Preparation For Easter Week 1: Are You Prepared?
If Jesus took more than one day to prepare for His resurrection, shouldn’t we? This Easter, don’t just prepare your hearts for resurrection Sunday. Help us prepare the house.
Well, good evening to everybody. One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot in my life, and you probably have been asked it yourself, but questions I’ve been asked, and also have asked myself, is am I prepared? You know? And that starts at different times in our lives. Here in Florida, it starts about this time every year. Are we prepared for hurricane season? Right? You know? Everybody’s got the water, the contingency plans and all that stuff. But, you know, when you start thinking about it, “Am I prepared? Am I prepared for college? Did I do enough study? Did I do enough work to do that?” Then you get out of college and you’re like, “Am I prepared to actually go out into the real world and do this?”
And then you have kids. You’re like, “Am I prepared for kids?” We could go on and on and on and on about being prepared. I know that even when I was a Boy Scout — I wasn’t a Boy Scout that long, but I was a Boy Scout for a while — they told us to be prepared. You think about that. There are so many things in life where we have to ask ourselves the question, “Are we prepared?”
It also reminds me of the most prepared person that I’ve ever met in my life. She’s no longer with us, but it was my Nanny Bennett. My dad’s mom. She had this purse that was — I mean, it was like the size of a smart car. In that purse was everything that pertains to life. I mean, one time somebody needed to chop down a tree. She pulled a chainsaw out of it and said, “Here you go.” I mean, it was like, “Whatever you needed — floats? We’ve got it. You’ve got it. Whatever you need.”
She was prepared. It reminds me, also, of a joke about being prepared. It’s sort of funny. Hopefully, you’ll laugh. If you don’t think it’s funny, just laugh and make me feel like it was funny.
Anyway, there was an older guy that loved to fish. It was wintertime up north. The lake was completely frozen over. He bundled up. He went out onto the lake and he cut him open a big circle here, moved the ice off and threw his line in. He’s standing there and five minutes go by, fifteen minutes go by, about thirty minutes go by and no bites or anything. He’s starting to get really cold. He looks and down quite a ways, he sees what appears to be a young teenage boy going out to fish. He smiles. He’s like, “Alright. The next generation is going to fish, these young whippersnappers.”
So, the little boy goes out, cuts a hole and he’s like, “Alright. He knows what he’s doing.” He flops it open and throws his line in. The guy is sitting there, looking, and all of a sudden he sees a fish come out. He’s like, “Wow. That’s pretty good.” He looks up and another fish is being pulled out by this young boy.” He’s like, “Man.”
He’s sitting there and, all of a sudden, he looks: Another fish comes out. He’s like, “Man!” And then another fish comes out. He finally says, “Hey, son. How are you doing?” The guy waves. He says, “What’s your magic? What have you got? What’s your magic?”
He says, “[Garbled].” That’s what he hears. He’s like, “Man. I’m getting older. I don’t know what he’s saying.” He’s like, “Son, I couldn’t hear you very well. What’s your magic down there catching all the fish?”
He hears, “[Garbled].” He’s like, “Man, I don’t know what’s wrong.” He walks a little bit further and says, “Son, I’m having a hard time hearing what you’re saying exactly. What’s your magic trick, catching all these fish?”
He says, “[Garbled].” He’s like, “Okay.” He goes all the way down, walks up to the little boy and says, “Son, I’m sorry. I don’t know if it’s just because of the ice or the snow or whatever. I’m having a hard time understanding you. I just want to know what in the world you’re doing to catch all these fish.”
The young boy spits out a handful of worms and says, “You’ve got to keep the worms warm.”
So, there you go. There’s your secret. So, sometimes you’ve just got to keep the worms warm. But my point here that I want to try to make — and you’ll think about that all night and you’ll love me for it. Anyway, here’s the deal. When we talk about preparation, I grew up in a church world that looked at preparation almost with disdain. They just felt like you just sort of showed up and if you were really spiritual, you just sort of shot from the hip and you just let God take over and all of that. The more I’ve read Scripture, and the more I look at Jesus, that’s not faith. That’s presumption. What faith is is faith actually says, “I believe so much that God’s going to do this that I am preparing and working towards what I believe God’s going to do.”
