Back to School Week 3: Parent-Teacher Conference

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

 Back to school. It’s that time of year when we all do whatever we can to prepare. We hit the sales, stock up on all the supplies and make sure we are equipped for the next challenge life is about to throw at us. But are we sure we have everything we need? Maybe our backpacks are still missing something.

[End Video]

Chip:               Well, good afternoon to everybody. We are in a series called “Back to School.” I want to just give a little background in case you’re new or if you’ve missed a week or so. I’ll just give you a background of what we try to do on the weekends here. It’s a big deal to me as a pastor, our staff, the creative team to make sure that the content that we deliver on the weekends is something that helps you in your Christian life. I am a firm believer — in Ephesians 4, Paul lists a group of people. He says there’s apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Those people are there, he says, to equip saints to work ministry. So, when we gather here on the weekend, whether a Saturday or Sunday, I feel like what I am supposed to be doing — and it’s my responsibility as the pastor and teacher of this church — is to make sure that you’re equipped in your life to be able to live what God has for you. So, we take that really serious.

 We try really hard to make sure that the content on the weekends is something that really benefits your life and is applicable. We try to also make it contextual. We know everybody’s going back to school. Back to school is on everybody’s minds. Even if you aren’t going back to school, you know the traffic’s there. So, what we thought was it would be fun to take some light-hearted things that we remember at school and then maybe make some spiritual applications. So, last week, we talked about extra credit and what it meant to be an extra credit Christian. Well, this weekend, we’re going to talk about parent-teacher conference. Now, I don’t know about you all, but I always cringed when my mom and dad went to a parent-teacher conference because I wasn’t the best kid in school. That’s why the Lord needed to redeem this wretched heart.

But you remember how those were. They tell you something your kid did bad. You got information. So, we thought that when we first started this series, this would be a great moment to take a pause — because we don’t do a lot of this publicly — to talk about raising kids and how important it is to be parents and all of those great things. The more I thought about it, the more I said, “You know, if we just do a parenting sermon, what’ll happen is there’ll be people in here that will tune out. They’ll go, “You know, I knew I heard God on Thursday telling me to go to Siesta Key this weekend.”

So, this is for all of us. We’ll see that in just a minute. Everybody here is going to be able to get something out of this in the way that we’ve structured it because we’re going to have a talk amongst us as church people that will be applicable to parents, but it’ll also be applicable to everybody else. So, to get everybody in the mood for kids, I want to get you in the mood. What I did is I found this site online that has the funniest parent tweets about their kids. Now, listen. This isn’t Christian, okay? It’s just funny. It’s humor. Okay? Some of you are like, “That’s not that funny. Kids are more important than that.” I understand that, but what I’m saying is that it’s funny. Let’s look at a couple of these. I think you’ll enjoy them.

 “My cat sat on the surge protector behind the TV and turned it off. At least someone in this house is setting screen time limits.”

“Nothing is worse than reading your kid a bedtime story and flipping to a page with a bunch of words.”

“If you’re on the fence about having kids, repeat ‘put your shoes on, please’ 100 times in a row until you’re in a blinding rage, and then see if it’s right for you.”

It might not be right for you. You want to make sure that it’s right for you. Okay?

“There should be more parenting books on ways to play with your children while you’re lying on the couch.”

Yes. And then the last one — and I think this is great here — is, “Arrive late for the first day of school because it’s important to stick to a consistent routine with kids.”

Yes. Love it. So, there you go. Everybody’s now in the mood for kids. So, let’s talk for a minute here why this message is critically important not only for parents, step parents, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents — if I missed anybody, I’m sorry. But anybody who’s a parent or sees themselves as a parent, and why it’s also important for us as a church. Listen to this: We live in Sarasota. You all know as well as I do, I think the average age in Sarasota is 112. Just a joke. It’s a joke. But if you are a church in Sarasota, there’s one thing that most churches in Sarasota cannot say that they have. It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the truth: Most churches do not have a thriving children’s ministry. Okay? I want you to listen to this: We have right at 200 kids — listen — that are 11 years and younger that come to this church every single weekend. Unbelievable.

Which means no matter how we want to slice or dice it, God has entrusted this church with children. And I want to show you something here because this is for everybody. This is a parent-teacher conference for everybody: The most important time — the most opportune time — to reach a human in their lifetime is between the ages of four and fourteen. Think about that for a minute. That God has given us well over 200 kids 14 and younger in this church, that means God has given us a responsibility to make sure that we genuinely are reaching the next generation. And I can I tell you that God doesn’t have grandchildren? He only has sons and daughters which means if we’re not reaching the next generation, we’re always one generation from extinction as Christians.

Then, on top of that, when Jesus was teaching or ministering, if a kid was brought to Him or a kid showed up, what would He do? He would sort of put them right in the midst. If Jesus is putting children in the midst, maybe we should too. Maybe churches need to really think through what’s going on, which is why, here at Grace, we focus on children. You may not see it, but I want to make sure that you do see it now. The reason we do the First Fridays, the reason we do the back to school initiatives, the reason we do what we do in children’s church — and Nanette does a fantastic job, and all of her volunteers, on doing children’s church. The reason we do musicals is because we really, passionately believe that God has given us favor here to reach children and we want to make sure that we do everything that we can.

So, what we’re going to do today is — we’ve been doing vocabulary phrases. We’re going to continue that for Back to School. But we’re going to mention about eight things that we think are important for us not only as parents, but as a church, as people that go here, recognizing how important children are.

As I thought about doing this, I said to myself, “You know what? It wouldn’t be as beneficial to the church if I did this alone,” and I thought, “The person I know who’s the best that I know at raising kids and is just a great mom is my wife Mindy,” and I asked her if she would join me today. So, can you all give her a huge round of applause for my wife Mindy coming up here? She’s been trying for eight years to get up here and preach.

Mindy:           That is not true at all. In fact, for the last eight years, I have said, “I will never do this,” but God has a way of just shoving you out of your comfort zone. I know this because my youngest daughter’s now in school, so for the past several months leading up to this, I’ve been praying to God, “God, just give me a boldness. Show me new ways that you can use me. Teach me to trust You more.” So, when Chip came to me with this idea a little while back, I immediately knew. I was like, “Okay.” And as much as I wanted to say, “No, no. I don’t want to do that,” the Holy Spirit just wouldn’t let me say no. So, here I am.

Chip:              Awesome.

Mindy:           I’m doing it.

Chip:              Seriously, isn’t that great? That’s the way we are here at Grace. If you come in and you join in and we know your name, we just get you right involved in ministry. I mean, that’s just the way we do it around here. We believe it’s important. So, knowing that that’s the way we do it, I think that you should start off the first vocabulary term.

Mindy:           Okay.

Chip:              Just show these people how preaching is done, okay?

Mindy:           Alright. Let’s rock and roll.

Chip:              Okay. Good.

Mindy:           Our first vocabulary term is “child’s gift.” Children are a gift from God. If you’ve spent any time at all with children, whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, an aunt and uncle, a neighbor or a children’s ministry worker, you understand just how special children are. They bring us so much joy and so much hope. They really are a gift. We’re going to see in Scripture, in the story of Hannah, that God is the giver of the gift.

“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

Hannah realized God was the giver of children because she asked Him for a child. She also realized that even though she was given the child, the child ultimately belonged to the Lord. So, realizing that the children are special and given to us by God means that they are a huge responsibility to all of us. So, the question that we need to be asking ourselves constantly is how do we steward the gifts that God gives us?

Chip:              That’s a great question. Let’s talk about that for just a second. When we think of the fact that we’ve been given 200 kids here at Grace — that’s not our kids. I know y’all are thinking that. We have a lot of kids, but not that many.

Mindy:           We have a lot, but not that many.

Chip:              I mean, we make up a large number of that 200, but not all of our kids are 200. But when we think about that, I mean, what an incredible responsibility it is to steward that. You know? I think we try to do that by having an incredibly intentional childcare program, the First Fridays and the things that we do. I just would say to everybody here in the church, if you go to Grace and Grace is your home church, God has given us all these children. Not only as parents do we feel the responsibility and do we want to be equipped to be able to raise these kids, but as a church we need to make sure that we are intentional. Pray about the children’s department here. Believe it or not, maybe going back there every once in a while and serving is a good thing. And I know that a lot of people feel uncomfortable, but Nanette has put this thing together that you can go back there and find a spot and help out because we’re just growing. I just want everybody to feel the responsibility. It’s not just us. It’s everybody in this church has a responsibility, if this is your home church, to make sure that we steward the gifts that God has given us here in this local house.

So, let’s think about that and let’s make sure that we do. The second vocabulary phrase is “how-to doesn’t exist.” Anybody who’s a young parent is going to know this is true. If you’ve been a parent, you know that this is true. Children don’t come with owner’s manuals. Right? Come on, now. You know that’s true. What happens is, when you’re a young parent, everybody likes to come and tell you what you should be doing. Right? Do you know what I’m talking about? “Oh, let me tell you what you do there with that. If they’ve got a sore throat, you put some Vick’s rub on the big toe, put a sock over it. Then, to help them sleep, you put a vacuum cleaner in the closet and turn it on.”

They’ve got all that. You’re thinking, “What?” But what I’m saying is kids don’t come with an owner’s manual. They don’t. Sometimes we guilt ourselves and make ourselves feel really bad because maybe we’re not getting everything perfectly right. Let me tell you something: Parenting is an adventure and nobody does it perfectly because they don’t come with owner’s manuals. But what I can say, as a pastor, as a church and as parents, there’s two things that I know for sure that we need to be aware of.

The first one is we’re to teach them about the Lord. This I can tell you for a fact. Even though they don’t come with an owner’s manual, I can tell you Scripture says this.

Moses says, in Deuteronomy 6:6, “These words that I commanded you today shall be on your heart.”

He’s speaking to a bunch of adults and said, “These words that I told you need to be on your heart.” Look at what he says:

“You shall teach them diligently to your children,”

Diligently. Not just every once in a while. “Oh, by the way...” — diligently to your children.

“And shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise.”

You are to teach children the Word of God and teach them about who Jesus is. That should be something that we do. The second thing — and this is a real big revelation when you get it — is to realize the power that we have in shaping children, as parents and as a church — Paul says something to guys like me who are fathers, but it applies to everybody.

 He says, “Fathers, don’t provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

In other words, the words out of my mouth can discourage a child. I mean, I can shape that child in a way of discouragement, or I can shape them in a way of encouragement. As a church, we get to choose. As we teach these kids and as we help shape these kids, we need to realize that we have a huge responsibility to shape kids. I mean, that’s a...

Mindy:           Yeah. You’re right. It is an incredible responsibility, but it’s also such an amazing opportunity to be the ones that get to shape them. You know, we live in such a scary world sometimes, especially for children. To be the ones that give them the good news is just something that we can...

Chip:              On Saturday night, sometimes — there’s a lot of kids that come on Saturday night. After Saturday night, people like to hang out because we don’t have the cadence — or we haven’t up to this point. We will eventually have two. But we’ve had the cadence where there’s nobody coming in. It’s a free-for-all after service. The kids run around the church. I’ve had parents come to me and go, “Hey, there’s kids running around the church.” I’m like, “Let them run.” They’re like, “Why are you letting them run?” I’m like, “Because I don’t want any kid to come to Grace Community Church and feel like they are told all the things they can’t do. I want them to love coming to church. I want them to have a ball when they come. And I know some people, they’re like, “Oh, they shouldn’t be running,” or whatever. I can just tell you this: 85% of the children, when they turn 18 and go to school, don’t go to church.

I want the kids that come through Grace Community Church to love the house of God so much that the first thing they want to do before even getting a dorm room is finding a church that they’re going to go to. So, it’s a big deal to me.

The third vocabulary phrase is that one size doesn’t fit all. Each child is uniquely created by God and we need to figure out their gifts, talents and help shape them for God’s glory. Now, we have a lot of kids. Not one of them is alike.

Mindy:           No. They’re all so different and we have to kind of approach each one in a different way, a unique way based on what that child’s needs are.

Chip:              Yeah. The ones that behave have my genes. Just a joke. But let me ask you a question because you read a lot of children’s books and you know this passage here:

“Train up a child in the way that they should go; when they’re old they won’t depart.”

Would you agree with me that, as a general rule, when that Scripture is read, it’s basically — or explained. If you train up a kid right, raise them in church, teach them to pray before they eat, “God is great, God is good,” or whatever, and do all that stuff, and don’t let them watch movies that are too bad, make sure that they go to youth group or whatever, that eventually they’ll turn out to be Christians.

Mindy:           Yes. I have definitely heard it that way.

Chip:              It’d be nice if it was just that easy.

Mindy:           If it was that easy, that would be wonderful.

Chip:              Yeah. And the reality is that so many people — I mean, I’ve done it. I’ve talked to them. They’re like, “Chip, I raised my kid perfectly, right? I know we did. We didn’t do everything right, but we raised them at church, we prayed for them, taught them the Word of God. They didn’t turn out that way.”

Well, let me help a little bit. I know that there are sacred cows. I’ll also remind you that sometimes those sacred cows do make the best hamburger meat, so we do have to talk about them. Let me help you as a teacher, as a professor, as a pastor to understand the genre of Proverbs are not promises. The genre of Proverbs are general truth statements. They were compiled by ancient Israel. They’re general truth statements. In other words, when Solomon says, “If you store up food in your barn during the summer, you will have food for the winter.” Well, that’s pretty much true. If you don’t put food in the barn, you’re probably not going to have food for the winter. But your barn could burn down and then you wouldn’t have food even though you did what you were doing. It’s a general truth statement.

 So, this passage, first of all, is not a promise. It’s a general truth statement. But, on top of it, I don’t even know that we’re reading it right because what the writer is saying is that if we train up our children in — look here — the way he should go. It’s talking about natural disposition. Children have natural dispositions to go a certain way. Sometimes, we try to pull them. When I was growing up, do you know what I did? Everything that I reached for was with my left hand. I was born in 1970. So, do you know what my mom and dad did? They’re like, “Ain’t nothing for left-handed people,” so they basically just tied that arm behind my back and made me use the right hand. That’s why I am so messed up to this day. You know?

But my daughter, Grace, is left-handed. My grandfather was left-handed. My dad’s sister is left-handed. There’s probably a good chance I would’ve been left-handed, but they didn’t rain me up in the way that I should’ve gone. You know what I’m talking about? Anyway, I think that when we see that, it’s huge because what we do is instead of going one size fits all, and this works for every single person, I think what the writer here is telling us is that each child is unique. If they’re ticky-tacking with spoons, maybe they need a set of drums. If they’re really outgoing, maybe you need to provide opportunities for them to — in other words, as a parent, you’re honoring the way they should go, and what you’re doing is you’re training them. Actually, the word “train” in Hebrew is “dedicate.” It’s like the dedication of a temple. You’re dedicating a child in the way that they should go and the general truth is that if you will help them go that way, they will continue to do that later on in life.

I think that it’s really important for us not to just focus on one size fits all parenting. Each child is unique. Each child needs to be parented in a unique way. We need to do that in our children’s ministry as well. Do you know what? I’m feeling really Christian right now and wanting to turn this over to you. You take and explain. How about that?

