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April 2, 2023

Just Take the Next Step: Week 4

Creating A Safe Place

Just Take The Next Step | Week 4

I’ve got one real quick thing here that I want to do because, inevitably, somebody always says, “I didn't know.”

We do our best, but sometimes communication is difficult. This Wednesday evening, at 6:30 PM, we are having an Easter production from the creative team and music team. It’s going to be spectacular. It's Wednesday at 6:30 PM. You should be here. If you want to go to heaven, Wednesday at 6:30 PM. Okay? Our Good Friday services will be at 4:00 and 6:00 PM We're trying not to duplicate Christmas Eve around here again, because that was crazy. Okay? So Good Friday services are 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Let me just say, as your pastor, that I do not believe that Easter can be understood without Good Friday. Without the suffering, there is no glory, and there is no glory without suffering. So, I would challenge you to be here from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM on Good Friday of this week. Then we have — wow, I’ve got to speak — that's a lot of times, man.

So, Saturday, Easter service 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Don’t be confused. Friday is Good Friday at 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM, Saturday is 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM Easter, and then Sunday is 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:15 AM, 11:30 AM, and a partridge in a pear tree. Anyway, I hope that you all can be there. Let me just say that of all the times that you can invite somebody to come to church, there are two that stand out more than. Christmas and Easter. Easter is the one. There are a lot of CEOs out there. Christmas and Easter Only. They will come, if you ask them, on Easter. You should bring them. So, I want you to do that, and I think we're going to have an incredible Easter service. Just please understand something. It’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be packed, it's going to be difficult. This is a great time, when you're not getting your parking spot, and you’ve got to park further than you do, to smile and radiate the joy of the Lord. Do you know what I'm saying? Rather than getting all upset and honking horns.

So, we're going to do that. It's going to be great, it's going to be fantastic, and I think we're going to have a wonderful Easter season. But I want to get us prepared for what's going on, and I really feel like I have a message that is one of those messages that I feel like, “Hey, this really is a message for right now and for us.”

So, let me ask you a question. Have you ever been — and you probably have. If you're not, God bless you. But you probably have bought a puzzle, at some point. When you went to put that puzzle together — and this is assuming that the puzzle is actually the puzzle. I'm not talking about one that's been six years in the closet, that the kids have dumped eight other puzzles into it, and you never can make it work. But you bought a puzzle, you put it out, and you started trying to put it together. You know that the pieces are there that work, and you know that the box is there. You can see the box, you start putting it together, and for whatever reason, the pieces just don't really seem to be working, at that time. Something's not right, and it's frustrating because you know the puzzle can be put together, but for whatever reason, it's just not working, the pieces aren't working, and you can't figure out what's going on. It’s frustrating.

It’s frustrating because you know that it should work, and it should go together, but for whatever reason, it's not. Or maybe you have bought something, at some time, like at Ikea, where you have to put it together. It’s okay. If you're a huge Ikea fan, that's great. I'm not because everything I put together is a disaster. In fact, often at Christmas time, Mindy's like, “Please, Chip, whatever you do, just pay to have somebody put it together because it's just not fun watching you put it together because there are like eight things that are still on the ground when you've built this thing, and those eight pieces are supposed to be a part of what's going on. Why do you never open the directions?”

Anyway, if you’ve ever tried to put something together, and you know that it goes together, or at least you feel like it goes together, and it doesn't, we all know that frustration because it's like it's supposed to work and it doesn't. Now, that's just at one level, but when you go up a level in life, it becomes a lot more significant where we talk about the difficulties of life, the trials of life, the sufferings of life, the pains of life. All of us know that there are times in our lives, whether it was that we lost a business, we lost a loved one, maybe we lost a marriage, we lost a spouse, we went through a divorce, we went through a problem, we went through bankruptcy, somebody did us wrong, or there was a problem at church, it's like something inside says to all of us, “That's not the way it's supposed to be,” but it is. And it becomes more than frustrating. It becomes something that is visceral on the inside of you and me, where we're like, “I can't believe this has happened.”