Do you know who taught about preparation just about as much as anybody? Jesus. Jesus taught about being prepared a lot. So, I want to look at a passage of Scripture because we’re going to Easter here in a couple of weeks; the Super Bowl for us Christians. I mean, it’s the day where people show up to church and then you don’t see them for 52 other weeks. That’s just the way it is. I mean, you can love on them, you can smile, you can give them cookies or whatever. They’re coming back next Easter.
You know? So, it’s a big deal. A lot of people come in and all that. We were sort of in a series. If you’re new here, we do series here. It’s a way I can sort of take some big ideas and sort of help us understand things. I had planned on doing another series, but the series before went a little longer. And then I started thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll just take that series to Easter,” but then I had this moment, like, “No. Do you know what? We need to really prepare for Easter as a church.”
So, I feel like, you know, in football, when they go to the line and they have the play that’s called in, and then the quarterback does an audible and changes everything because he sees something? I felt like God just gave us an audible for the next two weeks to talk about being prepared for Easter. So, this week, what I want to talk about is being prepared as a church; us, here, as a church. All five services. And then what I want to do next week is I’m going to take you through the whole Old Testament panoramic suite. What I’m going to do is I’m actually going to sort of teach as if you could’ve been Paul on the Damascus Road and how he completely came to understand Jesus in a different way. I think it’ll change your Good Friday and your Easter Services for everybody. So, make sure that you’re here. It’s going to be really good stuff.
But, this weekend, I want to talk about being prepared as a church. So, when Jesus talks at what we call Holy Week, which is a couple of weeks from now, you know, where the Good Friday, happened, the foot washing, Passover, crucifixion, resurrection, He goes to Jerusalem during that week. We have a pretty good body of teaching that He taught on. One of the things that He spent a lot of time on — and you can read it in Mark 13, you can read it in Luke 21, you can read it in Matthew 24. He talked a lot about the temple. The disciples, in all those passages, are going, “Oh, look at the temple. Look at all the stones. Look at all the rocks. It’s pretty incredible. It’s awesome.”
He says, “Do you see all these stones and all these rocks. They’re all going to get destroyed and knocked down.”
Like, “Whoa. The temple’s going to get destroyed again? When’s that going to be? What are the signs that will lead up to that? What are going to be the signs of the end?”
Not the signs of the end of the world, but signs of the end of the temple is what they’re talking about. He says, “Well, this is what it’s going to look like.” He goes through and it’s like a hermeneutical minefield to go through that because there’s all this language that we’re not familiar with. We don’t know what to do with it. So, we’re not going to talk about that this weekend, but as Jesus is talking about the temple and it being destroyed, He then starts to lace within that His return and how that’s going to be. The difference will be that this generation will see the temple be destroyed, but there’s going to be a delay on His return. It’s sort of hard and you have to work through it. It’s a lot of work to go through this.
One day, as a church, we will go through those passages, I promise you. We’ll come to understand them a little bit better. But the important thing is at the end of Matthew 24, as He’s doing all of this and doing this both sort of talk at the same time, He says, “Here’s a parable. There were two servants, two men, and they worked for a lord. Not the Lord, Him, but a lord. That was like a king that they worked for. The king said, ‘Hey, this is what I want you guys to do,’ and then the king left.”
Well, the king was delayed coming back. Well, one of the servants stayed true in the delay, doing what the king had asked him to do. The other one decided to just go do his own thing, treating people bad and all of that stuff. And when the king came back, obviously, one was great job, the other one, not such a great job.
So, we end in Matthew 24 with this understanding that there’s been a delay. One dude’s done the right thing and the other dude, in the delay, has not done the right thing. And then we go into Matthew 25. When we read our Bibles, oftentimes we don’t look at the fact that the chapters are not in the original writings. Sometimes we segment off, but we shouldn’t do that because Matthew 25:1 says, “Then...”
So, “Then.” He’s talking about the delay and the kingdom being delayed.
“‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins...’”
We’ll come back to that. Just put “10 virgins” in the back of your pocket. Women. Back of your pocket. These are females. Put that in the back of your pocket. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
“’Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.’”
