Jesus is our Center

September 8th, 2019

In our first Scripture reading (Mark 12:28-34a NLT), one of the teachers of religious law questioned Jesus, and Jesus shared with him the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Notice in the first commandment, Jesus uses the word “all”.  Not just part of your heart or soul or mind or strength, but all of it.  God needs to be first and foremost in our lives, of prime importance over everything else.  He should be involved in every decision and move we make.  Everything we do should be for his glory first, and secondly for the good of others.  There is a popular acronym among Christians for JOY.  Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last, and it is popular for a reason.  Real joy won’t be yours unless you indeed put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.

But you are probably wondering why I chose the verses I did for our second Scripture reading (Judges 6:36-40 NIV) and our third Scripture reading (Genesis 12:1-2,4-5a ESV).  What does Gideon asking for a sign, and God asking Abram to leave his country and settle in Canaan have to do with Jesus being our center?  Well, I have an interesting personal story to share with you this morning…

As you know, Ed and I recently took a 2-week vacation in which we travelled to the east coast and back.  Our last two days were spent at Ed’s favorite place in the whole world – Conneaut Lake in Pennsylvania.  Conneaut Lake Park is a small, old amusement park with a wicked wooden roller coaster that Ed loves to ride.  We stayed in a beautiful old hotel on Lake Conneaut that we have stayed in several other times as well.   But this time while we were there we did something else besides walk on the beach, ride the roller coaster, and have dinner in the Spirit Lounge of the hotel.  As we went for a walk around the area we saw a house for sale.  Well, actually we saw more than one.  Two that we walked past were in quite a state of disrepair, but then we walked past this large, but unassuming, gray house 2 blocks from the park, and one block from the lake.  It didn’t appear to be anything special, but looked like it was in good shape and on a double lot, with a large gravel parking area.  Ed looked at me, and believe me, I know that look.  Then he tells me he had actually seen that house advertised for sale on Zillow when he was on our computer at home before we even left for vacation.  I knew he had been thinking about maybe someday getting a vacation home out in Conneaut Lake, that perhaps we would even retire to eventually.  But here we were standing in front of this house with a ‘For Sale’ sign in the yard, and the reality of his dream hit me over the head.  “Should we actually call the realtor and ask if we could look at it?” I asked Ed.  Then he tells me that is totally up to me.  My decision…  My shoulders suddenly felt very heavy.  My first instinct was to pray, and pray hard.  Like Gideon, I asked God for a sign.  “Please Lord, show me what you want me to do.  Give me a sign.  I want to do your will.”  There is the “J” – Jesus first.  I knew Ed would be very happy coming to Conneaut Lake every year for vacation, and spending it in his own home.  And I also knew that the possibility of retiring to this home someday would help him get through the frustration of his job here by giving him something to look forward to in the future.  There is the “O” – Others second.  I was determined to watch for a sign from our Lord, and kept my eyes and ears open.  I hadn’t seen a street sign in the short block that this house was on, so when we were in our hotel room I used my phone to look up the house on Zillow.  I said to Ed, “It’s on Center Street”, and Ed responded with a smile and said, “The first street I ever lived on was Center Street, in Joliet!”  It was as if I could hear God say, “Is that a good enough sign for you?”  I silently responded, “OK Lord, we will call the realtor.”  And so we did.  We asked if there was any possible way we could see the house before Saturday morning, as we were leaving for home then.  She managed to squeeze us in at 2 p.m. on Friday.  I could hardly believe we were going to look at a house, when 2 weeks earlier all I thought we were going to do was leave for vacation the next day to have fun, and enjoy some rest and relaxation.  So we walked to this house from the hotel, and met the realtor outside the door.  I was totally unprepared for what happened next…  The realtor unlocked the door and we stepped inside.  The outside of the house gave no clue as to what we would find inside – a beautifully furnished and decorated 9-bedroom Victorian home in pristine condition!  Anyone that knows me knows I love everything Victorian.  A few days earlier in our trip, we had even toured the immense Victorian mansion in Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park in New York.  And there were more signs throughout the house…  Carousel statues and pictures (I love Carousels), a picture of a steam train (Tommy loves steam trains), and then by the stairs I spot a cross with a dove hanging on the wall -  just like on my church business cards.  But the best is yet to come… As I am trying to pick up my jaw off the floor, the realtor announces that everything in the home, with the exception of a few items stored in the basement, were included with the house.  I later said to Ed that just the furnishings, appliances, and extras in the house were probably worth as much as the remarkably low asking price for the house itself.  And so, by following the “Y” – Yourself last, God has actually blessed me more than I could have imagined.  I had sold the Victorian house I owned in Morris for 19 years to move to Braceville so I could serve God at Braceville United Methodist Church, and I have never once regretted it.  And by continuing to put God first, and my husband’s happiness above my own, God is giving me back what I sold for him, as well as making Ed’s dream a reality.  Like Abram, who obeyed God’s call to move from the land that he knew, to one in which he promised to bless him and his descendants, God wants us to travel to Pennsylvania, perhaps someday permanently, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will bless us for following His direction. 

A.W. Tozer once said, “As God is exalted to the right place in our lives, a thousand problems are solved all at once.” Yes, Jesus is, and always will be, our center - here, and on Center Street.  Amen.


"The Center of my Joy"  (Joy Gardner)

“Jesus at the Center” (Natashia Midori)