It can be things that scar us and wound us for life. Many people carry those scars and wounds because of things that have happened in their life. Being someone who is a pastor, and someone who has studied theology, I will tell you that Christianity gives the best explanation for the world in which we experience because Christianity says, “Hey, the world that we live in was not originally created to be the way it is right now.”

We carry in us — although it's marred, and although it's broken and shattered, there's still that thumbprint of God on the inside of you and me that says, “This isn't right.”

There's something not right about pain and suffering, and Christianity says, “You’re right because that's not the way God created the world, but the world has fallen, and it's what the world is now.”

Christianity embraces that, that there will be suffering, there will be trials, and there will be tribulations. But Christianity also says that, one day, God will come back, and He will put it all back together the way that it should be. So, Christianity answers those questions. It doesn't always give us exactly all the answers that we want, but it gives us something to hold onto, and something to believe in.

Why do I say all that? Because I'm convinced that as we live in a world that is tumultuous, as we see the trials, tribulations, pains, and sufferings that go on in, and many people are seeing things in ways, maybe, that they never thought they would see things, and so on and so forth, the question becomes, “What does Scripture have to say about this? How do we address the difficulties and problems?”

Because some of you — and you know this. Maybe you were a part of a church, at one point, and at that church, somebody said something to you, or something happened in a small group, or you felt like maybe somebody looked over you or whatever, and you got hurt because you're like, “This is not the way church should be. This is not the way the people of God should be,” but it was. Then you sort of pull away, and many of us can relate to that where we’ve sort of walked away, in many ways, from God. We got frustrated because it was like we knew this is the way it should be, but it isn't.

How do we deal with that? How does that work in Christianity? How does that work for you and me? We’re in this series, “Taking the Next Step,” and I want to go somewhere with you, this weekend, that I think is profound. So, what I want to do is I want to tell you that the way God has put things together, He has put it together, that life, the difficulties, the complexities, the problems, we're supposed to be doing it together. And we live in a culture that really talks about the radical, individual parts of you and me. Because we get so individualistic, we try to handle these problems, do these things, and whatever else. Let’s be honest. If we look around, there are people who want to take some things to help medicate, or whatever — I'm not against medicine at all, but you try to alleviate things. There are self-help books, there is counseling, there are all these things, and none of those things are necessarily bad, but if we were being honest, how well has that really helped?

Maybe there's something more. Maybe there's something else that, maybe, as Christians, we’re just not focusing on. What I would tell you is that all throughout all these books in the Bible are these letters in the New Testament called epistles. These epistles are written to tell you and me how important what we do here actually is. More than just going, “I went to church this weekend. That’s great.”

And then you go do things. Actually, the body of Christ is massively important. So, what I want to do is I want to go to a book in the New Testament, and the book is written by James, who is the brother of Jesus. The book of James is an interesting book because there are some people who don't like James. They just don't like him. In fact, Martin Luther, the great reformer, didn't like James at all, in any way, shape, or form. What I found in life is that people who have a real high sense of grace, a real high sense of “only God could save me,” and “only God could do this,” — and all those things are true, but the more they sort of marinate on that, the more it’s like, “I don't really like that book because it talks about doing these things, all this stuff, and faith without works is dead, but I believe faith alone is..”

Then you got people on the other side that are like, “No, man. When God saved me, man, He filled me with His Spirit, and I'm supposed to do good works. I'm supposed to bear good fruit. James is the greatest book in the New Testament.”

So, there's always this, but I want to try to go there. I can't tell you the whole book. I don't have time. I'd love to tell you the whole book, but I want to give you a couple little things to think about, and then I want to go to a couple of passages that might just be something that radically transforms all of us. It will, at the very least, get us thinking about what we want to look like, next weekend.

