Making Room for More

Date Preached: November 1, 2020
Topics: rise up
Scripture: Matthew 22:37-40
Notes: Download PDF
Speaker: Gary Combs

Summary

Whenever God wants to get a work done, He lays hold of a people who are willing to rise up. In the Old Testament, it was Nehemiah and those returning from Babylonian exile who answered the call of God to Rise Up. Today, God is calling us! In Matthew 28:19, Jesus called us to make disciples. But what should they look like?

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. We believe that’s the kind of disciples He wants us to make–– disciples of Jesus who have a heart for God, for each other, and for our world.

Transcript

Below is an automated transcript of this message:

Well , let’s begin our new series today. We’re going to be beginning our series today, entitled, “Rising Up to Make More Disciples.” As we talk about this, we want to look, first of all, through the scripture that began this series, back in January of 2019, which is found in the book of Nehemiah. It’s where we get the “rise up” part of the title.

Nehemiah came to the people of Jerusalem and he said, Nehemiah 2:17-18 (ESV) “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” They saw the brokenness of their city and they decided to do something about it. They felt called from the Lord to do something about it.

Now , as we think about making a difference in our city, I want us to look at it through the lens of the New Testament. After all, we have this command from Jesus, where He says, Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We approach this coming Tuesday, Election Day, and we’re thinking about our country and praying for our country. This past Thursday, we had a day of prayer and fasting and praying for our nation.

It’s important that we vote. I just wonder, looking around the room, how many of you went ahead and voted early? Wave at me. A good portion of you’ve already voted early. I encourage you, if you haven’t done that, to vote on Tuesday. It’s important to do that; it makes a difference. Vote your conscience. God’s plan for changing and for healing the brokenness of this world is not through government. It’s not through politicians. God has only one plan and His plan is the church. That’s plan A for God; He recognizes that the reason we have this Brokenness in our world is because we have broken hearts and what we need is God to work on our hearts. We believe that the church has the answer to the Brokenness in our city and in our world.

As we think about brokenness, Nehemiah saw the walls and the gates broken down. As I look around our city, I see much brokenness. We have two locations; we have one in Rocky Mount and one here in Wilson. If you look at the two counties, Nash County and Wilson County , combined the population is right at 176,099, Nash County having 94,298 and Wilson County having 81,801 according to a recent 2019 listing. That’s a lot of people. A good portion of them, in fact, more of them than not, don’t attend a local church.

Let’s look at some of the statistics here:

Crime rate in Wilson is 44% higher than the national average. In Nash County it is 53% higher. When it comes to violent crimes, Rocky Mount, NC shows a crime rate that is 108% higher than the national average. Did you know it’s gone up this year during the season of Covid? It’s because more people are at home; there’s been more domestic violence. All you had to do is watch the news this summer to see the rioting in the streets and the racial division. There is so much disunity in our country, our world is filled with brokenness.

There’s a crisis among our counties with addiction , especially the opioid crisis. “Nearly five North Carolinians die each day from unintentional medication or drug overdose. Four out of five of those deaths resulted from opioids.” –– Mary Beth Cox, epidemiologist, NC Public Health We have an opioid pandemic in our state.

Did you know that in Nash County, there have been 273 abortions and in Wilson County there have been 216 abortions that took place in the most recent year. This was just the Raleigh clinics that report this. We don’t have a clinic in Wilson County that does abortions. So, these were young women who went to Raleigh and reported Wilson or Nash County as their address.

There is food insecurity; 22% of the population in Wilson County is food insecure. 30% of children in Wilson live in food insecure homes. That’s one child out of three in Wilson County who doesn’t know if they’re going to be able to eat a meal, especially on weekends. During the week, the schools provided food often for those children.

Need I go on? Let’s not go on. Would you admit, would you agree with me that there is much brokenness in our city and in our world today? What’s the answer? What is most needed? Well, you could think of sociological things we could work on. We could work on the family. We could work on the food shortage , we could work on crime reduction. There’s so many things. Where do you start? I’ll tell you where the Bible tells us to start. It starts with the heart. What we need is a heart change, and then everything else radiates out of that.

