Poetic Imagination Week 1: Poetry


Sermon Transcript


Our world: It seems as though it has drastically changed in the past 30 years. How does the church respond? In times of calamity and turmoil, the prophets arose. Where is that prophetic voice today, and what would it look like? The answer may surprise you.

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Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re starting a new series today. I don’t know how you all are, but I love it when we start new series’. And this one is going to be fantastic, because we’re going to be dealing with something that so many of us don’t really understand if we’re being honest. And it’s this crazy group of people that dress wild, as crazy things, lay on their side in front of frying pans, see all kinds of visions. It’s this group called “the prophets.”

And I know, here in America, when we say prophets, we go, “That’s what I want my business to have,” but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about prophets, okay? The real people in the Old Testament. And the reality is this is a crazy group of people. And so often you find in the church people flip over to the Old Testament and they’re reading some of these prophets and they’re like, “Man, I don’t understand any of this stuff. They’re sort of rough. They’re sort of nasty. Why don’t we run back over here to the New Testament? Ah, Jesus is so nice. Isn’t He?”

But even that, we’ve got Jesus, He turns the tables over in the temple. You’re like, “What is He doing?” It’s a prophetic act. I mean, who are these people and what can we learn from them and what are they saying to us and what’s the literature that we’re reading? So I think, for everybody in here, even if this is like your first time here and maybe you were at First Friday and you thought, “Hey, I’m going to just show up today,” I think you’re going to enjoy this.” Or it’s someone who’s been here the entire time that we’ve been in existence, or whether or not you’re like — you’re not even sure if you’re a Christian at this point. You’re just here. You wanted to sort of come to church and see what’s going on.

And let me tell you something: If that’s where you’re at, you can belong here before you believe. Just sit back. We’re a church that welcomes people, so you can hang out. But if you’ve been a Christian for 30 or 40 years, I think that this particular series is going to challenge us, I think it’s going to inform us, I think we’re going to learn. And hopefully, and it’s my goal in everything that I do, I hope this all draws us closer to the Lord Jesus in our relationship, looking at these people that we call “the prophets.”

Now, many of you all know this. If you’re new, you wouldn’t know this. But at the beginning of every series, and at the beginning of every sermon, I like to have a big idea that we sort of talk about that’s going to sort of, you know, be what we discuss over the next several weeks as we open up here a new series called “The Poetic Imagination.” When I do, let me give you a little inside thing here about the way I think about when I preach.

The reason I do a big idea is because I know that all of us have tough weeks, and we get busy and things are going on. And I believe that when I give the big idea at the beginning of every sermon, it just sort of — we go, “Oh, yeah. That’s what we’re going.”

And so I try to make something that’s memorable, that you can remember, and go, “Oh, yeah,” and it jars the memory know what we’re studying. So we’re going to be looking at the prophets. We’re going to be looking at what they say and do. But the big idea that we want to sort of capture here at the beginning of the series, and one we’ll talk about at the beginning of every sermon in this series, is this: When we settle for “less than,” we get “less than.” That’s just the truism, and the way it is. If we settle for less, we get less.

And the reason I say that is because of this: Properly communicating the entirety of God’s Word is far too important for “less than.” We can’t afford to only preach some of the things that we like or teach things that we like out of the Bible. We need to be people that believe that, you know, all of these books in here, there’s 66 of them, we can’t just go, “Yeah, those prophets. Ezekiel. I don’t know what he was smoking, seeing some of that stuff that he was seeing. I mean, he was on better stuff than people in Sarasota are on.”

You know? And we go through and we read Micah and Nahum, and Nahum is saying things like, “Man, what is he talking about? I mean, this is some strange language.”

And so what we can’t afford to do is go, “Okay. You know what? I just don’t want to deal with that stuff. I want to stay over here and pick and choose the stuff that I like.”

I don’t think we need to do that. I just think we need to properly understand what’s going on. And, you know, have a commitment to preaching Scripture. There’s nothing in Scripture that I won’t preach. I mean, we’re going to do all of it together. But we can’t settle for less than, because prophets have a number of great things to say to you and me, but I think if we can understand them a little bit better and understand what they’re doing, it’s going to help us out immensely. So this is going to be a fun time. You’re going to learn a lot. I think you’re going to see prophets and their literature in a way that you’ve never seen it before, and I think this is going to be a great series.

