The Next Chapter; Graduation Sermon

Graduation is such a weird time for me. This is my 10th high school graduation that I’ve done as a youth Minister, I think. And I don’t know how you feel when high school graduates come around, but I feel like I’m like reliving it over and over again.

Have you seen the Friday Night Lights movie? The movie at the end of the movie, he takes the names of the seniors off of his football team board and stuff and then put new seniors up there. That’s kind of what it’s like to be a youth Minister this time of year. It’s a little strange. It makes me think of my own graduation, my 17 year old almost 18 year old self and all the fear, all the excitement, but definitely like the oh, my gosh, I’m supposed to know what I’m doing I think.

Right now I tend to go back to whenever these graduates, there’s always a part of me that goes back to, man, if I could have done this just a little bit differently, this might have been what I would have done differently. How many go through that a little bit around these seasons?

And the reality is in life, and high school is kind of one of these moments, high school graduation is one of these moments, where God kind of gives us these benchmarks. Graduation, marriage, career changes, having kids, becoming an empty Nester, retirement, things like that, where hopefully in these moments we can take pause to examine the direction that we’re headed in and what really matters as we move forward. If you like some of the same public speakers that I do in the lecturers that I listen to, a lot of them talk about examining your why. Why am I doing this? Why am I taking on what I’m taking in life right now?

Why am I headed in this direction? And this is the direction that I need to be headed in? This morning, I had three working titles, and I’m just going to share all of them with you right now okay? I wanted to say the end of the road, that’s kind of depressing. And I really like boys II men, but I don’t want to be sued by them.

Okay. That doesn’t work. Okay. Turn the page. But that’s a Metallica song, and we definitely know they like to sue people.

So I settled on this one. This is our title for today. The next chapter. Okay. I think that works for us.

Okay. We can all agree on that. All right. We’re going to be going through the Book of Ecclesiastes today. We’re going to go through.

Let’s say a prayer on that note. Father, I just want to thank you so much for the opportunity to be in your house this morning, to be surrounded by family, to celebrate these amazing young men and women as they venture onto the next chapter of their lives. But, God, I pray for all of us right now that you will center us to help us to focus and listen as we hear your word. God, please speak through me. Allow your spirit to share exactly what you want said to us today.

I pray that we’ll be humble as we receive it and then take it into our lives and how we live even out this week. We love you and your son, Jesus name we pray. Amen. Like I said, we’re going to be in Ecclesiastes. So I want you to go ahead and turn to chapter two if you got a physical Bible. If you bring your Bible to Church, you are my people. I love the rustling sound of pages. There’s something that just a physical Bible, it never runs out of power.

You see what I did there? All right. I want to give us a little bit of background on Ecclesiastes, though, because this is a book that oftentimes we misunderstand and not totally misrepresent, I would say. Okay, so the book of Ecclesiastes is actually written as kind of a combination of an interview with somebody at the end of their life, but also somebody who kind of discovered personal writings after somebody had already passed. So it’s not actually written by whoever we’re reading about.

It’s written by somebody else that you can imagine maybe sitting across a coffee table from them and asking them some questions and then finding their Journal after they’ve moved on and kind of seeing some of the wisdom of their life.

The person that’s exploring these things, they’re examining what they’ve experienced and what is valuable in life.

There’s something significant to me about kind of somebody that’s lived a long life, that is reflecting on what they’ve experienced, sharing with us what’s important. Luckily, the Bible gives us a couple of insights into that. But I would say this is some of the reactions there. This is not a book that I would classify as encouraging necessarily. Read it in small chunks maybe. It’s a little much.

And the author of this book is actually really debated. We automatically attribut it to Solomon, but there’s a lot of scholarship that actually suggests that it may not have been him. We don’t know exactly. But for our sake today, it’s actually kind of better we don’t know who it is. And here’s why.

Because it leaves us with the ability to maybe imagine and personalize somebody that we would know and respect ahead of us in life, giving us wisdom. As we read this, I want us to imagine that. I want you to imagine somebody that is just ahead of you in life that is already in that next chapter that you’re working towards and they’re telling you about what’s important as you venture into that next chapter. All right. Before we get into this reading, there’s actually a word that’s very important for us to know in this book of the Bible.

It’s a Hebrew word that shows up 32 times in the book of Ecclesiastes. It’s the word hevel. In the NIV, you’re going to read it as meaningless. Meaningless, meaningless, meaningless. It’s all meaningless, right?That’s how you want to send off your graduates. In the ESV, it shows up as the word vanity.

It doesn’t use meaningless. It says vanity. It’s all vanity.

And sometimes in this book, the writer actually does mean maybe meaningless in vanity. But these translations are actually not a very holistic way to approach this Hebrew word. In Hebrew, this word most commonly shows up in the Old Testament as breath. Vapor.

Sometimes it’s used as like worthless or idle. But breath and vapor is kind of the thing there. And here’s why this is significant. There’s something about vapor. You can see it, right?

You can even feel it. You can smell it sometimes, right? Those of you that are married morning breath, right? Not trying to start any fights. But when we say vapor, there’s something that you can visualize. Right.

But what happens if you try to reach out and grab it? This thing that is physical, you can see it, you can kind of feel it, you can smell it, you can perceive it. But yet when you grab it, there’s nothing there. There’s nothing behind it. This word shows up 32 times throughout this book to describe things that we think that are important. But when we really try to grab onto it, it’s vapor.

Let’s pick up in Ecclesiastes chapter two. All right.

Starting in verse one. And we’re just going to go through this chapter in chunks.

“I said to myself, now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good. But that all will prove to be hevel. Laughter I said, is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish? I tried cheering myself with wine and embracing folly, my mind still guiding me with wisdom.

I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives. Let’s stop there. So the teacher starts off this chapter by basically saying he went all in on the pleasures of life, everything that life had to offer. I mean, if this was Solomon writing this, one of the richest Kings who maybe ever lived. So you can imagine what that might have looked like on some level.

But this is just somebody saying, look, everything that you could enjoy, that you could feel pleasure from in life. I did it all to see if there’s any value to it.

If he is at the stage of life where he just graduated College, he’s talking to these new high school graduates and saying, look, I had the full on College experience. I went to the parties, I went on the dates, I got the degrees. I did everything that- I went to the football games, whatever it is, the College experience, I did it all. He’s somebody that had young kids, and he’s talking to those new parents out there. He gave his kids the full on Disney treatment, the fast passes that we’re staying at the resorts.

We’re even eating at Disney. He went all in like, I want to make sure my kids get to enjoy Disney.

If he didn’t have kids home, he was in the presidential Suite at the all inclusive vacation.

You can feel it, right? Some of us got really excited. He felt a little more relaxed, right? He had the backstage passes to the best concerts. He was living the dream vacation.

Verse ten. Later on in this chapter, he actually says, I denied myself nothing my eyes desired and refused my heart no pleasure. I don’t know if you feel reading that. There’s a mixture of excitement and fear and like, oh, that’s not wise. Because we can think about if life is just, man, we’re just going to go all in on this. We’re going to get every pleasure we can get, you know, the damage that that creates. And he says, I did it all. And you know what? It was hevel.

And I’ve had a hard time with this. I think even as I’ve been studying this out, I’ve been going through Ecclesiastes again lately in my own quiet times. I love to have fun. I enjoy a good time. Amen.

When we first moved to Orlando, some friends of ours hooked us up with a day of Disney during Covid. All right? And I’m not a big Disney guy. I’m definitely not the I was going to say weirdos, but I love you guys. That’s too much to say that.

So I backtrack on that. The adults that go to Disney by themselves, I’m not that guy. Right. But I would love to take my kids to Disney and see the wonder on their face as they enjoy it. Okay, I’m not a Disney guy, but we got to go during COVID and man, the lines were like, ten minutes.

It was the best Disney experience outside of people yelling at you to put your mask on and telling my two year olds it was the best experience you could ever ask for at Disney. We didn’t spend a dollar on their food. We got to get on the rides right away. We did all the rides we wanted to, and we left by three. It was amazing.

And my kids had such a blast. Last week, my wife took me to the movies and top golf for my birthday. And that was I had so much fun. We got to go see Doctor Strange 2, and got to go swing at some balls. And I’m not very good, I play hockey, but I can just kind of crush it really angrily.

You know, we’ve got a cruise coming up in July. It’s been three years in the making. This is going to be our celebration of our 10th, 11th and 12th anniversary.

I like a good time. Why is this hevel?

And if we’re stopping to think about this for a second, all these moments in life that are fun, there are good memories that are pleasurable, not even a bad thing. They’re a good thing, but there’s a reality to it. They don’t last. These moments and memories, they’re not enough to sustain us for life. You don’t have like one really good vacation and say, we’re done.

