Friday, January 30, 2015

A Word From Pastor Mike - Get In The Game

This is Mike's sermon from last Sunday...
 For those of you who don't know me, I grew up in a small farming town in North Central Montana about 10-15 miles from the Canadian Border. One of the interesting features of living in this community is having a Port of Entry nearby. Of course, when you have a Port of Entry nearby, you need border control people. These people often had families and their children attended our school.

One year a new border patrol family moved into the area and their children did attend our school. I think I was in the 7th grade and the boy in this family, Dave Mende, was in the 8th grade. Basketball is the sport going on in small town Montana; Dave Mende joined the team in mid-season. He didn't have a lot of experience playing. He didn't really even know the rules.

We were playing a basketball in Whitewater, Montana. Our coach was a pretty good guy and he believed in giving everyone playing time. At one point he looked the bench and saw Dave sitting there. Coach said, "Dave, get in there for Terry."

Dave got up off the bench and went running right onto the floor while the game was in progress! The players didn't know what to do. The game just came to a halt. Dave was supposed to check in at the scorekeeper's table and wait to be motioned in by the referees. But Dave was ready to get in the game.

(Following are the Bible Lessons that were read last Sunday during the service and to which Mike refers.)

Jonah 3:1-5New International Version (NIV)

Jonah Goes to Nineveh

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

Jonah 3:10New International Version (NIV)

10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31New International Version (NIV)

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
God came to Jonah. God told Jonah to get in the game. Jonah went the other way. Jonah later repented. He got back in the game and proclaimed the message. People repented and God's mercy was revealed.
In the letter to the Corinthians, Paul told the believers to get in the game, don't be preoccupied with other things, don't be anxious, get in the game. Your undivided devotion belongs to the Lord.
In the gospel, Jesus got in the game. He started his ministry. He proclaimed "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel." Then he got the disciples in the game. "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. They got in the game. They left their nets and followed him.
The phrase, "getting in the game" means living the faith, not just having a faith. It means you aren't just sitting on the bench. The coach is calling your number. Even if you don't exactly know what's going on, even if you make mistakes, even if you're not perfect. The game's going on. It's your time to go in.
Jonah was a reluctant participant but he got in the game. Paul was against the Christian game entirely, but he got involved.
I never wanted to be a pastor. It was never a dream of mine. I never had anything against pastors. I always thought we needed pastors. I just didn't think that was my life's calling.

When I started to get this feeling that God was calling my number and telling me to get in the pastor game, I had all kinds of excuses not to do so:
  • I'm not perfect. God's reaction was to let me know that if that was a requirement we'd have no pastors.
  • But God, I'm an introvert. On a scale of 1-10, I'm about a 9. I'm this close to being a hermit. God seemed to be saying to me, "That's ok. I'm not looking for Lone Ranger Christians. I'll teach you why community is important."
  • But God, public speaking makes me nervous. I have no experience. God's answer seemed to be, "Yep. People get nervous. You'll be fine."
  • But God, what about sick people and dying people, tragedies, funerals...I don't know how to do that stuff. God seemed to be saying, "Where did I plant you? On a farm you see birth, life, death, tragedy all around you. You've seen it in your family and in your community. People get sick. There are tragedies. There is death. People need pastors. Some things aren't pleasant but I've been trying to train you so you can help others."

Here's a little bit of wisdom for you. You don't win arguments with God.
Now, for the most part, I enjoy being a pastor. There are ups and downs, like any job. I don't aspire to be "Pastor of the Year". I don't care to be a bishop. But I am willing to be an instrument for God and I'm willing to keep growing. I'm just hoping the growth won't be too painful.
Now, let me talk about you. If you're on the bench, if you are a spectator, God's calling your number - #31, get in there! Now, of course, God isn't calling everyone to be a pastor. But God has work for everyone - good stuff. It'll make you feel good when you do it. 
If you have excuses, God has answers. Of course God isn't a bully or a dictator. He gives us freedom. We can say no. But most people don't feel good about saying "no" to God. For most people, God isn't plucking us out and telling us to go preach repentance to your worst enemy. God says take baby steps, do a little something even if you fail, it's ok. God tells us, "Way to go! You got in the game. Now give me a little more."
And if you're already in the game, way to go! Keep it up! If you're tired, that's ok. There are time-outs and pauses. Keep at it; you're doing a good job.
If you've been in the game and you're frustrated or you've made mistakes, maybe you've hurt the team, well, that's not good but God, your coach, can get you straightened out. God can get in your face if you need that. He can also give a second chance. He can give you encouragement because God's not as obsessed about the past as you and I are. The game is going on now. God is concerned about you and me right now. The game continues. Get in the game.

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