But before we get going, I want to do a little mind exercise with everybody, and I think most of you will remember this as growing up as a kid. And I’m going to come back to this mind exercise a couple of times in the message. I think it will sort of, at critical points in the message, remind us of some things.

But do you remember growing up — And I think everybody can remember this, especially if you’re my age or older. We had some vivid imaginations when we were growing up. I mean, my kids have laser tag. We had sticks. Can I get an “amen?” You know what I’m talking about? I mean, I grew up in Kentucky. That’s where the toothbrush was invented. Did you know that? If it would’ve been invented anywhere else, it would’ve been the “teethbrush.”

So, anyway, but we had a vivid imagination. Some of you all are getting that. It’s like it’s a little early. You know? And those of you all who were in Israel with me, you’re sort of like, “What?”

Anyway, but we did. I mean, listen, my kids have these game systems, and there’s like nine buttons that you have to play with. And that’s not it. There’s buttons on the back of the controller. I mean, it’s like — it’s crazy. We had a stick and an orange button. That’s what we had, and that’s the way God intended it, folks. Because this other stuff is just, I don’t get it. And so, here’s the deal. Remember when you — at least for me, we thought that a triangle was a spaceship. We did. And these jagged things were asteroids. And we would shoot at the asteroids and we were in. Today, it’s like they’ve got VR. They’re in the spaceship.

But we had a vivid imagination. All of us did. I mean, we could do anything. I remember growing up in Kentucky — that’s God’s state, by the way, and the basketball program —  but I grew up and I remember in ‘78, Kyle Macy was our point guard, and I was 8 years old and I thought I was Kyle Macy. I mean, I had a picture of him in my room, and all I could envision was, you know, I was on the UK Wildcat team, and it was like 3 seconds left, National Championship, and there I was. And I’d count it down, “Three, two, one!”

And I’d miss, and I’d go, “Redo!” I’d come back, get the ball again, you know, and say, “Okay. Here we go. Three, two, one!” Until I made it. And then like everybody, you know, Joe B. Hall’s got me on his shoulders. You know? He was the coach back then, if you don’t know. You should know. Study Kentucky basketball, because God wants you to do that.

Anyway, so they’re carrying me around. I mean, life was great. This vivid imagination. And all of us can relate. I mean, it’s like we know, when we were a kid, it was like the world was out there. I mean, we were going to be rock stars, we were going to do all this stuff. I mean, even my own little boy, Jack, he’s out dribbling one day. I’m sitting in a chair. My back’s a little injured right now. And he’s like, “Dad, I’m going to get a 55-million-dollar contract in the NBA.”

I’m like, “Son, shoot some layups.”

Anyway, the thing is, see, that imagination is there. There is nothing that you can’t do as a kid. But this is sort of sad, but it’s true. Along the way, we settle. We settled somewhere. Maybe it was a bad relationship or maybe it was a bankruptcy or maybe it was something that happened in our lives. Maybe we lost somebody that we loved. And all of a sudden, that imagination that, “Man, I can do anything. I can really do something great.”

We just sort of settled. I don’t like the word settled. I like the word we became “numb.” We just became numb. You see it as a pastor all the time. People say, “You know, I’m working hard and 60 hours a week. I’m just sort of tired. I go home. I want to love my wife and love my kids, but I’m sort of exhausted. I’m just sort of numb, pastor, to life.”

And that vivid imagination that they had at one time, or we had at one time, is sort of gone. And the Bible talks about this. It doesn’t use the word “vivid imagination.” It doesn’t use the word “settled.” It doesn’t use the word “numb.” But it says the same things. And it’s a story that runs all the way through the Bible that we need to understand. It’s the paradigmatic story of Scripture. And it’s the story of deliverance out of Egypt. The people of God are in Egypt. They’re in Egypt and it’s an oppressive environment. It’s the empire. It’s, you know, work hard, people are numbers and they don’t have any value at all. There’s no dignity, there’s no value to humanity. And some people say, “God, there’s got to be something more. This just can’t be the existence. This just can’t be the numb existence for the rest of my life.”

