The Local Vineyard Church Podcast

5 Reasons to Invite

September 03, 2023 The Local
The Local Vineyard Church Podcast
5 Reasons to Invite
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you ready to transform your understanding of faith, life, and community? In this message, we'll be exploring the groundbreaking approach Alpha offers as a judgment-free platform to discuss matters of faith. Particularly, if you've been grappling with life-altering changes or desiring deeper community connection, you'll find Alpha to be a haven of understanding and spiritual growth.

In the midst of our digital era, have we lost the essence of authentic human connection and love? Together, we'll dive into the power of prayer as a medium that sustains and strengthens relationships. We'll reflect on God's unconditional love, a love that transcends past mistakes and embraces us wholeheartedly. In the same spirit, we'll discuss the significance of encouragement, an attribute that Jesus exemplified by always seeking the good in others. As encouragers, we can be sources of hope, strength, and positivity, invigorating not only others but ourselves too.

Finally, let's explore friendship, a virtue Jesus held dear, welcoming everyone despite their backgrounds. Prayer, the lifeline of faith, is a powerful tool in uplifting others and fostering life-giving interactions. Trusting Jesus with our lives, we can offer guidance and support to those around us. Through this journey, we hope to inspire you to invite your friends and family to Alpha. Join us as we seek to create an environment of acceptance and love, making room at our table, just like Jesus did.

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Speaker 1:

I love it, and what I love about that video of Alpha is it shows how international the Alpha message has been impacting lives throughout the world and we are so excited as a church to be starting Alpha, like Renee said, on September 13th as a church-wide push, and we're going to talk more about that today. But my first question about that is this why should we make room at the table for people? I mean, isn't it easier to just stay in our Christian bubble and hang out with our friends and just actually judge people who aren't like us? Isn't that an easier thing to do? Okay, okay, maybe we shouldn't do that, but the truth is people who don't go to church regularly, they actually think that's what Christians do. They think Christians just kind of hang out together and judge other people, groups, and that's kind of all they do. Now I'm going to say this stuff. The truth is, it is easy to kind of just hang out with our friends and just hang out with the people that you know and it be caught up in there. If you're judging people, don't do that, but that is an easy default to do that. It's easy to stay in our own friend circles and also it's so hard to make new friends as an adult Can I get amen to that? It's a lot more challenging. My daughter is in kindergarten now. She has like seven friends already. I'm like, wow, that's pretty impressive. But here you go. But as everyday people who are learning how to become Jesus followers, we see that Jesus was intentional about making room at the table for other people. Jesus was intentional about it and it's so cool when you read the stories about Jesus. Often times people who were nothing like Jesus like to hang out with Jesus. People who were nothing like Him, who didn't live the way he lived, who didn't act the way he acts, who had different perspectives. They were the people that Jesus often hung out with and they often wanted to hang out with Jesus. So you know what friends I think if we are trying to become like Jesus, we should make room at our tables. We should make room at the table for people. So we're in a three-part series, if you haven't guessed it yet, called Making Room at the Table, as we prepare for our church-wide small group called Alpha on the 13th. Just to answer some questions what is Alpha? What is it all about? Is it the Alpha Dog course? No, woof, woof. Where are my dogs at Woof, okay, sorry. Alpha is a small group curriculum that provides a safe place for people to ask the big questions about life, about God, about Jesus, about faith, in a judgment-free environment. So our prayer as a church is that we will see 100% participation from our church at Alpha. So that's why we're meeting at a local area, we're meeting at the Smoke Tree Community Building, we will have free childcare and youth activities each week and we will have delicious dinner. Again, I'm not talking about someone running the food line and buying one of those nasty macaroni and cheese salads or whatever. I'm talking about some good food. Come on and we'll be meeting and we'll eat and we'll eat. And this is kind of how Alpha is set up. We'll have tables, so we'll all sit at our table. We'll watch a group message from an amazing speaker His name is Nicky Gumbel and we'll watch it and then the meat of the group is at the table of discussions, and so if you are a part of our women's group or our men's group, take that group there. That's your time to hang out, to meet there at the table, and so it's a great time to have a conversation. So not only do I think Alpha is great for us as a church, but I think Alpha is a great place for you to invite your friends and family, for your coworkers, your neighbors, you know whatever, especially people, especially if you've been talking to people who you know are struggling in life. I think we all have some friends like that. I think we