So what is this “rise up?” Why the T-shirts? Why the emphasis? Well, it points to our three- year generosity initiative that began 18 months ago to make room for more people to come just as they are and be forever changed by the love of Jesus. We’re at the midpoint right now. We’re 18 months in with 18 months to go. We felt it was time to refresh our commitment. If you’re someone who committed back in 2019 to just refresh and say, Yes, I’m on track. It’s important for you to tell us that because we’re trying to build out and pay for it as we go. What we know is enough money has come in to date so we can go ahead and do the upfit for the theater room next door. In order to keep doing all the other things, we would like to hear from you. Maybe you’re here and you’re new. You’ve just started coming recently. We would like for you to have an opportunity to join us on the “rise up” generosity initiative and help us make room for more.

I hope, when you came in, you picked up a journey guide. We call it a journey guide because our goal, our target, is to raise a million dollars in order to pay for these much needed improvements to make more room for more people to come. But our goal is not the money. Our goal is for 100% of our members to go on a spiritual journey together. That’s why we’ve provided a journey guide; if you didn’t pick it up on the way in, I hope you’ll pick one up before you leave. If you’re watching at home and you haven’t felt comfortable to come to public worship services yet, I hope you’ll drop by during the week and pick up a journey guide. We’re open from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. The journal guide includes several different things. There’s a letter for me in the front and instructions on how to use the guide. We talk about our vision. We have a 21-day devotional that starts in the morning; it’s a seven day a week guide for 21 days . This is part of going on the journey. There’s some details about how to pray, frequently asked questions that you might have that are answered, and there’s a commitment guide in the back to help you take steps to know how you might participate and “rise up.” There are other items at the “rise up” table in the lobby. I hope you’ll pick up a prayer marker bookmark and other things. I hope you’ll pick these items up and “get some swag;” pick up a T-shirt and pick up something for your wrist so that we’re all in this together going and on this journey together.

Our goal is 100% engagement, so how would you do that? How would you engage in this journey? Let me give you some tips on how to do that. The first is to attend the next four Sundays. You are here for the first one; attend the next three. That’s part of going on the journey. The next thing we would challenge you to do is to do the 21-day devotional; the journey guide that we’ve given you, praying and talking to God as you read the scripture. Thirdly, to be part of a community group. If you’re already in one, go to it, be part of it. If you’re not in one, check with somebody at guest services and sign up that you would like to be in a community group. Community groups are groups that meet in people’s homes during the week. We follow Acts 2:42, “They were devoted to the Apostles teaching, to the fellowship,to the breaking of bread and prayer. We have Community Groups all over eastern North Carolina that are meeting. The next commitment is that you would pray the “rise up” prayer. Here’s the “rise up” prayer, “Lord, what do you want to do in me and through me? Then, finally, make a commitment on November the 15th, a sacrificial commitment, to say, “I want to be part of this. I want to make a generous faith commitment to be a part of this, over and above my current giving.” This is what it looks like to engage in the “rise up” journey.

Now, why are we doing this? What does this mean? Well, we’re at a point in the history of our church where it’s time to make room for more people. In 2010, the Lord miraculously allowed us to purchase this property. In 2010, we bought this property that Regal Cinema owned. It was a six plex; it had six theaters. This is one of them that we’re in right now. They wanted over $2 million for the property, but it had set empty for five years, and during that time, someone had broken in and stolen all of the copper. The electrical boxes were tampered with and you couldn’t even turn the power on. When we came in to look at it, we had to look at it with flashlights. The realtor that was representing Regal said, “Hey, just make an offer because it’s been empty for five years.” And so, we made an offer; they wanted over two million. We offered $250,000 and by the way, we didn’t even have a building fund, so we didn’t have a dime other than just our regular general fund. But we, just by faith, said, You know, we feel like God wants us to have this, so we will offer $250,000. They countered at $300,000. We countered at $285,000. They said, “ Ok, we agree to $285,000, but we must have it in 30 days.” We said, “Can we change it to 40 days?” God likes that number better. And so, that’s what we agreed on. We signed a contract that in 40 days we would give them $285,000 for this property and the Lord, miraculously with God’s people, came through. At that time, we were renting Community Christian School on Packhouse Road here in Wilson; that’s where we were meeting at the time. God’s people came together and we were able to make a sacrificial commitment, and that’s how we got into this building. We’ve been here for ten years; the room next door we don’t use. We’ve never used it, really. We called it “the theater room” because we never changed anything. It’s time to do some work there. We have moved in, but it’s time to move into the rest of the building.

