Wanted: Sinners and Misfits

Today is a wonderful day and I am on a mission from God!

I hold a letter in my hand that is signed by all of those who are in charge, and I thank them wholeheartedly, that grants me the official authority to stand before you and accomplish that mission.

You!!! I heard you talking about Jesus earlier didn’t I? You thought Jesus was cool, right?

Guards, put this lad in chains! Don’t you bother protesting!

I have a letter signed by all the High Priests that gives me the authority to arrest people like you and take them for a speedy trial!

You’re coming to Jerusalem with me.

[Scan the people…] You two! I heard you talking to each other and you even claimed that this Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah!

Guards! Chain these two heretics and they can join our party.

You two just won a free trip to Jerusalem!

[Scan crowd and find Elder Keith.] And you!!! You’re one of the ringleaders of this Jesus movement! You don’t even try to run or hide from me.

You should at least be cowering in fear! Don’t you know who I am?

Guards! Double the chains on this man and bring him with us.

Take his sandals away. I want him to feel every stone between here and Jerusalem.

[Turn to Elder Keith] And when we get there I have a tree I want you to become very familiar with.

[Address the congregation]

This mission of arresting, punishing and killing these Jesus followers is hard work. I can hardly see straight!

[Look to the left] Jake?

[Look to the right] Elwood?

Make sure the donkeys have full stomachs, because WE ARE GOING ON A ROAD TRIP!

**********

While Saul of Tarsus was on the road trip with his two companions, he saw a brilliant light that forced him to his knees. His companions did not see anything.

Everyone, however, did hear someone speak, just as you are hearing me.

Jesus identified himself and delivered a message to Saul. Then Jesus left.

Now, to further encourage Saul to pay attention to that message, Saul was struck blind with some type of growth or something over his eyeballs.

Saul’s companions took him to the house of Judas on Straight Street and left him there to pray.

We never heard about Saul’s companions again – until possibly 1900 years later where they were briefly observed while on a true mission from God to save an orphanage.

Please turn to:

Acts 9:10-18 (NIV)
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.

16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord–Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here–has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,

Saul of Tarsus was a sinner. Saul was a murderer. Saul had a license to kill.

He just happened to have the permission of the high priests to round up and arrest people in the synagogues who were teaching that Jesus was the son of God. Maybe Saul thought he was on a mission from God, since the High Priests were involved.

Despite all this, Jesus chose Saul to become an advocate to spread the Word among the Gentiles and their kings – AND to the people of Israel.

Why would Jesus choose Saul? Saul just didn’t fit the role of an apostle. An apostle killer, yes, but definitely not an apostle! See, Saul was a misfit!

Would you choose one of your enemies to say good things about you? Would you choose an enemy to give you a letter of introduction for a job?

Of course not!

It’s just as if God decided to advertise for help with this sign:

[Slide: Help Wanted Sign] – Read sign.

God chose a murderous misfit to be an Apostle.

Imagine when Saul first tried to spread the word of Jesus or tried to approach other apostles!

Everyone would think it was a trap and would run away! Even after Saul’s name was changed to Paul, people still didn’t trust him.

Eventually they did trust in his conversion and Paul did indeed suffer for spreading the word of Jesus and he was tortured and imprisoned and was eventually executed for preaching the Good News that Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah everyone was waiting for.

Saul finally fit the position and was no longer a misfit.

Saul was now on a mission from God!

This was not the first time God has chosen murderous sinners and misfits for a job they were in no way qualified.

For example, Mike!

Let’s say you own the ACME Widget Company and employ over a million people.

A small tech startup has just developed a remarkable technology that you could incorporate into your widgets and put those widgets light-years ahead of your competition (that’s about a year in Silicon Valley time).

However, if someone else buys them, you will be in big trouble and so will your employees.

You will lose business.

you will probably be down to 10,000 employees within a year or two. And those employees would be in charge of liquidating all your assets.

