Our recent study of Jonah presented us with a great question to ponder: "What are the things that truly matter to God?" In this follow-up to the series on Jonah, Todd Wagner lists the seven things that God is most concerned with. He also discusses several practical initiatives currently underway at Watermark that are specifically intended to involve us more deeply in the things that are closest to God's heart.
Seven Things That God Loves and That We Should Too
Jonah Runs against God
Jonah Runs with God
Jonah Runs to God
Jonah Runs from God
I, like you, have enjoyed the last number of weeks that we've been walking through the book of Jonah. Blake did a great job. I was here three of those four weeks being encouraged and fed like you were. Blake drove home the point that this is not just a children's book about a great fish. It's a great truth about a great God who loves people. What I want to do today is drive home a very clear opportunity for you.
In fact, what I'm going to do today is I'm going to give you a list, I'm going to give you an encouragement, I'm going to give you a quiz, and I'm going to give you an opportunity. That's what I'm going to do today. Relax. The quiz isn't on Jonah, so if you weren't here, you haven't missed anything. General Bible knowledge quiz.
I'm going to work through those four things just to get us going. Most of us, when we hit roadblocks in life, it isn't because we haven't already had good information or opportunity to get that information. It's not because we are ignorant. It's because we have ignored that which we already know, and we've created a lot of problems for ourselves.
What I'm going to do today is I'm going to remind you. I'm going to remind you of things that many of you already know. Just to declare one more time what it is that we are absolutely going to be about. In fact, when you look at the end of guys' lives (I've said this here before), men don't waste a lot of words late in their life.
What's interesting is if you go back and look at some of the great men in Scripture at the end of their life, they're not now just giving some fantastic message, some last lecture that's full of new information. What they're really doing is they're summarizing what they already told you. That's what Moses did at the end of his life. He didn't break any new ground. He just went back and said, "Let me give you duet nomas." Deuteronomy. Duet means two or second. Nomas means law.
Let me tell you one more time the standard. Let me tell you one more time the way. You'll find Christ, at the end of his life, started to zero in and say, "This is it. This is the one thing you have to do, one great command. Get after it." Paul summarized. Peter, at the end of his life, when he wrote his last book that God preserved for us to have, look what he said in 2 Peter 1:12-15.
"Therefore…" That, "Therefore," is basically in light of all that God has done to give you everything you need pertaining to life and godliness. "Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of [of how great God is and what he's called you to] , even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder…"
Just to get it fresh in your mind. We are called to be in each other's life to spur each other on to love and good deeds. He says, "And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind."
Let me explain this to you. What we're trying to do is to build a community of individuals here who are faithful men and women. They teach these things to other faithful men and women who will be able to teach them to others also so long after we are gone, evidence that we have been here remains.
We're about to be 10 years old. Come this January, we're 10 years old as a community. We already are actively talking about how to transition leadership to the next generation. We really believe that, ultimately, our success is going to be determined by our successors. If we do what we're supposed to do, these things which you've heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
So as Peter said, long after I'm gone, these things will remain. We are building a community. We're building into the next generation that they can declare about truths that go beyond any generation. That's what we're about. In fact, one of the reasons we chose the name Watermark is so that we could explain to people core values of who we are and what we're about.
It's a number of things. I won't go into the illustration of authenticity and a dollar bill. It's a symbol of excellence, a really fine piece of paper, and we believe that if God is who he says he is, then he's worth our very best. We believe that honors God and inspires others. Everything we do here, we try and do with excellence, the best we can with what we have.
Watermark, and the primary use of a watermark in society, is also what happens when there's a flood. The water comes up to a certain level and then recedes. There's a line that is there. What we're saying is if we do what God would have us do, then long after we're gone, evidence that we've been here as people of God will remain. There will be an aroma of Christ. There will be an evidence of transformation.
Let me tell you why we study Jonah. Let me tell you why we're going to go through the essentials of the faith this fall. It is not to give you information. The purpose of reading the Bible is to not get you through the text but to get the text through you. It is not education. It is transformation. That's what the Scripture says. Don't be like everyone else. Don't be conformed to the world but be transformed. It is a passive, perfect, present, plural imperative. The English teachers out there, you can applaud now.
What that means in effect is that it's something all of you ought to have happening to you all the time, continually, in the present. It's not something you do; it's something you let happen to you as you yield yourself to the presence of God and his Word in your life. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
What God is in the middle of doing with us is allowing us to make a difference in this world to speak to his kindness and his goodness and to build into others the truth of who Christ is will remain in them long after we're gone. What I want to do this morning is start by just encouraging you because there are many of you who've already been getting after it, who are already mentoring, discipling, adopting, fostering, sharing, proclaiming, forgiving, resolving, and loving in an enduring way.
There are many of you who are already generous. There are many of you who are already actively connecting with other believers in our community and spurring them on and shepherding them and not delegating that off to some office somewhere. I want to say to you all, "Stay at it. Keep running the race. Let the peloton draft behind you as you break away and let us come after you." I want to say, "Way to go."
