God created you in love to go and do good works, just like Jesus. And we've also said that if you believe the Bible, you also believe some of the ingredients that went into Jesus are the same ingredients that went into making you. You are made in Christ to go and do good works of faith that God planned for you from the beginning.

So, last week we were talking about how you are SENT by God. This week, I want to lift up the dirty rug on that. What happens when your SENT has WENT? What happens when your get up and go done got up and went? It's easy to be all "Rah, rah, God!" on Sunday morning. But what about Wednesday morning, about 3:45am, when you're lying in bed, staring at the ceiling? It's easy to be all, "Yes Jesus loves me," on Sunday. Everybody's smiling and shaking your hand and saying, "How are you?" and you're saying, "I'm CREATED, I'm LOVED, and I'm SENT by God." (Oh, come on. I know you're saying, "Fine.") What happens when you're un-fine? What happens when you're de-fine? What happens when "de-fine" is what defines you? What happens when you don't feel well enough, or joyful enough, or hopeful enough to be SENT anywhere? What happens when you're broke down? Or gone broke? Or broken? How do you get put back together?


If you're trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up, can I make a suggestion? Orthopedic surgeon. Maybe you don't want to do that, but my advice if you want to make enough money to have a pretty big sized boat is to specialize in installing replacement parts. On people.

Let's do an experiment. I want to see how many people have artificial parts. Raise your hand if you've had a knee replacement. A hip replacement. A heart valve replacement. One or more stents in your arteries. Raise your hand if you've had a major organ replacement. If you've had a implant in your eye. Raise your hand if any part of your body has been augmented, lifted, tucked, upsized, downsized or supersized. Raise your hand if you've had a tooth replaced, or a crown, or a filling. If you or you child have had tubes in your ears.

Remember the TV show, "The Six Million Dollar Man"? Loved the beginning. "We can rebuild him. (Rebuild him?) Make him stronger, faster, better than before." That was my favorite show for a long time. (Some of you are going, What the heck? He had two bionic legs, one arm and one eye.) And then they came out with "The Bionic Woman." (She had two bionic legs, an arm, and an ear.) And then, they had the bionic dog. (Seriously. Proof that anything worth doing is worth overdoing.)

Bionics used to be sci-fi stuff. And now, half (or more) of our little congregation has been rebuilt. Half of us have been made better than before. Or at least, closer to how we used to be. Now they're talking about how by about 2050, if the planet's still here and if human beings are still the dominant species, we'll be able to download our brains. Aren't our grandchildren going to love that?

Bionics used to be sci-fi stuff, but now it's an everyday thing. You can be rebuilt. You can be made stronger, faster, better than before. Or at least better than you were a few months back. 100 years ago, if you had any of these replacement parts, you'd be considered a miracle. If you've had any replacement parts, you're a miracle of science, a miracle of biology and lots of other stuff that would make Leonardo Da Vinci say, "Mama mia! That's awesome!"


But it's not just body parts. How many of you have a cell phone? Has it ever stopped working? How did you fix it? Did you get out your soldering gun and your tiny little tweezers? Of course not. You took it to the cell phone store. And you begged and pleaded and signed a 22-year contract extension in order to get a replacement.

How many of you own a car and the "Check Engine" light has come on? "Check engine." Well, that's descriptive. Open the hood. "Yup, the engine's there. Checked it." But the light's still on. You have to take it to your licensed, certified repair Ph.D. "Oh, well sir, looks like you're going to need a new flux capacitor." "Well, can't you just fix the old flux capacitor?" "That would require a number seven metric titanium flux capacitor attenuator. You probably remember that the number seven metric titanium flux capacitor attenuator was outlawed in December of 2010."

We live in a culture of replacement. Car stops running? Replace it. Cell phone breaks? Replace it. Government's broken? Replace it. How about your kids? Or your parents? Haven't really found a legal way to do that one yet. Maybe it's just better to spend all your time with other people's kids, or ignore your parents. Pretend they don't exist. Replaced. How about a marriage? Come on. You know people who do this. Every seven years or so. Replace him. Replace her. We live in a culture of replacement.

Which is weird, because, we're always complaining we want somebody to fix things. Fix the government. Fix Social Security. Fix the kid. Fix the marriage. We talk as if stuff can be fixed, but we live in a world where very little is even fixable.

But almost everything can be... replaced.