Mindy:           Okay. Alright. Here we go. Vocabulary phrase number four: Comparison stopping.

Chip:               I almost put “shopping” in there. Do you like to shop?

Mindy:           Yeah. Maybe.

Chip:              Okay.

Mindy:           Okay. Don’t compare a child with other children. We’re going to look at Scripture and we’re going to see where Samuel goes to Jesse’s house to anoint the king.

“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”

Chip:              Man, that’s good stuff. Let’s chat about that for a second. So, Samuel comes to Jesse’s house and he sees this young man that’s tall, handsome, and his word — listen to the word there: “Surely.” I mean, looking on the outward appearance, surely this is the one.”

But it’s not because Samuel is told God doesn’t look that way. He looks differently. How often — I mean, we do. We look at magazines and we see what something’s to look like, or even our own kids, sometimes one of them is excelling in grades and it’s almost like you want to grab the other one and go, “Hey, look. You brother’s doing good. How come you can’t do it?” We have to stop that. We can’t compare kids.

Mindy:           Right. We need to praise each child for their unique strength. When our child’s doing something well, we just need to appreciate it.

Chip:              Yeah. That’s a good point. So, just think about that as parents and as a church. If one of the kids is running down the hall going crazy, and you look at that kid and there’s one kid that’s sitting there doing really good, and you look at that kid and say, “Hey, why don’t you act like him?” There’s a better way to do that. So, we need to really stop comparing.

The next vocabulary phrase is the “S” word. The “S” word is where we learn to say sorry because we aren’t perfect. Let me just take a moment here and tell you how important it is as a parent to be able to tell your kids you’re sorry. I have a way I do it. You don’t have to do it my way. But the smaller kids, I put up on a bed. I stand them on the bed so they can see me eye to eye, or I get down on my knee and look eye to eye to them. Because there’s times where I’m busy. One of the kids maybe comes in and says, “Hey, dad.”

I’m like, “Hey, hold on. I’m doing something,” or whatever. Then, all of a sudden, I realize, “They’re far more important than what I’m doing.” We’ve all done that. I’ll go grab them, get down on a knee and say, “Hey, look. Daddy wants to talk to you for a second. I’m sorry. I was in there doing that. It was important to daddy, but it’s not more important than you. So, can you forgive me? What is it that you needed from your dad so I can help you out?”

And this is what I’ve learned when I’ve been able to say sorry: It shows them you’re human. A lot of times, your kids look at you and they think that you’re Superman or Superwoman. You can do no wrong. That is a faulty view for them to have. Because, eventually, that’s going to crash because none of us are perfect. It also teaches them authenticity. It allows us to be honest with them and it shows vulnerability. I would encourage you, if you have a hard time saying sorry to your kids, to learn to say sorry.

Mindy:           Yeah. I think it’s incredibly important to apologize to your children. If, for some reason, you can’t, maybe it’s pride that’s keeping you from doing that. Having pride in your life is never a good thing, so you have to just get rid of the pride and apologize when you’re wrong. By apologizing, like Chip said, you show them that you’re a human. I think, sometimes, our kids like to put us on a pedestal and think that we’re perfect, but we need to remind them that we’re human, we’re broken and we’re flawed, just like everybody is. So, to be able to do that is a gift to them.

 The other thing I was going to say about that was you model for them what it looks like in the real world to apologize.

Chip:              That’s a good point.

Mindy:           They are going to have situations in their life, in school, with friendships, or even as they grow older where they need to know how to apologize. When we can be role models in our home for our children, it’s so beneficial to them.

Chip:              Yes, it is. That’s great. Somebody’s clapping. It’s true. It is.

Mindy:           Thank you. And then they also learn how to forgive. They learn how to give us grace because they’re going to have to either be on the forgiving side or the apologizing side multiple times in their life. So, for them to be able to give grace back to us, it’s just an awesome thing.

Chip:              You know, if in our houses we could tell our kids we’re sorry, and really show that, we could conquer a lot of the bullying that’s going on in the world if we could just be vulnerable to our children. You know? It starts here. Remember: “Judgment starts in the house of God,” Peter says. It’s funny because Christians are always like, “I just want God to judge things. I want Him to judge.”

He starts at the church, so you might not want to pray for judgment. You might want to pray for some grace. You know? People are like, “Oh, I can’t wait for God to judge everything.” Judgment starts at the house of God, so just think through that.” I love in Scripture — do you remember, Jesus, He’d get in the boat in Galilee and then He’ll go to the other side of the thing. It’s your turn.

Mindy:           Okay. Number six, the friend zone.

Chip:              Don’t friend zone me.

Mindy:           It’s a little late for that.

Chip:              Okay.

Mindy:           We are called to parent children, not make them simply friends.

Chip:              Whoa. Let’s talk about that one.

Mindy:           Oh, yes. That’s a good one.

Chip:              Let’s talk about that one. Okay, listen. I’m going to readily admit on the scale of friend to parent, I err on the side of parent more than I err on the side of friend. I’m pretty disciplined and like for things to be a certain way. But I don’t want to be snarky, and you can absolutely correct me if I’m wrong here. Just feel free to jump in. But I watch parents today, and I think it’s because of culture and because of just norms, and it’s like they just want to be their kid’s best friend. They want to dress like them, listen to the same music and all of that. We are called to be parents first and not friends first. Not that we can’t love our kids, not that we can’t be their friends, but we need to be parents. I mean, kids need some boundaries. They need to know what’s right and wrong. It starts with you and me being parents. Am I wrong?

Mindy:           Yeah. You’re right. This is something that has come up a lot...

Chip:              She said I was right. Did you hear that? So, I’m right.

Mindy:           This is something that’s come up a lot in our house lately because we have some preteens. For the longest time, they would come home from school when they were younger and I would know everything. They would share everything with me. But, as they get older, they start to pull away just a little bit. There’s this temptation to want to kind of stay in their inner circle and to be relevant to them, but you have to really be careful about the line that you walk there because they need a parent. Our children need us to be parents to them. We have to be role models to them.

Chip:              That’s a good point.

Mindy:           Yeah. It’s just really important. And I think that you can balance this. If your children know that you love them and that you care for them and that they can trust you and that you’re there to listen, you can provide boundaries and you can hold them accountable for their actions. You can be an authoritarian person in their life and still have a really beautiful relationship with them.

Chip:              That’s a good point. I just think we just need to own the fact, especially if we’re parents and God has given us a gift of a child, we need to realize that we’re, first, parent, second, friend. Not vice versa. I think in today’s world, there’s a blurring of that. Let’s be honest. I always ask the question how is what we’re doing working? When I look at society, I go, “There’s a lot of things that could be better.”

It just has to start with us. It’s not something that we can yell at other people about. We just need to start here, at the house of God, and be the parents and the Christian folks that God has called us to be. We will make a difference in the world if we can be that light.

So, the next one is “fail opportunities.” I coined this phrase. I made it up. Did you know that?

Mindy:           Okay.

Chip:              American Heritage Dictionary called me and said, “Can we have that word?” I said, “Absolutely.” I coined this word because this is a word I’m very familiar with. A fail opportunity is mistakes that we make are a great place for our kids to learn valuable lessons if we can, in fact, be vulnerable. It’s not only just being able to say sorry, it’s being able to say, “This is what daddy did wrong. Let’s talk about that. How did that make you feel? What do you think daddy could do differently? How could we be better at this?”

Some of the greatest moments I’ve had with my kids were not the mountaintop experiences. They were the times where I was able to say, “You know what? I got caught up in there. I should’ve listened more. Do you feel like, sometimes, when you come to dad that I’m distracted? How can I work on that?”

And do you know what? There’s just a powerful thing because every single one of us has parenting fails. You know what I’m talking about? We just do. We fail as parents. In fact, so that you can have some fun with this, I went online and typed in “parenting fails” and clicked “images.” I was blown away with what I saw. The good news: We weren’t in any of those pictures.

Mindy:           Yes.

Chip:              So, even better news for you, nobody at Grace was in those pictures. But here’s a couple of parenting fails. They’re unbelievable. So, I guess this dad decides, looking over a fence, he sees some raccoons. He just figures, “I guess I’ll just take my kid by his ankles, lift him over and feed the raccoons.” So, here we go. He’s feeding the raccoons. Mom’s in on it. She’s got food. So, she’s like, “Yeah. Go ahead, honey. Get some.”

Listen: It’s so bad that Rocky the Raccoon has turned his back in shame. He’s like, “I’m not even going to watch this thing. This is terrible.” How about this one here? “Hey, honey. Stand up there while I video you.” That’s a parenting fail, right? How about this one here? “Cliff edges are dangerous. Let’s go sing the Sound of Music up there, family.”

What I’m saying is you may not have done those parenting fails, but we’ve all had those moments where we have failed. Just being able to go, “You know what? I shouldn’t have done that. Let’s talk about why I shouldn’t have done that. Let’s talk about what we could do differently,” that’s huge when we’re dealing with children.

Mindy:           Yeah. I agree. Parenting fails. Wow. I think, for mothers especially, if you think you failed, just take a real good look because, a lot of times as moms, we assume that we failed and we put all this guilt on ourselves. But, a lot of times, we just need to cut ourselves some slack and give ourselves a break because what we think was a fail really wasn’t as bad as we think it is. But the times that we do fail, and we know we’ve failed, those are opportunities for us to grow, learn and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. You know, when you have a fail and you sit around and wallow in it, that doesn’t serve anybody. That doesn’t serve you and that doesn’t serve your children, so you’ve just got to move forward and grow from it.

Chip:              Yeah. And then you always talk about when you fail that finding that person at the next...

Mindy:           Yeah. When I have had times in parenting where I’ve felt overwhelmed or felt like I wasn’t getting it right, the biggest resource for me has been a Christian sister, a Christian woman who’s just one season ahead in life than I am.

Chip:              Listen to this. This is wisdom right here. Listen.

Mindy:           For me to go and talk to somebody who I know has been through it, who has survived it and has the wisdom that I don’t have is so valuable. You know? You have to have people pour into your life. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to ask for an ear to listen. Then if you’re in a higher season, just remember to turn that back to the younger moms. I have a real heart for brand new moms because I know just how incredibly difficult it is to bring a baby home from the hospital and not know what you’re doing. But, yeah. Just being able to reach out and help each other during these times that we think we’ve failed will really benefit us.

Chip:              And it will. I want to take just a moment here and — especially if you are older here at our church, I want you to take a moment and please lean in. In America today, there is a really negative thing going on that we’re splitting between old and young churches. Listen, we need older people at Grace Community Church. We want you here because you have so many resources to pour into the next generation. Next generation, you need to make sure that you reach out to the older people in the church and ask them for help. They will give you such great advice. Please, if you’re older and you’re in the autumn of your life, please understand there is so much opportunity here. Titus talks about that, the older people pouring into the younger people. With such a division going on in the local churches, I want you to know I am passionate, as your pastor, to having a multi-generational church here at Grace Community Church where both old and young alike can come together and we can worship the Lord and learn from one another. Right? Amen?

Mindy:           Yes.

Chip:              And the last one here is what I called a child moment because I’ve been using God moment and some other stuff for these vocabulary phrases, but this is a moment I had too. I didn’t know this until we were planning for this. I don’t know how I stumbled over it, but it was a wow moment for me.

In the New Testament, three different people come to Jesus with a request for their child, and He answers every one of them. I went, “Whoa.” It could’ve been whatever God intended in Scripture, but there’s three. There’s Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, that come to Jesus and he’s a stately man, a man that would have decorum. Jesus is being thronged by a crowd and he just comes and throws himself at Jesus’ feet and says, “Can you please come help my daughter? My daughter’s dying.”

Of course, Jesus goes. On the way, she dies, but He ends up healing her. But Jairus comes with a request for his child. Jesus answers it. The Syrophoenician woman who’s a Canaanite, a Gentile, comes and Jesus answers that. And the man here with a muted son, who’s gone to the disciples, comes to Jesus and says, “Hey, Your disciples couldn’t help. Could You help?” Jesus heals this boy. What I come away with is that there’s no way that we cannot realize that the Lord is concerned about our children. I mean, He is concerned. For me, it is such an encouraging thing to know that when we pray for our kids and we pray over our kids and pray with our kids, those prayers are not going unanswered. God really does care about our kids.

Mindy:           Yeah. I love these Scriptures because I just love to see the tenderness that Jesus has towards children. It just reminds me of God’s tenderness towards all of us. It makes me think about myself as a child. Unlike Chip, I didn’t grow up in a traditional family. I had what some would probably call a messy childhood. I didn’t always feel like a gift or a blessing to the adults in my life. So, to know that my Heavenly Father saw me that way is so comforting to me. To know that I didn’t walk alone, that my Heavenly Father saw me as a gift and a blessing and He walked with me through all of it is just powerful. It’s just awesome. I just want to make sure that here, especially at this church, every child that comes here knows what a gift they are and knows what a blessing they are.

Chip:              That’s awesome. Yeah. Look, you may be here today and maybe you felt like you’ve walked alone. You haven’t. You’re not here by accident. If you’re born, you were a gift. You were someone that God wanted to be here. I just hope and pray that every child that comes into contact with Grace, whether through our children’s ministry, whether through First Friday, whether through going back to school initiatives, my prayer — and it should be our prayer as a church — is that they will know that they are a gift and that their Heavenly Father loves them. Don’t you agree?

It’s incumbent upon us, as parents, to share that with our kids, and incumbent upon us as a church to make sure these kids grow up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, knowing that their Heavenly Father loves them. So, let’s just pause for a moment. We wanted to end this way with a prayer. We just want to take a moment here and pray that God will absolutely continue to use our church to bless the kids that come here. We want to pray specifically that those kids will know that they’re a gift and that their Heavenly Father loves them.

Let’s bow together.

Dear Heavenly Father, we come to You right now and we thank You for the truth of Your Word, and we thank You for the truth about children and what we’ve seen and some of the practical advice that we’ve been given. But Lord, we realize, as church, we have been given a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity to reach children. Lord, not only do we have a children’s ministry that’s overflowing, but we have a ministry in this town that’s reaching hundreds upon hundreds of children once a month at First Friday. We reach hundreds of children when they go back to school. We have a children’s ministry that’s doing all kinds of great things. Lord, You’ve just blessed us.

Lord, my prayer is that every single person here at Grace Community Church would realize how important the gift of these children are that You’ve given to us. Lord, as parents, help us, Lord, to parent in a godly way. As a church, help us to be a church that truly custodians these gifts. Lord, I pray that every child that comes into contact with Grace Community Church, through whatever it is that we do, would just know — Lord, that You would sear in their hearts the love that You have for them; an everlasting love. That they would know that their Heavenly Father cares about them in a way that even just transcends what we can do or the words that we can say.

And Lord, although we pray for the greater area — and Lord, we do. We pray that everybody would know that. Specifically, Lord, help us and remind us that You have given us a great opportunity here with all these children. And help us, Lord, to pour love into their lives and help them to know how much You care about them.

So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and I pray, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us to be the church that You’ve called us to be to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Back to School Week 2: Extra Credit

Sermon Transcript

 

[Video]

Back to school. It’s that time of year when we all do whatever we can to prepare. We hit the sales, stock up on all the supplies and make sure we are equipped for the next challenge life is about to throw at us. But are we sure we have everything we need? Maybe our backpacks are still missing something.

