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Changed Before Your "Very" Eyes - By Pastor Thomas Engel

How do you think of yourself when it comes to change? Are you a person who likes things as a rule to stay the same? Do you tend to keep the status quo?

Or, are you a progressive? Does everything need to be turned upside down? Are changes often and quite drastic?

Most of us are centrists. From surveys, we see that a good percentage of Americans like to stay in the middle of the things.

In making changes, we do look what it would mean to stay the same and what it would look like if we make big changes, and after our analysis, we find that the middle ground generally works for us.

In saying that, we need those who stay stuck in the mud and those who want to flip everything like hot pancakes.

I’m not ever sure that it’s ever good to stay stuck in the mud, but, at times, keeping the same old way is necessary. We say, ”Let’s just keep doing it this way and see what happens.”

And, at times we need big changes in our lives. Hot pancakes need to be flipped. We say, “I need to make a change, for I’m not getting anywhere this way.”

But, again, I think in many circumstances, we look at staying the same and making big changes, and from there, we stay somewhere in the middle-not stuck but not so radical, either.

We make changes here and there but not everywhere.

So, with all this talk about changes, are you thinking about making any changes in your life?

Maybe something simple like a different hairstyle.

I’ve been wearing my hair the same way since I got hair on my head. Maybe, a little longer or shorter, but the same style.

My niece is a hair stylist, and she is very creative. We talk every time when she cuts my hair about doing something different.

The last time she started to give me a haircut she said, “You know, Uncle Tom, the Mullet is coming back.”

As you can see, I’ve stayed with the status quo, but I am due for another haircut, so maybe a change is coming on.

With this talk about how we go about change, let’s talk for a minute about how, we, as Christians, go about engaging with the world.

We need to talk about how we go about the world because the world is a messy place.

Just too sadly often now, we are seeing that the world is a place where horrific things are happening.

To be sure, the world has a lot of good in it, but doesn’t it seem in these days that the “bad” is out weighing the “good?”

The world could stand to see a lot of changes.

Looking at this world, we might at first want to retreat from it. The changes that are needed are overwhelming, so its best that we play it safe and stay out of it.

On the other hand, we might want to go out to fight the world. We want to make the world a better place, so we will want to be part of making changes to fix it.

But, we can’t force the changes, either.

We can use the same argument for why we should not retreat from the world and for why we should not fight the world.

The world does need a lot of changes, but there is just not a whole lot that we can do about changing the world, for the world will always be doing what the world does.

To sum up my argument, we need to accept things as they are, and we need to go about changing what we can change.

After we make our T-chart about what we accept and what we change, we see how the Serenity prayer goes from there, “And have the wisdom to know the difference.”

As Christians, this is what we know about the world that puts us in a place that can leave us wondering what we are to be doing, for we are caring people and don’t like seeing it this way.

Here are the facts:

We know that sin is in the world, and as long as this world keeps spinning, sin will always be here that causes problems.

We know that Satan is roaming the earth wanting to cause messes, and we have to say that he does a good job of it.

We know that we are living in the End Times as we wait for Jesus to come again. In these last days, we know there will be a lot of tribulation, and with one look at the news like this morning with devastating tornadoes in the Midwest, we do see many troubles.

We know that we are sinners, as much as we try not to be. Like the world is a sinful place as it keeps spinning, the same is for us. As long as we keep walking on this earth, we will sin and have to live with its consequences.

So, in putting it all in the way of what we know, all sounds rather hopeless. Doesn’t it?

But, what would be our motivation to wake-up every day and step out our front doors if all was hopeless?

We have to have hope, and there is hope. Although this hope does depend on how we think about changes.

Let’s take a look at the Old Testament reading because its all about changes.

The title for this sermon comes from a verse in the reading, “Changed before your eyes.”

At this time, Israel was going through some good changes.

First, we need to go back in time to see how it’s been the same old story with Israel.

Israel was disobedient. They were stubborn and not following God’s will. To show them their disobedience, God has their enemies overtake them.

Israel has been in exile. Their enemy, the Babylonians, have taken them away from their land to Babylon.

The people of Israel long to return to their own country.

God thinks that they have learned their lesson, so He brings them back to their own land.

This coming back to the land is the change that the prophet, Zephaniah, is talking about.

Here are just some of those changes that God is making for Israel:

He will make his love new again.

He will make a song of joy over you.

He will take away your troubles.

