Are You There, God? It’s Me… – “Who Dis?”

Are You There, God? It’s Me… – “Who Dis?”

“How Do I Struggle With This?”

I remember it was October of 2004… I couldn’t really tell you what the weather was like
in L.A., as I hadn’t been outside in a while. The inmates were only allowed outside,
maybe once a week… that’s if we had behaved ourselves.
I guess I’d really taken-for-granted how cool it was to have the sun & the moon
separating the days from the nights… and on this particular day, to make things even
more disorienting… I wasn’t even locked-up with the other guys in the general
population. I was all alone in a cell and had been for hours.
A riot had broken out on the 4th floor of the jail… there were probably 150 guys
involved… but when the smoke cleared, for some reason there were only a few guys
picked outa the crowd and thrown into solitary cells… and I was one of ‘em.

You should know that, although I was being questioned about my part in this riot getting
kicked-off… to my credit, I was completely innocent.
I mentions this because I just don’t want you to be distracted, thinking your pastor was
the kinda guy who would start a fight in a county jail;)
Anyway… the point is that those hours I spent alone in that cell were the first hours I’d
spent alone in months… and that dim-lit cell would set-the-stage for one of the most
pivotal moments of my life.
I believe God arranged for me to get thrown into that cell so that I’d be forced to face my
greatest fear.
… after more than a decade of drug addiction and all the destruction I’d caused myself
and others… after months of the chaos and the noise of living in the pressure cooker of
hundreds of men housed together in the L.A. County Jail… all-of-a-sudden it’s just
me alone with my thoughts. (or at least so I thought)
Up to that point in my life, I’d never really understood what people meant when they’d
say, “the silence was deafening” …but now it made sense.
The external silence of my solitary cell gave an amplifier to the voices inside my head.
The voices of guilt & shame, of anger & regret, of condemnation & self-hatred… and
most of all, fear of the future… all coming at me in rapid fire. It was deafening.
… but then I experienced a voice that seemed to silence all the others…
“I’m here, you’re not alone… I always have been… and I’ll never leave you.
I’m not ashamed of you… I love you… and I still have an amazing plan for your life”
Now you should know… I wasn’t thinking, “what a weird thing for a correctional officer to
be saying to me from outside my cell”… and this wasn’t like a movie where I heard a
voice and then was expecting to see Morgan Freeman.
It wasn’t so much an audible voice, as it was something coming from deep inside me…
and yet it wasn’t me at-all. At that time in my life, the voices in my head were always
anxious, insecure and chaotic. This was a voice of peace and confidence.
Eric Bryant has often shared this as a helpful way to discern God’s voice…
God’s voice is consistent with His character. If He is asking me to do something,
it is something that is selfless and requires courage.
The crazy thing was that I knew His voice right away… like if I hadn’t spoken with my
dad for 20 years and then he hit me up on the phone.

The hardest thing for me to understand, in that moment, wasn’t that God was real or
that he would speak to someone (I grew up in church, so that wasn’t weird to me)…
what I couldn’t understand was why He was speaking to me.
God, why would you speak to me?

“How do we all struggle with this?”

In a really honest moment together, I’d bet that we all deal with that question
sometimes. We see our lives through our own broken lenses… our failures, our fears,
our addictions…
● all the times we’ve said, “I’m never gonna do that again” … but did.
● every time we promised, “I’m gonna change” … but didn’t.
God, why would you speak to me?
For others, we have painful places in our lives that have been a struggle… Infertility,
struggling in your marriage, wanting to be married, hoping for some kind of healing for
you or someone you love but the suffering continues.
Or in a broader sense, we look around and continue to see so much injustice and
violence in our world…
And if we’re really honest, we wonder why God hasn’t intervened or maybe even blame
Him for what’s happening, and so we think…
God, why should I speak to you? Why pray? What’s the point?
Like you, I’ve walked along the road of my own life and I’ve experienced the many twists
and turns along that very broken road…
amazing mountain-top moments – and seasons of utter darkness…
and just like you, there are these questions that I’ve repeatedly dealt with in different
seasons of my life.
● (Trusting God) What if I have questions and doubts about God… and what if I’m
struggling with trusting Him?
What’s the point of praying when I’m not even sure I trust God?
● (Trusting Myself) What about all the times I’ve failed God before… not to mention
all of the times I will surely fail Him again?
Would God really want to hear from me?
I believe that this is the tension that we all live in, to some degree, but that’s what’s so
beautiful about being part of a community like ours… that wherever you are on your
journey with God… misfits like me… everyone with questions… with doubts and
skepticism… everyone who believes in God and anyone who isn’t sure yet… we all
have different connotations when we hear the word prayer.
● For some it seems silly, the thought of petitioning some invisible force.

