Sunday, September 10, 2017

When God Speaks - People Move

There is an interesting phenomena that we see throughout the Bible.  When God speaks – people move.  When God speaks to individuals or to groups of people there is a call for them to move or respond and act in some way.  Last week David mentioned Noah and as we all know, when God spoke – Noah moved.  He started work on an ark.  He moved into the forest to collect timber.  He moved his schedule around to make time for boat building and when the rains came he moved from his house to the ark and set sail on the waters.  God spoke and Noah moved.

About 10 generations later, God spoke to a man named Abram.   Abram and his wife Sarai were living with Abram’s father and his nephew Lot and they were all faithful and prosperous right where they were, and then one day, God spoke.  Genesis 12:1-9

When God spoke there was a call for Abram to leave his home and extended family and all that was comfortable and secure and move into the great unknown – a land God would show him.  Abram doesn’t have a map or any kind of clear directions, just a call to get moving, but with this call to move comes a promised blessing.  God will bless Abram and God will bless the world through him if and when he moves.  So Abram moves into the unknown and when he settles in the land God shows him God is there with another promised blessing.  Not only will Abram be blessed in this new land and be a blessing but he will also have children.  Abram and Sarai are childless and we are told that Sarai is barren and so there really is no hope of having children but a child is now what God promises.  The blessing God has for Abram is offspring, children, more specifically a son.

So when God speaks – Abram moves.  He leaves something behind, enters a period of uncertainty and then is blessed by God.  And it is this movement that we see again and in again when God speaks and people move.  When people move they leave something behind, enter a period of uncertainty and then are blessed by God.

Noah had to leave the comfort of his life behind – enter a period of uncertainty as he took on this immense task of building an ark and then he was blessed when the rain stopped and the rainbow appeared.  From a burning bush God spoke to Moses and there was a call to move.  Moses had to leave behind the comfort of his home and life as a shepherd to step into the uncertainty of returning to Egypt to try and rally God’s people and convince the Pharaoh to let the people go.  In time Moses experienced a blessing as the people not only left Egypt but eventually came to the very edge of the Promised Land.

David heard God speak through the Prophet Samuel who told him that God had anointed him to be the King.  For David this meant leaving the comfort of his life and family to enter the world of political leadership and military expeditions.  David lived through years of uncertainty and fear, literally running for his life at times, until he finally experienced the blessing of being the King and working to establish Israel as a strong and mighty nation.

Even Jesus heard the voice of God and moved.  Coming up out of the waters of baptism Jesus heard the voice of God say, this is my son whom I love.  And then immediately Jesus moved into the desert where for 40 days he faced a period of uncertainty.  For 40 days Jesus was tempted by Satan and with each temptation Jesus had to wrestle with whether or not he would be faithful to God or give in to his own selfish desires.

Would Jesus turn stones to bread to satisfy his own hunger?  Would Jesus perform a spectacular miracle to draw people to himself and receive the worldwide fame he deserved?  Would Jesus give in to greed and the desire for wealth and glory that we all wrestle with at times?  There were 40 days of uncertainty for Jesus after God spoke and he moved – but then came the blessing.  Jesus experienced the blessing of God here as he brought the kingdom of God and all its power into this world and eventually Jesus experienced the blessing of victory over sin and death and the glory of God the Father.

Every time God speaks – people move.  When Jesus spoke as the son of God – people moved.  The disciples dropped their nets, left behind their secure business and entered into the unknown world of fishing for men and women with Jesus.  The disciples then experienced the fullness of life and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

And in case you think that God only speaks to men and leaders, Jesus spoke to a woman in need who also moved and found life.  She had been caught in the act of adultery and when Jesus spoke God’s words of grace and forgiveness there was a call to move from what was known and secure in her life into an uncertain future in order to receive the blessing of God.  John 8:1-11

Go now and leave your life of sin.  God speaks and this woman moves.  Even though the life she is living is not ultimately good or fulfilling for her, it was known and comfortable.  Sometimes what God calls us to leave behind is a life of sin that we have grown comfortable with but is not ultimately fulfilling.  This woman leaves behind her old life and moves into the uncertainty of what life will be like now.  She has been forgiven by Jesus but what will her family and friends say?  What will her community say?  There is uncertainty at the beginning of her move and a great unknown for her as she moves forward, but then comes the promise of new life.  God speaks and she moves.

So we find this movement in scripture, God speaks and people move.  The question I hope you are asking is this, Does God still speak today? Does God still speak and do people still move or is this movement of speaking and moving confined to the bible?  And if God does speak, will he speak to me?  There will be many people today who will tell you that absolutely God still speaks and if we will open our hearts and minds to this possibility we will hear him.  

