Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soulprint Week #4 - Embarrassing moments with God

Below is the message I shared with Good Shepherd last Sunday as we continued to work through the book Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  We looked specifically at how embarrassing or bad moments can help shape us and confirm who we are and who we aren't.  We also talk about being willing to be embarrassed for the 'right' reasons.  

2 Samuel 6:12-22
 12 Now King David was told, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.         16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.                                        17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.                                                                        20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”                                                                       21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

Matthew 7:24-27

    24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Today we continue our series based on the book ‘Soulprint’, working towards understanding who God has uniquely made us to be who we are and searching for the unique call and destiny that God has placed on our lives.
As we took a break in the series last week, with the wonderful Pentecost worship lead by our youth, as quick review of the first three weeks of our Soulprint series. 
First, we are who we are on purpose, for a purpose.  The secondly, to be ourselves we need a Holy Confidence in a God that is Holy, that loves us and that has planned nothing but the best for us.  This Holy confidence is trusting and leaning on God.  Third, we look back at our lives and we Keep ‘life symbols’ of the times that God has been especially present and active in our lives to help us remember: ‘the ultimate objective of every circumstance is to cultivate the character of Christ in us.            Then finally we talked about integrity and how its directly connected to our destiny.
God is less concerned with what we do than with who we are becoming in the process And God won’t get you where God wants you to go until you become who God wants you to be.  As we continue to think about talk about discovering exactly what God has uniquely designed us for – and how we can get there, we are going to spend a little time thinking about embarrassing and awkward moments in our lives.
Most of us, myself included work hard at avoiding any type of embarrassment or awkwardness – I think that is a perfectly natural reaction to those two emotions.  But Soulprint makes the suggestion that we need a little embarrassment and awkwardness because they help keep us humble – and humility is a key to fulfilling our destiny.
In fact, if we stay humble – and grounded in our dependence on God there is nothing God cannot do in us and through us. But back to those embarrassing moments – they tend to mark our lives and stick in our memories in unique and powerful ways.
Apart from keeping us humble and giving us reason to laugh at ourselves, the embarrassing moments in our lives can help us define and come to terms with who we are – and who we are not – Embarrassment often follows our attempts to be something we aren’t.
One of my most embarrassing moments in ministry came from a different source – not from trying to do something that I wasn’t good at or be something I wasn’t, but from the area of ministry that I thought I had the most gifts for.
This moment occurred about a week or two into my first job out of college.
I was one of two youth ministers at a large church in Pittsburgh that I had interned at while I was finishing school.
Even though I knew many of the youth, my fellow youth minister and the church, there were still lots of things I was nervous about.
Speaking to the youth group, though, wasn’t one of those things.  Honestly, preaching and speaking has always been something I was good at: from my first speech, to the PA state senate as a 4th grader to public speaking in high school, to my times as a youth leader and camp counselor in college.  It just always came naturally to me and my talks always seemed well received. 
Add to that the fact that the other youth minister I was working with really wasn’t very gifted when it came to speaking – so I felt like I would look pretty good in comparison. 
Looking back, I am astonished at how unprepared I was – but I remember back then thinking I had it all under control and maybe even ahead of the game
I had a title and a theme for the talk, which was to be the first of a series: ‘The facts of Life’ (The fact that I was using a sitcom that none of the youth had been alive to watch should have been a tipoff that this wasn’t going to go well, but I digress .  .. )
Anyway, the time for youth group came, kids showed up and eventually it was time for me to get up and give my talk.  I got up with my notes – which were, as I recall, very rough in nature – and, well I can’t really explain what happened except to say that it didn’t go well.
In fact it went horribly – and as I was up there I knew it wasn’t going well.  It went so badly that two things happened:
First, at one point in the talk, as I could feel my face getting redder and redder, I seriously contemplated just leaving and never coming back.  Second, after youth group was over, the other youth minister (the one that wasn’t a very gifted speaker) said to me, in what I think was intended to be a gentle way that ‘maybe we might need to work on our talks’
That was, without a doubt a terrible, and horrible experience.  There is no question embarrassing moments are horrible.  But they can also be wonderful.  They are wonderful because few things are as freeing as being embarrassed.  Embarrassment frees us from the burden of pretense.  And in a way is a part of dying to self so that we can allow Christ to live in us.
My embarrassment was the result of poor planning and preparation, and while it served a purpose in making me humble and helping me rely on God instead of myself, it was totally avoidable.