have, I think we're like that sometimes. Right, they're asking some questions like what's the purpose and I don't understand. Maybe you have friends who just recently had some major life changes, like a divorce, a separation, and they're looking for some help, for some answers. Alpha is a great place to be in community and to learn about Jesus and, like I said, in a judgment-free zone. So two things I want to highlight, though. Like I mentioned last week, jesus said this in Matthew 9.36. He said Jesus gave us two metaphors about people. He said when he saw the crowds he had compassion on them. And again I want to highlight, jesus was often moved with compassion. Jesus, rarely do you see in scriptures that Jesus was moved with wrath. Oh, jesus was just so moved with anger. You want to know who Jesus was most angry at. Jesus was most angry at religious people who were keeping people who were far from God, farther away from God. But Jesus often had compassion. He was moved with this deep empathy for people and the scripture says he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples the harvest is pensiveful, but the workers are few. Ask pray to the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. And Jesus says people are like sheep without a shepherd. And what does that mean? Jesus is saying like sheep, people are beat down. Life I don't know if you realize this right yet Life beats you up. Life can leave your bruised and battered and confused and frustrated and angry and bitter. And life can beat you up. And people are like that, walking around, wound it, wound it by the events of life, like sheep without a shepherd. And Jesus is saying hey, I am the good shepherd, I'm the good shepherd and I want to partner with you to help people. Come to me so they can find a rest and peace for their souls, for their souls, jesus says. Then Jesus says Jesus says people are like sheep, harassed and helpless. But then Jesus gives another metaphor. Jesus says and there's a great harvest out there, it's harvest time. Harvest is after you planted the seeds. Harvest is after the sun has done all of its work and grown stuff. I have a garden in my backyard and I haven't had one tomato from it yet Because the rodents man. They keep eating my tomatoes. But my jalapenos are coming out pretty good. But here you go, there's a great harvest out there. What does my garden have to do with this illustration? Nothing. I just wanted you to know. I got a garden going on, but Jesus says there's a great harvest and people are asking the questions and it's our job as a church to provide a safe place for people to ask those questions. See, here's my concern. I have a concern. Can I share my concern? I'm going to share it to you because I got the mic. My concern is that people who don't go to church don't think church is a safe place. My concern is that people who are far from God, people who need help, people who are looking and seeking, when they think about church they're not thinking oh yeah, that place is full of whole bunch of people who want to help me and not judge me. And so, friends, if that is what people are thinking about church, it's our job as a church to not just make people conform into the way we want them to conform, but to position ourselves intentionally, to make room at the table, to invite them in a judgment-free zone so they can ask the questions, and then the Holy Spirit. Well, the Holy Spirit can just do its job and we set that up. We set that up for them. So we have to be intentional about this and I want to add on to this thought. I want to add on to this thought, okay, about people like sheep, bye, people like sheep that beat up by life. And I don't know about you guys, I've been beat up by life. Life still beats me up, life still can be hard and I need a good shepherd to come to. And Jesus tells this other story, and it's probably one of my favorite stories in the Bible because I see myself in this story. Jesus says this he tells a story about a great dinner party. He says, hearing this, a man was sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed what a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the kingdom of God. Jesus replied with this story A man prepared a great feast and sitting out many invitations. When the banger was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests come, the banger is ready. But they began to make excuses. Uh-oh, one said. One said I had just brought a field and must expect it, please excuse me. Another said I just brought five pair of oxen and I want to try them out, please excuse me. Another said I just got married and she said I can't leave the house. It didn't say that I made that part up, but it did say he got married. But then the servant returned and told the master what they said. And his master was furious and said go, I want you to get this part. Go quickly into the streets and the alleys of the town, invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. After the servant had done this, he reported there is still more room. There is still more room at God's table. He says hey, go and invite the outcast. Go and invite the previously excluded. Go and invite the people who are down and out. Go and invite the people that have been beat up and torn down. Go and invite the anxious and the worried and the depressed. Go and invite those people. And once you invite them, jesus says well, gosh, there's still more room, there's still more room. You want to know why I get so passionate about church. I get so passionate when I preach sometimes