INTRODUCTION – WE’RE NOT PRESENT
Morning. My name is David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We have a presence problem.
Americans, in the 21st century are struggling mightily to be present in one another’s lives.
Or to stay in the present at all.
Our attention spans are shrinking at an astronomical rate.
In 2015, Microsoft released a study that said the average human attention span has gone down from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2015.
n just 15 years, our attention span (which was already short), has deteriorated another 33%...
Many of you have already stopped listening to what I’m saying.
The study also says, no joke, that the average attention span of a goldfish…is one second higher…at 9 seconds.
We can’t seem to stay focused on what we’re doing…in the moment.
Driving is a great example of this.
No one can just drive…and just enjoy driving anymore.
We must listen to music and drive…or text and drive.
My newest pet peeve is how many times I can’t go in the left turn lane when the light is green because the guy in front of me is looking at his phone, and not the light…
Because we can’t just sit…and enjoy the 60 seconds we don’t have to do anything…
We’re not present in hardly anything anymore.
And I’m not above this.
If we were to line up the 400-500 people up in this church and rank them on how well they do in “being present,” you could probably put me in the bottom 10%.
I probably should have had a guest speaker come in for this topic, but you’re stuck with me and my inadequacies again
I’ll do my best to teach you from my failures and God’s Word.
When I get in the crazy seasons of life, my friends and family will tell you that I constantly miss turns when I’m driving
I know exactly where I’m going…I’ve been memorizing maps since I was 4 years old…I just can’t keep my mind in the present.
Lindsey and I have a rule where I don’t even drive on Sundays anymore if my wife and I go somewhere in the afternoon or evening.
Because my mind is still swimming in what happened in the morning.
And so for the safety of my family and everyone else…I sit in the passenger seat on those days.
You ever have those days where you’re driving home from work…and you get home and you think, “Huh…I don’t even remember driving here?”
7. Or, have you ever finished an entire meal and your friend asks you, “How did it taste?”
And you say, “I guess I don’t really know. I was thinking about something else.”
It’s so difficult to be present nowadays.
And everyone will tell you that.
If you’ve ever had little kids before, you’ve inevitably been to the grocery store and had a grandmother come up to you as you’re carting them around, “Oh, they’re so precious! Enjoy every moment! It goes by so fast”
And with that comes even more pressure.
When people say that to me, I always think a whole bunch of thoughts at once…like:
Did it look like I was not enjoying the moment?”
Or, “Would you be enjoying this moment if your kid was grabbing every little piece of candy in the “temptation aisle?” That’s what I call the check-out lines
“Are you just dumping your guilt on me…because you didn’t enjoy every moment?”
“Do I have to sit through every moment like, “Enjjoooy it, David! Ennjjooy this second too!”
And there again, I’m not even present in the moment, because I’m off analyzing the moment!
How well do you do at being present?
Author Kara Powell asks this question in an interesting way…
She says, let’s say you’re a Christian, and at the end of your life, Jesus welcomes you into heaven and ushers you into your own “media room”
You’re told that you’re going to watch a video of your life…but the only footage on the video are moments where you were “FULLY PRESENT”
Moments where you weren’t distracted by all of the worries and anxieties of your mind
Moments where you weren’t looking down at your phone, or off at the TV
Just the moments where you were FULLY PRESENT and attentive to either God or others.
How long would that video be for you?
For most of us, it’s not long.
WHY WE’RE NOT PRESENT
Why are we so poor at being present with one another?
There are plenty of reasons…but let me give you what I think is the main one
Our minds naturally want to frequently drift either to the regrets of the past or the worries of the future.
Most of the time, if you’re sitting across from someone and they look like they’re off in la-la-land, they’re in the past or the future…not in the present.
And the consequences of this life are fairly obvious.
When you’re not present…in conversation, or at work, or even among friends…you can’t thrive.
None of this is new.
Humans have been struggling with this since Adam & Eve
But what is new is one of our treatments for it…a remedy that we think will help us, but in actuality only makes it worse.
Humans have been treating the discomfort of the past & future for millennia
Some drink, others get angry, others try and gossip and blame their pain away.
But now, whenever we feel the discomfort of the past & future, it’s not the year 1850 anymore.
You don’t just have to sit there on your horse…thinking about your problems.
What do you have? Tell me (a reponse_ ___ )
You have technology to distract you from your problems!
Sitting in a waiting room? On a bus? Your spouse left the room for 5 seconds? Hanging out with an awkward friend?
No worries, you don’t have to think about your problems or even future ones…there’s an app for that.
Thousands of them actually…to distract you from your thoughts…
But also, unfortunately, to steal you from being present.
This problem has been steadily burying our ability to be present since about 1950’s when people first started getting TV’s and eating their dinners on TV trays instead of looking each other in the eyes.
And now, smartphones have changed the way we interact…forever.