So, James is writing to Christians that have been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. In their being scattered throughout the Roman Empire, what they're finding is that the only place to get jobs is on what we would call large land properties. It's an agrarian society. Wealthy landowners owned land, and you could work for them. Well, in working for these wealthy landowners, what they're finding is that many of them are not getting paid fairly. Many of them are not getting paid at all, and it creates some real issues. Poverty. No food. Difficulty. And if they complain, they're finding themselves being thrown in prison because the judicial system in the first century was weighted way, way, way towards the people who had land. Or they were actually being killed. In the book of James, you can read these things. You can see. If you read it, you'll see that this is going on, especially James 5. It says, “Come and weep, those of you all who are the wealthy landowners, because God's going to judge you. You didn't pay wages. You didn't do this. You've killed people.”

It’s in the book. So, James is writing to Christians who are going through difficult and challenging times. Massively challenging times.

In the third verse of this epistle, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials,”

Most of us read that and go, “Man, I don't know how that works.”

Well, if you're James readers, it's really a difficult verse to look at. Why is he saying that? What's he doing when he writes this epistle? What he's doing is he’s saying, “There's a place where suffering and difficulty should take place. There’s help, there's support, and it's in the local church.”

But James, like every other New Testament writer of these letters, is saying, “Hey, time out, you guys. The way you're doing what you're doing is not going to be what you need it to be.”

In James 2, he says, “Hey, you can't bring the people who are wealthy up front and push the poor people in the back in their church services because God doesn't respect people like that. That's not the way He does it.”

In fact, in James 3:1, he says, “Let not many of you become teachers for you know incur the stricter judgment.”

He talks about the tongue not of the believer, but the tongue of the teacher. He says, “The tongue of the teacher can set the whole body on fire,” which is the Church. He says, “You’ve got teachers that are teaching you things that they really shouldn't be teaching you.”

In James 4, he says, “You guys, emotionally, are getting so involved and wrapped up in what's going on that you're even willing to go out and kill to get what you want.”

In James 5, he says, “You’ve got to learn to be patient. You’ve got to learn that God is going to be the one who does what He says He will do, and we're to be reflecting Jesus while we live.”

So, he's put this whole thing together, people going through difficulty, people going through suffering, and I want to pick a few verses at the very end of this epistle so you’ll walk away going, “Man, I've never seen this this like. This is — wow.”

That’s fine. That’s why we gather and do what we do. It's why we read Scripture together, so that we can go, “Wow, this is really awesome. I didn't see that in my own personal reading, but this is really cool.”

We do that so that when you do go back home and read, you read it differently because we want to encourage, instruct, and equip the saints of God here, at Grace, to be able to live a life that reflects Christ. In the midst of whatever the world may throw you, we want to look like Jesus. We want to be those intentional neighbors. So, let's get into the text, and I want you to really lean in here because, I'm telling you, this is profound stuff. If you've ever had suffering, if you've ever had difficulty, if you carry wounds, if you carry scars, all of those things — which most of us go, “Yes, that's me,” — lean in here because this is going to be important.

He says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

Now, James has just taken the totality of life, the hills and the valleys — if you've been to the theater, you've seen the two masks, comedy and tragedy. He's just sort of taken all of life and put it together. But if you've read this before, maybe you didn't even pay much attention to that, and you moved on. That’s totally okay, but there's so much here, and we need to pay attention. First of all, he says, “Is anyone among you…”

“Anyone” is singular in the original language, but the “you” is plural. For James, James cannot envision that any believer would not be in a local fellowship where if they were suffering, if they were cheerful, or whatever was going on in their life, there wouldn't be brothers and sisters who were aware and a part of that. Let’s be honest, most Christians don't really have those types of people in their lives.

Several years back, me and Mindy were watching Dr. Charles Stanley, one night. We got on the couch. It's sort of hard. When you're a pastor, the last thing your wife really, probably, wants to do is go, “Yeah, let's listen to somebody else preach.”

