TRANSCRIPTION | Sunday, January 31, 2021 | The Art of Paying Attention

 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Hebrews chapter number two, verse number one, “We must pay careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” It's a pretty powerful verse wouldn't you agree? I’m going to ask you to read it out loud with me ready began, even if you're there at home, maybe you could just speak this out loud, or in overflow, say this. “We must pay most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard so that we do not drift away.” I’m going to talk to you this morning about the art of paying attention.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Father, I thank you so much for the opportunity to preach the Word and to get to be a part of this incredible church, that so many loving, kind, generous people that want more of your presence in their lives. And God today I just pray that my preaching and my teaching would be equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit to minister in a way, God, that provokes each of us to take our next step in you whatever that might be, in Jesus’ name, this church said, amen.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

You know, when I was in the first grade, I had a teacher that when she would go through her daily roll call, she had a specific way that she required you to answer the calling of your name. You know, a lot of teachers might permit that when your name is called, you would simply say here, but this teacher, she required you to say present. Because she was of the opinion that you could be somewhere and not really be somewhere. You know, I think as we're navigating this current season, especially those of you who have kids who are participating online or have at some point participated online, you know, more so than ever, how challenging it is to get a child, especially, to be present. There's so many distractions, there's so many hindrances, and honestly, being present is not something that just children wrestle with or that students grapple with, but it's also something that every single one of us fight with. Can we really be present? 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

I heard the story of something that transpired on March 14, through May 31, of 2010. It went something like this. Imagine a 63 year old woman seated at a very modest chair, with a very small table in front of her. Her head is down. In walks a young man. He takes the empty seat. He's nervous. Anxiety is being released through the moving of his hands. He's fidgety and jumpy. The 63 year old woman then looks up at him, she locks eyes with him. Four minutes later, he's completely still. He's not moving. Tears begin to flow down his face. Tears begin to flow down the woman's face. And after these few moments, he then stands up, and a small smile drifts across his face as he walks away, realizing that he has been recognized by someone who chose to be present with him for just a few short minutes. The woman then once again bows her head, and a young lady walks in. And the process repeats itself. That transpired 1,541 times over the course of 736 hours during a three to four month period of time, in 2010. It was known as the Artist is Present. It was a controversial display of art where it was considered to be a protest against the lack of connection in our society. Of how that so often, we're not truly connecting, because we're not truly present. I was thinking about how that we’re given the privilege of partaking of the Lord's Supper. And that's something that we do every Wednesday night as a church during our online Bible study, very rarely do we not do that. And we allow people to improvise, whether it's just some juice and some crackers, or even if you choose to take one of the elements of communion home from the auditorium with you, or if you contacted our church office, we could give you elements of communion that you could have there at your house to participate. And I think about the Lord's supper and how that when were seated in a chair or at a table, and we're partaking in communion, and we're honoring the remembrance of our Lord's cross through the bread and through the cup, that there could be this question of is the Lord present, is his presence near? But I think maybe in the hour in which we live, the better question is, are we present? Like, are we really there, or is our mind somewhere else? Is our heart chasing some other thing? Are we wrestling in our soul with some other thing rather than engaging the presence of God? Look at this Hebrews chapter two, verse number one, “We must pay the most careful attention therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” When you think about paying attention, what the writer of Hebrews is telling us is that there is the chance to drift away. That even if you give your attention to something that can become so easy for a drift to transpire. I experienced that on the wrong side of things last Sunday, I was making my way to Campbellsville and I was coming down Highway 55. And there's the bridge that goes across Green River there and, I look up, and the guy in the other lane, he's drifting over. He's come across the yellow line, and I actually see that I'm losing any room to make it across that bridge. In fact, as I look back on it, I'm really not sure how he and I didn't wind up colliding, or I didn't hit the side of the bridge, or maybe even how I didn't want him upside down in the river. What I do know is that he was drifting. And when I tried to lock eyes with him to figure out like, does this guy realize that he's about to hit me head on, I noticed that he wasn't even looking at the road. He wasn't looking at me, he was looking off into the woods somewhere. Maybe it was a bird, like, maybe it was a deer. I don't know, maybe he saw the first bear in these parks for quite some time. I'm not sure what he had his eyes on. But he was not paying attention to the road. And because he was not paying attention, he was drifting. Maybe you have been driving down the road and you became distracted with your phone. And rather than paying attention to what you should have been, you were paying attention to something else. And when you came back to your senses you had…...You guys can act so wholly, sometimes on a Sunday morning.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Like some of you this morning, probably already you have struggled with things that have caused your attention to drift. Maybe even during worship, you've found your attention drifting. Maybe even since I've begun this message, there's been multiple times where that your attention drifted. There is a constant attack on your attention, especially if you try to give attention to the Lord. There was one author that said it this way, that attention is the beginning of devotion. Attention is the beginning of devotion. That you can't even start to be devoted to something unless you give it your attention. I want you to think with me about a passage of text in Genesis, chapter 28, it's verse number 16. And it says, “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Jacob is a man who in Scripture is listed as having had multiple significant opportunities to experience the presence of God. And there were many times where that Jacob made the most of those opportunities. But what we see in this particular instance, is that Jacob says, wait a second, I have been surrounded by the presence of God for an extended period of time, and I wasn't even aware of it. Like I wonder how many times in our lives that God is doing something, and we're not aware of it, because we limit the presence of God to a period of time that transpires on a Sunday morning, or a periodic Bible study. We don't realize that God is not limited to four walls, two by fours, and sheetrock. But the presence of God is anywhere if we will just choose to pay attention. You might find the presence of God in Walmart. You might find the presence of God driving down the side of the road. You might find the presence of God in your living room, or maybe even in that walk that you take through your yard every evening. The presence of God is available. But the problem is that we're not paying attention. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

