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February 5, 2023

Foundations Week 5: Kingdom Come

So, full transparency. I did not have the greatest of weeks, this week. I actually missed speaking last night, so the Saturday night service probably feels gypped. They can watch this, I guess, later. But pastors do not walk on water. Let me just make that very clear. But I think I have something that will speak to you. I think I have something that will speak to all of us, so I'm going to start by asking a question. Have you ever been in your car, or maybe walking along somewhere, or you're just sort of out and about — it could be at a farmer's market. I don't know where. It could be. A playground. It could be in a movie theater or wherever. For whatever reason, there was something inside. You saw somebody maybe on the side of the street, or maybe you walked past somebody, or maybe you were in the grocery store. I don't know. But you sort of felt like, “Hey, maybe I ought to do something nice for this person.”

I think all of us have probably had that moment in our lives. I would guess that some of us have fought the urge to help them. I don't want to make you feel guilty or something, like they died, you blew it, or something like that. No, that’s not what I'm doing. I'm just saying I think we've all had that moment where we felt like maybe we should do something, or we should act. I'm not saying that all of those moments were God moments. They could have been just for whatever reason. But I think all of us can relate, and I do believe that God does want us to be in a position, to be at a place, where when people are in need, or we sense that prompting to be something to someone, that's an important concept.

It was several years back that we did a series, and the series was called “Kingdom Come.” During that series, we passed out these bracelets that some of you all still may have. You may not have them. If you don't, if you threw it away, you don't need to feel guilty. You don't need to make your chair in altar, right now.

“Lord, I'm sorry for throwing that bracelet away.”

That's not my point. I've kept this on ever since. Every day I get up, I try to look at it and be mindful of the fact that when we talk about this principle, here at Grace, that we call “Kingdom Come,” which is a foundational element of who we are, as a church, the idea is that we believe that every moment is a potential heaven-meets-earth moment. We believe that anybody we come in contact with, anybody we talk to, wherever we may be, there's a potential moment for heaven meeting earth. So, I want to talk about that, this weekend, what that means, and what that looks like because the person that represented this whole idea of “heaven meets earth” more than anybody was Jesus because He was fully God and fully man. He was completely the representation of what it looks like when heaven meets earth. When we read the stories of Jesus, when we see the way that He interacted with people, when we see the way that He touched people, and the way that He treated people, there’s a catalog in the gospels of what heaven-meets-earth moments look like. That’s one of the ways we're supposed to pray. We’re supposed to pray that heaven would meet earth, that Your kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.

So, for all of us here, and it's sort of a foundational element of Grace, we want, when we're doing things outside of the church, when we're ministering to people — just so that you know, the Lord was just calling, saying that you all should listen in. This is a good message, so lean in. But when we do these great things outside of the church, it’s for that potential heaven-meets-earth moment.

Yesterday, I was getting some donuts. I don't know why anybody would stand in line for 45 minutes to get donuts, but I did yesterday. I guess if you've ever had a Peachey’s donut, you probably realize why it may be worth standing in line for. But I did. While I was there, I had a gentleman that rode up on a bike, and he was like, “Pastor Chip!”

If you could be me, it's like the last thing I ever want to be anywhere is Pastor Chip. I just want to be Chip. Just a dude in line, getting donuts, salivating like everybody else. I just want to be me. He came up and told me how he'd gone to a First Friday, and he had lost his keys. Somebody from the church said, “We'd be happy to drive you home to get your other keys to come back and get your car.”

He was blown away. He said, “Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to come to a church service.”

He told me, “Now I've been to a few church services. Man, this thing is changing my life. This is a great place and everything.”