Okay. We have to stop here because this is so incredibly pregnant with language and imagery that we’re probably not that familiar with because we’re not familiar with, usually, first century Palestinian, Jewish weddings. We’re not familiar with that type of stuff because we sort of understand our world. We sort of think we know what this means, but let me explain what this means so that you can understand the parable, as we’re going, because this is sort of a summary of what Jesus is going to say. So, here’s what He’s saying: In a Jewish or Palestinian wedding, what would happen is there would be a betrothal period where they would be married, but they weren’t “married” married. They were married, but they had not consummated that marriage. So, they’re married. And then what would happen is usually around nine months, that was the general rule, the bride would not go with the groom. The groom would go back and prepare a house. Now, the reason they would take these months to do this is, number one, He was preparing a house and getting it ready for their real marriage consummation, but it also would show whether or not this woman had been faithful because if, all of a sudden, she started showing or having a baby, all of a sudden something’s up because — and if you remember the story of Jesus, that’s why everybody’s going, “What’s going on here? Joseph and Mary, they’re married, but they’re not married.” It’s hard to understand what’s going on, but that’s what’s going on here.
You’ve got the betrothal period. The groom goes back and gets the house ready. Then, when it’s time for the wedding festival, the groom would go to the bride’s house, which usually was in another city or somewhere else, with a big group of people. They would get the bride and then they would go parading through all the towns and villages, back to where the groom’s house was. So, when Jesus, in John 14, says, “Hey, I’m going to go and prepare a place for you, that where I am you may be also. I’ll come again and take you to that place.” That’s all Jewish marriage stuff. We’re married, but He’s going to prepare the house, and then He’s going to come back and it’s going to be a big festival. Really cool stuff, but stuff that maybe we wouldn’t quite understand if we didn’t understand that first century context.
So, knowing that now, now we’re told that there are lamps involved. So, that’s an important note here. This is not going to be during the day. Wherever He goes to get the bride, however long it takes to go through all the towns and villages or whatever, they’re expecting them to get there sort of at dark time. Now, it may be because it’s a long way, it may be because that’s the way it was planned. Who knows why, but they’ve got lamps. So, they’ve got to have lamps because it’s going to be at night and they can illuminate the deal because they’re going to meet the bridegroom. A whole other word than we would be used to as well. In Palestinian/Jewish villages, what would happen was in the village you would have gates. At night, those gates would be shut. On this particular night, there would be people waiting at the gates, and then there would be people down the road, further down the road, and further down the road so as that wedding processional started to come way down that road, somebody would come running: “They’re coming!” Then the next person: “They’re coming!” Next person: “They’re coming!” Sort of like the Paul Revere thing. You know? They’re coming! Not the English, but the bride and the groom.
So, they would show up and everybody in town would be like, “They’re coming!” And then what they would do is they would go out of the gates, they would go way down the road and they would meet the bridegroom and the bride, and they would escort them back to the town. And then, when they got to the town, they would go to the house of the groom. Big party, big festival, and then they would consummate the marriage later on, at some point, when all the festivities were over. That was sort of the way that it works, which is really important because when you go to meet the bridegroom, you’re going out to meet and you’re coming back. It’s the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4 when we meet the Lord in the air. We’re coming back to the earth, not going away. It’s really important that you understand those things. If you don’t understand those words, you’re going to make a butcher of Scripture. You’re going to make it say things that it doesn’t say. Don’t read your words into Scripture. Understand this is written not to you and me. For you and me, not to you and me, though. It was written to original people who would understand this better. So, we’re going to meet the bridegroom.
So, what Jesus has done is any first century listener would’ve understood, immediately, what He was saying. We have to take a little bit of time to work through this.
So, now that we know, sort of, what’s going on, He says this: “‘Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.’”
Well, now antennas should go up because if you know anything about the Old Testament, Proverbs, Psalms or any of that stuff, you don’t want to be a fool. Does anybody really want to be a fool? No. None of us want to be fools. We want to be wise. Okay? So, we know now we need to pay attention. None of what He said up to that point would’ve been revolutionary. It was like, “Okay. We’ve got it. It’s going to be a nighttime wedding. We’ve got this whole thing.”
But hold on. Of the ten virgins, five are wise and five are foolish. Okay. Now this is becoming a good story.”
He says, “‘For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,’”
That doesn’t mean they didn’t take any oil, it just means they didn’t take additional oil in flasks because we’re told the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. So, here’s the deal: You get people that preach this and go, “The oil is the Holy Spirit.” They make this thing allegorized and all this stuff. No. Don’t go there at all. That’s not what this parable is telling you and me at all. That’s just reading in a bunch of junk into the parable. What Jesus is saying is this: There’s going to be a wedding and it’s going to be at night. Five took their lamps with oil, but they didn’t take additional oil. Then five took their lamps with oil, but they took the Nanny Bennett purse with extra oil. Okay?
