Wandering with Jesus

How did this message impact you? Share your testimony

This contact form is deactivated because you refused to accept Google reCaptcha service which is necessary to validate any messages sent by the form.

Manuscript:

Introduction:

Everywhere we turn we seem tired, stressed out, overwhelmed, deflated. We feel it personally and see it in those around us. We could all use a little break couldn’t we? What if we could all just take a few minutes to take a deep, long, breath? The 40 days leading up to Easter known as Lent seem like a great intentional occasion to do just that. It’s an opportunity for us to learn some of the deeper lessons of faith. If you’ve sensed a lack of wind or breath where your life is concerned, if you know what it means to be deflated, if you can empathize with that old, flat basketball in the corner of the garage, lets take a breath. God is eager to bring Life back to your Life.

I played basketball growing up and in High School (picture). I was little guy, weighing in at a whopping 127 lbs! But I had speed, I was quick, and I could shoot. I also liked to get in the paint and try and be a force to reckon with against the big guys. Unfortunately, it didn’t always work out and I remember on more than one occasion, feeling like I had run into a brick wall and bam – all the air got knocked out of me. You wanna talk about a terrible feeling. You stand there and try to breathe but you cant. You are just standing there gasping or trying to gasp for air and praying you can get one, fast. And in the mean time, everyone else is standing around laughing because they know the other guy just blasted me.

I don’t play a lot of basketball anymore, regrettably, and I don’t get the wind knocked out of me in the same way. But I do get winded physically and emotionally with the feverish pace of life, baggage, and just too much happening at once. One of the ways that I like catch my breath is to go to a monastery. I had never been before until 2011. Not too far from our home in Virginia there was a Trappist Monastery called Holy Cross Abbey (pictures) where they have committed themselves to common prayer, reading, and work. They are what you would expect; wearing black robes and observing much silence.

The monasteries welcome people from outside of their communities and you are able to stay on their grounds, eat, and share in the daily prayers with them. It is a very unique and different environment from our lives.

I had been facing big decisions and difficult relationships and I needed space. Space to take a breath. And this place provided it. I was there for 5 days – mostly in silence and I can tell you I was a little tired of myself by the end of it!

What it afforded me was an opportunity to stop. To take a deep breath. To listen to God, and experience Him. We are currently in the season of Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, which began this past Wednesday. It is a time each year that we are afforded an opportunity to breathe in through spiritual discipline of self-denial and the taking on of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and the reading of scripture.

My time at the monastery was only 5 days but several times in scripture we observe people having this type of experience over 40 days. 40 is a significant number and is generally thought of as an indication of a period of trial/testing. Moses was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights on Mt. Sinai, Elijah was in the wilderness for 40 days. And Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights. So here we pick up the story in Matthew 4:1-11.

Matthew 4:1-11
The Temptation of Jesus
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”
Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.

Movement 1:
This story we see written in Matthew follows Christ’s baptism. His baptism was a glorious public event where God affirmed Jesus as His Son and we see the clear indication of the Trinity. But instead of Jesus basking in this great moment and capitalizing on the momentum to begin his public ministry, this is immediately followed by an excruciating private experience.

Great blessings are usually followed by great temptations.

We find that Christ was tempted in the wilderness, while Adam and Eve were tempted in a beautiful paradise. They had everything to eat and Jesus was hungry. They had mutual companionship and Jesus was alone. Yet Adam and Eve failed and Christ overcame.

Jesus was tempted on the physical level (food), tempted on the intellectual level (do something sensational by appearing at the Temple), and tempted on the spiritual level (worship me).

The enemy knows where to attack us and will come at us from all sides. One of the devil’s favorite weapons is doubt. Satan appeals to Christ by saying, “If you are the Son of God” in Verse 3 referencing the affirmation of His baptism. The evil one does the same to Eve in Genesis 3:1 saying, “Did God really say…?” This is the same manner as his appeal to Christ.

However, Christ overcame. But how? He was notably hungry and probably exhausted.

Jesus lived by the Word of God and not by the whims of his appetite and reveals to us how we can overcome temptations today by His example. In each of the 3 temptations, Jesus rebutted the invitation by the power of scripture by beginning his reply with “It is written”. Jesus met and conquered the devil with exactly the same weapon that is at our disposal: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Christ could have done any of the things Satan tempted him to do. It would have even been right for Jesus to do them. But the enemy asked Christ to do the right thing in the wrong way. Even if what Satan asks isn’t wrong in and of itself, it is a sin to obey the temptation of Satan. So instead of a sensational entrance and pleasing the cravings of his body, Christ followed the simple path of humble obedience to God the Father.

Movement 2:
When things go wrong or we are severely tempted, it is easy to think that we may be out of the will of the Lord. But when Jesus was being tempted He was in the very center of God’s will for him. It even says in verse 1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…” I once heard a story about a professor at a Christian University who was having a dialogue with his class. One of the students afterward came up and began to tell the prof about how he was so excited about where he was in his walk with the Lord and enthusiastic about the ministry possibilities. He said that he knew things were going well and that his spiritual life was solid because he was not being tempted. The professor listened to the student and then replied and told the young man that this is exactly when you should be concerned because if you are not being tempted then that means the enemy is not concerned about you.

Have there been times in your life when you felt that God was far away? That you were out wandering in the wilderness and the enemy was attacking you and God was nowhere to be found? Do you have periods of time when temptations rage and you feel so helpless against the attacks? Or maybe we are not being tempted and feel like everything is great like the young college student expressed? Perhaps the enemy knows he has nothing to fear because you are not an adversary to him.