[End Video]

Well, good afternoon to everybody and, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are currently in a series called “Back to School.” You know, one of the things that we try to do as a staff and our creative team in the messages and the content that we do on the weekends is we try to contextualize things that if we know certain things are going on in your life or certain things are going on in people’s lives or there’s certain things going on in the world, we like to do things that benefit you. Because, at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do here at Grace is when you come on the weekends, we want to make sure that you are equipped to live out this Christian life in a way that is really meaningful and is abundant.

So, I try hard, the staff tries hard, the creative team tries hard to really make sure that we are dialed in and we’re doing something that makes sense to everybody, and everybody knows right now that people are going back to school. It’s just that time of year. Many of us know, because I’m a professor, so I’m obviously keyed in. My kids go to school. Then, if you don’t have any kids, you don’t have any grandkids, you know the busses are on the highways again. Everybody knows we’re going to back to school.

So we thought, since that’s sort of what’s going on in everybody’s world right now, whether you’re in school or whether you’re aware of it, that it would be neat to take some concepts or themes that we know about school and have a little fun with them, and then transition into a really good, biblical teaching that would be practical, help us out and would give us some tools for our toolbox to live out our Christian life. So, last week, as we launched the series, we talked about “the test.” We talked about in school, when you take a test, it’s all about what you know. Well, when God comes to us, it’s not really a test, but when He does come to us, it’s not what we know, it’s whether or not we trust Him. So, a little bit of a difference, but everybody likes that idea. Everybody knows about the test.

Well, this week, we thought we would deal with something that I think if you ever struggled in school or if you ever just needed to get a little bit of a better grade, and some of us really enjoyed these two words, and those words were “extra credit.” Can anybody say amen for extra credit? Some of you, when you heard extra credit, you heard “Shekinah glory.” It was like, “The Lord has come down in the deal,” and it’s like the best thing you could ever have. You know, with extra credit, as a professor who teaches, extra credit usually comes at this point in my life this way: It’s either the first day of class, you just finished and you see the person in the back, and here they come through the chairs and you know when they walk up and they say, “Doctor Bennett, I was just wondering is there any...”

And I look at them and go, “Extra credit?”

They’re like, “Whoa. You’re a prophet.”

I’m like, “No. I’ve just done this before.”

Or it comes at the very end of class. I mean, at the very end, when somebody’s crashed and burned, it’s like the grades are all over the floor, here they come. “Hey, do you think, by chance, maybe I could get some extra credit?”

I’m a nice guy, but what I really want to say in those moments is this: “So, you want more extra credit? How about doing all of the regular credit?” Right? Can I get an amen? That’s what I want to say, but I can’t. I’m a nice guy. But, in keeping with this idea of looking at stuff in school, I went back and found — I mean, it was a ton of stuff. I looked up “great extra credit questions,” I looked up “great extra credit answer,” and I had so much fun. We could spend the whole time just laughing and cutting up, but I did pick a couple of things that I thought were funny, and then we’ll get to the biblical texts. But this first one is great because the question for extra credit is two words: “Impress me.”

That’s the question. Okay? The answer that this person gives — and you may not find it as funny as me. I thought it was hilarious. He gets four points extra credit for the answer. He has one word for an answer. I mean, you think with “impress me,” they’d write a lot. Here’s the piece of paper. Here it is:

“Impress me.”

Answer: “Why?”

“Plus 4. That’s good. Always question the man.”

I love that. I don’t know why I think that’s so funny. I love it. This next one’s really good. This is a bonus point of one. It says, “What is the capital of Canada?”

Answer: “Of course I know the capital of Canada. It’s a great country. It’s really great. Everyone wants to know what the capital of Canada is, and do you know what I tell them? I tell them that we have a foolproof plan for naming the capital of Canada, and that is why we’re going to be the best at naming the capital of Canada. #MakeCanadaGreatAgain.”

The teacher’s like, “Do you know what? That’s good. Plus one.”

I love that. It’s just fantastic. It’s just good stuff. So, in case you don’t know who Bon Jovi is a rock band. This next question looks like it’s from a math test, and the question is, “Can you tell me the dumbest conversation that you’ve overheard lately?” You get 1-5 points depending upon how good your answer is. This answer gets 7 points. I mean, they went above and beyond. The teacher writes, “Holy smokes!” with an exclamation point.

So, here it is: “What’s the dumbest conversation you’ve overheard recently?”

Guy: “Do you like Bon Jovi?”

Girl: “No, thanks. I don’t eat Italian food.”

“Plus 7. Holy smokes.”

I love it. That’s good stuff. It’s just fantastic. You’ve got to love extra credit. Alright. This is a church, so we need to get back to the Bible. But, anyway, when it comes to extra credit in school, usually, once again, it’s to sort of make up a deficiency or to get a little bit better grade, but what I’d like to submit — and we’re going to look at a passage I think that’s really going to challenge us. It’s really just a great passage to look at. I’d like to submit to you that as Christians, we should just be people that do extra credit just because. We don’t do it to make up for some deficiency, we’re just extra credit people. We’re just people that do more. We’re going to see a passage here where that really hits home. It’s going to speak to us. But I think it’s also going to give us a great opportunity for transformation.

So, before I get into the passage, which is in Luke 10:25-37 — and you’ve probably heard this story before. If you haven’t heard this story, you’ve heard, at least, the story somewhat told at some place in your life, or you’ve heard some words out of it. But I want to set it up and then I want to go through it. I think we’re going to learn some things as we go through it. Then we’ll do some practical application at the end that, hopefully, will help us out in our Christian lives.

In Luke 10 — and you’ve got to set up these passages. I hope you’ve learned this if you come to Grace on a regular basis. You can’t just take a passage of Scripture and pull it out. It fits within the whole. We’re got to sort of know, contextually, what is going on so that we’re not likely to pull something out and make it say something that it doesn’t say. In Luke 10:1, we find that Jesus has 72 disciples. You probably hear 12 disciples, and even of the 12 disciples, He had 3 that He was closest to. But then He had nine more, which is twelve, and that was a close, close, close group. And then He had 72 more. So, there were 72 disciples, and of these 72 disciples He comes to them and says, “Here’s what I want you to do. You guys believe in me. You believe that I’m the Messiah. You believe that I’m Christ. We’ve got that down. What I want you to do now is I want you to go do something. I want you to go pour into people’s lives. I want you to go into all these towns and I want you to preach the Gospel. I want you to tell them good news and I want you to get involved in their lives. I want you to pray for them. I want you to pray for the sick. I want you to pray for those that are struggling with whatever they’re struggling with. Those that are oppressed, I want you to get involved in their lives and I want you to go do this.”

They all say, “Yes, we’re going to go do this.”

So, they go out. We’re not really told anything other than now they’ve come back. So, we know they went out and now they’ve come back. When they come back, they’re pumped. They’re like, “Man, Jesus, You don’t understand. What You told us to go do, we did. Man, it worked.”

It’s crazy how that works, isn’t it? Do what God says, and — anyway, they came back — which is always funny to me that they actually are wowed that what Jesus said would happen actually happened, but they are like, “Whoa. You won’t believe this. We went to these towns, we preached the Gospel, people heard. Man, we prayed for the sick and they got healed. Jesus, this is — whoa.”

And He’s like, “Man, that’s fantastic. Listen, I’m so happy that you guys went out there and you took on the enemy and you did what you did, but what’s the most important thing — and you should rejoice about this — is that your names are written in heaven. You have eternal life. That’s what’s important.” And then Luke tells us that Jesus prayed. He said, “Father, thank You for revealing these things to these people that are in front of me, that are like children that have come to me and accepted me. Not like the wise person who has to think through everything, but like children they’ve come to me and I’ve revealed myself to them. Thank You for this moment. Thank You that this has happened.”

And then He turns to the 12 and He says to them, “Do you have any idea how many people would love to have seen what you’re seeing, would get to experience this whole thing, see this thing and have truly understood what eternal life is all about?”

Now, the next thing that happens probably didn’t happen right in that moment. Luke has structured the Gospel, as all the Gospels are, they’re structured to make a point. They use literary devices so that we, as the reader, are pulled in and we have to sort of think through what we’re reading and what’s going on. So, what happens next is this. This is what Luke says happens next. It probably didn’t happen right then. It happened, but he stitched it together, taking on this idea of eternal life, the fact that they’ve seen it and other people might not have seen it. Then, all of a sudden, as he looks to the disciples, “Hey, man. So many people wish they could’ve seen what you’ve seen,” here’s what Luke says to us:

“And behold, a lawyer stood up...”

Now, this is important because when you hear the word “behold,” it’s a device to get you to focus in here. It’s like, “Hey, pay attention. This is important.” We’re told a lawyer stood up. Now, when you read that, you may be — and it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with this. You may be tempted to see “lawyer” in terms of the way that we see lawyers today. A person who represents the law. In the New Testament, this Greek word is “nomikos,” which is someone who, usually, is a priest. So, they serve the temple as a priest, and they only had certain times that they had to serve during the calendar year. But then, when they would go back to their town — like Zechariah in the book of Luke at the beginning, he’s at the temple, he’s doing his thing, but then he goes back home to his wife Elizabeth because that’s what would happen. Priests had certain times that they would go to Jerusalem, do their duty and then they would go back home.

Well, lawyers, at this time, there was no division between the sacred and the secular in Israel. They administered the law. They would go and be a priest in the temple. That’s what they were. But when they came home, they were lawyers. They were people that helped people in that town understand what the law said and how to apply it, and if there were breaks or people that had done wrong, how to administer justice and all of those things. So, this lawyer — and when you read that word, you should know that, in Luke, these lawyers, usually, are not looking to help Jesus out. They’re not usually there to befriend Him. This lawyer stands up. Now, in the 1st Century, that would’ve been really important for you and me. It might’ve been like, “Yeah. Well, he just stands up. What’s he doing? Trying to draw attention to himself?”

No. That’s actually a gesture of respect. It’s much like raising your hand in class when the teacher’s talking and not just blurting out an answer. You raise your hand and show respect until you’re called upon. So, this guy stands up, which means he wants to ask a question, but he’s giving respect to Jesus, which would’ve been sort of strange because everybody who was around and saw this would’ve thought, “Man, these people don’t really like Jesus, but he’s standing up and showing Jesus respect. This is an interesting thing.”

“And behold, a lawyer stood up...” — but then Luke tells us that there’s an ulterior motive here — “...to put him to the test,”

So, he stood up and everybody who sees this thinks he’s giving Jesus respect, but what he’s really doing is he’s there to challenge Him. He’s there to poke at Him. He’s there to see if he can expose something that would get Jesus in trouble or would bother Jesus. So, he’s going to put Him to the test. He stood up. Everybody sort of sees what’s going on. But, deep down inside, he’s there to put Him to the test.

He says, “‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’”

“What shall I do?” That’s a really sort of loaded question in the 1st Century. It’s actually a massively loaded question in the 1st Century. They argued about this. Today, as I was trying to think of something that I could think of where you all would go, “Yeah, okay. We understand how contentious that would be,” can you imagine if you took 10 people from 10 different denominations, put them in a room and said, “Tell me how the Lord’s going to come back?”

There’d be boxing gloves and all. I mean, it would be a heated conversation, probably. “You don’t read the Bible right.” Okay. Well, this question is a loaded question. How do you inherit eternal life? So, he’s come to Jesus to ask a theological question. He’s not really come to Jesus because he wants Jesus. He’s not come to Jesus because he wants to have a relationship with Jesus. He’s there to trick Jesus, to trip Jesus up, because he’s more worried about being right theologically and doctrinally than he is about coming to Jesus. Let that sink in for a minute.

“‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’”

Well, Jesus is smart. He doesn’t answer the question. He questions him back. He said, “What is written in the Law? I mean, you’re a lawyer. You’re someone that understands the Law, really. I mean, you know the Law. You understand it well. What’s written in the Law? What’s written there? I mean, you know what’s written.” And then He says something that, I’m almost positive, when we go through these passages of Scripture, we just completely miss. It’s like we just forget that this part was in there.

He says, “‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’”

In other words, Jesus admits people read things differently, that they see things differently. He goes, “Well, how do you read it? Tell me how you read it. You know the Law really well. How do you read it? Tell me how you see this eternal life thing.”

And his answer is this, and he knows exactly what he’s answering. He says, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’”

He knows that that’s a great answer for Jesus because Jesus has gone all throughout Galilee telling everybody, “Love God, love others. Love God, love others.” So, he knows that that’s an answer that’s a good answer, but he’s really wanting to get to something because he wants to challenge Jesus. So, Jesus’ response is this: “Hey, you’ve answered correctly. Do that, and you will live.”

But see, there’s a little bit of going back and forth here that if we’re not really, really, really sensitive to the text and what’s going on in Luke we might sort of miss. Jesus, in the way that He treated people, was that everybody could come and eat with Him. He loved everybody. But in Judaism in the 1st Century, and in the scholarly world, the passage that said you should love your neighbor as yourself was out of Leviticus 19. And how did they read it? Well, they read it very specifically. They read it very clearly to themselves. The whole passage is dealing with how do you love other Jewish people? Not everybody, just other Jewish people. Except, at the very end, there was this little passage that said, “If an alien or an immigrant or a stranger happened to come among you, love them too.”

So, they interpreted that with, “Well, you can’t — I mean, you can’t do that. If you let somebody come in that’s not of you, they might take things from you. They might do things to you. They might destroy. You’ve got to keep them away.”

So, the way they interpreted that, the way they read that was if they come in and become part of us, then we can love them. But Jesus didn’t see it that way. Jesus said, “I’m loving everybody.” So, when He answers, “You know what? Go do this, and you’ll live,” the lawyer’s sitting there, if he walks away, he knows that if he walks away and does that, where he loves like Jesus, then he’s really following Jesus. He’s admitted that Jesus is who He is, but he can’t. He can’t do that because he doesn’t believe that. He’s asked this question to bring out some contentiousness and show that Jesus is wrong. So, to justify himself in front of everybody in his own position, he says, “Well, who’s my neighbor? Who is it that I cannot love? Who’s my neighbor?”

And he’s hoping that Jesus’ response will be, “Well, you love everybody,” then he can argue with Him and go, “No. That’s not what the Bible says. This is what the Bible says,” and Jesus is not going to see it the way he sees it. He’s not going to see it the way Jesus sees it because he reads it a certain way.

So, he says, “Who’s my neighbor?” Jesus doesn’t answer that question. He tells a story. Here’s the story:

“Jesus says, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,’”

And you know this guy’s going, “Dude, just answer the question. This is not story time. I’m not tired. It’s not time for momma to come read me out of a book at story time here.