because there are people out there who need a loving savior, because life keeps beating them up. It keeps beating them up and then he says this, and he says this. He says now go to the country lands behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come so that my house will be full, for none of those I first invited will even get a taste of my steak dinner. What Jesus is saying? He's saying those who are creating walls, those who are creating walls, they're not even coming, but go and get the outcast. Go get those. And I love this story and what I want to highlight for us today is this we invite people to the table because we want God's best for them. We invite people to the table because we want God's best for them. We don't invite people because we think we are right and they are currently wrong. No, no, no, that's not what's going on. We don't invite people because we have all the answers. No, I've been following Jesus most of my life and I still don't have all the answers. We invite people to the table so they can get a chance to have a connection with their God and receive God's best for their lives. We've got to open space, so you got to be practical today. Can I be practical? What if people are like, no, I was like, oh okay, I want to be practical. Five reasons why I want to give us five reasons why we're going to make room at the table. Reason number one people need faithful friends in every season of life. People need faithful friends in every season of life. Now, we all know life comes with many different seasons because of many different things happening. Imagine how different our world would be if you had people in your life who celebrated with you in the good seasons of life and comforted you in the bad seasons of life. Isn't that awesome? Like celebrate it with you when things are going right, when all is well, when things are pumping and moving. They're celebrating with you, not jealous about what you got, but celebrating with you. But in those bad seasons they're bringing comfort to you. I like what the apostle Paul says in Romans 12, 15,. He says celebrate with those who celebrate and weep with those who grieve. I love this. Now I want to ask you this question how good are you at celebrating with others? How good are you with and our culture today is easy to compare ourselves right, especially with social media and avenues like that. Yeah, this is kind of what you I'm sure you've probably have seen this on social media. You see someone on social media. They post like a weight loss picture and instead of being happy, you think to yourself oh, they're just on that keto diet, watch right when they eat pasta. They're going to gain all of that back. But then in the comments you write you go, girl, it's like what? That's really weird, you know. But that's the thing. That's the thing, you know. But there's something about celebrating people that moves you towards Jesus. That moves you towards Jesus. Proverbs 11, 15 says this a generous person will prosper. Whoever refreshes others will be dry. Miss out, Be lonely. Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. You'll be refreshed and healthy. Jesus following communities, we regularly pray for each other. We regularly pray for each other and I encourage you to have friendships or people who you, who you pray with on, who you're praying for that we live in a world that you can get a 30 second TikTok counseling session to diagnose all your childhood trauma. Come on, we need to get people around us for real who are loving Jesus and praying for you. Because because this is what happens when you do that, when you get people like that around you, and when you're that person for someone else, you understand that, hey, I can't fix your problems, but I can come to Jesus for you. I can pray for you about this. Now, I'm not talking about having a weekly prayer meeting with your friends in your prayer closet. Hey, I'm going to Jimmy's closet today. What, jimmy's closet? What's you? You picking out some new clothes? No, we gonna pray. That'll be weird. Don't do that. Okay, but that was funny. Thank you, leaving me hanging on the laughs, thank you. But but no, I'm saying I'm saying, but be intentional about praying for others. If you know a friend of yours, here you go, even though a friend of yours is going through a hard time in their marriage. You know, a friend of yours is going through a hard time with their kids, dealing with health issues, mental health, all the, all the different things with their, with their profession. It's good to talk to them, definitely talk to them. Take someone out for coffee, play basketball with them, do it. That's good, that's good. But also pray for them. Like pray for them. Let them know you're praying for them and prayer changes things Like I got talked about last week. What is prayer, prayer that makes a difference is when we pray and we know that God is working in us, that God is working with us and God is working through us. And that's what happens when we pray. God's work, god's doing something in us and then God wants to partner with you and then God wants to move through you. And that's what happens when we pray for people, because when we pray, god moves in, god moves. Here you go Comparing. When we compare, it tears down, prayer, it uplifts, it uplifts, it uplifts. And so also in healthy, jesus fallen communities, we regularly check up on each other. That's what I mean by this. If you have a friend who's trying to accomplish something, talk to them about it, ask them about it, shoot