We’re clearly done forever, right? What tends to happen is you’re done and you go like, man, we’re not going to get another one.

Because the chasing of what life has to offer and fun and pleasure and parties, all that stuff, there might be some temporary enjoyment in it, but it’s gone. It’s over. Even if it was good. Let’s keep reading.

Verse four says, “I undertook great projects. I built houses for myself, planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water Groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house.

I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself and the treasure of Kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers in a harem as well. The delights of a man’s heart.” We’re not going to touch that one today.

“I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this, my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my labor. And this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I had surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve everything was Hevel a chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun.” Let’s pause again.

The teacher then goes, okay, look, I learned that pleasure didn’t work. I learned that fun and an experience that’s not going to work. So I’m going to move on to projects and achievements and making me some money. All right? That’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to find out if this is worth setting my hands to. For the incoming College students pursuing some amazing College degrees, right? Maybe for others of us here, it’s the desire to start your own business.

Or maybe it’s remodeling or building the house of your dreams.

Or maybe it’s buying the car you’ve always wanted. You know the one. I know the one. It says he had everything he wanted. He built everything he wanted. And it was hevel. A chasing after the wind. That word picture when you think about that, looks like Lunacy, right? It’s like that scripture where Paul talks about, I don’t fight like a boxer beating the air, right? Trying to picture chasing after the wind. He said, that’s what it’s like to live a life trying to chase achievement, trying to chase, trying to make your life about my next project, my next big thing that I’m going to set my hands to.

How many of you have ever heard of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world? Yeah. So these are them. These are the Seven Wonders, the Temple of Artemis, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Colossus of Rhodes. These are some incredible things.

If you look at the history behind them, part of it is just even the feats of ingenuity that they were for their time. Right? What I want to focus in on for a second here, this is one that’s fascinated me for years when I found out about it, the hanging Gardens of Babylon. Greek writing talk about just this spectacle when the Greeks showed up in the Babylonian world. It’s just like these tall structures that were on the water with vines and all kinds of beautiful foliage just laying over on the top of it. I mean, like, this picture is beautiful, but it probably does not even do it justice.

How incredible this garden was. You know what we can’t find any significant archaeology of this.

We have writings, and because of this, there’s even historians that suggest that maybe it was just a poetry thing. Maybe these things were just they didn’t really exist because we can’t find anything that shows that it was there.

So this incredible marvel that we can just you read it in the Greek poetry and you’re just like, oh, my gosh, I could just not imagine if you’re one of those people that love gardens and things like that botanicals stuff.

This would have been a dream come true to witness. And yet we don’t even know if it existed because there is no record of it physically. So these marvels really the only one of those seven that’s really still standing is the Pyramid of Giza. All these other ones, they’re lost. They’re lost to invading nations, to time.

These marvels that we can look back on just go, oh, my gosh, I could just only imagine what it would have been like to witness. They’re gone. These things that took hundreds of years to build, vanity projects for some of their Kings that were just like, Man, I want everybody, every nation who lays their eyes on this to know that we built this. It’s gone. We’ve been able to experience that in our world even in the last few years. People’s life savings, their businesses that they started, that when COVID hit it shut it all down. I know so many people that started a restaurant and then the restaurant closed down or whatever, it changed everybody’s life.

The stuff that you may have poured blood, sweat and tears into, it’s gone. Not because of any fault of your own. Because of life.

That means our best achievements, our best possessions. The most amazing things you could build with all your smarts and ingenuity could be here today and gone tomorrow. Left to imagine as a picture in somebody’s memory one day. Feeling encouraged? Let’s keep going.

Verse twelve. “Then I turn my thoughts to consider wisdom and also madness and folly.” Good combination. “What more can the King’s successor do than what has already been done? I saw that wisdom is better than folly, Amen, just as light is better than darkness. The wise have eyes in their heads while the fool walks in the darkness.

But I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I said to myself, the fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise? I said to myself, this too is hevel. For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered. The days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise two must die.”

How many of you out there are researchers? Before you make a purchase or like a step into something, you spend hours Googling, duck, duck, going Consumer Reports, YouTube videos. I do that for anything that’s like over $20.

That’s my nature. My headphones. I like, stressed about which headphones I was going to buy. These ones are good for this reason. But this guy says that is my nature right?

Now really for those of us that are like that, we don’t want to go into something unprepared, right? You don’t want to get caught off guard. You don’t want the salesman to pull a fast one. No, I got my research.

Now, luckily, the teacher does say here, wisdom is better than folly. Amen. It’s a good thing to be wise. It’s better than being and unprepared.

But in chapter one, he actually elaborates on this a little bit more. He says that he applied his mind, he applied his mind to study and exploring all the wisdom under the heavens. Like the teacher was like in it. He was one that he wanted to make sure I knew the things I needed to know about life. But he says, at the end of the day, I realized something.

He says, the fate of the fools will overtake me also. That at the end of the day, whether I know everything I need to know or not, life is going to happen. And so is death.

No matter how much you think you know, there’s still coincidence.

College. I remember that realization for me in College when I was doing my upper division work, when a couple of my teachers said, hey, just so you guys know, the things that we’re studying right now, in a few years they’re going to become obsolete.

Why am I paying money for this, right? There’s just a truth to that. Certain degree. Certain things you study, man, if you don’t stay up with it. They’ve moved on.

They found new things. Research keeps going. Things are just going to get better and better, right? But that means that my degree that I was so proud of eleven years ago. I don’t even know if those numbers still work.

When my wife got pregnant with our oldest, we went all in on research. We wanted to read the books. We wanted to hear the lectures. We want to make sure we want to have the best birth possible. We want to be ready.

Almost none of the things that we prepared. Nothing in our birth plan happened.

It all went awry. My daughter was two weeks late, so my wife had to be induced. She didn’t want the drugs, but she had to get the drugs in order to get the baby right. She labored for like 28 hours. She was pushing for like two.

Then the baby is born, and then they take the baby away because she’s got to go to the NICU because she swallowed Mcconium. Then we have to spend a whole week visiting our baby in the NICU from home.

All of the preparation, the study, the research, nothing.

But I did bring the candles and the fan. We did have those things for the birth experience.

And then the nurse goes, here’s a baby, good luck.

And I realized we do all this research to get ready for the birth. But we didn’t spend nearly as much time getting ready for actually having a baby.

We laugh about it now. Any new parents say, look, don’t get over obsessed with the birth. Make sure you do some reading about what it’s like to take a baby home. Get ready for that part. But as funny as that is, there’s a truth of this when it comes to the pursuit of trying to make sure you’re on top of everything you need to and staying ahead of the game. You can’t solve everything. Life will happen. Coincidence takes place. God sometimes just says flat out, no. Now it’s time to read the really encouraging part. Okay, let’s keep going.

If you guys are still with me after this, you know this is the Bible we’re reading, but I know this one’s a fun one. All right, first words. “So I hated life.” Okay, I need a minute.

“Because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless. A chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish.

Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This, too, is hevel. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun, for a person may labor with wisdom knowledge and skill, and then they must leave it all. Leave all they own to another who is not toiled for it. This too is hevel and a great misfortune.

What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days, their work is grief and pain, even in their minds do not rest. This too is hevel.” I told you it was encouraging.

Now this part hits home in a very significant way for me. I want you to think to yourself about how many late nights you’ve had in anxiety and worry. For the students out there doing homework and studying, pouring over school projects. Right? I don’t think I ever got a school project done before 11:00 at night.

I did in College, just not in high school. Or for work where you had an assignment. You had a project that you had to do where you were stressing out because you have a deadline, days where you’ve gone home from work sore and tired, neck hurts, back stiff, hate your chair at the office.

You can’t sleep because you’re so anxious about what’s coming the next day.

Teacher says, man, all this is Hevel.

What are we doing? Why are we doing this? And we’re doing it, and we may not even be the ones that get to enjoy it. Maybe somebody else is going to and they didn’t have to back ache. They didn’t have to stay up late that night.

I’m not even talking about your family. Maybe it’s somebody at work that gets your credit.

How many of you feel really encouraged about your life right now?

We get it, Jake. It’s all hevel.

What’s the point? Let’s read that part. 24.

“A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. For without him who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge, and happiness. But to the sinner, he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is hevel, a chasing after the wind.

Now there is something about the book of Ecclesiastes and the wisdom literature, the Bible that I think is important for us to note with this. The good chunk of them and even in Ecclesiastes they’re not one to one promises. Do this and then you get this. Like think, for example, one of the big ones in youth and family Ministry, train up a child and the way they should go and when they’re older and not turn from it. Is that a promise?

No, because they got to make their own choices. But it’s wisdom. And it’s a good thing to do. So is the writer here promising that God’s going to take money from the people that are selfish and sinful and he’s going to give it to us? No, but there’s still wisdom here. I want us to take note of this because this feels a little bit bipolar, right?

