Lessons from the Storm
[Reporters]: We are feeling those gusts. We are feeling the rain. These are exactly the kinds of conditions that could actually create those tornadoes.
This is the 5 o’clock advisory. We are at 150. Now, we’re at 175 and Irma is approaching.
We are ready in Ft. Myers at this hour. Just behind me, there was a stop sign. It was a metal stop sign. It was embedded in concrete. It’s just been ripped out.
Standing in a storm is not a smart thing to do.
We’re not going to let go of it. Because, actually, it could just fly around.
I don’t need to state the obvious here, but we are officially in hurricane conditions.
Wow. The weather is getting bad.
Well, we do have one car.
Right now, we see the strength of a hurricane at category 5. Winds of 175 mph, and that pressure has dropped, now, as of 9:29.
We’re getting battered by a hurricane.
I’m holding in my hand parts of a plastic light.
I’m feeling the backwash of a jet engine blasted with a fire house. That’s why it’s just so dangerous. Tens of thousands of people are already without power in South Florida.
Seven million evacuees seeking safety from Florida to Georgia.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and our mobile app — our “mobile app-ritioners.” So, we’re glad to have you all.
Anyway, I think we can all relate to that video that we just saw, because we all just went through Irma whether we were here or whether we left. We all sort of still feel the effects of it. One of the things I try to do as a pastor — and I think most of you all who come here realize this — is I try really hard to do what I feel my role as a pastor and teacher is. When you read in Ephesians 4, Paul says that there are certain people that God has placed in the church. They’re offices in the church. One of them is a pastor and a teacher. They’re to equip people to be able to do ministry.
So, every series that I do is really there to try to equip all of us so that we can be the Christians that God wants us to be. And one of the things that you realize as a pastor when you do speak is that sometimes, depending upon where people are at in their life, they really feel like you read their mail. It’s very often that somebody says, “Do you have a camera at my house? Is there somebody there looking over me?”
I’m like, “No. We don’t do that. We’re not the NSA. We’re Grace Community Church.”
But, the deal is that everybody feels a message speaks to them at different times. That’s because, as a general rule, all of us are sort of going and blowing in different areas and doing different things. So, even though I try to speak to everybody every single weekend, I realize that some people are going to get spoken to a little bit more profoundly depending upon where they’re at at that particular time.
However, I had an opportunity this weekend to speak to everybody, because we all sort of went through the same thing. I just felt like I needed to stop the series that we’re in and I felt like I needed to do a one-off message to really just speak to us. This is going to be a little bit of a different message than I normally do. This is just me speaking as a pastor to you all on some things that I saw the week before, during the storm and after the storm. I just felt like God was really speaking into my heart, “Chip, take some notes.”
So, I did. I just kept writing things down that I saw and that I experienced. So, I want to talk to you about that, because whether you know this or not, when you look at hurricanes themselves and how they affect us — you may not know this, but this is true — depression goes up significantly after a hurricane. Alcohol use, tobacco use and drug use goes up significant after a hurricane. Domestic violence goes up after a hurricane. It really affects us. And fatigue is felt by everybody after a hurricane, because we’re emotionally drained.
Many of us decided that, “Hey, we’re going to stay.” And then, the day of the hurricane, we felt like we’d maybe made a bad decision. Some of you all left and, as you were leaving and you were stuck in traffic, you know that you had made a bad decision. I’m just kidding. But, the reality is we all did what we thought was best for us and for our family. But, everybody felt the stress. Everybody felt the fatigue. And then, on top of all of that, not being able to get supplies that you needed and so on and so forth, and the barren shelves at the grocery store. I just want to say, can I get an amen? Have you noticed that during a hurricane nobody cares if they’re gluten free or not? Come on now. Just a note there. Just a little note. I’m from Kentucky. Give me a little grace.
But anyway, before I get into my message and some of the things that I learned — because I feel like these will be encouraging to us and inspirational — I want to start off with a funny little story that I heard. Because, I’m convinced more than ever that we need to learn to laugh. I’m telling you, laughter just sort of expels some of that junk that’s all up on the inside. And I just want to put this out there: None of my jokes are theological correct and, usually, none of them have anything to do with the message that I’m going to speak. They’re just there to sort of try to help you out and to put a little laughter into your heart, and I think you will really enjoy this one.
