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The New Normal

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“The New Normal”

West Side Baptist Church

November 30, 2003

Pastor Scott Thielen

Text: Revelation 2:1-7

Idea: If you have been transformed, you will not want to go back to the way it was before

Introduction

Hook

Christmas may be the next big thing on your calendar, but what comes next for your spiritual life?  Today we are going to think together about what comes next on your spiritual journey. 

A few moments ago we read Psalm 71.  What a wonderful statement about God’s greatness and how it changes our lives.  I especially like verse17 which says “…to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.” 

To this day.  That’s what God loves to hear.  “Oh, God, I don’t ever want to stop noticing how great You are and talking about it.”  And that’s what these past 40 days have been about.  Learning how to continue growing in our love for God to this very day.

Need/Common Ground… 40 Days of Purpose

Now for most of us, we have just completed the 40 Days spiritual journey here at West Side.  But I understand there may be some of you here for the first time, and you don’t know what the 40 Days even is.  That’s okay.  Because everybody is somewhere on their spiritual journey. 

  • You may be just at the beginning of the road of your spiritual journey – that’s a starting point. 
  • You may be somewhere in the middle.  You start where you are. 
  • And those of you who have been on a spiritual high, we’re glad that you are here, too.

The “New Normal”

Today I want to get you thinking about what comes next in your life.  If you have participated in the 40 Days of Purpose—even just a little bit—I have a feeling God has touched you in some way.  In fact, I think most of us could point to some specific way God has transformed our lives.  It’s been a great experience to be learning so many wonderful things about who God is and the plans He has for us.

So what’s next?  Have you given that much thought?  If your life has truly been transformed in some way, you will not want to go back to the way it was before.  When God transforms us, things change.  I believe that many of you here realize that God has redefined “normal” for your life. 

“Normal” simply describes what we come to expect. 

  • When I was in my twenties, it was normal for me to have long, blond hair.  Today I have a new normal.  I’m thankful for my short hair, for every hair.

The 40 Days of Purpose are over.  God has changed us.  And it’s time to live the “new normal.”  This is no time to sit back and take a break from spiritual growth.  We need to continue to move forward as people who are learning to live out God’s purposes for us.

(refer to the Discipleship Diamond)

Transition… what’s next?

So, what’s next?  The challenge is how to start on the next leg of your spiritual journey, after being on a spiritual high.

Mount Everest

Let me ask you a question: “What’s the highest point on earth?”  Mount Everest at 29,035 feet.  Did you know that 1,300-1,600 people have summited Mt. Everest?  They’ve made it all the way to the top.  People have been attempting it since 1921.  During that period of time, 160 plus people have died trying to summit Mt. Everest.  That means that 1 in 8 die.  And for that privilege, they pay about $60,000; they give up 90 days of their lives, and 1 in 8 don’t make it back. 

What do you think that is about?  I’m sure that for some, taking those kinds of risks are all about the attraction; it’s saying “I am in a very elite group of people that did something very special.”  There’s something compelling about getting to the highest place.

So, let me ask another question.  “Is it more dangerous to climb Mt. Everest, or to descend down the slope of Mt. Everest?” 

You know the answer, right?  The truth is that more people have died descending than they did trying to summit.  And there’s a lesson in that: you have to be extra careful coming off of a high place. 

Weather Patterns

Let me ask you another question. In thinking about weather patterns, would you rather have a high-pressure system or a low-pressure system?  You’d rather have a high-pressure system.  That’s where stable air is.  It is the low-pressure systems that bring the unstable, stormy kind of weather.  Seattle: unstable and rainy.  Yakima: stable and sunny.  Some people really like to live in stormy weather, but they’re from another planet.

You know, if you’re not ready for the inevitable lows of life, spiritually and emotionally, you’re going to be in trouble.  But isn’t that true of life?  Life is a series of ups and downs.  Life is a series of highs and lows.  In life you’re going to find both the good and the bad. 

Parachute Story

Did you hear about the guy who’s talking to his buddy and he says, “Hey, did you hear that John fell out of an airplane?”  His buddy said, “Oh, that’s bad.” 

The first guy said, “No, he had a parachute.”  The other guy said, “Oh, that’s good.” 

The first guy said, “Well, the parachute didn’t open.”  The other guy said, “Oh, that’s bad.” 

The first guy said, “No, there was a haystack.”  The other guy said, “Oh, that’s good.” 