And God delivers them out of Egypt and He delivers them into the wilderness. And in the wilderness, you wouldn’t get to eat. I mean, everybody knows in the wilderness you wouldn’t get to eat. But see, God’s got big plans. God provides manna for them in the wilderness. And if they stored too much of it up, you know, because that’s the way we would do it, like, “I need to get more, because what if it goes out?”

God’s like, “No. It turns to worms every morning and you have to go out and get your daily bread.”

That’s why Jesus says in the Lord’s Prayer, “Pray for daily bread.” This story is all through Scripture, this idea of coming out of Egypt. This idea of, Paul says in Galatians 1, “God has delivered us from this present evil age.” That’s Exodus thought. Galatians 4, he says, “You’re no longer slaves, you’re sons.”

That’s Exodus speech. In Matthew 11, when Jesus says, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden.” Those are words that are used in the Old Testament. That’s Egypt. He’s saying, “You don’t have to do the Pharaoh thing anymore. Come to me and I’ll give you rest. You see in the book of Revelation, He says, “Come out of her, my people.” The City of Babylon. It’s all about this coming out and becoming the new community that God has created you and me to be. And that community is loving God and loving neighbors and figuring out how to rest in God. That’s the fourth commandment. The first three are serving God, the last six are loving other people and tied together by our relationship with God.

God wants us to be a new community. He wants us to be different than it was in Egypt. He wants us to live in ways that are new, and all kinds of imagination and everything. But here’s what happens, and it happens all throughout Scripture. The people of God get delivered out of that oppressive system, but those sirenic voices, they beckon them to come back and somehow get God and culture, and God and Egypt, and God and patriotism, or all of those things, and nationalism all put together in such a way. And God’s like, “No. I want you to come out of all of that. I am creating an alternative community. You’re no longer citizens of this world. You’re citizens of heaven. You’re ambassadors. I’ve got so much more for you to do. I want to tap into that imagination. There’s so many things. You’re going to be another community that’s going to be walking in this world, telling people to come out and join this community.”

But what happens is we go back, and we keep going back. And we don’t like the new man, we want the old man. It feels more comfortable to put on the old clothes rather than the new clothes. And what happens is when the people of God forget, and they lose that imagination and they settle for the things of the world rather than for all of the things that God has, God has some people that He sends on the scene, and they are prophets. And what they do is they talk about this world and this age and Pharaoh’s Empire and the city of man. This is the story that they tell.

Because, see, in this world and this age and Pharaoh’s empire and the city of man, what’s happening is people become or are commodities in Pharaoh’s Egypt. And you talk to people and they go, “I just feel like I’m a number. I don’t feel like anybody knows who I am. I don’t feel like my boss cares about me.”

See, this is empire, and in the empire, bricks have got to get made. It’s all about production. And when you say, “You need to go get a job, and you need to work harder,” is that Pharaoh talking or is that God? See, the empire pulls us in. We’ve been delivered from that, and all of a sudden, now, we’re loving enemies, turning cheeks, loving on the fatherless and the widows, bringing in foster kids and doing all these great things. But empire says, “No. No. Come back. Come back. People are just commodities. They don’t have the value and dignity. Don’t treat everybody the same. If they don’t look like you and smell like you and taste like you, they’re people that need to be rejected. If they live across the sea, we don’t care about them. We don’t like different things.”

That’s the empire. But God says, “No, no, no. I want everybody from every tongue and nation, color and kindred and tribe, I want everybody together, but the bricks have got to get made, and that oppressive work leads to numbness”

And we see that in society. We see people are numb. There’s people that are in the church and they smile real big and they say everything’s good, but the reality is they’re numb. Because where they’ve been delivered, they’ve gradually just sort of walked back into that lifestyle. And, oftentimes, that lifestyle, they sort of mix it with God and they convince themselves that what they’re doing is what God wants them to do, or they just sort of wonder where God’s at. But there’s a numbness. And into that world, God always sends these people called the prophets. And what the prophets do is they come to the community of faith. They don’t go to the world. If you read the prophets, they’re going to the people of God. Every one of them. They’re going to kings. They’re going to priests. They’re going to the people that serve them.