It’s especially important now, because Covid has made it so that, with social distancing, we need more room. We don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last and so. We need more room to spread out. Pop up the overview. I know I showed some of it video earlier, but this is the theater room space. We’re in this space right now, so this is just next door right here. You’ll see this doorway right here and that’s the doorway to my right. We’re going to level the floor in that room. You’ll notice the floor is slanted, and we’re gonna have to backfield the bottom about 4 ft deep down here in order to get it level with the hallway. We’ll have to have steps that go up from the side door here. We’ll have a little “green room” area there, a storage room, a bathroom and meeting space with portable seating. Here, we’ll have a kitchenette and a tech area with a double door entry. We’re going to redo the hallway. We’re pulling permits very soon, and that will be what we’re calling Pphase 2. Phase 1 was the Children’s wing and the playground outside You funded it. You’ve been faithful now for us to do Phase 2. The new lobby with the bigger window at the front, the new coffee shop and the new nursery area will be based on your faithfulness going forward over the next 18 months. We want to be good stewards and pay as we go. We’re thankful to the Lord for your commitment. I think it’s important, from time to time, that we take a Sunday service like this and we just get honest about where we’re going and why we’re doing it. And so, that’s what we’re doing today.

Now, whenever God wants to get a work done, He lays hold of a group of people that are willing to “rise up;” they see the brokenness, and they say, I’ll be part of that. I’ll be part of that solution. And so, God is calling us to make disciples and to make room for more.

Here’s what I want to talk about in today’s sermon. I’m getting to the sermon now. Okay, we’re going to make disciples but what kind of disciples? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the disciples that Jesus calls us to make could easily be described by looking at the great commandment.

If we look for the great commandment, we can find it in Matthew, chapter 22, where someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what’s the great commandment? What’s the greatest commandment of all?” He said to him, in Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) 37 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” This is God’s word. Amen.

I see three marks here, where we get our purpose statement from, as to what kind of disciples that we want to make. If we were making widgets, we would want to know what’s a good widget look like? We’re making disciples; what do they look like? The paradigm, the picture we’re aiming for is Jesus. We want to make disciples who look like Jesus and follow Jesus. Here, He tells us what that looks like.

Making disciples of Jesus Christ who have a … 1. Heart for God.

This is the kind of disciple that we want to make. A disciple who has a heart for God. Circle the word, “heart,” in verse 37. Do you see it? Circle the word, “love;” the word, love, is the Greek word, “agape.” There are several Greek words for love; there’s “eros,” which is where we get the word, “erotic,” which describes sensual love. “Phileo” is where we get the name of the city of Philadelphia; it has the idea of conditional love or, as they call it, brotherly love. I love you because you’re pretty or I love you because you’re my brother. That’s “phileo” love. But “agape” love is l God’s kind of love. It’s unconditional. It’s not, I love you because of but I love you in spite of. I love you as an act of the will. It’s the kind of love that comes from the character of God. He says, I want you to make disciples who have a heart for God. Who love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind. To love Him first and foremost. To love Him with all.

We’ve put this together in our church purpose statement. We say it like this. “We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for God expressed in passionate worship and generous giving.” If God has called us to make disciples, what are some marks of what that would look like and how can we organize our teaching and so forth, to lead people to become those kinds of disciples?