I want to let you see a couple of things that have been going on this summer that there's no way you could know unless you were a part of it yourself. We talked about them coming in here, and they've come, and they've gone. Evidence that we have been here as people of God remains in the hearts of some folks. I don't have a video on this, but our junior high went away twice this summer.
They holed themselves up in a little local hotel and went over here in Garland to a little community of Kenyan immigrants who have a church here we're building into. We ran a complete summer Bible vacation encouragement training school for them. They did all the music, they did all the crafts, they did all the teaching, they did all the skits, and they did all the care. It was 100 percent done by our junior high students this summer.
Our student ministry went up to Missouri. Instead of going to a beach to have a great time and all this different stuff, we took nearly 100 kids up to Missouri and said, "We're going to give you a chance to serve people who really need to be loved, a community of families of disabled children where we don't just love those children of special needs but also their siblings so the parents can drop them off, build into those kids, and those parents can have a break.
They gave 100 percent care to these kids. They loved them throughout the week. They were responsible for their existing at the end of that week, and for proclaiming to them the kindness and goodness of Christ. Watch this.
Paul: At Camp Barnabas, you read the literature and things like that. It's a Christian summer camp for campers with special needs. That's a very small description of an enormous thing that happens around here.
Cindy: Camp Barnabas is a place where all people are accepted, where people with disabilities don't sit on the sidelines. They're participants in life.
Jeremy: So that just means we get to give the camp experience to kids who most of the time wouldn't. We adapt all the activities so they can perform them, and in everything we do, we're trying to point them to the Lord.
Paul: It's a place where people grow, where people are challenged. Not just campers. Not just staff. Everybody. All the volunteers. Everybody.
Male Student: My camper is Brandon. He has CP, and he is pretty dependent in just about every aspect of life. Everything from getting his clothes on to going to the bathroom. When I tell him we're going to the pool, he gets excited about it. That makes me happy. Once he got used to it, I started spinning him around and stuff, and he just went nuts.
Male Student: Sam is an interesting little fella. He likes to dart off, and when he does, we have to just let him go.
Female Student: Her name's Alyssa. She's 11. She has cerebral palsy, so she's in a wheelchair. She can't talk. I am tired, yeah. Her wheelchair can get heavy. But if I can be like the hands and feet of Christ to her for one week, that's good enough.
Male Student: I just head out, and I get in the Word, and I journal. It helps me keep going, "Whoa. I need to be in these guys' lives no matter how I feel." This is a week. We're given this week, and we need to be thankful for it. We need to pour our lives into them for this week. Oh well, if we're tired. You have to present the love of Christ through your actions to them when you're with them.
Paul: You learn God's love, and you share it, but also when you're struggling, you learn God's love because it's the only way you can deal with it. Then on top of that, we have a lot of fun.
Male Student: His name is Austin. He is 18. He has cerebral palsy and is slightly mentally handicapped. He's the funniest kid I've ever met. He says the funniest phrases from movies. Like the guy from Home Alone, the grandpa who says, "Keep the change, you filthy animal."
Male Student: He loves the pool just because all the girls are there. Another one of his favorite things is the girls. I think I've met pretty much every girl here.
Female Student: She really enjoys arguing with me in a joking way. She'll be like, "Jessica, we're not friends anymore." I'll be like, "Okay, we're going to break up." Then she starts laughing.
Paul: This child, who supposedly can't do anything, is developing some wonderful adults, some brilliant people.
Male Student: This week Kyle has taught me a lot. Changing and just getting from place to place. He's kind of slow, and I just have to be patient.
Male Student: I've learned patience.
Male Student: Patience.
Male Student: A lot of patience, because I get spit in the face and in my mouth and my eyes over 20 times a day.
Male Student: Repetitively just asking questions. "What are we doing next? What's for dinner?"
Male Student: Sometimes, you can get a short temperament and different things like that, but I feel like God's really put it on all of our hearts to keep cool in those situations.
Female Student: It's been really tough mentally and physically, but it's those things that really make you grow. It's really weird how little moments like that, you see the kind of love that Jesus would've had.
Jeremy: If you look past those things that we set up and look at actually at the person, most of them are really cool. Really cool and really loving.
Cindy: You know from the kids who are verbal, "It's the one place I come where I feel like a real person."
Paul: It's just because you look at them, and you see potential in that child. So why not have fun as they're growing? Here we are at camp. Do you hear all that noise? That's just people having fun.
[End of Video]
All right. That's just good. You know that little cross you saw there at the end they carry every summer from cabin to cabin. There are names of kids on there who didn't make it back because of the way their bodies have suffered from the sin and brokenness that's in this world. It's cut their life short. That's why we teach these kids, "Now's the time to love. What are you waiting for?"
What I want to tell you is that we serve a God who specializes in special needs people, like me, whose heart is really hard and is not as it should be because of sin and brokenness in the world. He comes hard after it, and he loves me, and he teaches me where life is. That's the God we serve and the God we sing about. That's whose church we are. That's what we want to be about.
I'm so grateful for the way our students get after that and the way they love special needs kids who they go to school with all across Dallas County all throughout the year. Kids who don't look like they're special needs but whose hearts were as sick as mine was one day. I thank you for those of you guys who jumped in with GLOW. We had to tell you we got enough volunteers.