The first guy said, “No, there was a pitchfork in it.”  The other guy said, “Oh, that’s bad.” 

The first guy said, “No, he missed it.”  The other guy said, “Oh, that’s good.” 

The first guy said, “No, he missed the haystack.”  Now, that was bad.  That was really, really bad.

Wanting to Maintain Spiritual Highs

You know the highs are so good and the lows are so painful that there is something within us that just wants to hang on to the highs.  We want to capture as much of heaven on earth, as we possibly can. 

Transfiguration

We want to stay spiritually high at all costs, but let me ask you this: “Is it possible to stay on a spiritual high?”  No, it’s not.  If you read the Bible, what you’ll find is that the Bible is a parade of highs and lows, one right after another.  Just take some examples.

Examples of Highs and Lows in the Bible

  • Daniel—You know the story of Daniel in the Bible?  Daniel was very, very faithful to God. That’s a high.  But because of his faithfulness to God, he was thrown into a den of hungry lions. That’s a low.  But the lions didn’t eat him. That’s a high.  You see the pattern? 
  • Jonah—There’s the story of Jonah.  He runs away from God. That’s a low.  He is swallowed by a great fish. That is a low.  But the fish vomits him up on dry ground…is that a high or a low?  It’s a high – there are only two ways out of a fish!   
  • Jesus—Go to the New Testament. You have Jesus, and He’s at His baptism and His Father’s voice is heard from heaven, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  That was a high.  What happened immediately after that?  He’s in the desert for 40 days being assaulted with temptation by the devil himself. That was a low.  But what happened after that?  He began His ministry of teaching about the Kingdom of God and transforming lives and performing miracles.  That was a high.  But then what happened?  He’s crucified.  That was a low.  But then what happened?  He rose from the dead.  And that was a high. 

Transition

Here’s what I know: because Jesus stayed faithful to God in the highs and the lows, it is in the highs and the lows that we will learn to become like Jesus

You say, “Scott, how will I know if I’m on the right road?” 

A Case Study in True Love

Revelation 2:1-7

Allow me to share a passage of scripture with you that describes a group of Christians who obviously had some spiritual highs in their lives.  It’s found in Revelation 2.  It is so important that we prepare ourselves for what lies ahead.  Because life is not lived just at the top.  We also need to be ready for how to climb out of the valleys.

In Revelation 2, beginning with verse 2, Jesus is talking to these Christians and He says…

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:1-5 (NIV)

Notice the description of these followers of Jesus. 

  • They’ve grown in their faith. 
  • It’s obvious they had a clear sense of their purpose. 
  • They had served the Lord with gratitude and emotion and joy and diligence

But something had happened.  Somewhere along the way, in their journey with Jesus, something had changed. 

  • It wasn’t a work problem.  They were working along just fine.  As a matter of fact, the Bible says, “You’re great at work, you’re great at perseverance, you’re great at endurance.”  They were doing the right thing.  So it wasn’t a work problem. 
  • I don’t believe it was an information problem.  I don’t believe it was thinking wrong things.  They had the right information. 

The Problem of “Alzheimer Christianity”

Their problem was a love problem.  They forgot how to love.

They were suffering from what I call “Alzheimer Christianity.”  Have you ever experienced “Alzheimer Christianity?”  This disorder can be contracted at any age.  What is “Alzheimer Christianity?”  It is the tendency—the longer you profess to be a Christian—to forget the miracle of walking with God.  The longer you go to church, the harder it is for you to remember the mystery of Christ in you, the hope of glory.

When it comes to our salvation, we lack nothing because God did it all for us through Christ.  But when it comes to living out that salvation in real life, we discover that we don’t do so well.  The reality is that Christians become spiritually weakened, worn down over time.  There is a gradual loss of excitement.  We begin to tolerate sin, to not be as offended by what offends God, to justify our failure, to be slow in seeking forgiveness.  In short, all Christians at some time or another begin to forget why this is such a great thing, the Christian life.

When it comes to a relationship with God, we all have found ourselves drifting from where we once were.  Every Christian faces the challenge of heart-drift, where your heart used to be inflamed with passion and now it’s cold.  I mean this happens in male/female relationships all the time. 

Three Signs of a “First Love”

Let me illustrate what I mean.  [Photo of a couple dancing, cheek to cheek].  This couple helps us capture a picture of what first love really looks like.  How many of you remember that sick at your stomach, giddy, jumpy, wide-eyed, enthusiastic passionate, can’t stop touching kind of love?  Do you remember?  Some of you don’t remember this, do you?  It’s been a long, long time. 