He just got done telling us that toil is meaningless. It’s a chasing after the wind. This is dumb. Why are we even doing this? You get anxious.

But hey, it’s from God.

The toil the pleasures of life. It’s all from God. What do we think he’s saying here? None of the things that we experience in life are wasted when God is in the rightful place he should be in our lives. Without God, take him out of the picture.

Everything we may pursue in this life your degrees, your careers, your houses, your achievements they’re all hevel.

If the why of our lives is self improvement, self importance, bettering ourselves, bettering our family’s lives, we’re chasing after the wind. We’re trying to stand and grab ahold of vapor because nothing will ever be enough. We will constantly be pursuing that next thing.

But if the why of our lives is centered on living to please God, then even these temporary vapor things, these meaningless things, can have meaning.

I’m going to read this part again.

This, too, I see, is from the hand of God. For without him who can find enjoyment? If you take me out of the picture, then, yeah, this is all chasing after the wind. But if what matters in your life, if I am where I should be in the importance here, if you are living about me, then even the stuff that is temporary can be good.

I started going to therapy again recently, and I’ve been wrestling with a lot of things at this stage of my life.

I’ve been wrestling with my role as a Minister and what it’s been to do this, to do it full time without my wife to do it here in Orlando, I’m wrestling with my role as a father and what I feel like my kids need from me at this stage of wondering if I have enough to give it. I’m wrestling with my role as a spouse and how I’m taking care of my wife. I’m wrestling with a lot of things at this point in my life. Kind of having my mid 30s crisis on some level, maybe. I don’t know if that’s a thing. I’m exaggerating.

It’s not a crisis. It’s a good thing. And so I just want to be able to get some help because I realized there’s even some things in my history, the stuff that I wasn’t dealing with in a way that was healthy. And the talks with my therapists have been great. Really like him a lot.

But one thing he actually grateful for, he actually told me, he said, I think you need to study the Book of Ecclesiastes. So what you’re getting right now is the results of my therapy. All right? But he also encouraged me to read this book. It’s called Ordering Your Private world, which I would say has been one of the most like, life wrecking in the best way possible books I’ve ever read.

It’s not about your organization. It’s about putting God in the rightful place he’s supposed to be.

And I’m doing a lot of self examination, a lot of frustrated prayer times, a lot of frustrated journaling.

And in my core nature and the way that I tend to process, I always struggle with I’m not enough. I’m not enough for my wife, I’m not enough for my kids. I’m not enough for you. I’m not enough for anybody.

But then I work so hard, do all the things, try to preach a really good sermon, stress out about whether or not these fonts are pretty enough, because I want you to like it.

It’s a lot of chasing after hevel and what God has been trying to get in my heart and my attention with all this stuff is that if I’m not secure in who I am in his eyes, then none of the outside stuff is going to ever fill it. All of my external things that I do, all the good sermons I preach, all the appointments I may set, the studying the Bible, I may do people I may share my faith with. It doesn’t matter because it’s not rooted in who I am in God.

It doesn’t matter to me. God still works. I want to close here at the end of Ecclesiastes, the part that I’m sure we know and have heard several times, it says, “Now all has been heard. Here’s the conclusion of the matter. Fear God and keep his Commandments. For this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

This book is a humbling book, and it’s good to read periodically, like the Book of Job. You don’t necessarily just go and read the Book of Job. You got to get ready for it. But I love this book because whoever the writer, whoever the wisdom teacher is, has experienced all that life has to offer. And at the end of it, he’s looking back and says, look, at the end of the day, you know what matters? God. Life is about Him. It’s not about your career, it’s not about your achievements, it’s not about your degrees, it’s not about your fun. It’s not about your life experiences. It’s about Him. He’s the only one that makes it have meaning.

And my grandfather, when my dad became a Christian, really struggled with his walk with God. Specifically when he made the decision he was going to leave medical school to go be in the Ministry full time. In the town that my dad grew up in, you became a Minister because you weren’t good at doing anything else. The Minister drove the bus for everybody else. So now my dad’s saying, I’m dropping out of medical school to be a minister.

So the course of my dad’s Ministry career in my grandfather’s life, this was a struggle in their relationship. On my grandfather’s deathbed, he told my dad, he said, look, what you’re doing is right.

And there’s a lot more about the conversation that I don’t know.

And my grandfather didn’t die a Christian. It’s something that I struggle with in my life. When you’re in school and they ask you who’s somebody from history you would have always wanted to meet. It was always my grandfather.

But at the end of my grandfather’s life, he couldn’t deny what a life worth living was.

So when I read the book of Ecclesiastes, when I read something like this, this has significance to me.

I don’t want to spend my life chasing after the wind.

My grandfather was a very successful man. There’s apparently a building in Denver named after him that I’ve never seen before. But in the end what does it matter?

As you examine your own life, I want you to consider. I want to ask you in humility to consider the chapter of life that you’re in and maybe what the chapter that you’re trying to pursue is next.

And in that, you got to ask yourself a question. This is for every single one of us in here and everybody online. Is God in his rightful place?

Is your why clear?

Or are you chasing vapor? We’re going to say prayer here and then we’re going to sing one more song to close out our service.

Father, I just want to thank you. So humbled, so grateful for your immense patience with us. God. That when we are pursuing the wrong things. When we’re pursuing empty things.

Father, you are gracious. Every single one of us, every single person that is an earshot of these scriptures, we have a chance to do something to recenter our life on what counts. I pray that we will not take these words lightly.

I pray that as these graduates, they move on to this next phase of life. Father, I’m so excited for them. I’m so eager to hear what the next few years becomes for them. And then the kind of men and women that they grow to become. But God, I pray that they will pursue what counts.

And I pray for all the rest of us. No matter what phase of life we are in, we will pursue you the way that we were made to. God, I love you. Thank you and its in your son Jesus name we pray.


Sacrificial Love

All right. Well, Church. How’s everybody feeling this morning?


All right. We’re gonna have a great time getting into the Word here together this morning. And I’m just so grateful that I get the opportunity to preach for our annual missions contribution. And if you’re visiting with us, like I said earlier, if you’re online, if you’re here with us in the room every year as a Church, we take up a special offering, one big, large amount to go towards God’s work in the world internationally, but also here locally. And I’m so proud to be a part of this Church, to be a part of the Orlando Church, but to be a part of the international Church of Christ.

This is a part of our DNA. It’s thinking about what’s beyond the doors of this room and what is in the world around us, the needs of those around us. And like I said earlier, this is one of the greatest things I think we get to do as disciples of Jesus. We may not feel that way exactly. And we’ll talk about that a little bit today, but we are at the time of year again, we are jumping into God’s work beyond the north region of Orlando. And I don’t know about you, but sometimes the offering and when we talk about it, we have the time of the service, it can feel a little bit like white noise. You get that sometimes? I’m the only one. Okay, fine. All of you righteous people, let me tell you about me, the sinner, okay?

That it can be really hard sometimes to feel like that this is just how we’re just supposed to give. And especially because it’s online, there’s not a physical plate anymore. You know what I’m saying? The plate has a stress that comes with it. Right? I remember when the transition first happened to getting online and the plate was still being passed around, and I would just feel so guilty as the plate was coming in front of me like, I have nothing. I have nothing. I know I gave. I promise I gave.

But it always helps my heart to consider why we do things, to ask those questions. Why do we give? So it’s not just an act of righteousness. It’s not just obey and give your money, okay? God wants our money.

God knows how dangerous money can be. We’re not talking about it that. We want to talk about why we give. Six years ago, we went to the Reach conference in St. Louis.

How many of you were there? Okay, good. Chunk of us. One of the main sessions in St. Louis was we were doing a discussion about as a Church, where are we at in our goal to reach the world?

And this booklet was passed out. Actually, I don’t know if you had to buy it or not. I have one. The ICOC Global Missions Reports. This is six years ago, it was an update of how are we doing in the world?

How are these foreign mission fields in particular doing? I think it was important for us as Americans to be able to see that there’s more going on. And if you don’t have this, you can actually download it for free. It’s online. Now, this was an important I remember this lesson for me because I have struggled at different times. I grew up in the 90s in our Church.

When we’re going to plant a Church in the city with 100,000 people, we were all about the out, the go, the go, the leave the go. And there was a part of me at different points when I got in high school and College, like, okay, do we still have that vision as a Church? There’s times I’ve been worried that we lost it. Now what I will say is reading through this, we haven’t. We may not see it the same way. We may not hear about it in the same way because we used to have a lot more videos that were put out.