There are three boys; Gerald, Tommy and Donnie. They love their mom. I mean, I’m talking about they loved their mom. They all went to school. Believe it or not, all three were successful. So, they prospered very well. They got together and they said, “You know, mom’s so awesome. We just love mom so much. Let’s all do something great for our mom.”
They said, “I’m in.”
Gerald said, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to buy mom a house.”
They were like, “Wow. That’s awesome.”
He said, “Yeah. That’s what I’m going to do.”
So, Tommy said, “Well, if you’re going to buy her a house, I’m going to buy her a car.”
They all said, “Man, that’s great.”
Well, Donnie says, “Man, momma loves the Bible, doesn’t she?”
They’re like, “Man, she loves the Bible.
He’s like, “She can’t see though. She can’t see anymore. She can’t read the Bible. I found, online, that there is a parrot that you can buy that will speak the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation. I’m going to get that for her so she can listen to that parrot talk.”
They’re like, “Man. Okay. That’s a great idea.”
So, they all get mom their gifts. A couple of months go by and Gerald goes out to his mailbox. He has a little letter.
He opens it up and it says, “Dear Gerald,
“I’m so glad you’re my son. I love you so much. You have no idea how proud I am. You bought me this house. It’s way too big. But, I just want you to know I’m proud of you. Thank you for buying this house. But, it’s huge. I love you so much.
Well, Tommy goes out to the mailbox. He opens it up.
“I love you so much. I’m so glad you’re my son. It’s incredible. You bought me this car. I’m so appreciative that you bought me this car. But, it’s way too fancy. It’s got way too many bells and whistles. But, thank you so much for getting the car. I love you so much.
Well, Donnie goes out to the mailbox and opens up the mailbox. It says, “Dear Donnie,
“I love you so much. So glad you’re my kid. So appreciative that you’re my son. I want you to know of all the gifts that everybody got, yours was the one that I enjoyed the most. I really appreciate that. I want you to know the chicken tasted great.”
That’s awesome, isn’t it? Alright. Let’s get to work here. If you would like, you can take notes. On the back of your bulletin, there’s this nice white space. If you’ve never been a note taker, maybe God has ordained that today is the day that you become a note taker. Anyway, let’s get to work.
These are some things that I just sort of wrote down. Again, not my normal message here, but I do think that it will speak to all of us. The joy that I had as a pastor is knowing that what I was going to say would be applicable to every single person here, because we’ve all sort of endured this storm, Irma. So, let’s get to work here and just talk about some lessons from the storm. I think all of these will speak to us.
The first one is this: It doesn’t take much to expose how fragile our lives are. Right? Let’s be vulnerable here. Those of you that watch via the internet and mobile app too, let’s be vulnerable for a second. We don’t really like to think about how fragile our lives are. Fragility is not something that we like to think about. We like to think that we’re going to live for a long time. We make plans on vacations years out. You know? We plan for retirement. I mean, we really think we’re going to live a long time. There’s a certain arrogance to that, if you want to get honest, about thinking that we’ve got control of our lives like 10 years or 20 years down the road. We really live in a fragile word. But, we don’t really like to deal with it that much. We don’t like to talk about it that much. We just sort of do our thing. We just sort of get busy in life and whatever.
But, then, all of a sudden, something like Irma comes along and you see the anxiety that’s going on, the lack of food, the gas shortages and all of that; the fear, the power outages. All of a sudden, you realize, “Man, my little bubble could be gone in an hour. Just gone.”
All of a sudden, we’re like, “Whoa, man. We’re fragile.”
We don’t like to think about it that much, but it really is the truth. The Psalmists realized that about it. You and me realize that about humanity. It says, “For He...” — that would be God — “...knows our frame.”
He knows our skeletal systems. He knows who we are. He knows everything about us. He remembers that we’re dust. It says, “For man’s days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”
And we go, “Yeah. That’s so true.”
Like James says, life’s a vapor. But, we don’t really think about those things until we have things like Irma, and they remind us of those things. When we get reminded of those things, we usually do one of two things. It’s usually the first one, not the latter one. It should be the latter one as believers. But, even as believers, we do the first one. And the world does the first one. What happens is life is either terrifyingly fragile or it’s a reminder that this isn’t our final destiny. Oftentimes, we fall prey to the terrifyingly fragile. You saw it at gas lines and the way people did things and the franticness of stuff, fighting over water bottles and all of this.
It’s like, if this world is all that there is, then you’d better get everything you can get at Publix. I mean, that’s the bottom line. You know? Where shopping’s not a pleasure during Irma. Right?