When I hear the story of the Good Samaritan, I think about it tells us that there was this guy, and he was wounded. In fact, Scripture says he was half dead. Scripture says he was stripped. Scripture says that he had been robbed, he had been beaten. I mean, this guy is in pitiful shape. And Scripture points out that there were two people that passed by him, and they didn't do anything to help him. And the question becomes like, why did they not help him? Like, were they in a hurry? That's very possible. But I wonder maybe they were on their cell phones. Maybe they were late for work, maybe they just weren't paying attention. I don't know. All I know is they didn't stop. And the guy who got to participate in the miracle was the guy who was paying attention. That there is something going on on the side of the road right here that God is involved in, and if I will make myself so self available, I can be involved in it. And it will lead to one of the greatest testimonies I will have ever had in my life. Like how many testimonies do we miss because we're just not paying attention? That God starts to do something, God is doing something, and we're just not aware of it. One of my favorite quotes comes from a guy by the name of John Tyson. He said this, “when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to.” Let that sink in for a moment. “When we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to.” I wonder what are you paying attention to?

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

So many children that have parents who are too busy working to raise them. There’s teenagers left to care for themselves because parents are emotionally disengaged. Marriages that are little more than two lonely individuals living under the same roof, completely out of touch with one another. The reality is that the fabric of our relationships is unraveling at an alarming rate. And at the forefront of those struggling relationships is often our relationship with God. And sometimes I wonder if the things that we've been through as a society, the things that we are still facing as a culture, is it not possible that God is allowing us to hit the reset button? So, I get it that different people have different storylines on this thing, but many of us have thought and said, man, if I just had the time I would. And then we found ourselves all of the sudden, some not everyone, but some with the time. And I wonder, like, did it change what we were paying attention to? Or did we just kind of keep falling into the cycle of drifting away from maybe the things that matter the most? You know, if I could just give you just something that I found important in my study for this message, and I thought maybe I wouldn't share it. In fact, I have it crossed out in my notes. So, you're not supposed to get this part. Childhood neglect. Do you know neglect in childhood can create insurmountable obstacles to forming functional relationships in life. Here's the deal, if you feed babies, but you deprive them of meaningful relational connections, they will not grow as they should. They are scientifically proven to have lower body weights, experience more illness, and often develop a syndrome that's called failure to thrive, meaning that they are not thriving to their full physical potential. But the damage from a lack of connection can go even deeper. If you were to look at their brains on brain scans, as many researchers have, you'll see literal black holes, spaces where the neurons did not form, where neurological systems did not grow. And the physical hardwiring of their brains is incomplete. I mean, God designed humanity for true connection and for true relationship to the point that it determines how our children physically develop in their neurological systems. But beyond what we experienced with the children, I wonder, in our everyday lives, like is it possible that God is doing things or desires to do things, and he simply can't get us to pay attention long enough in order to participate in it. But we just talked about what we said with the Good Samaritan. But I want you to see this in the book of Exodus chapter three, verse four. It says that “When the Lord saw that, he turned aside to see.” So when the Lord saw that Moses turned aside to see, God called out to him and said, Moses, Moses, and he said, Here am I. So here's the storyline. If you're not familiar, Moses had had a number of God experiences in his life. In fact, he was saved not long after his childbirth, to be raised in the home of Pharaohs princes, so that someday God could fulfill a plan in his life. But even though he was miraculously saved from death as a child, as he grew in years, he made some bad decisions. He ultimately murdered someone, and he winds up hanging out on the backside of a desert. And you would think that after he has murdered someone, that his destiny is aborted, you would think that God is probably done with him, and God