Like this is all the things that God is doing. Even though we have social media and have every ability to hear about it, we are absolutely still making disciples of all Nations, Church. There’s still a dream to reach the world and continue the work of the Great Commission in Matthew 28. And I want to show you a page from the book because it goes through the 14 world mission societies that are around the world. And what you see highlighted there, those are our mission societies. That’s the Caribbean and South America, the Southeast Missions Alliance and stuff.

I hope that what you see here is that we are a part of something bigger. We are included in a much bigger thing that God is doing around the world. God is moving in phenomenal ways and that needs to encourage us, that needs to fill us with faith. But out of these mission societies, we’re responsible, like I said, for the Caribbean and for South America, specifically Argentina.

I messed up the thing again. Okay? In the Caribbean, we have twelve nations and 38 churches. All right? In Argentina, we have about five.

There might be more. It’s a little bit hard for me to figure that out online. Now over the years, the Orlando Church is not just given to these churches. We’ve given to Europe, to different countries in South America and Asia. We’ve helped to plant churches locally in Melbourne and in Claremont. And so I want to in a special way as a Minister in this Church, I want to say thank you to you guys here in the north region and how proud I am that we are a Church that thinks this way.

It’s not just about us. It’s not just finding a great building one day.

That’s not who we are. That’s not our goal. That’s not what we’re chasing after. We want to see God move throughout the world. Let me ask this.

How many of you have ever been in the foreign mission field? Either you’ve lived there or you visited. Anybody? All right, that’s awesome. So in California, where we were at for about twelve years, the Church that my wife and I were a part of out in California, the Middle East was our mission field. And six years ago, I had the awesome privilege of being able to take my wife and my daughter to the Middle East for 18 days.

We went to three different countries. We went to Dubai, we went to Lebanon, and we went to Jordan. And let me tell you, it was eye opening, it was humbling, it was faith building. It was inspiring. It was challenging and incredibly rewarding to be there.

And if you have the means, I want to implore you Church. If you’ve never visited a foreign mission field, you need to. You won’t ever question why we give an offering like this again. It has completely changed the way that I approach this kind of a service in this kind of a day. This isn’t a transaction. It’s not God collecting his annual tax from me.

This is something that I am giving to my brothers and sisters to help them spread the gospel. I have a few pictures I want to show you that are meaningful to me. This is Ala and Daniela. They’re a young couple out in Lebanon. He’s Syrian and he’s actually got a sister that’s a disciple out in California that we’re really close to because he’s Syrian, he’s never been able to leave Lebanon.

He’s not allowed to legally. And they are being trained up to be the next leaders in Beirut. They have a beautiful daughter. It’s been a crazy thing online. His sister finally got to go visit.

She left Lebanon and was never able to go back because she’s Syrian as well. But she got to go visit with her husband and daughter for the first time in I think, ten years this summer or a couple of months ago. We love Ala and Daniela. This is Manuel and Lilit. They’re an incredible couple.

That’s my two year old Payton right there. So they never wanted to have kids and they got to hang out with Payton and they were like, I think we need to try this. Now, they have their own child and they actually led a mission field. They’re in Armenia now. They left to go to Turkey to be able to lead their own Church.

It’s like nine people. This is Sammy and Fadia. They lead the Church in Iman, Jordan. Sammy has one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard because he was imprisoned in Iraq, beaten to the point where he couldn’t stand left the gates open. They said, if you can walk out, you can leave.

He has stories of writing scriptures on the wall with chicken bones so that he could read his Bible from memory. They’re an incredible couple. And my daughter just adored being with habibi sammy. That’s what she called them.

This is Jesse and Mufid. They leave the Church in Lebanon and they oversee the Middle East. We’re up in the Cedars of Lebanon. You can see some of those trees. There are older than a lot.

We’ll just say that. We’ll say they’re very old. Okay? And Mufid and Sammy were in competition for who loved Peyton more for most of the time that we were there.

I got to preach for the Church in Beirut, and they rent from a seventh day Adventist Church there. And while I was preaching, their power system is such a mess that in the middle of preaching, oftentimes the lights will just cut out. So the disciples would just pull out their phones and turn on their flashlights and we would just keep going. So this was that. This was me preaching about youth and family.

This one is very special to me. The man up there on the front, right there’s, my dad. But that’s a man named Daniel Bokman. Daniel was one of my first mentors when I was ten years old in Orange County, California. And I remember seeing him up on stage when I was a kid being sent to the Middle East.

I hadn’t seen him for 20 plus years. And then when I went to go visit Dubai, I got to see him again for the first time. So when I say visiting the foreign mission field changed me, I’m not giving to even a Church necessarily. I’m not just giving to God. I’m giving to people that I know that I love.

This morning, I want you to think about that word for a second, though. I want you to think about the word love. Man, my phone’s got all kinds of messed up. It’s supposed to look prettier. Just imagine it is, okay?

What does the word love mean to you? How do you live it out? I have a few quotes in scriptures for us. Love is not just a feeling. It’s a commitment and above all, a sacrifice.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s got some incredible quotes about love. This was one that stuck out to me. If my love is without sacrifice, it is selfish. Such a love as barter for there is exchange of love and devotion in return for something. It is conditional love.

And you all know Mother Teresa. If you really love one another, you will not be able to avoid making sacrifices.

Parents know that, right? To love your kids, you sacrifice sleep, money, energy, sanity.

Yes. And I’m right on that one. Then let’s go to the Bible. John 15:13. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Last one here. The most popular scripture in the entire world. People that don’t know the Bible have this one memorized. For God so loved the world he gave his one and only son.

What’s the common thread here? What are we learning about love from these quotes in the Scriptures? Real love comes from sacrifice. It requires sacrifice. So today our title is Sacrificial Love.

That’s supposed to say love. You get the idea. Let’s say a quick prayer here and we’ll get into it. Father, I just want to thank you so much for the opportunity to preach your word and to prepare our hearts for the act of giving that we’re going to do at the end of service here. God, I pray that you will soften our hearts, that you’ll help us to be in a state of honor of humility before your word this morning.

Please speak through me. Allow me to share what you want said and no more and no less, we love you. And thank you. It’s in your son, Jesus, name. Amen.

All right, today we’re going to be doing a study of Second Corinthians eight together. So turn your Bible over there. But it’s going to take us a little bit to get there because I want to give us some backstory. Okay? Paul is writing Second Corinthians. It’s a follow up letter, not just the First Corinthians. Actually, a lot of scholars believe there probably was a letter in between that we don’t have. But in chapter eight of Second Corinthians, he specifically refers to a special contribution. What you may not realize is that what we’re doing here today, this was done thousands of years ago. This is not some new thing for us.

And this special contribution was going to support the disciples in Jerusalem and Judea. Now I want to take you back to where that Church started. We’re going back to Acts 2, because this is important for us to wrap our head around in context. So in Acts chapter two, the first Sunday sermon ever preached that we know of, or at least biblically Peter preaches the message of Salvation. And how many people become disciples in one day? 3000. Most effective sermon ever, right?

I will never preach a sermon that good.

But to continue this story, in verse 45, it says that they stayed. The people that had gathered around from at least twelve different nations, the Jews that were coming in for the, not passover, the Pentecost service, they got baptized and almost all of them stayed. And it says that they stayed and they sold their property and possessions. This is what we love to use when we talk about Church, right?

What we actually don’t think about with this is as an evangelist, as a Church leader, this is kind of a good news, bad news situation. Okay? Good news. Thousands of people become Christians and every day more being added. Amen to the glory of Jesus.

But there’s a problem because now we have thousands of people to take care of who don’t have homes, who don’t have jobs, who need food.

So when we see they sold their property and possessions and gave to each other, we’re like man so faithful, but you’re kind of like. But they had to, to survive, to live, to eat, they had to sell everything. They had to figure out that they had to be a commune in its purest sense of the word, to take care of each other. And out of this, the first Church is born.

So the Church keeps growing. It keeps growing until Acts chapter seven, when Stephen is martyred and after he’s killed, it says that the Church is scattered. They leave from Jerusalem and head out to all the corners of the Earth. What we find out is that was actually God’s plan all along. God was going to use this tragedy, this faithful man’s death, to send his people around the world, to continue to really move the great Commission forward.

But there’s still a large contingency of people in Jerusalem. Now fast forward some years later to Acts chapter eleven. Paul is in Antioch, and there’s this Prophet, this guy named Agabus. And he says a very startling prophecy in verse 28, it says, one of them named Agabus stood up and through the spirit, predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. And this happened during the reign of Claudius.

Now, this scripture kind of hits a little bit different two years after Covid, right?

But as a result of this, this Prophet comes in and says, hey, guys, I know everything’s moving, but something is about to happen that we’re not ready for. It’s going to wreck everybody in the Roman world. And as a result of this famine, the Church had a ton of issues. There were a bunch of disciples there. They’re hit with a famine.