See, that was a heaven -meets-earth moment. So, whoever you are that helped somebody go get their keys, you didn't just help them get keys. You helped them. That’s just awesome. So, what I want to do is I want to look at a passage of scripture where heaven meets earth, and I want to talk about it because it's a little unique. It's got some things in it that are super important. If there's one thing I could do, as your pastor, is if I could get you just a little interested in reading scripture, it would mean a lot to me. Because I know how we do. We get on those Bible reading plans, you’ve got the three chapters you’ve got to read out of the Old Testament, two out of the New Testament, and one out of the Psalms. Then you realize it's 9:50 at night, you've got 10 minutes to get through that thing, and you just do it to check it off. Has anybody ever done that? Okay, maybe not you all. The 11:30 service tells me they do it all the time. Okay? But you know what I'm talking about. So, what I want to do is I want to take a passage of scripture, I want to really look at it, and have it look at us. I hope that it will be as meaningful to you as I hope that it will be.

It comes out of Mark 3. It’s important to know, when you are reading the passage of scripture, what's gone on before because, a lot of times, there's congruency as to what's been going on before. So, at the end of Mark 2, we have a Sabbath dispute. The disciples and Jesus are going through a field, taking some stuff off, eating some stuff, and the Pharisees are there, saying, “You shouldn't be doing that. It's the Sabbath.”

So, there's this tension between the religious leaders and Jesus that is sort of brewing over early in the book of Mark. It's very early. Whether this is the same Sabbath day or it's another Sabbath day, we won't know for sure, but coming out of Mark 2 there's this dispute on the Sabbath, the Pharisees are watching and whatever, and then we hit Mark 3. We'll continue here.

It says, “Again entered the synagogue,”

On a Sabbath, as we’ll see. Maybe the same Sabbath, maybe not. We don't know, but He entered.

“…and a man was there with a withered hand.”

Now, as He goes in, this man with a withered hand, obviously, is probably known. He’s a man whose hand is immobilized, can't work properly, but he's there to learn. He's there, in church, in the synagogue, wanting to hear what God may do for him. And Jesus walks in, and we're told that there's a man there with a withered hand because this is a setup for the story that's going to unfold here. It’s a powerful story, and there's so much depth and complexity to the story. But He’s walked into the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand, and “they” — this “they” will eventually be fleshed out by the end of the passage here, in the story. It'll be the religious leaders. It’ll be the Pharisees. It’ll be the ones who were always in church, the ones who knew the Bible well. It says that they watched Jesus. They didn't watch Him to learn. They didn't watch Him to grow. They watched Him to see whether He would heal Him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse Him. These are the religious people. This is a heaven-meets-earth moment. This is a moment where Jesus has walked into the synagogue, they’re already not happy with Jesus, they’re already looking for things. I can tell you — and I don't mean this in a snarky way, and I don't mean this to give anybody a hard time, but we’ve just got to be honest here. We, as church folks, can sometimes be caught up in watching everything to find fault rather than seeing the importance of a person. If you don't believe that, in the last three years we've ran more people out of church in America than have ever been ran out of church because we have been negative in looking at stuff to jump on to make accusation.

Here’s the setup. The setup, here, is that in this moment, right here, in this moment of time where Jesus is in the synagogue and there's a man with a need, the religious people are looking to find fault. Maybe you've never been there in your life. I know I have. I know, at times, I've looked around and said, “I don't know why that person's here. I don’t know what they're doing. Why are they raising their hands? They need to be on their face before the Lord.”

I've done that. Maybe you've never done that before. I know I have. I know it's in my heart to be negative and to be critical. When I read these passages, they read me. They should read you. These are the religious people. These are the people who think they know. These are the people who say they have the keys to get you to where you need to go, spiritually. As Jesus is there, they're looking at Him to accuse Him.

So, Mark has set up, in just a very, very, very short couple of words, some very thick drama. There's a man with a need, there’s the God-man that can heal, and there are the religious people. How will they respond? Right here, heaven meets earth.

Then we're told, “And he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come here.’”