never intends to use him again. But what happens with Moses is he becomes a herder of sheep. And as he's tending to this flock of sheep, there comes this moment, one day, when he's passing by a place that he is probably passed by hundreds of times. Like this is a familiar spot to Moses. This is the spot where Moses has regularly bled these sheep by this specific pathway. But this time, when he goes by, there's something going on, that he's never noticed before. There is a bush, and the bush is on fire, and the bush is not being consumed. And what happened with moses is even though he knows he's got to get back to the tent at a certain time, he knows that suppers going to be served at a particular moment, he knows that he needs to make his rounds and keep his schedule, he realizes there is something going on here that is unusual. And I need to stop and begin to evaluate it. And what the Bible says is that when God saw that Moses turned aside, he called his name. God did not call his name until he saw that he turned aside. When Moses recognized, I believe that God is up to something in the earth, He stopped what he was doing, and he turned aside and then God released a calling in his life. Without that moment, the Hebrew people don't get delivered from slavery. Without that moment, Moses misses the calling of God. Without that moment, the story of the Old Testament doesn't go nearly as we know it to go. Without that moment, maybe we're not calling the name of Moses, maybe we're calling the name of some other guy. But because he turned aside. Like, I wonder, are there places in your life where that you need to turn aside? Maybe there's a place in your marriage where that you need to turn aside. Maybe there's a place with your kids, where you need to turn aside. A place in your work situation, where that you need to turn aside. A place in your community where that you need to turn aside. Is there a place in your church or in your small group, where that you need to turn aside and recognize, wait a second, God is up to something unusual, God is up to something uncommon, and I can't just keep my schedule today and pass by it like nothing is happening. Like I need to lean into this for a minute. And when you do, when you turn aside, you know, what I found, I found that almost every significant moment that I've been a part of with God is when I was with someone who turned aside, or I personally chose to turn aside. Every single moment with God that will have lasting significance will require you to turn aside and take a moment and lean into. I know I had my schedule. But God's up to something, and I can't ignore it today. Just look at somebody, or maybe in the comments. If you're in church online, just tell them turn aside.

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

But why is that important? Because we're talking about the art of paying attention. And I believe the best definition that I've ever heard of that is actually associated with the text that we just evaluated in the life of Moses, that turning aside and hearing God's voice, this is the art of paying attention. Turning aside and hearing God's voice, this is the art of paying attention. Like I wonder when you read the word, okay? Now I shared with you guys, that one of the things that's been great for our family is that we do a daily Bible reading plan together with the youversion Bible app. What we're doing this year, we're actually doing all 365 days of the year. And when we finish, we believe, you know, we're believing that our whole household, me, my teenagers, my wife, we will have all read through the Bible at the same pace together. But here's the thing, I've had the privilege by the grace of God to read the Bible through several times. And so I'm in this dialogue with my kids and my wife, and a lot of times the kids will ask me a question. And, you know, I'll provide an answer to the question in the discussion that's at the end of the daily reading, and, and I found myself just kind of, you know, just kind of just maneuvering through it quite quickly. And God used someone else to speak into my life. And this was the question, are you exploring the Word of God like a scuba diver, or like someone racing along on a jet ski? Not as profoundly spiritual as you were anticipating? Well it hit me. Have you ever noticed how that if you'll really pay attention to the Word of God, and you'll evaluate it, evaluate it like a scuba diver that goes deep into exploration, rather than just skimming along on the surface, as fast as you possibly can. Listen, if you will pay attention to God, you will discover that he's been paying attention to you all along. And the deeper you go, the more memorable the experience that you will have with the Lord. And so that's a word over my house right now is put up the jet ski, and let's go scuba diving. Let's go deep into the Word of God. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

