The Lego Connection: Pastor Tom Jones

Sermon Transcript

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Well, good morning to everybody. My name is Reverend Doctor Chip Bennett. I’m still the same guy, I just ate a lot during Thanksgiving. My name is Tom. I’m one of the pastors here at the church. It’s good to see you guys. Dr. Bennett will be back in the saddle next week.

But, today, we’re going to have some fun. We’re going to talk about Legos a little bit. We’re going to talk about connecting a little bit. But first, let me start off with a true story. A pastor was taking a walk and he found a lamp. He picked it up and a genie popped out. The genie said, “I will grant you one wish.”

The pastor said, “Well, you know what? I love Hawaii. That’s what I like. But, I don’t like to fly, and I hate boats. So, can you build me a highway from here to Hawaii?”

And the genie said, “Are you nuts? Do you have any idea how impossible it would be to sink that many pilings in the Pacific Ocean? On top of that, do you know how much concrete and asphalt it would take to pave 2,000 miles of highway across the ocean? Or how much trouble it would be on the environment? Just the impact alone? It would take years to do a study. There’s no way I can build you a highway.”

The pastor said, “Alright. Well then, how about this? I wish that all of the people who attend my church would learn to live in unity and love and peace and harmony.”

And the genie said, “Would you like one or two lanes on that highway?”

So, today, we’re going to talk about connecting. But first, we’re going to talk about Legos. Man, I’ve got to tell you. This week, as I was preparing my message, I became extremely impressed with these little toy bricks that have been around since 1949. Their story, their popularity, their comeback and all the many different ways people play with Legos and use them, not only with corporate team-building, but education and hospitals.

Millions of people see Legos as not only the greatest toy ever invented, but the greatest inventions ever made. Yes, you can play with Legos alone, but building something amazing with Legos with a group of people, that’s the part that’s incredible. For example, right now, psychologists, doctors and educators are having phenomenal breakthroughs teaching social intelligence to children with autism or other social behavior disorders just by using Legos. Just by getting some kids to play together in a group with Legos teaches them social cues, social norms and how to connect with one another.

They’re also using the same concept, Lego group-play therapy, to help all sorts of trauma victims to reengage in society, like brain injury victims, stroke victims and veterans with PTSD. It truly is one of the coolest things about Legos. Not only do Legos connect, but by connecting Legos together it’s actually helping people connect together. In other words, Legos connect together so people can connect together.

In other words, Legos connect together so people can connect together. Without Legos, some of those people we just mentioned would never have a shot at the beauty of connecting with other people. Legos connect. That’s their destiny. That’s their purpose. That’s what they were made to do. And just like the ultimate purpose of a Lego is to connect, I submit to you today that that is our ultimate purpose as well.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to the main point of the day; the big idea. It’s this: Like Legos, Christians are called to connect together so the world can connect to God. Let’s look at that again. Christians connect together so the world can connect to God.

Let me say it conversely. When Christians don’t connect together, the world does not connect with God. Christians need to love and connect with one another in order for the world to have any shot at all of finding Christ. Now, I don’t know why God set the process up this way, but He did. This is the process of evangelism to win the world. And you might say, “Well, Tom, hold on for a sec. shouldn’t we go out and preach the Gospel in order to win the world?”

Yes. Preaching is important. But, God’s very clear in the Scripture that it is the power of Christ-followers loving and serving each other and doing life together that causes the world to come to Christ. As a matter of fact, I think I would say that the greatest evangelism tool on earth, perhaps, is God’s people simply loving each other.

John Bunyan, who was a famous pastor and author in the early 1600s, was known mostly for his famous, best-selling book, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Who has read or heard of that book before? Well, it’s kind of a big book. Beside the Bible, it’s the second best-selling book on earth. John wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in jail. He was in jail for 12 years in England. It was a time where they were trying to get the state church thing and they were persecuting other people who didn’t want to do it the way the state did it. So, John spent 12 years in jail. They kept saying, “John, if you promise to stop preaching the Gospel, we’ll let you out of jail.”

And John kept saying, “I promise that if you let me out of jail, I’ll be preaching the Gospel tomorrow.”

