The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
– Jeremiah 1:1-10
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:16-20
A little over a week ago, our Interim Associate Pastor preached at our church for the last time in that capacity, maybe. A candidate for the Associate Pastor position preached a trial sermon this past Sunday. If it was the Interim’s last sermon, she went out with a bang, but she will still be around. She is the Senior Pastor’s wife, an ordained minister in her own right.
Her sermon was entitled, “When God Comes Calling”. Her big finish was that the Great Commission, the Matthew Scripture above, was meant for all believers, but building to that point, she talked about people with excuses. She asked, “What are your excuses?” She encouraged us to use them, but don’t be surprised when God would have answers for each one.
She started by telling a joke that ended with “Some people are chicken” as the punch line. In joke form, it was well received. I loved it, personally. But let’s look at some of the ‘chickens’ or maybe we should say ‘people with excuses’. The Pastor mentioned these people briefly, but it is great to dig.
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1): The Scripture above tells the story of Jeremiah’s calling. Jeremiah says that he is not a good speaker and he is too young. Yet, Jeremiah became a prophet for essentially his entire adult life.
Moses (Exodus 3 and 4): Moses sees a burning bush. He goes to investigate and is told to remove his sandals. But Moses starts the excuses by verse 11 of Exodus 3 and by verse 14 of Exodus 4, God’s anger burns against Moses, but God promises that Moses’ brother Aaron will be there to talk for Moses. God provided answers, but he also provided help – neutralizing each excuse.
Gideon (Judges 6): Gideon did more than give excuses. Gideon made demands. His excuse in Judges 6:15 is than he was the runt of the litter (for those not familiar with the term: the smallest in his family), but he was also from the smallest clan within the tribe of Manasseh. His demands of the wet fleece on dry ground and the dry fleece on dewy ground are bordering on the unbelievable. Yes, I believe it, but Gideon had no problem in talking to God in such terms. I have written about God not doing parlor tricks to prove His existence, but He does in this case to prove to a very reluctant Gideon. But then God tests Gideon’s faith by sending most of his gathered forces home. Once Gideon knew that he was talking to God instead of his older brother speaking in a disguised voice from a nearby tree, Gideon did all God commanded. We can learn a lot from Gideon. We can talk openly with God, but once we have a calling, we must trust without reservation.
Peter (Luke 5): When Simon, before he became Simon Peter, sees a fish miracle, he goes to his knees and begs Jesus to go away for he is a sinful man. Jesus beckons him to follow, so that he can fish for people. Peter will soon see more than a boat full of fish.
The pastor went on to talk about her experiences and to ask what our excuses were.
I don’t know why it struck to the core of my soul, but it may have been that the sermon came only two days after my wife’s successful open heart surgery. The day before, my wife was still groggy from the anesthesia (that took days to get over). She sat with her first meal of clear liquids in front of her. I fed her the things that she was willing to try. The one that she refused to try was the tasteless broth. It was too hot. A little later, the nurse told me that SHE has to feed herself. I mentioned that she was not very hungry and told him my wife’s excuses about the hot broth. The nurse stared me down. He said, “This is not my first rodeo. I have heard all of the excuses before. She needs the protein, and since that soup has been sitting for a while, it is no longer hot.” I relayed the message to my wife, but I ended up holding the soup near her mouth and she sucked the clear broth through a straw. Hey, the tubes and wires on both hands and arms made it hard to hold a spoon. Getting a filled spoon to your mouth? Really? That was beyond ‘excuse’.
When the pastor talked of excuses, my mind replayed what the nurse had said, “I have heard all of the excuses before.” Indeed, God has heard it before also.
When God called me to write a blog, I had excuses. I never read blogs, other than years ago reading Ben Witherington III. I was afraid of negative feedback. I was afraid that I might write things that would upset people. I did not go to Bible college. I was educated to be an engineer. Engineers are usually used as the poster child for being horrible written communicators. I could go on and on.
Then God made it clear that He had been preparing me, and He would continue to provide. All I had to do was take that one step in faith and I could have my voice heard around the world. I told people at church, and they expected a few Facebook friends to read it, maybe.
I just have a small blog. How can that make a difference in God’s kingdom? For one thing, forget the Great Commission for a moment. Writing the blog and depending on God each day for new ideas to write about has greatly helped my relationship with my Savior. Faith is truly like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Secondly, we cannot all be evangelists like Billy Graham, but we can present the Gospel to a few. Those few can pass the word along, then the next people and the next until the next Billy Graham hears a message taught to him or her, maybe by reading a blog.
Then again, is the blog insignificant? I have posted nearly 400 posts. I have recently eclipsed 200 followers with views from over 80 countries. I thank each follower and each reader. I cannot expect this kind of growth to last, but I was not the only one to be surprised when people from six continents started reading. Several of my friends were flabbergasted that people from various cultures were reading what I wrote, a lot from countries where English would be a second language. If this were not a calling from God, it would not be successful.
Maybe it has to do with the ending of almost all my posts.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.