GLOW is when we gathered a bunch of women from Nexus Ministry. We've done this now for seven or eight years. We take them, and we give them a day of beauty. These are women who have worked on changing themselves from the inside out. These are women who have gone through recovery programs.
Nexus specializes in women with children. It allows them after they've worked on heart issues to come, and we say, "Hey, we want to help you now restore some of that physical beauty that maybe you've lost a little bit in giving yourself away to things that have hurt you and been destructive. Not just on the issue of chemical dependency, but the things they do to get the things which allowed them to escape chemically.
You love them. You greeted them. We have hygienists and dentists who gave up their day as professionals who came and love them and served them. We had self-defense experts who were here. We had folks who did nails, folks who did facials, folks who took pictures. We changed the third floor of that office tower there into a salon. We invited hair stylists from all across the city, many who don't know the goodness of God, and we modeled for them what hairstylists who love Jesus do. We sought to minister to them as we served others and cared for them.
If you this week didn't get the link to the story that channel 8 did… They did five minutes on this. They were just blown away at what happens year after year here. We sent that link out to you this week. If you didn't get that opportunity to watch that, then it's because we don't have your information. You haven't told us you're part of the core and want to know about that stuff. So let us know in that little perforated section. We tried to make that available to you. If you missed it when you were on that little section of TV.
I had a buddy who's been ministering to a guy who is an agonistic/atheistic individual who, for years, has heard about what God is doing in this friend of mine's life. He had never wanted to come and be a part, but he sent him that link. He said, "I have to tell you. I've heard you talk about a lot, but for the first time, I saw something that validates that there might be people who know a God who loves others."
I want to tell you, I want to encourage some of you guys. You are getting after it. For those of you who aren't a part of that, I want to invite you, and I'm going to give you an opportunity today to execute and to get involved with life. I love what my friend Sarah said.
One of her friends said, "You need to realize this. This is a blessing to get involved, not a risk." Sarah says, "You don't need to go over to Africa, to a different continent and spend $2,000 or $3,000 to spread the good news and to serve God. It's right here, and I'm going to give you that opportunity today."
Well, here we go. There's the encouragement. I can go so much more, but to those of you who have been doing it, who've been getting after it, who've been loving people in community and not, like I said, shipping them off to a counselor to get fixed and come back, but stepping up and saying, "I'm going to be the hands and feet of Christ to you as you work through this marital difficulty, as you work through this trouble with your kid. If I don't have all the wisdom and the Scripture and the love to give it to you, I'm going to invite other people into the community in. If we have to go outside of our community to bring in experts, we'll do it, but we'll go together."
I want to encourage those of you who are doing that because I know tending to sheep is hard work. I'm so grateful for those of you guys who are loving the special needs that are in our community. Way to go, church.
Let me tell you why I'm going to give you a list. I want to make sure that we understand why we study the Bible. We're going to look at foundational truths. We're going to look at the creeds of Christendom this fall. I want to tell you something. The purpose of knowing the creeds is to lay that foundation upon which we build our lives where we have deeds that flow out of our creeds.
What we do is not just some random act. We are not looking to find meaning and purpose in saving the whales, neutering dogs, and changing our ecosystem. We have purpose: to love others and to glorify God. That's why we do many good things. We're not looking for meaning. We're not looking for a reason to exist. We have a reason to exist. We don't do anything for a random cause.
So what's the list? I'm going to start by saying this. Blake ended last week in Jonah 4 by giving you some excellent application questions. He talked about how we're a lot like Jonah. If you remember Jonah in chapter 4, Jonah was discouraged that the shade tree that he had, by the grace of God, felt himself under to watch what would happen to that city, the plant which gave him rest, died. He was more concerned about that then he was the things that concerned God.
Blake then wisely said, "What breaks your heart? Is what breaks your heart what breaks the Lord's heart?" That's where I want to go today. I'm going to help you with that by telling you how you can know if you care about the things that God cares about by telling you, in a list, what God cares about. Then you can ask yourself, "Have I been about these things, really?"
When we talk today about what breaks God's heart… In fact, it's interesting that a guy named Bob Pierce who has an interesting life if you track it all the way through, some real tragedy involved in it. They found Bob's Bible. In the front of his Bible, he had written this. "Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God." That is really where we trace that expression back to.
It shouldn't surprise you that Bob Pierce, when he focused his life on being consumed with what consumed God, ended up being the founder and president of a group called World Vision, which to date, in the history of the world, is the largest humanitarian aid organization to ever exist. Because do you know what God cares about? People. When your heart is broken about the things that break God's heart, your heart will be broken about people. But I get ahead of myself. What's the list?
What I want to do is tell you what God loves and what God cares about, which means, if these things don't happen in spades, it breaks God's heart. Do you know what the number one thing that breaks God's heart is, or I'll say it this way, the number one thing on our list that God loves and cares about? It might surprise you. It might even offend you at first but let me walk through it.
