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Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian (OLD)

Ready To Be Sent

 Acts 10:1-11,19,20,23

Are you ready? Are you ready to hear God's voice, to have Godly direction in your life? We are preaching a series on being sent by the spirit and it begs the question, are we ready to be sent? Imagine if after the service today, you are handed a personalized note that comes directly from God and gives you specific instructions to follow, are you prepared to change your plans and follow? If you are not sure or if that sounds ominous or scary, let me give you an example of one of our own members who was ready to be sent. Ellen Norton is a regular person like everyone here who has been sent by the spirit. We showed a video about her at our Cascade dinner last weekend. Now the rest of us can see it.

Clearly, Ellen was ready to be sent, and it didn’t seem as scary as we might imagine. One of my favorite stories about people being sent by the spirit is in the tenth chapter of the book of Acts. Two people instrumental in the change; one of the most important changes in the history of the church, were ready for the same reasons Ellen was, two thousand years later. Let's read their story.

Read Acts 10:1-11, 19, 20, 23.

Clearly they were both ready to be sent. Why? What is it about these two men and Ellen Norton that made them ready and do we have the same characteristics? All of them had lives that were already aligned and engaged with God. Ellen said in the video, I felt it was time I gave back. Many of us think that from time to time, but she not only thought it, she was prepared to act on it. She was in alignment with God in her life, her decisions and actions. Cornelius was a devout, God-fearing man. He gave generously to the poor and prayed regularly to God. People knew that about him. That was his reputation. It came as no surprise to anyone that an angel might speak to Cornelius. In fact, they would be surprised if one spoke to someone other than Cornelius. That’s just the kind of person he was.

Peter was also a man whose life was prepared. Most of the first nine chapters of the book of Acts as well as the four gospels tell us his story. Peter was the leader of the church. Everyone would expect him to be led by God. But, It hadn’t always been that way. He had been impetuous and at a moment of crisis, he had even betrayed Jesus. But, since then, he had changed his life, one decision at a time. Each of us can start where we are, and by the decisions we make and actions we take from now on, can become new, even Godly people.

There is a great quote by C.S. Lewis that makes this point. He was a genius who could write. He writes: “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you into something a little different than it was before...either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

Can you think of someone you know, or a person in history who is or was ready to be sent by the Spirit? Billy Graham, and Nelson Mandela come to mind. Maybe Tim Tebow? I have friends, some in this church, who I would say are ready, willing and able to be sent. What makes you think of the person who came to mind? I am sure that, part of it is that they have a life in alignment with God already. What about you? Would people say of you, “of course he or she would heard the spirit leading, it so fits with their life.” Or would they be shocked if they heard you had been sent by the Spirit to do anything? Or are you somewhere in between?

Peter and Cornelius had lives in alignment with the work of God and all they needed was to receive their marching orders. They needed to hear from God. There is something very practical about this. Ellen Norton said, “God nudged me to start the ministry in Mexico.” To be ready to be sent, we need to listen for God’s voice. The best way to do that is to set aside time in our schedule. Cornelius prayed to God regularly and one day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. What are the chances he would have had, or recognized that vision if he had stayed busy all the time as a centurion and leader? In Peter’s case, he actually sets aside specific time, right in the middle of the day to pray. Verse nine makes the point, about noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.

Why might it be necessary to intentionally listen for God? Why wouldn’t we just wait for God to interrupt us when he wanted to talk? After all, if someone important were to walk up and want to talk to us, we would stop what we are doing and give them our full attention; someone famous, maybe the governor or president, or maybe Morgan Freeman who plays God in movies.

That is a great question and the answer tells us a lot about God. The reason God doesn’t usually just show up is that what God wants is an intimate and personal relationship with each of us. One of the ways scripture describes that relationships is as a lover and his beloved. Jesus, right in the middle of an argument with religious leaders in the temple almost seems to shake his head and wistfully say, 37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Its been the same since the garden of Eden. God wants to be with us the way he first was with Adam and Eve, walking with them in the cool of the day. The fact is, God doesn’t want to have to interrupt us with something important. And, he is smart enough to know we probably wouldn’t handle it very well if he did.

Think about when you need to tell someone in your life something important and they are not listening to you. Maybe they are on the phone, or they keep talking and aren’t listening to what you have to say. Or they have the newspaper up or the game on TV. Can you picture such a situation? Now, how do you feel trying to talk to them? Have you been the person trying to read or watch TV and how do you feel about the interruption? Maybe there is a child saying, “Mom, mom, mom, mom.” How do you respond when you are on the phone and someone is trying to get your attention? And how happy an encounter is it going to be if the person wanting attention, forces it by yelling, grabbing the newspaper, phone or remote control, or by starting to throw things? Isn’t it better and easier to approach someone when we know they are thinking of us and make an effort to talk to us?

Making an effort to communicate….Twenty years ago, before cell phones, I worked an hour from home. With two young children, we wanted to be able to be in touch so I got a pager. I should explain pagers. They were little devices about the size of a flip phone with a tiny, one line screen that could display a phone number. Someone could dial their phone number to you and you would get the number on the display and use a pay phone to call them back. Wait, do I need to explain what a pay phone is? Anyway, I had a pager for about a month and Carolyn never paged me, not once. I brought it up one night after the kids were asleep. I said, “You know, you can page me something other than your phone number for free and not worry about me finding a phone to call you back. You are at home all day with our three year old and our six month old. Anytime you are thinking of me, you can just page me something like 1111 and I’ll know you are thinking of me.” She looked at me with tired eyes and said, “Neal, I’m at home all day with our three year old and our six month old. I’m not thinking of you.” Oh, never mind. No one wants to be interrupted when they are busy unless it is a life or death situation right? If we are really interrupted to the point of stopping what we are doing, we better not hear, I just want to spend time with you.

So, woe to the person who God has to interrupt. God is quite capable of interrupting our lives, but we probably won’t appreciate his methods or his message. When God wanted to get Moses’ attention, he used a burning, talking bush. Jonah got a whale. Peter got a rooster crowing after denying Jesus. The king of Babylon got a giant human hand writing his death sentence on a wall in the middle of a party. Here is a helpful piece of advice. Never say, “if God wants to talk to me, he’s got my number,” because, believe me, you don’t want that call.

Remember the person I had you think of who was ready to be sent? Would you say they probably scheduled time regularly to listen to God? If you reflect on your own calendar, is there much time set aside to listen to God? Peter and Cornelius had lives already so much in alignment with God that people would assume God would send them and they set aside time to hear from God. Is there one thing you can address in your life that could bring your life more into alignment with God or give you more intentional opportunities to hear from God?

I'll wrap this up with a final observation about these two men. Both of them were ready to act if God asked. I love the immediate reactions of both Cornelius and Peter. As soon as the angel left Cornelius, he called three men and sent them to find Peter. As soon as Peter was told to go with those three men, he went. It’s pretty simple. They were ready to be sent because it made sense in their lives, they listened for God’s direction and they were prepared to go, to obey when he called. I don’t have an example or story for obedience. Instead, I’d like you to supply the final illustration for this sermon. Let me invite you to share a story of a time you or that person you are thinking of was sent and obeyed. You can write it down and turn in at the office or, text, email, Facebook to us or reply to my blog post at NealNybo.com. There are instructions in your bulletin or go online to RBCPC.com or nealnybo.com. We would like to post them on our RBCPC website and encourage one another with our stories.

You can be sent by the Spirit. Are you ready? Amen.

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