There have been periods in my life that I have felt alone, isolated from God. There have been times that I have faced extreme temptation and attacks and wanted to run from God and the church. One of these times came right after I graduated college. It was a hard transition for me and I had encountered a relationship dissolve that was difficult, I was feeling a lot of pressure to seek secure employment with benefits and retirement, and I was unclear as to where God wanted me to go. Over the course of a few months, while I was struggling to know God was with me, it was one of the periods I can look back on and know that I grew the most spiritually.

Recently, God has had my family and I wandering in what seemed like the wilderness. For the past few years I have served a congregation in Kansas City as you probably all are aware of. My capacity was as a staff pastor giving leadership to worship and creative arts. During my time we went through a lead pastor transition. Per the guidelines of the Church of the Nazarene, as staff pastors the lead pastor has the permission to choose who serves with him or her. After two years of serving with the new lead pastor, we received news that we were going to be let go because he wanted a stronger personal connection with who served in the worship role.

I was not prepared for that. Angelia was not prepared for that. And neither were Maisie and Hendrick. Our mindset had been that we could serve there for 10, 15, 20 years and we were committed to that. We were comfortable, settled.

In August of last year I completed my assignment in Kansas City and we were suddenly thrust into what we can look back on and say was a period of wandering in the wilderness. Initially, we were just numb. In shock really. This was unexpected and what were we to do now? Is this real? Is this really happening to us? How am I supposed to provide for my family? How am I supposed to pay bills? What are people going to think? How did this happen after some great years of faithful and fruitful ministry? Where are you God? Do you see this injustice? Do you hear our cries? Are you going to do anything about it? I want justice!

As word spread that I would be available for a new assignment, I began to field calls from church pastors, district superintendents, and other church leaders about possibilities. One of those calls came from Dr. Stan Reeder, the DS here on the Oregon Pacific District. That was in July.

By August, Angelia and I felt that we should take a break from full time ministry so I shut down all of the ministry conversations and began pursuing employment in a variety of other fields, including higher education and teaching. For a couple months I pursued every opportunity I could find. And at each opportunity laid a dead end for one reason or another. All the doors were remaining closed. I was so confused in addition to the hurt, anger, and bitterness we were feeling. I will never forget going and attending a service for the first time after my assignment was over. Angelia and I just sat there and cried through most of it. At the end we went forward to receive prayer for God to heal and to help us release those feelings.

Along with those feelings were feelings of not wanting to move. We had only been in our house for a little over a year, we have family, and friends close. Why would we move? God will open something for us to stay in Kansas City – or at least reasonably close.

In October I received another call from Dr. Reeder asking me to reconsider submitting my name as the lead pastor for a congregation on this district. Angelia and I thought and prayed about it and felt that we should at least allow our name to be submitted since it was clear that all the other doors were remaining closed.

Then we thought that since we were reconsidering our ministry future, perhaps we should reconsider them in general. So I reached back out to some of the ones that had contacted me before to see if they were still interested in talking about their ministry position.

And God began changing our hearts and helping us be okay with moving, even if it meant pretty far away.

Then it was like an avalanche of open doors. Although the first open door on ORPac did not remain open, Dr. Reeder called me back and asked if I would consider a church called GracePoint in Ashland.

I said no…at first. Then he called and we talked a little more and I finally agreed to let him present my name to the board.

As we stand here, you know how it all has worked out.

I wish I could stand here and say that we know why all of this happened. I wish we could tell you that we are healed and that some of those strong feelings are gone about our wilderness experience. But I cant. We are still processing through it all.

But in the face of uncertainty and doubt, God was with us. When we yelled and screamed – sometimes literally, God heard us and was with us. When we cry and wonder why, He hears us. When I didn’t know how the bills were going to get paid, God provided. When we didn’t know what to do about selling or renting our house, He led us to sell and confirmed it by having it sell for full asking price in 4 days. And all along the way God gave us His peace and confidence to continue pursuing Him, through it all.
We can say that we have felt God’s stirring in us to move into a lead pastor role for several years but have been fighting it. It wasn’t until we decided to let go of the reigns, trust, and be obedient to the doors God was opening that we experienced His peace.

So that’s our story of the last 8 months. Your wilderness may be recent, or far in your past, or presently happening. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s an addiction.

I want you to know from my own experience, God is with you. He isn’t in some far off place looking down at you. He is sitting next to you with his arm around you.

All He is asking us to do is to trust Him. Trust in the scriptures He has given us. Trust that He is who He says He is. When we do, then we can experience the peace and joy in the wilderness and at all times He alone can provide.

Prayer

Communion:

Throughout scripture we are called to remember. Often times we tend to forget how God works in our lives and we forget the significance of what Christ has done for us.

This morning we have an opportunity to receive communion together and remember that Christ came to this earth, was crucified, died, and was buried for our sins, and then was resurrected on the third day, giving us new life through Him.

Words of Institution:
We are reminded that in the night that our Lord gave himself up for us, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” When the supper was over he took the cup, gave thanks, gave it to His disciples, and said, “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us.

Prayer of Consecration (Epiclesis):

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathering here, and on these gifts of the bread and cup. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by the blood.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world. All honor and glory is yours, Almighty God, now and forever. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Body of Christ
The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was broken for you, preserve you blameless, unto ever- lasting life. Take and eat this, in remembrance that Christ died for you.

Blood of Christ
The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for you, preserve you blameless unto ever- lasting life. Drink this, in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you, and be thankful.

Prayer After Receiving

Benediction

Go out, among the outcast and the grieving, and speak the word of life and hope.
Do not fear, but trust in God’s word.
Watch for the Lord with eager expectation, and be generous with all God has given you.

And may God respond to your every cry with mercy;
May Christ Jesus take you by the hand and lift you to life as your breathe in; and may the Holy Spirit build you up in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in passion and in love.
Amen.

The Way of Hope

Talents