Let me give you some signs of what first love looks like. 

1.    A CRAVING that cannot be quenched

Number one, you have an insatiable desire to learn all you can about the other person.  I want you to imagine this couple.  They are no longer dancing, but now they are at a romantic dinner.  Out to eat at a restaurant.  Do you remember what that was like?  He’s not even touching his food.  He’s not.  Do you know what he’s doing?  He’s talking to her.  Yeah, that’s amazing.  Having live conversation.  “Tell me about your past.  Tell me about your pain.  Tell me about your parents.  Tell me about your present.  Tell me about your plans for the future.” 

But do relationships stay like this?  [Photo of an elderly man and woman].  Somewhere along the road, I don’t know when it happens, something happens to love.  Now I am not suggesting that older people can’t be in love.  My grandparents were passionately in love.  While in their 60’s, as a way of showing he still had it, my grandfather draped my grandmother over his shoulder and set her up on top of the refrigerator!  Now that’s hanky panky!  Definitely my kind of guy.  So, this isn’t an age thing. Okay?  These [elderly couple] could be dancing, those [young couple] could be far apart.  Imagine them out to dinner.  He’s looking at his plate.  He’s eating with both hands.  Stuff’s falling on his shirt.  He’s complaining about the price.  And they’re not talking to each other at all. 

2.    A willingness to make huge sacrifices

A second attribute of first love is that there’s a heavy investment in that love relationship.  You’re willing to invest heavily.  Hey, you want to spend some time together?  No problem, you have all the time in the world.  You could imagine that in this couple [young couple] couldn’t you?  We can dance all night.  You can see this guy saying to her, “Could I just drive by where you work and wave?  Could I come in and watch you work? Could I watch you watch your watch while you work?”  Money?  Not a problem.  They’re out to dinner – “Honey, order anything you want.”  They go to the mall together and he says, “Baby, buy whatever you want.”  That was back when he would actually go to the mall with her.  Can you imagine him [pointing to the elderly couple] going to the mall with her?  No.  If he’s at the mall, it’s like he’s doing time.  Hard time.  He’s looking at the watch – okay.

3.    A focus that cannot be diverted

A third attribute of first love is that, on top of this insatiable desire and this heavy investment, there’s an intense preoccupation of the heart.  See, over here, this couple [young], there’s no one or nothing else catching their eye.  Nothing else is grabbing at their heart.  Why?  Because there is no room in their heart for anything else.  They are full of love for one another.  This was the person to whom you were willing to give reckless abandon.  This was the person who got your full devotion.  All your affection.  Every bit of your esteem.  This person was your treasure.  They are what love songs are all about.  But this couple [elderly], what’s going through their head?  The Carpenter’s song – “I’ll say goodbye to love…”  and that’s what’s going on over here.  Something happened and it’s sad. 

What can happen to love

What can happen to love?  Look on your outline.  Revelation 2:4 says something very insightful about love.  It does not say, “You have lost your first love.”  It says, “You have left your first love.”  This word is sometimes used to describe divorce.  It was a choice.  It wasn’t some huge decision.  Actually, it was a series of little choices. 

The Christians in the city of Ephesus were good people.  They were serious about their faith.  It would not be wrong for us to say they were mature believers in Christ.  But the apostle Paul saw this weakness some 35 years before this indictment in Revelation 2.  In his letter to the Ephesian believers Paul writes:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

In his letter he thanks God for their faith and their love (Ephesians 1:15).  They truly demonstrated the love of the Lord.  Now fast-forward the video about 40 years and we find a different story.  Most of the Ephesians Christians are now second-generation believers.  They have the right doctrine, they live the right way, they are committed to service, but there is something missing: a genuine love for Jesus Himself.

Pay attention to this.  God is not impressed with our devotion and hard work if our hearts are not preoccupied with Him.  Our motivation must not simply be duty, but love for Him.

Now most of you have just come through this incredible 40 Days.  Right now, you may be on a high in your relationship with God.  For those of you who have thirsted for righteousness and you hunger for God, it’s as if your hunger and thirst seem unquenchable.  You cannot spend enough time.  You can’t leverage enough of your resources.  You can’t offer enough of your life to Him.  Love has captured you and you are a willing captive.  It’s a spiritual high. 