them a text message or the next time you see them, ask them about it. This is what I'm saying Don't wait for a Facebook status, but have relationship with people. See, I'm telling you this friends, one of the ways that a church can shine in our world today is to be a faithful friend, to be a real friend, a genuine friend, to care, to celebrate, to be there with them, because our world is tired of surface relationships and what social media has done and this is not me just rag on social media, but I'm ragging on it a little bit it has created the perception that you can have real relationships without really talking to somebody. But real relationships happen when you actually talk. It's kind of crazy, right? See? The way we love people, the way we celebrate people, is a direct reflection on how we worship God. If you're always looking for your friends to give you something, that's probably how you view God too. You're always waiting for God to give you something. The way you treat people is how you treat Jesus. So reason number one people need faithful friends. Reason number two people need to know they are loved, truly loved. People need to know they are truly loved. I remember one time when I was down on Virginia Beach. I was a youth pastor down on Virginia Beach for a long time and I had the opportunity to speak on the weekend service. I normally got to do that like three or four times a year and it was one of my weekends to speak, and so I went to the barber shop to get a fresh fade. Come on and they did my beard and everything. It was nice and I went there and I was kind of known at the barber shop that I would walk in. The people would be like young preach, you know, it was cool. Then the barber shop got really sketchy and I think it got closed down. I didn't ask questions, but my name was out there and I was getting my hair cut. And then, finally, my barber. I was like, hey, man, as long as you know, I'm preaching this weekend at my church, I would love for you to come out. And I kind of invited some of the other guys, some of the regulars there. And then he's like oh yeah, you preaching, young preach, what's you preaching about? And I said, oh, I churched doing a series called the Power of Forgiveness and I'm preaching about love, the power of love. And then all of them looked at me and said, love, ain't no one need love, ain't no one have time for that? And I was like, no guys, I'm telling you no, you need love. They're like Jacob, we don't need no love, we don't want it, we're good, we'll catch you next time. But they were serious. They were serious and I remember being like that's messed up, that they said that. But the truth is this. This is the truth. People are so beat up by life they don't know they need love. Like, can I get real with you guys today? People can get so beat up by relationships, they can get so beat up by people who they thought were going to be the ones for them. But it doesn't work out. People can get so beat up, they can get deluded and they don't think like, well, I don't need to trust them, I don't need that. But the truth is this everyone, every single person, including you today, you want to love and be loved. You want to love and be loved, and people want to be loved. People want to be loved. Everyone does so. And here you go. Here's the hard part. Here's the hard part about that. Everyone wonders, truly Everyone wonders would people still love me if they knew all the details about my life? Would people still love me if they knew the secrets that I have? If they knew the things that I have, would they still accept me? And what makes God so amazing? No matter how we try to hide it or make ourselves look impressive before Him, he knows all the details of our lives. He knows every secret that we have kept and, knowing all of those things. God knows us in and out. He still prefers you. He prefers you and he loves you and he pours out His grace on you and not only does God forgive you, but God makes room for you and friends, and this is what I'm trying to say to us today. There are people who have things, they have baggage, they have junk, they have hurt. And our job, our mission as a church to help everyday people learn how to become Jesus followers is because we want to help people know that they are truly loved, that they don't have to make more money, they don't have to get another promotion, they don't have to be in another relationship, they don't have to do this thing or that thing, but they can be loved right where they are by a God who went to the cross for them, defeated death, rose again and he has love and life for them. So my prayer here at LVC is that we will make room at an imperfect table, that our table will be filled with imperfect people, because my prayer is that we will be a perfect place for imperfect people and if you're too perfect, run away from our church, because we don't want to corrupt you with our imperfection, but it will be a perfect place for imperfect people, because when you are in community with people, jesus is teaching you how to love people the way he loves people. Throughout Jesus' ministry, like I said, he loved people, hung out with people, spent time with people, ate and drank with people who were different than Him, who were different than Him. Here's one of the problems in our culture today. We live in a delete or cancel culture. Someone does something you don't like, delete them. Isn't that weird? Like someone does something you don't like, your first response is I'm going to delete them from my social media. That'll