But, the deal is that as Christians, when we see the fragility of life, that’s when our hope and our faith is supposed to kick in and we realize that our security’s not in our little world that we’ve created, but our security’s in God. Our security is in Jesus. Whether you know this or not, the Bible tells us these things. It’s very clear. Cain kills Abel in the first part of Genesis. And the very first thing that Cain does is he founds a city. He creates a city. The writer of Genesis tells us that he has the lyre and the harp and all of these things, tools and different things. All of those tools that you read about are the same tools and the same instruments that will later on be talked about when the construct the Tabernacle.
What the writer’s telling you is that Cain has a city, but God’s not in that city. He’s not there. That’s why when He calls Abraham in Genesis 12, because it’s set up that way in a literary way, Abraham is asked to do something. He’s asked to leave his city. He’s asked to take a journey. And by the time we get to Hebrews, we understand why. He’s looking for the heavenly city. He’s not putting roots down here that can get his allegiance off of God. His roots aren’t here.
And they do, don’t they? The roots of this world, they’ll get in real deep and everything bothers us. Look, I’m going to be honest: I don’t know what you all were worried about, but I was worried about there not being a church. I mean, my house is whatever. I mean, I love my kids. I do. But, I was worried about the church not being here. I was thinking, “Man, if we don’t have a church and a hurricane comes through here and blows everybody’s houses away, ain’t nobody going to show up to church. And, all of a sudden, all of this great stuff we’ve been doing...”
And then I started going, “No. Hold on, Chip. You can’t think that way. God’s bigger than that.”
But, I can tell you one thing: Monday morning, first thing, I was in my car before the sun was up and I was here in the church making sure that the windows were still here and the sound was still on and I was running around going, “Woohoo!”
I was loving it, man. I was so happy we were going to have church this weekend, because that’s a big deal. Thank God we can, right? Thank God we live in a country where we can gather in freedom and have AC and all the great things that we have. We need to be thankful. But, what happens is oftentimes we sort of get into the terrifying part of this rather than the, “Hey, you know what? God’s got my back. My trust is in that heavenly city.”
In fact, Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven. It’s not even here. I’ll tell you what: If we acted more like that on a regular basis, we’d be so much better off. Right? So, sometimes these storms remind us that.
I love what C.S. Lewis says. It’s so appropriate. He says, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world could satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world.”
You know, maybe you’re here today and maybe — and I get it. Nobody’s got any stones to throw or anything like that. But, maybe you came here today and you haven’t been to church for a long time and you’re like, “I need to give God a salute. My house wasn’t destroyed. I need to show up to church and just do that thing.”
Let me tell you something: You’re not here by accident. God’s not looking for a salute. God’s looking to have a relationship with you and me. He really wants to partner up with you and me. He wants to really be the God that you find in Jesus, that all of the outcasts and all the people that were on the margin of society, they found dignity and value from Jesus. They wanted to be around Him. I just want to encourage you that in the midst of these storms, there’s a lot of lessons that we can learn that maybe we can take with us after the storm that maybe we weren’t thinking about before the storm. But, maybe we can start to apply them in our lives.
One of those would be that the fragility of our lives should make us realize, “Man, we need to get our eyes on God.”
He is our security. He is the only place we should be looking. You don’t look to your religion. You don’t look to your works. You don’t look to your house. You don’t look to any of that stuff. You look to Jesus. As long as your eyes are on Jesus, you can walk on the water in the midst of the storm. As soon as we take our eyes off of Jesus, we’re in trouble. So, let’s learn that lesson and apply that to our lives.
Second thing that I learned along the way, and I hope that we all can see this, is that trees teach us some great truths. I got up early on Monday and was able to drive around. I’m a Bible guy. I didn’t go to FFA when I was in high school. You know? I wasn’t one of those agricultural dudes. But, I started looking at the trees and I was like, “Man, this is sort of interesting.”
These are beautiful trees. If you just would stand them up, they were beautiful. They looked mature. They looked all together. And they were over because they didn’t have deep roots. That made me go, “Wow. That’s pretty profound. That’s pretty cool.”
So, what did I do? I’m a nerd. I started reading about trees. I was like, “This is cool.”