1 . The thing that God cares about more than anything else is his glory. That's it. You go, "What? What kind of God is that who is concerned about his glory?" I want to explain this to you because this is the foundation upon which everything we do builds upon. The reason we do things together, the reason we are coming together right now to meet a crisis in our community with hunger is because kids are out of school, and there are no feeding programs and all the North Dallas Food Banks and other places we partner with (Central Dallas Ministries) are record lows with their food supply.
The reason we're moving now is because God cares about people, and we corporately want to respond, so God gets the glory. We're going to talk about ways to give in the days ahead to further God's glory. Not us individually as donors with buildings with our names on it, but corporately that God might be made more famous.
God is concerned about his glory, but let me say this to you. This is very important. God is not trying to establish his glory, invent his glory. He's not trying to become glorious. He is trying to establish in your understanding how glorious he is. The reason God cares about his glory, the reason the heavens declare his glory, the reason Jesus died was not to save you but to declare the glory of God and his commitment to not compromising his glorious holiness and justice and establishing his love for rebels. It was because of his concern for his name and his glory.
When God reveals his glory, you will see it and go, "That is glorious. I want some of that." What God is doing throughout human history is revealing his glory so we can go, "There is nothing like that." In fact, when you see God for who he really is when he reveals his glory, you will say, "Nothing on earth compares to you. All things become shadows in the light of you. There's nothing I love more than you. There is life where you are. Everything else is a shadow of life.
God is concerned about revealing his nature to you because when you know his nature, when you know his goodness and his character, you will want some of him. When you want some of him, you will receive what only he can give, which is life and peace. The first thing God is concerned about is his glory, which means if you are more concerned about your glory than God's, you're breaking his heart. That is a continual moment-by-moment, day-by-day struggle for each of us.
Father, would you break our hearts if we are not concerned about the one thing which is ultimately good for your purposes, which is your glory?
I want to tell you the second thing that God really cares about. You. You individually. God's kindness towards you is revealed consistently through the Scripture. God's love for you, the apple of his eye, the center of his Word, the center of his focus, and the center of his missional program through Christ is because he loves you.
Now, when he shows his love for you, a wretch, and a disabled broken heart like mine, you go, "Who is this lover which makes him glorious?" But it's to our benefit, and he loves you. God cares about you. He's not forgotten you. He knows you live in a world that has forgotten you, that is abusive towards you. God loves you.
Let me give you a great little illustration of this. It comes in an interesting place. I'm going to go to Matthew 19. It's the story of the rich young ruler, which is an interesting story because this is a guy who says, 'What must I do to have this life, this abundant, eternal life that we talk about?" Eternal life is not just fire insurance at the grave. When you think about unending life, it is both in terms of quantity but also in terms of quality. This young ruler says," What must I do to enter into life?" And Jesus says, "…keep the commandments."
In other words, "Do what I ask you to do, and there's life there. I'm not trying to rip you off; I'm trying to set you free." So he says, "Which ones?" Jesus could've said, "All of them, you knucklehead. I don't give idle words," but that's not what he said. He says, "All right. Let's just talk about the way you want to find life. You have to be healthy in relationships, so don't be murderous, don't take what's not yours, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't bear false witness, don't rebel against your mom and dad, honor them, and love your neighbor as yourself."
The guy goes, "I am a good guy. I've largely done that. All these things I have kept, but…" Watch this. "…why don't I have life? I'm still lacking?" Now Jesus is going to zero in on his problem. He said, "Here's the deal. You've made something more valuable to you than me. You don't know who I am. You started your conversation with me by saying Good Teacher. I asked you why do you call me good? There's only one thing that's good: God. If you can know the glory of God, you will have life."
So what Jesus says to him is this. "Here's your problem. You've given your heart to something which is ripping you off. You've given yourself away to comfort and security in prosperity, and you feel empty. You're still not satisfied, and you're still restless in your sleep. You're still hurting, and you are lacking. Let that god die and come follow me, and you will have life."
Why did Jesus ask him that? It's because he loved him, and because there was a guy who said, "I'm lacking." The reason this guy was lacking is because his heart served a different master. Jesus gave him this statement to expose that to him. He was sad because he had invested a lot in that master, and he didn't want to let it go. So he went after, continuing to serve that which is lacking. Money is a great servant. It is an awful master.
Why did Jesus say that? Because he cares about rich young rulers. He cares about you. Those of you who continue to get sucked up into what this world offers in terms of business success, monetary security, prosperity, zip codes, vacations, whatever you think it is… There's nothing wrong with success, except when you make success the purpose in your living. It will leave you lacking.
This was my issue in life. I had God pigeonholed as a God of rules who wanted to keep me from things just because he could and was going to save what he could for himself. You look at Greek mythology, Zeus got all the women. I just assumed God didn't want me to be careless with women because he was keeping them pure for himself.
I had every crazy thought imaginable, whether it was immorality or whether it was escaping pain through medication and drugs, or whether it was finding comfort for myself in comfortable things. I thought God didn't want me to have that stuff because he thought I might get more of it than him and not need him, and I would see he wasn't there at all.
I have to tell you guys, I was wrong. He was a loving Father saying, "Todd, those things will not satisfy you. They're going to leave you lacking. Follow me that you might find life." I'm going to show you a few pictures of specifically girls here who've given themselves away in all that the world would offer in their initial beauty.