There’s food shortages. And then not only that, the Romans, being the Romans, decided that the best way to help people that can’t grow their own food anymore is to implore a double taxation. So imagine that. Imagine we’re at a time of inflation. You can’t get a job, you can’t grow your own food.

And the Romans come knocking on your door and say, Guess what? You owe double what you did last year.

The city was overpopulated. And not to mention, this was the Holy city of Judaism. So what that actually meant was there’s a lot of history to show this, that it was common for Jews to basically retire and move to Jerusalem. So they had a constant, steady stream of widows, elderly people, and just people that needed assistance. This Church needed serious help.

As a result, Paul and the other leaders are trying to get the other churches around to support Jerusalem. Verse 29 to 30, it says, the disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. So here we see the first official special missions offering 2000 years ago.

And this is not unlike what is happening around the world, but specifically our mission fields that we support in the Caribbean and Argentina right now, currently. Covid has had devastating effects on these countries. You think our lockdowns have been hard? We never had people in the streets trying to beat you to get back in your house.

They’ve had a much more wrecked economy through this. And our inflation is nothing compared to what some of these countries have been dealing with.

And we’ve heard about some of this because we’ve had some of these videos where they’ve been able to share with us. We’ve been able to talk to disciples that have come over to visit from Argentina. And although their circumstances have been challenging, what I love hearing is that they’re fighting to walk with God and be faithful.

They’re doing it still.

In 2 Corinthians, paul is petitioning the disciples to support the Church in Jerusalem with all of its challenges, and he’s petitioning them the way that we’re trying to support the Caribbean in Argentina. So I want you to turn with me to Two Corinthians, chapter eight.

Now, this verse or these verses, we’re very familiar with reading, they get read a lot for an offering talk. But I want us to consider that backdrop first before we dig into these scriptures. This is Paul not saying, let’s take up our weekly offering together. He’s saying, look, your brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and Judea, they need your help. Okay?

That’s where these verses come into play. 2 Corinthians, chapter eight, verse one. And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the Grace that God has given the Macedonian churches in the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty, welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able and beyond their ability entirely on their own. They urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.

And they exceeded our expectations. They gave themselves, first of all to the Lord and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of Grace on your part. But since you excel in everything, in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, and in the love we have kindled in you, see that you also excel in this Grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it to the earnestness of others.

We’ll read verse nine as well. For you know that the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that through you his poverty might become rich. Okay, so the first thing that Paul does here, it’s interesting. He doesn’t really do this in any of his other writings is to refer to another Church and how they gave. So think about that. As he is talking to this Church in Corinth, he says, Let me tell you about our Church in Macedonia, about your brothers and sisters there. And the first thing he points out about them is that they had a desire to give.

They wanted to give, and not just did they give. They gave out of a very severe trial and extreme poverty.

Now, the Greek for this when it says extreme poverty means extreme beggary. The image that gets into their head is that this Church is begging for bread. Okay? So think about that for a second. The Church in Macedonia had its own problems, lots and lots of them, apparently.

And think about how bad things must have been in Jerusalem for Paul to say that the Macedonians were in extreme poverty. Wrestle with that. The Macedonians were giving to Jerusalem, even though they were in extreme poverty. That means it was really bad in Jerusalem.

Now, you might feel poor, have experienced some poverty in your life. We’ve never experienced 2000 years ago extreme poverty. All right. If you’ve been raised in America, you’ve never experienced extreme poverty because there’s always programs available to you.

Now, in spite of this condition, look at what Paul said about them. It says that they had overflowing joy. They welled up in rich generosity, and they gave beyond their ability. Now, I don’t know how this scripture hits you, but this is incredibly convicting to me. He tells the Church he’s telling a Church that is rich and well off.

The Church in Corinth was very well off about a Church that is struggling with their own stuff. Matter of fact, they could have probably taken up a special missions contribution in Corinth for the Church in Macedonia.

So he tells this wealthy Church that, Let me tell you about your poor Church that is giving. And this Church in Macedonia is saying we need to give to our brothers and sisters. The word says they begged Paul.

Why was this such a big deal to this Church?

Now, I want to show you the God’s word version of this again in verse four. It says, they made an appeal to us, begging us to let them participate in the Ministry of God’s kindness to his Holy people in Jerusalem. What was it that stirred in the hearts of the Macedonian churches, this poor Church that needed help themselves?

It was compassion.

They cared about their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem and Judea. They cared about the work that needed to be done for them. What’s interesting about this is from the context we can maybe infer a little bit that Paul didn’t even ask them. How I envisioned this, this is me, this is not the Bible.

This is me. Let’s clarify. Is Paul saying, hey, I want to let you guys know what’s happening in Jerusalem and Judea. He’s visiting Macedonia and he goes, hey, guys, let me tell you about what’s happening in Jerusalem and Judea. And I just want to ask you guys to be praying for what God is going to do there. We’re going to go ask some of these other churches to give.

So be praying that God will help us support it. He’s probably fully aware of how much Macedonia is struggling. So he’s not saying, I want you guys to give. I picture him just saying, Just pray for him. All right, the Macedonian churches go, wait a minute.

What? No, we got to give too.

We’ll pray for them. Yes, God willing, let’s do that. But we’re going to give, too.

I lost my place. Give me a second. Sorry.

I imagine them saying, man, you got to let us help.

Now, I think about how I’ve counseled people in the past for special missions contribution. All right? Telling them, okay, give sacrificially, but be wise. And there have been situations where I’ve known people that have been in some tough situations. I say, Look, I think it’s still good to give.

Then God tells us that he wants to work in this, but be wise. Take care of yourself.

It says that these disciples were in extreme poverty, and Paul still took it. Like this reminds me, I remember hearing a lesson years ago about the widow with the two copper coins. All right? Now, that story should bug you on some level, especially if you love people. This woman came up and gave everything she had and Jesus let her.

If she just gave one coin, that still would have been 50%, Jesus could say, okay, give 50. Take that one. Go get yourself some food. Jesus, let her give it.

I’m not bold enough to ask that of any of you.

Paul, let this Church, this Church that was begging him to give, let them give what they could. And it probably wasn’t very much. In all honesty, they had extreme poverty. They gave more than expectation. But that may be like, hey, here’s $5 and here’s 50 instead.

It probably wasn’t very much, but still they took it.

Now, it was out of this spirit that God blessed what they did beyond expectation. Their compassion spurred them to do something, and it wasn’t about the money. God doesn’t care about the dollar amount. He controls every bank in the world. He doesn’t care about the amount of money we give.

He cares about our hearts to not be attached to money, and he cares about our hearts to care about other people.

Now, I want you to consider something about this. Macedonia is a Greek city run by Romans, and Jerusalem is a Jewish city that’s also ruled by Rome. But it’s over 1000 miles away.

This was the first century. They had no cell phones, no Zoom, no WhatsApp no Facebook. They had no way to be in contact with Jerusalem.

They probably never met any of them and probably never would.

They had no reason to give to this Church on their own. No reason.

And they were probably hearing this news about Jerusalem over months at a time, maybe even years. We don’t really know.

And then here’s the kicker. They had to trust somebody to hand deliver their offering across the sea a thousand miles away and trust that it would get there.

I got a question for you. Any of us who have gone through some struggles financially and poverty, okay? How many of you would feel great at the time where you are the most strapped financially, not just giving money like that, but giving money and trusting somebody to take it 1000 miles away to get it where it’s supposed to go and you would never hear about it again?

Nowadays, if we aren’t 100% sure of where our money is going, we usually don’t like to give, right? I’m that way. I want to research a company if I’m going to give some of my hard earned money, or maybe we go to the place of like, well, once I’m out of debt and not dealing with my own stuff, then I’ll give something.

Think about the faith and compassion that the Macedonian churches had to have in order to do this.

It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable. And they begged the Apostles to do it. They begged for this.

We’re living in one of the richest countries in the world, maybe one of the richest countries that’s ever existed, and we struggle to give a tithe sometimes. I think Church, we need to increase our faith because there’s another side of this, too. The Macedonian churches never met the disciples in Jerusalem more than likely. We know the people we’re giving to.

We know the churches. We’ve seen them. We’ve had midweeks and been taught by them. They’ve come to visit us. They’ve come to preach to us.

Some of you have gone to visit. We know who they are, how much more? That doesn’t even require this kind of faith.

And ultimately, Paul says at the heart that they had in verse five, you got to love this.

They weren’t about the expectation of others. Macedonia wasn’t comparing themselves to anybody else that says they gave first to the Lord. They knew ultimately, this is God’s. Whatever he chooses to do with this, we’re going to trust him with it. When our hearts are wrapped in giving to the Lord, let me tell you, compassion oozes out of you. This is actually the concept biblically of stewardship. It’s the understanding that every cent you have in your account right now, it’s not yours, it’s God’s. You’re just the manager of it. If it’s God’s money and you think about the things that God cares about, then you can’t not have compassion.