So, I’m reading about trees. Because, you either eat junk food or you study trees in a hurricane. Anyway, I’m doing the thing here and I’m reading about trees. I don’t know how I got there. It was either God or a bad burrito, but I got onto this thing here where I started realizing there was this experiment that was done in Arizona many, many years ago. It was called the Biodome Experiment. What they did is they had this controlled environment where everything was perfect. All the animals and the people and the agricultural stuff and the trees, food and everything was perfect. It was perfectly controlled.
In fact, it looked something like this. This is actually the Biosphere-2. It’s the next iteration of the Biodome. But, that’s sort of what it looked like. I got there while reading about trees because it led me to something that was an excerpt from one of the journals of the Biodome. This is what it said. This was the profound moment for me. Maybe it will be profound for you too.
It said, “After several months, everything seemed to be going alright. However, there was one exception: When the trees grew to a certain height, they would topple over.”
They were like, “Why is this happening? Why are the trees falling over? I mean, this is a perfect environment.”
Like an environment we’d like to have. A perfect environment. So, they started talking and they’re all scientists. They think, “You know what? We have forgotten something in our perfectly controlled environment that the trees need to be able to learn to grow tall, and that’s the wind.”
See, when the trees don’t have the wind, what happens is the roots don’t work right and they just fall over. I started thinking, “Man, that’s so good.”
Because, we try so hard to not have storms in our lives. We try so hard to keep the winds from the storms in our lives. But, the winds are the things that create in you and me the things that give us the roots to stand up in the midst of the difficulties. And I even went further. I’m like, “This is so good, man. What can I find out about hurricanes?”
I started looking up hurricanes. I’m like, “There’s got to be some good truth about hurricanes.”
It was another mind-blowing thing for me. I didn’t realize this, but hurricanes are needed. They’re part of the world. They’re like the circuit breaker for the tropics. What happens is as heat builds up, the hurricanes dissipate that heat that would destroy some of the tropics. By dissipating that heat, they keep the earth in a great situation. Not only that, they’re the greatest desalinization plant that there is ever. They take all of that saltwater and they make it into freshwater and they dump it on places where there’s droughts. Not only that, but they blow away all of the dead stuff so new life can emerge. And here we are rebuking the hurricane and telling the hurricane to go back from the pit of hell from which it came and all of that stuff. And, in reality, these things really are part and parcel of the world to keep the world in balance.
It’s like we want that controlled environment, but in that controlled environment there’s no wind. And if there’s no wind, we don’t really develop the right way. Paul saw that when he wrote to the Corinthians. He said, “Listen: We don’t lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
He was able to say, “Look: On the outside here, there’s things that we see. But, on the inside, there’s something else going on.”
In other words, there’s something deeper. It’s not just what we see. There’s things that are going on that maybe are more important. I don’t know about you all, but I know that my outer self is wasting away. We went to some dive the day after the hurricane. You’ll go anywhere to get something to eat, won’t you? Seriously. It was crazy. Wendy’s had a line that was all the way out. I’m like, “Wendy’s ain’t that good, but they’re the only place open.”
And you know it’s bad when the Waffle House is shut down. It’s like, “Seriously?”
When the Awful House is not open, it’s not good. Anyway, we go in and the lady is serving us. I’ve got four kids. We have six. I’m up to four. I’m getting better. I’m almost there to where I can do the Mindy thing and take all of them. But, I’m at four right now. That’s just where I’m at. Maybe by the time they get to college I’ll be able to do all six.
Anyway, I’ve got four of them there and I’m eating and the lady comes up and she goes, “These kids are so cute. Are these your grandchildren?”
I’m like, “Come on, lady.”
Man. Come on. So, the outer self is wasting away. It was. But, listen to what Paul says here. This is important. He says, “For this light, momentary affliction...”
And that’s ridiculous. Paul was getting beaten with rods. He was getting stoned — not like they do in Colorado. Like, real rocks. Here’s what he was able to say about this. He says, “Preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
He’s like, “The difficulties of life, the winds, the storms — don’t look at them through the negative lens, but through a positive lens. They’re doing things in you and me that we can’t even see right now. We don’t look at the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
It’s like, “Wow, man. Those trees are something else.”
Now, about this time — I know it’s starting to get a little heavy. Everybody’s thinking, “Whoa. This needs to have a little comic relief.”
This is the third thing here that I learned. It has nothing to do with anything biblical or spiritual, but it is an absolute truth that I learned from the storm, and I bet you did too. There’s a direct correlation between waiting for a hurricane and acquiring terrible eating habits. Amen, right? Come on, now. You know that’s true. I remember I came in the day before the hurricane and I had donuts, potato chips, Snickers bars and Kit Kats. Mindy looked at me.
