“Taking A Moral Inventory”
Making the Most of Transition
Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24
(quotes taken from the NKJV unless noted)
Wakelee Church ~ April 24, 2005
Theme: God can only help us when we are perfectly honest with him.
Introduction – Insomnia, Incomplete Repentance, and Honesty
Today, I’m going to ask you to do something that most people are not ready to do. (How’s that for a sermon starter!)
Today, relying on God’s power and because of our fee will choice to recommit our lives to Christ, we are going to be honest with ourselves and honest with one another.
In the midst of transition, we need to take an honest inventory of all the baggage we’re taking on this trip.
For some, that baggage may be clinical like those who struggle with their demons of depression, resentment, and fear.
For others, that baggage may be more practical like those who have difficulty setting limits driving up their stress load, ignoring their own personal needs, or forgetting their need to ask for and to give forgiveness.
And still for others, the baggage may be more emotional, like those who feel insecure, those who struggle with their guilt, or those who feel rejection and suffer with a low self-esteem.
This morning I’m asking each of us to take an inventory of that baggage we carry into this journey and to see what God would have us to do with it.
Illustration – The IRS letter…
It reminds me of the story of an IRS letter.
The unsigned letter with no return address came to the Internal Revenue Office about this time of year and it stated:
“Dear Sirs: I cannot sleep. When I filed my tax returns this year, I deliberately misrepresented my income. The guilt and shame I’m feeling is not allowing meto get the rest I need, so please accept this $150 in cash for taxes.
If I still cannot sleep…I’ll send you the rest!”
(taken from Illustrations Unlimited)
Today, God is asking for the whole thing up front. And if there is one thing I’ve learned in my thirty-some years, it is this…when we come before God and ourselves, it helps to be 100%. I invite you to join me as we take a moral inventory journey together.
I – God already knows…. (verses 1-3)
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me…and are acquainted with all my ways.” – Psalm 139:1,3b
The first step in taking a moral inventory is to understand that God already knows. The first few verses of this Psalm tell us this fact. All the stuff we’re holding back…all the stuff we think that no one else knows about…all the stuff that we think we can handle…God already knows.
In the midst of change and transition, we hinder ourselves when we continue to carry around this baggage as if no one cares but us. Some of you may remember the sermon I gave recently with the bag and the bricks. That Sunday we talked about our shadow side and the need to own that baggage…to bless that baggage…or to forgive that baggage.
If you remember, we ended that sermon together by emptying each brick from the bag…blessing and forgiving each one…until the bag was empty. And I remember that when I threw the empty bag into the air, a sense of Holy Spirit was present.
Whatever is holding you back this morning, please understand that if you don’t own it, you’ll just be carrying that load through your transitions over and over again. So, instead of finding healing and wholeness in your life, the bag just keeps filling up with bricks.
In order to empty that bag, we first need to realize that God already knows what’s in there.
In the midst of transition, we have to be honest with God, because he already knows what we’re going through.
II – We aren’t able to handle all that God knows about us…(verses 4-6)
“Such knowledge is to wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” – Psalm 139:6
The second step is to recognize that we aren’t able to handle it all…
Illustration - When my I first read this verse, my mind drifted back to the movie entitled, “A Few
Good Men” with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Tom’s role as Lt. Kaffee, a hot-shot attorney who comes to the defense of two servicemen, is at its height when he cross-examines Jessep (Jack’s part) on the witness stand. Do you remember the scene?
The exchange went something like this…
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls
have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don’t want the truth.
Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
The Psalmist told God that in the deepest parts of his soul he realizes that, “such knowledge is to wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.” And if we want the best out of our transitions, we need to come to some realization that we can’t handle all that God knows about us.
But we can ask him, and that’s where the third part of the equation comes in this morning.
III – There is only one who can lead us…
“Search me, O God, and know my heart…lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23a, 24b
When we get to the point, where we know that God already knows, and that God knows way more than us, then doesn’t it make sense that we turn and follow him?
There is only one who can lead us…and that One is Jesus Christ. With the Psalmist we can say, “Lord, search me…know me…lead me…”
If you’re trying to go through transition in any other way, you are just wasting your time!