There’s a lot of double negatives I apologize.

And here’s the other side of this, too. God always wants to reward and bless people who honor him first and foremost, especially with their money. I want to clarify, this is not prosperity gospel that I’m talking about. This is not gift to God $5 and he gives you $50. But I will say I have plenty of examples of people who do give sacrificially and God goes, okay, I know what they’re going to do with this, so I’m going to trust them with more.

Or maybe it’s God taking care of us in ways that aren’t financial. Maybe it’s just a blessing. Maybe it’s something that you will never know until you get to heaven.

It’s one of the only things in the Bible where God says, hey, I want you to test me in this. Test me with what you give and how you give. Watch what I can do with it. And I want to say again, Church, thank you. Hopefully this has not come across like I’m beating anybody over the head.

That’s not what this is. Sincerely, with all my heart, thank you. For those of you that have been giving for years and years and years, thank you. Thank you. We will never know the extent that God is doing with a day like this.

I like to imagine you kind of picture what heaven is going to be like at times. I hear a lot about the viewing room where God gets to show you parting the Red Sea and all that different stuff, right? But imagine that there’s a moment up in heaven where God goes, hey, I want to show you where your money’s going. Let me show you what I did with it. Let me show you where I took it.

Let me show you who it helped. Let me show you the ends of the Earth that this traveled. As we’re talking here, I know that maybe some of you are even thinking, I have nothing to give. I’m a poor College student. I’m in high school. I have no job.

Maybe you’ve got health issues that cost a lot of money. Maybe you’re drowning in school debt or maybe debt from poor choices, right? That’s life. We’ve all been there, most of us. One of the things I love about this time of the year, though, is hearing what God has done and what God continues to do in a time where things are not perfect.

And like I said, I want you to imagine I want you to imagine what God is going to tell you one day in heaven, the things that are beyond us, the things that we will never hear about, the stories that we can’t hear about.

As we’re wrapping up here the interesting thing about this passage that we talked about, how Paul was sharing to the Church in Corinth about the hearts and spirit of another Church. He doesn’t do this very often. Like you think of the Berean story in act 17, right? It says that the Bereans were more Noble character than the Thessalonians. The Bible doesn’t usually do like this is how this Church did compared to this Church.

I think Paul was trying to stir the hearts of the disciples. Not by himself, not by let me preach at you. Let me give you orders to give more because you’re more financially well off. But I think he’s trying to use the hearts and faith of another Church to stir the hearts of those that were not in the same kind of financial situation. I don’t know if you caught it, but in verse eight, he does something very specific there.

He says, look, I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with another Church.

Think about that for a second. What if Paul was writing to the Church in Orlando, to us? He says, I want to test you, north region of Orlando Church of Christ. How would we stack up? How would you stack up? Would we have the sacrificial love that we’re talking about here today?

Again, the point of this guy is, I hope you know, I’m not trying to make anybody feel guilty. I’m not trying to squeeze blood from a stone from you. If you are not financially, whatever. We’re going to pray for our offering in just a moment. And real quick, the way is to give you can go online to our website.

You can use our Church app. We will have a box right here up on stage. If you have a check or cash or something like that that you would like to give when service is over, you can come up and drop that in the box. And if you’ve already given, I’m not trying to get you to give more. Please hear me in that and trust my heart with this.

If you have given already, I want to ask you to pray that the worship, the desire to see God do didn’t stop when you clicked the button that we will pray for how God will use what we are giving.

Last year it was so encouraging. We gave far beyond what we were expecting to give for our world missions. And God has been using it. The stories keep coming. I think we’re probably going to hear some more next week.

And if you can’t give today, we still have a few weeks before we’re going to gather what we’re actually going to send out. So you can still give it online. But we are giving first to God, Church. Not to the Orlando Church of Christ, not to the Caribbean, not to Argentina. We are giving first to God, and we’re giving it to the work that he’s doing within our brothers and sisters. We have no idea how far reaching our sacrifice will be and how God will use it.

And if you’re visiting with us, I’m not trying to compel you to give either. If you would like to don’t feel any obligation but we are grateful if you do. Let’s say a word of prayer and we’re going to end our service.

Father, I do just want to thank you so much.

Thank you for your belief in us Father thank you for the ways that you challenge our hearts that you lead us to a place of Holiness that you desire for us even when it comes to our money to think differently than the world does about it. And God, thank you for how you’ve used the Orlando Church over the years to do work here locally in the Caribbean and other places. Father thank you for where our dollars have already gone to. God, I want to ask you right now in this time here Father, that you’ll be with what we give to you. That it will come out of an understanding of us giving first to you and then to see the work that you will do with it. God I pray for our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean in Argentina. I pray that you will instill them with faith and not just the money that we sent to them but got the faith to see your work being done in South America and in these parts of the world.

Help them to be faithful stewards of what is sent. God thank you for the hearts of everybody here today. We love you. Thank you for being able to participate in this Grace of giving. In Jesus name we pray Amen you.

Palm Trees & Perfume

All right, so we’re starting over. So I asked Stephen and Cosi to share the same passage. It’s not often that we will necessarily start in the same place for Communion and offering, but like I was saying in the welcome, I wanted to start off our sermon with the beginning of Passion Week, with that anointing, because that story at Mary and Martha’s house is where Passion Week, the Holy Week, begins. And this anointing was such a profound act of worship to Jesus. And I love the idea that we even today, 2000 years later, we get to humbly participate in acts of worship every Sunday through things like our offering and our Communion, through our singing, through our fellowship.

All these things are these acts of worship and praise that we come to him with every week. It’s also significant that this act of worship wasn’t met with the praise necessary that you would have expected from the people around him. They were struggling. His disciples, his followers were struggling with how they thought maybe Jesus should have been praised.

The ones closest to them missed the point, which I don’t know about you, but when I read the stories in the Bible, in the Gospels of the disciples just not quite making the connections, I feel a little bit of solidarity with that. Go, okay. I can be a mess, too. I can be standing in the presence of Jesus and still not get what he’s saying.

John tells us that the next day after that anointing in Bethany is when Jesus enters Jerusalem for what we call the triumphal entry, where he’s going to be met with shouts of Hosanna. But it begs the question for us this morning that we are going to discuss together in the Scriptures, how does Jesus want to be worshiped? The title of our sermon this Palm Sunday that got it up is Palm Trees and Perfume. You can kind of see it in there. It’s buried in there.

It’s kind of like a word search. All right, let’s say a prayer. God, I want to thank you so much for the opportunity to be in your presence, Father. Even when things aren’t going quite right, the sound is messing up. The presentations aren’t working.

My clicker maybe stops. Your Bible is still true. We still get to be here in your presence, Father. I pray that you will move away the distractions. Help us to be present with you right now as we dig into your word together.

We love you, in your son, Jesus’s name we pray. Amen. Why don’t you turn your Bible over to Luke, chapter 19?

You’re going to need either a physical Bible or on your phone. I’m not going to give you a lot of scriptures. We’re going to be in the story here together.

When you pick up in verse 28, it says, after Jesus had said this, he went ahead going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethpage and Bethany at the Hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples saying to them, Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt there which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, why are you untying it? Today the Lord needs it. Those who were sent ahead went and found it, just as he told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, Why are you untying the colt? Fair question. If this is your donkey, right?

They brought it to Jesus. He said. They replied, The Lord needs it, and that’s enough. They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and put Jesus on it as he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

When he came near where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen. Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord, peace in heaven and glory in the highest. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, Teacher, rebuke your disciples. I tell you, he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.

Let’s pause there.

So the story of the triumphal entry starts off with a detail that we’re probably all pretty familiar with. Even if you’ve not been to Church, you probably heard the story of Jesus coming riding in on a donkey. This part of the story is actually so familiar to us, we’ve succumbed a little bit to what’s known as the lullaby effect, where you hear something so much, you know, in detail that you’ve heard so much that you miss a significance. We just kind of, yeah, Jesus, donkey, whatever. Right?

First of all, let’s take note here of how incredibly subtle it is when the Bible announces the things of Jesus that are clearly of God. Right? Like, how would he know, hey, you guys go on up ahead and you’re going to see a donkey, he’s going to be up there. And when the gospels is like, it’s just kind of right there off to the side, ready to go, and somebody’s going to come up to you and talk to you. And when they ask you about it, just say, hey, the Lord needs it.

Why would Jesus know that? Unless there’s some omnipotence, there’s some God pieces tied in there, right? But again, it’s just quickly like, oh, yeah, just no big deal. Jesus was on a donkey. No, he said it was going to happen before it happened.

So we get a nice little subtle window into the power of God that Jesus has. Right? But then secondly, this is actually significant. All four Gospels make sure to say something about this donkey. They make it a point.