“Jesus says, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,’”

And if you’ve ever been overseas and you’ve been to Israel — and some of you have gone with me — we took up from the Dead Sea, past Jericho and all the way up to Jerusalem. When you go up, you go up several thousand feet. You go from below sea level to above sea level in Jerusalem. But then you would come down. So, when the Bible says you go up to Jerusalem or come down from Jerusalem, it’s literal. It means that. But if you’ve traveled there, it’s like a 17- or 18-mile journey, and it’s all cut backroads and there’s rocks, hills and everything. There weren’t any busses and there weren’t any roads back then like we have today. There were just paths. It was all this sort of rocks and everything. So, when you went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, one thing that everybody knew is that there might be people in the rocks that would jump out and take your stuff. I mean, it was a well-traveled road, so it was a great place for robbers, gypsies and people to hang out to get stuff if they needed stuff.

“Jesus says, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers,’” — that wouldn’t have been anything that would’ve been shocking. Most people would’ve known this — “‘who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.’”

Now, one of the things you would’ve known if you lived in the 1st Century is since this guy was naked, it would be hard to tell who he was because most of the ways that you could tell who people were in the 1st Century is the clothes that they wore. So, he’s naked. We also know something else. In the Ancient Near East — I can’t tell you why this is the way it was, but it was sort of the culture — if somebody jumps out from behind a rock and says, “Give me your stuff,” and you give them your stuff, they don’t beat you up. That’s just sort of understood. If you say, “No, you’re not getting my stuff. I’m going to fight for my stuff,” then there was a fight. So, this guy didn’t want to give up his stuff. We know that. He was stripped, he was beaten and they departed, and they left him half dead.

So, here he is laying in a ditch. You wouldn’t know for sure if he was dead or not dead. He’s naked without any clothes. The only way that you could possibly tell who he was if maybe if you went over and sort of examined him. You could probably tell if he was circumcised or not, but that would be the only way to possibly tell what type of nationality he was. But you wouldn’t know for sure. Either way, he’s lying there, he’s beat up, he’s departed and he’s left half dead. At this point, it’s a good story. Where are we going? What’s going on?

He says, “‘Now by chance a priest was going down that road,’”

Well, if you know the lawyer knows the Scripture, he knows that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. There ain’t no chance going on here. Jesus just says that to get him in, to pull him into the story. “It’s just by chance. He just happened to show up. Priest just going down the road.” No, no. There’s no “by chance.” He’s doing this to arrest the attention. And how would a priest have gone down the road? Well, he would’ve ridden an animal because priests were middle class, upper-middle class in the 1st Century. So, he’s riding an animal. He’s going down the road on his way back to Jericho.

“And when he saw him...” — he sees the guy. How does he read the Scripture? Does he read the Scripture that says that if a man’s laying over there dead that you should go bury him? Because that’s in the Law. Does he read the passage that says if somebody’s laying over in a ditch and they’re not dead that you’re supposed to help them? Because that’s in the Law. Or does he read the law that says that you shouldn’t touch a dead body because it defiles you? Because that’s in the Law. How does he read? Well, we’re going to know how he reads.

“When he saw him he passed by on the other side.”

We know how he reads. He reads, “I’m not going to get involved. There’s too much stuff here. It might contaminate me. I want to stay holy. I want to stay clean. I want to say right.”

Now, what we’re told next is, “‘A Levite, when he came to the place and saw him,’”

And this is important because the question is who were priests and who were Levites? This is a real good question. Let me give you an answer. All priests were Levites, but not all Levites were priests. So, a Levite that was not a priest would be like the second tier in the temple services. So, when the priests left from their duty, the Levites would leave after them. The priests would leave, the Levites would clean up, and then the Levites would go.

So, if you’re a Levite and you’re coming down the road, you know that the priest went before you — the one who knows Scripture, probably better than you. So, if the priest didn’t stop and help the guy, then you know how you ought to read the situation. You ought to pass right on by as well. So, when he came to the place and saw him, he passed by on the other side. Now, you should be expecting, if you’re the listener of the story in the 1st Century, you had a priest, a Levite and now you’re going to get a Jewish man or an Israelite.

Then Jesus said, “‘But a Samaritan,’”

Now, this is where — have you ever had those birthday cards that you open up and they play music to you? I think that our Bibles, when we get to passages like this, should light up and go, “Dun, dun, dun!” Just to give you some dramaticness here to the story, because this is a moment. “A Samaritan? I mean, a Samaritan?” This lawyer would have hated Samaritans. They definitely were not in the neighborly category. They hated these people. “But a Samaritan...” — and it would’ve been like, “What? A Samaritan? Why are you bringing them in here?”

He says, “‘But a Samaritan, as he journeyed,’”

That’s important because he’s in the wrong place, folks. He shouldn’t be on that road. Samaritans and Jews don’t get along, and you don’t go down Jewish territory any more than Jews go down Samaritan territory because you might fall into the wrong hands. So, is he lost? Is it by chance? Maybe he’s there for a reason.

So, “‘But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him,’” — what did he do? — “‘he had compassion.’”

Especially if you’re the lawyer listening to this, you’re like, “Oh, gosh. He had compassion.” But we’re not done.

“‘He went to him...’” — look at these verbs — “‘...and he bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal...’”

He didn’t do what the priest could’ve done, because he could’ve put him on his animal. But he puts him on his own animal and brought him to an inn, which is probably in Jericho, which is crazy because a Samaritan in Jericho would not be a good place for a Samaritan to be. This guy’s putting his life on the line. It’d be like, basically — remember the cowboy movies where Wyatt Earp and the quick draws and the cowboys and Indians and everything? Can you imagine in that world if in Wyatt Earp’s area, you’ve got the O.K. Corral, the bar and the inn and all that stuff — like the Bonanza scene or whatever. All of a sudden — and this is real world if you can sort of imagine. Imagine an Indian has got a horse and he’s walking with that horse into cowboy land. On the back of his horse, he’s got a cowboy draped over his horse that’s got two or three arrows in his back. You know how long he’d be around. Even if he was helping the guy, even if it was good, it would be like, “No. this guy’s terrible. Get rid of him.”

This guy goes into a town, into an inn and takes care of him.

“‘And the next day...’”

He stayed the night. This guy’s crazy. There are going to be people outside waiting for him.

“‘And the next day he took out two denarii...’” — the two denarii is probably either a week or two weeks of stay. We don’t know for sure. We just don’t know. It could be a week, so he gave a week of stay. It could’ve been two weeks of stay. But, in other words, he paid for a good stay.

He gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend,’” — whatever more you need — “‘I will repay you when I come back.’”

“Dude, you’re going to come back? You’re lucky if you don’t die on the way out. You brought in someone. We don’t think good of you even if it is good what you’re doing. We’re not going to think good of you because we are so prejudiced against you we’re never going to see you as being possible of doing good. And you’re going to come back? And whatever more?”

Jesus looks at the attorney and says, “Of these three, who was a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Because, see in his mind, a neighbor would be you don’t have to get involved. “I’ve got a set of what I can do.” He says, “Which one was the better neighbor?” He can’t even find in his vocabulary to speak the word “Samaritan.”

He says, “‘The one who showed him mercy.’”

“That’s the one. This is the one. The one who showed mercy. I’m not going to tell you it’s a Samaritan because I don’t want to speak that name, but the one who showed mercy.”

“Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’”

Which puts him in a position because if he actually goes out and starts loving the people that he would not naturally love, then he’s showing that he’s following Jesus which answers the question for him, “How do I inherit eternal life?”

I believe in Jesus and I follow Jesus. But he’s not going to. He’s not going to at all because he’s more concerned with his righteousness, his stance and his position rather than actually, genuinely caring for everybody. So, normally at this point, after we’ve looked at a good biblical passage and we’re like, “Whoa, that’s really some powerful stuff. That’s really great stuff,” we now do, “Well, okay, how does that apply to me in 2018?” We normally call these “take-homes.” But this series is “Back to School,” so we decided we’d be creative and we would call this “Vocabulary Phrases.” So, we’re going to learn some vocabulary phrases that we can chew on, think about and pray about that apply to our lives.

The first one is “whatever more.” This is the first phrase that we want to learn. Whatever more. We want to know what that definition is. It comes from, “And whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” In other words, “I’m ready to do some extra credit even though I don’t need to do extra credit. Whatever more.”

The definition of “whatever more” is living our life to do whatever more we can rather than just simply enough. And this is a real question for all of us as Christians. “What do you do?” Whatever more. “What do you do when things are not...” — whatever more. “What do you do when your marriage isn’t doing...” — whatever more. “What do you do when your boss isn’t...” — whatever more. You say, “Well, I don’t want to do that.”

This is, ultimately, the question here. Do we love God? Do we love others? Then we are “whatever more” people. We are people of “whatever more.” Let me tell you what being a “whatever more” person really looks like in our lives. First of all, it shows that God is first because you can’t really be a “whatever more” person if you’re first because you’re going to be, sort of, “Let me get what I want. Let me get everything together. Maybe, maybe, maybe I’ll be nice every once in a while, but I’m not going to live my life as a ‘whatever more’ because if I live my life as a ‘whatever more,’ I’m not putting myself first.” Exactly. Living a “whatever more” life says God’s first in our lives.

Secondly, when we live a “whatever more” life, it allows others to experience a difference. Let me brag on you. I bragged on the other two services, I’m going to brag on 11:45. This is an awesome church. When we do First Fridays and things like First Fridays, those are “whatever more” moments. That’s what they are. They’re “whatever more” moments. Let me explain how they are. If you’ve worked First Friday at least two or three times, you know somebody’s walked up to you and said, “Where do I pay? Who do I go see to pay for my kid?”

We’re like, “You don’t have to pay for nothing.”

“What do you mean?”

See, by being a “whatever more” church and putting God first, we’ve allowed others to experience a difference. They’re going, “Whoa. Seriously?”

Yes. And then, what that does is by being a “whatever more” person, it gives us real opportunities to engage. “Well, why would you all do something like that?”

“Because we believe in being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.”

“Really? Tell me about this church. Tell me about what’s going on.”

“Well, come on in. We’ve got an ugly preacher. He’s not that cool, but he’ll tell you a Greek word every once in a while,” or whatever. But it shows God’s first and allows others to experience a difference and gives us real opportunities to engage. The word we need to learn is “whatever more.” Whatever more. Whatever more it takes. Just whatever more.

The second vocabulary word — and this is an important word to learn, too, or phrase, is “passing by.” This is a good one to learn. This is a good phrase to learn. This comes from Luke 10:31.

“When he saw him, he passed by on the other side.”

What this vocabulary phrase means is this: This is where God gives you and me an opportunity to be “whatever more” people, and we choose not to do it. We just pass by. And listen, because I know I’m not a prophet. It’s not like God just spoke an audible in my voice. I just know this is the way it is. Whenever you preach a message like this and talk about whatever more, there’s always people in the room that go, “Yeah, but man, you can’t live that way. You just can’t do that. That’s just — that’s just not going to work. You’ve got to have time sometimes for yourself, and you’ve got to take care of your family, and you’ve got to do this.”

I totally agree. I’m not telling you that there’s never a time to draw a boundary. I’m not telling you that there’s not a time to take some rest. I’m not telling you that there’s not a time where you’ve got to focus on you, but what I can tell you is this — and this is what’s important because this is the question. Are we looking for opportunities to be “whatever more” people, or are we constantly coming up with excuses? Because what can happen is where you do need time, where you do need to focus and where you’ve got to take care — I get all those things. If that is always the excuse for never being a whatever more person, there’s a problem.

The focus should be, “I’m going to be a ‘whatever more’ person. And yes, I will do the things I tell you, but my first and primary motive is to be whatever more. I’m not going to pass by.”

And so many Christians, just like this lawyer who would’ve told you, “I absolutely love God, I absolutely am in for this thing and I’ve studied the Bible,” he wasn’t looking for opportunities to be neighborly. He wasn’t looking for opportunities to be a “whatever more” Christian. And I can’t tell you. I don’t know this guy’s heart, but what I can tell you is that God puts this passage of Scripture in between those who definitely have eternal life and possibly someone who doesn’t. It’s there not to tell you whether He does or doesn’t, it’s there to ask us, “Have we really ever been touched by the Lord?” Because if we’re always looking for excuses to not get involved, and we’ve always got an excuse for why we shouldn’t do that, why we shouldn’t treat people like that, and why we should exclude — if that’s sort of where we’re at and that’s our default position, this passage is to arrest us and to shake us up a little bit and say, “Hey, you don’t want to be a passing by Christian. You want to be a ‘whatever more.’”

Third — and this is just true for everyone. This is self-explanatory, but it’s a phrase called “open hands.” What I want to do here is I want you to look at the words here that I’m going to show you, and I want you to see them with hands. I want you to figuratively see hands here. “He bound up his wounds, poured on oil and wine.” Bound. Poured. Hands. “He set him up on his animal. He brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper.”

Look at those hands. Every time, they’re open. They’re open. They’re open hands. Because, see, the definition of “open hands” is when we realize that open hands that give are the only hands that actually receive. It’s in open hands that we actually receive and we can give. You can’t receive with hands like this. And here’s the real thing, and this is the moment where we should go, “Whoa, man. This is the real thing that’s going on here.”

Jesus is comparing robbers to neighbors. The priest and the Levite are robbers. They have left this man like the robbers. They’ve robbed the man of his dignity. They’ve robbed themselves of the blessing of helping someone else. The priest has robbed the person that’s following him from experiencing all of what God could have for them. And they both have lost an opportunity for God to show glory through who they are. They’re robbers. One is a neighbor.

This is the moment where you look in the text and you go, “Whoa. Is it possible I could be a robber and not a neighbor? I don’t want to be a robber. I want to be a neighbor.” That’s what the text is for. And here’s the question: When does my own safety, security or religious beliefs keep me from being a neighbor? When do those things jump in to my life and make me more of a robber than a neighbor?”

See, that’s what the Scriptures do. They just sort of expose. You know, you read them and you go, “Oh, man.” That’s why there’s grace. I mean, none of us are going to get this perfectly. It’s not that. But it’s there to say, “Hey, listen, this is what it really looks like to be a follower of Jesus.” It gives us something to pray about. It gives us something to think about. It gives us something to chew on.

Now, I could stop here and I think it would’ve been a good message. It would’ve given us something to think about, chew about and all that good stuff. But when I was in here Saturday — I come in here on Saturdays and pray over the seats and I go through my message one last time — I just knew that I needed to add one more thing at the end. And listen, if it was only last night — I had a young lady sit there in tears telling me, “It was like I hadn’t been here in a year, and I felt like I needed to be here. What you said was for me.”

I mean, totally broken down. So, if that was the only person, then I think I was good. But I suspect that there’s somebody in here too, and probably multiple somebodies in here that need to hear this because this is important. The last vocabulary phrase. I’m going to call this a “healing moment.” I think this is really important. The definition of a healing moment is — because we know this guy was left half dead and we know that this Good Samaritan came, bandaged him, but on the oil and wine, paid for everything that needed to be paid for to get him well. A healing moment is when the Lord binds us up and takes care of us after we’ve been beaten and left for dead. See, I suspect there’s somebody in here that feels like they’ve been beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. Maybe it was a marriage. Maybe it was a job. Maybe it was a dad or a mom who did you wrong. Maybe it was a boss. Maybe it was circumstances. I don’t know. What I’m saying is, though, that I suspect there’s somebody in here, if not more than one, that says, “Man, you don’t understand. I feel like I’m on the side of the road dead right now, and nobody’s going to come to me.”