We need to wake up! We need to wake up to the baggage we’re carrying. We need to wake up, realizing that wherever we carry that baggage that place becomes contaminated before we even get there. We need to wake up to the fact that we can carry that baggage no more.
This is time to be honest with God, honest with ourselves, and honest with others. If we continue to do transition as we’ve always done it, we will continue to get the same result...Amen?
This morning you can start that process by taking a moral inventory. When Christ does the leading, we can freely begin the process of putting that baggage to paper in a honest and heart felt way.
Conclusion – We have to make a honest, heart-felt, list…
“Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord…” – Lamentations 3:40
But before I explain exactly how I’m inviting you to do that this morning, let me share you one last story…
Illustration - At about 11 p.m. last night, one of our neighbors found themselves in the midst of
transition. This person, weighted down by a myriad of garbage, made the decision that downing 40 oz. of beer and a bunch of pills would make her transition easier.
As we traveled to the hospital, I noticed that there was a cross hanging from her neck, and it caused this pastor to pause.
There are so many people facing so many things in our world today. And I would be naïve at best to say that some of those people are not within the sound of my voice this morning.
My Bible tells me that we all are in need of what God freely offers. We all stumble and fall. There is no one here who has reached the perfection standard. There is not one of us who can honestly claim that they have it all together. But praise be to God, we can turn to the One who does!
Do you remember the story of Jeremiah? Jeremiah was dealing with a people in the midst of transition…God’s people in exile. His advice…take an inventory. Search out what went wrong, what didn’t work, what led us astray, and turn back to the Lord.
In the midst of transition, that is exactly what we need to do, but God can only help us when we are perfectly honest with him.
Homework – Taking A Moral Inventory
If you haven’t yet, I invite you to turn to your sermon handouts. On there you will see a category called “homework.” If you’re there, say Amen…thank you.
I’ve come to the conclusion that if God already knows, and that I’m unable to handle it all, and that only he can lead me…then honesty with God is probably the best policy.
This morning I invite you to take this homework home. Don’t set it someplace to accomplish later on in the week, but take it out as soon as you get home and have some quiet time with God.
The assignment is to fill in the blanks as to complete the statement…
“Below are the people that I have hurt intentionally or unintentionally resulting in strained relationships, the personal situations that I have hid from others instead of dealing with properly, and/or the “baggage” I have denied over my lifetime.
I realize the need to be honest and complete understanding that God already knows the situation, knows more about it than I, and is the only source I need to restore what I print below.”
[The handout had about 15 blanks to be filled in by each parishoner.]
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time to heal the baggage. The first step is to acknowledge its existence. That’s what I’m asking you to do. Better yet, I believe it’s what God is asking each of us to do.
Will you join me in prayer…
O God, you have searched us and known us…you are acquainted with all our ways. What you know about us is far beyond our ability to know ourselves. In the midst of transition, we turn to you know that only you can search us and know us, and lead us in the way of life everlasting.
This morning I pray that you will bless each heart here as they take their moral inventory. May they find themselves in complete communion with your Holy Spirit. May they feel your presence with them as they take this tremendous step forward.
In Christ’s name we pray…Amen.
Church Council Response
Our church council chair asked the congregation to help the church council in identifying people
whom we as a congregation may have hurt in the past. This will include persons who are no longer attending Wakelee Church, those currently attending Wakelee Church, and those outside of Wakelee Church. We don’t want anyone who may need an apology to be left out. (A basket will be placed on the altar for people to put the names of people they know into or they may send them to her by mail/email.)
Closing Hymn - #352 – It’s Me, It’s Me O Lord, Standing in the Need of Prayer
Closing Benediction -
As we leave this place…
May the Lord grant us his power and discernment in the midst of uncertainty,
May the Lord help us to be honest with ourselves, admitting we need the mercy and grace
that He alone provides,
May the Lord help us to forgive and be forgiven,
And to have a practice of humility and a sense of his priority,
So that we may say as we accept this transition that is before us,
May God’s will be done,
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…Amen.
Other Scriptures to consider:
I John 4:18
2 Corinthians 13:5-6