The first part is passionate worship. We want to be the kind of church that is able to worship God fully, to use music, to use the word of God, to use atmosphere, to use whatever we can to create an environment where you will release your worship, where you will sing and you will bring your joy. Now we say to people, Don’t show up and try to get your worship on. Bring your worship with you. Get up during the week and worship and when you come on Sunday, bring your worship with you, so that, when we come together, it’s like all these little fires will come together and a big fire emerges as we passionately worship God.

Would you say that you’re passionate for God in your worship? Would you say that? If not, why not? If you’re not today, if you’re saying, You know, I’m here. How are you doing today, spiritually? I’m here. But God wants all of your heart. Where’s your hard hat? If you’re just here, where’d you leave your heart? Where’s your passion? Why aren’t you fired up?

May I say to you, that during these past months, ever since March and maybe going back even earlier because of the divisions in our country and because of the pandemic, I’ve never encountered this as a pastor. There is a great number of people that are discouraged; they’re just not fired up. They’re not passionate. And people are starting to say, Well, maybe this is “the new normal.” I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that because the Bible says that we’re to be passionate in our worship for God. If we’re not, what must we do? Whose job is it to correct that? May I say to you, I think it’s your job. It’s your job to get passionate.

Here’s what the apostle Paul told Timothy. Timothy was apparently struggling a little bit. He was kind of feeling fearful and timid. Over in 2 Timothy, he says, “Do not be afraid. Fear doesn’t come from God.” In another place, as he’s writing to Timothy, he says, “Fan into flame the calling that God has;” in other words, over and over. In 1 Samuel, David got discouraged. The Bible says that David encouraged himself in the Lord. He encouraged himself.

Here’s what I’d say to you if you’re not feeling passionate today, if you’re saying, I’m here. Talk to God about that; He knows your heart better than you know your heart. Ask God what it is that is discouraging you. What’s keeping you from being passionate? God is looking to make disciples who are on fire for God.

One of the shorter verses in the Bible is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. It says, “Do not quench the spirit.” In other words, don’t throw water on His fire because God is a consuming fire, and when we are worshiping in spirit and truth, he sets our hearts ablaze.

It says in Psalm 100:2 (NLT) “Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.” These are not holy suggestions. These are commands. Come and worship with gladness. Sing with joy. One of things that helps me is every morning when I read scripture, I post something on Facebook about what God’s telling me from the scripture. When I’m getting ready to take a shower, I turn on some tunes and I choose worship music. It helps me. I do this every day. I feel like that’s a good way to start your day. Here’s the other thing; I feel like I need to get my praise on every day, just like brushing my teeth. Worship music while I’m taking a shower, while I’m getting ready, helps my heart to change because the world is a tough place. I have to make a decision to get my worship on and so do you. I have to encourage myself in the Lord, and so do you. Let’s make disciples who are passionate for their worship.

Let’s make disciples who are generous in their giving. Just think about what our weekly gathering gives you the opportunity to do; to come and worship, to be passionate, to worship through the hearing of the Word and the singing of the Word, to come and fellowship, and to come and bring your generous offerings so that the gospel can go out and reach more people for Christ. If I had never met you before and I talked to one of your friends and I said, “Hey, could you tell me about John or could you tell me about Sally?” Would they say, “Oh, John would give you the shirt off his back. Oh, Sally, he’s so hospitable. You could go to her house any time, and she will welcome you in and have something for you to eat and offer you something to drink. She’s so giving. He’s so generous.” Would they say that about you? Or would they say, “Yeah, she doesn’t really like anybody coming into her house because she is kind of ashamed of where she lives and she doesn’t really like to clean house. She’d rather go to somebody else’s house. If we went to a restaurant, John’s kind of a miser, you know, he’s a picky person.” What would they say about you?