That’s what he kept saying to them. So, think of what he gave up. Twelve years, he sat in jail. And that’s where he wrote a lot of his books. Again, the most famous being Pilgrim’s Progress. But, before coming to Christ, John describes himself as an extremely lost and profane man, miles away from God.

But, in one of his books, aptly titled “Grace,” he shares how he came to know Jesus, and it’s an incredible story. One of the biggest breakthroughs for John was watching other Christians do life together. That’s the thing that got him over the hump. Watching Christians do life. He gives this example in the book “Grace.”

He says, “A group of poor women — women without means — were in the village, and they were gathered around together talking, just full of hope and excitement like one of them had found a diamond. They were just all together excited. And I was sitting there going, ‘They don’t have anything. Why are they so excited?’”

So, he was so curious that he made his way over and hid behind a pole so he could listen to them talk. This is what he says in his book. He goes, “But alas, ‘twas such talk as I’d never dreamed of before. They spoke of a new birth and how God had worked in their hearts. They spoke comfortably of the loving kindness of God and how they had been led to trust Christ and found in Him peace and rest for their souls.”

And he goes on to share how these poor women just continued to encourage each other, love each other, share their struggles with each other and speak life into one another. And he ends it with this. I think this is so cool.

He said, “Those women spoke with one another as if joy itself had made them speak of it. And it seemed to me as if they had discovered a whole new world.”

Wow. And it was that that caused John Bunyan to come to Christ. And that’s what happens when believers love and connect with one another in front of the world. It opens their eyes to Christ. Overviewbible.com says the term “one another” is used exactly 100 times in the New Testament. Love one another. Encourage one another. Help one another. Pray for one another. Confess to one another. Consider others better than yourself. Over and over. A hundred times, “one another” is used. And every one of those “one another” verses is talking about how you and I are supposed to connect with one another. So, just like Legos ultimate purpose is to connect, so is ours.

To first love and connect with God’s family, then to go out and love and connect with a lost and dying world. But, check this out. Here’s the cool part. Somehow, through this process, if we do it right, there’s a miracle that occurs. Here’s what the Bible teaches us when believers connect: First, it causes salvations to happen in your community. Two, it creates God’s blessings to flow in your life.

Now, let’s go back to our big idea for the day: Christians connect together so the world can connect to God. Jesus calls us to be His witnesses on Planet Earth, but he also told us there’s a very specific way we should do it. But, here’s the problem: I think many believers, if we were to be honest this morning, really struggle with this process of honestly connecting, loving, encouraging and speaking life into each other and doing body ministry with each other. And if we don’t get the process right, we don’t win our community and we don’t get the blessings and everything God has for us.

We can find this process all over the Bible. However, let’s go straight to the horse mouth and see what Jesus has to say about it. Interestingly enough, we find it at the Last Supper where He gathers His disciples together and preaches the last sermon He’ll ever preach to them before His death. And then, that same night in the garden, where He prays His very last prayer, for them and for you and me before His death. And in His last sermon and in His last prayer, we find the secret sauce. So, let’s look at it, starting at John 13.

After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus said to them, “‘Do you understand what I was doing? You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightfully so. Since I, your Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow, do as I have done to you. Now that you know these things, God will bless you if you do them.’”

This is the last time on earth that Jesus is going to teach the future leaders of the Church. He could’ve taught them anything. Leadership, church government, how to take an offering. He could’ve taught them about anything. But, instead, He chooses to wash their feet. He chooses to wash their feet and say, “Hey, guys. The last three years, everything I’ve done culminates up to this point. It’s about this. It’s about what I’m doing to you right now. This is the kind of culture I want you to spread. If you will spread this kind of culture of loving and serving one another, it will shock the world. It will change the world. My kingdom will be fine, and God will bless you along the way.”

Foot washing was not some clever idea that Jesus invented just to shock His disciples. It was a very common, practical thing that had to be done during those times. People had dusty, nasty, sweaty feet in the desert, and you had to clean your feet before you went into someone’s house. Rich people got their servants to do it. But, if you invited someone over to your house and they had a higher status than you, then you had to do it. But never, never, never did a person of high status wash the feet of someone with lower status.

