The Homecoming

(a special thank you as always to Christopher C. for his insight and resources)


“Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and God’s courts with praise.” Psalms 100:4


I hope and pray that every time you go to your church and/or come into our Bethel — — you will feel as if you have come home.


I also hope and pray that next to the home where you live, your Church and/or our Bethel is or soon becomes your second home as a physical site outside of yourself, but most important, I pray it is your spiritual home in a way that a one way traffic sign points the spiritual way; and I pray that it points the way to God.


Reverend Billy Graham told of a time many years ago when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was. When the young boy told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “Son if you will come tonight to the Baptist Church, you will hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.” The boy stood there for a minute, scratched his head, and said, “Well, sir, I don’t think I will be there because you can’t even find the post office.”


There is a big difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing God. Lots of people know about God. The word God is on our money, in our sacred documents; God’s name is used by the devout, and sometimes, sadly, often as a curse. Everyone knows about God. Nine out of ten people in America say they believe in God, although they may not know really how God works in their own individual lives. Knowing God is something else entirely. So, perhaps for many of us, it is time to make a spiritual homecoming; and it may be a wise idea to do this on a daily basis.


A professor (you have probably heard this story) was given a choice of two doors to go through. One of the doors was marked “love” and the other was marked “knowledge about love.” The professor who loved knowledge, chose the latter. Just as there is a difference in knowing about love and experiencing love, so there is a difference in knowing about God and knowing God.


There is a story of an old professor at a Seminary. He would often come back to hear his students give a talk on Sunday morning. This man, in his style, usually would lean his head to one side after the man or woman talked on Sunday. He would say to them, “You gave a good talk today, but I am never going to come back and hear you again. I only come once. I just came to see if you are a ‘little godder’ or a ‘big godder.”’ He said, “If you are a ‘big godder,’ I know the size of your ministry will be big, and that you are going to do great work because you believe in a God who has great power to do things. You believe in a God who can perform miracles. You believe in a God who can do the impossible if you are a ‘big godder’. But if you are a ‘little godder,’ you will have trouble with God because God can’t do any miracles; God can’t take care of any of the inspiration and the transmission of Scripture to us. God cannot intervene on behalf of God’s people. If you are a ‘little godder,’ you really have trouble.”


So, let’s all be a “big godder” each and every day. To do so we must realize that a bigger God is bigger than any of our problems whether they are within or “without” ourselves. Our concept of God should be so large, so great that we know whatever we do, whatever we think, whatever we say, wherever we go, at any moment of the day or night, God is with us and we are home. We are moving with the power of God. When we are a ‘big godder,” we are spiritual. We are not alone when a problem rears its ugly head and stares at us. We are standing there with the biggest God in the world around us and through us. We can do anything because we are a ‘big godder.’


Deuteronomy 10:17.   For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.


Whenever we face a crossroads, here is a positive spiritual affirmation to repeat often as needed: “God is bigger than my problem!”


I am glad you are here because A spiritual homecoming is waiting for you.


Have your ever heard of the story which has also been made into a hymn (so inspiring) called“The Old Apple Tree.” Read the words below because it is a story, as well as a spoken hymn, especially for me since, as you know, I am melodically challenged.


“Coming home. God I am coming home. A minister had completed services one night in a Midwestern town. As he decided to board the train one night he took a seat next to a young man. While sitting there he found the young man was crying. He turned to this young fellow and he said, ‘Young man, I am a minister, I am a man of God. Maybe l can say something that will help or encourage you.’


“The young fellow turned and looked at the old preacher and said, ‘Preacher, I have been roaming this countryside for two years now. I left home two years ago tonight, and while there I gave my mother and father so much trouble. I even had the nerve to strike my father with my fist. So my dad came to me and said, ‘Son, we have to let you go. You are breaking your mother’s heart.’ Preacher, here I am tonight on this train. I wrote my mom a letter to tell her I would be on this train. See preacher, three weeks ago I had a spiritual experience. I gave my heart and my mind to God. I told mom I would be on this train.’


“The old preacher looked at the young fellow and said, ‘Son, how do you know that everything is going to be all right? How do you know that you will be welcome, that you will be able to get off the train?’


“That young fellow turned and looked at the man of God and said, ‘Preacher, all of my life we have lived in a little white house that sits right beside these old railroad tracks, and in back of this old house we have a big apple tree. I told my mom if it is all right for me to get off the train to have dad go out back and tie a big white rag on that tree, and I would know if it was all right for me to get off of the train. So preacher, we are almost home.’


“The young man turned to the preacher and said, ‘Would you look out of the window and tell me if the old rag is in the tree? I can’t bear to look. I want to go home so bad that I don’t know what to do.’