Now, what Jesus is doing, whether you want to embrace it or not, is setting up a confrontational moment with the religious people. He knows exactly what He’s doing. In a heaven-meets-earth moment, He knows that He is going to cut through the legalism that has bound the religious people, and He’s going to do something special for this man. This man doesn't necessarily know, when He says, “Come here,” what that means. It could mean he's going to be healed. It could mean that Jesus wants to say something about — we don't know. We don't know what he thought, but you can imagine if you're the man with the withered hand, and maybe you've heard that Jesus can heal, you know it’s the Sabbath, you know the people that are there all the time because Jesus isn't, these are the leaders of the synagogue. You’re sort of beholden to them. This is a really dramatic moment, one that could easily be dismissed through a casual reading. He says, “I want you to come here.”

He puts him right in the midst, and he says to them, the Pharisees, “Is it lawful? Tell me, you all who have the rules, you all who have all the positions…”

“‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’”

That should be the easiest question in the world to answer. These are the people that speak up about everything. These are the people that say, “We’re going to tell you the truth. We're going to be the ones that speak up.”

But in the moment where their rules and their understanding is challenged, when posed the question, a deep question, a profound question that we'll see as we get to the last verse of this passage, here's what happened.

“But they were silent.”

In the moment of speaking up to all the things that following God would be about, which is people, their legalism and their religion kept them from saying anything because they were so bound to their rules, to their thoughts, to their policies, or to whatever it may be.

“And he [Jesus] looked around at them with anger,”

You may say, “I never thought Jesus was angry.”

Well, let me read you Mark 3:5 for the first time in your life. Jesus was angry. You go, “Wow, I didn't know that.”

If you come to Grace long enough, you're going to get every passage of the Bible because I don't pick and choose the things that I pick and choose. We go through text, we read through this stuff, and we’re not scared of anything that's in the text. We're going to let it be what it is because that's just what we do. He was angry and grieved. I’m so glad that word's there because so many Christians are angry, but they don't have any grieving. If you're going to have righteous anger, you’d better grieve. He was grieved at their hardness of heart. They have their posture, they have their religion, they have their way, and Jesus comes on the scene. This is what He always does to you and me. The Word of God, what Jesus says to you and me, is piercing, it cuts, and it's so easy to say, “No,” and look, feel, and walk around religious. He was angry. He was grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Then He says something that's profound. This is sort of like a little moment in the text because the text is really about this moment, Jesus, religion, legalism, people, what matters, and what's important. But right in this little part, He says to the man:

“‘Stretch out your hand.’”

Yeah. I want you to look up here. If you haven't heard a thing I've said at this point, if you've been asleep or whatever else, just wake up. Give somebody a divine elbow, and tell them to stop snoring. They can go back to sleep after this. I want you to hear this because this is important. If I have a withered hand that's like this, what is the one thing that I cannot do? I can't stretch it out. That's an impossibility. He says, “I want you to stretch out your hand.”

I'm sure this guy is thinking, “This is impossible. There's no way that this could ever be restored. Jesus, You don't understand.”

His whole life, possibly, this guy has had this, or maybe it came at a later part in his life, but he's like, “You don't understand. This is something I carry.”

He says, “I want you to stretch out your hand.”

“He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

Listen to me. I want you to hear my heart, as your pastor. I know that whenever we gather, and those online, there's always someone that has something withered in their life. You are not here by accident. You're not here just because. I want you to hear that the power of God is great enough to take those things that are withered, that we thought were dead, and He is able to restore them and make them alive again. He still is in the miracle-working business, but sometimes you’ve got to be willing to stretch it out. So, his hand was restored. Now we know who the “they” are.

“The Pharisees went out and immediately…”

They didn’t take their time.

“…and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

How to get rid of Jesus. This is a deep passage. These are people that have gone to synagogue their whole lives. These are people that have prayed their whole lives. These are people who have read scripture, and memorized scripture, their whole lives, yet they're ready to kill Jesus because He healed somebody on the Sabbath.