show them. And if someone makes a bad decision, what? We cancel them? We negate years and years of good decisions they make because of one bad one. Now, there is a false righteousness to all of this, a false self-righteousness to all of this, because how can we ever assume that we are righteous enough to cancel someone else when Jesus canceled our sins on the cross? There is justice, but mercy always triumphs over judgment. Jesus says it like this do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven, and I'll say this most of the time. Hear me when I say this most of the time the most difficult people in our lives are there to remind us how much God loves us Some of us, I say dang, god loves us a lot and to expand your capacity for love. Nick, you can play something on the keyboard. For me it's easy to love people who are nice to you. Jesus says anyone can do that, anyone can do that. But to love people who are difficult, to love people who hurt you, forgive even when they didn't say sorry. That takes the kind of love that only comes from a connection to Jesus. And I want to say this when you spend daily time with God, he teaches you that you forgive, you love, not because it will make the relationship better the relationship may never be repaired but by loving that person, regardless of the problems, you are becoming more like Jesus. You're becoming more like Jesus. Let me say that one more time. If you're going through some relational hurts, you feel like you've been even betrayed by someone that you love. You keep loving them because God is doing something in you. They may never change, but God is doing something in you. Reason number three we need to invite people to the table because people just need some daggone good encouragement. People just need some encouragement. Today we had a friend of ours come from Virginia Beach, come in and they just said to me your kids' work was so nice, they were so on top of things. I said tell them that at the end of the service People need it. People need it right. People need good encouragement. People need to be at a table where they feel encouraged. At our home we do highs and lows. At our dinner the kids go all around. Even now Jameson he's too. He's starting to be able to understand it a little bit. He has the same high every single day, but it's that he played with his cousin even though he didn't. The reason why we do it is because it provides an opportunity to bring encouragement. We want our table to be filled with good food and encouragement. Jesus said people are like sheep and they have been beat up. I want us to be good at being the most encouraging people ever. I hope when people think about LVC they think, man, that church is filled with people who are just too encouraging. That church, man, they're so encouraging at that church they look kind of weird how encouraging they are. That's my prayer. I want us to be good at that and not encouraging with the slight jab. Come on, we all know these people. You get a promotion and someone says, wow, great job at getting a promotion. You crushed that great job, but watch out for the more responsibility that's coming. Someone says, yeah, man, my kids are sleeping through the night. It's great. They say, oh, man, that's awesome that your kids are sleeping through the night. Just wait until they get a little bit older. Why, why, why be that person with the slight jab? I'm just keeping it real. Now, you're keeping it real. Let's be people who are wow people and not just how people. Let's be a wow person. Parents, let's be a wow person to our kids Instead of just being like well, how are you going to do that? Wow, that's great that you think you can make it to the moon, because maybe one day you will. Spouses come on, let's be wow people to our spouses. Girl, you look good. Wow, come on, instead of just nagging about all the things they're doing wrong. You didn't take out the trash again. Maybe all of them did this for us. Man, I'm going to start saying wow to the good moments. I'm going to be an intentional encourager. Ken Bletcher says it like this. He says help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right. Like we live in a world where we're always trying to catch people doing something wrong, like, oh, I know that you're not going to do that again. I knew that you weren't going to do that. You probably work for a boss that's always catching you doing something wrong. But I'm going to tell you this If we want to be Jesus people, if we want to be people who are ushering in the kingdom of God, jesus regularly caught people doing something right. He said oh, you're fishing for fish. I'm going to make you a fisher of men. He said oh, you're good at leading people. I know you're a task collector, but you're good at leading people. How about you? Drop that? Leave that booth, come follow me and you can do something great with your life. I'm going to tell you this, friends If we can start catching people doing something right, it will change your relationship with your kids, it will change your relationship with your spouse. It will change your relationship with your coworkers. He says people need to feel good about themselves to produce good results. Couple of weeks ago, like I mentioned, it was our daughter's first day at kindergarten, in elementary school, and when we got there she was a little bit nervous. You could tell it was a different environment, a lot more kids in her preschool that she was a part of, and so we kept encouraging her, reinsuring her that we would be right