Let me tell you something: It’s not by chance that you’re here. It’s not by you just showed up. You’re here because God wants you to know that He is the one that comes and binds us up when we’ve been left dead on the side of the road. That’s who He is. He is the Good Samaritan. He is the one that has the oil and the wine. He is the one that can pay whatever we need to pay so that we can get well. He’s done it all for us. And if you’re here and you feel like you’re on the side of the road, left for dead — maybe it was a church person. Maybe it was a pastor that passed you by. I don’t know what it was, but that’s where you’re at right now.

Let me tell you something: You are not here by accident. You’re here by divine appointment. God wants to be the one that comes and pours the oil and wine, binds you up and gets you well. Let Him do that this morning. Let Him do that. Maybe you feel a little broken up on the inside. You may feel like whatever. I saw people walking out of here, tears, saying, “God, thank You so much.” You don’t understand. That’s why we come here. We don’t come here to hear me. I ain’t going to — look, I’m just Chip. I’m not going to change your life. The band’s not going to change your life. We’ve got a great church. It’s not going to change your life. The person — and it’s a person — that changes life, His name is Jesus. That’s the one who does it and He wants to change your life.

Let’s bow our heads.

Dear Heavenly Father, I believe that there are people here this morning that need to hear this word that feel like they’re in a ditch. Lord, all of us need to hear this word about being a neighbor and all of us can leave chewing on that. But Lord, specifically right now, I want to pray for this that are struggling, for those that are on the side of the road feeling left for dead, beaten up, stripped of all their dignity, stripped of all the things that made them what they were.

Lord, I pray right now in Jesus’ name that there would be a healing that walks in to this sanctuary right now, a healing that binds up wounds, that ministers to Your people, that reaches out to everyone, Lord, and does what only You can do for Your glory.

Lord, I pray for those that are struggling and bound up and torn up on the inside that You would, in the way You do it, hover over them and just speak healing to their lives. Minister to Your people right now. Minister to Your people. Lord, we thank You for that You’re doing. We thank You that You’re a good Lord and that You’re a God who’s always attentive to our needs.

I pray that as we walk out of here today that You would just continue to lead and guide us, I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us be the church that You’ve called us to be, which is the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon. Take care.

Back to School Week 1: The Test

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Back to school. It’s that time of year when we all do whatever we can to prepare. We hit the sales, stock up on all the supplies and make sure we are equipped for the next challenge life is about to throw at us. But are we sure we have everything we need? Maybe our backpacks are still missing something.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to all those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. I want to just take a moment and brag on the creative team that puts together the bumpers. The creative team puts together all the stuff up here. The staff. They even put an apple up here. I mean, this is a great group. I want to say this because I think, sometimes — I think you maybe know this, but I want to make sure that you do know this. We put a lot of time and effort when we do a series that these are not just something that like, last night, we decided, “Hey, this would be a great idea.” These are things that are planned in advance because what we try to do is we look at the calendar and we say, “What are people dealing with at different times during the calendar?” so that we can try to say things and talk about biblical things that are right in the moment that are in your life because I want you to come here to Grace and to get equipped and to learn how to walk out your faith, and to ultimately have a greater relationship with Jesus in everything that you do.

So, we knew, coming out of Colossians, that everybody was going to be going back to school. So, we thought, “How can we take that?” Even my wife was at home and she’s like, “How in the world are you going to preach on ‘back to school?’” You know? And I said, “Just wait. You’ll see. It’s all cool.” Because, listen, everybody knows, even if you don’t have children, if you don’t have any grandchildren, here’s the way it works: We all know. Going back to school, we all know it’s that time because what happens is you’ve been getting up for the last three months at eight or nine o’clock in the morning. Maybe you like to go to The Broken Egg, or maybe you like to go to Dunkin’ Donuts. Whatever. You get in your car. You cruise down University, get on I-75, go to Fruitville. It takes about five minutes and life is good and everything’s perfect. It might have been a Monday, it might have been a Tuesday, it might have been a Thursday, but one morning you got up, you got in your car, you pulled out and you’re like, “Whoa. Where did all this traffic come from?”

Right? And then you go, “Oh! There’s the school busses and the return of the minivans. I know what’s going on.” So, you’re there and you’re trying to be a Christian, but it’s like that five-minute trip is now thirty minutes and you’re getting frustrated. And the kid in front of you that’s got his face in the window, picking his nose and laughing at you, you’re going, “Go!” And the mom in the minivan, the light’s turning yellow to red and you’re like, “Go! Go! Go!”

You know? And they didn’t go. So then, you fly around that minivan, and as you fly around that minivan, all of a sudden, God, in a moment, speaks to you and you realize, “I’ve got a Grace Community Church bumper sticker on the back of my car.”

Then you roll down the window and go, “No, no, no. This? I was listening to Chris Tomlin and I was praising the Lord. That was what that was. And I’m praying for your children and the nose-picker and all that stuff. I love you all. God bless you.”

And then off you go. Right? So, we all know that happens. But if you’re a mom and a dad with kids, going back to school is like getting delivered from Egyptian bondage. It’s incredible. In fact, there was a picture taken of a local family here in Lakewood Ranch as their kid got on the school bus. Like, “Yes!” Mimosas and everything. You know? And as we were sort of thinking about this and whatever, I was on the computer doing stuff, trying to figure out, “Are there some cool quotes or some neat things that we could look at?” This one thing kept coming up over and over again. It’s like the funniest back to school educational quote ever. I was like, “I’ve just got to say it.” It doesn’t have anything to do with God. It’s just funny.

“My dad could always find the bright side. Whenever I brought my report card home from school, he’d say, ‘Well, at least I know you didn’t cheat.’”

Right? Great stuff. So, what we’re going to do — and this is how we’re going to do this series — is we’re going to take a little bit of a lighthearted look at some of the things that we know about school, and then we’re going to take it, have some fun, but then we’re going to look at a really good biblical passage or some Scriptures. I promise you the take-homes and the application in this particular series is going to be incredible. Next week is — let’s see. What’s next week? Next week is Extra Credit, the following week is Parent/Teacher Conference, and then the following one is Class Dismissed. So, we’ve got some really cool things to talk about. In fact, the Parent/Teacher Conference thing, at this point, at least, I’ve convinced my wife to join me up here on stage and to do it together. We’re going to talk about raising godly children. Anyway, that’s not your cue to miss that weekend. You know? You need to be here. You need to be here.

Anyway, we’ve got some really cool stuff to look at. This weekend, I want to talk to you about something that, man, for me at least, in school — it wasn’t maybe later on in college and seminary and all that stuff, but in elementary school, it was a really big deal for me. I mean, something I struggle with. It was “The Test.” Maybe you didn’t struggle with those things, but man, I struggled with the test like crazy. My mom had a master’s in English, so she was a good teacher and she would teach me really good. But, for whatever reason, and I can’t explain to you why, when I would get to school and the piece of paper would go on my desk, it was like everything that I had ever studied completely disappeared. It was like it just was gone. And I’m looking and going, “I’ve never seen these words before. Are those numbers? What do we do?”

So, what I did was when I didn’t know the answer, I just came up with a really creative answer because I felt like at least putting something down was better than not putting something at all. I realized there’s still Chip Bennett’s out there today that give those creative answers because we have here, you know, to change centimeters to meters, you take out “centi.” Right? That’s what you do. That was me. I did that. I mean, that’s a great answer. It should be 100%. Or what ended in 1896? 1895. For sure. And I think this is actually one of my tests because I can see it. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed? At the bottom.

That’s the way I did my tests. God said, “You need to be a pastor.” So, there you go. Anyway, the beautiful thing about tests, though, when they’re in school, is it’s about what you know and how well you can assimilate all that information. Thank God that He’s not like that. When God comes to us and there’s a moment there of, we’ll call it, loosely, a test, what He’s looking for is for us to trust Him. He’s looking for relationship. He’s not looking for how much we know. He’s looking for us.

What I want to do is I want to take a passage out of Genesis 15. We’re going to look at it. We’re going to look at several verses and then we’ll get real practical at the end. But, to set it up, I think it’s important because one of the things that I try my best to do as your pastor is to give you some really good, biblical foundations so when you’re reading the Bible at home, you have some really good context and ability to see what’s going on. Well, this passage that we’re going to deal with in Genesis 15 deals with a man named Abram. Now, you probably know him by Abraham. Later on, his name is Abraham, but it’s Abram. I think that we need to go back all the way to Genesis 1 and sort of just do a real quick summary up to Genesis 15 so that we’re sort of aware of what’s going on. I really believe, with all of my heart — and I know this because of the last two services — that this is going to be something that many of you in here are going to have a life moment today. I’m just telling you that this is one of those things.

In fact, I was telling somebody right before I came out here, “There’s not a time I come in here, any time at all, that I’m not preaching the Bible and preaching Jesus. There’s never, ever, ever a moment that I don’t do that. But then there’s some times that I know that, man, this is a little bit different and unique.” This is one of those. You’re going to see. This passage is beautiful and the applications at the end are going to be really hitting home. So, that being said, before we get to Genesis 15, we need to understand a little bit about Genesis. You may not know this, and that’s okay if you don’t know this, but it’s something that now, when you learn it, you’ll go, “Oh, that’s really cool.”

Genesis 1-11 is a literary unit. They go together. They tie together. Genesis 12 starts something new. In Genesis 1-11, what we have is we have the creation of the world in Genesis 1-2 where everything is good and God has humanity living in His place, which is called “Eden.” In Eden, everything that they have is needed. They don’t have to fight for anything. They have no fears. They have none of that stuff. They’re there. Well, in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve fall and sin is introduced into the world, they are actually evicted from this place that they were living with God, and now they’re out into the world. They have children. Cain and Abel are their first children. Cain kills Abel. Then what we get is we get where this is all going because they’ve been in Eden and now Cain has killed Abel and the first thing that he does is he goes and plants a city.

In this city, that’s where they want security. So, they figure if they can build some walls and some stuff, then they can be secure. If they’ve got fears, they can be there. If they need plants to be grown, they can grow together. So, what they’re doing is all the things that God had ultimately provided them, now they’re trying to figure out a way to do on their own in their city, completely contrary from what God wants. I could preach a whole sermon on how our cities and Christianity do not mix. They’re not intended to be that way even though we sort of intuit that. But Cain built a city. Well, if you continue to read in Genesis, you’ll read that they continue to move east of Eden. Although that’s also true, it’s also a literary cue that they’re moving further and further and further away from God. It’s so bad that in Genesis 6, God destroys the world with a flood. It starts again and what do they start doing? Well, they start founding cities again.

So, in Genesis 11, it’s not by coincidence that we have this city, Babel, where not only are they building cities, but they’re trying to build towers up to God. In other words, they’ve got this thing so messed up, humanity is so messed up that they think that they’re doing “here” on this thing. Everything is about “here,” which is why Genesis 12 is so important to Genesis 1-11 because, in Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave his city and take a journey. Now, if we didn’t have Hebrews 11, we wouldn’t fully understand that, but Hebrews 11 says that Abraham was looking for the heavenly city. He was on a journey looking for that which is really the city where his heart should be, whose builder and maker is God, not here.

So, he’s a wanderer. He’s wandering with a tent and he’s traveling because he’s looking for something other than what this world can provide for him. God says, “I want you to leave your city. I don’t want you to take anybody with you.” He takes Lot with him. I always joke and say, “When God asks us to go, sometimes we take a Lot along with us, too.” Right? So, he leaves and we see this pattern of Abram where he sort of trusts God sometimes, but then he doesn’t trust God. But no matter what he does, God is still blessing him. I mean, he comes out of Egypt after lying and not trust God. And the promised land, he comes out and God prospers him. He’s got all kinds of stuff.

In Genesis 14, he’s a military victor. In the Ancient Near East, having a lot of stuff, a lot of cattle, a lot of livestock, a lot of money, a lot of gold and being a military conqueror, you were about as high on the chain as you could possibly be. And then, in Genesis 14, at the very end, he’s at where Jerusalem is at. When you read it carefully, he’s right there where Gehenna and Hinnom come together. And a guy named Melchizedek, the priest of Salem, comes out and it’s crazy. But in Genesis 14, he serves him bread and wine. This is a Christological thing. Abraham gives him 10% of his spoils, which is interesting because there’s giving before the law. Just a note there. Just a little note. I’m not trying to say anything at all. You can just take that for what it is, but just a little note that just popped into my head. We must be in a building fund.

So, anyway — I’m joking. I’m joking. Have fun with me. So, we’ve got this moment here and then we go into Genesis 15. And the writer — it’s the way the Bible’s written because it’s really written to engage you and me — says, “After these things,” because you should be thinking, when you’re reading this, “Okay. After these things. So, he’s conquered. He’s got all kinds of stuff. He’s a military guy. Maybe he’s going to found a city. Maybe that’s what he’s going to do after these things.”

Well, what happens? It says, “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.”

So, here’s the word of the Lord that comes to Abram. Now, I love this because God’s Word, it’s so cool. I don’t have time to develop all this, but it’s so cool because it’s like God knows when He says to Abram what He’s going to say, He knows that it’s going to elicit certain things. God gets done what God gets done without having to coerce anybody, but He still gets it done. It’s just awesome how God works because His Word pierces and it gets into the real nooks and crannies of our lives.

So, “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’”

Well, we’re not really told that Abram has these great fears. Well, God knows that he does. God knows that there’s something that’s on his heart. He’s probing that. He says, “Hey, you know what? I’ve got your back, man. I’m going to give you so much more.”

Now, for most of us, if God came to us and said, “Hey, I’m going to dump it on you,” you’d be like, “Let it rain, baby. I’ll take it all. I’ll take everything that you’ve got.” He says, “Abram, I’m going to give you a great reward.” Abram’s response is telling. It also explains what this is. Here’s what he says:

“‘O Lord, God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’”

What he’s saying is this: “God, You could give me everything. I mean, I could have it all, but I don’t have anybody to give it to in legacy.”

I’m not going to preach on this. But man, if the Church could get a vision for the things that we have to steward it into the next generation, we would be really well done if we would think those ways. But we typically don’t. We’d be like, “Hey, make it rain. I want it all.” But he says, “I don’t have a child.” He’s just probed that fear. He said, “I’m going to give you a bunch of stuff,” and he goes, “What are you going to give me? I don’t have anybody to give it to. I’m childless. I’ve got Eliezer of Damascus. I mean, he’s one of my servants and I can give it to him, but it’s not the same thing. I’m not going to have legacy. I’m not going to have more and more and more to give into future generations at all.”

And in case God doesn’t understand what Abram’s saying, Abram tells Him again. He’s like, “God, maybe You’re not quite hearing what’s coming off my lips, so I’m going to say it again because You might not quite understand. It’s great that You want to give me all these things, but I’m childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus.”

And Abram said, “‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’”

“I don’t have anybody. I have Eliezer of Damascus, so he’s going to be the one who gets it. God, just in case You don’t understand, I have no child. None. Zero. That’s what’s more important to me. Not what You’re giving to me. I want to be able to give into the next generation. I want to have a kid that I can give to and they can give to. I want to know that what I did mattered. If it’s all just here and now, it’s no good. I want to have legacy in my life.”