“What are you thinking?”
I’m like, “Hey, it’s party time around here.”
My little girl, Esther, found the pantry. So, we’d go in there and she’d have the goldfish thing open, the potato chip thing open, and the Little Debbie thing open, sitting on a stool eating. And we’re like, “No, no, no.”
And she’s developed this thing. I don’t know where she got it from. She’s got this thing. Two minutes. It’s like you’re getting ready to put her to bed.
“Esther, you need to go to bed.”
So, I’d open up the pantry and she’d be in there, food all over herself, everything on the floor. I’d say, “Esther, you need to come out.”
She’d say, “Two minutes.”
It was great. Can I say this, too? Can we forever ban, during the next hurricanes, these two words: Hunker down? I rebuke that. It just needs to go. “Hunker down” needs to go. In fact, I put out on Facebook that we should use a Kentucky saying, that we’re dug in like a tick on the back of a billy goat. That’s the better way to say it. But, hunker down. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a picture of me at my house hunkering down and eating some snacks. It was this one here. I hunkered down and I ate a few snacks. So, there you go.
Okay. Let’s get back to spirituality here. We need to laugh sometimes. Okay. Here we go. The fourth thing I learned is that race, wealth and/or gender mean nothing in a hurricane. Did you notice that? I mean, seriously. When you’re in your car and it’s 180mph wind and you’re trying to get out of your car into someone’s house, when they open that door, you don’t get to the porch as the wind’s blowing and say, “How’d you vote?”
You don’t do that, right? We don’t do that stuff. We don’t. It’s so interesting that before the hurricane, we could point fingers at all this stuff and race and gender and wealth and all this stuff. I mean, we all got all these things going on. Hurricane hits and guess what? People are just people. They’re just people. It’s like, “Can I help you? Can I do something? What can I do?”
Just people. Maybe we ought to learn to live like we do right after hurricanes from this point forward. See, the Proverbs writer says this. He says what he says. He says, “The rich and the poor have a common bond: The Lord is the maker of them all.”
That goes for everything. Isn’t it amazing when we treat people as people? Not as groups. Not as certain things. I think that we see that after a hurricane. People are people. And do you know what? They are. And God wants us to see people as people. Can I tell something to you? As much as we’re trying to meet physical needs and get water and generators to people and all that stuff, can I tell you something? The biggest need that people have is the need of Jesus. When you and I stop seeing people as people, we’re going to shirk our responsibility or preaching the Gospel to every single person, because they’re in more desperate need of Jesus than they are a generator.
Don’t walk out of here and go, “Chip doesn’t think anybody ought to have power.”
That’s not what I said. Look, I’m going to go ahead and confess AC is an idol for me. I’m going to tell you right now. I just want you to know that. I confess that. Y’all can pray for the pastor. I like my AC. I realized I love my AC. In fact, I needed to repent a little bit on that one. But, can I also say something? For those people that maybe have lost whatever — and I say this not in a way to be snarky, but I say this in a way to just enlighten us. For people who don’t have power, can I tell you something? We still live better than 99% of the rest of the world. Let’s remember that.
The fifth thing I learned — and this was an interesting thing for me — is the lack of being able to receive help demonstrates our culture’s belief in self-sufficiency. I was amazed at how many people we would try to help and would say, “I don’t need it.”
And I get it. They were thinking, “There’s other people that maybe have more need than I have,” but it was interesting to see how people would turn that down. And I’m guilty of that a lot. I like to give. I don’t usually like anybody to do anything for me. But, can I just give you a truth? Just let this settle in your heart here.
When someone’s trying to help us and we don’t let them, we rob them of their blessing. Just take that in. Just drink that in for a little bit.
Next thing here. This is a good one here. The complainers were miserable and the servers were full of joy. I’m going to leave that one right there. I’ll just leave it there. You know? People on Facebook: “I can’t believe FPL and Duke Energy.”
Listen: They were miserable. Miserable. But, the people that were out serving, they were joyful. I’ve said this over and over again and I’m going to say this until the day I die: If you’re not loving God and loving others, you’re not going to be successful in life. You’re not going to have joy. You’re not going to have peace. That’s just the way it works. When it’s all about you and me, it’s the black hole of selfishness and it’s all about what it is about us, we’re going to be miserable. I’m telling you. You are going to be miserable. But, when we learn to serve others and reach out to others, that’s when things happen for you and me. It’s just the truth.