That’s in the original somewhere. Okay? Anyway, let’s continue on. It’s not. I’m joking. Let’s continue on.
“‘As the bridegroom was delayed,’”
A-ha! Remember? Because we just got out of Matthew 24. The delay. The servants.
“‘As the bridegroom was delayed,’”
So, they were expecting him maybe seven o’clock, six o’clock or whatever. He’s not showing up. It’s getting late and they’re getting tired. They all became drowsy and slept. That’s not that they’re unspiritual. That’s not that they’re bad people. It’s just the fact. The longer you stay up at night, the more sleepy you get. Right? Amen. Unless you drink Mountain Dew like me. Anyway, they all became drowsy and slept.
“‘But at midnight...’”
Now, this would’ve been an anomaly. Normally, you wouldn’t be showing up for the big party at midnight. There was a delay. Something happened. Maybe the makeup went on too long. Maybe they went to too many towns. Maybe Pete, their long lost friend, showed up and it was like a reunion. We don’t know why. We have no reason why there was a delay, but there was a delay. But at midnight these people that are stationed way down, they come running, “They’re coming!” It’s party time.
“‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”
So, you can imagine everybody’s scurrying because they’ve all got to go out of the town, meet them, come back in and party and all of this stuff. They’ve all sort of fallen asleep. Their lamps have been on. They’re burning. Maybe they’re out now. We don’t know. So, they hear this and, all of a sudden, they wake up. If you’ve ever woken up after you’ve sort of been half asleep, you’re sort of groggy. They wake up and it says this:
“‘Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.’”
Now, if you don’t know anything about lamps, you probably wouldn’t know anything about trimming or anything like that. So, let me tell you what’s going on here. They’ve woken up and realized, “We’ve got to go out. We’ve got to come in. We’ve got to go in. It’s nighttime, so we’re going to need these lamps for however long the party is, to keep things going.” So, what they do is maybe their lamp has gone out, maybe it’s still going, but what they do is they trim their lamps. What you do is if your wick’s too far in the oil, your flame burns too much. You’ve got to make sure that you clip that thing off so it’s really good and works perfect.
So, what they do is they all get together and they start to make sure that they get their lamps in perfect order, ready to go, because they’re going to go out and meet the bridegroom.
And then we’re told this: “‘And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’”
They realize, as they’re trimming the lamp, “Man, we’re a little deficient here on the oil that was in the lamp. We had some earlier, but this thing has gone on for longer than we had anticipated.” They say, “Hey, give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.”
“‘But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’”
Now, we read that and we’re going, “Man, that doesn’t seem too nice. If these are people that are supposed to be like Jesus people. Go get your own oil?” Once again, not understanding that world and that culture, this might sound a little bit harsher than what it actually is. Believe it or not, in a Jewish culture in the first century, if you needed oil at midnight, you could go knock on somebody’s door and buy some. They just believed in a communal setting. They believed in everybody sort of working together. That’s just what they did. That’s why Lazarus and the rich man. Why did they put Lazarus outside the gates of the rich man’s house? Because it was expected that the people that were wealthy would take care of the people that were poor. This guy was just a really bad guy and didn’t do it. But that’s why they laid him there because that was sort of the expectation socially within these communities.
So, this is not rough. This is not them being — you know, they’re just like, “Dude, we don’t have enough, and what we don’t want to do is miss the opportunity.”
So, they don’t have any. “Go buy for yourselves.”
We’re told, “‘And while they were going to buy,’” — these are the five foolish ones out to buy some more oil. They’re going to buy it and they’re going to get their lamps going again and all this stuff. They just don’t have it right now. They were going to buy it. The bridegroom came.
So, while they’re out scurrying through, you can imagine at midnight, one o’clock in the morning, knocking on the door. Nobody wants to have the door knocked on at midnight. Can I get an amen? The last thing that you want to do is talk about oil. You know? I mean, at all. Unless you’re, maybe, in Texas, and it’s different oil. Anyway.
“‘And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast,’”
So, he comes, they’re all like, “Yeah! We’re partying.” They’re doing everything. They go into the house and the door was shut. He shut the door. That’s what you would do. I mean, you’re not going to leave the door open. It’s midnight or one o’clock in the morning. You shut the door. Everybody’s partying inside the house.
Well, then it says, “‘Afterward the other virgins...’”