I have shared before that when I was in college I went through a period of uncertainty about my future.  I didn’t know what to do or where to go and I prayed for God to speak to me in a dream because a friend said that God did that.  Joel 2:28-29.

I wanted God to speak to me in a dream so I prayed for this to happen and several months late, God spoke.  In a loud, clear voice I heard in a dream someone shout out 2 Timothy 2:2.  What’s funny is that they didn’t shout out what that verse said, they just shouted out the reference, I had to go look it up, so I did and this is what I read…
The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

At first this made no sense to me, but I kept reading it over and over again and then God brought it to life and it told me that I needed to move – back to college.  I needed to entrust to those I knew at MS what I had heard and seen and so I left my job and the security of my parents’ home and when back to the uncertainty of MSU where I didn’t have a clear academic direction.  I went with anxiety and a little bit of fear but in time was blessed as God used me in mission and ministry with IVCF and then God blessed me again by helping me finish my degree.  God spoke and I moved.  I left behind what was comfortable, entered a period of uncertainty and then experienced the blessing of God.  

About 10 years ago I heard God speak again.  I was very comfortable as the pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Lewisburg and was not looking to leave.  I loved what I was doing and had a great group of friends and the church was doing very well.  And then I was asked to just consider coming to Bellefonte.  I’ll be honest.  At first I said no.  I wasn’t interested because I loved where I was and what I was doing.  I had to give an answer in 2 days and so I prayed and told God I needed to once again hear Him speak because I knew what I wanted but I really wanted to do what God wanted.

I started working on my sermon for that Sunday which was on the beatitudes and I read this from the Message, You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.  And in that moment I heard God speak.  As loud and clear as ever, I heard God say – move.  What was most dear to me was my job, my friends and the ministry I was involved in at the church.  What was most dear to me was the life I had there and God was calling me to leave that behind for the uncertainty of a new church.  God spoke and I had to make the decision of whether or not I was going to move.  I did.  I left behind so much that I loved to step into the uncertainty of a new church and over the past 10 years I have been blessed.

So I do believe that God still speaks and when God speaks – people move or I should say we are given the opportunity to move.  The choice is always ours.  Abram, Moses, David, Peter and the woman caught in adultery were all given the opportunity to move, at some point they had to take that step of faith and leave something behind and enter a period of uncertainty.  God speaks and God invites us to experience the fullness of life he offers but we have to be willing to take that step out of what is known and comfortable and move.

If we will take this step of faith, we will receive a blessing and let me say - this is why God speaks.  God speaks in order to move us into the fullness of life.  God speaks in order to deepen and develop our faith.  God speaks because God always has more for us and wants more from us and so invites us to get moving.  While movement is not easy – it leads to life and if we don’t move we will die.  If we aren’t growing we are dying.  If we aren’t moving we are growing still and cold.  Movement is important because when God calls us to leave what is comfortable to enter into a period of uncertainty it stretches our faith and causes us to trust God more.  It makes us stronger.

Let’s go back to Abram; stepping out into the land God was going to show him forced Abram to walk by faith and not by sight.  He had to constantly turn to God for direction and assurance.  He had to learn to trust God for what was needed that day and then the next day and listen for God’s voice.  Abram grew in his faith during that movement and even if there had been no blessing of children, the deeper faith and trust in God would have been blessing enough.

So God still speaks and gives us the opportunity to move and if we will move we will be blessed.  If we will move we will experience deeper faith, greater trust and more abundant life.  God still speaks and God is speaking to you and me today.  God speaks through His word, God speaks through His people, God speaks through His creation, and God speaks through His spirit in moments of silence and yes even in dreams.  God still speaks and when he does he invites us to move.

What is God saying to you today?
How and where is God calling you to move?
What blessing does God have for you today? 

Listen for God this week and when he speaks – move.   

Next Steps
When God Speaks – People Move

1. Read the stories of God speaking and people moving.
Abram – Genesis 12:1-9
Moses – Exodus 3 – 4
Jesus – Matthew 4:1-11
The Disciples – Mark 1:16-20
The Woman – John 8:1-11

2. Allow God to speak to you this week.  Write down what you hear God saying
Through God’s word – read the Bible
Through God’s people – join a small group
Through God’s creation – take a walk
Through God’s spirt – pray and listen

3. How and where is God calling you to move?
What needs to be left behind?
What uncertainty will you enter into?
Who can move with you?

4. How has God blessed you in past moves?

5. What blessing will come with this move?

6. Abram was blessed and was a blessing.  Find one way to be a blessing to someone this week.