In fact, just so I can liven you up, because some of you all maybe complain or you’re without power or whatever, I’m going to tell you another funny story. Do you want another funny story? Here’s another funny story.
Two ladies. They loved each other to death. Great, great ladies. Older ladies. They both died and they ended up in heaven. They were standing there before Peter and Peter came out and he said, “Hey, ladies. Heaven’s better than advertised. This place is absolutely incredible. You have no idea what’s in store for you. But, there’s just one rule. It’s crazy. Sort of a quirky rule. But, it’s the rule of the Lord. It’s what He wants to do. He’s got these special ducks throughout heaven. What He doesn’t want you to do — He wants you to pay attention. Don’t step on any of them ducks when you’re in heaven.”
They’re like, “Okay.”
He says, “Everything else is great.”
So, they’re walking along one day and one of the ladies steps right on one of them ducks. It makes a horrible sound. She’s like, “Oh my gosh. I stepped on a duck.”
Immediately a couple of angels come and they handcuff her to the ugliest guy she has ever seen in her entire life. Like, that must be punishment. And the other lady’s like, “Man, I’m going to make sure I watch where I’m going.”
So, about a week goes by. She’s feeling pretty good because she hasn’t stepped on any duck or anything like that. And, all of a sudden, a couple of angels come over and handcuff her to Fabio. I mean, this guy is absolutely gorgeous. She’s like, “Yes! This is awesome.”
He’s like, “Yeah. I shouldn’t have stepped on a duck.”
So, there you go. See, I can be funny. It’s good to laugh. It’s like a medicine. Here’s the last one. This was a moment for me. Think through this one with me. The downed palm branches remind us of an important truth. I want you to follow me on this. I’m a Bible nerd. I mean, I’m a professor. Somebody told me last night, “You know your shoe’s untied?”
I’m like, “I probably don’t even have socks that match. What are you talking about?”
Anyway, everything I do in life I sort of filter through Bible stuff and theology stuff and all of that. Man, I had a profound moment. I was driving around. Whenever there’s a storm, even if it’s not a great storm, the palm fronds are always laying all over the ground. That’s just the way it is here in Florida. As they were laying there, I started thinking, “Hmm. You know, when Jesus came into Jerusalem, they threw the palm branches down in front of Him. They were laying on the ground.”
Then I started thinking, “Wow, man. That’s so cool. The palm branches still go before the Lord even when He comes in the storm. They still bow before the majesty of our Lord.”
And I started thinking, “There’s more here. There’s more here. There’s more here.”
Okay. Jesus goes into Jerusalem and goes through the storm of His body being buffeted and hung on a cross. But, just a few days later, there was resurrection. I was like, “Man, that’s cool.”
When we see the palm branches on the ground, that means resurrection isn’t that far away. Man, when I woke up on Monday, it was beautiful. I mean, it was like the best day ever. Mindy and I were like, “This is incredible.”
I mean, it was awesome. We didn’t have power for a while. But, man, the kids were outside running around. So, like God, the storms come through and then there’s new beginnings. I started thinking, “Man, if we could ever get that approach to life, that instead of looking at the negatives, to look at the stories that are going to be written.”
Listen: I’ve never been so proud of our church. I mean, there have been people that have assembled together to go do things. I mean, there was a group that assembled earlier in the week. There was a group that assembled yesterday. There’s people on Facebook saying, “Hey, if you need a shower or a place to stay, come over.”
I saw you all reaching out. I saw young adults on their young adult page helping each other out. I saw people taking off shutters for people and doing good deeds. And I thought, “Man, this is so awesome.”
If we could understand that these storms provide you and me incredible opportunities to go do great things for God, it’s like the greatest set up. And we think of things as setbacks. The greatest setbacks in our lives are the greatest setups for the glory of God. We have an awesome opportunity to write a great story right now about being intentional neighbors as a church that goes out and does all kinds of great things. There were people on Facebook from our church that were down in Ft. Myers doing stuff. I’m going, “Man, that is what it’s all about.”
These people are seizing the moment. They realize, “Forget the downed palm branches right now. Forget that. Because, what I know is going to happen not too shortly from the point of the downed palm branches is that there’s going to be resurrection and new beginnings.”
