Opening:

ILL: Wednesday morning, my granddaughters Jenna and Savanna got to our house just as I was leaving for work. I paused—to help Laina get them out of the car and into the house, and to give them each a hug and kiss. Then Jenna (3) asked me if I could play with her. I told her that I had to go to work. “But grandpa,” she said, “you could play with me for 12 minutes.”

I’m sad to say that I had a meeting to get to, and if I played for 12 minutes, I would have been late, so I talked only for a minute and then left for work. Someone suggested that I should have played for 2 minutes—she doesn’t really know what 12 minutes is.

Pause, grandpa, and play with me…for 12 minutes. Today, we’re going to wrap up this series by talking about pausing to love, slowing down to engage and enjoy the people God has placed in our lives…for 12 minutes.

Next series:  Sex & starts next Sunday.  (left panel)—great time to invite your friends and family members for a Bible-based series about a topic of common interest (appropriate to jr. high and older).

Next Sunday is the Super Bowl! (bottom of middle page)—evening service is Saturday night at 6, followed by regular Sunday morning services.  Have a Matthew party and enjoy hanging out with friends and family!

 

Introduction:

That’s a great video! And it reminds us that life is short. It goes by so quickly. It seems like only yesterday that our five kids were tiny, and we were changing diapers and reading stories and praying for bedtime to come quickly! Now our house is filled with little bodies again, but they are our grandchildren. I sleep with a grandma! What happened?

Life goes by so quickly, and if we’re not careful, we can get swept up in the pace of our 24/7 world, and miss the main event. What is the main event? Relationships. As we’ll see, life is fundamentally about relationships; it is about loving God and loving people. If you are too busy for God and too busy for people, then you are too busy, and you are missing the main event.

I want to start with one of my favorite stories from the gospels; it is the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who had a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

Mark 10:46–52 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. 51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Bartimaeus is a blind beggar. Each day, he sits by the road leading out of town, the road that goes from Jericho up to Jerusalem. It’s a very busy road, particularly at this time of year, when pilgrims are heading to Jerusalem for the Passover. In fact, it is the only road into Jerusalem from the east, so thousands of pilgrims are passing this way. It’s good for Bart’s business. Pilgrims tend to be more generous with beggars, and so Bartimaeus has been getting more coins than usual.

Suddenly, he hears a commotion—a crowd buzzing. He asks what is going on and someone tells him that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. Sitting by that road, Bart has heard the stories about this young rabbi from Nazareth, including the stories about Jesus healing the blind. Business suddenly takes a back seat, and Bart begins bawling at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Immediately, many people in the crowd rebuke him and tell him to be quiet. Don’t imagine polite requests: “Bartimaeus, would you be quiet?” Bart was just a blind beggar, a nobody, and he was interrupting their march to Jerusalem with the man who may be the Messiah. They rebuked him; it is a strong word that carries the idea of a threat. “Shut up, beggar man, or we’ll shut you up.” But Bart was not to be put off—he shouted all the louder: “Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Then come my favorite two words of the story: “Jesus stopped.” He paused. Think about this: Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem where He will give His life for all the world—would you say that is important? He is on His way to do the most important thing in history, and He stops…for a blind beggar. A nobody. And Jesus heals him.

Jesus stopped. He paused to love someone, and we’re going to talk about doing the same.

 

1. Pause so you can love your family and friends.

I have listed a number of Scriptures that talk about the importance of love, and none is more important than the first.

Matthew 22:34–40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We talk about this all the time here at Life Center. The most important thing you can do is love God and love people. The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all you’ve got; the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. This is the most important thing you can do; fail at this, and you have failed at life!

Loving your neighbor starts at home, with your family; then it extends to your literal neighbors and friends; then it goes far beyond that to include strangers and ultimately, even your enemies. But it starts at home. It starts by taking 12 minutes—12 minutes to love your wife or husband or kids or grandkids. 12 minutes to play, to talk, to listen, to hug, to give them your full attention. Pause to love. Don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t pause to love your family.

ILL: Phil LeMaster tells this story:

I had accepted the call as senior pastor of a large congregation that had recently erected a huge building resulting in major debt. Feeling the pressures of my new responsibility—and with a strong desire to impress my parishioners—I hit the ground running. I was in the office early every day, and almost every evening I was out meeting with people.

My wife, Teresa, was very understanding, but our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Mandi, was perplexed by my absence. Mandi loved for me to read to her after dinner each evening—a practice I continued in my new position, with one caveat: I would sit on the edge of my recliner with her seated by my side and read a quick story or two before rushing out for another night of busy activity.

One evening Mandi said something that jolted me back to reality. I had sat down with her in my recliner—once again on the edge, ready to quickly read and run. While I was reading, Mandi interrupted me, patted the recliner seat, and said, “Scoot back, Daddy, scoot back.”