And what they’re doing is they’re saying, “Guys, you’ve lost it.”

It’s like, you know, I grew up and my mom and dad, they had assisted living facilities, and I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people who have lost their heartbeat, and the emergency people will come and take the pads and shock them to get that heart going again. The prophets come in with these pads, and they shock the people of God to say, “You look like Egypt. You look like Pharaoh. You don’t look like God. You’re not providing people the alternative community. You’re trying to mix the two or you’ve confused it, but you need to remember who you are.”

So the prophets, they stir up the people of God by reminding them of who and what they are to be. Not to do, but to be. Because, see, our “doing” flows from our being, not the other way around. And they remind everybody, “No, no, no. You’ve been delivered. You’re treating the poor in a bad way. That’s the way it’s done in Egypt. It’s not the way we do it. We believe that everybody comes together at the same table whether they’re rich or poor or whether they’re from this country or that country. We come together because we’re the people of God that have been delivered from the oppressive city,” and the prophets say, “I need to stir you up to remind you.”

And they use graphic language and all kinds of crazy things. And what are they doing? Well, it’s important to understand that they’re using a literary device. They’re using a genre to arrest people’s attention, and that genre is poetry. It’s not prose. It’s poetry. And they say all kinds of stuff, you know? The sun’s going to stop shining. The moon is going to turn to blood. And we’re like, “Well, what does that mean?”

It’s poetry. It’s expanding something that we’ve lost. It’s expanding our imagination. It’s trying to get us to think again and to arrest us; to realize that we’ve been delivered, and we are far more than what we’ve settled for. We’ve settled for “less than,” and the prophets want to remind us that our God is a great God. Our God is the God that can separate the Red Sea and we can walk across on the dry ground. Our God’s the God that can have somebody walk on the water. Our God’s the God that on the fourth day when Lazarus smells, He can roll open the stone and old Lazarus can come out of the grave because God can take the dead things and make them live again. He’s the God of Ezekiel 37 that takes the dry bones and forms them into an army. That’s who He is. And the prophets say, “That’s who Yahweh is. Don’t settle. Don’t settle for something less than.”

Believe that God has something greater for you. And what they do is they always end with hope. They never come in and say, “God’s going to judge.” Why’s God going to judge? Because it’s the same thing with Egypt. He’s going to bring the plagues even on the people of God. Why? Because they forgot who they are. But what He’s trying to do is He’s trying to push those people to come out of that system. And the prophets always end with a message of hope. They always say, “And after God does this, He’s going to restore. And after God does this, He’s going to redo these things. And after God does this, wine’s going to flow, and trees are going to grow, and snacks are going to sit down with animals, and lions with lambs, and all of this great stuff.”

And it’s tapping into this imagination to give us hope again to believe that our God truly is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And so what the prophets do, they contrast the mantra of this world that brings us in and brings us to numbness. They talk about the world to come. They talk about the age to come. They talk about the exodus. They talk about the City of God that’s not the City of Man, whose builder and maker is God. They refocus everybody into what the plan of God is, and so they remind, they recall, and they’ll rebuke the community of faith to remember who they are by arresting the collective imagination of the people through poetry.

So what do they say? What are the grand themes of the prophets? Well, there’s three. There’s a number of things that they do, but there’s three major categories that they speak. And you can read all the way through them. They’re always saying the same thing. The first one is they’re kingdom heralds. They realize something that we don’t always realize as the church. We’ve settled for less than. Here’s what they know: They know that the goal of earthly kings, or the goal of earthly pharaohs, or the goal of earthly leaders is to bring stability, peace, order and prosperity, or things like that. And here’s what they know: They can’t. They can’t.

See, Christianity usually falls within two systems. There’s the conservative side of Christianity, and the liberal side of Christianity, and both of them settle for less than. The conservatives want to stand on the other side of the Red Sea and say, “You’re doing it wrong. You’re not right. That’s wrong. You’re going to go to hell for doing that. Can’t live that way. Can’t do that. We know. Here’s what the Word of God says. And Egypt, you’re going to crash and burn, baby, because here’s what the Word of God says.”