There are times, however, if we are following God’s call for our lives when we will have to make a choice.  When we will have to decide if we are going to let fear of embarrassment get between us and God. 
We might be too embarrassed to share our faith, walk away from a sinful situation or confront a friend that is making hurtful choices.  But embarrassment that comes from doing what is right is holy embarrassment and it’s the foundation of a life open to being used by God.   If we are following God’s call there will be times when embarrassment is the only way we can remain faithful to God and true to yourself.   Will we choice embarrassment or hypocrisy, embarrassment or sin?
It is a choice that David makes in our scripture reading this morning.  David made a choice to rejoice in the Lord and represent his joy by dancing at the city gates as he came triumphantly into the capital city as its victorious king, instead of accepting all the praise and honor the people were giving him.
David choose to risk embarrassment, the breaching of political protocol and even the contempt of his wife in order to demonstrate his thankfulness to God for what he had done in his life and the place to which God had brought him. 
Part of the embarrassment of what David did had to have come from the fact that he didn’t just dance – he disrobed first, stripping down, essentially to his underwear – and then danced.
This isn’t a minor detail, but rather a powerful statement of humility and submission to God.  The royal robes that David took off represent David’s identity and security as the king of Israel.  In a very real way those robes represented David’s authority.  But David didn’t find either his security or identity in his status as king.  David found his true identity and true security as a worshipper of the almighty God.  Disrobing was a symbol of his humility – stripped down, naked and humble before God.  Disrobing also was a signal of his dependence on God. 
David didn’t find his identity and security as the king of the Israelites, or through anything else that he was or that he did, rather David found his security and identity in the King of kings a& the Lord of lords.  For us to truly find our soulprints – who we are meant to be and what we were created to do – we have to first be stripped of the things we find our identity in and the things we find our security in. 
For me, I had to lose confidence in my own abilities as a public speaker and a preacher before I could open myself up to be used by God and to use my gifts through my preaching and speaking.
Discovering your soulprint, your purpose in life, your calling begins with finding your identity and security in Christ alone.
Disrobing means dying to self and that begins with identifying the things we find our identity and security in outside of our relationship with Christ.  And as David’s example shows us – we aren’t just talking about bad habits or ‘problems’.  God had made David king – but David knew he couldn’t let the gift – being made king – become more important than the One who gave it to us.
Our identity and security needs to be located in the person of the gift giver – Jesus Christ – not the gifts themselves.  Why?
Because, we need to remember the lesson we heard from Matthew a few minutes ago – what you build your foundation on matters.  Batterson says, and I think he is right, that God has ‘hardwired us for worship.  That, no matter what, we are going to worship something.  The question is simply who or what are we going to worship? 
Are we going to worship God with a capital G or the gods with a lowercase g, the god of you, what you can do, what you are. 
If we choose to worship our own lowercase g gods it will end in disappointment for you and anyone else that might worship you.  Our identity issues all stem from worshiping the wrong thing or the wrong person. 
When we build our identities on the things in your life or on ‘who you are as you do certain things.  It’s like building your house on the shifting sand.  You might base your identity on school and how you do at school – but you are going to graduate.  You might base your identity on your job – but you might lose it or you might need to find a different one and eventually you will retire.
You might base your identity on a relationship: a marriage, a close friendship, or between parent and child – but we all know too well that not all of those relationships will last and none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. 
All of those things: school, jobs and careers, marriage and other relationships are good things, gifts from God even.  But they are not the rock upon which to base your identity.  And you cannot find security in them.
When you graduate from school the student dies.  When you turn twenty the teenager dies.  When you get married, the single person dies.  When you retire, the vocation dies.   

Each of these ‘little deaths’ can cause an incredible crisis.  But if you base your identity on Christ, you avoid these crises altogether.  Your security – your foundation – is rooted in the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases.  Your identity is found in the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. 
Jesus Christ becomes your cornerstone.  With Jesus as your cornerstone you can find the courage to step out into whatever God has called you to – even if it brings with it embarrassment or awkwardness.
Because count on this: Doing the will of God almost is almost always accompanied by feelings of awkwardness, uneasiness, and unreadyness.   Like David – dancing in his underwear as he was supposed to be entering into the capital as the triumphant king – you might end up looking ‘crazy’ to the rest of the world.
But what if that embarrassment and awkwardness was the only thing standing between you and your destiny?  Would you be willing to embrace it? 
Take off your royal robes, lose the alter ego that is founded on anything but Jesus Christ and step into your destiny by risking embarrassment to live into the life God created you for.

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