Her words pierced my soul as I understood what she was really saying: “Please slow down, Daddy. Make time for me!” Appropriately chastened, I scooted back.

Scoot back. Slow down. Pause to love. It starts at home.

ILL: Most of you have heard me say that on the night my son Jeff died, four years ago, he came into my room and asked me to go to a movie with him. I was busy—I was finishing the Sunday message—so I said, “Sorry, bud, I can’t right now.” I still regret that—I wish I had paused to love my son. So one of the changes I made after Jeff died was to say “yes” to my wife and kids more—to make it my default answer. I can’t say yes every time, but I am much more likely to say yes now, to pause to love.

Scoot back. Slow down. Take 12 minutes to play. Pause to love your family.

As far as I know, no one on his deathbed has ever said, “I wish I would have worked more. I wish I would have spent more time at the office.” But many people have wished they had spent more time with their kids or grandkids or spouse. Work will wait. It will still be there when you’re done playing with the kids. But the kids won’t wait. They grow up and they’re gone, and if you don’t pause, if you don’t scoot back, you miss it. You miss the main event!

Pause to love your family. And pause to love your friends. It takes time to make and nurture friendships. Some of will die rich in things and poor in friends.

ILL: Many years ago, when Pastor Noel was working in Hawaii, I would call him regularly to talk. One day, he asked about my baseball card collection, if I had any new cards. I didn’t have anything notable to report. Then he said, “I started a collection.” I was really surprised because this was not like Noel. He really doesn’t care much about things; I’d never known him to collect anything. So I asked, “What are you collecting?”

“Friends,” he said. I thought, “I collect baseball cards; Noel collects friends.”

It doesn’t cost a thing to collect friends. Well, that’s not entirely true. It does cost something; what is it? Time. It takes time to make and nurture friendships. You have to pause to love.

ILL: In her book, Breathing Space, Heidi Neumark tells a wonderful story from her days as a young volunteer in a mission project on John’s Island, South Carolina.

Miss Ellie lived down a dirt road in a small one room wooden house. Heidi never learned her age, but she was between 90 and 100, and still chopped and stacked her own firewood. Heidi loved to sit on her porch sipping sweet tea with Miss Ellie and listen to her stories.

Miss Ellie had a friend named Netta whom she’d known since they were small girls. To get to Netta’s house, Miss Ellie had to walk for miles through fields of tall grass that were home to numerous poisonous snakes. Netta’s house was not far from Miss Ellie’s, but there was a stream that cut across the field, and it was quite a distance to where it narrowed enough to cross. Miss Ellie would set off enthusiastically to visit her friend, but Heidi felt sorry for her old arthritic friend having to walk through miles of snake-infested grass.

Then Heidi had an idea: she would build a small plank bridge across the creek. With some local help, it took her less than a day. She could hardly wait to show Miss Ellie, and when she took her to the new bridge, she said excitedly, “Look, a shortcut for you to visit Netta!”

But Miss Ellie’s face wasn’t happy or grateful. Instead, she said, “Child, I don’t need a shortcut.” Then she told Heidi about all the friends she kept up with on her way to Netta’s. A shortcut would cut her off from Mr. Jenkins with whom she always swapped gossip, from Miss Hunter who looked forward to the quilt scraps she brought by, and the chance to look in on the “old folks” who were sick.

“Child,” she said again, “can’t take shortcuts if you want friends in this world. Shortcuts don’t mix with love.”

Heidi’s shortcut saved Miss Ellie time, but cost her friends; that’s not a good exchange. It was better to walk the long way, take the time and keep the friends.

Do you have friendships that are in need of some attention? Pause to love your friends. Take the long way—shortcuts don’t mix with love.

 

2. Pause so you can love the one you’re with.

You all know the saying: “If you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” That’s not quite what I have in mind here.

What I mean by loving the one you’re with is that you love the person God has put in front of you right now. Pause, slow down, stop—take the time to engage the person you are with.

Let’s go back to our opening story about blind Bartimaeus. Jesus stopped. He heard Bart’s call and He stopped. He was on His way to do the most important thing ever done. He was on His way to give His life, but He stopped and He engaged Bartimaeus in a life-changing encounter. He had every reason to keep going, to ignore the noisy beggar by the side of the road. But He stopped—He paused to love the man.

I have many days when I go from meeting to meeting all day long, from morning to evening without a break. Sometimes, I get caught up in the speed of it, and I am always leaning forward. I am sitting on the edge of the chair—not scooted back. I am thinking about what’s coming next while I’m still in this meeting. I’m not fully engaged with the person in front of me. I’m learning to hit the pause button to love the person I’m with, to give them my full attention.

Here’s a cool thing: I’m discovering that as I pause to connect with God—as I pause to pray at the start of the day during my PBJ time, or pause to pray during the day, opening myself to God; or as I pause to rest on the Sabbath—I find myself more connected to the people I’m with. Pausing to connect with God helps me pause to connect with people. The more attentive I am to God, the more attentive I become with people.

