WHERE HE LEADS 7-2-17

WHERE HE LEADS

July 2, 2017

                   You heard three Scripture readings this morning – two from the Old Testament and one from the New.  Each of them is about someone the Lord called:  Moses, Samuel, and the apostle Paul.  Did you notice anything else similar about all three?   If you didn’t, you will by the end of my message.

          When we start off in this life, we don’t usually know how we want to spend our lifetime – what we want to do or who we want to be.  But God does.  God has a purpose for each of us before we are even born.  He has put me, and you, on this earth for a reason.  Sometimes we find out that reason early in life.  Sometimes not so early.  And so I would like to share with you how I got here. 

          When I was a little girl I always felt a strong connection to God, and to things of the Spirit.  My questions ran deep, my thirst for knowledge was beyond my years.  One time my mother took me to her friend’s house and I listened as she told my mom about her daughter who had recently become a nun.   This sounded like the life for me!  But when I told my mom and dad my thoughts, they were quick to point out that I was Lutheran, not Catholic, and therefore I could not become a nun when I grew up.  You see, I was brought up Lutheran, attended a Lutheran grade school and high school, and attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran church every Sunday with my parents.  In fact, my father was such a strict Missouri Synod Lutheran that after he passed away, I half-jokingly said he would probably be wandering around for all eternity looking for the door to heaven that was marked ‘Missouri Synod Lutherans Only’. 

          After I had given up on the idea of being a nun, I thought about being a pastor instead.  Again, my father was quick to point out the fact that I was a girl, and girls do not become pastors.  At least not in the Lutheran church back in those days.  So I also gave up on the idea of being a pastor.  (Yes I know I am a pastor, but I’m getting to that…)

          In 1970, Hal Lindsey wrote “The Late Great Planet Earth”.  A few years after he wrote it, I read it for the first time.  I hadn’t heard about Bible prophecy and the end times before.  The church I was attending didn’t talk about that.  But I was fascinated by this and read all I could find on the subject.  Then after I moved to Morris, the Baptist Church in Mazon showed the movie “A Distant Thunder”, and I went to see it with my then future husband.  God spoke to us through that movie, and we became members of that church, and later got married there.  Plus we both got re-baptized in the Illinois River in accordance with the Baptist understanding of the sacrament.  We were on fire for the Lord and served Him in the way the Baptist church taught us to.  That was until my husband discovered alcohol, and Satan used it to pull him away from God and destroy our marriage.  Not only that, but because of their teachings about divorce and remarriage, I felt I could no longer serve in that church.  So I started drifting away from God.  My second marriage lasted 5 years, and I started sinking even deeper.  My third marriage also lasted 5 years, and by the end of it, my spirit was in a very dark place.  I worked as the manager of a Chicago Tribune agency, and because it was a 365 day a year job, starting at 2:30 AM, I did not attend church and my spiritual condition grew worse and worse.

          So for over a decade my questions once again ran deep, and my thirst for knowledge insatiable, but this time it was from a different vantage point.  And yet, during those dark years, God never forsook me.  He was teaching me the entire time.  Teaching me hard lessons.  Teaching me to see inside the heart and mind of the spirits of darkness, so that when I emerged I would have the type of knowledge that would be of benefit for what God had in store for me. 

          Which brings us back to our first Scripture reading from Exodus 3.  Moses grew up in Egypt, the country that made slaves out of the Israelites - just as so many people today, even Christians, are slaves to the world, to sin, and sometimes even to, not Pharaoh, but Satan himself.  After Moses had fled from Egypt, God called him.  He called his name twice from a bush that was burning but not consumed.  And Moses answered.  But when God told him what He wanted him to do, at first he hesitated because he was not exactly the most gifted speaker.  So he thought… ‘God wants ME to go back to Egypt where I fled from, and speak to the head guy?  And not just speak, but make a demand in the name of God?   Lord, I think you called the wrong person!’  When God called me (which I’m getting to), I had also fled from Egypt in a sense.  The Tribune had closed my agency as they were consolidating territory, and I had opened a Christian book store in Morris.  However, due to what I call my dark years, I suffered from social anxiety.  I was on Effexor, and even that only helped a little.  But God didn’t send me Aaron.  I do have Ed, and I do have Randy, and I am grateful for them, but I am still the one up here speaking.  How?  I am because God told me I didn’t need the Effexor.  I have Him.  And not to jump ahead to Paul, but remember God did tell Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9).  And God’s grace was sufficient for me, too, because I did quit the Effexor cold turkey, and have been preaching ever since.