And Jesus blows up the bridge on that social norm by washing the feet of His very own disciples — people of lower status. And make sure we get the point here. The point is not about washing feet. That’s not the point. I’ve been a Christian for many years. I️ know churches that still do foot washing ceremonies that still hate each other after it’s over. It’s not about washing feet. The point is that we are called, no matter what status we have outside this place, once we walk through these doors we put down our titles, we pick up our towels and we love and serve each other. That’s what the body of Christ is supposed to do.

Christ followers loving each other isn’t supposed to be some cosmic, ethereal, abstract idea. To Jesus, what He’s trying to model to His disciples is He says, “Look, it’s simple. It’s meeting each other’s needs. It’s like washing dirty feet. If a brother or sister is lonely, reach out, take the time and be their friend. If a brother or sister is hungry, feed them. If a brother or sister needs a job, use your connections to help them out.”

The mantra that all of God’s children should espouse is when we come into this house, we should be trying to find brothers or sisters in Christ that somehow we can be a blessing in their life. Find a need and meet it. Find a need and meet it. And Jesus reminds us, “Oh, yeah. If you’ll live your life like this, if the Church will literally share that culture and live that culture in front of the world, God will bless your life and revival will happen.”

Our second verse has to do with Jesus’ last prayer. It’s the last prayer that He prays, not only for His disciples, but for you and me. And this is what He says:

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you’ve given me, Lord. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for the future disciples who will believe in me. Father, I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one. May they be in us so that...” — look at the point — “...the world may believe you sent me.”

And, again, He reiterates. May the experience such perfect unity that the world may know that You sent me and that You love me and that You loved them just as much as You love me. In His last prayer before His crucifixion, He could’ve prayed anything. This is one of the most important parts in history. Jesus knows it’s going to be documented for all time. And He could’ve said anything. He could’ve prayed that we all understand the Bible better or that we all made better choices. Or He could’ve gone big and prayed that there would be less suffering in the world. But He doesn’t pray any of those things.

He said, “God, make them one. Make the brothers and sisters of the house of God one. Make them love and connect and serve in such a supernatural way that it causes lost people to see the light. Let their unity be so glorious that the world looks upon it and says, ‘Surely, surely, there must be a God.’”

Jesus prays, “Make them one, that the world may know. Make them one, that the world may know.”

So, based on these two verses, Jesus is telling us this: Love each other by serving each other, and your connection or unity to one another will literally cause blessings in your life and revival on earth. Think about this. God could’ve used any means necessary to tell a lost and dying world the greatest news in the world. Let’s just be honest here. He chose us. And I’m not so sure that was a great idea. I mean, think about it. If your whole point of showing the world that you really do exist, that this is a credible thing, you are the reality and you are the god of everything, would you have chosen broken humanity to give the message?

He could’ve chosen a laser light show or He could show up at your kitchen table while you’re eating Taco Bell and say, “I’m real.”

He could do the big, booming voice like Charlton Heston. I mean, he could’ve done anything, but He doesn’t use any of those things. He decided to use us. For some reason, He said, “This is going to be the best way to save the world. I’m going to have those who love me do life together and connect together and love each other in such a way that it’s going to blow people’s minds. And I’m going to use that process to save the world.”

Two to three hundred years after Jesus’ death, the Church started to practice a spiritual discipline called asceticism. Asceticism is the idea that you draw closer to God through isolation; that you isolate yourselves from the world, from other Christians and from everything. The thought was that if you could withdraw from the cares of the world, you would be closer to God. Now, it’s an idea that maybe looked good on paper back then, but, honestly, it couldn’t be any further away from God’s plan for your life.

And yet, here was the Church, only 200 years after Jesus, getting off track by a mile. Deciding that the ultimate in spirituality was to run away from the world and live like hermits? Fortunately, a Church father came along named Pachomius. Now, it’s funny because Pachomius was saved because he was an Egyptian soldier, and, at night, the Christians would all get together and put all their food together, and they knew the government wasn’t feeding the soldiers well. And even though the soldiers would be antagonistic to the Christians, the Christians would still come out and feed the soldiers because they knew they were hungry. And it was through that process that Pachomius, as he was a soldier, came to know Christ. It wasn’t by hermits. It was by Christians going out and loving the soldiers.

However, as he grew in the Christian faith, some people started to tell him, “Man, you’ve got real leadership. You’re a spiritual guy. You have real potential. You need to go be a hermit.”