Now, all four gospel writers, they have very different audiences. If you’ve not been akin to kind of studying the significance of each of the Gospels, they’re writing to very different people, but all four of them, even though there are some stories that they may leave out from their audience, it’s like, no, everybody needs to know about this donkey. Okay? And all three, for some reason, Luke is the only one that doesn’t.

But all the other three Gospels want to make it very clear to us that this story, this donkey detail, is a callback to something in the Old Testament. In Zechariah nine, verse, nine to ten, it says, Rejoice greatly, daughter Zion, shout Daughter Jerusalem, see your King comes to you righteous and victorious, lowly or humble, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and all the war horses from Jerusalem. The battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the Earth.

This story, this detail, is significant. 600 years before this, God used the Prophet Zechariah to mention that this detail, this donkey colt, was going to be God’s announcement to his people that your Messiah, your King, has come.

Jesus was fulfilling, as you see in the book of Matthew, one of the many prophecies that would unfold in this one week to prove to God’s people that he was the real deal. The book of Matthew, if you didn’t know, was written to a primarily Jewish audience. And he uses a lot of the same phrases. Something similar to this was written to fulfill this, that he wanted to make very clear to the Jews, look, this is who you’re waiting for. This is our King.

This is our Savior.

So this little note, this little donkey thing was 600 years in the making to tell us, guess what? The one we’re waiting for, it’s him. He’s going to rule. He’s going to bring peace.

So this day in Luke 19, this is the day of the big reveal. For the three years of Jesus’ministry, he’s been telling the crowds, his disciples, his Apostles, to keep it quiet who he was. It’s not time yet. When he questioned Peter, said, who do people say that I am?

Well, who do you say? He said, we believe that you are the Son of God. He said, okay, let’s keep that down for a minute, because he knew the moment that people started proclaiming that he’s this, things were going to change.

But the time is now.

And this is a contrast to the Romans. Here Pilate, when he would have come into Jerusalem, would have ridden in on a big white stallion with all the pomp and circumstance that Rome could show, to show off their force, to show off their money, to show off their power, their influence, to let the Jews know who they were. And here’s our King, the King of the Kingdom of God not coming on a white stallion, but a junior donkey humble, showing that, look what you’re looking for in a King? I’m going to be a different version of it.

This is also an announcement to his people. Guys, I’m here. It’s time to get started. The change is coming. We’re in it now.

The Kingdom of God is happening in your presence.

Like I said earlier, John actually tells us this passage that even as he’s riding in on a donkey, the audience seems to get it on some level, but it tells us that the disciples didn’t understand it. So they didn’t get it until later, until after Jesus had been resurrected. What this significance was. But I want us to picture this scene for a minute. Jesus coming strutting in on a donkey.

And this is not a mule. This is not a big horse like animal. This is something that maybe his feet were kind of dragging on the ground as this donkey came in. Maybe he’s waddling with them because he may not be strong enough yet. Who knows?

This donkey had never been ridden before. As he’s coming into town, his disciples, not the twelve, the ones that have been following him and witnessing these miracles, start shouting, wait, we know this. This is Zechariah. Guys, come on, let’s get our palm fronds. Let’s start laying our cloaks on the ground.

They’re laying the best red carpet that they can for a donkey to walk on in the dirt.

I mean, just picture that scene of Jesus coming in on a donkey as these giant palm fronds. I have some Florida palm fronds right here. Best we could do. It’s not, probably not what they’re waving, but they’re waving these palm fronds, which some scholars tell us probably a sign of victory.

That, look, it’s time the King is here. You know what? This is significant about this, too. Jesus is finally getting the praise due to him.

His disciples start a commotion, and it draws attention. John tells us that the people who heard about Lazarus’s resurrection, Lazarus was a figure at this time. They’re like, man, did you hear about the guy that Jesus raised from the dead? Let’s go. So that crowd starts showing up.

Luke tells us that people who had witnessed his miracles, maybe the healing of the blind people, what had happened just in the week before, they start showing up like, man, maybe he is it. But not just that. This is the Passover week. That means Jews are flocking in from all over the known world to celebrate this festival.

So this crowd starts growing the fever pitch. You can imagine the emotion, the excitement.

All this also draws the attentions and Pharisees as well. Why are all these people. Why are all these Jews coming over to, oh, we know what’s going on here.

John MacArthur calls this the crowd of the committed, the curious and the combatants.

Because the Pharisees get what’s happening. They get that Jesus is doing this, and some scholars even think it might have been possibly even the same day as pilots showing up to Jerusalem. So on one side of Jerusalem, Pilots coming in on a white horse. On the other side of Jerusalem, Jesus is coming in on a donkey.

So maybe the Pharisees are going, Jesus chill out. The Romans are going to chill out. But I think more significantly, the Pharisees were like, you really think you’re this?

You know what doing this is going to mean to us, right? Tell your disciples to knock it off because you’re a blasphemer if you’re saying this. But Jesus’s response to these Pharisees is powerful. I tell you that if these ones aren’t going to shout it out, the stones are going to cry out. You’re not going to stop this. Now, there’s a sermon in that statement alone.

The more that I studied this, I was like, wow, there’s so much happening here in this that’s another day. But the idea is that Jesus is not keeping quiet anymore. I don’t care if the Romans catch on. I don’t care if you or the Sadducees. I don’t care who’s catching on.

It’s time for people to know who I am.

His time had come, and guess what? He had to schedule to keep. Because he had an appointment with a cross on Friday.

You think that a worship service of this magnitude Would be just in line with what Jesus wanted, right? Jesus is like, yes, they get it. They understand that I’m the King. I’m Messiah. But let’s keep reading together.

Verse 41. As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, if even you had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground. You and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.

As I was studying this, I definitely was struck. It’s hard not to be when you read these words, thinking there are people that are shouting his praises, singing Hosanna, all the other Gospels say, and his responses, you guys just don’t get it. This is not a celebration. I’m crying over here.

He looks out at these people waving these palm fronds that R.C. Sproul says could have even been called hosannas, symbolizing victory. They’re thinking, our King is here. He’s going to rescue us from the Romans. He’s going to save us all. But this is that he weeps.

Now, in the new testament, there are three Greek words for weep, and this one here translates to wail and mourn. This is a heaving sorrow that’s that I’m going to throw up. I’m crying so hard. Jesus is on a donkey as people are praising him and he’s trying not to Puke out of his sorrow.

That begs the question for us, why would this great worship service, why would Jesus respond like this?

His response to this is, guys, if you would only know on this day what would bring you peace, but it’s hidden from you now. What Jesus is saying here is they missed the point.

They were worshiping the Messiah that they wanted, not the Messiah that Jesus was.

Their version of a King was a conquering hero, a son of David with a sling and a sword, ready to reclaim Jerusalem and drive these evil Romans back to where they came from, to end their oppression, to bring peace through war. That’s what they expected.

I mean, for three years, they weren’t listening to what Jesus was telling them.

He wasn’t going to be bringing peace with his sword, but was suffering.

He wasn’t bringing judgment on Rome, but all mankind and specifically the Jews that are there in Jerusalem. His message after he weeps is not good things are coming. He’s like, you guys don’t know the judgment that is coming to you.

He was going to be an offering of atonement.

And much of this same crowd, the ones that are waving these palm fronts and laying their cloaks down and shouting Hosanna, probably crying and weeping themselves, thinking it’s finally here would be shouting, crucify him before the week ended, because Jesus hadn’t met their expectations of Messiah.

And in the crowd, the committed, the curious and the combatants, almost all of them had their moments where they missed who Jesus was because they were too focused on what they wanted him to be.

Before we leave this passage here, we have to note how amazing that God is in this fulfillment, though. Jesus is coming in in a celebratory moment, a celebration that ended in weeping. He was coming in on the week of Passover. Why? Because he was the perfect fulfillment. He was the Passover lamb. The way that thousands of years ago at the Exodus, they had offered a sacrifice of a lamb and smeared the blood on the doorframe so that the spirit of God would pass over and save their families.

He’s coming in thousands of years later representing, saying, I am this lamb. I am coming to spare you from yourselves, to spare you from the judgment that is due you.

How perfect God’s timing is.

Bible actually tells us the very next thing Jesus did after this was he went to the temple.

Mark says that he went into the temple, but it was too late. So he went home and then came back the next day. Luke just says he went into the temple. Why? To drive out the money changers. The story we love about Jesus getting angry, right?

We can be angry. We can be angry like Jesus. We can flip some tables, right? There’s a way to do it I haven’t figured it out yet. So if you’ve figured it out, you can come find me and tell me afterwards.