This is called the downward spiral. I went and traveled around with some of our Dallas police. These are photos I pulled off the Internet, but I have seen files full of pictures of women who live in Dallas who get a cycle of despair and medicating their despair through addiction and feeding that addiction through prostitution. What you'll see here is a bunch of mug shots that show a history of someone's life as they get booked, and you look where the beauty goes. It's the same person. The reason that first sweet little girl only has four pictures is because she didn't live a fifth.
It's what happens. God loves you. He's not trying to rip you off. He's trying to say, "You don't need to go there, darling. You're my little girl. Where you're going to find ease and where you're going to find satisfaction and comfort, there's not life there." Some of you gals out there, you're not maybe prostituting yourself for money yet, but you're prostituting yourself for a guy's affection for a weekend. You're hooking up and getting let down. He says, "Awe, sweetie. Come here."
Let me show you what God is about, and it's why we do things like GLOW. Let me show you some other pictures. Here are some gals who've been on the same road as these gals who I just showed you their picture. But here's 10 of them from GLOW. We did before and after shots. They came here. They weren't smiling. They weren't necessarily happy.
After the day loving with some of you guys and building into their life, look what happens. Just a day of loving these gals. You start to see that God is in the midst of bringing about transformation in their life. Look at that. Isn't that beautiful? Just to smile again. "It reminds me that I'm a princess. That someone cares about me." Let me tell you what God cares about.
2 . Godcares about you. He wants you to glow again. He wants you to change from the inside out. I've seen in our body, I have seen you physically change. I have seen people who have come to Watermark, who have come to know Christ, who have begun to walk with the Lord, that they physically change. I have seen little girls who have given themselves away in promiscuity. I have seen them become pure as snow again and one I delight in having my son having a relationship with. It can happen, and God loves you.
3 . God cares about Israel. Now, that seems odd to go from you to Israel, but he goes. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on that. You just need to know that. It's a big deal to him, and it ought to be to you. Genesis 12:3, among other things, says this. "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse."
It is important to understand that God is going to accomplish his purpose with Israel. He says in Romans that the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. He loves the Jewish people. He's going to accomplish his glory through the Jewish people, just like he said. He's going to fulfil all his promises to Israel, just like he said. Israel doesn't know right now that God is the source of their glory. They trust in technology. They trust in their alliances with big brother over here in the West.
At the end of the day, they're going to find out that their big brother is not a big brother. He is Father God Creator. One day, he will help them understand that, and it will be glorious. We are in a partial hardening of the Jews right now, but that time, Romans said, will end, and the fullness of the Gentiles will pass, and then Israel will come roaring back with Jesus reigning himself on the throne in Israel. Read your Bible.
Here's what you need to understand. What you need to understand is that rather than going into all of that right here, I did a whole message on it. I did a series called Why. One of them is called Why the Jews. You can pick it up for free on iTunes. Just type in, "Watermark Radio," and get your mouthful right there. But he cares about Israel. So should you.
4 . God cares about the lost. He cares about those who don't know him. That's why he's revealing his glory. That's why he cares about you, because you're the means that he's going to declare his goodness to others. He's chosen to involve us, his people who know him, in telling other people about him. There is only one place in Scripture where Jesus went three times to the well to talk about how important something was. It was in Luke 15.
He told three different stories, all with the exact same points of application. They are in all three stories in Luke 15, starting with 100 sheep where one was lost, then 10 coins where one was lost, then two sons where one was lost. Firstly, something of great value was missing. Secondly, that which was missing was worth an all-out search. Thirdly, reacquiring that which was lost produced much rejoicing. God cares about the lost.
If you're not making margin in your life to build relationship with folks who are far from God to where you can love them and use all your relational authority to invite them to come and be around people who know about the glory of God, who declare the glory of God through song and through deeds, who understand creeds that lead to transformation, so they might come and hear the truth about who God is.
If you aren't investing in folks who are far from God, you are breaking his heart. If you're not ordering your schedule throughout the week, if you're not learning how to clearly articulate the gospel, you are breaking his heart.
These last couple of weeks, I was teaching up in Missouri. I had been with a couple of my kids (some of them were at camp). I left my wife early in the morning. I went to Panera Bread Company up there for about four hours just to get alone. I was about to teach for five consecutive days, so I said, "I just need to go and get alone." I sat down at the Panera Bread. I got my little cup of coffee. It was early in the morning. It was great. They have these little breakout areas.
I was sitting in one. Then a guy comes, and he sits in that breakout area right across from me. I was there to be alone. He clearly wasn't. It was a big production to get it all set up. He flips his laptop open, and he turns to one of those websites (Hulu or Vimeo or any of those different things where you can watch old television shows), and he just cranks it up.
He starts playing old episodes of American Idol, and he doesn't have headphones. A couple of things crossed my mind. First thing I was like, "Oh, come on, God. I just need to be alone right now. Doesn't that guy have headphones?" I go, "I have headphones, but I don't want to put headphones in. I just want to sit here." So then I go, "Maybe I share with him my headphones? No, I'm not going to that. I don't know what it's in that's brother's ears. I'm not giving him my headphones."