And I believe that for every single one of you no matter if you’re still without power, no matter if stuff’s going on. I believe that God has an opportunity out of this for you to have a new beginning. Some of you all learned to pray over the last week. Come on now. You know that. You did. You’re like, “I haven’t prayed in six months. But, man, I got down to business and learned to pray.”
Some of you all know your neighbors’ names and you didn’t even know them. Think about that. I mean, God provides awesome opportunity. So, let’s seize that.
So, what I want to do here to end the service is I want to take a moment and do what we need to do. We need to pray. I’m going to do two things. Number one: I want to thank God for His goodness. I want us to learn to thank God that even in the storms that come, there are things that God’s doing that we need to pay attention to and learn those lessons from the storms. The storms don’t have to be all bad.
The second thing I want to do is I want to pray that God will just continue to burn those two words, “intentional neighbors,” into all of our hearts. They’re not just something that we read on something that’s hanging on a wall, but they’re something that embodies the DNA of this church. That we would get out and get after it for the glory of God. So, let’s just pause for a moment and let’s have a time of corporate prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You as the pastor of this church and I come to You, also, as a member of this church. We come to You together as Your body, Lord. Everybody here, we all come together in prayer. Lord, the first thing that we want to do is we just want to thank You for Your goodness. Lord, so often we don’t see Your goodness in the midst of difficulties. Lord, so often we just want to live in those controlled environments and don’t understand that the winds and the storms actually have massively positive effects on our lives.
Lord, there’s so much about You that we don’t understand. You are so beyond our minds. You’re so beyond our understanding. You’re so beyond our faculties. Lord, we just love You. Because, Lord, we believe with all of our hearts that You really are a good God. Even times when we don’t see it or we don’t understand, we believe, God, one day when we stand with You, You’re going to put things together in a way — the mosaic of the way You’ve created this world and ordained this world. Lord, the way You’ve stitched things together is going to blow us away.
Lord, everything that we thought probably is going to be different than the way we envisioned it. So, Lord, we just bow. You truly are God and we love You. Lord, we want You in this place. We want You in our lives. We want You in this church. Lord, we don’t want You like the Laodicean Church, knocking on the door and wanting to come in. Lord, we want You here. We want You with us. We want to fellowship with You.
God, You knock on the door of the Laodicean Church because You want to come in and fellowship with them. Lord, we want You to fellowship with us. We want to know You, Lord, not only in the power of Your resurrection, Lord, but in the fellowship of Your sufferings.
Lord, we want to know You in every way. Lord, secondly, I pray that You would burden this church to continue to have a spirit of wanting to be intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, not because we’re doing something to make You happy with us, but we’re doing these things as a result of what You’ve done for us because You were that intentional neighbor for us. We want to return the favor and be intentional neighbors to everyone else here in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch.
So, Lord, I pray that You would help us to start a new chapter, a new part of the book where this church rises up in ways that we never could even imagine and infiltrates this community, doing good and massively good things. Lord, to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, help us to learn from the storms. Help us to learn these lessons that we need to learn.
And Lord, help us to continue to become more like Your Son. Lord, we just love You and we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Can we give the Lord a hand clap? He’s just a good God. I just want to say here, getting ready to close, that I’ve never been more proud. I am just humbled and fortunate to be able to get to be the pastor of such a great church. I love each and every one of you. I’m serious. Saturday night, the storm was going through and I was missing being here. And Sunday was miserable. I was like, “Man, there’s three services that we’re missing.”
I really was. I was like a cow that when they open up the gate the thing just goes jumping and skipping. I walked in here and everything was intact and there wasn’t any water damage. I was like, “Yes!”
I mean, I was so happy. I love each and every one of you all. I really believe the best days of our church are ahead of us. I really believe hold on and strap in, because I believe God’s going to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think, and I know He’s going to do that because of the power that works within you and me. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in you and me, and He’s going to do great things.
So, let’s go out and be intentional neighbors. Let’s thank God. He’s a good God, isn’t He? He’s just a good God. Let’s pray and we’ll get out of here.
Dear Heavenly Father, we just pray that as we leave here today that You would lead, guide and direct us and continue to watch over us and protect us. I pray, Lord, that You would continue to birth within our church a heart for You, a heart for a genuine relationship with You, and help us, Lord, to be passionate about reaching 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 hand clap and tell Him you love Him. I’ll see everybody soon. God bless everybody.