You know, again, this definition, turning aside and hearing God's voice, this is the art of paying attention. How do we learn how to do this in our everyday life? Did you know that the word attention has its roots in the word attend. A doctor, he described it this way. He said, I am the person who is charged with checking in on every patient and making sure that they are receiving the best medical help available. That is, in some sense, what it means to live a life of presence. We’re commissioned by God to attend to those around us, or to check in on them, and care for them, and use whatever resources are at our disposal so that they can thrive. Imagine what your life would look like if you viewed yourself through this metaphor. We would do the rounds, going from person to person checking vital signs, listening to the patient's needs, and giving encouragement and help to those in our charge. Over time, it profoundly impacts the culture of our lives, in our experiences with God. So the next time that you're thinking about paying attention, think about the fact that there are people who are suffering in life, there are people that are spiritually sick, some of them are in your own home. Others of them are in your workplace. Others of them are in the cul-de-sac right down the street from you, and they just need somebody to make around and see if God's up to something and pay a little bit of attention. And give the opportunity for that person to move from just surviving to thriving. You know, there's a guy by the name of Neil Postman, and I haven't read the whole book. But I've heard that he has a book entitled, amusing ourselves to death. And in it, he talks about how that there is this overwhelming abundance of information, like, people just have so much information that we can't even hardly process at all. But even though we have all this information, we very rarely do anything with it. And so what he calls that is a low information to action ratio, we'll say it again, it is a low information to action ratio, he says, what it means is that we are all liars, low information to action ratio, that we go through our life. And we know all of these things. But yet we don't do anything about it. He said one way you could say it is that we know everything about with that which we can do nothing about and almost nothing about that which we can do everything about. So we can tell you what's going on in politics, we can tell you what's going on in sports, we can tell you what's going on with the weather in some instances. And we know all about it, when we can't do anything. I can't many times do anything about it. But yet for the person that's hurting, that we just walked by, for the person or home that's coming apart at the seams that we've ignored emotionally and their needs, the things that we can do something about, we don't know anything about. But the things we can't do anything about, we know everything about it. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

And so the challenge becomes, as they begin to play some music and we move into just the time of closing this thing out with prayer, that rather than being a liar. That I've got all this learned information, but I don't have any action. Maybe we should become true lovers. To love God and to love people. And here's a way you can think about that. The only way I can truly love somebody is I gotta pay attention. After all, paying attention is the beginning of devotion. So maybe what it means to be a lover is that I listen, I observe, I value, I encourage, and I respond. Instead of knowing everything about things with which I can do nothing. How about we begin to pay attention to the things that we actually can bring action and thereby wrought change. I think somebody needs to realize it's time to listen, observe, value, encourage, and respond. It's time to be a lover of God and people. 

 

Pastor Eric Gilbert

Father, I pray that you would move us out of this, this lifestyle that has become so hurried and become so rushed and become so busy that so more than any of that God, maybe even the better thing is just to pray that you would help move us out of this distracted, overly hindered approach to relationships starting with our relationship with you. And that God, we would begin to build our life on the holy moments. And that just like Moses turned aside when he realized something uncommon is happening, something unusual is happening, God is up to something, I need to lean into this room, that we would learn what it means to truly turn aside. At the same time, Father, God, I pray for those of us who, like we're going through life, and we feel that lack of connection, we sense God that there's some kind of a gap between us in meaningful connection, meaningful relationship. And Lord I pray that we would begin to bring change in our spheres of influence as we become lovers, those who will listen, observe, value, encourage and respond. And that God you would teach us how to love you and love people with a greater level of attention, even to the details of it. God, somebody needs to surrender their life to you today. And I pray God, that they will have the courage to do that right now. That without hesitation, they will see that God, you are in that chair, and you're waiting for somebody to take the empty seat. And God you want to look them right in the eye, and let them know that you see their sin. You see their depravity, you see their need, and you are there to do something about it as you focus upon making them a born again believer, a new creature in Christ Jesus. God, let somebody have the experience of salvation today. God somebody else, that it's just that it's a moment of rededication for them. It's not that you move God is that they move. And they're willing to admit that today as they take that empty seat and they say, God, I'm ready to focus upon my relationship with you, I'm ready to go all in. And God I want to be a lover of God and people. God, somebody else that's really going all in that like, like church is more than just a religious formality to them, like, they're ready to say I'm ready to be a follower of Jesus in the highways and the hedges. I'm ready for the Lord, to use me to listen, to observe, to value, to encourage, and to respond, to be a lover of God, and people. To turn aside from my schedule, my ambition, my plans, and lean into what you're doing in the earth. Lord Let it be done in the name of Jesus. This church said, amen and amen.