  • Bible study being held, you’re there. 
  • Worship service going on, you’re there. 
  • Scripture memory, you’re doing it.  There is no place you’d rather be.  Nothing else you’d rather give yourself to. 
  • Jesus Christ is the full focus of your heart and your devotion. 

This is the spiritual high weather system.  It’s providing sunshine and stability to your life.  But, if you’ve lived and you’ve paid attention, that jet stream is still blowing and soon a low-pressure system builds.  Clouds and storms cover the weather map of your soul.  Rain and coldness blow across your heart and, through a series of small choices, you’ve left your first love. 

How to Get Out of a Spiritually Low Place

What are you going to do when that happens?  What do you do if it’s already happened?  How do you get started on a new place in the spiritual journey that you’ve been taking?  What steps do you take to get out of a spiritual low place?  How do you go about getting back that loving feeling? 

Well, Revelation 2 also gives the answers. 

1.    Remember what God has done for you

Step one – the first step in this journey – in verse 5, Jesus said, “Remember”.  Can some of you remember when you were so spiritually hungry that you couldn’t stay away from this place?  You didn’t care if the service lasted an hour, or an hour and half, or two hours.  It didn’t matter to you.  You were just willing to hang out.  But what’s happened?  You know, 15, 20, 30 minutes late.  You come strolling in.   

You know, when you were first in love with Christ, you’d come early, and you’d stay late.  You were more like this couple [young] than this couple [elderly].  Like first love, maybe there was a time when you had an insatiable desire to learn about him.  You made whatever investment in the relationship.  He was the intense, preoccupation of your heart.  All you wanted to do was love him and please him. 

Do you remember?  Let me tell you something.  God remembers. 

·         He remembers feeling the thrill within you the first time that the Bible really spoke to you.  Remember thatYou couldn’t read fast enough.  It wasn’t because of dry habit.  It was a thrill for you.  God remembers. 

·         He remembers your courage  the first time you talked to someone else about how much Jesus meant to you.  He was so proud of you.  He felt your heart beating so fast in your chest that you thought it was going to burst.  He knew how surprised you were that your words and your efforts were making a difference in someone else’s life.  It wasn’t because of duty; it was because of courage and passion.  He remembers. 

·         God remembers each time in worship where you would bow your heart and surrender to Him.   

·         He remembers when tears would easily come to your eyes because you were so filled with gratitude and wonder and amazement and grace.  He remembers. 

·         He remembers when you pursued Him like no other.  When He was the object of your deepest affection.   And you know what? He misses that.  This isn’t about trying to create guilt.  Because if the truth were told, you miss that, too.  You do. 

Christ is our hope (Colossians 2)

We need to face two facts.  First, Jesus Christ is the source of all spiritual change.  And second, other sources of input may subtly draw you away from Christ Himself.  In other words, if you begin relying on other sources of strength and encouragement, over time you run the risk of relying on them rather than on Jesus Himself.

Colossians 2:1-3 tell us that “…in him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3 (NLT)

The first step out of a spiritually low place is to remember who God is and what He has done for you through Jesus Christ.

2.    Repent by changing the way you think and live

Now look at verse 5 again.  Notice the next step you take.  When you’ve allowed love to slip, verse 5 says, “Repent.”  Now that is a heavy, heavy word.  

What does repent mean?  I mean you think about preachers screaming that word with a lot of fire in their voice.  The real definition of repent is, “I recognize that where I am is not where I am supposed to be.  So, I turn and move toward where I am supposed to be.”  That’s what it is.  The same truth is found in Lamentations 3.  The Bible says, “Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God.” 

John wrote:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 (NIV)

A wise person once said, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?”  How do you move to the place that you want to be with God?  First, you remember.  Second, you repent. 

3.    Renew your passion to become all God made you to be

And number three, and this is right out of verse 5, you do what you used to do.  You renew your passion to become the person God created you to be. 

What is passion?  Passion is simply being energized by the love of God.  When you remember who God is and what He has done for you, and you align your life with that truth, then your passion to grow will be genuine.  God’s love for you will make you want to love Him back, with your whole heart.  That is when you get your first love back.

Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

So how do you renew your passion?  What did you used to do?  You took one step at a time.  You do the next right thing.  You know what? You don’t get to a spiritual mountain top in one step.  And you will not get through a low valley in one step.  So what do you do?  You put one foot in front of the other.  You take one right step at a time and you will successfully make your way through the low places. 