What if God replaced... you? What if God was going over the numbers for the last quarter and saw you weren't really living up to your potential? What if God said, "Me bless her little heart. She's been wallowing in sin for years and she just doesn't seem to be able to get it going"? What if God said, "You've dishonored your mother and father enough, young man"? What if God said, "Tsk. The performance reviews consistently say, 'Needs spiritual improvement,' and I'm just not seeing it"? What if God replaced you?

(There's a cheerful thought. Thanks a lot, preacher. Just remember, the door swings both ways.")

What if God replaced us? What if God bought into the culture of replacement? What if God who the psalm says, "Rejoices in his work," what if God who "sends [the] Spirit and renews the face of the ground," what if God said, "You know. I never really cared for those Bible verses. Gimme an eraser. And while you're at it, these people just aren't doing so hot. Send in the entire second string."? What if God replaced us? What if that was God's standard operating procedure?

If there was ever a candidate for replacement, it was the Apostle Paul. If ever God would have looked down and said, "What was I thinking when I made HIM?" it would have been Paul. Paul - or Saul, as he was known early in his career – Paul was the Number 1, top of the leader board, Persecutor of the Year for ten years running. He was top dog of persecuting those religious weirdos called, "Christians." Paul loathed Christians. Paul helped arrest and even kill Christians. He lived to get those crazy people off the streets. If ever there was a person you'd think God would have said, "Yank him off the mound and send in some relief" - send in a substitute – send in a replacement - it would have been Paul.

That's what we would expect. That's the way things work in a culture of replacement. Right? That's what we would do, if we were God. Right? Recall him, replace him, return him. Exchange him for one that works. That's the way things go in this world. Right?

But God doesn't play by our rules. God sent Jesus to appear to Paul in a blinding vision. And then, God sent Paul... to be healed. God didn't replace Paul. God rebuilt him.

The old saints of the church, like John Calvin, who wrote about God years and years ago, used to use the word, "Regenerate." They wrote about how God works on us throughout our lives in a process of regeneration.

If a starfish loses one of its arms, it can regenerate a new one. If a lizard gets its tail cut off, it grows a new one. There are documented cases of grown men and women, with the right medical treatment, actually re-growing, regenerating a fingertip. (I won't tell you what's involved. OK, it's powdered pig bladder paste.)

Paul became what the classic Christian writers would call, a regenerate soul. We might call him a fixed soul. A rebuilt soul. So instead of being replaced, this man who was the #1 persecutor of Jesus was rebuilt by God. Paul who was the #1 persecutor of Jesus became his #1 follower. There are more letters by Paul in the Bible than there are gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.

So one day years later, years after his conversion experience, Paul was writing a letter to a really messed-up little church in Corinth that he had helped found. He wrote these words:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being RENEWED day by day.

What I think Paul is saying there comes from deep within his own experience. He knew that there was a time when some people – some good, Christian people – might have wished that God would throw him away. But instead, God renewed him. God rebuilt him.

And Paul's message for this little church in Corinth that was kind of eating itself alive was that even though you might look at those people who are actively helping you lose your religion, even though you might look at them and think, "God, could you just send in some replacements?" – even though you might look at YOURSELF and think maybe YOU should be replaced, you're not the one in charge.

God's in charge. God doesn't think like you do. God doesn't replace; God restores. God doesn't remove; God regenerates.

God rebuilds.

Listen to what Paul says next in his letter to the church in Corinth. He says:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Jesus had a two-word summary of this. He called it, "Born again." Some churches celebrate being Born Again as a one-time, life-changing moment. Kind of like Paul, when Jesus appeared in that blinding vision. And that's wonderful. If you've had that kind of experience, praise God. The writers from the Presbyterian traditions think of it less as an event and more as a process that takes a lifetime. You're born again, and again, and again. That's why so many of our ancient church writers and leaders used the word, "regeneration." It's a process. It's a growing. We endure the birth pangs and growing pains – and I know, those of you who have given physical birth are thinking, "Ow" - we endure the birth pangs and growing pains not just once, but in an ongoing, regenerative way. It might hurt, but it's not punishment. It's preparation. And so Paul can write,

our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

God is not getting ready to replace you. Not now. Not ever. God is rebuilding you. Every day. You are REBUILT by God.