ILL: Recently, I was at the gym with Laina, working out, getting totally ginormous. A man asked, “Are you still the pastor at Life Center?” I stopped to answer him. Normally, my modus operandi is “git-er-done”. I’m there to work out—git-er-done. So normally, I would engage this person in a brief conversation and find a polite way to get back to work as quickly as possible. But I’m learning to pause—I’m trying to be more attentive to God and to people—so when the man made one particular comment, I thought God might be up to something. I spent most of my workout time in that conversation—and don’t regret a moment of it.

I think God smiled, and will make my muscles huge without working out!

Seriously, I do think God smiled. I think God liked it that I paused to love the one I was with.

Think of the story of the Good Samaritan. You all know it. It’s found in Luke 10. A man is traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho—the very road that blind Bartimaeus was sitting by. That road was notoriously dangerous; robbers hid in the hills and swooped down on travelers, especially if you were traveling along. This poor man fell victim to the robbers who not only robbed him but beat him and left him for dead by the roadside.

Along came a Jewish priest. He was a spiritual man, close to God—someone you would expect to stop and help. But what did he do? He passed by on the other side. He didn’t stop. Then a Levite came along—he was like the priest’s assistant—another spiritual man whom you would expect to stop and help. What did he do? Same thing—passed by on the other side—didn’t stop.

Then a Samaritan comes along. The Jewish people listening to Jesus tell this story would have let out a low hiss or boo. The Samaritans were half-breeds; centuries before, these Jews had intermarried with Gentiles. Now they were racially impure, and spiritually compromised, and were considered traitors by Jews. Jews and Samaritans hated each other. This hated Samaritan stops and helps the man, binding up his wounds, taking him to an inn where he can be cared for, even paying for his care! “Booooo! Wrong hero, Jesus! You messed up a good story!”

You know why Jesus told this story? Because someone had asked him, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus had asked him what the law said, and the man answered,

Luke 10:27 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Jesus commended him: “That’s right. Do this and you’ll live.” But wanting to justify himself, the man asked one more question: “Who is my neighbor?” Perhaps he was hoping that Jesus would limit “neighbor” to his fellow Jews, or even to righteous people, spiritual people like the priest and Levite who kept God’s law. Jesus answered his question, “who is my neighbor?” by telling this story. The usual heroes—the priest and Levite—are total failures. Why? They don’t stop. Why didn’t they stop? Who knows? Maybe they were busy—that’s why we don’t stop. Maybe they were afraid of getting robbed themselves. But for whatever reason, they don’t stop, and that is their big failure.

The usual enemy—the Samaritan—shows us how a neighbor behaves. What does a neighbor do? Pause to love. A true neighbor, a true friend pauses to love the person in front of them right now.

In just a few minutes, we’ll dismiss. You can rush out of here like the priest and Levite. Or you can pause and look around you. See who God has placed in front of you and pause to love them.

 

3. Pause so you can love God.

I wanted to finish here, back at the very start. The Great Commandment, which we’ve already read twice, says that the first and greatest commandment is to love God with all you’ve got. This is first—this is the starting point—and this is greatest, so it’s where we end. Pause to love God. Why do we love God?

1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us.

Why do we love God? Because He loves us first. Long before we were commanded to love God with all we’ve got, He loved us with all He has. God loves you more than you can imagine and has acted in Jesus Christ to save you. This is the good news that sets us free and changes us.

I want to be very clear about something. It might be possible for someone to interpret this series as a nice set of self-help talks. Pause. Improve your life. Slow down, take care of yourself, be nice to others. I’m proposing something much more radical than that.

Christianity isn’t a self-help or self-improvement program. It is the astonishing good news that we couldn’t help ourselves so God, in love, intervened and rescued us. God sent Jesus into the world on a search and rescue mission. He came to “seek and save what was lost.” He calls us to follow Him and to live in the Kingdom of God, under God’s gracious and loving rule. Our lives are then entirely reoriented. We go from being self-centered, to God-centered. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died and was raised for us. We live for God. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price. You belong to God now.

So it is from that perspective that I urge you to pause.

  • It is not just another self-improvement tip. It is God’s will, and we live our lives to do His will. It is much more about God than about ourselves.

  • It is not just an act of self-discipline. It is a gift from a God who loves us and calls us into a new life. He is offering us a better life!

Matthew 11:28–30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So God is calling you to pause. Pause to pray, to rest, to worship, to think, to love—not as an act of self-improvement, but as a loving response to a God who loves you. A God who has acted in Christ to save you. A God who offers you rest. A God who calls you into a new life that’s oriented around Him, and not yourself.

God is offering you a great gift. Pause and receive and enjoy.