Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shine Like a Star!

Jeremiah 29:1-14

Where were you ten years ago? I was serving a growing military congregation in Fayetteville, NC, home of the 82nd Airborne, the Army Rangers, and Pope AFB. On Sept. 11, 2001 by noon that day we knew that life would be different. Our city stopped, literally, as razor wire went up around the base, checkpoints were established at every entrance to what had formally been thoroughfares through Ft. Bragg. The All American Freeway became the All American parking lot due to a code red lock down of all military facilities.

Wed. night, Sept. 12 had a prayer service and our new sanctuary was filled to capacity. Sunday morning worship was standing room only. Our altars were filled with people in prayer and our phones were ringing constantly with young couples anxious to get married as soon as possible. Why? Because when we are in crisis, when we are forced to re-evaluate our priorities three things become crystal clear:

Life became more precious. For a short period of time ten years ago, life became more precious. I bet you went home from work that day and hugged your kids tighter. I bet you called your mother, or a friend who you hadn’t spoken to in ages. The crashing of those planes took away the comfort of your apathy toward life, for a little while.

Eternity became more pressing. Why were churches full on Sunday, September 16th, 2011? Because when people die, like the more than three thousand did that day, we stand at the door of eternity and peer into it wondering when we step over the threshold from temporal to eternal. We want assurance of our eternity that we are too busy to consider at other times. The busyness of our lives pretty effectively allows us to forget that we are only one breath away from eternity.

God’s plan became more personal. We were suddenly concerned with discovering God’s plan, path, and purpose when we are not sure we have much time left. We live with a sense of urgency.

But it doesn’t last, does it. Within six weeks our worship attendance At Trinity UMC had returned to normal, life returned to its typically hectic pace, eternity again seemed out of reach, God’s plan became one of the many options on life’s buffet, and one that most folks chose to pass by. It became easy to return to being the “me I default to be” rather than the “me I want to be.” Living into “the me I want to be” means staying in love with God, and staying connected to God’s heart by giving the Holy Spirit reign in your heart.

God’s word for God’s people during Jeremiah’s time also rings true for us. The fall of the kingdom was imminent. There was panic, fear, and uncertainty. Hope was scarce. With the impending troubles Jeremiah was trying to tell them that the God of hope was still with them. Just because it was difficult didn’t mean that God was done. That rather than giving into desperation and panic, that they needed to get focused on the things of God. That life was more precious; eternity more pressing; and God’s plan more personal than they could ever imagine. That God was still in control even when it seemed like the world was out of control.

Why don’t we always remember that life is precious; eternity is pressing; and God’s plan is personal? Because we get really busy living the “Counterfeit Versions of Me" from John Ortberg's The Me I Want to Be:
o      The “me” I pretend to be—I try to convince people I am important while secretly feeling I am not. This is what I call the “high school reunion” version of you. You rent the fancy car, have new business cards printed with a fancy title, buy clothes way beyond your budget. Who are you pretending for? Certainly not God. When we are pretending we get overextended financially, relationally, physically. It takes a lot of work to live a lie.
o      The “me” I think I should be—I have a need to try to be something I’m not, often motivated by comparison. Also known as the “me I want to see in the mirror.” I always wanted to be the “leading man” and I was always cast as the “comic relief.”
o      The “me” other people want me to be—I don’t’ feel free to be myself; I follow other’s agendas. The “me mama wanted me to be.” You can kill yourself trying to make other people happy. The me others try to manipulate me into being. 
o      The “me” I’m afraid God wants—I lack trust in God’s love and plan; I equate spiritual maturity with trying to follow the Bible’s rules. The “don’t send me to Africa” version of me. God does not want you to be a boring, cookie cutter version of you, God wants you to be the you, you were created to be.
o      The “me” that fails to be—I’m missing mental and emotional vitality, my soul is weary. The “missing the mark” version of me. Have you ever noticed that most of us reduce our successes and re-live our failures? We are far better at explaining what we are poor at than where we are gifted. Whenever I ask somebody about their spiritual gifts, what the Holy Spirit has uniquely wired them to do, most of them tell me what they can’t do.

The Me I’m meant to be…
God created me to be me, and you to be you. God does not want to exchange you, God wants to redeem you. When we are living God’s best version of ourselves we realize:

Life is precious…how much of our life do we take for granted? When we are living the counterfeit me that we accept rather than living a life guided by God’s Holy Spirit directing my life, we forget what’s really important. Life is God’s first, and God’s best gift to us. When we are in tune with the Spirit of God we realize what a precious gift it is. Jesus said you are salt, you are light. Salt in a shaker is worthless until it is poured out. Light is no good if the shades are drawn. Lydia’s glow in the dark stars…they don’t shine until its dark. When you are living the best version of you, you shine. The people around you can see the God within you. The darker it gets the better you shine.

Eternity is pressing…not only is life precious, but eternity matters. When you are living God’s best version of you, you see everybody you connect with as somebody with an eternal future. Not just the nice people, they are easy. We are all concerned about our friends, family, the kids down the street, and that is awesome. But you also begin to realize that everyone has an eternity, you know, the guy who cuts you off in traffic, the person who gossips about you at work, even the woman that drives you crazy, they have an eternity that is hanging in the balance. When you are flourishing, thriving, growing, living in the Spirit, you actually care about people who don’t really care about you. You may well be somebody’s North Star to eternity, its up to you to shine.

God’s plan is personal…I know I say this all the time, but I want you to hear it. God has a plan, path, and purpose for your life. Now for most of us its not a straight line. Have you ever met straight line people, who went straight through school, straight into their perfect first job, straight into their career position, straight into their divine calling? Don’t they drive you nuts? My path looks a lot more like a mountain pass than a divine highway. Every star is unique, like every snowflake and every fingerprint. God’s plan for you is uniquely for you,  your shine is unlike anyone elses.

What is keeping you from being who God has created you to be? God’s best version of you?
Have you connected with Christ, let Jesus in to redeem you and release God’s Spirit within you?
Are you clinging to a “counterfeit” me? Pick up your star, and shine! Amen.

To order your own copy of The Me I Want to Be or find a Connection Group and participate in this study contact our office at St. Paul United Methodist Church

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