The earth is filled with wonderfully adaptive creatures. Given enough time, the earth and all that's in it can adapt and adjust to changes. The starfish, when it loses an arm, adapts. Instead of five arms, now it has four. While that fifth arm is regenerating, the starfish learns to get by with what it's got. I don't think starfish have brains capable of self-awareness, so it probably doesn't sit around on the couch, hanging with Spongebob and eating Cheetos saying, "Man, when that fifth arm grows back, I'm going to be so great again." No. The starfish just goes on with four arms. It adapts.

We're part of the earth and all its creatures, too. But we have self-awareness. We have choice. We can choose to adapt. Or not.

The very word, "regeneration" assumes something's missing to begin with. And like the starfish, you may not even be aware of what you're missing. You may have unconsciously adapted in order to survive. That's what kids in abusive homes do, all the time. They just adapt. They adapt to their environment in order to survive. That's what people who live in homes where there are addictions, or mental illnesses do. They adapt. Happens every day. They don't think about it. It's just a survival instinct. If I do "A" I get hit; if I do "B" I don't. I'll do B. It's not a conscious choice most of the time. We adapt. We're like the starfish. We adapt.

But the very word, "regeneration" also assumes there's growth happening, too. And it's growth that might be so slow and so subtle that we might not even notice. So many of you who have kids who are now off at college say, "It happened overnight. I blinked my eyes. Last week, I was changing her diapers. Now she's a Drama major." No, it didn't happen overnight. It took 18 years. It just took you 18 years to adjust. It took you 18 years to realize the change, the growth, the generation and re-generation happening under your nose. Just because you don't notice it, doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you feel like saying, "That sounds interesting, but walk a mile in my shoes." Maybe you want to say, "I'm tired of changing. I'm tired of adapting. Let the world adapt to me for a while." Maybe you do. But just because you're not aware of your own regeneration, don't assume it's not happening. Just because you aren't able to see it doesn't mean it's not there. Just because you keep hoping for one thing doesn't mean God isn't rebuilding you in another way. In another place. It might take a long time. Your rebirth, your born-again-ness may not be obvious to you. You know what? It's probably not obvious to the starfish, either. But it happens just the same. With or without your participation. With or without your choice.


"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen."

Interesting that these words were written by a man who was stricken blind by Jesus. Think about those words, though. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.

How is that even possible? I think what Paul's saying is that we need to realize that there's always more going on in the world, that there's always more going on in us, than meets the eye. How do you fix your eyes on what you can't see? That sounds like a contradiction.

I guess the first step is admitting to ourselves that there's more going on in us than we can choose, or direct, or decide. As for myself, I sure hope so. But then what? Even if you confess that there's more going on in you than meets the eye, how do you figure out what it is?

Based on what I know about the Bible, I'm thinking both Paul and Jesus would say, pray. You've got to pray.

But here's the thing. I think most of us pray out of our culture of replacement. We want God to fix things, and fix them while we wait. Just like your brakes. In 30 minutes or less. Immediately. Most of the time, we pray for God to fix things. Fix them now. Dear God, fix my mom. Fix my dad. Fix my kids. Fix my financial situation. Fix my job. Fix my spouse. And, OK God, if they can't be fixed... replace them. Which doesn't mean you really want a substitute. (I don't know, maybe you do.) I think what we're really asking is for magic. Please, God, let me wake up and go, "Poof!" and everything will be fixed, my problems will be replaced with solutions.

What if instead of praying that God will do magic on command, what if we prayed NOT from our culture of replacement, but what if we prayed out of God's culture? God doesn't replace; God rebuilds. God regenerates. What if we prayed out of silence? What if we prayed not by asking for a quick fix, but prayed by searching. Prayed by really getting honest, really getting aware, really getting truthful with ourselves about what's happening right beneath our noses? What if we prayed - not asking for anything to be fixed - but instead concentrating, searching for what God's already doing, that 99% of th time we don't even see?

What if our prayers stopped being wishes for God to see (and fix), and started being confessions of what we don't see (and can't fix)? What if our prayers stopped being  about what we want replaced, and started being statements of belief that God is already rebuilding?

What if we all prayed that way? Might we then become a whole church full of believers, focused not on ourselves whom we can see, but on God, whom we can't? What if every church fixed their eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen? Can you imagine what that might do?

