A couple weeks ago I was very humbled and fortunate to be given the opportunity to do one of our church’s four At The Movies messages. This is something our church has produced or participated in every year on the Sundays in July. Basically we edit a Hollywood movie into relevant short clips. Then we go out on location to record short sermon clips that reveal an inspired message from the movie story. Finally, some extremely talented guys weave both elements into a seamless 30 minute movie-sermon. It’s one of the most highly anticipated things we do each year!
The movie I ended up choosing was Lincoln and my prayer was that the message God gave me would be received by just one person. I was extremely excited with the final product and thought it was well received by the church. But to be truthful, I pushed away from this movie more than once in the month of preparation prior to recording. It was the first movie that came to my mind after we ruled out Machine Gun Preacher. (As a side note, I’m a huge fan of this true story, but too much language to work around for a church setting. I’m still recommending you get the movie (I think it’s on Netflix), a box of Klennex, and watch it all the way to the end of the credits. Again, it has a lot of language, which I’m not normally okay with the exception of this one because I feel it accurately reflects the way this story went down.) But back to Lincoln, I honestly kept trying to push away. I knew what message I wanted to get across but it appeared it would be way too hard to make that happen! Every time I tried other movies I felt God kept leading me back to Lincoln, so I finally stopped the search and went all in with it! After visiting and praying with a couple people after church, in my opinion, it was a success. The message reached at least its one person that I had prayed for.
That isn’t what this post is about though. This post is about FAILURE! It’s only because I felt that message went well that I remembered a time when a sermon I preached did not go so well. Maybe a better description would be, utter failure or train wreck even. So bad that I remember the date, February 14th 2010, and place, my living room, because we still had our home church at this time.
I had had this thought rattling around in my head, before I ever had a blog or was preaching, about what really was a Divine Romance. My inspiration came from the Phil Wickham song after the same name. Webster’s defines divine as, coming directly from God. Romance, well you know romance. So when I saw that Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday I immediately thought, this is it! It was perfect timing! So perfect I felt like Billy Graham making a guest appearance on the A-Team just so I could say, I love it when a plan comes together!
Problem was I kinda left out one minor detail. I didn’t run my plan by God. You see I was in the middle of doing a series of messages I had prayed over and felt God had clearly led me too. But when I saw an opportunity to unveil Divine Romance I really thought I was on to something so I intentionally stepped away from the messages God had led me to and I knew it. I was so proud of myself. As I was about to find out though, anytime you are proud of yourself for what you came up with in ministry, it won’t be long until God humbles you.
There I was with high anticipation that Sunday morning in front of the loyal 20 that met in our living room every Sunday. I started with this romantic story about Christy and I’s first meeting at ECU that so eloquently flowed into an even greater love, our Divine Romance, that comes from God. Now, I haven’t been public speaking for very long but it does not take very many times up in front of people be it 20 or 200 to know when they have checked out! When you are preaching your heart out and you look up to see the guy on the arm of the couch is taking one of those head fake naps, a lady is filing her nails, somebody is checking their watch and another is playing Angry Birds with the sound on, it’s pretty obvious they have checked out! Like half the congregation pulling a song book with 10 minutes to go in the sermon. I remember that from when I was a kid. But here in my living room they were 8 feet away from me, not out in a sea of pews. They were on my couch! Awesome energy, huh? But never fail, I fought on! My mouth was moving and words were coming out, but my mind was working overtime to turn the runaway stage coach around. This is really good why aren’t they listening? Come on people, I even copied the lyrics for Divine Romance so we could sing it in worship to really set the tone going into the message! Which didn’t work out so well either because it was ten octaves higher than most of us could sing. I should have known something was up right then when I failed as the worship leader too. What is wrong with you guys?
Later that day in the privacy of my bedroom, I cried, and I cried out, God what did I do wrong? In that moment He revealed exactly what I did. He revealed what I wanted, what I thought fit, what I thought the people needed, what I thought they would like. He revealed I had gotten too proud and I needed to be humbled. Thank you God [sarcastic tone], mission accomplished there! I have yet to find a humbling experience that’s enjoyable.
But this post isn’t about being humbled either. This is about obedience, even when it’s not all that clear and maybe doesn’t make sense at all. If you read close earlier you saw that I said He clearly laid a series of messages on me that I was to speak back on that disastrous Valentine’s Day of 2010. But in the middle of being obedient I chose to do what Tyson wanted. (Thought I’d try a little third person there, not liking it so much.)
There was nothing wrong with my message. It was good. It was biblical, had a catchy story, it even had a song that went with it for crying out loud! That’s where God made it evident to me that just because it is good doesn’t mean that’s what he wants me doing. What I wanted didn’t fit into his plan. A plan that often times we don’t ever get to see even though we are a part of it. Sometimes I believe the plan is as simple as God wants us to obey just to see if we will. He wants to know, “Will you trust me?”
Think about some of God requests throughout history.
Want to defeat this city called Jericho? March around it seven times, blow your trumpets and yell. Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me? Joshua 6
Need some water while you are wandering around in the desert? Well, hit that rock with a stick. Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me? Exodus 17:1-7
Jesus too said, want to be healed from your lifelong blindness? Here let me mix up some mud and spit to put on your eyes, now go take a dip in the pool downtown. Why? Because I am God. Will you trust me? John 9:1-7
On the outside He looks like a control freak just wanting his way because he can have it. And if he doesn’t get it, then here comes the hammer! But that’s not it at all. He is our loving father that’s saying I know you think you know what’s best for you but if you will listen and obey I will reveal a life to you that you can’t even image. Will you trust me? What happened at the end of each of these obedience stories. God poured out his blessings on them! He could have accomplished any of those tasks without the marching around, hitting rocks and wading in the water. He is God. He could have easily accomplished his missions in these stories by speaking them into existence like he did when he created the world. But he didn’t. Will we trust him?
Is the Son of Man praying in me, bringing honor to the Father, or am I dictating my demands to Him? -Oswald Chambers