Even back in 2006, one year before the first iPhone debuted in 2007, sure you could text your friend while you were with your family or other friends…
But in 2006, you would look down at your T9 keyboard on your flip phone…press that ABC button three times just to type …and you say, “Oh, why bother…and give up and be present with your friend again”
But now, most of us can’t even describe what our spouse looks like anymore, because we never look up from our phones.
And we have absolutely NO CLUE…how to be PRESENT.
WHAT WE REALLY CRAVE
We don’t have a clue on how to do it anymore…yet we want it.
We CRAVE connection…experiencing the presence of God…experiencing the presence of other people.
But we’re not sure how to do it.
This is one of the reasons…that if you haven’t signed up for one of House Groups yet, today is the day you oughta do that.
House Groups are our groups of 20-30 people that meet weekly.
80% of our adults are in a group.
We signed a TON of people up last week, and many more are going to sign-up today…as House Groups start in just one week.
House Groups are an incredible opportunity for you…to practice the discipline of putting aside the distractions and being present in another person’s life.
Something that isn’t all that natural for us anymore.
And they’re an awesome opportunity for people to be present in our lives.
Which is something that we do understand…much more than we understand the importance of us being present in someone else’s life
We all know what it’s like to be talking to someone we love and they’re clearly thinking about something else…or not even looking up from their phone.
It’s frustrating…we want them to be present!
And yet, most of the time, that’s us…that’s how we make others feel.
And, as we said last week, what kind of spiritual growth are we missing when we’re never present in anyone else’s life or them in ours?
And how many important moments in life are we just missing?
A couple of weeks ago, when I was home with my 3 kids on Monday, my day off, we were finishing dinner and my 4-year old twins went off to play and I got up and started cleaning up…
My 1 year old (almost 2-year old) Lincoln was still sitting contently in his high chair, even though he was finished, and a content toddler is something you don’t mess with…so I left him there for the moment.
At that moment, just like you, some unimportant worry about the future crossed my mind, and in the information age we live in, I walked over to the computer, and started looking something up…some information that would maybe make me feel less worried.
2 minutes later, I looked up from my computer and he was just staring right at me…smiling.
And his smile just pierced my heart.
And I thought, “How long has he been looking at me? Looking for my attention?”
It reminded me of an article I read a couple of years ago about a mom who said she wanted to set-up a video camera in her house for a day and count how many times her children looked at her when she wasn’t looking at them because she was looking somewhere else”
How many moments do we miss because our minds can’t seem to handle living in the present?
We need a change…and we need one now.
THE MORE YOU LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE, THE MORE YOU’LL BE ABLE TO GIVE THE GIFT OF PRESENCE
I needed to take some time this morning to set-up this difficulty we’re facing…because it’s significant…and it’s widespread in our culture…but now we must look intently to God’s Word for answers.
By the way, as we dive in to the Bible, I want to let you know about a new tool we’re rolling out today:
(explain the Notes Feature and how people can take notes with the message and then reference them later in House Groups are at a later time)
Scripture calls us, first and foremost, to glorify God with our lives.
And an enormous part of that is to fix our thoughts on Him…
(Hebrews 3:1) – NIV
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.
As we’ve said…our minds are constantly wandering to the regrets of the past and the anxieties of the future…
But what if when we felt the tension of those moments, what if instead of temporarily numbing our minds on a device…we fixed our minds on God instead?
(Isaiah 26:3) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!! - Leave up for 30 more seconds or so.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
What does that say??
If you can keep your mind fixed on God, He will keep your mind in a state of peace…
Not in frantic worry that forces you to reach out for some sort of numbing agent.
Let me explain to you the Bible’s principle of presence.
I call this, “The Presence Exchange”
You give up your worries and burdens to God…and He blesses you with His presence.
And in a similar way…that presence of God is then passed on through you.
As you are more now present with others when you hear of their difficulties and challenges, His presence is thus passed on through your presence.
Let me break this down a bit further:
The more you stop, and purposefully spend time in God’s presence…the more you will know Him
Psalm 46:10a) – NIV
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
And the more you’re still…fixing your mind on Him…the more you know Him.
. The more you know Him, the more you can trust Him.
…that He has forgiven your past
…that He is in control of the future.
And what happens when you know those things?
The more you’ll be able to live in the present!
Think of some of the most spiritually mature people you know?
Maybe even a parent or grandparent who’s been walking with Jesus for a really long time.
Most people like that that I can think of, tend to be some of the calmest, most present people I know.
You feel like they’re listening to your every word when you talk…but they can do that because of “The presence exchange”
And as a result…You then feel like you’re in God’s presence with them…because they’re constantly exchanging their worries for His presence…and it permeates through them.
And we can see this in Jesus
When you read the pages of the Bible, Jesus doesn’t come off as neurotic or nervous.
He’s unbelievably calm and present.
Well, He’s obviously in God’s presence (that’s usually a given when you are God), and He obviously has full trust that no matter how crazy the situation, God is in control.
