Linking to his previous sermon, the new minister at the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake explained that his life
“…all fell apart during my divorce and I ended up in ‘General Hospital.'”
“So many people wonder why a good and loving God seems indifferent when we are drowning in our mistakes and the painful circumstances of our lives.
“But you know, a drowning person tends to grab onto the one trying to help them, and thus take both people down. So a life guard (or should I say life-saver?) will stay far enough away so that the drowning person cannot grab them.
“The lifeguard waits patiently until the drowning person finally quit flailing. At that point the drowning person is pliable. They won’t work against the life saver; that’s when the life saver moves in to help.
“That’s why God lets us fall on our faces, wallow in our guilt, drown in our sin, compound our mistakes … or at least that’s what God did in my case.
“I had to surrender my life to Christ before God could get me out of General Hospital.
“While I’m still tempted to take back control of my life, I learned my lesson and daily I resubmit my day-planner to Christ.
“When I did that, Jesus promised to send me the abundance he promised; and Jesus has kept his promise! Though I have to say that his abundance comes when I least expect it, and is packaged in ways that I barely recognize the gift or the sender.“
Bulmer told how he and his current wife, also a Methodist minister, got together.
They had worked together on conference youth work early in their careers.
“My life is in the toilet. I’m getting divorced,” Bullmer told her as he dropped in see her after visiting patients at a Joliet hospital
“Sharon got a shocked look on her face. ‘Oh … I have to sit down.’”
Get ready for another God story, as the sermon continues:
“Some time after the engagement, Sharon said to me,
‘Do you remember the day you came into my office and told me you were getting divorced, and I say “Oh, I have to sit down”?
‘Yes, I remembered. “Well, let me tell you what was really going on.
“When God called me into ministry I told God I would do that … on the condition that God find me a husband.
“My first appointment was Wyanet, Illinois. And while Wyanet was a great place to begin in ministry, it was a lousy place for husband-hunting.
“So after five years I told God, ‘Look! I’ve kept my end of the bargain; I’m serving your church. It’s time for you to keep your end of the bargain. There’s nobody in Wyanet I want to marry; so move me to a city where the pickings are better … and find me a husband!’ And that’s how I came to Aurora.
“When you said, ‘I’m getting divorced,’ God said to me, “This is the man you’re going to marry.”
“And that’s why I said, ‘Oh, I have to sit down.’ Because I’m thinking, ‘Why do I want to marry him? I don’t even love him!’”
“I guess I grew on her.”
They’ve been married 21 years.
“But all the blessings I’m receiving just run through me like water through a sieve,” Bullmer continued, “and my spirit is bone dry.
“God has stopped talking to me, and I feel very alone. Child rearing is hard—we are not the happily blended Brady Bunch. Heck, we aren’t even The Simpsons!”
“Church work was hard, frustrating, and largely fruitless…I was so frustrated … because I knew we weren’t the church that Jesus wanted us to be; and I didn’t know how to stop the holy discontent from gnawing at my soul…I was at a spiritual impasse.”
“That’s where I was. Stuck—for seventeen years. I couldn’t go forward, but I knew God had a calling and a claim on my life, so I couldn’t go back.”
“Maybe that’s why Isaiah says next, ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.’
“The past will never get you to the future … because it’s the wrong direction. Trying to recreate the past is like getting a transfusion of formaldehyde.”
What pulled Bullmer out of his “underachieving” was teaching a 34-week course the Methodist Church calls Disciple I. Half an hour of Bible reading a day, then, a 2½ hour class. (Courses are starting now at our church.)
“After about four weeks people started to say, ‘Two and a half hours is not enough time! Can’t we meet longer?’
“Because finally they were in a Bible study where their questions were honored and answered; not spoon-fed pat answers.
“The goal of Disciple Bible study is transformation, not just information.
“I had never led a Bible study like that! I could feel the transformation happening inside of me; and I could see it happening to other people. Lights were coming on in our eyes. The Holy Spirit was working in our hearts…
“Disciple Bible study was the “new thing” God did in my life; it was the stream in the desert that watered and nourished my soul and got me through my spiritual impasse.”
Tomorrow – Guiding Light
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Services at the First United Methodist Church (at the corner of West Crystal Lake Avenue and Dole, both of which intersect with Route 14 at a stop light) are 5 PM on Saturday and 8 AM, 9:30 AM and 11 AM. The 9:30 service is the most traditional. The 11 o’clock one is the most contemporary.