Now, they’ve gone out and bought some oil. They have it now. Their lamps are trimmed. It’s all good. They’ve come, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” Jesus sort of inserts that “lord, lord” thing because He’s making a point here about His coming and the delay, and are we prepared?
He says, “‘But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I don’t know you.’”
The parable ends here. Okay? Now, Jesus then goes on to add some things, like to pay attention, watch and whatever, but the parable ends there. That’s an important place for the parable to end because you don’t know what happened. We don’t know. Did they go, “No! It’s Jim.” It wouldn’t have been Jim. It would’ve been girls. “It’s Sarah and it’s Beth!” Or whatever. “It’s Sally!” We’re your brother’s this or that. We’re your cousin.” Maybe they went, “Oh, okay.” But it would’ve been natural — if you’re knocking on the door wanting in, it would be natural for the people on the other side to go, “We don’t know you because if we knew you, you would’ve been in here. We don’t know.”
And Jesus says, “Hey, pay attention here because this is the way it is when I want to come.” So, reading that, there are like three things that should jump out. I take great pride in this. I really try hard, when you come here, to make sure that you get some really, really good biblical teaching so that you go home and read Scripture. I mean, I hope that what I do is I hope I excite you so much about reading Scripture that you go home and go, “Man, I want to read this for myself. It’s so good. There are so many rich things in there.”
So, here are a couple of things that I would just pull out of the text, and then I want to talk sort of collectively here, as a group, about us preparing for Easter. First one, and this is probably not readily intuitive to most people, but I’m hoping that as you read Jesus and you read the New Testament and the Old Testament, I’m hoping that you start to pick up on these things because they’re there. They’re very subversive. We tend to not read them because it’s just not the way we tend to read. But this is important. First of all, what I would tell you is this: Jesus tightens the gender gap once again. Jesus is always lifting up women. He’s always doing that in everything that He does. A very patriarchal society in the first century. Women didn’t have the same place in society, in many ways, as they would even have today. You can still go over into some of the middle eastern countries and you can still see how women are treated.
So, what does Jesus — who are the stars of this particular passage? Who are the ones He highlights? Well, they’re 10 women. They’re virgins, but they’re women. That’s huge. I always point out the lady in Matthew 23 that gives. It’s the widow. It’s a woman. She’s the hero. She gave more than everybody. You might not see the importance of what He’s doing, but what He’s saying is incredibly subversive when He’s making women heroes of stories. But it’s even more than that. This is from someone who understands Palestinian culture. He was an 11th century scholar. Listen to what he has to say about it. And this is true.
He says, “It took 10 Jewish males to form a company for the celebration of Passover, and 10 males were required for a valid wedding ceremony.”
You needed 10 men. Well, Jesus gives us 10 women because this parable has 10 women. Jesus is clearly compensating for the gender gap in the culture of His day. The worth of women is clearly affirmed in this parable. That’s important. It’s important to know that because Jesus is cool like that. I mean, Jesus is like, “Everybody in the Kingdom of God has a place at the table.” It’s not like this group’s better than this group or whatever else. We are all children of the Most High God. We all come to the table, no matter where we’re from, no matter what we’ve done, if we’re children of Jesus. And that’s really cool, and that’s really awesome, and I just love that part about Jesus that He’s just so cool like that. He’s just like, “Yeah. Let me show you how this culture...”
I love that. Sometimes we just think of Jesus as, “Oh, I love you. Everything’s great.” Sometimes He’s like, “Noogie!” You know? That’s good. I think that’s great.
So, second thing. This should be readily understood. We need to be prepared for the long haul. This is the deal in this particular passage. Are you prepared for the long haul? Did you have the Nanny Bennett purse ready to go, or did you not have that purse? Dr. Ken Bailey makes a very astute — he’s deceased, but one of the best middle eastern scholars ever. If you don’t have anything else to read, go get Ken Bailey books. They’re about this thick, but they’re they best. Every parable, everything you read, you’ll go, “Oh, man. I had no idea what I was reading. It’s like this guy is incredible. He spent 50 years over in the Middle East. He makes this astute point. It’s really good.
He says, “The faithful borrow many things from each other, but they cannot borrow their own preparations for the coming of the kingdom.”
That’s powerful. Be prepared.