I’ve got a few things that I want to just take as take-homes, some things to think about, some things that we can apply to our lives. It won't be exhausting the whole passage. There's a lot of stuff to take home here, but I want to exhaust a few things here that are important. The first one. Because we're talking about heaven-meets-earth moments, the first thing is when heaven meets earth, we start to recognize that even in the house of God, there are people who have tremendous needs that are often overlooked. It's easy. I'll personalize it for me so you don't have to personalize it. It's easy, at times, to be busy, to be doing things that you feel are good, ministry related, and sometimes fail to see the person who’s in need. It's easy to come to church every weekend, get your coffee on, greet people, meet your friends, make sure you get in to get the seats that you like, and you're mad when you can't get the seats that you like because somebody else got here before you — welcome to a growing church. There are no seats that are yours. I can assure you of that. They're all public seats. I get it. I've even had people go, “Can we buy some chairs?”

I'm like, “No, you can't buy some chairs.”

No. We don't sell chairs at Grace. We're not that church. We don't have the plaque on the back: “This seat brought to you by…”

Nothing against the churches that do. God bless them. That baby is agreeing. They're like, “Man, those churches, they shouldn't be selling those seats. Amen, Pastor Chip.”

Or maybe crying, saying, “I wanted my seat.”

Anyway, the point is that, so often — and do you know who gets overlooked the most, honestly? It grieves my heart. The people who have the withered hand, the ones who have some sort of disability or special need. We've not always done a very good job, as a church, with that community. We're trying here. We've not done it as good as we would like to do it, but we do have a special needs — there's a young man who comes here periodically, and every time I come out to greet people, he sees me, he runs towards me, hugs me, and it's like, man, those are the greatest moments, as a pastor, to connect with someone like that. So often, when we come to church, we're just not connecting with the ones who are desperate.

I've had people say to me, “Hey, I'm talking to you about my dog that died, and you look like you're looking to the left or right.”

I'm like, “I'm totally interested in your dog that died, but I'm actually more concerned about somebody walking out who’s slouched over and whatever. I want to go grab them and tell them that they matter.”

I want you to hear me here. If you're here today, and you feel like nobody cares about you, nobody loves you, and nobody wants to have anything to do with you, can I tell you, as the pastor of this church, that you come meet me after there, and I will give you a hug. I will tell you that you matter because I want to make sure, at Grace, that there is nobody who ever walks in here who comes in, sits down, leaves, and doesn't feel like somebody cared about them. Because right here in the house of God, there's a man with a withered hand in need. So often, we pass up the hurting, the disabled, the needy, and those in tremendous need who are right in our midst because we're busy, we're preoccupied, and we’ve got other things going on. I would just challenge every single one of you who calls Grace home to please, please notice a person sitting down in a chair who’s looking down at the ground. Notice someone who’s pacing. Just be aware because that might be the most important moment ever. If you're here right now, or if you're online, and you're wondering if anybody cares or anybody loves you or whatever, please hear my heart. We do, as a church, but there's someone who loves you more than you could ever imagine, and His name is Jesus.

He came for you, and He died for you, because He cares about you. I want to be a church that anybody who walks in here, we're not looking to accuse, we're not looking to judge, and we’re not looking — listen, I get it. I get people, all the time, saying, “You know, you’ve got these young kids up here, and they're jumping up and down.”

Let me tell you something. I'd rather them jump up and down here on stage than be jumping at the club.

“I don't like their pants.”

I don't either, but it doesn't — what are you going to do? Do you want to run them out? They don't like my pants either. I mean, at some point, you’ve got to figure out what's more important. Is it more important that we get to judge and tell everybody how right we are, or is it more important to make sure that people know that they matter and they're valued?

Second: When heaven meets earth, legalism is exposed. Whenever Jesus shows up, you can see it. When He shows up, the religious people don't like it.

“That's too much. You shouldn’t have done that. That wasn’t the right time and place.”