As we make disciples, people who have a heart for God are becoming like God and God is generous. He’s generous. Are you growing in generosity? How do you grow it? You grow it by practicing it. How do you grow a muscle? By using a muscle. How do you make friends? By smiling and being friendly; that’s how you make friends. How do you grow in generosity? By giving? What kind of disciples are we trying to make? We don’t avoid talking about giving. Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven or hell; do a word count in the New Testament. Why did He talk so much about it? Because we tend to be sinful in that area and selfish, and He knows that generosity breaks the heart of greed. Are you generous ?

It says in Psalm 37:21 (NLT) “The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.” In 1 Timothy 6:18 (NLT) it says, “Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” Do you have a heart for God that is marked by passionate worship and generous giving? Do a heart check right now; are you there? Are you that kind of disciple?

Making disciples of Jesus Christ who have a … 2. Heart for each other.

Look at verse 39; It says to love your neighbor as yourself. Circle, “yourself. “ I hope you love yourself. There’s the implication here that you would love your neighbor as yourself, but I want you to consider this. If you’re a member of the church, if you’ve received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, He says that we are one body and He is the head. So that means when you say “yourself,” you’re talking about each other because we are one in Christ. Do you love one another? Do you love each other? Do you have a heart for each other?

It says in Romans 12:5 (NLT) “So it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Look around the room, just for a second, and say, My goodness, these people belong to me. Some of you are thinking, Oh, I don’t know if I really wanted that one. No, you have to; we are one body. We belong to each other. Do you have a heart for each other?

I wonder if the disciples, the original twelve, ever said, I don’t mind following Jesus, but I wish I didn’t have to hang out with Him. You know, I love Jesus, but Peter’s always shooting off his mouth. He gets on my last nerve and Simon the zealot. He talks about politics all the time. If only I could follow Jesus without hanging out with these other guys. I am sure they thought that sometimes, but we don’t have that choice. We are the family of God, and we are to have a growing heart for each other.

How do you develop a growing heart for each other? Well, let’s talk about that a little bit. Here’s the second part of our church purpose statement. We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for each other, expressed in authentic fellowship and devoted discipleship. I have told you this before, but our community groups system is based on the scripture found in Acts 2:42. Our community groups, which are home groups, or what some churches called small groups that meet during the week. We have groups that meet every day of the week except Saturday. Right now, I don’t think we have a Saturday group. But Sunday, Monday and all the way through Friday, we have a group or groups that meet somewhere every night of the week except for Saturday. We would encourage you to get in one. Acts 2:42 is our theme for these groups, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” We’ve played with calling those groups, “Acts 2:42.” That would be a cool name, but, for now, we call them community groups. If you’re in one, go to it, attend it and be part of it. If you’re not in one, go to guest services as you’re leaving and say, “How can I get one of those groups?” It’s an opportunity to experience authentic fellowship.

Now, what do I mean by authentic? It means, “to be yourself.” In order to be in a family, you have to be yourself. When you come on Sunday morning, I hope you’re trying to be yourself, but the Sunday morning experience is a little different. We’re in a larger gathering. You are mostly hearing me speak and you don’t really get to ask questions, but during community group, you’re sitting knee to knee, drinking some coffee, eating some food and talking about what we learned on Sunday and praying together. You get to know people and you get to have an authentic relationship. I don’t know what we would do without that, especially these last few months, when I was just preaching to the camera and no one was in the room for two and a half months. Just knowing that you were out there, in those community groups, made this pastor’s heart feel better, knowing that you were getting pastoral care in your groups, even though I couldn’t see you on Sunday. It’s the heartbeat of our church. I hope you’re experiencing authentic fellowship, growing together.

And then, what is devoted discipleship? It’s a commitment to grow and to be taught. It says, in Luke 9: 23, Jesus is speaking, ”Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” We have a system in our church called Life on Life Discipleship, where one person disciples another person. If you have not been involved in that, sign up on your connection card or sign up online. If you’re watching online, we will contact you and we would love to have you involved in a growing discipleship process. We believe the best way to make a disciple is one life touching another life and studying the scriptures together. Are you that kind of disciple? Are you making that kind of disciple of one that has a heart for each other?