You know? We’ve heard enough around the house. Can we watch something fun? American Ninja Warrior or something, or whatever. I’m like, “That’s what I do Monday through Friday, American Ninja Warrior, as a pastor.”

You know? But that being said, he was saying that if you have one person that you can call at night, at three o'clock in the morning, and they would actually get up and come see you because they'd care more about you than anything else, you’re fortunate. If you have two, you're in the top 3% of everybody. To James, he can't envision that you wouldn't have people in your life. He says, “Is anyone among you suffering?”

When you're suffering, where does suffering take place? In the local church. You're dealing with these issues in the local church. I’m not saying you can't deal with stuff on your own, I’m not saying that there are not times and places where you do things as an individual, but for James, he sees what we do here as important.

He says, “Is anyone among you suffering?”

Is that the case? He says, “Well, here's what they should do: They should pray.”

Now, for you and me, when we're suffering, most of us, let's be honest, try to figure out how to get out of it. We try to figure out what we can do to move things around. We try to figure out how we can position. I’m not saying any of those are wrong, but James says, “Hey, when you're suffering, the place to come is the local assembly of believers, and to pray.”

The idea of praying here is that other people and you are praying together. I just wonder — I'm kindly throwing this out here. I wonder how many of us go through life and have never allowed ourselves to be vulnerable enough to say, “Hey, I'm going through these situations. I really could use your prayers. I really could use getting together with you, us talking and praying, and getting ahold of God.”

This is what James says. He goes, “Pray. Is anyone cheerful?”

In other words, in the local assembly, is anybody having a really great week? He says, “Well, sing praise.”

Not individually but sing praise as a corporate group. All of these things are sort of intertwined with one another. He's taking the whole expansive life, the mountaintop and the valley, and he says, “Where those things should be worked out is in the local fellowship of believers.”

I'm saying that because I wonder if we are missing something in our lives by not realizing how important this actually is. It's vital. Let’s continue on because there's so much more to say here.

He says, “Is anyone among you sick?”

He’s envisioning someone that has a terminal sickness. Not just a sick person in general, but they're terminal. The probability is that their sickness is going to lead to their death.

He says, “Is anyone among you sick?”

So, he's got suffering, he's got cheerfulness, and now he's got sickness where you're facing death. This is like all of life.

He says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church,”

This is important. I want you to hear me here because this is the way it works. So, somebody will get sick, and we don't know. Then they're frustrated that we don't know. Okay? Biblically speaking, if you want to know something, when you're sick, you should be calling for the elders of the church. It shows faith on your part, and it also shows that James doesn't envision that anybody would not be a part of a local assembly of believers where they couldn't ask for the elders of the church to come pray.

He says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

Very specific. Very rarely do we have people call — and I’d bet most churches in America don't — where somebody's sick, really sick, and says, “Can the elders come, pray for me, and anoint me with oil?“

We say we're people that believe in the Bible, but yet, when we read it, we go, “Yeah, we really don't do any of these things.”

Which is interesting, isn't it? Because this is what it says. Look at what it says here.

“And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.”

Obviously, this is thinking about the fact that he will be saved, everything will be good, and he’ll be raised up on the last day. It can include the fact that he could be raised up in this world, but the weight of it is on the fact that one day we will be resurrected, and if he's committed sins, he will be forgiven. This is all important here, what's going on.

then he says this: “Therefore,”

So, he just laid it out. You guys are going through suffering, you're going through problems, you're going through pain, you're going through famine, you're going through all kinds of issues because it's really a bad time when James writes to the people that he's writing to. He says, “Based on what I just told you, based on the fact that if you're suffering, if you're cheerful, if you're sick, I’m trying to help you to understand how important what we do is, and how important the church is to the local people.”

He says, “Therefore,”

So, this is the power moment of what he said.

“Therefore, confess your sins one to another and pray for one another,” — listen — “that you [plural; the Church] may be healed.”