here at pickup when the school is over. But the thing that made her go into the building, the thing that made her go into the school and now has made her enjoy school, going to school every day, was her cousin Nora. Now Nora is in the first grade and she said to her come on, kingsley, I'll walk you to the class. And so she grabbed Kingsley by the hand and you see, I took a picture of it and they both walk and you can see all these big kids around, fourth and fifth graders and teachers and adults, and you can see them walking into the classroom, walking into the halls, and this is what I want you to say, this is what I want to say. Nora grabbed Kingsley by the hand and it's not only that she encouraged her with her words, but she encouraged her with her steps. And I'm going to tell you this People need people to grab them by the hand, encourage them and walk them into the scary places of life. People need someone to walk with them in the scary places of life, in the places where they feel unsure, where they feel like I don't know if I can make it through this. This depression keeps getting me, this anxiety keeps getting me, this fear keeps getting me. I don't know if I can do it, and it's our job to not always be. But how are you going to do this and how are you going to do that and how are you going to? Our job is to be like wow, I'm walking with you, I'm going to encourage you in this and I'm telling you this, friends, our world will change if we can be good at encouraging people. Sorry, I'm getting so excited about it, but because I'm just telling you I look out in the world and there's so much negativity, and that's why, at Alpha, we want to make places where people to explore their face, explore their faith, and they can walk into the scary places of life and ask questions without feeling like they're going to get judged. Romans 15 says this our goal must be to empower others to do what is right and good for them and to bring them into spiritual maturity. Making your mission to be encouraging I'd rather be annoyingly encouraged in the negative. I'd rather walk into a room and people say, oh, here comes Jacob, he about to say something nice about me, rather than say, oh, here comes Jacob, that blood-sucking leech. What negative thing he going to say today. And here's the thing. You all got friends like that, don't you? Every time you're around, they just drain you blood-sucking leeches. You want to know how you overcome a blood-sucking leech. You become a life-giving encourager. I was when we first moved up here in 2019, I remember when the first people I invited to our church before we started, I literally stalked the guy outside of his apartment building. There's some context to this story, but I shared that for another time. But I literally I stayed at, I stayed at by my car and I just waited for him to walk out. And then, once he walked out, I act like I was walking into the apartment and I bumped into him. Oops, sorry. And then I did that. That was awesome. And then I had to start talking to the guy and, and, and then we end up making a deal with him. I was planning to go grab a beer later that week and you know it's great. We ended up doing that, and then so we're at happy hour and we're talking. He has no idea I'm a pastor, zero idea that I'm a pastor. And then I moved. I moved to Richmond to start church. We're just talking at happy hour and he's sharing some things about his family and how he made some life changes in order to support his, his kids and his wife and has been kind of weighing on them. And here you go. The whole time I just encouraged, I just encouraged him. I said, man, that's awesome. He must be a great husband, he must be a great dad to do that, to do that for your, for your wife and your kids. And after we were done talking, we were about to leave and he finally said he finally says, oh, by the way, I never asked you what you did for a living. And I said, oh, you know I'm a pastor. And he was like, oh, christian pastor. And I was like I don't know what this is about to go. And I was like, yeah, he's like yeah. And he said to me I can't make this up. He said to me wow. He said wow, I never met a Christian who cared as much as you. So him and his, him and his wife and his two boys they were. They were actually a part of our launch team. They helped us launch the church back in 2020. And you know it was great before the pandemic happened. And here's the thing I want to say Prior to that, I was striking out man Like I was trying to meet people. I even tried to play basketball at the YMCA and I got school. My heart was racing. I was like I can't keep up with these young limper snappers up in here. But I was striking out and finally, when I met him and talked to him, I refreshed him and guess what happened to me? Guess what happened to me when I refreshed him, I was refreshed, something about being a good encourager. Reason number four, and I'm going to go through these last two faster. Reason number four people want to be healthy. I've never met someone that says oh yeah, I just want to be depressed my whole life. Oh, I just want to be defeated my whole life. I don't want to have anything good happening for me. No, people want to be healthy. People want a purpose worth living for. People want that Because here's the truth Good life change happens in the context of healthy relationships and bad life change, especially if you have young youth in your house or a young adult. You probably know this. Bad life change happens in the context of unhealthy relationships. I'm