Making disciples of Jesus Christ who have a … 3. Heart for our world.

We’re making disciples; that’s why we exist. We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for God, a growing heart for each other and a growing heart for our world. Circle the word, “neighbor;” love your neighbor, have a heart for your neighbor.

Who is your neighbor? Well, you’re not the first one to ask that; someone actually asked Jesus that question. They thought they were being a wise guy. He said, “The greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” The guy then asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Well, he should have gotten ready because Jesus gave him this wonderful parable. I will give you a short version of it. It’s found in Luke 10:29-37 if you want to read it later. Jesus said to him that there was a man who was on a journey and he fell among thieves. They stole everything that he had and they beat him up. They threw him in a ditch next to the road. Then along came a priest, a very religious man. He heard the man moaning in the ditch, and he looked over and saw him in his nakedness and he was bleeding. The priest thought to himself, I’m already running late for Jerusalem . I’m going up the road from Jericho here. I’ve got to preach at the temple today. It’s important, and plus, if he touches me, I’ll be unclean. And I won’t be able to go into the temple. So, God help him. The priest walks on. Then, along comes another man, a Levite, who worked in the temple, another very religious person who saw the situation and did the same thing as the priest. He walked on the far side of the road so he wouldn’t get too close to “the mess.” You know, because if you try to love your neighbor, their “mess” might get on you. And so, he walked on the other side of the road. And then along came a Samaritan. You have to know Jewish history to understand that a Samaritan was looked down upon by the Jews because the Samaritans had intermarried with the Assyrians. They were not pure Jews. The Jews, even if they went to northern part of Israel, they would go around Samaria to avoid what they called “the Samaritan dogs.” They look down their noses on them. Here comes a Samaritan and the Samaritan saw the man bleeding, naked and crying. He took him and put him on his donkey. He took him to a nearby inn and he cleansed his wounds, clothed him and he put him to bed. He paid the innkeeper money and said to him, “I’m headed to Jericho, and so this should keep him. But if he needs anything, you give it to him, and I’ll pay you the difference when I come back.” The Samaritan was the one who took care of the man.

Jesus asked the man who asked the question, “who is my neighbor?” which of those three was a neighbor to the man. The man replies that it was the third one. Because he was religious, he had to “swallow crow” to say it was the one who helped.

If you have a heart for the world, if you’re a disciple who loves your neighbor, then you will see the need around you in our schools, in our neighborhoods and in their places where we work. You will not walk on the other side of the road because you’re part of the body of Christ and you’ll go towards the need rather than away from need. You may say, I don’t know if I have enough. I could barely make it. How am I going to help this person stop living the life of lack and start living like God is the God of the universe and that he belongs to Him?

Start living “the life of the open hand.” I think most of the people in our church could do this with me if you’ve been here long enough, “one hand open to God and one hand open to others, letting God’s generosity, love and mercy flow to you and through you to others.” Some of you are shaking your fists at God; you’re mad at God because He hasn’t given you everything you want. Essentially, there’s no life flowing into you because you won’t even open your hand and your heart to God. For others, you’ve done that but you’re afraid you won’t have enough and so you’ve closed your fist down here. You’ve essentially dammed up the river downstream, so now God can’t really flow through you because you won’t be generous with what you have.

Live “the life of the open hand,” one hand open to God and one hand open to others. Be ready to sacrifice and help others. We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for our world, expressed in intentional evangelism and sacrificial service.

What is intentional evangelism? 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT) “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” We must tell people about Jesus and to be intentional about it. We want to make disciples who talk about Jesus like He’s the greatest thing. That we worship Him, that He’s our Lord and our Savior. We need to talk about him every day.