Liberals say, “Do you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to go back into Egypt and we’re going to do all kinds of social things, and we’re going to reform Egypt.”

The bottom line is you both have settled for something less. This is never going to work. There’s only one king that can bring stability, peace, order and prosperity, and His name is Jesus. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He’s the one. That’s why Jesus, when He comes on the scene and He goes through Galilee teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming what? The Gospel. The Good News of the Kingdom, of the true King. See, we settle. We just want to get the right Pharaoh, and we think that everything will be okay. That if Pharaoh just does it the way we want him to do it, life’s going to be good. We’ve settled for less than.

You see it in all kinds of social media. Everybody attacking everybody. You’re not called to reform Egypt. You’re called to come out of Egypt. Man, I’m about to preach. It’s funny. Jim Donato, he’s in the medicine world, he’d give me some Tamiflu to take to Israel. And he was like, “Man, you had energy at nine o’clock.”

I’m like, “I just ate all your Tamiflu right before I started preaching.” I said, “You gave me speed, didn’t you?”

Anyways, no. I’m kidding. The Gospel and the kingdom is about the true King and let me tell you something: The true King is the only one who can heal every disease and every affliction. See, the prophets understand they’re kingdom heralds. We need to be kingdom heralds. Don’t get distracted with Egypt. You’ve been brought out of Egypt. Our goal is to show an alternative lifestyle where we love people, where we pray for people, where we love enemies, we turn the other cheek, we forgive so that the people in Egypt want to come out and join us. We’re not going back and reforming. We’re not getting the right pharaoh. None of that stuff. We’re not going to yell across the Red Sea. What we’ve got to do is lead people to Jesus, and when we settle for less than, we get less than. And the prophets come and arrest us and say, “It’s about the kingdom.”

You see it throughout the Old Testament. The prophets, they talk about the mountain of the Lord’s house being above all the other mountains. That’s poetic ways of saying God’s kingdom is going to come, and one day it’s going to be above all the other kingdoms of the world. It’s coming. Folks, the kingdom of God is coming, for a fact. And we herald that kingdom.

I’m up here spitting. I’ve got spit on my glasses. Some of y’all watching by the internet, you’re going, “Man, there’s spit all over my computer. I don’t know what this guy’s doing.”

Some people are down on the front row going, “I think I’m going to get an umbrella.”

Okay. So, kingdom herald. Second thing is the prophets are always time tellers. They tell us what time it is. And the time is now to come out of Egypt and join up with the family of God. Paul says it this way to the Ephesians. He says, “Look carefully, then, how you walk.”

This is really important, too. Listen to me here. When we are called to be the alternative community that’s come out of Egypt, if our actions are not our actions, we have no voice. See, the church, for too long, has told everybody what to do, but hasn’t done it itself. See, it’s when we’re living the Gospel of the kingdom in our lives that our voices matter.

Paul says, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

What time is it? It’s time to let people know that the kingdom is coming, and that there’s deliverance. That they don’t have to live in the numbness of Egypt. They can live in the abundance of God. You see, Paul says this to the Corinthians. He goes, “Those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.”

So we get so involved, we get so inculcated with our culture and our nationalism and all of those things, and what it does is it brings us down. We’re not called to represent one country above the other countries. We’re called to represent the Kingdom of God to every country, to every nation. And when we settle for less than, we get less than. And we don’t see God move in the way we want to see Him move.

He says, “For the present form of this world is passing away. Don’t get bogged down with that stuff.”

Stay focused. This is what time it is. John says it this way: “The world’s passing away, but however does the will of God abides forever.”

Don’t get caught up in those things. So the prophets, they’re kingdom heralds. They are time tellers. But this is the most important one, and this is the one that we’ve got to get right. If we really get the prophetic voice of the church right, is this. Number three: They’re hope dispensers. They constantly are giving hope to people. That’s one of the things that we need to realize. And let me tell you something. As a church here — let me salute you as your pastor — this church dispenses a lot of hope into Lakewood Ranch. We do a lot of things right here at Grace Community Church. And so, that’s an awesome thing.