          But now on to our second Scripture reading from 1 Samuel 3.  Samuel didn’t know how to respond to God’s voice at first.  But after hearing Eli’s instruction, God called Samuel’s name twice, and he responded, “Speak, for your servant is listening”.  Six words that tell God so much.   First that we are willing to listen.  And second that we will listen with the heart of a servant, willing to do what He asks of us.  If you read the rest of the chapter, you will see that he didn’t give Samuel an easy message either.  And he, too, hesitated.  He hesitated to tell Eli what it was because it wasn’t good news for Eli.  But he did what God asked him to do and God blessed him so that none of his words would fall to the ground.  In other words, whatever Samuel prophesied, happened.

          Then there is the apostle Paul, originally known as Saul.  He was a man that hunted down Christians, that applauded at the stoning of Stephen, that raged against Christianity in the name of religion.  But there is no one so lost or so misled, that God cannot call them, redeem them, and use them for His glory.  And so on the road to Damascus, God called Saul’s name twice.  And Saul answered.  And wrote half of the New Testament.

          So why did I pick these three Scriptures?  Because on May 7, 2010 I was woken up in the middle of the night by a thunderstorm, that was getting louder and louder.  I sat up in bed and watched the lightning that was almost non-stop.  And then at 3 AM, there was a boom of thunder that I thought was going to break the window.  And immediately after that boom of thunder I heard my name called twice.  Yes, audibly.  Just like Moses did, and Samuel, and Saul – and 4 other people in the Bible.  At first I looked over at my husband, Ed.  He was sound asleep.  But I already knew that voice wasn’t his.  And in my heart, I knew who was calling my name.  So I got up, and went to the Bible and my computer, and researched those times when God called someone’s name twice.  And I realized what He was asking of me.  I answered that call.  First by becoming a local lay speaker, then a certified lay speaker, and then went through candidacy, and finally licensing school.  I lead a chapel service once a month at Evenglow Lodge as a lay speaker for several years before being asked to become their new chaplain.  I had also been working for five years as an administrative assistant at Carber in Morris.  But two months before I got a phone call from Rev. Sharon Garretson asking me if I would be willing to serve as their chaplain so she could retire, Carber had cut my hours down to two days a week – Monday and Friday.  When I asked Sharon what my hours would be at Evenglow, she said, “Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday”.  Coincidence?  There is no such thing.  

          I served on many committees at Mazon United Methodist church for several years before becoming their new pastor when Pastor Mark Amenda retired due to health reasons.  Normally the Methodist church does not appoint people to serve as pastor of their home church.  However, God doesn’t always abide by man’s rules, and if that is where God wanted me to be, then that is where I would serve.

          So I was working Monday and Friday at my secular job, three days a week at Evenglow, and also serving as pastor of Mazon UMC.  Then less than two months ago, I got a phone call while I was at Carber from our District Superintendent, Rev. Leah Pogemiller.  She asked me if I would be willing to serve as a half-time pastor at Braceville UMC.  I asked if I would still be able to continue at Mazon and at Evenglow, and she said yes (even though technically it put me at working 1 ¼ time serving the Lord).  And so I agreed. 

         First God calls us.  Then if we respond positively He trains us and leads us into our calling; although He is actually training us throughout our entire lives for whatever that calling is.  Unfortunately many people don’t hear the Lord when He calls them.  Job 33:14 says, “Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it. In a dream, a vision of the night, when sound sleep falls on men, while they slumber in their beds. Then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction.”   

          I am living the dream of my childhood.  I am following the calling that was in my heart 50 years ago.   I had to wander in the wilderness for many years before reaching the Promised Land, but I had much to learn while in the desert.  Psalm 37:4-5, which says, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it”, has become a reality for me.  I want it to become a reality for all of you as well.  Open your ears to the voice of the Lord and follow wherever He leads you.  Amen.

       (Photo taken at Braceville United Methodist Church)