Even when they are prosecuting him before his death in John 19, the Governor, Pontius Pilate, is practically pulling his hair out that Jesus isn’t freaking out this…that Jesus isn’t nervously pandering to him to get set free.
What Pilate doesn’t realize is that Jesus isn’t worried about how the future will turn out…so He’s able to stay in the present.
That’s what we’re supposed to be like
Philippians 2: Have the same mindset as Christ!
There are other examples from Jesus’ life that are quite helpful to us here.
In Matthew chapter 14, Jesus’ relative and friend, John the Baptist has just been murdered.
We’re then told of Jesus’ reaction
(Matthew 14:13-14) - NIV
13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
He just went through something incredibly difficult.
His friend was just killed.
Many of us, when we experience deep pain, we’re not sure what to do with that anymore…beyond just Netflixing...distracting our minds from reality.
Jesus withdraws to a solitary place…to talk with His Father God.
And when the crowds find Him, He is SOMEHOW…still able to be present with them…and focus on them.
How?! Because of God’s presence.
It’s the Presence Exchange!
When we experience His presence, we’re more able to be present with others
It’s one of the reasons behind one of the shortest verses in all of the Bible
(1 Thessalonians 5:17) – NIV
In Luke 8, a synagogue leader named Jairus asks Jesus to come and heal his 12-year-old daughter who was dying.
And on his way, Jesus is stopped by an elderly woman with chronic bleeding…and he helps her too.
Most of us probably would have said, “Can’t help you right now! So many other important things on my mind!”
But Jesus is able to be present with her.
Then, he gets word about Jairus’ young daughter
(Luke 8:49) – NIV
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Again, many of us would have said,
“See, that’s why I can’t be present!! I already have enough problems to deal with…and I gotta figure them out first. That girl would have been saved if I would have just left that other woman alone!”
And yet that’s not what Jesus says.
(Luke 8:50) – NIV
50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”
And sure enough…Jesus goes to her house and raises her from the dead.
But why is Jesus able to stay SO PRESENT in all of those situations?
It’s because His mind doesn’t need to distracted with worry and fear.
He, obviously, knows that God is in control.
And that is precisely what allows Him to stay present in the moment.
See, I believe that so many of us are robbed of the ability to replicate that because we’re still under the false delusion that we are in control…and that we must solve every problem ourselves! (and your mind is going crazy!)
But experiencing God’s presence on a regular basis will start to release you from the lie and slow down your mind…allowing you to be present
Now listen, I could stand here, and give you 10 practical steps to being present
Put your phone away when you get home from work.
Stop being 10% available to 10 people so you can be 100% available to 1
And those are great…and they will help you.
Until, after a while, they don’t anymore.
Because solving the issue requires us to look deeper.
Like most things, the spiritual answer is deeper buy its results last much longer.
I read a fantastic article from Christianity Today once about a woman who many years ago experienced a personal crisis.
n the midst of that crisis, she reached out to some nuns at a local monastery for some help and advice.
While there, the sisters told her she would benefit by playing cards with Sister Jane at each visit.
Sister Jane was an incredibly joyful nun, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, which is a terrible disease, but in every tragedy, there are things to be learned.
Here’s what the author writes:
She says, “We would play ‘Kings is the Corner’ —that's Sister Jane's card game.
She knows it well, even though each time I deal the cards she asks what we're playing.
When I tell her ‘Kings in the Corner,’ she always replies that she doesn't know how to play that game.
I reassure her that I'll show her how. And like clockwork, after the first cards are laid on the table she "goes to town" and beats me every time!
The author writes, “Sister Jane lives in the present moment of the card game.
She plays her dealt hand to the best of her ability.
She doesn't worry about what card she'll pick up next.
Or for that matter what card I may lay down or pick up. Neither of us can predict what card we'll draw next.
Like our lives we don't know the next card we'll be dealt, so we must play the hand we have, play it to the fullest, enjoy it and play it well.
That's how Sister Jane attacks this card game.
That's how she's teaching me to live my life.
The writer adds, “Sometimes I bring a treat, or cookies, for us to share.
When I ask if she'd like another, her reply is always one of surprise: "Oh, have I already had one?"
Then she delights in the second helping as if it were the first time she's ever had a cookie
She'll tell me that she's never had a cookie like this before and how good it tastes.
No comparison to other cookies, just “enjoying to the fullest” the cookie we have in this moment.
Sister Jane doesn’t worry about the past…and she doesn’t live in the future.
She lives out of God’s presence (and his truth) every moment…
God can do this in your life.
When you live in His presence, you can slow down your mind regarding the past and the future…and that’ll allow more of His presence to shine through you
This will make a massive difference in your life.
Start practicing the presence of God…in your life.
And let Him help you start living in the moment
Make the exchange.
Give up your burdens and let his presence help you be present.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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