So, that’s what he did. He went off and he became a hermit. But, after a while, thank God, Pachomius started to question the lifestyle. He asked questions like this. He wrote down, “How can you learn to love when no one else is around? How can you learn humility if there’s no one else to serve? How can you learn kindness and goodness in isolation?”

And I love this one: “How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?”

He concluded, “Developing spiritual maturity requires us to do life together. That’s what the Christian life is all about.”

So, Pachomius broke rank and started a community monastery — the first one — where he brought all the monks and hermits together under one roof to life together in koinonia, or Christian fellowship. And he started many of these types of monasteries. And from then on out, even though there were still hermits every once in a while, the popular trend in the Church changed, even among the monks, to live in community. But I want you to think about this. What would’ve happened to Christianity if the hallmark of spiritual maturity would’ve continued to be asceticism; living as hermits away from the world? What would’ve happened to the house of God?

Here’s my point: Only 200 years after Jesus walked the earth, Christians were already screwing up the process. Just 200 years after. And guys, it’s a clarion call to us. We have to be careful that we keep the main thing the main thing. We love and connect with God so we can love and connect with one another, the house of God, so then we can go outside these doors and love and connect with a lost and dying world. That’s the process.

So, as we head towards the finish line, I’d like to leave you with three very practical ways you can increase connection in your life. Many believers struggle with this process of connecting. Even those of us who might be pretty good at it need to prioritize connecting with others more than we usually do.

Real quick though, before we get to those three things, I want to pause for a moment and let’s have a gut check. If you find yourself responding to this message with one of the following comments, it really should serve as a warning sign and a red flag that there’s something in our lives, hearts and prioritizes that we need to deal with. Statements like this: “I really don’t like to connect with other Christians. My friends in the world are more fun to hang out with than my Christian friends. I’m too busy or I don’t have time to connect with my church family.”

These first three are really about priority, aren’t they? They’re about what we decide is important in our life. If we’re going to be true followers of Christ who want to follow everything the Lord has for us, the Lord says us doing life together is the best life we can ever have. But we’re going to have to fight for it and we’re going to have to prioritize it.

The fourth one: “My real family takes up all my time, so I can’t.”

You know, I remember when all of our kids were in elementary school and high school, and we had two in travel ball and one in drama and worship practice. We were just taxi cabs running bell to bell. It was really hard for us to find community. But, I want to encourage you guys, especially families who are busy, that you need to fight for it. I mean, if you really want to show your kids the Christian life, one of the things they need to see is you have people in your life that you’re sharing your struggles with, praying for, talking to and speaking Scripture and life and what God’s doing in your life and the things you’re learning. They need to see that process with other people. They don’t need to see that just with your spouse.

If I could just be so bold here for a second, I think, sometimes, especially in this day and age, Christian people tend to worship their families. We have to be careful that while our families are important, it’s God’s family that’s important, too. And I know we’re all busy, but we’ve got to prioritize and take the time to do it.

The last one: “I’m an introvert or I’m afraid.”

Listen. Connecting with people has nothing to do with personality. No one’s asking you that you have to go and be the funniest guy in the room or to change your personality or be something different. Every way that God has made you, even if you’re an introvert, God has skills and a story about your life and what He’s done in your life and the things you’ve learned the hard way and the things that God’s done breakthroughs on. Those stories matter to the body of Christ. People need to hear what God has done in your life. People need to see the spiritual gifts that God’s put in you to put in other people.

So, that fear thing, or maybe you’ve even been burnt by a church before and you’re like, “You know, I tried to do community. I got burnt. I’m not going to do it again.”

I just want to encourage you guys and say, look, let God heal your heart and jump back into the game. Okay? You’re going to get hurt. It’s people. You know? You’re going to have community, and sometimes it’s not going to go exactly how you want. But, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s still important for us to come together.

And the last one: “I don’t think I really have anything to offer.”

All I can tell you is, simply, that’s a lie from the devil. You do have something to offer. For your quiet times this week, I would encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12. That teaches us that every member of the body is important. And I love the part that says, “Even the parts that look the most insignificant are often the most important.”