going to tell you this we want to be good, we want to bring life to people and I want to share this last story about what Jesus did. Here's this man, one of my favorite stories in the Bible. This man named Zaccheus. He was a chief tax collector, and tax collectors they were bad dudes. He was a bona fide thug. He was a bad man. He had wealth, he had power, he had fear. People feared him. He had all those things. Yet the scripture says, when Jesus was passing through a town, thousands of people around Jesus and this man who was perceived as wealthy, powerful, had it all, was looking for Jesus. Because even though he had wealth, even though he mastered the God of production and consumption, he was still looking for something more. He still felt unhealthy. And the Bible says he was a weed little man. It says he was short I like saying a weed little man and because he was short, he couldn't see beyond the crowds that were surrounding Jesus. And I just got to say again, I got to say this again I hope my prayer as a church is that we're not so crowded around Jesus that the people far from Jesus can't see Jesus. My prayer at LVC is that we will reach people who are far from God and we will provide avenues and platforms for people to touch the heart of God. And so he couldn't see God because the crowd was around him and so he did whatever weed little man does he runs to a sycamore tree and he climbs up that thing. Boy scout, I want you to get this last part. Jesus is passing through. This is not his destination. His destination was across. He was heading towards across. He was passing through. And even though Jesus was passing through, even though Jesus had something else to do, jesus was walking and he saw a man in the tree and he stopped. He stopped and said what the heck is a man doing in the tree? And then he says it's a kiosk. He calls him by name it's a kiosk. Come down from the tree. Tonight you better have room at your table for me, because I'm eating at your house and this is what I want you to get. So I love this part. I love this part I want you to get. When Jesus meets people, he invites himself to their table, meaning that Jesus is not afraid of people's baggage, he's not afraid of their hurts, he's not afraid of the stuff and the guilt and the shame. He says I'm going to eat at your place. I don't even know if you cleaned it up for me, but I'm going to eat there and I'll bring a can of Febreze with me, just in case it's staying. This son of Abraham was lost, jesus says, but now he's found. Last reason is our job. We are called to be hero makers Because you don't know what God has put in the heart of someone else that you encounter. You don't know the story that they're supposed to tell, you don't know the purpose that they're supposed to have. Andy Stanley says this. He says one of the greatest things that you can do may not be the thing you do, but the person you're raising. And I'm going to say this to you today the greatest thing that you do is your life. Might not be the single thing you do with your life, but it could be the person that you encounter, the person that you love on, the person that you parent, the spouse that you love, and the purpose that comes through. That Make us a hero maker. God, make us hero makers. Help us arise and awake the potential in people's lives to make a difference. Help us be like you, jesus, who went to the cross Not because you deserved it, but because you saw the purpose in us. Friends. That's why we invite people to the table, because what we're doing here, what we're doing here, is helping everyday people learn how to become Jesus followers. Because, because they're like, because once they do, they'll be able to handle the complexities of life with the authentic relationship with Jesus. And once they do, that, man, joy, freedom, healing, miracles happen. Let's pray God, jesus, holy Spirit, we thank you for your great love. We thank you for your goodness and we thank you for your favor. God, we thank you that you opened the table for us. You made room at the table for us, with our shame and our past mistakes and our mishaps and all the stuff that we brought to the table. You made a way for us. I just see the Lord pulling out a chair so someone can sit next to you. I actually just feel like the Holy Spirit very strongly saying I don't know one person or multiple people. You're the one that's supposed to start the friendships. Don't wait for friendships to come. You're the one to start the friendships. I feel like, on top of that, I feel like the Holy Spirit saying because you matter, your life matters and what you have to say to people matters. So, holy Spirit, breathe that into someone. Today. Also, I feel like the Holy Spirit saying this may be metaphor or maybe literal get off the couch, get back into the game, get excited about life again. So, jesus, we thank you. If you're in here today and you don't know this Jesus I talked about maybe you have as you walked away I just want to pray with you right where you are. I'm not going to call you out and I have you come up front, nothing like that. If you want to make a decision to trust Jesus with your life, right where you are, just say this prayer with me. Just say, jesus, forgive me for my sins, make me new. Today, I trust you with my life. Today. I follow you in Jesus' name. Amen, amen, amen.

Making Room at the Table
Compassion, Harvest, and Table Hospitality
The Power of Prayer and Love
The Power of Encouragement
The Power of Encouragement in Life
Inviting Friends to Become Jesus Followers