But he’s there at the temple to drive out the money changers and stir up the Sadducees. And I’ve shared this before. Contrary to popular belief, the Pharisees weren’t the ones that got Jesus killed. Some scholars even think the Pharisees might have been trying to save Jesus life. It was the Sadducees, the chief priests, the ones who were in charge of the temple.

They were the ones that got Jesus killed. And Jesus is now in their territory to cause a scene. Flipping over tables, taking away one of their ways to make money and skim a little off the top for themselves. Because the money changers is where people would come and bring their foreign currency to buy sacrifices. That the Sadducees were the ones that raised and set the prices on it to make an offering that the Sadducees had to deem is acceptable.

There’s so much in this lesson in that moment about justice. But here’s where this ties in for us today. He’s flipping over the money changers tables. He’s going in there to clear out the temple because the temple is where you go to make a sacrifice. So the first thing Jesus does in Jerusalem is I have to get my father’s house ready for my sacrifice.

I have to clear it of its corruption. I’ve got to deal with the mold, the scum, the disease that is infested my people. This place that is supposed to be a place of prayer, a place of worship, a place that honors my father. A place where the foreigners can come in and celebrate. They’ve turned it into a den of robbers.

He was ready in God’s temple for his sacrifice as the Passover lamb. We’re going to start landing the plane here. I want you to turn your Bible over to Mark 14. As we read this, I’m just going to give you a warning here. We’re going to read a story that’s going to feel a lot like deja vu today.

Okay, pick up in verse one. Now, the Passover in the festival of unleavened bread were only two days away. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. But not during the festival, they said, where the people may riot. While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume made of pure NARD.

She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor and they rebuked her harshly. Leave her alone, said Jesus. Why are you bothering her?

She’s done a beautiful thing to me. The poor. You will always have with you. And you can help them any time you want, but you will not always have me. She did what she could.

She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the Gospels preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.

Again, you may be thinking, Jake, we already read this passage twice today, right? You’re wrong. There’s actually a lot of debate around Jesus being anointed. Some scholars think it was just once. And all the Gospel writers are telling the same story, just little bit different details, but actually a significant amount of commentators and Bible theologians, especially that as I’ve dug in the last few weeks here, they actually suggest that Jesus was anointed twice in the same week.

Now, I want to encourage you to study it for yourself. I always want to encourage you guys. Man, when it comes to this stuff, it’s good to dig in the Bible yourself. Okay? I’ve done a lot of study on this.

So for our purposes today, no matter what you think, if you think we’re just telling the same story for our purposes today, we’re going to read this as a second anointing. In the book of John, it was Mary. At Mary and Martha’s house with Lazarus and the other disciples there. The Bible tells us, was six days before Passover, she wept, poured the oil on Jesus feet, wiped her tears and oil with her hair in humble gratitude. Here the Bible tells us we’re two days away from Passover and we’re at Simon the Lepers house with many of his disciples present.

And this unknown sinful woman walks in. Part of why some scholars think if it was Mary, if it was the same story, then they would have told us it was Mary.

But in a remarkably similar fashion. She pours expensive perfume, this time on Jesus head. And there’s some things to even suggest that this perfume, this NARD, was something that a woman was given as a gift from her family, that this was saved for her wedding day, a year’s wages to prepare her to become a wife one day. And she’s breaking her once in a lifetime jar of perfume on our Savior.

She doesn’t pour it on his feet, she pours it on his head.

Now, what’s striking in this story is if this happened twice, six days before Passover and two days before Passover in one week, that meant the disciples experienced the same exact thing twice.

But guess what happened? They still don’t get what’s happening. I mean, this is almost copy and paste, right? This is much like when Jesus fed the 5000 and then shortly after fed the 4000, it’s like the exact same story. And they’re like, Dude, where are we going to get food from?

Dude, weren’t you just there? We just did this.

They forgot who he was, what he was capable of, or how they were supposed to worship him on a regular basis. But we can’t miss what Jesus says here in these verses. I’m going to read it again in verse six to nine. Because the disciples rebuke this woman who’s anointing Jesus harshly. I don’t even know what that means exactly.

Leave her alone, said Jesus. Why are you bothering her? She’s done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want, but you will not always have me. She did what she could.

She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly, I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her. This woman here and Mary a few days earlier, they seemed to get it.

All those people at the gates of Jerusalem offering shouts of praise because I believe what they thought Jesus was going to be doing for them as King.

But Jesus wasn’t looking for a party, from people who thought that he fit their plan.

This woman came behind closed doors in humility to give the very best that she could in honor to him.

I’m going to read it again. Jesus said, when the gospel is preached around the world, she is going to be mentioned. When you hear about me, when you hear about God, you’re going to hear about her and what she is doing right now.

You’re not going to hear about the people who give a big Easter service with great music. You’re not going to hear about the palm fronds. I think this is the first time on a Sunday I think I’ve ever actually celebrated Palm Sunday. It’s kind of a weird thing to say as I’m preaching this, but I don’t know that Jesus necessarily wanted to commemorate this all that much.

So it’s not the big Easter service we’re going to have next week. It’s not the colors, the decorations. It’s not the pomp and the circumstance. Jesus said, this unknown woman that Matthew describes as a sinful woman.

She’s going to be remembered because she gets it. I don’t think Jesus was rejecting praise. I think he was looking for someone who seemed to understand self sacrifice.

He had come to be the sacrifice, and he told his disciples from the very beginning, if you’re going to come and follow me, well, guess what? You better be ready to lay it down. I don’t want churchgoers. I don’t want palm fronds. I want people that are ready to deny themselves and take up their cross because that’s where I’m going.

This woman gave the very best that she could in her act of sacrifice. Jesus called this beautiful. He called the glorious triumphal entry a reason to weep. That makes me as a Minister in this Church, as we’re getting ready for Easter next week, that stays with me.

I don’t want to miss this. We’re working on some great music and an awesome service, something we want to remember, something we want to bring our friends and family to as we celebrate the Resurrection. I don’t want to miss this. As we close, I have a question for us to wrestle with.

Are we worshiping Jesus as the Messiah or the Messiah that we want him to be?

Because Jesus is not looking for some do gooder rule followers who show up on Sundays, who read their Bible and say their bedtime prayers but forget what it means to have a relationship with God, a relationship with a purpose, with a mission. He’s also not interested in beautiful songs. In the Book of Amos, he says, Get rid of your noisy songs. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care how talented you are.

I don’t want to hear it because he’s not interested in emotional alchemy. He’s not interested in the tears in the hands if it doesn’t translate into a love for God and a love for others.

Jesus is offering us peace through a life of submission and selfsacrifice, not selfimprovement. Jesus is not here for you to be a better you. Get that out of your head. Our world preaches that. That. It’s about living your passions, chasing your dreams, having your ideal house, car, hustle investment, your ideal significant other.

Jesus said, I’m not here for that. I’m here for a life that’s going to cost you everything.

But if you’re like me, you wrestle not just with a version of Jesus, but a version of Christianity that may know this to be true. You may know that this is about selfsacrifice. You remember reading Luke Nine and Luke 14 when you were studying the Bible that I am here to give up everything for Christ.

But you still think that God owes you something.

You still think that means if I’m giving you everything God, then it means that my kids are going to make it. It means that my bank account is never going to be thin.

It means that I’m going to get the career that I’ve always wanted. I’m going to get the house that has no septic problems.

One of my mentors in the faith, John Mannel, an elder out in Kansas City, quoted something years ago that I’ve never forgotten, that whenever we struggle in life, it’s because we think we deserve a life more than what Jesus had.

If ever we’re wrestling with who Jesus is and who God is because we think we deserve more than our Savior.

Is our worship, Church, not just on Sundays? Is the worship of our lives, is it going to be a palm branch or perfume?

Jesus wept over one. He called the other beautiful. Let’s close in a word of prayer.

Father God, I am so humbled. Humbled that I even get to stand up here right now to preach these words. God so humbled for the life that we get to live. So humbled that your son has been so immensely patient with me.

God that I’ve had the attitudes of the curious I’ve had the attitudes of his committed followers who just seem to just miss the boat who thought that what you want from me is not what you actually want.

God I pray that this year this Holy Week and not because of a holiday not because of what it says on a calendar, God but because of who you are. Because of who Jesus was. Because of what we get to have in a life with you. God I pray that we will not miss the worship you desire.

I pray that what we will offer you will be like these two amazing women who understood that there’s something going on here. There’s a sacrifice involved in our lives for you, God and I pray that for those of us that have been Christians that have been disciples of Jesus followers for years, Father, we won’t forget that sacrifice we won’t dismiss our self denial and taking up our own cross for the sake of comfort and what we think we’re owed at this point of our lives. God I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the ways that I’ve done this I’m sorry for the ways I’ve led your Church to this. God forgive us. Thank you so much for your forgiveness. In your son Jesus name we pray Amen.