By: Alan Luttrell
CL texted me a week ago Friday, asking if I would be willing to preach on September 16th. Initially I ignored his text, hoping he would move on to the next person on his list. Yet, I had a feeling this was not going to happen. That feeling came from how his text was worded. It read:
Alan … CL here…I’ve exhausted almost every avenue for pulpit supply for next Sunday the 16th…do you think you could pull together a sermon on short notice? Thanks
Then he called & left a voice mail asking if I would do the sermon. Well, in a moment of weakness, I said yes. I sensed a sigh of relief in his voice.
Yet, when I hung up, I had an anxiety attack. What was I going to preach on? What is the purpose of a sermon? Am I to entertain, no not entertain, yet I don’t want to bore people. It needs to be something with a message that will get people thinking about how they live their lives. Maybe it should have some interesting fact to get them thinking.
So to start off I’ll ask a question to get you thinking: What part of the body burns 20-30% of your calories, yet you hardly ever see a diet or exercise plan on it? Ponder that a while. I’ll give you the answer later.
I knew that I needed a sermon theme real quick, because Jennifer does the bulletins by midweek and needs the sermon title & scripture to do the bulletin. So as usual, I ask God for some inspiration. Something I can get a theme and scripture on early in the week & then I can work on the sermon next weekend. This is because I’ve got a lot going on at the office & am working a lot of hours during the week & wouldn’t have time to work on it until the next weekend.
So, I grabbed about 5 books off of my bookshelf & started going through them. It was in the book “Jesus Calling – Enjoying Peace In His Presence”, a book of daily devotionals Jan had given me at the beginning of the year. The book is by Sarah Young and is a great book to help keep your life centered.
In reading through the introduction I came across a passage which I found interesting about her journey from having a one way conversation with God to having a dialogue with God. She even had a scripture for me. So I felt inspired to go with that & even had a thought of reading some of the devotionals as part of the sermon. With that, I came up with the Sermon theme and scripture.
Sermon theme: Our relationship w/Christ, from monologue to dialogue & the Scripture of Psalm 46:10.
This sermon did not end up where I thought it would. It was a real serendipity in life. Let me share these thoughts.
If you distill life down to its bare essence – Life is about relationships. In the end, relationships are what matter.
All relationships require giving & sharing by both parties to develop a great relationship. Relationships must be a two way street to develop. With that in mind let me read the passage from the introduction in Sarah Young’s book which led to this sermon.
…, I began to wonder if I could change my prayer times from monologue to dialogue. I had been writing in prayer journals for many years, but this was one-way communication: I did all the talking. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God might want to communicate to me on a given day. I decided to “listen” with pen in hand, writing down whatever I “heard” in my mind. As J. I. Packer wrote in his book Your Father Loves You: “God … guides our minds as we think things out in his presence.” This is how I was listening to Him – by focusing on Jesus and His Word, while asking Him to guide my thoughts. I was not listening for an audible voice; I was spending time seeking God’s Face (Psalm 27:8 NKJV).
My journaling thus changed from monologue to dialogue. This new way of communicating with God became the high point of my day. Of course, I knew my writings were not inspired – as scripture is – but they were helping me grow closer to God. This became a delightful way to encourage myself in the Lord (1 Samuel 30:6 NKJV).
As I was learning to seek God’s Face, “Be Still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) became a life changing verse. Alternate readings for “Be still” are “Relax,” “Let go,” and “Cease striving” (NASB). This is an enticing invitation from God to lay down our cares and seek his presence.
As Sarah changed her relationship with God from a monologue to a dialogue with God, her whole mental process changed. She went from just talking to God, to not just listening to God, but actually having a dialogue with God. That is a true relationship of giving & sharing.
In Steve Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” he talks about the great revelation he had when he read that there can be a space between a stimulus & your response. He said this was one of the greatest discoveries he made when writing the book. That when something happens, or when you know you should make a decision on something or take an action on something, you can actually widen the gap between that stimulus and your response. In doing so you can actually think through your response before you give it.
In Andy Stanley’s book: “The Best Question Ever”, the author says when making a decision you should stop and ask the question: What is the wise thing to do?
If you ask the wrong questions, such as:
- Is there anything wrong with it? With the assumption that if there is nothing wrong with what you’re doing, it must be okay, or
- How close can I get to the line between right and wrong without actually doing something wrong? or
- How close can I get to sin without crossing over?
You’re really asking: How unethical, immoral, or insensitive can I be without suffering any manageable outcomes? Just because there isn’t a “Thou shalt not” attached to a situation does not necessarily mean it is a “Thou Shalt.” What’s morally and culturally permissible is often not what’s best for us.
After asking the right question: “What is the wise thing to do?”, then, as the scripture says – be still, relax, let go, cease striving & listen, have a dialogue with God & deep down inside you will find the answer & know what to do or what you shouldn’t do. The next step is to make the right decision. Don’t ignore the right answer just because it’s uncomfortable, causes you to go outside your comfort zone or is something you want to do and are trying to justify it all along knowing you shouldn’t do it. That’s how you grow to be a better person which leads to a greater life.
I was at a seminar a few years ago where a fellow by the name of Dave LaRue was speaking. Dave was my mentor at the time. He said:
Where you are in life & more important where you will be in the future is based on the decisions you make. If you make great decisions, this will lead to a great life.
Let me repeat that last sentence. If you make great decisions this will lead to a great life.
So how do you & I have a great life? We do so by making great decisions. What is the basis for making great decisions?
I believe it starts with having a great relationship and dialogue with God. Then making that gap between the stimulus and response big enough to ask: “What is the wise thing to do?” Then searching deep inside for the answer. A decision is not made until action is taken. Let me repeat that. A decision is not made until action is taken. So we must take action. It will probably require getting out of our comfort zone, doing things we don’t want to do at the time or not doing something we shouldn’t do. Yet, God doesn’t want us to be stagnant. God wants the best for each of us. He wants each of us to not only grow, but to make great decisions & take action so we can have a great life serving him.
Let us pray. God guide each of us to have a dialogue with you, asking: “What is the wise thing to do?”, so that we can make great decisions resulting in the great life You want for us. Amen
Now who has the answer to the question: What part of the body burns 20-30% of your calories, yet you hardly ever see a diet or exercise plan on it? The brain.