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Lost Part 1 - Denial

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I suppose it could have happened to anyone.  I’m glad it didn’t happen to me.  If it had though, I have this suspicion that I’d be telling it anyway.  Some things are just too funny to keep to yourself – even if it is about you.

There were as I remember a couple van loads of us heading to Montreal to see a few Expo games.  Max Chase , as unexcitable as he is, was nearly breathless on the drive, like a kid about to be let loose in a toy store.  Frank Porter a veteran of many professional baseball games, was rather analytical about the weekend to come but still fully a part of everyone else’s experience.  Pastor Peter was in his usual “I’m taller and younger than you”, mode.  I’m trying to ignore him and chanting beneath my breath, “You’re not as tall as you think you are.”  Randy Nicholson was in fine feeding form, his arm elbow deep in a bag of chips with one artful crumb clinging unnoticed to the lower left corner of his lip.  It vanished as quickly as I saw it.  The banter, as you can imagine, was constant and we had brought along small walkie-talkies in order to include both vans in the verbal melee.

The trip was uneventful.  The hotel was beautiful, conveniently located close to the subway which took us back and forth from Olympic Stadium.  I don’t remember the name of the hotel, or the street that it was on.  That’s understandable after 3 or 4 years.  It is relatively important however while you are staying there, especially if you are a newbie to the city and the subway.

I think that it was our second night there.  The game was good.  Frank’s commentary was insightful.  Max was medicated on Ritalin.  Peter was checking the height of the players, provided in the program, checking all those shorter than himself.  Randy Nicholson was in fine feeding form, his arm elbow deep in my bag of chips and I was looking for crumbs to eat.

The game ended – I don’t remember who won.  I don’t remember who they played.  I had a great time though and the group was off moving toward the subway – I followed, trusting in the leadership of those of our party who seemed to know where they were going.

It was another trip back to the hotel, lots of banter.  I could hear Peter faintly, sort of a droning noise, barely audible above the din of undistinguishable conversations all around me.  Just the way that I like it.

We arrived back, discussing where we ought to go for a snack before bedtime.  Randy is normally a significant influence in decisions such as these and the group automatically looked to his well developed senses for fine cuisine as we made our decision.

This is where we became aware of a small problem.  It seemed that one of the seven dwarfs was missing.  Randy was lost.

I’m not always sure what that means.  Are you?  There have been times when my wife has been convinced that I was lost.  I always know when she thinks that.  She says,  “Why don’t you stop and ask for directions?”  I love my wife and appreciate her concern.  I try to be loving, kind and polite as I respond,  “Honey, If you don’t think I know where I am going, how do you think a complete stranger will know?”  She sees little humor in this.

I like the following story:

A man is flying in a hot air balloon and realizes he is lost.  He reduces height and spots a man down below.  He lowers the balloon further and shouts, "Excuse me, can you help me?  I promised my friend I would meet him half an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The man below says, "Yes.  You are in a hot air balloon, hovering approximately 30 feet above this field.  You are between 40 and 42 degrees N.  latitude, and between 58 and 60 degrees W.  longitude."

"You must be an engineer" says the balloonist.

"I am" replies the man.  "How did you know?"

"Well" says the balloonist, "everything you have told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost."

The man below says, "You must be an architect."

"I am" replies the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well", says the man, "you don't know where you are, or where you are going.  You have made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem.  The fact is you are in the exact same position you were in before we met, but now it is somehow my fault."

Perhaps some of you have been actually lost before??  A friend of mine from Moncton was lost while hunting at Layton Ford’s camp.  He spent several hours tramping through a swamp while the rest of us were beginning to worry.  When he finally returned to the vehicle, I asked him if he had been lost.  He wouldn’t admit it.  He said he wasn’t really lost, just “terrible confused”.

Maybe you’ve experienced the fright of losing a child?  David and Kathy McMath had that experience with Jonathan when he was a very young child.  That has to be a horrifying experience.  I can feel the physical shock that grabs your body when someone you love is lost.  It is a real physical pain.  We’ve experienced it as parents just briefly and then have found the missing child.  I’ve had that feeling in the woods briefly as well – the same shock that comes when you realize that you are lost.