● For others it seems dogmatic, like something we have to do in order to appease
a disgruntled God.
The truth is prayer is so much more than the boxes we have confined it to.
It’s an invitation into 2-way communication with the God of the universe.
Through prayer there’s an adventurous relationship we can step into.
Here’s our hope that you get from today if nothing else:
Prayer is simply communicating with a loving God who desires to speak to you
and loves to hear from you.

“What does God say about this issue?”

So, as we jump into this new series… I want to explore a little piece of this amazing
story of God and guy named Abram… and I want to see what we can learn about God’s
character and about trusting Him… and I want to see if maybe you and I can find our
place in this story as well.
First thing we need is a little context…
The history of God and Abram’s relationship begins back, pretty close to the beginning
of the Bible in the book of Genesis. 20 second recap- Adam and Eve disobey God and
sin and brokenness polite God’s good world but still he provides hope for humanity.
Genesis 6 there’s the flood to cleanse the world from this cosmic and human rebellion.
Genesis 11 there’s the Tower of Babel moment where humanity is trying to invoke God
to do their bidding like a genie in a bottle and God scatters them and changes their
languages. So we see a pattern here, with each rebellion whether by spiritual forces or
humans, God starts over. So when he calls Abram, it’s a blank slate. There’s possibly
no knowledge of Yahweh (the Hebrew God), so Abram didn’t grow up in church or have
any familiarity with God. But God calls him anyway.
And I hope that comforts you today. God is always in the business of starting over, even
when you least expect it.
We meet Abram in Gen11 and don’t really know much about him.
We learn a little bit about his family of origin… He’s in Ur that would later most likely be
Babylon. We can infer he’s probably following other gods of his family and culture. We
know that Abram has a wife named Sarai who was barren… so they had no children.
Then Gen12 begins with these words…
Genesis 12:1-4
The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s
household to the land I will show you.
‘I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; Genesis 12:1-4
God came to Abram in his native country, (Ur… later known as Babylon) and He tells
him to go… “I want you to leave everything that is familiar to you… and I want you go to
a land that I’ll reveal to you later”… and the reason I’ve called you to leave your country
is because I am going to give you offspring… enough to make a great nation.
But not only that… out of your descendants will come one through whom,
all the peoples of the world will be blessed.
Now friends, we gotta understand… Abram has no familiarity with Yahweh.
He basically looks at the caller ID… sees “unknown” …decides to pick up and rather
than hang up, He listens. Not only that, he obeys.
He is living in a time and culture where they worship many gods… that’s all Abram has
ever known and yet there’s something so compelling about Yahweh’s voice…
that Abram is moved to leave everything and follow him.
Sometimes we think this was a voice from the sky, but God would meet Abram in the
form of a person (theophany) speaking to him face-to-face (Genesis 12:7)
Prayer invites us into this kind of relationship.
This is so important for us to understand. When we pray or take time in the silence to
hear from God we are not whispering in the wind and hoping that God gets the
message. As our friend Tara Browder says, Prayer isn’t leaving a voicemail on God’s
answering machine. For anyone under 25, God doesn’t leave you on READ or screen
your call. NO!
When you pray the God of the universe pulls up a chair because He loves to hear from
his son, from his daughter. He meets with you face to face, even though you can’t see
him. He’s in that passenger seat, he’s at that kitchen table, he’s at that doctor’s
appointment, he’s at the school. He’s with you.
Now, as the story keeps moving forward some real tension and frustration are building
because, although God has made these promises to Abram… year after year after year
is passing… but Abram still doesn’t have any kids.
Genesis 15:1-3
After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’
But Abram said, ‘Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the
one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have
given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’
Do you ever find yourself having conversations with God where you’re like,
“Look God, I don’t know if you’ve noticed what’s going on… or if you’re aware of the
gravity of this situation…”

That’s pretty much what’s happening here.
Abram’s like, “God I still don’t have any kids… you promised to make me a great nation
but if I died today, some dude I’m not even related to would get all my stuff ”.
Genesis 15:4-6
Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is
your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at
the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So
shall your offspring be.’
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
There’s a couple really important things going on here…
1 st we’re told that…
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
It doesn’t say he believed “in” God… but that he believed Him.
Abram trusted God
Remember friends, it’s very possible… and far too common for people to believe in God
but to put absolutely no faith… or no trust in Him.
Abram trusted in the promises of God… and he ended up basing his entire life around
those promises.
But I also want you to see, Abram had questions and doubts
Some of y’all are like, “wait, which one is it… did he trust God or did he have doubts?”
A lot of us grew up in traditions that taught us, trusting God means moving forward
without questioning.
The Scriptures invite us into something very different…
See friend, I believe trusting God means moving forward with our questions and with
our doubts… it means moving forward without having all the answers and without
having all the information.
The opposite of faith is not doubt… the opposite of faith is sight.
… and so with all of his questions and doubts, Abram believed God.
He trusted Him… and God credited to him as righteousness.
If you keep following Abram’s story, everything came to pass just as God said it would.
God changes Abram’s name to Abraham (father of many) and is given a son named
Isaac who had Jacob… and out of them grew a great nation with a land of their own…
and through their descendants… centuries later… a man was born… through whom
all the peoples of the world will be blessed… and His name was Jesus.