And the last one — and this is the one that’s like, “Ugh,” for all of us, to some degree, because we love God, we love grace and we know that God is so cool and all this stuff. But this is sort of a moment here. There’s a door that shuts. It says it. The door was shut. This is one of those things where most of us go, “Oh, man.” But here’s the reality: Even though we might go, “Oh, man. The door’s shut. Could we just crack the door open a little bit more?” When you sit down and play Monopoly, you don’t get to decide how you want the Monopoly thing to do. However God does it is what God does, and that’s what it is. We’re going to make sure whatever Scripture says, that’s what we’re teaching here at Grace. Even though we may not understand it at times, we may not like it at times, bottom line is there’s a door that’s shut, which means when that door shuts, the people that are on the inside are different from the people that are on the outside. That’s like a moment that all of us should have; a real weight of that falling. Which means we can never, ever, ever allow the Church to become a country club. We have to stay vigilant and focused on making sure people know about Jesus because eternity matters.
Right? So, knowing that, knowing this is like a high stakes game, there’s a door that shuts, let me just give you some facts about Easter because they’re pretty incredible. There should be a moment for all of us.
Twenty-five percent of visitors to churches in America come on Easter. One day out of the year, 25% of everybody that’s going to visit that church over 52 weeks come one day. That’s massive. Are you ready for this one? Only 2% percent of churchgoers in America actually invite somebody to come to church each year. I mean, that’s shocking to me. On top of that, listen to this here: Roughly 75% of all church attenders came for the first time because they were invited. We’re talking Easter here. We’re talking this is like the Super Bowl for churches. People show up, people that you never thought would show up, people that wouldn’t show up any other time. Here’s the shocker. Are you ready? One hundred and fifty-three million people in this country would attend Easter services if they were invited because sixty-three percent of everyone invited to Easter says yes. If there’s a door that shuts, then Easter — you go, “Okay. We’ve got 52 weeks here. This one here is the one that everybody will come to. This is the one that everybody shows up to. It should be all in. Everything should be all in.”
So, knowing that, here’s what I’m going to do. I want to do highest stakes game in town reflection points. I want you to think about this with me. I want you to pray about this with me. I’m asking you, as your pastor, to embrace just four things that I want to say, then we’re going to pray out of here. But this is so huge. This is us, as a church, preparing.
First thing is this: Would you please be willing to sacrifice at Easter time? I’m going to explain what that means. This is hard for us because we sort of like it our way. We sort of want life to be our way. We don’t like to wait in line. We don’t want to be at Publix with the person who has all the coupons. We just want to get it done. Nothing against if you do coupons at all. I’m just saying. Some people are like, “So, does Chip not think that we should do coupons?”
I didn’t say that. I’m just saying that when you’re in a rush and somebody’s doing coupons, you sort of don’t want to be behind the coupon person. It’s nothing against coupons. It’s not at all. That’s just the way we are. It’s hard for us to sacrifice.
So, here are some things: Would you consider parking further away during Easter weekend than you normally do? If this is your church. Like, if you’re new here tonight, man, just hang out with us. You can belong here before you believe. It’s all good. Everything’s cool. But if this is your church and you’ve been here for a while, would you consider — just consider — parking over there rather than here? There’s going to be a parking lot across the street. We’re going to have golf carts. We’re going to come get you. We’re not going to leave you behind. We’re not going to shut the door and say, “Ha! You didn’t get in.” We’re not going to do that, okay? But would you consider attending one and serving one? I put “more.” Would you consider maybe even serving more than one? This is the time that — I mean, there’s going to be, I guarantee you, ten. There will be probably be hundreds, but there will definitely be ten. If I had to say it’s going to be hundreds, there’s going to be hundreds of people, at least, that are going to say “I’m in for Jesus” for their first time on Easter because we’re going to have all these new people showing up. What I want to do is I want to make sure that they get in here. I want to make sure that they have an opportunity. I want to make sure that they have great stuff.
If you’re a 10:30 — this is normally 10:15, but on Easter it’s going to be 10:30. If you’re a 10:30, maybe you showed up here tonight, but you really do the 10:15, which means the 10:30, would you consider attending 9:00 or 12:00? Let me explain why. I went back on my desk — I don’t know why I do this. On my desk, I have a 3x5 card. I need to get a new one because it doesn’t have any more space. But what I have is three years ago, two years ago and last year. I have all the services that we did, what was in each service, how many people accepted Jesus and what the totals were. Okay? Based on every single year — it’s almost mathematical. It’s crazy. Based on what I know to be true, we will have somewhere around 3,200 people that will converge on this particular location during Easter weekend.