Jesus parents had that experience as they left Jerusalem without him.  It’s not uncommon.

Randy Nicholson . . . yes . . . Randy was lost.  At least we didn’t know where he was.  The group was so upset that they wanted to get right to the restaurant.  I remember thinking that friends are such a blessing.

Well what would you do?  Someone talked about calling the police but I thought that they wouldn’t know where he was either.

I’m not sure how much time elapsed but finally Randy found his way back to the hotel.  This was a significant miracle.  I am told that he was approached by two of Montreal’s finest, as he was wandering around the subways in Montreal muttering, “eeny meeny miny mo . . .” or something like that.

They asked him if he was lost and he told them that he was more hungry than lost but “yes” he was lost.  Now here’s the kicker.  He didn’t know where he was even though there were signs all around him.  They asked him where he was staying.  He couldn’t remember the name of the hotel, except that there was a doughnut shop across the street.  They asked him if he knew what street it was on.  He had absolutely no idea.  He did know the number though and gave it to them proudly.  As you can imagine, that would be extremely helpful.  Thankfully, these two police officers were women and they were very anxious to tell him where to go.  Somehow they interrogated him sufficiently to discover where he was staying.    Randy walks into the lobby between these two uniformed ladies, smiling like a Cheshire cat.  The lost was found and brought home.  This has been one of my favorite Randy stories.  Randy forgive me – I just had to.  Sooner or later all these accounts find themselves in a sermon.

So all this today begs the question, “Are you lost?”  From a spiritual perspective, I mean.  Perhaps a more specific question would be, “Are you lost in a state of spiritual denial?”

Perhaps that is really what the problem is??  Not so much where you are but how you feel about that place.  The prodigal was lost before he ever left home.  There are people who come to church with a degree of regularity who are lost.  I remember being one of those people.  I wanted so much to be at peace with God but I was afraid of something.  For me it was the knowledge that I was “called” to vocational ministry.  Perhaps for you today, it is the fear that God will ask something of you that you’re not prepared to give.  Looking backward now, I don’t know what the big deal was.  I don’t think that I have missed anything in life that I feared I would miss and on the other hand I have gained something that now I would never trade for what I left behind.  If you are here and lost today, don’t be afraid of what God desires from you – what He desires for you is much greater.

As far as God is concerned this is the major issue.  It’s really what the work of the Holy Spirit is all about, the “laboring with” the human heart to create a sense of need, longing.  It’s an awakening that causes us to realize that wherever we are, we’ll never find lasting satisfaction and peace unless we are vitally connected to God.

Next week in the message we will be talking about the efforts that we make to try to construct our own reasonable solutions and to gain direction.  Today however, this idea of denial is our main concern.

One of the most vivid images of the lost comes to us in a parable that we refer to as the parable of the Prodigal Son.   The NIV calls it the parable of the lost son. 

" Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” " (Luke 15:11-32, NIV) [1]

Think about the progression in the parable of the lost son.

Ø      Give me my share.  He wanted his inheritance while his father was still living.  It seems to me that people who want nothing to do with God have a very well-defined sense of the way that God should behave.  Some of the world’s most prominent skeptics base their disbelief in a strong belief about the way that God should be.  Skepticism may be more disagreement or disappointment than disbelief.  It’s not that they don’t believe that God exists but they are not willing to believe in a God who doesn’t fit with their idea.  While this lost young man wanted nothing to do with his father in life,  he wanted everything that was due him at his father’s death.  There are those here today as well who want nothing to do with a heavenly father when it comes to living but everything that He provides in his dying.  I’m not sure how that works.  I believe with all my heart in the possibility of death bed conversions.  I am certain that even in those, there must be repentance.  The thief on the cross said,

"We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”" (Luke 23:41-43, NIV) [2]

You see, only a repentant heart can make that kind of statement.  We are getting what we deserve.  This man has done nothing wrong.

The other guy, the lost guy, who never gets it, is just bitter.