“The old preacher took the arm of his sleeve and he wiped the window and looked out. He said, ‘Son, why, you don’t have anything to worry about at all. That old apple tree is in full bloom. It has white rags from one end of that tree to another. Standing under that old apple tree I see an old gray headed mom and dad waving a white bed sheet like a flag, saying ‘Come on home son, come on home.’”


That is the way God is. God does not care what you have done. God does not care how long you have been going the wrong way. We all love you because we are family; but God loves you regardless of your past or present.


Do your remember the movie, ET,” ET wanted to “phone home.”


You, too, want to go home this morning. So do I. We want to go to God.


This next story, as profound as it seems, is absolutely the truth. It is almost a believe it or not story.


“It had always been Ken Gaub’s goal to help those who were hurting. Some people just needed a little boost, and Ken Gaub said, “I wanted to influence people’s lives in a positive way, so I became a traveling missionary.” So, with his family he conducted crusades, not only throughout America, but also in many foreign countries. He established a magazine, a radio and television ministry, and a youth outreach program.


He says in his own words, “Sometimes even preachers get drained and discouraged. They wonder if they should consider another line of work.” This is how Ken felt one day in the 1970’s as he and his wife Barbara, and their children, drove their two ministry busses down 1-75, just south of Dayton, Ohio.


Ken was at the wheel and he said in a very prayerful voice, “God, am I doing any good at all traveling around like this, telling people about You?” He didn’t say this aloud; he said it inside of himself the way you may have many times. He wondered silently, “Is this what You want me to do?”


About that time he heard an audible voice. The voice said, “Hey Dad, let’s stop and get some pizza.” One of Ken’s sons was the voice. Still lost in thought Ken turned off at the next exit, Route 741 where one sign after another advertised a wide variety of fast food. “A sign, a sign,” Ken mused. ‘That’s what I need, a sign from God. That’s what I need God, give me a sign that You know I even exist.”


Ken’s son and daughter-in-law had already maneuvered the second bus into the pizza parlor’s parking lot. They stood waiting as Ken pulled up. The rest of the family bounced down the steps, but Ken sat in his seat staring out into space.


“Coming?” Barbara, his wife said.


“No, I’m not really hungry,” Ken told her. “I will stay out here and stretch my legs.


Barbara followed the others into the restaurant. Ken stepped outside. He could see them through the windows of the restaurant ordering their pizza.


He stayed outside, closed the bus doors, and looked around. He noticed a Dairy Queen. He strolled over and got a soft drink and ambled back still pondering. He was absolutely exhausted at the core of his being. He wondered and he questioned if his doldrums were a sign of permanent burn-out.


Then Ken heard a persistent ringing. It broke his concentration. It was a jangle that was coming from a pay telephone in a booth at the service station next to the Dairy Queen. As Ken approached the booth, he looked around to see if anyone else at the station was coming to answer the phone. The attendant continued his work. He was oblivious to the noise.


The constant ringing annoyed Ken, who was praying and wanting help from God. “Why doesn’t someone answer the phone?” he wondered, growing irritated. “What if it’s an emergency?” The insistent ringing went on, 10 rings, then 15, then 20 rings. Finally curiosity overcame Ken’s lethargy. He walked over to the booth, lifted up the receiver, and said, “Hello?”


The operator on the other end said, “Sir, I have a long distance call for Ken Gaub.”


Ken was stunned. First he thought it was his family. He looked over through the window of the Pizza Hut and they were all eating. Everyone was accounted for. Then he said, “You’re crazy.” Then he realized his rudeness and said, ‘This can’t be. It just can’t be. I was just walking down the road here and the phone was ringing.” The operator ignored his ramblings. She said, “Is Ken Gaub there? I have a long distance phone call for him.”


Was this a joke he wondered? Immediately he looked around for the Candid Camera crew, but they were nowhere in sight. The operator was persistent. “I have a long distance call for Ken Gaub, sir,” the operator said again and again, obviously reaching the limits of her patience. She said in a harsh tone, “Is he there or not?”


“Operator, I am Ken Gaub,” Ken said still unable to make sense of it. The operator asked, “Are you sure?” Just then Ken heard another woman’s voice on the telephone. “Yes, operator that’s him. That’s Ken Gaub. Yes, I recognize his voice.” About then the operator hung up.


The other woman’s voice said, “Mr. Gaub, I’m Millie from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You don’t know me, but I am desperate. Please help me.”