So I'm having this conversation in my head inside of five seconds. I just say, "All right, Lord. There are no mistakes. So if you want me to love this person who is here, I want to love them." So this is how the Spirit was working inside. Here are the first words I said to him. I finally engaged in this way. I go, "I can tell you who won, if you're interested."
See, it wasn't all the way through me yet. It was sending a subtle message like, "Hey, dude. It's over. Chris beat Adam. Save us all some time. Close the laptop." He goes, "Oh. I know. I saw the end, but I lost my cable, and I lost my satellite, and I didn't get to see some of the shows. I heard about who won. I wanted to go back and catch because I really love some of these guys. I just love music. Don't you love music?"
I took a deep breath. I go, "I do. I love music." We started to engage. I go, "Lord, let me love your son here. This ex-con from Orlando, whose dad abused him, whose dad was an alcoholic, who gave himself away to alcoholism, who's now abandoned his wife and his 8-year-old and 6-year-old and continued that cycle of despair." God put us together because God wanted to say, "Michael, God loves you."
I spent four hours with that guy. It was great because I said, "Rather than us talk, why don't you listen to me?" So I took his computer. I turned off Adam Lambert, and I put on Watermark Radio. I said, "Listen to me speak for 45 minutes. Here's a message for you." So he listened to me, and then I talked to him again.
But Michael's heart was broken by God's love for him, and he professed Christ. Then we hung out. I was in Branson for the whole week. So I said, "I'm teaching five times this week from 9:00 to 12:00 p.m.," and he was there every day sitting in the front row videoing it so he could listen to it and learn and send notes back to his kids. Then I connected him with a church that I have and friends in Branson that he might begin to be discipled. God loves lost people.
I love it. I'll tell you the greatness of God when you build into folks like that. My buddy, Jeff, was out there two weeks later, and he's walking downtown Branson. His kid had run in to get something from his mom and was running around and tripped and fell on the sidewalk. Before Jeff could get there, another guy came and picked him up.
Jeff said, "Thank you very much for loving my kid." The guy goes, "No, that's okay. Is your boy all right?" He goes, "I think so." He said, "What's your name?" He said, "My name's Jeff. What's your name?" He said, "My name's Mike. Where you from?" He goes, "Dallas." He goes, "Dallas? Do you know about Watermark?" It was this guy, and the kindness loops right around. Here he is caring for others. I want to tell you what. God cares about the lost. If you're not engaging them, then you're missing out on something that breaks the heart of God.
5 . God cares about the poor and the hungry, the imprisoned, and the oppressed through injustice. He cares deeply about them. This is what it says in Isaiah 1:17. It says this. " Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." God cares about individuals who are on the short end of the stick in life. If we don't because we are comfortable, there is a problem.
Matthew 25. In Matthew 25, there is this section where Jesus is talking about when he comes to judge those who have made their way through the tribulation. Let me just observe this with you. During the tribulation, if you don't profess allegiance to the Antichrist, you are a marked individual. If you do anything in the name of Jesus, you're going down. You are literally public enemy number one.
Even in the midst of that environment, God says, "If you don't, in my name, love those who are hungry, who are naked, who are imprisoned because of their relationship with me, then I will tell you that you did not know me." Now, if he expects that of folks who are in the tribulation, what do you think he expects those of us who live today about the way we care and love for those people?
He goes on, and he says this. Let's pick it up there in verse 37. The righteous are going to be individuals that he's going to bless because they did care for the hungry and the thirsty, and they gave them something to drink. They're going to say, "When did we do this?" He's going to say, "'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty…'"
He's going to say, "You don't care about my people, people called by name, folks who I love and died for, folks who I want to see in relationship with me. When you aren't the hands and feet of Christ to them, you reject me." There are going to be all kinds of folks in hell who have a clear understanding right now about who God is but do not let that understanding lead to a transformation that informs their lives. God cares about individuals on this earth who want to know where his kindness and goodness is. Guess where it is? It is seated in our heart in the Spirit of Christ.
He expects us to show up. A guy named Richard Stearns, who is the president of World Vision right now, wrote a book called The Hole in Our Gospel. It talks about his story of coming to see where he missed out on what Jesus wanted for him to do as a follower of him, and he put up what he calls the RESV, the Richard E. Stearns Version, from Matthew 25, and it's piercing. Let me read it to you.
When you ask, "Jesus, where were you? I didn't see you," he says this. "For I was hungry while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved."
Let me tell you something. There are behaviors that lead to sickness. There are people who are in prison who are experiencing justice, but he says, "Don't forget about it. Love them." That's why we have folks here who every week are engaging folks who are in prison and incarcerated. This is specifically in Matthew 25 talking about believers who I think are imprisoned, but there is application now for us to love the least of these.
If there is nothing in your life that cares about the least of these, if this Stuff the Truck was a passing thought to you because you're not hungry, let it go over your heart again. We are doing this together so that God gets the glory. No building is going to be named after anybody. We are trying to say, "I'll tell you who cares about you: Jesus. We are his hands and his feet, and he is showing up as you cry out, 'How can I feed my kid in this city?'"