Examples of how to renew your love

Let me give you a couple of practical examples. 

See, it’s all about just keeping your promise a little longer.  I think sometimes we get overwhelmed in our commitments to God and think, “Oh, I can’t do this forever,” and we just get discouraged and give up.  This is about keeping your promises just a little longer. 

  • Attendance—Some of you at the beginning of the 40 Days of Purpose said, “I am going to attend all six weekends for the 40 days.”  Some of you did that and I want to commend you on that.  You know what? It would be overwhelming to say, “I’ll make a church service on a weekend, every weekend, for the rest of my life.”  That would be overwhelming to most of us.  But there are only three weekends, after this one, until Christmas Eve.  Kind of bums you out, doesn’t it?  But you say, “Yeah, I can make three more.” 
  • Bible reading—How about Bible reading?  You know the daily reading we were doing during the 40 Days?  A lot of scripture in that book.  You say, “I don’t know if I can read that much.”  How about this? – before you check email, how about five minutes with the Bible? Just 5 minutes before you check email. 
  • Memorization—How about scripture memory? Some of you are memorizing one verse of scripture every week.  Just one verse of scripture.  So maybe from your daily Bible reading, you pick one verse of scripture, just one, that you’ll memorize that week and you put it on your refrigerator door and you make the commitment, “I will not open this refrigerator door until I can say this verse with my eyes closed.”  Think of the weight you’ll lose in the Holidays!! 

Being right, and doing right doesn’t always feel right.  But it doesn’t have to.  You take the next right step. 

Let me give you just a few more practical steps. 

  • Some of you got involved in a small group during the 40 days.  That’s awesome!  But your need for a group like that is still real.  Continuing to be a part of a small group will help guard your heart against growing cold.  How?  In a small group God uses other people to encourage us when we become discouraged.
    • We discover that worshipping the Lord is easier with others who are worshipping as well (that helps us become true worshippers)
    • We find it easier to walk with God when others are seeking the same thing (that helps us be in fellowship)
    • We learn things that help in real life because God uses other people to cause us to look at things differently, keeping God’s Word fresh (that’s what discipleship is all about)
    • We discover that it’s kind of fun to serve together, side by side (that’s ministry)
    • We are able to step out into mission opportunities together (and that’s mission)

I want to emphasize how important small groups are to the future of West Side.  We want to see every person connected with the church family in this way.  And if you are not in a group, or if you need to find a new group, we will be making that opportunity available to you in a few weeks.

  • During the 40 Days you learned the importance of a church family.  Next Sunday we will host another “Welcome Class” and provide lunch for anyone who’s interested in learning more about life at West Side.  Before you leave today, you can sign up to take this step toward membership. 
  • Some of you, during the 40 Days, said, ”I want Jesus to be the forgiver of my sins and the new leader of my life.”  And one public way you express your new life in Christ is to be baptized.  Last week we watched 11 people take this step of growth.  And we’re going to do it again.  It’s not every step you’ll need to take, but it is one step. 

The goal is to become more like Jesus

I want to be very clear. The goal is not just to keep you busy.  The goal is not just a bunch of activity.   This is all about real change.  The expectation is that you start becoming more like Jesus.  Becoming the person God created you to be.

This is not just about attending, or reading, or memorizing, or joining or doing.  It’s about really being like Jesus.  And when you boil it right down, our character is developed through our obedience and through our trust in God during the highs and during the lows. 

We trust Him when we’re up, and we obey Him.  We trust Him when we’re down, and we obey Him.  Will you choose to love the Lord through trust and obedience?  Will you choose to obey all that God teaches you to do?  It’s not saying, “I’ll obey this part, but I’m not going to obey that part.”  Selective obedience is not obedience at all.  That’s just called convenience.  I’m talking about true obedience to God. 

My World

Marriage gives us a fitting illustration of how easy it is for us to begin taking each other for granted.  Often marriage partners never realize how far they have drifted from the first love they shared as they began their journey in marriage. 

So it is with Christ.  What we lack is not technique or counseling or information.  What we need more than anything is Him.  A consistent, growing love for Jesus Christ produces the eager desire to obey Him more and more.

When we remember God’s mercy, and we align ourselves with this truth, the result is a renewed love for Jesus, our Friend, our Savior, and our Lord. 

What’s next for you?

So, what’s next for you?  What are the options now that the 40 Days of Purpose are behind you?