You need a good negotiator to buy that small startup.

I have a question for you: Would you choose a musician to negotiate the purchase of this company? How about a musician who also plays the trumpet?

Of course not! You would be out of your mind to hire that misfit.

You would probably hire Donald Trump or at least the Priceline Negotiator.

Well, God needed a good negotiator to deal with a Pharaoh to free the Israelites who were slaves to the Egyptians.

He hired a murderer and sinner to be his negotiator. Even worse, the person he chose was a total misfit!

God chose Moses, who was a known murderer. Young Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. When he saw no one else was around (you can find this in Exodus 2:12) he killed him and buried him in the desert. But someone did see what he had done and word of his deed spread.

On top of everything else Moses even told God in Exodus 4:10 that he was not a good choice. “10 Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” This was definitely not a fit for a negotiator.

Moses even had the gall to argue with God and told him (4:13) “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Now, so when God needed a negotiator to play hardball with the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, he chose someone who could not talk right and who was known to have killed an Egyptian citizen – and the Pharaoh new that.

But even though Moses was a misfit for this situation, God made it work out and sent Moses on his mission from God.

The Pharaoh eventually let the Israelites go.

Now, sometimes things do not work out as smoothly as you would expect.

I knew a person who lived a pretty miserable life. He spent a lot of times in bars and worshiped money.

He once said he broke all of the Ten Commandments. He then added “more than once.”

God decided to teach him a lesson and he lost his entire family, pets, house and all his possessions save for the clothes on his back and what he happened to have in his vehicle.

He lost his job too and was living on the streets.

He tried several times to end it all, but was stopped each time. He started praying and God answered his prayers.

He followed God’s instructions – for a while and then he slacked off.

He God nudged him a bit and he started going to church – then he stopped.

Several more times God had to push him and he would respond and then slack off. He just couldn’t seem to be capable of following God’s Word.

Just as he thought he had it all together again, God responded by striking him down.

This time started to really follow God’s instructions, but, he just moved too slowly for God’s liking.

Finally one evening he stepped out into the dark night and a 350-pound person who by all reports was dressed like a pimp, grabbed hold of his shoulder like a vise-grip and stabbed him in the chest – real hard with his fingers and said he had a message to deliver.

The big guy delivered the message several times, punctuating each syllable with a thrust of his fingers.

The person I knew had a hard time believing it and the big guy finally said “God gave me this message to give to you.” He delivered the message once more and left him shaking with a pain in his chest.

Less than two months later on a weekend, he stepped out from his car into the early evening and delivered the first Worship Jam sermon right on this very spot.

A murderer, a sinner who had broken all Ten Commandments many times – and a misfit delivered the Words of God and His Son, Jesus.

Now, what do all three of the selections by God have in common?

First, all three of these people were sinners. [Slide showing “Sinner”]

Moses was a known murderer. He also directly disobeyed God and wound up being lost in the desert for 40 years. He even deliberately smashed the original stone tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments.

Saul committed many murders, and I came in a close second to Saul.

Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: murder in your heart and thoughts is just the same as committing an actual murder.

Yes, I’m not proud of the fact, but I have wished some people dead.

I’m also not proud of breaking all of the Ten Commandments.

Second, All three were misfits. [Slide: “Misfits]

We were not fit for the job at hand. We didn’t fit the pieces of the puzzle, at least by our sense of understanding, which would accomplish God’s desires.

Moses couldn’t negotiate. Saul – well who would hire the person killing your followers and expect them to spread the Gospel of Jesus?

Who would take a musician who lived in the dens of wickedness and evil and expect him to survive long enough to deliver the Gospel of Jesus to those in need? I did not fit into those plans – at least I didn’t think I did until something else happened.

All of us were called by God. [Slide: “Called by God”]

God insisted that Moses negotiate with the Pharaoh.

God called Saul to preach to the Gentiles, their kings and the Jews.

God called me to serve him.