I want to read you a passage of Scripture really quickly, though, that maybe you’ve read before, and I think this will minister to you. David, in Psalm 3, is being chased out of Jerusalem by his son Absalom. And he’s got a big ol’ army, and they’re out to get David. And he writes Psalm 3. Here’s what he writes.

He says, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me!”

Now, if you understand Hebrew — and I don’t expect for you to understand Hebrew, but if you understand Hebrew, Hebrew goes from here to here. It’s sort of a real funky language because you’re reading backwards. So you open up the book on the other side. Okay. The first word in Psalm 3:1 is “Lord.” The last word in Psalm 3:1 is “me.” What is David saying? He’s saying that there’s many foes and many people rising up to separate the Lord from me. And he uses the word “many” three times. Two here, and one in the next verse. He says, and listen, for you and me, it may not be the military battle of Absalom coming to displace us out of Jerusalem where we have to flee, but it might be life. It might be finances. It might be a relationship. It might be a marriage. It might be someone that you lost. It might be a lost loved one. It might be a child that died. Something is just getting in you and trying to separate you from God.

And these many foes that are rising up against him, he says, “Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for you in God.’”

And that, my friend, is a real desperate place and depressing place to be when you have lost the hope in the Lord that He can deliver you from the things that you’re going through. He says, “Many, many are trying to separate me.”

What are the things in your life? What are the “manys” in your life that are trying to separate you that are telling you, “There’s no salvation. There’s no deliverance for you. This is just the lot you have in life,” and you get numb, and that imagination goes?

But see, David says this: “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, You’re my glory, and You’re the lifter of my head.”

See, David says, “I know what a shield is. I know a shield here. I might be able to protect my face, but the rest of my body’s open. I might be able to protect my legs. I might even be able to protect a lot of my body, but my back is here. He says, “Oh, and let me tell you something. My Lord is a shield all the way around me. He is the one who protects me from everything. He’s my glory. Not in my title. Not in me being king. He’s my glory. And He’s the lifter of my head. He’s the one that takes me when I’m depressed. He’s the one that takes me when life isn’t going good, and He lifts up my head and He says, ‘You have dignity and you have value.’”

And maybe you find yourself here this morning, many foes are around you, many things are coming at you. Let me remind you of something: The Lord is a shield, and He is your glory, and He is the lifter of your head. He is the One that gives hope.

David says, “And I cried to the Lord,” — he’s looking back. He remembers crying out to God and what God did for him.

“I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me.”

He says, “I laid down and slept;”

“I’ve got all these people coming after me, but I know who my God is. And I’m going to lay down. I’m going to sleep. I’m going to sleep good and I’m going to wake again. And do you know why I’m going to wake again? Because I know even if they kill me, when I’m dead, they haven’t killed me, because our God is a God of resurrection. So I’m going to live no matter what. There’s no reason for me not to lie down and sleep. There’s no reason for me to be afraid.”

And that’s what he says: “I’m not going to be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”

“Because I know who my God is.” And here’s what he says. He goes, “Look, arise, O Lord!”

He understands that God is a God of resurrection. He says, “Save me, God. You’re going to strike the enemies on the cheek and break the teeth of the wicked.”

That’s a Hebraism to say that they’re going to be insulted, because a smack on the cheek is an insult, and he’s saying he’s going to take their teeth away. So they’re going to be the toothless dog. You know? Like when that big Rottweiler comes at you and he’s showing teeth? It’s like you’re running. If that old dude comes at you and just goes, “Ah!” and there’s nothing but gums, you’re like, “Come here, buddy! Gum that arm. Come on. Right here. Right here. Gum my arm.”

He says, “This is what God’s going to do to my enemies. He’s going to defeat them, and He’s going to take the teeth out of them. They’re not going to have anything.” He says, “Because salvation belongs to the Lord, and blessing on your people.”

See, God is a God of hope. And if we’re going to get the prophetic message right, it’s not telling everybody what they do wrong, it’s a critique and an action to lead people to wake up, to realize that God has more for them than they’ve settled for. He has more for you and me than maybe we’ve settled for, and the prophetic voice speaks poetry to you and me to reinvigorate that imagination, so we realize all of the grand hope that we have in God.