Whether you see it or not, whether you admit it or not, God is rebuilding you. Whether you can see it or not, whether you can admit it or not, God is rebuilding us. God is rebuilding us, as a church. God is showing us how to adapt. God is showing us how to survive. God is growing new life. In you. All around you. You are REBUILT by God. Be empowered by the Spirit.


- James

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Come As You Are - You are SENT by God

2011-08-28 You are sent by God
Part 4 of 6-part series, "Come As You Are. Be Empowered by the Spirit"
Exodus 3:12-14, John 20:19-22
James McTyre
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Exodus 3:12-14
New International Version (NIV)
12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[a] will worship God on this mountain."
13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM.[b] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

John 20:19-22
New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.


We're continuing our series called, "Come As You Are; Be Empowered By the Spirit." As we've said these past weeks, it sounds great to say, "Come as you are." Come as you are to church! Of course you can come as you are. Been out mowing the lawn? Come as you are. Been draining the septic system? Come as you are. That's why they call them "Pews." God doesn't care how you smell. So, come as you are.

But that "as you are," part begs the question, "How are you?" Before you can Come as You Are, you've got to have some idea of how you are. How are you? You might say, "Hey, I'm here." That's good. 80% of life is showing up. You might say, "I'm tired." You've had a long week, and you're here to get recharged. When I was a boy, and dinosaurs roamed the earth, if the preacher asked, "How are you?" I would have said, "I'm bored." Sermons were the longest three hours of the week. (I am told they weren't really that long, but you could have fooled me. I thought, "I wish I were preaching the sermons." Be careful what you wish for, kids.) How are you? You might say, "I'm grateful to be alive one more day." You might say, "I'm hoping to make a change." You might say, "I'm ready to give up on religion completely, but I'm here to give it one last shot before becoming an atheist." Great. No pressure, there. But all of these answers are subject to change without prior notice. Your mind changes. Your moods change. Your energy level changes. Your blood sugar changes. Your serotonin reuptake changes -- all these can change or be changed with changes in diet, exercise and medication. You can get lipo to suck it out, you can get Botox to shoot it in, you can get a personal trainer named, "Hans" to get you to the gun show. How you are on any given day is subject to change for all sorts of reasons, some chosen by you, some chosen for you, and some put upon you whether you like it or not.

But here in church we worship the God who never changes. Here in church we worship the God who is, and who was, and who evermore shall be, world without end, Amen, Amen. So here at church, when we look for answers to the question, "How are you?" we look for answers that won't change. We look for answers to, "How are you?" that can't change. We look for answers that can't BE changed by your feelings, or by your opinions, or BE changed by feelings, opinions or debt ratings.

So, a few weeks back, we began at the beginning and said, "How are you?" and answered by saying You are CREATED by God. Then, we said, "You are LOVED by God." That's how you are. This week, we're narrowing the focus of the answer a little more, saying, "Yes, you are CREATED by God. Yes, you are LOVED by God. But why? Why -- did God create you? Why -- does God love you? For what purpose are you CREATED and LOVED by God?" What difference does it make? What difference does believing in the creating love of God in Jesus Christ make in your life? And what difference should it make in the lives of others?


I was in Wal-Mart the other day. I must have looked lost. No surprise. And this very kind-looking, older Wal-Mart man wearing his Wal-Mart badge came smiling up to me and asked, "Can I help you?" And then, he kept right on walking past me. I've never had that happen before. "Can I help you?" and then just keep right on going. Didn't even slow down. Did I not answer fast enough? Was he on a headset with someone else? He walked to the end of the aisle and hung up a product and laughed. "I can't stop because if I don't put this back while I'm thinking about it, I won't remember why I had it in my hand."

Do you ever do stuff like that? Do your children laugh at you because you wander from room to room with no apparent purpose? "Dang! Why did I come in here... with this butcher knife?" That stops the laughing. I've noticed it's getting so much easier to get distracted. Or maybe I just have more distractions. Whatever the reason, whatever my purpose, it's easier and easier to get detoured. Whatever my point, it's easier and easier to get led off-target.


What happens to people who have really lost their purpose? What happens to people who - for whatever reason - have lost their way?

I know a good number of people who get up every day and go do whatever it is they do every day because that's what they do every day. It's not a question of whether they like what they do. It's not a question of whether they don't like it. They just do it because... that's what they do every day.