That’s what Paul says. And then, when one part of the body isn’t doing their part, the whole body suffers. This is important, guys. So, if those things are going through your head, I just want to encourage you to talk to a pastor. Call one of us. Talk through it. Have a Bible study. But, you’ve got to get past those red flags so you can get in the game and be everything God wants you to be.

Okay. You’ve got that. Let’s go to the three things now. Three things that you can start doing today to connect better with others. Practical ways. These are just very practical things you can do to see connecting in a different way. I’m just trying to show you a couple of different angles here.

It doesn’t take massive creativity or massive personality to be great at connecting. It really just takes a couple of practical things. So, let’s look at it. Number one: Connecting is delayed gratification. If your life, first and foremost, is about gratifying you first, you’re going to have a hard time connecting. When you think about your natural style, do you gratify you first or do you gratify others first? Because, at the end of the day, there are really just two types of people. Givers and takers.

Siren 1995, there has been a growing buzzword around corporate gurus, business consultants, and even mental health professionals. It’s called EQ. EQ, or “Emotional Quotient.” Just like IQ measures your intellectual capacity, EQ measures your emotional capacity. EQ measures your self-awareness, your people skills, how good you are in a room. Some of you have experienced this. Have you ever been in a room talking with people and somebody walks in, and 10 minutes later they walk out of the room and the whole room is more alive? Everybody’s just happier, more alive, more thankful and more whatever. That’s usually someone with EQ. They know how to come in and speak life, and they know how to read people’s emotions, they cry when people cry and laugh when they laugh. They just know how to read a room.

They may not be the smartest people in the room, but they understand themselves, they understand people, they understand emotions and they know how to speak life. That’s why they advance in life. It’s funny that they’ve done all of these tests of people who are presidents and people who run leadership stuff. Presidents of companies or whatever. Some of them, shockingly, do not have high IQs, but they have very high EQs. That’s why they keep moving up. Because, at the end of the day, people like to be around people who have high emotional quotient. It makes them feel better about themselves.

Now, here’s the funny point: After 20 years of studying EQ now, some of the brightest minds have come together and they’ve boiled it down to this. When you boil EQ down to really understanding the essence of EQ, this is what you get: EQ is delayed gratification. That’s what it is. It’s living a life of putting others first and you second. People with good EQ do stuff like this. They go, “You know what? I want to talk right now, but instead I’ll wait. I’m going to listen to you. I want to do something for me right now, but instead I’ll wait. I’ll do something for you. I want to encourage myself right now, but instead I’ll wait. I’ll encourage you.”

That’s it. EQ at its core. It’s simply delayed gratification. Stanford, many years ago, did a test you may have heard about. It’s a very famous test called the Marshmallow Test. This is what they did: They would bring kids in, one by one, in a room, and they said this. The said, “Look, I’ve got to go out of the room for a minute. So, if you’re just dying of hunger or whatever, here’s one marshmallow. But, I’ll be back soon. If you’re dying and you need to eat it, eat the marshmallow. But, if you can wait until I get back, I’ll give you two or three marshmallows. But, if you eat the one marshmallow, when I get back you won’t be able to get the other marshmallows.”

So, it was an ultimate test in delayed gratification. 40% of the kids ate the marshmallow as soon as the guy walked out the door. The other ones waited. They waited for the two or more marshmallows. Here’s the interesting thing: They followed those people for the next 25 years into adulthood. Most of them, the difference between the one marshmallow people and the people who waited had radically different outcomes in their lives. It was amazing. People who ate the one marshmallow had more trouble in their life, more difficulty, troubled relationships, higher divorce rates, trouble careers, more emotional problems. All in all, their overall theme with life was that they were victims. They said, “You know, somehow, someway, life dealt us a short hand.”

However, the people who waited for the two or more marshmallows, the exact opposite happened. Better jobs, better finances, healthier relationships, less divorce rates, managed stress better, and their overall look was, “Hey, life has been pretty good to me.”

Connecting well with others is all about delayed gratification. Alright. You guys have got that. Let’s move to the second one. Connecting is generosity. Now, this is really interesting. Author/speaker Simon Sinek is considered, by many, to be the best new leadership guru and motivational expert guy for this generation. He’s especially talented at helping corporations understand how to connect and communicate with millennials. He has the third highest-rated TED Talk of all time. If you know anything about TED Talks, that’s a pretty impressive thing.