6 . God cares about the orphan and the widow and the alien. Let me just read you a few of these. This is just an extension, even more specificity about who the poor, hungry, imprisoned, and oppressed through injustice are. In Exodus 22:22, it says, specifically, "You shall not afflict any widow or orphan." God notices that. Deuteronomy 10:18: "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing."
Deuteronomy 27:19: "' Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.' And all the people shall say, 'Amen.'" They just shouldn't say, "Amen." They should say, "So be it," and "We're going to get after it." Psalm 68:5 is one of the places I took Mike when he told me, "My dad forgot me. I don't have a father."
I said, "Let me show you who God is in Psalm 68. He's a Father of the fatherless. He wants to reparent you and love you. Your Daddy hasn't forgotten you. That's why I'm here today in Panera, and that's why I'm going to give you time, because your Father loves you, and I'm his boy, and you're my brother if you want to be."
God cares about orphans. He cares about widows. He cares about those who can't speak up for themselves in the womb and out of the womb. I'm going to give you an opportunity today. Before I do, I'm going to give you the quiz, and I'm going to give you the seventh thing that God cares about. Here's the quiz. I asked this yesterday to a bunch of young men who were in my house.
I said to them, "Who is it that when God was here on earth he had the hardest time with? Who did he save his harshest words for? I threw out a bunch of them. I set them up. I said, "Was it the murderers? Was it the thieves? Was it the drug abusers? Was it the homosexuals? Was it the immoral, the adulterers, the divorcees? Was is it the prostitutes? Was it the pornographers? Which one of those do you think that Jesus had the harshest word for?"
Every time I threw out a different one, a different kid would go, "Oh, that one. No, that one." There was one who was silent, a young man who grew up here. He said, "It was the Pharisees." They all looked at him and said, "What?" He goes, "It was the Pharisees." I said, "Tell them who the Pharisees are." He said, "They were the leaders. They were the religious leaders."
Let me tell you in the language I want to tell you. It was the people who read the Scriptures more than anybody else and didn't do anything with them. They sat through Jonah, they nodded that it was a good application question, and it passed. Do you want to know what breaks God's heart? Do you want to know what irks God's ire more than anything? It is people who read the Bible, who call him Lord, and who don't act like he is.
He called them hypocrites seven times. He called them blind guides twice. He called them blind fools. He called them a brood of vipers. He called them serpents. He called them white-washed tombs. He called them people who burden others. Do you know what the greatest evil in America is today? It's the church who claims to be the church of Jesus Christ who breaks God's heart, who does their creeds, sings their hymns, fills their envelopes, and leaves. May we never be that church.
7 . God cares about his church. His bride is to be glorious and beautiful and to partner with him to bring healing and hope to the world. It says in the Scripture that judgment will begin with the household of God. That's because he knows that if the church doesn't act out on its belief that there is no hope for the world, because he's chosen to use his people to reach the world…
Do you know what makes me angry? In fact, I have a hard time telling people I pastor a church because that church word is loaded. They think it's just a weekly meeting of bored adults who are prompted into giving so that some little affair can continue. May it never be. We are a mission. We are missional people. We are Christ-followers. We are the true church who walk with him, who care for the lost, who care for each other, who care for Israel, who care for the orphan, or who care for the widow.
I love this. Between services I was sitting here with my friend Beau. He brought me up his little son, Beck. Beck (short for Beksisa) and his sweet sister, Yadeshi. In Swahili, this is short for, "he who is alone, and, "she who is alone." They are two 26-month-old orphans who are no longer orphans but are right here in Dallas, Texas, being loved by people who love their Creator. They are orphans no more.
There are all kinds of orphans in this city today who aren't buried in Ethiopia but are buried in an abyss of deception. God wants you to tell them about how he wants to father them, just like he gave me an ex-con from Orlando, gave me a couple of others yesterday as I sat in a different place. I got to talk to them about the love of Christ.
Here's your opportunity. This isn't just a message where you go out being more intelligent, frustrated, confused, what to do people. When you walked in, we handed you this little flyer, and it's time to impact. We've decided there are four different areas that we are going to because we are changed from the inside out, that we're going to be concerned.
We've mentioned this before. We're going to be concerned about the issues of poverty and homelessness. You see us actively doing that in the next three weeks. Let's stuff the truck. Go shopping for that truck. Education, mentoring, families (life and pregnancy) (48:34), and justice and prison ministry. There are four ways that we're going to work it out.
Here's one. Are you ready? Let me just tell you a few facts about something that's going on right now in our city. About six miles from here (maybe eight to ten miles from here) is an area called West Dallas. West Dallas has about 22,000 people (about the same number of people who live in the Park Cities area), but West Dallas is one of the poorest neighborhoods in our country.
Seventy-five percent of people living in West Dallas live below the poverty level. Their average income is $8,500 a year. Eighty percent of them are single parents or live in a single-parent household. The dropout rate in the schools in West Dallas, according to Dallas Morning News, is 90 percent. We're going to bring it back to 80 percent. That means 80 percent of kids are dropping out of school by eighth grade. That is 10 miles from us.