When I was a kid, my mom and dad - reluctantly - let me get a pair of gerbils. I named them Herman and Edna. I don't know why I named them that. Seemed funny at the time. The kind of thing a kid who's going to grow up to be a minister would do. Anyway, one or the other of them was always in the exercise wheel. Which was weird, because they never lost any weight. They'd just get on that squeaky metal exercise wheel and run and run.

What happens to people who feel like they're stuck running in the exercise wheel, because, that's what they've always done and because stopping seems... unthinkable? What happens to us when we forget why we're running and running?

In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes, Marge has a bit of a breakdown. She's driving from here to there, to back here, then there, taking care of Homer and the kids and the dog, and her sisters and Homer's dad, when she finds herself in the middle of the big bridge over the Springfield river. And she stops her car.  And sits there. Traffic's piling up, people are about to riot, but Marge won't move. After they finally get her out, they send Marge to counseling, with her minister, Reverend Lovejoy. He suggests she read some scriptures. "But which ones?" she asks. Reverend Lovejoy sighs and says, "Oh. They're all good." You see, Reverend Lovejoy's having a bit of a crisis himself. He sees himself doing what he does day after day and can't really remember why.

When you don't know where you're going, all roads are the same. I think Neil Young said that. If we're just wandering, what difference does it make if we get detoured? The distractions can be kind of entertaining, at least a change from the monotony of the exercise wheel. I hear people complain about all the distractions these days: cell phones, iThingys, 100 TV channels of Kardashians, or sharks eating people, or that guy who goes around eating bugs. People complain about their "information overload" but I think, deep down, in a weird kind of way, we really like it. Gives us something to complain about. Gives us conversation topics at dinner. "Did you see last night when the giant bugs fed the Kardashians to the sharks?" I think we kind of like the distractions if we're not so sure about the stuff we're being distracted from. So we have stuff we don't like, distracting us from other stuff we don't like. Geez. No wonder pharmaceuticals are so popular.

So where do you go when the distractions lose their distractive power? What do you do when you want to step off the wheel, but you don't know how to take the first step? When you're tired of wandering through life's rooms searching for your purpose, what then? A lot of people - even a lot of people in scripture - take a deep breath, and sigh a deep sigh - and as a last resort... turn to God.


We think of Moses as the great leader. The Charlton Heston look-alike who lifted his staff and parted the waters. But for a long time, Moses was pretty lost. Moses ran away from his life. He ran away from his problems. This man who was supposed to have been so great ran away from everything and was distracting himself by wandering around the mountains behind a flock of his father in-law's sheep. Moses the big leader was Moses the Biggest Loser. You know Moses had to be really bored, because all God had to do was set a bush on fire to get his attention.

"Oh lookest over yonder. That bush appeareth to be on fire-eth. I shall traverse yonder hillside to see what's up with that." Or something like that.

So Moses traverses yonder hillside to investigate, and life turns down a road he never dreamed.

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has SENT me to you.'"

Life does a 180 for Moses, when he is sent. He gets meaning and purpose when God sends him. Everything changes - the boredom, the hiding, the endless wandering stops - when he is sent.

...A thousand years later, it's the week after Easter, and the disciples are locked in a house. They're literally and figuratively living in fear. What are they doing in the house? I don't know. Maybe wandering from room to room. Maybe wondering, "What now?" Jesus has been crucified. Their little religious movement has fallen apart. What now? They have no direction. They have no purpose. They have no reason for life.

So here's what happens in John chapter 20, verse 19:

Jesus came and stood among them...

(Don't miss that nuance. Jesus just appears in the locked house of fear.)

Jesus came and stood among them... and said, "Peace be with you!"

Notice what he says: "Peace be with you." Apparently, Jesus knew deep down they weren't at peace. Jesus knew that deep down they needed peace. Jesus knew that deep inside, their minds and hearts were not at peace. Their minds and hearts were racing from one place to another trying to find peace, and reason, and purpose. So the first thing he tells them is, "Stop running. Stop wandering. Step out of the wheel."

Jesus came and stood among them... and said, "Peace be with you!"... After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has SENT me, I am SENDING you."

That's the moment the world changed for the disciples. Their world does a 180 when Jesus SENDS them.

"Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

I think Jesus says those same words - not just to the disciples in that empty house - but to all of us in our empty houses. I think Jesus intends his words not just for the chosen few, but for you. And for me. And for everyone who is searching, everyone who is running and getting nowhere. I think Jesus sends... you.