Read the passage. Let it read us. I want you to see, here, how Mark lays it out. They watched Jesus so that they might accuse Him. Be honest with yourself. Have you ever looked at anybody up on platform, or somebody greeting, or somebody serving, or whatever else, and looked at them with that critical lens? What's really bad is when, with the critical lens, we start to believe that that's God who's given us the critical lens. There is a danger when that happens.

He said to them. See? This passage is about these people. It's about Jesus. It's about heaven meets earth. It's about the withered hand, but Mark is absolutely wanting us to see what's going on here. But they were silent. He looked around at them, grieved at their. Their hardness of heart. See, when heaven meets earth, God moves, and God does things, it starts to expose here.

The last thing. Some of you all like to take pictures to remember stuff. This is one, if you do take pictures, to remember, go back and look at. If you want to, you could just get a full-length back tattoo of this one. I’m joking. But if you did, I’d probably think it was cool. I'm just kidding. Anyway, this is one, here, is that when heaven meets earth, we clearly see that our relationship with God has gone wrong when being right is more important than people. We live in a day and age where a lot of Christians want to be right.

“I'm going to speak to the truth.”

No problem. It’s funny to me. People say, “Pastor Chip, we need you to speak the truth more.”

It's like, “Hold on for a second. Every single week I go through a large passage of scripture. Please don't accuse me of picking and choosing stuff.”

I mean, I'm totally open to whatever scripture says. It's just that the deal is you want me to be harping on that one subject that you want to hear over and over again, and I'm here to tell you something. I ain't here to harp on a particular subject over and over again. I'm here to lift up Jesus to make sure people get ahold of Jesus in a right way so that they grow, connect, and they become mature Christians.

It’s so true. We can be so right and be so wrong. They couldn't even answer this question. The person didn't matter. They knew if they answered the question, it would blow everything apart. How many times, in our lives, are we — it’s like we can't say, “Yes, that person matters. Yes, they're significant. Yes, God cares about them.”

“I have to be right.”

How many times are we like that? Notice that they were silent. They didn't speak up. They'd speak up for their position, but they wouldn't speak up for that person. I’m here to tell you that when the Church of Jesus Christ in America decides to start speaking up for those who are withered, those who are on the margins, those who are unloved, those who are accused by the religious — when we start to value people, that is when a revival will take place.

This is important. The Pharisees went out and held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him, how to kill Him. The reason they couldn't answer the question, “Is it okay to do harm and kill on the Sabbath?” is because that's really where their heart was. They wanted to kill Jesus. Listen to me and listen to me well. I've said this a million different ways, a million different times, but our vertical relationship with God is most clearly seen in our horizontal relationship with people. Do you want to know how well you're doing. How can you love God whom you can't see if you can't love your brother whom you can? I usually say it another way: It's really difficult to be right with God and wrong with people.

This is the essence of what we believe. We believe, at Grace, that there is an opportunity for heaven to meet earth. When heaven meets earth, do you know what happens? People's lives are changed because do you know who God cares about? He cares about people. He cares about you. He cares about me. I want you to take that in. I want you to process that. I want us to be a church that really does go all-in. I want, in everything that we do, us to be that church, but I want to end here a little differently because I know this. I know that in a group this large, especially with those online, there are people here, right now, who feel like you have areas in your life that are withered. Can I tell you something? God is still in the miracle business. He is still in the restoration business. He still is God. He still is sovereign. He still can do it. Maybe, right now, what you need to do is to stretch forth your hand.

We're going to sing a song. It talks about when we stretch forth our hands. Sometimes all we have — we don't have the words, we don't have anything. Sometimes all we have is to just say, “God, I praise You. God, I lift up my hands to You, and ask You.”

I can't promise you that your hand's going to be restored right now. I can't promise you that things are going to be different right this second. But what I can tell you is that I do believe that God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think, and maybe today is the start of that process where you look back, at some point, and you see that He did something great. Or maybe this is the day that you walk out of here leaping and rejoicing that God did something great for you.

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