And so, the word of the Lord comes to him again and says, “‘This man shall not be your heir.’”

“Eliezer of Damascus is not going to be your heir.”

“‘Your very own son shall be your heir.’”

You can imagine if you’re Abram, you’re thinking, “Man, I’m old. Sarah’s old. Ain’t no way in the world.”

And this is constantly in his mind even though he’s successful, even though he’s at the height of everything. He’s got this thing. “I don’t have anybody to give this to.” God says to him, “Hey, listen, I’m going to elicit that out of you. I’m going to give you a bunch of stuff. Fear not.”

“Well, but I don’t have a kid.”

“Great. Now we can deal with this. Now I can work with this. You’re going to have a son. That’s what you’re going to have, Abram. You’re going to have a son.”

“And he brought him outside...”

He’s in his tent. He’s hanging out in his tent. God says, “Hey, listen, I need you to come out of your tent for a minute. I need you to come out. I know it’s sort of comfortable in there. I know it’s not Lakewood Ranch in an Arthur Rutenberg home, but the bottom line is that it’s your tent. You’re sort of comfortable there, but I need you to come out of your tent. Come on out here. Abram, what I want you to do is I want you to look up towards heaven now. I want you to look up and I want you to number the stars, if you’re able to number them. I mean, Abram, can you count the stars?”

“Yeah. I can count.”

“Can you number them all?”

“No way.”

“Okay. But I want you to look. I know what you think. I know what you feel, that you’re never going to have a kid. But I want you to look up there. I want you to look because I just told you you’re going to have a kid, but I want you to look up there for a minute because if you can number the stars, number them because you can’t number them.”

“‘So shall your offspring be.’”

“Abram, you’re not just going to have a kid. You’re going to have so many offspring that you can’t even number them. That’s what’s going to happen for you.”

And in that moment where everything in his life says there’s no way that could ever happen, God says, “Look up at the stars and count them because that’s how many your offspring are going to be.”

And then we’re told: “He believed the Lord,” — He believed Him. In the face of everything that was contrary, he believed Him — “and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

That’s huge because what he’s saying is that we’ve just read how messed up people are and all the things Abram has would be the height of everything that he believes. That in the moment of believing God, that’s when everything is counted as righteousness. Not when he gets the kid, not when he gets the reward, but when he trusts God. In that moment of trusting God, everything is counted as right. All things are good.

So, let’s take that because now we’re going to go back in and we’re going to really pull out of this passage some things that are really going to speak to you and me. Normally, this is called “take-homes” or “practical applications,” but this is Back to School. So, what we’re going to do for this one is we’re going to learn some vocabulary phrases. Okay? A lot of times, people are taking pictures with their phones. You’re welcome to do that because people say, “You talk so fast and I can’t write it down as fast.” Well, you can take pictures. Last night, I even stopped. Somebody was on the front row and I said, “Hold on. Get your phone out. Take it. There you go. You’re good.”

So, these are some vocabulary phrases that we want to learn because they will change your lives and they’re coming from this passage.

The first one is a faith moment. I want to tell you what a faith moment is because some of you all are here today, and I’m going to tell you what a faith moment is and you’re going to go, “That’s where I’m at right now. You’re reading my mail right now. This is exactly where I’m at.”

Let me tell you what a faith moment is. We have Abram that says, “You’ve given me no offspring.” In other words, “God, let’s call what this is here. I’m old. Sarah’s old. You never gave me an offspring. You can give me everything, but I ain’t got anybody to give it to.”

The definition of a faith moment — this is the definition of a faith moment — is where God will give you and me facts that seemingly contradict His Word to create an opportunity for us to trust Him. See, the only thing that pleases God is faith. That’s what pleases God — faith. And so, God will create circumstances in your life where everything in your life says, “There’s no way,” even though God said, “This is the way.” Because it’s the only place that God can get you and me in a position to have faith in Him. See, it’s the age old thing. It’s the lack versus provision, it’s the impossible odds versus the possible God, it’s the barrenness versus the child. See, what’ll happen is God will put a faith moment in your life, and we don’t like them. We don’t want a faith moment. We want a reality moment. We want to be able to manage everything and go, “Thank You, God. I’ve got everything I need. I’ll give You praise and glory, but the last thing I want to do is trust You when everything around me is saying this is not going to happen.”

God says, “No, no. That’s the place you need to be because that’s a place where you can have faith, and that’s what pleases me. See, you trust me when everything says you have lack.”

Some of you all are in here today and you’re going, “Man, if I could ever just get back to where I was with the Lord at one point in my life. This marriage thing I’m in is terrible. My finances are messed up. Physically, I’m wrong. Everything about me, this area in my life, is absolutely a lack.”

You’re there because God says, “This is the place that I want you to be. It’s a faith moment. This is the opportunity for you to trust me. When everything around you says that it can’t happen, that’s when I’m the possible God.”

That’s a faith moment. Some of you are there right now. This is really important, though, because the faith moment, when it happens, the next thing is there needs to be what we call “leaving your tent.” Okay? It says here, “And he brought him outside.” See, listen to me, leaving your tent is when the perspective we need will only come when we move from where we currently are. Listen to this. See? He’s in his tent going, “No kid. Ain’t going to happen. I’m old. Sarah’s old. Ain’t going to happen.”

He says, “No, no. You need to come out here because where you’re at right here, you’re filling your mind with all kinds of stuff, all kinds of doubt, all kinds of stuff. I need you to move from here to out here is what I need you to do.”

Listen, take this home. This is a moment right here. Listen: The security of where we are is oftentimes more important to us than the stars God has for us to see. “I’m going to stay in my tent. I don’t like my tent, but my tent’s what I know. The last thing that I want to do is get outside of that tent because at least the tent is what I know.”

God says, “No, no, no. Listen, I’ve got stars for you to see. I’ve got promises for your life. You’ve got to get out of that tent. You’ve got to come outside so that you can see something different than what you’re seeing. Your perspective can change. The way you’re looking at reality can change.”

For many of us, who know what that tent is? That tent could be a lot of things. That tent could be your job. “Oh, yeah. But I’m...”

God says, “No. I want you to come out from there, man. I want you to see what I can do. This is not what I’ve called you to do. This is not the existence that I’ve had for you that you’re bound to this thing. I’ve got more for you.”

Maybe it’s a relationship or relationships of people that are pulling you out, pulling you back or keeping you from stuff and you’ve got to leave that tent. And you go, “I don’t want to leave that tent because this is what I know. I know it’s probably not as good as what it is, but I just don’t want to leave. I don’t want to walk outside.”

God says, “You’ve got to walk outside because I have some stars to show you.”

Finances. I won’t spend a whole lot of time on that. I’ll just leave that where that’s at. Pride. Let me meddle here for a minute. I’ll give you an example of pride, how it can hold you back. Your tent. Let’s just talk about worship for a second. “That’s great. Death was arrested and my life began. Yeah because I don’t want my wife or my kids — or I think my boss comes to one of the services, but it’s sort of dark in here. The last thing I want to have him see is me going, ‘Death was arrested...’”

But it’s funny because pride will hold you back from a lot of things in life. Religion? Whew. Man, that one will kill you. Again, I’m just going to tell you in all the love of my heart, you cannot run the hamster wheel good enough to get God to love you. You just can’t. All the dos and the don’ts, and the dos and the don’ts will do nothing but kill you. You cannot run the hill. That’s why Jesus did what we couldn’t do. Fear. Fear’s a tent. See, the tent’s the boat. Eleven of them didn’t get out of the boat. One did. Secure in the boat. Secure in the tent. It’s what we know.

But see, if a faith moment happens where you go, “There’s no way in the world — no way — that this can be possible,” there’s a moment where you also have to leave your tent. You have to get outside of that thing that’s keeping you from seeing the stars and the promises of God that God has for you.

And the third vocabulary phrase is a God moment. See, when a faith moment arises and we’re able to get out of our tent and see the stars and see the promises that God has for us, then there’s a God moment because it says he believed the Lord and God said, “You’re righteous.” A God moment is when we finally accept that God can and will shape our future according to His Word. It doesn’t take doing something and immediately getting something, or saying something and being okay or whatever — or giving out of abundance. It’s when you’re in a moment where there’s nothing you can do — it is impossible. “My marriage is broken. My finances are broken. My relationship with my mom or dad is broken. My relationship with my children are broken.” It is a faith moment — “I cannot do. I lack here. I am barren here.” — that says, “I’ve got to get outside of that thinking that’s going on in my head that this is impossible because I serve a possible God, and God has said, in His Word, that He will do certain things and He’s brought me to this moment because the one thing that He wants for me is for me to trust Him.”

So, here’s the question that we should ask: Can we abandon reading reality through empirical verification? In other words, everything that we see. “I can control this. I can manage this. I can touch it. I can manage it. I’ve got everything here.” Can we abandon that and, instead, believe that God can act between our faith moment where it’s impossible and His promise? That, in other words, when I trust God, I’m setting into motion the things that cannot be as if they were. I’m believing that God can do. And listen, it’s not in the reward, it’s not in the fulfillment of the promise where everything is alright, it’s in the moment that you trust God that everything is alright.

See, that keeps it from being manipulation because people will say, “Well, I’m going to use faith because if I use faith then what’ll happen is God will do.”

No, no. That’s called manipulation. That’s not faith. Faith says, “I trust God. I believe Him and that’s it.” And if you trust God, He will do what He says He will do. He will, every time, in spades.

Walter Brueggemann, great Old Testament scholar, realizes that what we have here in Genesis is a new genesis. We have a new start for humanity. Humanity’s broken, building cities, doing all of this stuff, but Abram finds the new creation. He finds the new moment in believing in God. He writes, “The new pilgrimage of Abraham is not grounded in the old flesh of Sarah, nor the tired bones of Abraham, but in the disclosing Word of God.”

What has God said over you? What has God said about you? What has God said to you? He says, “Listen, this is what I want from you: I want you to trust me. I’m not asking you to go run hard. I’m not asking you to run a mountain. If you trust me, there’ll be things that you do, but it’s not the doing. It’s the trusting. It’s the believing.”

And see, here’s what I know: Not every weekend that I come in here is there a moment where God is stirring the waters like this weekend. I’ll preach you the Bible, I’ll tell you about Jesus, I’ll get as excited as I can about those things, I’ll do my best to equip you, but not every Sunday, every weekend that we come in here, is there going to be a moment where you get to lay some things down, where you get to really have a moment with God. This is one of those moments. Some of you all are in a faith moment right now and you’re not here by accident. You’re not here because you just showed up. You’re here because from the foundation of the world, your heavenly Father knew that you would be here today and He is taking His Word and He’s hitting you right now, saying, “Listen, it’s impossible, but it’s not with me. I can do exceedingly, abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think.”

Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s your kids. Maybe it’s whatever. But you’re looking at it right now going, “There’s no way. There’s no way.” And you’re in that tent. God’s saying, “I brought you here. Get out of your tent. Let this be a God moment for you today.”

What I’m going to ask you to do is this. I’m not going to embarrass anybody. I’m not going to ask you to get up. I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand. None of that. I’m going to ask you to bow your heads and make your seat your altar, to have a moment with the Lord right now. You’re in a faith moment and you have no answers. Are you going to get out of your tent today and see the stars that God has for you, the promises that He’s spoken over you that are always even far better than what you thought? You were just looking for a son and He goes, “I’ve got offspring you can’t even number.”

Can you have that moment with God right now and say, “God, I trust You? I believe in You. Even though I can’t see it, even though I can’t feel it, even though it seems so incredible, the odds are stacked against me, God, I believe that You are the God of the possible in my life.”

For some of you all, that would be stepping out for the first time and saying, “God, I’m turning over my life to You. I’ve been trying to do life my way, but I’m going to turn it over to You today. I’m done, I’m done, I’m done. I believe Jesus died on the cross. I believe He rose again on the third day. I want to be in.”

That’s your faith moment today. For some of you, though, it’s more than that. It’s a business. It’s a relationship. It’s children. It’s a job. It’s physical things. It’s financial things. It’s social things. It’s loneliness. It’s depression. It’s anxiety. Whatever it is, you’re in a moment where there’s no way that this can be solved, and God says, “Get out of your tent. Look at the stars that I have for you, child. Just put your trust in me and watch what I can do.”

Father, I pray right now in Jesus’ name for everyone here. I believe that the name of Jesus is powerful. I speak the name of Jesus over everyone here. It breaks the chains of fear. It breaks the chains of sickness. It breaks the chains of disease. It breaks the chains of poverty. It breaks chains. Lord, I’m asking You right now, in Jesus’ name, Lord, that there would be a faith moment here for many people that would end up with a leave-a-tent moment into a God moment today, that there would be a God moment for people here today as they seek You right there at their altar, at their chair. Lord, let today be a day that they look back on and realize, “I left my tent and I saw the stars, and I believe the Lord and He did something incredible. Everything was right in that moment.”

Lord, let that be a reality for Your Church here. Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us in everything that we do, I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us be the church that you have called us to be. Lord, that is the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.

Dear Colossae Week 7: The Ending

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

The book of Colossians. It was a letter written during one of Paul the Apostle’s many trips to prison for declaring Jesus as Lord. And not just any Lord. A Lord who has died and risen again. The letter’s addressed to a community of people that Paul had never met, who made up a church community that he did not start. So, here’s some insight. As mentioned in previous weeks, Colossae was mostly under Roman rule. This meant that the Roman philosophies and household standards heavily influenced how the Colossians lived. Greece and Rome imprisoned Paul for preaching the Gospel, which went against the way that they taught.

One of the biggest ways that Paul addressed this was comparing the Roman household to the new Christian household in Christ Jesus. He completely flipped everything that they knew and turned it on its head. Does our society also look completely different than how the Kingdom of God works?

Dear Colossae, dear Church of Christ, these letters were written to encourage you. Please read them well.

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We are finishing up our current series called “Dear Colossae” this weekend, and if you’re new or if you missed a couple of weeks, I always like to sort of just give a real quick summary so you feel like you’re a part because the last thing I want you to do is walk in here at the end of a series and feel like, “Aw, man. I walked in on the last time.”

So, let me tell you what we’ve been doing. We’ve been going through the entire epistle that Paul wrote to the Colossians. We’ve sort of been doing it line-by-line, reading the verses and making some commentary on it. So, we’re at the end of that. If, for some reason, you really enjoy the sermon this weekend, and I hope that you do, you can go online or you can go onto the mobile app and you can watch the other messages that sort of preface this one. But we’re going to conclude this weekend.

So, if you remember last weekend, we came right out of Colossians 3. I mentioned that Colossians 3:1-4 are really hinges in this epistle where Paul says, “If we’ve been raised with Christ, we need to seek the things that are above,” and, “We’ve died. Our life is hidden with Christ in God,” and, “Christ who is our life shall appear, so should we also appear with Him in glory.” That’s sort of the crux of the message here. Paul’s talked about the Gospel. He’s talked about how important it is. He talked about Epaphras sharing the Gospel with him and how it’s growing and how they don’t need to get sort of perverted in the Gospel. It’s not “Jesus plus.” It’s not don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t touch this and taste. It really is the simple message of the Gospel, and that’s why Paul says, “So, if you’ve been risen with Christ, don’t get all bogged down with all that stuff. Keep your eyes up there.”