Just like Abraham, Prayer invites us into a life of adventures and it sustains us in peace. See
prayer invites us into the reality God has before us. A reality beyond our doubts, beyond what
we can see, and beyond what we deem possible. Abraham is thinking “just give me a son” and
God is thinking every nation and generation for all of human History.
You and I get stuck thinking our words may not be working because we’re simply looking for X
to happen and God is thinking X to the 100th power. But we will never see what he sees
without stepping into the adventure and beauty that is prayer. And again,
Prayer is simply communicating with a loving God who desires to speak to you and
loves to hear from you.

“What should you do about this?”

Here’s what’s so interesting to me…

● People often highlight the faith and courage of Abraham to get up and
leave everything behind in response to God’s voice.
● You might think very highly of the disciples… these fishermen who
dropped their nets, the tax collector who left a slimy but very lucrative
career… these men & women who encountered Jesus and responded by
dropping everything to follow Him.
● Some of you might even be inspired by my story or the stories of others in
our community who’ve left very broken lives behind and said “Yes” to
Jesus… and our lives have been completely transformed.
… and I think highlighting those people & their stories is great!
I love living in community where we can inspire each other.
I love that we often see our reflections in the lives of Bible characters who’ve done
amazing things and have amazing stories.
But the hero of all these stories is God.
See friends, you can read the stories of Abraham, and the disciples… I can share my
story with you and I would love to hear yours…
but prayer is hearing from God and God hearing from you.
When you pray, you’re in conversation with the Hero of all our stories.
Don’t miss that!
No matter who you are… God wants to speak to you and He wants to hear from you.
Jeremiah 29:12-13
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
He desires to speak into your life… even if your life feels a lot like that opening song.
Jeremiah 33:2-3

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and
established it—the LORD is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you
great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
There is something so compelling about the voice of God…
It’s not an anxious voice of a telemarketer trying to sell you or scam you… it’s the voice
of peace trying to TRANSFORM you.

“How can we all live this out together?” 

Just like Abraham, Prayer invites us to “come as we are” into a life of adventures… and
in-the-midst of our questions and doubts it sustains us in peace.
Let’s be honest prayer for everyone can feel weird and overwhelming.
o Most of us if asked don’t have the prayer life we desire to.
o If this is new for you… it can feel like “where do I start?”
o For ALL of us at times we get stuck in the guilt of “I have to”, but payer is an “I
get to!”…
Maybe you don’t know where to start. And you’re wondering “do I pray to the
Universe… do I pray to these crystals, to the saints?” You can start by praying to the
God of the Bible, to JESUS.
John 10:27
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
Here’s a simple structure you can use, this is just a tool, not a religious prescription. It’s
one of hundreds of ways to pray, and it’s called A.C.T.S prayer slide
Imagine if we put this into practice each day, how different would our day look?
How different would our world look?
When you take intentional time with God, he directs you into an intentional way of living.
And just so you know the digging deeper is going to have a new section where as a church
we are going to pray together so that in all of our groups we can learn how to pray and practice
prayer together.
See this isn’t wishful thinking. This isn’t manifesting and speaking it into existince so the
universe can give you your every wish. Prayer is aligning you heart with God’s heart. It’s
knowing my dad always has time for me. My dad wants to hear about my ups and
downs. My dad loves me and always has my best interest at heart.
It’s living knowing the maker of heaven and earth, the creator of time and space is
always speaking and he’s always listening to me. And what happens is we begin to live
with more of his character in our daily lives. More of his peace, patience, goodness,
self-control, love, etc.

And just like a best friend or a spouse who you both take bits of each other’s
personality- all of a sudden the longer and deeper we communicate with God the more
of his charavcter we take on, the more of his personality shines through our own, the
more of his love for us and for others can’t help but break through.
Prayer is simply communicating with a loving God who desires to speak to you
and loves to hear from you.
So as we go in this last song would you be so bold as to pray whatever is on your heart,
and pray with confidence knowing that God hears you and He is working in you and on
your behalf.

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