Millie began to weep, crying uncontrollably. Ken waited patiently for her to regain control and finally she explained. ‘Mr. Gaub, I was about to kill myself. I started to write a suicide note but then I began to pray. I told God I really didn’t want to do this.” Through her pain, Millie remembered seeing Ken on television. She said, “If I could just talk to that nice kindly minister, the one with the understanding attitude. I knew it was impossible because I didn’t know how to reach you.”


Millie went on, a little calmer now. “So, I started to finish the note and then all of a sudden some phone numbers began to pop into my mind. I wrote them down.” She began to weep again. Silently Ken began to pray for wisdom on what to say to help her.


“I looked at those numbers,” Millie continued tearfully. “I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful, wouldn’t it be an answer from God, wouldn’t it be a miracle if God has given me Ken’s phone number?” She said, “I can’t believe I am talking to you. Are you in your office in California?”


Ken explained, “I don’t have an office in California. It’s in Yakima, Washington.”


“Then where are you?” Millie asked, puzzled.


Ken was even more bewildered. “Millie don’t you know— you made the call.”


“I don’t know what area this is,” Millie said, “I just dialed the long distance operator and gave her the numbers, making a person to person call.” Somehow she had found Ken in a parking lot in Dayton, Ohio. Ken gently consoled the woman and then they prayed together for God to lead her out of the situation into a new life. Then he hung up the phone. Ken was dazed unlike he had ever been dazed before in his life. Would his family believe this incredible story? Perhaps he shouldn’t tell anybody about it. Some stories are just so sacred and so unbelievable that they lose everything in their retelling.


Then he thought, he had prayed for an answer. He had received just what he needed. He received a renewed sense of purpose, a glimpse of the value of his work, an electrifying awareness of God’s concern for each of God’s children– all in an encounter which could only have been arranged by God. Ken’s heart overflowed with joy.


When his family came back to the bus, “Barb,” he exclaimed. “You won’t believe this, but God knows where I am.”


And just as that story is astounding, believe it or not – God knows where we are, each one of us. God knows what we are going through. God knows how to help us. God knows how to heal us. God knows exactly everything about us. There is nothing in your or my mind or in our body or in our life that God is not aware of because God is not far away. God is with us here, right beside you and right beside me.


Did you realize there is a place where God talks about calling you in our Bible. Isaiah 66:4. “. . .because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen;. . . . .” Now, look at Isaiah 65:24. This is about you and me. “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.”


You know, I am sure, that each of us have a voice mail or an answering machine for God. We often do not answer when God calls; we just let it go to voice mail. However, when we talk to God, He hears us. “before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear” Is. 65:2.


Probably most of us these days are able to see who is calling by looking at the phone screen. One lovely day, Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:18 received a call from God, and they didn’t want to pick up because they thought it might be God (He was probably the only other “person” on the planet next to the serpent.). They knew they had done wrong and broken His rule and did not want to own up to it. When they heard His voice, they hid themselves in the garden.


Oh, they did not need Caller ID. They knew exactly who was calling. They did not want to pick up that phone call and talk to God. I guess they forgot that God sees all and knows all. “The Lord God called unto Adam. “Where are you? Pick up the phone, Adam. I want to talk to you, not this machine.” But Adam and Eve didn’t want to, and one of the tragic results of humanity happened for the first time. Not answering is self-disrupting lines of communication with God. We say to God, “God, I am not available to take your call right now.”


What if we left a message on our recorder that said, “If this is you, God, I don’t want to consider changing my life today—maybe tomorrow. If this is you God, I don’t want to be more prayerful right now. I am already quite happy with the extent to which I devote my talents and resources to the good of humanity. No, God, I don’t wish to meditate more. No, I don’t wish to listen for your voice right now, and I don’t want to serve in any way. If after that, God, you wish to bless me instead of nag me, then please leave a message after the beep.”


That is a funny story, but how many times have we done something very similar to that?


You and I are here today to have a spiritual homecoming. In order to have this “homecoming,” we will need to have a receptive mind that is open and receptive to the communication of God. The answers you get, the solutions to your problems are going to be higher than your own human mind. Higher and better than you can ever imagine.


Because they will be higher than what we are used to, they may seem different and even odd.. They may tell you to walk down a different path than you are walking down right now. It takes courage to turn around. It takes courage to go God’s way. But remember, with God and going God’s way, we are never alone We are just walking home. Praise God for our Spiritual Homecoming.


Luke 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.


Can you come home? You had better believe it. God is waving a giant white sheet and saying, “Come on home. If you need forgiveness, come on home. If you need a healing, come on home. If you need prosperity, come on home. If you need a solution to the biggest problem you have ever had in your life, come on home. I am here for you; and I am as close as you are, right where you are sitting.


All you have to do is knock and open the door.


” Walk to Me. I am here; I am waiting for you.


Come on home.”


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