Now, here’s — listen to me. This is what’s important. We cannot service that many people if we just do the same thing that we always do. There will be literally hundreds of people that will pull in and leave because there’ll be no room. There will be people that we tell them, “You can’t come in because we don’t have seats. We don’t have a place. Can we give you a card? Can we give you some Starbucks? Would you go get Starbucks and come back to the next service or whatever?”
As your pastor, I don’t want somebody to not get in here, which means we’re going to have to somewhat sacrifice, which means could you possibly be willing to give up a seat? If we came to you and said, “Hey, is there any way that your family would go watch out there rather than be here?” I know some of you are like, “No, man. I want it all.” I get it. Fifty-one weeks out of the year, you’ve got it all. Snickerdoodle cookies, coffee, great stuff. All of that stuff. Bad jokes from the pastor. All that stuff. But this one, just this one week, would you also consider to be a bringer? Ask people. Get them here. Sit with them.
Saturday, five peeps asked this last service. I’m like, because Saturday at 5:00 is more attended than Saturday at 6:15. You can look around here. There are seats, but if we put another 150 people in here, which we will, guess what? There ain’t going to be a whole lot of seats. And five o’clock is going to be even more so. Just to give you an idea, last weekend at the 10:15 service, we didn’t have any room for children. We were overblown. There was no room. So, we had to do an outside classroom. Thank God it wasn’t raining. You know? But that’s where we’re at.
So, I’m asking could you just think about making a sacrifice? Pray about that and say, “Do you know what? For one week, I’ll park away. I’ll think about that. Maybe I’ll come to a different service. Maybe I’ll serve a couple and all that.”
That would be fantastic. Secondly, what I’d like to do, would you please commit to prayer and fasting with me? You may go, “I don’t even know what fasting is. Is that when you do your bloodwork and you don’t whatever? I’m not quite sure.”
Okay. Let me just explain. Would you take a time of your life — maybe it’s your lunch, maybe it’s your coffee break that you go on, maybe it’s when you’re on your social media grind. You can just sort of take it and put it over here and spend 15 minutes, rather than on Facebook, getting with the Jesus book for a little bit, and praying and not doing what you would normally do, praying specifically that God will anoint and bless and fill this place with such an amazing amount of love and an amazing amount of anointing that people that are far from God will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
And be in for the next two weeks. Say, “Do you know what? I’m going to go up to church right now and pray. Does anybody want to come with me?” Do you know what? Maybe somebody will. They may show up with you and pray. I’m just asking. March down Main Street and pray for Main Street. Come up here and just pray. Say, “God, open up the windows of heaven. There’s going to be so many people that come in here that don’t know You, that just showed up for no reason. They showed up, maybe, out of guilt or whatever else. God, we just pray that the Holy Spirit would just Normandy bomb them and that they couldn’t even stand up without accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. We just want You to really act and speak.”
I think if we all collectively agree that we will pray for the next two weeks, and we will maybe put social media aside, or maybe skip a lunch and just really go and pray during that time, I’m telling you God answers when people pray. He does.
Third thing I’d like to ask of you. This one’s really important. Please make a note of this. Expect and embrace chaos. It’s going to happen. The cookies are not going to be there. There’s going to be some kid that you’ve never seen that’s got six of the cookies that you like, and they’re eating all of them and your cookies are gone. You’re going to want to take that kid and go, “You don’t even come here. This is my church. Those are my cookies.”
No. That’s not Jesus. We don’t want to do that at all. Okay? So, expect and embrace chaos. When you pull in and you’re trying to get your normal parking spot, and you know it’s a little bit crowded and there are cars down the street, and down the street, don’t starting leaning into the horn with the Grace Community Church bumper sticker on the back of your car. You know? I mean, there’s sign language that says love, and there’s other sign language. Not on Easter, man. Expect that it’s going to be crazy. You’re going to be uncomfortable. Probably, the air conditioner will break. Who knows what will happen? It’s going to be wild, a rodeo and all that stuff. But just expect it. If you expect it and it happens, you’ll be like, “Okay. Great.” And if it doesn’t happen, it’ll be great. “I planned for it and it didn’t happen.”
It’ll be chaotic. And the next thing I want to tell you, and this is important, is this: Understand the power of attitude. Listen to me: If you come to Grace on Good Friday, on Saturday and on Sunday, there has never been a better day, there’s never been a more awesome time, there’s never been a bigger smile on your face for every single person that walks through here because we need to set the house for an attitude for God to speak to people. Can I get an amen on that? Right?