He's envisioning a place where all of us can come, all of us can be vulnerable, all of us can share our faults, all of us can share our weaknesses, and rather than being gossiped about, ridiculed, told that we're not spiritual enough, we have a place where we can come and share who we really are because all of us are frail, all of us have parts that we don't want anybody to see. James envisions that this would be the place where you could come and say, “Let me share with you some of the things I'm struggling with, and let me share some of the things that I've done lately that I shouldn't have done,” and that people would rally around you. Where you can come in and go, “I’m really struggling. I’ve got a problem with this.”

And somebody goes, “Man, me too.”

And somebody else goes, “And me too. Do you know what? Let me share some things that I went through. Really share. Tell me what you did. How did this work?”

Rather than being ostracized, judged, and criticized, which we do a really good job at, as Christians, we should be the place where the broken can come and find healing because the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it's working. So, let's take this, and let's unwind a couple of points here that I want us to really think about. I want it to be profound for us.

First of all, James sees our difficulties and sufferings in life primarily being worked through in a local assembly of believers. I don't know if the average American Christian thinks that their difficulties, their problems, their sufferings, and their pains — where do you go to work them out? Do you go to a friend? Do you get on a computer? Do you get another job? Do you hunker down? I wonder how many believers really believe that when life becomes so intense, the place that you run to is the local assembly of believers? James believes that. James says, “Is anyone among you suffering? If they are, this is the place they need to be.”

I want you to listen to me. We're called to walk side by side with one another as interdependent. We're not codependent and we're not independent. We're interdependent people who are all — all of us are — predisposed to weakness, hurt, and frailty. This should be the place. You know it as well as I know it. I mean, we've all been around it. We've all seen it. I've seen it. You've seen it. You go to church, and the last thing that you want to do is admit that you've done something wrong, or say, “Oh, you won't believe what's going on in my life,” because somebody needs to be the righteous person to tell you all the things you've done wrong, why you should have done this, how you didn't read your Bible, how you didn't train up your kids, and all of this stuff. And we wonder why it's broken, because it was never intended to be a courtroom. Church is considered, always, to be a hospital triage for people who really, genuinely need help. Which, by the way, is all of us, your pastor included.

I want to show you how this works because this might be something that you've never seen before. In 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth is very, very, very individualistic. They want to do their own thing. They don't want to listen to anything that Paul has to say. They know more than him. They've got all kinds of crazy things going on. Paul tells them, in 1 Corinthians 11, that when they come together, it's not for the better, but it’s actually for the worst. In other words, what he's saying is, “When you guys gather as a local assembly, yeah, it’s probably better that you shouldn’t gather. Just don't show up because whatever you all are doing is just absolutely terrible for one another, and it's a bad witness to everybody in Corinth.”

The centerpiece that he pulls them in with when he says, “When you get together, it's not good. One of y'all does this, one of y'all does that, and you don't think about anybody else. You only think about yourself.”

He's like, “Do you remember the Lord's table? Do you remember when we come and have the bread and the wine? We come together. Do you remember that? Do you remember what we're doing here?”

This is the part that's like hardly ever read. We sort of read the part that’s like, “Here's the bread, remember it? Remember me,” and all that good stuff, and then we fail to read the last part of it. Listen to what he says.

He says, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body…”

That’s the Church, by the way. If you don't discern the body — which is why, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, he goes on to talk about how the body should work with giftings, how everybody needs each other, and how one person can't be an eye, a foot, and everything else. One person can be this, and one person can be that, they all come together, and it's done in love. 1 Corinthians 13. It shouldn't be done in disorder, and all kinds of stuff. In 1 Corinthians 14, he says, “Hey, listen, when you don't discern the body, you're eating and drinking judgment on yourself. You’re not quite understanding what Jesus died to create. This is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

I wonder how many Christians finally stand before the Lord and realize, “Man, the local church should have been the place that I was really more involved in than I thought. Maybe I just didn't see the importance.”

Paul is saying, “Hey, listen, there are ramifications for not understanding how important it is.”