He will put an end of all who are troubling you.

And here is the where I got the title. I think it’s the real kicker when God says, “I let your fate be changed before your eyes.”

There are actually even more changes, but I think you get the idea.

Things were not so good for Israel, but God made the changes that got them into a much better place.

To be sure you and I get the idea, let’s be sure we see who is making the changes here.

It’s not the people of Israel making the changes. They are passive in all of these changes.

God is making the changes, and each change is quite big.

These changes are big game changers for Israel.

They were once captives, but now they are free. They were once exiles, but now they are back home. They were once miserable, but now they have joy.

Now, let’s go to the Gospel reading where we see John the Baptist sending two of his disciples to inquire about Jesus. John wanted to confirm that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Jesus said this about himself, “Go back and give news to John of what you have seen, and the things which have come to your ears; the blind now see, those who had no power in their legs are walking, lepers are made clean, those who had no hearing now have their ears open, dead men come to life again, and the poor have the good news given to them.”

To point out again, and it’s not because we are not seeing it, but, because we need to be sure we are seeing how it’s so essential in our thinking about making changes.

Let’s ask this question to be sure we are getting it, “Are you seeing who is the one who is making big changes in people’s lives?”

Jesus is doing the changes. He is restoring them. He is giving them new life.

And by making these big changes, Jesus is earning their trust, and in this trust, they have hope.

Jesus wants people to know that he has their interest in mind in even bigger things than their physical condition.

Jesus is changing the physical by divine powers to show that he is the Messiah.

This Messiah’s coming has been prophesied for thousands of years. People have been waiting and hoping.

Now, they see that the Messiah has come. In Jesus, the promise has been fulfilled.

Jesus wants people to know him and trust him, so he can give them hope in the biggest change-the salvation of their souls.

Jesus heals people, raises the dead, cast out demons, and taught about heaven as only he can do to show that he will restore their relationship with God the Father that was broken by sin.

What is most interesting here, and again, I think you see where this is all going about changes. The biggest changes are not seen before your very eyes.

The only way to see these changes is by faith.

These changes came here today just a few minutes ago when you and I confessed our sins.

Each one of those sins was forgiven by God.

The biggest changed happen in our hearts and minds. Our sins that kept us from a complete relationship with God are now gone.

David asked for God to create in him a clean heart after his sin. And what happened? David’s heart was made clean as a new fallen snow.

God has brought us back to him like He brought back Israel to their own land.

This restoring of bringing people of God back to God will be complete when Jesus comes again on the Last Day to finally bring us to heaven forever.

Until then, we have faith that changes are happening in the world and in our lives as God sees it to change things according to His plan.

A lot of these changes are paradox in nature. They are not what you expect.

On one day, a crowd saw a man hanging on a cross. This crowd thought that this man was getting punished for his claiming to be something that he was not.

This man said he was the Messiah. Blasphemy!

On that cross, what they were not seeing was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

That was what Jesus as the coming Messiah was to do. He was to overcome the world and all that wants to harms by first dying and then rising, which he did.

What are you seeing in the world and in your life?

Are you seeing a lot that needs changing?

Well, probably so because you are a caring person who wants things to go better.

I can tell you with confidence that changes are happening-maybe not as we think changes should be happening, for most of these changes are not happening before our “very” eyes.

From our human viewpoint, we don’t get everything that is happening in the world and our lives.

But, we don’t live by our human viewpoint, for we are to live by faith.

Living by faith. we can trust that changes are happening, and this trust gives us hope that all we be perfectly good again as it once was in the Garden of Eden at the beginning.

I’m never quite sure what to say to people if they change something about themselves. If I say I like the change like the change of a hairstyle, am I saying that what they had before was so bad?

Next week when I get my haircut, I’m sure you will not know what to say if I do get a Mullet because you will wonder why I did not get it sooner.

We have to admit that the world and our lives do need some changes.

We would like to see them change for the better and sooner for the better.

But, we remember that it is God who makes changes. He has a history of making good changes. God always has His people’s best interest in mind.

We do see some of the changes, but the most important changes are not before are “very” eyes.

What we do is hope for these changes, and we can have a sure hope because we trust, and we trust because we have faith that all changes, the ones before and not before our “very” eyes, are always according to God’s gracious plan.

And here is God’s ultimate game changer that we are hoping for everyday, for Jesus to come again to take us all to our eternal home in heaven.

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