And then, in Colossians 3:5, he talks about putting off some things. In Colossians 3:12, he talks about putting on some things. He’s talking about the community. The “yous” there are plural. As a community, we sort of represent Christ in the local city that we live, as the Colossians do. And he ended in Colossians 3:17, where we ended last weekend, was, “Whatever we do as a congregation, whatever the Colossians do as a congregation, they should do it all for the glory of God.”

So, that leaves us with 25 verses left in the epistle, and I want to sort of explain how that breaks down in the last part of the epistle. I’m probably going to do a little bit more teaching today, but I think it’s going to be really cool. I think you’re going to enjoy the ending of the epistle. In Colossians 3:18-4:1, if I were able to redo the chapter divisions in the Bible, 4:1 would not be 4:1. It would be 3:19 and 4:1 would start in 4:2, but they didn’t ask me to do that. So, there you have it. I do encourage you, if you really, really, really want to read the Bible, get a Bible that doesn’t have chapter and verse markers and read it along with the other one so that you can see the flow rather than seeing the chapters and verses. Because, a lot of times, getting chapters and verses can mess things up.

But what Paul does is he moves from talking to the community, which is all of us, and he’s doing all these things, living this out and representing Christ as a community, he says, “Now, let’s drill down into the household.” Many of you all will remember, just a month ago, I did the sister passage here in Ephesians in a series called “The Walk.” I think it was Week Six of The Walk. You can go back and watch that. So, I’m not going to spend a lot of time in what we call the household code, how wives and husbands, children and fathers and all that. I’m not going to spend a lot of time there at all today because I just covered that about a month ago. So, if you want to hear more about that, you can go and watch that video. But that’s what Paul does in Colossians 3:18-4:1.

In Colossians 4:2-6, Paul sort of summarizes — and we’re going to sort of hone in one this today. He summarizes what he’s basically said throughout the entire epistle in four verses, and it’s really powerful. We’re going to learn a lot. And then, at the end here, he does a personal ending to the letter. In each of the services so far — Saturday at 6:00 and the one at 9:00 — everybody’s been like, “Wow. I didn’t know all that was at the ending of the epistle.” As a general rule, when we read epistles — just a general rule — when we get to all the name-calling, and this person and that person, whatever, it’s usually time that we just sort of blow through that and move onto the next book that we’re going to read.

I’d like to submit to you that there are no surplus worlds in Scripture at all. Every one of those words are important and you’re going to see how even a mundane ending of a letter is incredibly powerful if we will pay attention and work through it. So, that’s what we’re going to do today. That’s how we’re going to end up the series, and then I have one final thing I want to say at the very end, and we’ll get out of here. I think we’ll have really had a good understanding of the book of Colossians.

So, once again, Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Do everything to the glory of God,” then he explains the household code.

And then in Colossians 4:2, he says, in summary, as he’s summarizing everything up, he says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer,”

Now, I want to just take a minute here and talk about this, because I think this is a time as a pastor that it’s important for us to just take a minute and talk about prayer. Barna, Pew and those groups, they will do surveys and find out that the average Christian, somebody who attends church on some regular basis — that’s not a CEO, Christmas and Easter Only. It’s someone who actually attends on some regular basis. But when you do, they’re saying somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes a week people spend in prayer. I’m not here to make you feel guilty or give you a hard time, I’m just saying as Paul’s concluding everything, it’s interesting that where he concludes and starts that conclusion is, “Hey, make sure you continue...” — not just continue, but “steadfastly in prayer.”

He says, “Being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

And we’re going to see, as these four verses sort of flow together, we’re going to understand a lot more of this prayer and this watching in it with thanksgiving as we sort of go through the passage. But what Paul is really saying — we’ll see as we go through this — is, “Hey, listen, I want you all to make sure that you’re praying because being a community that proclaims the Gospel and lives the Gospel is really important.”

So, this idea of being watchful in prayer is paying attention to the things that God opens up for, us the opportunities that God opens up for us, and he says to do it with thanksgiving. Can I just make a little theological note? If you don’t pray with thanksgiving, your prayers usually become very selfish. When you pray with thanksgiving, you start to pray and thank God more than you would in another way. So, make sure in your prayers you give thanks to the Lord for the things that you have and for the things that are going on in your life because He is worth of all of those things.

So, he says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

“At the same time as you guys are doing that, as you’re praying and being watchful in thanksgiving and all of those great things, pray for us too. Keep us in mind because we want you to be praying the same things for us that you’re praying for you because you understand how important the Gospel is.”

“That God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison.”

Paul says, “Hey, listen, I know you guys are going to be praying.”

And we’re going to see here in just a minute, as he sums this up, how important the Gospel is in reaching outsiders. This whole four verses, it’s so important that we sort of get deep within our soul and our spirit. He says, “Listen, pray, be thankful, be watchful in it. And, while you’re doing that, pray for us, too, that God will open up a door so that we, too, can share Jesus with the people.”

We’ve been doing this thing called a “textual interaction” in this series where we sort of jump just for a moment to just talk about us for a second outside of the text. I want you to notice something here. Paul’s prayer is not for personal issues but for the Gospel. He could’ve said, “Hey, you know, the food is really bad here in prison. Could you guys pray that maybe they’ll open up an Applebee’s down the street or a Chili’s? Get some queso, some salsa and maybe some fajitas because the food’s really bad?” He could’ve said, “Hey, maybe I could get some nicer guards.” He could’ve said, “Hey, how about God does the prison shaking thing? You know? The jailhouse rock before Elvis ever showed up and blast us out?”

He could’ve said all those things. But look at what Paul asks for prayer. I mean, I can only speak for me. I’m not saying you would be this way. If I was in prison, I’d be going, “Hey, guys, could y’all pray that I get out of prison?”

If it was Chip-ossians, it would’ve been, “Could you get me out?”

Somebody said last night, “I thought it was called collisions.”

I’m like, “Hang out in church long enough. You’ll have some of them.”

But, anyway, he’s praying and he says, “Hey, of all the things I could ask you to pray for, I’m asking you to pray that I’ll have an opportunity to share Jesus with somebody.”

“That I may make it clear,”

“I don’t want to add to it. I don’t want to convolute things. I don’t want to, “Oh, well there’s no way you could be a Christian because you don’t do that, don’t do this and don’t do this.” He goes, “No. I don’t want to muddy this thing. I want to make sure that it’s clear that when I get an opportunity to share Jesus, I don’t mess it up. I don’t do the, ‘Oh, and one and plus that and the other.’ It’s very clear that Jesus Christ came, died on a cross and rose again on the third day. Are you in? For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that if you believe in Him you can have eternal life. I don’t want to confuse that thing. I don’t want to make that thing all muddy. I want to make sure that when the opportunity comes for me to share Jesus, that I make it clear.”

“Which is how I ought to speak.”

There’s a burden here, to Paul. It’s not just, “I hope to,” “that maybe.” No. He’s saying, “That I ought to speak.” Check this out as we jump just for a moment here and just make a note here on this text in a textual interaction. Paul is bound more to preaching the Gospel than he is to his current chains. He’s like, “Hey, listen, when you guys are praying, you’re watching, being thankful and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, man, pray for us, too, that even though I’m in prison, all I want is some opportunities to share Jesus. And when I do it, make sure that it’s clear because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.” He says, “So, as y’all are praying and you’re watchful and all that, pray for us.”

And as you’re doing all that stuff, “Walk in wisdom towards outsiders,”

Let’s camp out here for a minute and just listen. Sometimes when you just — Scripture is Scripture. You’ve just got to let it do its thing. You’ve just got to look at it and go, “Yeah. That’s where it’s at.”

Let’s just be — just take a moment. And I’m not asking you to put yourself under some guilt trip or anything like that. I’m just asking you to let Scripture interpret you. How often in our lives are we really, cognizantly thinking about how to make sure that we are intentional and appropriate and we’re walking in absolute wisdom towards those that are outside of the Church? Because I would submit that most of us don’t really think about walking in wisdom towards the outsiders. We just sort of do our thing. You know? Like the opportunity arises and we’re like, “Yeah. That’s right. Let me tell you about turn or burn. That’s the answer right there.”

You know? That’s not using wisdom. Okay? He says, “Walk in wisdom. Listen, you’re praying and you’re being watchful. You’re paying attention in your prayers because God’s going to give opportunity for you. This is what it’s all about. God planted the Church. He planted the Church there in Colossae. How did you get in. Through the Gospel? So, how are you going to get other people in? Through the Gospel. Let’s make sure that we don’t confuse it and get it all wrangled, messed up and added to and ‘don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t this and don’t that.’ Make sure it’s simple. Make sure you understand that it’s a person. The Gospel is not a rule or regulation book. It’s a person. It’s about a man named Jesus.”

He says, “So, when you’re praying, pray for us that we have those opportunities because that’s what I’m supposed to do. And make sure that you walk in wisdom towards outsiders.”

Listen: “Making the best use of the time.”

In other words, Paul’s like, “Hey, we all got time. Are we making the best use of that time by walking in wisdom towards outsiders? Or are we caught up in our own world, caught up in our own pursuits?”

I mean, seriously for a minute, just listen. If you’re listening via the mobile app at some point or the internet, listen to me. Here’s the reality: If this world is not all that there is — if this world is just a very, very, very small, like one piece of sand on the beach to eternity, if there really is a Jesus, if there really is a heaven and there really is a hell, if there really is the things that Scripture says, then we would be burdened. Like Paul says, “I ought to do these things.” There would be a burden of making sure that as we pray, that we are thinking about how we conduct ourselves towards the outsiders, and we’re making the best opportunity and use of the time that we have.

In Greek, there’s two words for time. There’s chrónos, which is basically like a watch, a clock. And then there’s kairos, which is an appointed time. If you’ve ever been married, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve chosen the wrong kairos to say the things to your wife. Right? That’s the wrong time. Okay? Not the time, just the wrong time. It wasn’t the appropriate timing of the situation. But what Paul is saying here is to make the best use of the time of the opportunities that you have. And this is really cool. “Best use of the time” can be translated out of the original language to “buy up every opportunity.” In other words, we are to be buying up every opportunity that we can to share the Gospel with those that are on the outside.

And here’s the next one. This is really good. Look at this: “Let your speech always be gracious,”

Okay. Let’s take a moment here. I know it’s not the 10:15. It’s the people at 11:45 and at 9:00 and Saturday at 6:00. I know none of you all are there. Okay? I know that. I know that. But I just want to say, just so that I’ve at least said it to everybody, because I know it doesn’t really apply to anybody in here, but Paul says towards the outsiders we’re to have gracious speech. Which, let’s admit it, the Church hasn’t always had gracious speech towards those on the outside. Paul says, “This is the way we should conduct ourselves. You’re supposed to be intentional about the things that you do. You’re supposed to have wisdom. You’re supposed to be doing these things. This is who we are. We are God’s team to tell people about Jesus.”

He says, “Let your speech be gracious, seasoned with salt,”

It’s funny because I’ve heard preachers go, “Now, this is when you can get them. You start of gracious and then you get that salt on their wound and tell them, ‘You’re going to burn.’”

No. That’s not what this is talking about. This is what we can all idiomatic statement. I’ll give you an example. If you were having a baked potato that was bland and you seasoned it with salt, it would taste a little bit better. What Paul is saying is that we should be using gracious words towards those that are on the outside, and the way that we say it should make it interesting, should make it insightful, should make it less than boring. There could be humor involved. In other words, we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we’re praying for all the opportunities, because we’re watching for them and we’re thankful that God includes us in them, and we’re praying for Paul so that he can do the same thing. But we’re going to talk in wisdom towards the outsiders, we’re going to make sure that we buy up every opportunity, and we’re going to make sure that we’re gracious and we’re seasoning what we’re saying so that...”

“So that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

In other words, if we’re doing this thing right where we’re walking in wisdom, we’re thinking about with intention what we’re doing on those that are on the outside for lost loved ones, lost family members, lost coworkers, or people out at Lakewood Ranch or wherever it may be, we’re thinking about that and we’re thinking about how we can buy up every opportunity that we have so that we can use gracious words that are seasoned with salt, and the reason is so that we know how we ought to answer every person.

In other words, it’s tailored to the person in which we’re speaking. We’re not coming up and giving them the nine steps that we tell every single person like some rhetoric that we’ve got. No. What we’re doing is we’re actually focused on people in such a way that we can answer them specifically to the things that they have need of.

So, let me just sort of rewind here what this is saying. It says that we speak with civility. That’s a lost art today, but we should be people that speak to the outsiders with civility. We’re not supposed to be boring. You know? It’s not, “Yeah. Come to my church. It’ll change your life.” “I don’t want any of that.” Or, “Yeah, man. Jesus did some really good things in my life.” Like, “Yeah, that’s not quite what Paul’s saying.” He’s saying that we need to make sure that we’re gracious, but it doesn’t need to be boring. And he says, “And it’s tailored. It’s specifically tailored to the person that we’re talking to.”

And just in those four verses, he’s basically said everything that he’s said up to this point. The Gospel’s come and it’s changed your life and you want to continue in that. Keep looking to Jesus and all those great things. Don’t get caught up on all the crazy stuff and rules and regulations because that never saved anybody. It didn’t get you in. It’s not the Gospel. Make sure that we live this thing out because here’s what it’s all about: We should be praying and watching for opportunities to share the Gospel and being thankful in them and making sure that we are intentional in the way that we respond to those that are on the outside.

People ask me all the time, “Why do y’all put up everywhere, ‘We want to be intentional neighbors that reflect Christ?’” I’m like, “That’s because it’s a biblical thing. Being intentional is biblical. Being neighborly, that’s the best way to reach people. It’s to get to know them, get in their world and show them that you care.”

That’s what Paul’s saying. Walk in wisdom towards the outsiders. Then he makes the turn here. The turn that he makes is towards the ending of the letter. And a lot of times, if you’re reading this stuff, you’ll sort of blow through it, but I want to show you how cool these endings are. There’s not a surplus of words.

He says, “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts,”

In the first century, when a letter was written, specifically one like Colossians where Paul’s in prison — I mean, he can’t physically deliver the letter. He has someone who brings the letter to the church. And the person that would bring the letter to the church would have talked to Paul about the letter. They would teach the church about what’s being said, and when people had a question, “What does he mean here?” he would be able to give that answer and he’d be able to give that answer, and he’d be able to tell you what’s going on in Paul’s life. You may say, “Well, okay, that’s great.”

But it’s important because if you’re reading the end of Romans, which is like a powerful, powerful, powerful epistle in the New Testament — many people would say it’s the greatest New Testament epistle — at the end of Romans in Romans 16, we don’t have Tychicus that is bringing the letter that’s teaching the church that’s telling them what Paul said, but this is Romans. Like, of all the letters, you’re going to have the person that you’re going to send to teach this letter to the church, to teach these people what it’s saying, to read it to them, guess who is sent? Phoebe. A woman. See? That’s why you read the Bible. Man, it’ll mess you up. I mean, it just does. I think sometimes we don’t read the ending of it because this stuff just messes us up. So, Tychicus has come and you say, “Okay, that’s great.” But no. This is powerful. “I’ve got Tychicus. He’s going to tell you. He’s a great dude. He’s all this stuff.”