So, here's the deal: How can we foster a local assembly where people feel comfortable sharing their hurts and pains? How do we do that? We have to create safe space. Next weekend, thousands of people will come in through these doors that have not been to church for a long time, and they've got their antennas up and their radar screens up. They’ve got everything up. They're looking around, and many of them are looking for things to criticize, but many of them are hurt and pained. Everything we do is either going to create safe space or it's going to create a situation where, as they walk in, they feel all the stuff that they've always felt about church. Let me tell you something, I want this place to be so safe because I want them to get in here, and I want them to hear the message that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, and rose again on the third day so they could have everlasting life, so that somebody — and I guarantee you there'll be one. There’ll probably be hundreds. But people can finally connect that relationship with God because eternity matters. So, I say that what we do matters, the way we do things and the way that we approach things matter, and the way we see what goes on here is so important.

Secondly, James can't envision any follower of Christ not attending a local fellowship. This is the normal thing. You see it all the time on social media.

“My church is in canoe, fishing with the Lord.”

Okay. Yes, you can pray. Yes, you can read the Bible. Yes, you can have a time with the Lord. Yes, you can fish. Yes, you can be in the canoe. But you cannot go to church by yourself, in a canoe, fishing. It doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way.

“Well, I sit at home and watch…”

No, no. You can’t. You can, but you can't really do what the New Testament expects for us to do if we don't gather, if we don't meet, and if we don't hang out.”

He says, “Let him call for the elders of the church.”

He can't even envision that anybody would know that they're in a local church, that they can call the elders of the church that they sit under, who love them, who they care about — he can't even, in any way, shape or form. Listen to me, your pastor. Church cannot be made into our own image. We have to allow Church to be defined by Jesus. He says we’re the ekklesia, the called-out ones. “Ekk” is “out.” “Laos” is called. We’re the called out ones to gather in a local assembly so that we can pray for one another, love one another, encourage one another, drink coffee with one another, hang out, go to lunch, get involved in people's lives, and get involved in small groups so that when we're suffering, we can pray, and when we're cheerful, we can sing songs.

Last, James sees the local assembly as a place where people can unload and be vulnerable. He says, “Confess your sins, one to another.”

I'm moving towards my mid 50s at this point, and my back hurts, I’m sort of grumpy without Mountain Dew, and all this stuff. I can tell you one thing, I am getting far more passionate about, just saying, “Hey, look, do you know what? This is what scripture says, and if you don't like it, that's cool. I love you, but I'm not going to get up here, tickle ears, play games, and all that stuff. We're going to talk about what the Word of God says.”

James envisions that this would be a place where you and me could come in and say, “Man, I blew it last week. Will you pray for me?”

“Absolutely. I did too, man.”

What do I mean? See, we want to play the games that everybody's great, smiling, rainbows and butterflies, come meet Jesus and everything just works beautifully. It's just not the case. Jesus came because we were broken. He came because we needed Him, and it’s what He did for you and I that saves us, not what we do. We don't perform and tap dance for Jesus so well that He goes, “Oh, do you know what? Let them in.”

No. James envisions a place where we can come and confess our sins. He says, “In that environment, what happens is that we all are healed.”

Maybe you're going through some real difficulties at home. Maybe you're going through some real difficulties with your children. Maybe I'm going through some difficulties in my life. Maybe you're struggling to figure out how to make ends meet. Maybe you’ve spent some money that you shouldn’t have spent in places you shouldn't have done it. Maybe you went to the bar that you shouldn't have gone to, and some things happened that shouldn't have happened. Maybe you've done some things in your life that you wish you wouldn't have done, and you have those scars, and you have those wounds. Where will you go? James says that where you come is here, to your brothers and sisters that understand weakness, that understand frailty, that understand why Jesus came. He didn't come because we were perfect, He came because we were broken, and we're able to work through. I'm telling you something, when a church can be a place where people can confess their sins, one to another, where we can pray for one another, what happens is people start to get healed. It changes their lives. See, a place where people can be raw and vulnerable is a place of healing, and I want our church to take that next step.