  • Don’t expect to continue on a spiritual high forever
  • But don’t expect everything to come crashing down either
  • Don’t plan to kick back and relax
  • But don’t try to work harder than ever to please God either

What is the “New Normal?”  It is following the Lord through both the highs and lows, the ups and the downs.  Build on what God has given you through the 40 Days of Purpose.  And prepare for the next phase of your growth.  How did the Lord change you through the 40 days? 

  • You listened to the Lord and remembered how great He is and how loving He has been
  • You decided to change your mind about something
  • And you renewed your love for Him in response

Remember, your fulfillment as a person hinges on remembering God’s great mercy toward you.  God’s mercy enables you to be transformed, and when you change your heart toward God, that’s when your passion is renewed.  Our motivation is not to prove anything or to avoid guilt or to look good.  Our passion is our response to God for how He has touched and shaped your life.  The more you learn about it, the more you want to change.  The key is not doing more stuff for God.  The key is remembering what God has done for you, then changing the way you think and live.

What I think determines how I behave.  What I think about God determines how I live for God. 

Transition

One final thought, and then we’re done.  You and I will fail.  We will not always be where God wants us to be.  We will fail God, but God’s love will never fail.  Even when you get messy in life, His love for you is never in question. 

Story by Jeanette Clift George

Several years ago, Jeanette George wrote about a flight she had from Tucson to Phoenix.  Some of you have been on that flight from Tucson to Phoenix – it’s not a long flight at all.  Seated next to her was this young woman with a small, little baby girl.  Jeanette describes the little baby, says she was beautiful.  She was wearing this white dress. Her hair was fixed with a little pink bow.  This baby was smiling and she kept saying “Dada, dada” during the first part of the trip.  And the woman explained, “we’re going home to her daddy.  We’ve been away for 24 hours and he’s going to meet us at the airport.”  Everybody was just enjoying this adorable little girl.  Well the mom had a thermos bottle and she’s feeding this baby juice and fruit, juice and fruit.  And the baby started crying.  I guess the ears, or something, as they’re flying.  And the more the baby cried, the more juice and fruit.  Then the flight got turbulent.  Oh, yeah.  She had more came up than had gone down.  It was just a huge, huge mess.  This baby’s face is blotted with red from the crying.  Her hair, her white dress, just everywhere.  People were assuring this young mother that it was okay, handing her tissues while running for cover. 

When the plane landed, the little girl was fine again.  She started saying, “Dada, dada” again.  Nobody else was fine, but that little girl, she was fine.  Jeanette George says when they got off, she spotted the daddy.  She spotted him.  She said there he was standing in white pants, in a white shirt, holding white flowers.  As he walked to embrace his wife, she just handed him the child, as she’s on the way to the bathroom to cleanup.  And Jeanette George said, “I thought when he looked at how nasty that little girl had gotten, he would say, “She’s not my baby.  I don’t know whose baby she is.’”  That’s not what happened. That daddy took that little girl in his arms and he started kissing her, stroking her hair and saying over and over again, “Daddy’s baby came home.”  I just want to read to you two brief sentences that Jeanette George says: “I watched him all the way to the baggage area.  He never stopped kissing that baby and I thought, ‘Where did I ever get the idea that Father God is less loving than a young daddy in a white shirt, in white pants with white flowers who doesn’t care what his little girl looks like, or what she smells like? He’s just glad she’s home.’”  

Application

Maybe you’ve blown it – really messy.  You thought, “God would never want me like this.”  You could not be more wrong.  Whoever you are, whatever you have done, God wants you to come to Him.  It’s like coming home.  For those of you who are wanting a relationship with God, start the journey today.  For those of you who are on your journey, stay steady.  Remember His love.  Take the next right step.  Just keep moving in His direction.  Just keep making your way home to Him.  He wants you in His arms, no matter what.  Why?  Because His love never fails. 

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray together…

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

“Heavenly Father, if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that you’ve been pursuing me with Your love for a long time now.  You proved Your love by letting Your Son, Jesus die instead of me for my sins.  He paid the price.  And God you raised Him from the dead – why?  All because You love me.  Father, I want to start a love relationship with You. 

Or some of you will pray…Father I want to stay in a love relationship with You.  And though the feelings come and go, they rise and fall, I commit today, by faith and simple trust that I will make my journey home to you.  And thank you, Father, for letting me know that when I arrive, you’ll be there to enfold me in Your arms and to welcome me into Your presence forever.  Amen.”

Offering

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