“And with him Onesimus,”

Now, if you don’t know anything about the Bible, you just go, “That’s a bad name. Who would name their kid Onesimus?” You know? Like, “Come here, Onesimus.” No. This is important because in Colossae, in the city, there was a gentleman named Philemon that lived there. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus that had stolen some things from him and had bolted. In that world, that wasn’t a good thing. But Onesimus had found Jesus, and Paul sends Onesimus back to Colossae, with Tychicus, with the letter to the Colossians and with a letter individually written not for the church, but to a person named Philemon, telling Philemon, “Hey, listen, Onesimus, he’s good. He’s a good dude. He’s useful, man. If he stole something from you or did something, just put it on my account. I’ll take care of it. What I want you to do is I want you to accept him as a brother.” Paul’s smart. Look what he does here. He says, “So, Tychicus is coming with Onesimus.”

He says, “Our faithful and beloved brother, which is one of you.”

So, now, when they read this publicly, the whole church is going to go, “Hey, Onesimus is a good dude. He’s a good dude.” So, if Philemon comes in and goes, “He’s a scoundrel,” the church is going to go, “No. He’s a good dude.” And then he wrote to Philemon. Paul knows what he’s doing here because this is what the Gospel can do in people’s lives. It can change people’s lives. You can go from being a scoundrel to someone who is a faithful and beloved brother, one of the part of the body of Christ. These are powerful words that are not just thrown in at the end to just sort of fill up some page so that we have something to read. They’re powerful.

He says, “They [Tychicus and Onesimus] will tell you of everything that’s taken place here.”

There’s a lot to say. I mean, they’ve got a lot to tell you about what’s happened in their lives and what’s happened around here. They’re going to tell you that stuff.

He says, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions — if he comes to you, welcome him), and Jesus who is called Justus.”

And you say, “Well, pfft.” This is great stuff. In the book of Acts, if we only had Acts, we would know that Paul and Barnabas did missionary work together. But they took on this dude. His name was John Mark. Evidently, John Mark wasn’t as full in as Paul would have liked for him to be. So, he told him, “You can’t continue with us because you’re not full in.”

Well, Barnabas and Paul get into a spat over John Mark and Barnabas and Paul split up. Barnabas goes doing his thing and Paul goes doing his thing. If we didn’t have anything but Acts, we would go, “Man, why was Barnabas so defensive of this guy?” Well, now we know. He’s his cousin.

And Paul says, “(Concerning whom you have received instructions —)”

This is John Mark. Evidently, he’s told the church, “Hey, this is a guy that’s done something,” but, evidently, something’s changed because he says:

“(If he comes to you, welcome him),”

In other words, there’s been restoration. There’s been forgiveness. This is a beautiful concept. I mean, this is who we are. This is the Church. We forgive. We wash feet. We do these things.

He goes on to say, “These are the only men of the circumcision [Aristarchus, Mark, Barnabas and Jesus who’s called Justus] among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.”

Here’s Paul talking about Jewish brothers that are believers that have been a comfort to him. You know, it’s funny because — it’s not funny. It’s terrible. But if you go back and read some of the 1920, 1930, 1910 German theological works, they will hint to you that Paul was anti-Semitic. But, of course, they just didn’t read the end of Colossians here where Paul is obviously not, in any way, shape or form, anti-Semitic. He’s working with Jewish brothers and he says they’re a comfort to him. So, these are important words. They may just feel like they’re throwaway words to you, but they’re very important in what they’re saying.

He says, “Epaphras, who is one of you,” — this is the guy that lead the church in Colossae to Christianity — “a servant of Christ Jesus, greet you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.”

Now, I know all of you all pray this way, but we should be praying and struggling for people in their faith that they stand mature and complete in the will of God. Oftentimes, that’s not our prayers. But one of the commentaries, I loved what the guy said. He said, “So, Epaphras has moved. He’s not at Colossae anymore. He’s moved on somewhere else, but he’s still praying for that church. How many pastors have left several churches that continue to pray and struggle in prayer for the people that they lead to the Lord or the people that they shepherded 10 years ago or 15 years ago?”

I mean, it’s just a great reminder. These word are not throwaway words. So, Epaphras, he’s praying for you and struggling for you.

He says, “For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.”

In other words, this is a man that’s got after it for the Kingdom of God.

He says, “Luke the beloved physician greets you...”

Luke’s a doctor. Thank God we have Colossians. He’s a doctor. So, not only did he go with Paul, he could also help Paul and doctor Paul.

“As does Demas.”

We’ll come back to Demas in a minute. This is important.

“Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”

This is where when you’re reading the Bible and you’ve been sort of churched your whole life and you find out that there’s a woman who has a church in her house, it’s like, “Dun dun dun!” And you go, “What do I do with that?”

Well, you know what the textual people have done? We have 57,000 manuscripts. A lot of them have changed Nympha to Nymphus and have changed her to him so that they could get the woman out of the church. We see that in the textual changes that have gone on that scribes have gone, “We don’t want to have a church in a woman’s house. We can’t do that.”

Well, that’s why it’s great that you read these things because, at the very least, you have a church that’s meeting in a woman’s house that she ultimately has control over the house. Possibly, she’s the pastor of that church. Man, the Bible will mess you up when you read it. I’m telling you. That’s why we don’t read these things at the end. You know? We’re like, “Yeah. I don’t know what to do with that right there. I need to jump over to 1 Timothy 2 and tell them women to be silent.”

You know? That’s what we like to do. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Sort of hard to prophesy if you have to keep your mouth shut. Anyways, Nympha and the church in her house. You women should be thankful that I am as pro-woman as I am, because I am. I mean, I’ll tell you right now, if it weren’t for my wife, I’d be rolling around in the rocks, drooling out of my mouth. Thank God for women.

“And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read to the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”

This is important. We see that the local letters were circulated within the churches, and so the letters that were actually speaking to all of the churches were the ones that were catalogued because here we have a letter that was to the Laodiceans. We don’t have it. So, obviously, it wasn’t Scripture. If it would’ve been Scripture, we would’ve had it. So, Paul wrote other things. We just don’t have those things because, as they circulated these things, the church came to realize, “Man, this is speaking to us. There’s something special about these letters.”

“And say to Archippus, ‘See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.’”

Any good pastor at any good church is going to want to make sure that every person in their church is fulfilling the ministry that God has for them. And let me just take a moment here to tell you you have a ministry in the Kingdom of God whether you feel like you do or you feel like you don’t or whatever. I’m just telling you everybody in here has something to do for the Kingdom of God. You have something to do. And your contribution to the church is vital because, without you, we’re missing a part of the things that we need for the whole. So, he says that.

Then he concludes with, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.”

The reason he says that is because when he would start to write with his own hand, his words would be a lot bigger because an amanuensis could write really small on the paper that was expensive. So, when Paul would sign it at the end, that’s why he says, at the end of Galatians, “Look at how large the letters I’m writing with.”

That’s why he’s saying that because it was like you’d know Paul wrote it. It’s also a sign that this is his book.

He says, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

Great, great epistle. There’s no question about it. Let’s do a couple of real quick, practical take-homes from what we’ve looked at today, and then I’ve got one final thing I want to say and we’ll get out of here.

First of all, we would do well to really listen to the tenderness, care and the value that Paul has for the community. I think a lot of people think that Paul was sort of this tough dude that never wanted to hang out with anybody and just sort of did his own thing. Just go back and read the ending of Colossians. Read it. Look at the tenderness. I mean, everybody’s got a part to play. Luke, Demas, this guy and that guy and everybody else. I mean, everybody’s got — he sees the value of the community. He sees the value of this, of us meeting together. The big take-away, I’d say, is the local church, in its proper functioning, matters tremendously to Paul. I just would ask all of us to take a moment sometime — right now, maybe five minutes from now, maybe in your car on the way home or sometime this week — and ask yourself the question: “How much does the local church matter to me? How much does it matter? Does it really matter to me?”

And this is what I would say. I can sort of expose something here. I find very few people that move away, ever, are concerned with anything other than the better job that they’re getting or the place that they’re moving. They never think, “Hey, should I go find a church first, before I move, to make sure that I’m getting grounded and I’m being moved on and that I’m learning?”

We don’t even think about that. Okay? To Paul, he would stand up here and rebuke that thinking. He would say, “Man, you don’t understand. This is the most important thing in life is what we’re doing right here in influencing the community for Jesus because eternity matters. Right?

Second, following Christ isn’t always easy. I just want a real quick mention here of this. I just want you to see this. Paul says there’s a guy named Demas. We wouldn’t know anything about Demas. I mean, that would be it. Demas. Well, he must’ve been somewhat important because when Paul thought of Luke — and Luke was very important to Paul — the next guy he thinks of is Demas. So, Demas is probably an important guy. Part of the band of brothers. Part of the Kingdom of God. Part of doing all this stuff. Part of doing the ministry. Involved. We wouldn’t know anything other about Demas than that. That’s all we could say about Demas if we knew. We could say, “Yeah. He’s involved. He’s important. If he’s after Luke, he’s got to be important.”

Except we find his name one more time in probably the last letter Paul ever wrote. Here’s what he says: “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” Paul doesn’t say he’s not a Christian anymore. He just says, “He’s deserted me.”

Paul’s probably in prison. Well, he is in prison. He’s probably going to die soon, or everybody feels that way. Demas might have felt like, “Man, if I hang out too close to this guy, it might be me next. This is a little uncomfortable, so I’m going to go back home. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Paul says, “Hey, man. You loved the world more than you loved the Kingdom of God at this point.”

He doesn’t say he’s not a Christian. He just says, “He’s deserted me.” What I would say is this: There’s going to be times and seasons in your Christian life where you feel the tug. It’s a struggle. What I can tell you is you don’t want to go home to Thessalonica during those times. You want to dig in here. You want to get people praying for you. You want to press forward because that’s what we do as Christians. I can tell you this: You need other people in your life to press forward because Christianity’s not always easy.

Third, it’s interesting that Paul doesn’t ask them when he’s saying, “Hey, pray for us.” He doesn’t say, “Pray for the lost.” He just says, “Pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel.” Because, see, Paul knows — and we’re slick. We’ll pray, “God, we pray for the lost, God. We pray that You bring them home and everything.” And then we feel like we’re done. Like, we’re never going to share Jesus with anybody because we just prayed for the lost. No, no, no, no. Paul doesn’t pray for the lost. Paul says, “Pray for an opportunity to share the Gospel. You’ve got a part to play. It’s not just praying for the lost. It’s actually going out and telling people about Jesus.”

You know? Somebody feels anointed. I’ve got one person going, “Yeah. Alright.” But listen here. This is a little bit sobering. David Garland is a professor at Baylor. He wrote a commentary on Colossians. This is what he says:

“If Christians felt the same urgency to reach others with the Gospel as they do about securing their own welfare in this world, our churches would see amazing results.”

I’m just going to leave that one there. Now, lean in here. Lean in here because I’m concluding here. Lean in here. If you didn’t listen to anything I said, and slept through the entire series and are thinking right now about chips with salsa and queso at Chili’s — that’s where you’re at. You’re like, “I haven’t listened to a thing.” Okay, this is the time where the ADHD comes back. “Squirrel. Chip. Colossians.” Okay? You’re there. I’m asking you please listen to this one thing. If you haven’t listened to nothing I said, just this one thing. Listen here and give me your attention here.

Jesus really can make a difference in you and I’s lives. He can make a difference. I just want to show you here. Just let this sink in. So, Jesus meet Paul on the Damascus road. Paul is a guy that’s persecuting the Church, throwing people in prison, can’t stand Christians. Meets Jesus. Jesus changes his life. Not only does Paul become the great apostle that plants all these churches, but writes most of the New Testament. Why? Because Jesus changed his life.

What about Epaphras? I mean, we don’t know much about Epaphras. What we know about Epaphras is that he’s the guy that shared the Gospel to the church at Colossae. He planted that church. He formed that church in Colossae. We know that he also went to Hierapolis and Laodicea and pastored them and loved on them. That’s what we know about Epaphras. He wasn’t some great man or we’d have known about it. He wasn’t some great leader or we’d have known about him. He wasn’t some high and mighty guy or we’d have known about him. He’s just a dude. He was a dude. Probably what happened is when Paul visited Ephesus, Epaphras was there and he heard the Gospel and it changed his life. And what did he do? He went and led a city to Jesus and went and pastored in Hierapolis and Laodicea, struggling in prayer for people to stand mature and complete in the will of God. How did a dude have that happen to him? Because he met Jesus and Jesus changed his life forever.

How about this guy here? Onesimus the slave steals bolts and comes back under the threat of what knows what could happen because Jesus has changed his life. See, this is what He does. That’s just who He is. I just want to encourage you, if you’re here and maybe you’re not even sure where you’re at with Jesus at this point, you’re not even sure about those things, let me tell you: Jesus loves you more than you could ever imagine. He wants so much to complete those things you’re looking for in your life. He is what you are looking for. That homing beacon that’s looking for all kinds of stuff, that’s the hole there that only God can fill in your life. That’s what you’re hearing. You’re looking at other things, but He’s the one that’s the answer.

If that’s you and you go, “You know what, man? I want it. How do I know?” Here’s what you know: Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose again on the third day?” If you’re like, “Man, I’m in,” okay. You can be in. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. You can be in. And what we want you to do is not just go, “I’m in.” We want you to come and find somebody with a lanyard, a name badge or a shirt and say, “I’m in. What do I need to do?” because we want to get you in a class, we want to get you baptized and we want to move things forward so that you can help you in your walk with the Lord.

So, if that’s you, please find somebody. Tackle me in the hallway. “Man, I want to know more.” That’s what we want. But then, for those of us who are Christians, we really need to think through what it means to really be the Church and to be a place that truly proclaims the Gospel and understand why we will always be a church that exists to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.

Let me end with this. I hope this is encouraging to somebody who’s maybe struggling today. It’s by C.S. Lewis. He says, “No amount of falls are really ever going to undo us if we keep picking ourselves up each time. We shall, of course, be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home, but the bathrooms are all already and the towels are put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”

And maybe that’s where you are today, going, “Man, that’s where I’m at.” I mean, I look at myself. That’s why He came. He didn’t come because of Church, Chip Bennett, a denomination. Ain’t nobody going to clean you up. The one who can clean you up, His name is Jesus. He says, “Come as you are.” He can make a difference in our lives.

Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. I thank You that we were able, as a church, to go through this wonderful epistle. I pray, Lord, that it would speak into our hearts and would resonate in our spirits for weeks and months to come. But, specifically, Lord, I pray for anybody today that doesn’t know the Lord, that they would move forward in that decision and find somebody and make that commitment to say, “I’m in.”

And then, for us, Lord, that are regular attenders here at Grace, I pray that, once again, we would let Your Word speak to us to realize how important the local church is to reaching the community, Lord, and help us to be those people that honor that commitment as we’ve read Your Word, studied Your Word and understand the impact of it.

So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us, and I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again for Your glory and for Your honor. And Lord, I pray that You would continue to help us be the church that you’ve called us to be, and that is to make sure that we’re reaching the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.