Finally, all of us finally heard God’s call and answered it. [ Slide: Heard God’s Call and Answered]

Moses heard the call and answered right away. After arguing with God, Moses accepted.

Saul (and his two companions) heard Jesus’ call. It took being struck blind and then having his sight restored by a disciple of Jesus for Saul to answer and serve.

It took me slightly longer to hear God’s call. Let me share with you what it took for me to hear and acknowledge God’s call:

  • Losing everything and being dumped on the streets.
  • Have my breathing stopped and being restored after prayer.
  • Dying on the operating table, being saved by prayer which was confirmed by my surgeon.
  • Having an epiphany where I thought I might possibly be going insane.

And that was what it took for me just to hear God’s call!

And here is what it took for me to accept God’s request:

  • Loss of my job
  • God sending someone to prophesy and personally deliver a message from God.

Man, was I thick-headed!

As I look over everyone here, I see a bunch of sinners. As hard as I may look, I don’t see anyone worse than I am.

So imagine what God could accomplish with each of you – it would take a LOT less work to whip you into shape so you would fit snugly into His plans.

See, all of us have been called by God. Unfortunately some do not hear that call. Remember all the times I mention where God called out to me and I didn’t hear?

Please, learn from my stupidity and mistakes and don’t let that happen to you.

Here is what we can do: [slide]

Do you feel helpless?

Do you feel you are not worthy?

I’ve got Good News for you! You are definitely worthy – remember God is calling sinners and misfits too!

We all need to listen for God’s call. [listen]

Sometimes God’s call is powerful and overwhelming and sometimes it is like a soft whisper.

Elijah was told to go stand on the mountain because the LORD God was about to pass by.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV)
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

Elijah probably expected to hear the LORD as a loud and powerful force like a tornado, earthquake or a raging forest fire. But God showed himself to Elijah as a whisper.

Listen for God’s call – it may be loud and raging or it may be very soft.

Standing in line at McDonalds, you see a homeless person sitting in a corner nursing a cup of coffee.

Seeing a family in East Palo Alto lose a family member to gang violence,

Hearing someone crying on a park bench,

Seeing a child starving in South America or here in the United States – these are just some ways that God can touch your heart and call you to serve him.

God may even put you through a hardship for you to serve Him. Whether the call from God is Powerful like a tornado or as gentle as a soft whisper, it is still God calling you.

After you hear and recognize God’s call, you have to answer and accept. [answer and accept]

Moses argued with God, but eventually answered yes.

Saul said yes only after being struck blind and having his sight restored by a disciple of Jesus.

Me – well, it took extreme and painful measures before I answered yes.

Seeing that homeless person at McDonalds, you can answer God’s call by buying them gift card or a meal.

Seeing problems in an impoverished, gang-infested neighborhood, one of our church, Sarah, went on a mission from God and moved to East Palo Alto and is working to help the families. She has even organized a block party to draw together the various cultures residing there into a sense of community.

If you see someone crying, go to them and comfort them. Sometimes it just takes someone to listen in order to help them.

Seeing a starving child may take you on a mission from God, as Darla has done.

Each of us was given a gift or gifts by God. We are to use these gifts to serve God. Many of us already know what gifts we have and how to use them to serve God.

If you know what gifts you have and how your use of them fits into God’s plan, Guess What? You’re no longer a misfit!

I can tell you from experience that when you start using your gifts to serve God, you benefit also. It makes you strong and you can sleep comfortably at night knowing you have done as well as you could to do your part of God’s plan.

We can also encourage each other to listen carefully for God’s Call and support each other’s decisions to do our part in God’s plan.

Remember God’s Help Wanted Sign.

Now just answer God’s call.

Let us pray.

  • Sharpen our hearing and eyesight so we may hear and see Your Call.
  • Give us the strength to say yes.
  • Remind us that you take Misfits and make us fit.
  • Remind us that you want all of us, even murderers and other sinners to serve you and spread the Word of Your Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

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