"One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”" (Luke 23:39, NIV) [3]

Never mind my sin – never mind the fact that I have chosen my lifestyle.  He is in denial.  He thinks that his forgiveness or his deliverance should be automatic.  Save us.

Bill of No Rights

We, the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional and other liberal, bed wetters.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that a whole lot of people were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You don't have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like; however, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world, and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

ARTICLE IX: You don't have the right to a job. All of us sure want all of you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

ARTICLE X: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness - which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

The previous was written by State Representative Mitchell Kaye from Cobb County, Ga.

Posted From [Fisher's of Grin]

I am convinced that there are things in life that we are better off to wait for.  He wanted what he felt he was entitled to.  It is so easy to lose perspective isn’t it.  Most of us do that from time to time.  Being born into the homes that we are born into gives us certain rights.  The things that our parents earned through hard work and over time, we feel “entitled” to – our birthright.  Most parents want desperately to bless their children with some financial advantage.  But when the children begin to love the birthright more than the giver then something sours, . . . putrifies.

Ø      He “set out”.  He moved away.  The scripture calls it a “distant country”.  Not just around the block  but he put distance between himself and his home.  People who are “lost” tend to want to create distance between themselves and their Creator.  They’ll do it anyway that they can.  All of us know however that there are at least two entities that we cannot run away from.  One of course is God.  Just ask Jonah when you see him in heaven someday.  Ask him what was in his mind.  How can a man run away from God?  I have to say that God will use any means possible to try to bring us back.

" O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." (Psalm 139:1-12, NIV) [4]

The other inescapable entity is yourself.  You carry your issues with you wherever you go.  Wherever you work, wherever you live, whomever you marry.  What makes you unhappy here will make you unhappy there.  Whoever you don’t like here will be wherever you go – they’ll have different names and faces but you’ll find them.  You can’t run away.

Ø      He “squandered his wealth in wild living” – I remember someone telling me that Willie Nelson visited our city at some point recently.  As a matter of fact, I was told that he played golf at Kingswood.  Someone asked him about his perspective on life.  Among the comments that he made were the following: “I’ve made a fortune in my life.  Half or more of it. I’ve spent on alcohol and women.  The other half I wasted.”  This is a lost man – not so much for the way that he has lived but more because of the way that he sees life.  He is “lost”.  Extreme living is sometimes an extreme effort to self-distract from the extreme reality of spiritual need.  The wilder we live the more we fear that God is in pursuit.  Malcolm Muggeridge wrote, “God comes padding after me like a Hound of Heaven.”

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter;
            Up vistaed hopes I sped;
            And shot, precipitated,
   Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
            But with unhurrying chase,
            And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
            They beat — and a Voice beat
            More instant than the Feet—
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

Francis Thompson – long time failure- former opium addict – died of tuberculosis.  (1859-1907)

Ø      He spent it all and had nothing left for the time of famine.  Sooner or later all of us face something in life that reveals our insufficiency.  What do you have today that you feel will get you through that time?  For most people who run from God, they have to come to the place where there is nothing left before they surrender.  That’s a shame.  Why not just stop running?  How much gas is left in the tank for you?

Ø      He began to be in need.  It is often a sense of need that stops us and causes us to evaluate.  What we do at this point is crucial.

You know there are folks here today who are lost and you don’t realize it.  There’s no shame in losing your way or making mistakes but to live in denial is inexcusable.  Somewhere, sometime, somehow, we need to understand that there is hope and help in someone Higher than ourselves – Someone in who we can fully trust.

“Faith is trusting what the eye cannot see.  Eyes see the prowling lion.  Faith sees Daniel's angel.  Eyes see storms.  Faith sees Noah's rainbow.  Eyes see giants.  Faith sees Canaan.  Your eyes see your faults.  Your faith sees your Savior.  Your eyes see your guilt.  Your faith sees your blood.  Your eyes see your grave.  Your faith sees a city whose builder and maker is god.  Your eyes look in the mirror and see a sinner, a failure, a promise-breaker.  But by faith you look in the mirror and see a robed prodigal bearing the ring of grace on your finger and the kiss of your Father on your face.”


----

[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[3]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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