I think the best way I’ve heard it is don’t be a thermometer that just takes the temperature. Be a thermostat. You set the temperature in a room. Be a thermostat. Just greet people. “Man, it’s so good to see you, man. Can we get you some snickerdoodle cookies? Don’t pay attention to that kid with those five cookies.”
You know? This is what I know: We are set up in so many ways here at Grace. I mean, it really could be crazy. It’s going to be. All I want to do, as your pastor, and I hope you’re with me on this, is I just want to make sure that that one person that walks in that’s far from God, that doesn’t know Jesus, that doesn’t feel like they have a life that’s worth living, I want them to be able to hear that Jesus hung on a cross for them and He rose again on the third day to change their life. I want them to have the opportunity to be able to say, “Man, I’m in. I’m in. I’m in.”
Let’s just believe that. Let’s prepare for that. Next weekend, I’m going to tell you some great biblical things. You’re going to be like, “Whoa. This is so cool, Bible stuff.” It’s going to set you up for Good Friday and Easter. It’s going to be great and all that stuff. But I’m asking you this weekend, and all the way through Easter, will you just please think about what I’ve said? Go back and listen to this, maybe, online or on the app, and let’s get our attitudes right. Here’s what I want to do: If you’re new here, the one thing, I think, if you ask people and they say, “Is Pastor Chip weird?” They’ll say, “He’s not weird at all. He doesn’t do weird things. He doesn’t do anything. He really tries to create a place for everybody to feel comfortable.”
But I am going to ask us to do something that some people could consider to be weird. If you consider it to be weird, you just don’t have to do it because I’m not trying to weird anybody out. It’s just because I think this is an appropriate thing to do. I’d like for everybody to stand with me. If you would, stand. Don’t do this first. Just listen to me, and then I’ll tell you when you can do it. I would like — like. L-I-K-E. That doesn’t say demand. I didn’t say force. Like — if everybody would be able to take the hand next — don’t do it right now because some people do not want to touch your hand. They just don’t. If they look at you and go, “I don’t want to touch your hand, don’t make them.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
No. Smile and be nice and set that attitude because I don’t want anybody to feel weird. But I do think there’s something about, as Christians, when we bind together in prayer. What I want to do is I want us to pray right now for Easter, and then we’ll get out of here. Let’s bow our heads, if you feel comfortable holding somebody’s hand. If you don’t, it’s totally cool, but let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You humbly. I came to You authentically. We come to You humbly and authentically as Your Church. Lord, we realize that of all the times that we meet, Easter is the one day that people show up that we would’ve never expected for them to show up. People will come when they’re asked. Lord, our only thing we want this Easter is for the people who come that genuinely don’t know You to find a place that is so loving, so caring, so nice and so comfortable that they’re able to hear the simple Gospel message that Jesus died on a cross and rise again on the third day so that we could have eternal life.
God, we want to see people that are far from You and dead in sin get raised to newness of life and become a new creation in Christ Jesus. Lord, we want You to be Lord of not only this church, but of this town; of Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota. God, we want to steward all of the people that You will bring here in such a positive way, God, that You smile when we all go home on Sunday afternoon. Lord, we want to lay it all on the ground. The blood, the sweat, the tears. When we hang up the cleats on Sunday afternoon, Lord, we want to know that we’ve put it all on the field. Not because it’s by works, but Lord, we want to do our part. And then, Lord, we want to lay it out to You and say, “God, we planted and we watered, but God, we’re asking You to give the increase here at Grace.”
Lord, I pray that You would energize us. I pray that You would give us supernatural energy. I pray, God, that You would give us people that are willing to step up for multiple services and serve no matter where it’s at. Lord, I pray that Easter would be such a day that we look back and go, “Man, look at all the people that came to know Jesus because we just bound together and said, ‘We’re going to do this thing for the King of kings and the Lord of lords.”
Lord, this is Your Church and Your people, and this is Your show. We just want to be dancers in the background bringing attention to You in everything that we do. So, God, I pray that You would burden us over the next couple of weeks to really prepare our hearts and to prepare this house for Easter, for Your glory and for Your honor.
And Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here this evening, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, and I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would help to keep us focused on what You’ve called us to be as a church. That is a place that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.