Let me give you a couple quick things here, and we’ll pray. We're taking the next step when the local assembly becomes a place that allows and gives space for tough questions rather than simply providing answers. We’re really good at telling everybody what they should do. What we're not really good at is listening. Do you want to know the truth? We don't know how to answer some of the tough questions that are out there. We don't know what to say.

“That’s wrong.”

That doesn't help anybody. That's a human being that has value and dignity. I'm going to tell you something. If the church in America continues to tell everybody what they're doing wrong, we're going to continue to see the exodus that we're seeing. When we start to say, “Hey, bring your weary. Bring those.”

Jesus goes, “If you're tired, if you're weary, come to me.”

We need to be a church that says, “Hey, if you're tired, if you're weary, if you’ve got problems, if you’ve got pains, man, we want you here, at our table, and we're going to listen and love you,” because people don't care that you know until they know that you care.

We're taking the next step when the local assembly is a safe place for everyone, not just those like us. No criticism, at all, of any church in America. That's not what I'm trying to do. I’m trying to make a point. There are so many churches — and you know this — that when you go in, they’ve all got on the same clothes, they all have the same hairstyle, they all like the same music, and they all drive the same cars. And when somebody walks in who doesn't fit that puzzle, everybody goes — do you know what they do? I can't tell you how many people have called me and said, “We don't understand. We get younger people that come to church, they show up, they tell us they loved it, and they never show back up.”

I'm like, “They didn't love it. They just told you that they loved it so that they didn't have to tell you they hated it, and you believed them.”

We have to have places where, like at Jesus' table, everybody is welcome. When the people of God can lead with our wounds and scars rather than our pride and condescension, we’re taking the next step. Do you know what we need to be? We need to be a church that is always thinking, “How can we reach the thief that was on that cross?”

Because that's you and me. We're that guy. There are people out there who have done all kinds of bad things, are hurting, and they don't need our judgment, they don't need our condescension, and they surely don't need our political garbage. What they need is Jesus. Because that man, he didn't get anything right. He wasn't baptized, he didn't join a church, he didn't join a small group. Did Jesus go, “Hey, how did you vote in the last Galilean election, dude?”

But we do that. We push so many people away, and it's high time that the church — and let it start here, that we become a place that is so excited. When people walk in who don't look like us, who don't talk like us, who don't dress like us, we ought to go, “Thank God,” because those are people that Jesus died for. And we have an opportunity, next weekend, to open this place up to everybody that comes, and tell them the good news. I'm trying. Somebody said, “Preach it,” and I said, “I'm trying.”

So, I'm telling you, next weekend — we had close to, I think, 7,000 people here last Easter. Who knows what it’ll be here, this Easter. Who knows? They’ll be climbing all over the place. You're not going to get your seat. But whatever you do, don't do this. Don’t go, “I'm not going to show up.”

No, you need to be here. I need you here for two or three services, helping, serving, greeting, and doing anything you can because so many people are going to walk through here who have a chance to meet Jesus. This is the Super Bowl of what we do. Bring some Gatorade and dump it on somebody. You know? I mean, let's have some fun. Let’s have some joy. Stop worrying about your seat and your parking spot, and just get a towel, wash some feet, and let's watch Jesus do something incredible. Right? Alright. So, yeah, I went long. Sorry, but I'm serious. We have an awesome opportunity. We have a great church. We have a growing church. God is at work here. God is doing — I'm telling you, so many people are going to come in, but let's do this thing. Let's be that place where people from First Friday or wherever else can roll in here and feel like, “Man, they're not perfect. The preacher’s terrible, the music's good, but the deal is that, man, this is a place where it seems like they actually care about me, as a person, and not everything that I'm doing, what I'm wearing, or all that stuff. They care about me.”

Do you know what? Jesus cares about them, and we need to care about them too. Amen?

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