A few years ago, I took a mission trip to Indonesia and one of our translators, one of our interpreters, was a woman named Betty. Betty still communicates with me regularly. We became friends. There’s something about going and talking to people about Jesus that just makes you a lifelong family. She recently asked me to be her prayer partner. I said to her, “What does that look like?” She replied, “I want you to pray for our team, and I’ll send you out updates regularly about what we’re doing in Indonesia.” She calls me “Pak Gary.” Now, “Pak” is an honorific; it is higher than “Mr. “ She writes to me, “Pak Gary, please be our prayer partner and we will send you the information to pray over. “ And so, I said, “Okay, I’ll do that; I would be happy to do it.” She sent me her first report a couple weeks ago, and the report went something like this. “We shared our faith. There’s a group of four women and we go out into the streets. We shared our faith 31 hours last week; we talked to over 40 people. Most of them turned and walked away as soon as they knew we were talking about Jesus. Most of them walked away. Pray for our discouragement but three of them listened to the whole gospel presentation, and one of them wants us to come and tell them. Pray that they will come to know the Lord Jesus. pray for their protection. Pray that some men would start sharing their faith with us, because in this country, women can only talk to women and men can only talk to men and we have no men sharing their faith. Thank you, Pak Gary, for praying for us.” I didn’t feel, after reading, that I deserved the “Pak.” I feel like she deserves more of an honorific than I because it broke my heart to read that and think about how committed they are in this Muslim majority country. The largest number of Muslims in the world live in Indonesia. Over 200 million Muslims live in Indonesia, and there’s Betty and her little team sharing their faith, counting how many hours and reporting to me, in America, to pray.

Intentional evangelism. Lord, I want to grow in that and I want to lead our church to grow in that. Will you grow in that? Are you willing to grow in that?

What is sacrificial service? Galatians 5:13 (NLT) “ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” You’re free in Christ, but use your freedom to be a servant, to take care of other people and to be a neighbor to those that are hurting. Find a place to serve. If you want to grow, find a place that’s a place to serve. If you have a high-up job, comework in the nursery and change some diapers. You need to do the opposite in order to grow in servanthood. Maybe you work in a nursery all week long; maybe you should be the one counting the money after church or counting the people. Maybe you should consider being in another place that’s outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you’re supposed to be on the greeter team or or some other place in the church or singing. I don’t know . I’m just kind of thinking about it for a second. Are you serious about becoming more like Jesus? Sometimes it means doing something way out of your comfort zone, like pulling over and helping somebody that’s in trouble.

Have a heart for God, a heart for each other and a heart for our world. Are you growing as a disciple and are you willing to grow? During this rise up series, what I’m asking you is, “Are you willing to go on a journey and grow together with us?” Go on the journey and pray, “Lord, what do you want to do in me and through me?” Let’s just see what happens because I’m convinced that the church is God’s answer to what is going on. The brokenness in our world is in our hands. Let’s follow Jesus. Let’s pray.

Lord, I thank you today for Your word. I thank you that You’ve called us to be world changers, not by being great, but by being small, by being servants, by being generous by being passionate by having a heart for God and each other and our world. You have sent us out like sheep among wolves. We are sent, Lord, and we say “yes.” Maybe there’s someone in my hearing right now; you’re watching online or you’re in person with us this morning and you’ve never committed your life to Jesus. I want to give you an opportunity to do that right now. Right where you’re at, in your seat or watching from home. You can pray with me. Prayer is just talking to God. You can make a commitment right now. Pray with me, “Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner, but I know and believe that You died on the cross for my sins. I believe that You were raised on the third day and that You live today. Come and live in me. I believe in You. Forgive me of my sin and make me the person You want me to be. I want to be a child of God and I want You as my Lord and Savior.” If you’re praying that right now, believing, then He will save you and adopt You into His family. If you’re here today and you’ve done that, you’re watching online and you’ve done that; you’ve received Jesus. Would you begin to grow? Would you say, “I want to grow in my heart for God, for each other and for our world.” Will you commit, right now, to go on the journey and to grow. We pray all this in Christ’ name and for His sake. Amen.