We have a strategic partner, one that through the kindness and graciousness of this body, we gave tens of thousands of dollars to this summer to send a bunch of West Dallas kids to camp. You did that. They're thankful to God. We're partnering with Mercy Street. There are already over 100 individuals in our body who are tutoring and mentoring individuals. We're trying to go, "What can we do corporately together?"
One of our major emphases is to give you opportunities to serve as families together. So here's what we did. We asked Mercy Street, "Where can we go and make a difference?" They said, "Here's one. How about if you guys don't just take on a few kids? How about if you take on a whole school?" We said, "We're in."
Sequoyah Elementary School. Sequoyah Elementary School just received one star on the state rating system. What that means is this. One star means acceptable. Two stars means recognized. Three stars means exemplary. Sequoyah just got one star yesterday, the Dallas Morning News said, because they just altered the means by which you could become acceptable. They were non-acceptable, like the middle schools they will go to and the high school they will go to over there at Pinkston.
The reason they moved this one to acceptable is because they re-rated the system to where now, even though you don't have any kids who pass the TAKS test up to the percentage, they look and they go, "We think you might have a few kids who might pass or have the potential to pass the TAKS test, so here's your star."
Principal Love down there has been praying. She feels called to that school. She says, "I'm praying to God. I know I can educate these kids." Well, guess what? Guess how God answers prayers? Through his people. We've talked to Principal Love down there, and we've told her, "We're coming."
The government's backing out. She had a learning center after school that tutored kids, taught them computer skills, and chess club and things like that. They cut her budget from $100,000 to $13,000. They cut it by 87 percent. She said, "$13,000 doesn't even cover my printing costs last year. It's gone." Well, good news. The government is moving out, and the church of Jesus Christ is moving in. We're going to take over that school.
We're going to go to Sequoyah Elementary. We need to mentor and tutor every kid. We want families to adopt every kid they give us. When we're done with Sequoyah, we have enough to move around to a couple of other elementary schools by there. We have it set up for you out there to sign up, or you take that little perforated section and say, "I need more information."
You may not right now this year be ready ultimately to tutor and mentor a kid with your family, but there are other opportunities. See also this little sheet we handed you right here with other things. There's an email. You can email Stephanie and say, "Stephanie, let me know about one-off and one-time opportunities."
We are going to get in there and love that community, and they are going to know that there is a God in this city who cares for West Dallas. Just like your neighbors who live with you in North Dallas need to know there's a God in this city who cares for them. Church, bride of Christ, may we never sing on Sunday and walk out of here without being changed from the inside out.
There's a little verse I want to end with. It comes in Amos 5:21-24, and this is telling you what God hates. Do you know what he hates? He hates people who go through the motions of acting like they care about the things that God cares about. He hates the dead church. He hates it. He hates and rejects the festivals in dead churches. He doesn't delight in their solemn assemblies. Even though they offer up burnt offerings or give a lot of money, "I don't accept them," he says.
He says, "And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps." Do you want to know what he is going to listen to? "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." That's the church, and God loves it. Let's be his bride.
I hate that some people drive by and they think we're just a church with pretty buildings. I tell folks, "If you want to see some great construction, come look at what God is building on the inside." I'm so grateful we have a place to gather, but we are not building buildings. We are building people.
I hate that some people out there don't know there's a church, there are people of God, who are building people, and I hate that there are people in this building who sing along with the band and close their eyes when they pray but haven't met the Father. They know all about the Sermon on the Mount, but they're not loving as he wants you to love. There are severe warnings for you, my friends. I'm inviting you to get in the game.
Do you know what I hate? I hate that there are people here this morning who are sure that somebody else is going to step up for Sequoyah Elementary in West Dallas. So you're going to think somebody else will do it and anybody can do it. Therefore, nobody will get it done because everybody thinks somebody else is going to do it. I hate that.
I hate that there's somebody here this morning who doesn't know the true nature and character of God, who doesn't know that God can take your sins, which are red as scarlet, and make them white as snow. That you gave yourself away last night or this week in such a way that you think if you were ever authentic with God, much less his people, that you'd be pushed out and shunned forever.
I hate that you think that, and I want you to come. I want you to let us tell you about the Savior and his love for you and the forgiveness. I want the change your downward cycle and spiral towards death back to beauty again. I hate that you don't know I have a God who makes beauty from ashes. I hate that some people think that what we're about here is a show.
The show is about to start. The song is about to go. When we open these doors, worship begins. Will you worship with me? Have a great week of it.c
What breaks God's heart? Do you know? Do you care? In this series, we meet Jonah, an 8<sup>th</sup> century B.C. prophet, who was charged by God to care for one of His great concerns: the city of Nineveh. A barbaric people far from God and immersed in pagan tradition, the Ninevites faced certain judgment and destruction. But when God commands Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them and plead for their repentance, the battle begins. Jonah's journey of running, rebellion, repentance, resentment and return to God is much more than a children's story about a man and a huge fish. It's a powerful lesson on disobedience, God's great mercy for all people and our willingness to love others as God loves them. How willing are you to follow God and love others at all cost? This series on Jonah is a great opportunity for you to explore, study and find out.