Recently, I caught him doing a talk. This is interesting. He was talking to smart, young, tech professionals who are great at tech stuff but horrible at connecting with people. And it was hurting customers and it was hurting their ability to work as teams and play in the sandbox well with others. Great, smart guys. Smart tech people. Bad at connecting. So, they had brought him in to do a speech, and he boiled connecting down to this. He said, “Look, for you guys who are having trouble figuring out what this connection thing is all about, it’s just generosity. If you can just switch your brain to think about generosity, you’ll be a better connector.”

Being generous to other people. Being generous with your time. Being generous with your stuff. Being generous with your emotions. Going across the room to ask the person how their day is, or say happy birthday or being sad when somebody is sharing a story at work that they just had to put their puppy down, or whatever. It’s just being generous. If you can be more generous, you’ll naturally connect. One of the interesting things about being generous is if you’re generous and connect to others, others will connect back to you.

They’re trying to tell these techie guys, “You may not even understand the process, but just be generous and you will start having connection.”

Now, this is funny. He gave this amazing example. I’m not advocating it. Let me say that right away. He went to a group of homeless people and Simon said, “Hey, guys. I’m doing a study that generosity naturally connects people together and that lack of generosity divorces or disconnects people. The way you guys are asking for money is causing a major disconnect with people who are walking by. I mean, look at your signs. ‘I’m hungry. I’m homeless. I need an operation. I have kids.’ It’s all about you. So, people come in and see that you’re not a generous person by nature, and they’re naturally disconnected and not wanting to hang out with you or give you anything.’”

So, Simon changed their signs. This is what he changed it to: “If you could only give one time this month, then please remember me next month.”

Now, think about that. That sign doesn’t even really say a lot directly. But, indirectly, it shows someone displaying empathy and compassion and generosity. It’s saying, “Look, if you’ve already given or you only have a specific budget to give or you don’t have anything to spare, then no worries. Perhaps, maybe, next month.”

Now, the average take for these homeless guys that sat with their signs, they would work 10 hours a day. They had to be there before people went to work and they had to be there after they came home. It was usually, for a 10-hour day, about 20-25 dollars a day. Once Simon changed their signs, the average take was 45-50 dollars in two hours. Think about it. The disingenuous act of these homeless people by acting generous to the passerby’s caused a connection. That’s what it did. The people who were walking by went, “Ah, man. These people get it. These people are thinking about me.”

And it caused them, the natural response was to connect back to the homeless person by being generous and giving them money. Now, Simon’s point to the young techies was, “If you’re having trouble connecting with others, you don’t need to understand the process. If you will do generosity, then generosity will naturally connect you with other people.”

It is amazing stuff. Third, and finally, connecting takes energy and effort. In his best-selling book, “Connecting,” John Maxwell points out that perhaps the most important and often overlooked thing about connecting with others is that it simply takes just a little bit of energy and effort. Do you know what he talks about? He says, “Great people have learned that using a little energy and effort makes all the difference.”

To pour into people’s lives, to change people’s lives, it goes a long way. Just a little bit of effort. He said, “But, you know what? That’s the difference. We all think about this.”

“Do you know what I’d like to do to bless that person? Do you know what I should say? I should call that person up. I should reach out.”

Or you think of a creative way to really bless somebody and then think, “Well, I’ll get around to that.”

And then we get distracted and life just gets in the way. And then we get lazy and we just don’t do it. He said, “Really, when you break it down, that’s the difference between great people who make a difference in humanity and people who are just average. Great people go ahead and take the extra five minutes to do it.”

Dee and Stephanie Dicks are some wonderful members here at Grace that serve and help in a lot of ways. Dee was recently helping out somewhere back there in the children’s area. He started having fun and getting to know this particular young boy named Braxton. Now, Braxton is the son of Michael and Shonda Carter. Again, another wonderful couple who serve and help out here a lot of Grace. And Dee started to think, “What is something I can do to really connect with Braxton, this little kid? What is something I can do to put a smile on his face?”

