I remember clearly 6-7 years ago when Pastor Lowell Bakke was an interim pastor ~ among the wise things he taught us: “God loves not only people, he loves places.” The words ring in my ears… whoever comes to town, I have an unreasonable desire to know them, to love them, to help them, to be available in the name of Christ. I talked to a man who needed a place to stay for his sister-in-law in Sumas for a month or two, she is a missionary in Africa, and her mother lives in Sumas somewhere, and is dying, and so a place is needed. This man called our church, just fishing for help ~ I feel an overwhelming need to help, he took my phone number and said he’d call back if they family needed a chaplain, or if I could help pray for a place…I hope he does! It’s about the Kingdom. So what if putting energy into finding a place to stay for a missionary from Africa does nothing for our church… it’s about the Kingdom. Our calling is to remind people, teach people, there is a home waiting for them, a home with God, a place of comfort and rest, a place of belonging where they will find love, acceptance, forgiveness.
I know 250 people in this community that need the Lord, they need to change their life, they need a new heart and a new commitment, they need to come home to God, (not a single one is sitting here this morning) ~ when people sometimes ask me the tired question about how big the church is, if they aren’t really all that interested I tell them on a Sunday morning perhaps we average 80-90-100, I really don’t know exactly or care, but if they want a fuller answer, I tell them the real congregation is about 400, maybe 500, because that is my best guess as to how many people we are sharing our lives with, praying for, …. There are so many people in our lives, in our community that have a yearning at some level to return home.
Home is that place where you find peace. Love, acceptance, forgiveness. You have roots. You have a sense of belonging. Like a cat laying in front of a fire in a cozy house. Everytime I drive through Seattle, even if I never get off the freeway, I feel at home, I have a longing when I reach the U District, look over and see the UW campus, I spent four highly significant years of my life, met Sally, our first home where we only had one circuit breaker and could not watch tv and toast toast at the same time because not enough power. The early days of our marriage, in which we sold books to pay the rent. Home is the place of comfort and rest that you long to obtain. It’s time to come home. My prayer for our community and the congregation that is out there is that more and more will come to a place of brokenness where the desire to return home to the Lord is not just a good idea, not just a yearning, but a reality. It’s time to come home.
Paul is the author of Rom. 10. This is what we can learn from Paul. #1: Paul has a deep passion for the people in his life that do not know the Lord (READ Rom. 10:1). He cares deeply for his fellow Jews, the people in his life… If you don’t care, the message of salvation is hollow. It doesn’t have to be Sumas specifically, that’s just my heart. Maybe it’s your own family. Paul cares about the people themselves. I worry about the economy in our country, but in a strange way, that throws me into a deeper passion for the spiritual health of people. I am not smart enough to know how to fix the woes of our country, but I have a few brain cells to figurer out that God is everything anyway, and we don’t need a healthy society in order to have a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen!
#2: I see no sense of superiority in Paul’s words. Paul Fully Relies On God. That FROG thing. It’s all about God. It’s all about God. Rom. 10:4: Christ is the end of the law (and the beginning of new life not based on law)… Paul’s prayer is for the people whom God has place on his heart (Rom. 10:1)… He knows its all God. May that be our attitude as well, our reliance on God, our prayers focused on God for the people he has place on our hearts. It’s humbling. I’ve come to loathe the many books I read in my early years of being a pastor and how to grow a church… I’m sure there is value, it was a learning experience for me, and a refining experience. I am still learning everyday…
#3: Paul has a deep understanding of the people whom God has placed on his heart. Paul is a Jew himself. He knows what makes the Jewish people tick… he knows precisely how to pray. He knows exactly what is keeping them from returning home. You need to know people for whom you pray. I am a product of Sumas… Paul has a deep passion, humility and understanding. The churches in this country don’t need to know how to fix the economy of our country, or all the social questions, if I have one prayer for the Christians in our nation and world, it’s to start caring more about the people who are not yet in the Kingdom, those who have a yearning to return home to God but are resisting his calling, to turn away from being internally focused about our own needs within the church ~ pray for a wandering world that does not know God, pray with passion, humility, and understanding… Paul is focused outside the walls of the church. I thank God everyday that he has placed me in a church that values our community so much, you tell me go out… It’s our calling… we are a team…
Paul has a deep understanding of the Jewish people. What he sees in them is common to people today that are wandering away from God. Just as they were searching yesterday, people are still searching today… “They have a zeal for God” (Rom. 10:2)… Many people are searching, they just have the wrong answers./// I go out in the community and the last thing I have to convince people is that they have problems. I talk to people everyday that want God, need God, even desire salvation. They want to come home. They want peace. But they have the wrong answers. They try in their own strength. They keep hitting their head against the wall over and over expecting different answers. That’s called insanity. The fundamental error of Israel in Paul’s day and of people today is that they are ignorant of God’s righteousness (Rom. 10:3). In other words, they don’t know what it takes to come home to God. An incredible number of people don’t really understand grace. They think they have to do something “seeking to establish their own righteousness.” They think if they try harder, or are better people that God will bless them. They are afraid to go home until they get their act together. I know a woman that loves her father, hasn’t seen him in years, but doesn’t want to see her father until she loses weight. Any father that is worth an ounce of spit, would welcome and love an estranged daughter no matter how she looks, and see her as a beautiful woman.
It’s time to come home. Who has God placed on your heart that needs the Lord? Pray for them with passion, humility and an understanding/ sensitivity of who they are. That’s an effective prayer…
So many people desire God, they want to return to the embrace of a loving father, they have a zealousness, but they don’t understand the nature of God’s love thinking they have to be strong and get their life together before God will accept them. I’d like to end with a true story, told by Philip Yancey, in his book, “What’s so amazing about grace.” It’s a retelling of the story of the Prodigal son who finally is so broken he returns home even with the ugly scars of his bad choices. In his brokenness, he unwittingly gets it. You don’t need to have your life all together in perfect order to go home, home is the place where you will be accepted just as you are… It’s time to come home.
This is the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”