So here’s the brief things here. What are the take-homes? Three quick take-homes, then we’re going to pray. The first one is this one, and this is so important. The prophetic message of the church is far more than social critique or social concern. See, we’ve got it good in the evangelical church. We just tell everybody what they do wrong. That’s what we do.

“You did that wrong. Oh, look here. Right there. There it is. Right there.”

Listen: Don’t judge people because they sin differently than you do. That was better preaching than you all are letting on. Or social concern. There’s nothing wrong with social concern. There’s nothing wrong with social critique. But when we settle for that being what the message of the church is, we’ve settled for less than. The message of this church is to reinvigorate that imagination, so people realize that God really is a God that can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

Secondly, and these two hinge together, usually we settle for less than with critique or action when this happens: The prophetic message of the church cannot be subverted by culture to the exclusion of Christ. And it’s so easy to get our culture and the things that we love about the world or the place that we live and try to put Christ into that. You know, it says, “In the beginning.” That doesn’t mean that God loves baseball. It’s because we’re baseball and apple pie. “In the ‘big inning’” is “in the ‘beginning,’” not the “big inning” of baseball. You know? And oftentimes, we try to put God together with those things, and the reality is that God transcends culture. He transcends nationalism. God says, “Go into all the world,” and when we are promoting something first rather than God, we’re settling for less than.

We can’t afford to do that. And the third one — and this is so huge. The prophetic message of the church needs to ignite the imagination of people, not crush them with the weight of their sin. People are aware that they’re in need, and what they don’t need is a message that crushes them under the weight of their sin. They need to hear a Gospel that says there’s good news. No matter what you’ve done, there’s a God that can atone. No matter where you’ve been, there’s a God that says, “Come, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

He says, “Come. Whoever’s thirsty, come and drink of the waters that I freely give.”

And what He wants to do is tap into our imagination. He wants to tap into Grace Community Church and say, “Don’t settle. I’m the God that can raise the dead. I’m the God that can heal the blind. I’m the God that the deaf can hear again. I’m the God that can take the paralytic and make him walk again. I can do those things. Don’t settle. Believe in me. Believe that I can do. Believe that as Mary, there is nothing impossible with God.”

See, when we get tapped into that imagination — and remember, that’s why Jesus said, “Unless you come to me, you need to come as a little child,” because what He knows is that we sometimes settle and get numb. The prophetic voice is to remind us that there’s far more for you and me. And what I want to do is I want you to envision taking that last-second shot, and when it swishes, all of a sudden, the angels of God come around you and lift you up. And as you walk into eternity, because you made that last-second shot, the Lord says, “Hey, didn’t we do some incredible things? Well done, thy good and faithful servant.”

God wants us to believe again. He wants us to believe that He can do far more than maybe we have settled for. Let’s let the prophets speak to us. Let’s let this poetry capture our imagination again and give us a radical hope, that I can assure you that the one thing the world out there needs is hope. And we have it. Pharaoh doesn’t.

Let’s bow our heads.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege of being able to share Your Word with the wonderful people here at Grace. Lord, I am fully aware that there are so many things here going on that we’re doing that looks authentically like what we should be doing. But Lord, I also realize that there’s more. Lord, we don’t want to settle to just believe in You and to go about the mundane things of life. We want to see You do the great things. We want to see You heal people. We want the dead to be raised, Lord. We want people that could never hear to hear again. Lord, we want to see You do those things that You can do. And so, Lord, we want to be reminded, even shocked, into listening to the message and the literature of the prophets to remind us that we don’t need to settle, because when we settle for less than, we get less than.

And Lord, we don’t want to do that. We want to get every single thing that You have for us. We want to be that community that walks into Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota and Bradenton and watches the dead come to life by the power of God that resides in the church. So Lord, we just thank You for today. We honor You. We ask that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us in everything that we do. We pray that You would watch over us and protect us as we leave, and we pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us be the church that You’ve called us to be, which is constantly wanting 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 you.

John Flowerree