Well, if you know anything about little Braxton, you know that he’s already the sharpest dressed person in the whole church. I mean, I’m not talking about the sharpest little kid. I mean, he’s got some serious fashion swag. He’s better dressed than any of you in here right now, I promise. Oftentimes, Braxton wears a bow tie. It’s cool. It’s kind of his signature thing. So, Dee thought to himself, “You know, I’m going to dress up like Braxton, complete with wearing a bow tie.”

So, I️ think we have it here. Have you guys got that picture somewhere? There we go. So, Braxton shows up at church and there’s Dee waiting for him with a bow tie. There was just a lot of laughs and high-fives. The whole children’s area was blessed. Everybody was talking about it. It just made everybody’s day. It was just an incredible connection. But, here’s the part that I wanted to talk about Dee here for a second. I’m going to embarrass him. By the way, I got permission. I said, “Dee, I need your permission to share a story, but I’m pulling the pastor card and I am sharing the story whether you want me to or not. Do I have your permission?”

He went, “Uhh, okay.”

So, I’m thankful that he gave me that permission. Here’s the part I want you to understand: Right now, during this time, which was a couple of months ago, Dee had just bought a pre-existing business. He was taking it over. If you know anything about taking over a business, he just was drowning. I mean, it was just flying Mach 5 with his hair on fire. He was working 80 hours a week. He was at work all the time. On top of this, he has his own family that he needs to take care of. And, on top of that, Dee’s house flooded in the storm. Now, during that whole thing, is it not true that Dee was the most qualified person in the room to not take the time and effort and energy to bless somebody?

But, in the middle of all that craziness, even though he could’ve said, “I’ll do it another day. I’ll get around to it. It’s a good idea. I’ll put it on the back burner,” — in the midst of all the stuff Dee had going on, he just took a few minutes and just a little extra energy and effort to connect with a kid and show young Braxton that hanging out at church and hanging out with God’s people is an awesome thing. What did it take? Just a little bit of energy and just a little bit of effort.

Guys, we are called by the Lord Jesus Christ to connect together so that the world may know. So, the world may connect with God. If we connect with one another, if we learn how to do life together and pour into each other’s lives and use our gifts for one another, then Jesus says not only will we be blessed, but it will actually cause revival to happen in our community.

Connection isn’t hard. It’s delayed gratification. It’s a little generosity. It’s a little time and effort. But if we do it, if we do it — listen, guys. We already know we’ve got the “go outside the four walls” thing down pat. I’m not trying to be braggadocios here, but people in this town say that this church does outreach better than a lot of people. But, you know, every once in a while, we need to pause and reflect and think about in-reach. Every once in a while, we’ve got to say, “You know what? While we’re doing the outreach, it’s so important for us to love each other, connect with one another and use our gifts for one another, that if we do that, if that’s how we choose to do life, then we can change the world.”

As we’re heading towards Christmas and we’re heading towards a new year, 2018, I just want to challenge each and every one of you to make connection with brothers and sisters in Christ a priority. If we do it, if we do it, I think we’ll see an amazing thing happen this year in this community.

Let’s pray.

Father, thank You so much for Your Word and thank You that Jesus was very clear and spelled it out very clearly how we’re supposed to love one another. He didn’t have to, but it was very nice that He said if we do this You will bless us as well as it will cause the world to know that there’s a real, true God. Lord, we want our lives to matter. We do. But, Lord, I know that if that has to happen, we all have to go ahead and fight for the time to spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s so easy to let the cares of the world and the business of the world get in the way.

We just pray that this year, 2018, there will be a supernatural thing that happens at Grace Community Church, and that we would connect in a supernatural way, in a way that we never have before, that You would create divine friendships and divine opportunities, that there would be body ministry and people would learn to love, serve and take care of each other like never before.

God, I’m convinced from looking at Your Word that if we will do that, not only will we have blessings in our life, but we will have massive revival happen in this community. Pick us, God. We want that to happen in our lives. I pray, finally, Lord, as we go, that everyone in this room today, as they walk out for this week, the blessing of God, the favor of God will go everywhere they go. We just thank You, Lord. We celebrate the fact that during this Christmas season, You also call us not just to love the world, but to love one another.

In Jesus’ name, and all of God’s people said, “Amen.”

God bless you. Have a great week.

John Flowerree