All these past weeks we've been telling you, "Come as you are." But this week Jesus is telling you, "Go as you are." God has brought you here. Now it's time to be sent. As you are. You say, "Sent for what?" You say, "But I'm not ready." You say, "Can I get lunch first? Because I didn't have time for breakfast, and you stopped doing the donut time, and I'm not very coherent when my blood sugar drops."

And Moses said, "But I'm not a very good public speaker." And Jeremiah said, "But I'm just a kid." And Jonah said, "But I don't like those people." And the disciples said, "But I'm scared." So you're in good company. It's not that God disapproves of your excuses. The Bible's full of really creative excuses. God seems to be amused by them. But in the end, God doesn't hear your excuses. God forces you to choose which you like more -- your wheel... or your Savior. Your mindless wandering... or a purpose. Your money... or your life. ("Wait. I'm thinking." Some of you don't know who Jack Benny is. Think, Mr. Crabs combined with Squidward.)

Come as you are, so you can be SENT as you are. Sent to do what? I don't know. But I do know that when the time is right, you will know. Maybe you have to wander a little bit more before you're ready to hear God. Maybe God's not ready to give you the sending. But if you don't stop, and if you don't go investigate, how will you know?

A lot of you have just started back to school. Or your kids have just started back to school. And the answer to "How are you?" is "LATE!! I've got this giant pocket watch and 'No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" I used to be 15 minutes early for everything. And then we had kids. Girl kids. And now I consider 15 minutes late a personal victory. How do you find time for pondering existence when you're on a schedule that won't stop?

I think a lot of it's simple awareness. A "You are here" approach to life. Be aware of what you're doing and from time to time ask  yourself, "Why?" Is this what God wants me to be doing with my time, my energy, my money, my life? Really?

But it's also more. Being SENT means getting from "You are here" to "You are there." If you're not where you want to be, how do you get there? Maybe you ask for help. Stop and ask directions. (That's always a novel approach for guys.)

But it's even more than that. Being SENT means God is sending you outside of your little bubble of influence. In order to send people, God bursts bubbles.

A scriptural Being Sent means God sends you to other people. That's the way it always works in  the Bible. And that's the way it works for you. When God sends Moses, God sends Moses to the children of Israel. Good news. God sends Moses to Pharaoh. Bad news. For Pharaoh. When Jesus sends the disciples, he sends them to make more disciples. You can't make disciples if you don't go talk to people. You can't heal and help and share good news if you don't go find someone else. The bubble God bursts by sending is the bubble of isolation. God bursts the bubble of boredom. God bursts the bubble of senseless entertainment. God bursts the bubble of self-satisfaction. God bursts bubbles when God sends. God pulls us out of the wheel and gives us traction. God gives us reason to go. God gives us purpose to get up. God gives us people who need us, people who need to be nurtured, cajoled, sometimes yanked out of their exercise wheels and put on track to life. And salvation. And freedom.

God calls us as we are. And then God sends us as we are.


Imagine a church full of people who believe, deep down in their souls that the answer to "How are you?" is, "I am sent." But more, imagine a church full of people who believe "We are sent." Sent to do what? Sent where? To other people. That's what Jesus was all about. When he started his ministry, he stood up and said, in Luke 4:18,

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has SENT me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
(and to) to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.

Imagine what could happen if we all resolved, personally and as a church together, to be sent, just as Jesus was. Imagine what could happen if we all vowed to stop worrying about how we are or how we feel on any given day, and promised God we'd go... wherever we are sent.

A few years back, I met a little boy. By the time he was five years old, he had had a lot of very painful surgeries. He would lie in his hospital bed and cry. And his parents would cry with him. But then, one day, his parents came into his room, and he wasn't there. Was something wrong? Where was their little boy? They were panicked.

But on their way to their nurses' station, they caught sight of their son. He had the little bandages on his hands and feet. And he was sitting in another patient's room. You see, he had gotten up from his bed, on his own, and had begun wandering from room to room. And in each room, he would tell the patients, many of whom were ten times his age or more, that things were going to be OK. He would tell them that God was taking care of them. And that even if they hurt, things would get better.

Imagine if we all set aside our own pains and went wherever God sends us. Even if we have to hobble, or go on a walker, or in a chair. Imagine how pleased God would be if we all agreed to come as we are and then go as we are sent.


- James