What To Do When You Are Stuck Between Reality And The Dream

[waves crashing] – We’re in a series called
Journey To Christmas, and as we make our journeys
towards Christmas this season, we’re taking a journey of
ourselves to some different cities from Biblical Israel that
will help us remember what’s important this Christmas season. And today we’re in the
ancient city of Caesarea. Caesarea was the center
of Roman power in Israel. Its very existence was a
reminder that God’s people were ruled by a foreign king. The harbor was one of
the primary entrances into the land. Those who would journey to Judea by boat likely came through here. And for many, Caesarea was
the end of their journey, but for Jews who were coming
back to the promised land, it was yet another
reminder that the Messiah hadn’t come yet. [dramatic music] Yo, Herod built Caesarea to honor Augustus and to reflect the power
and the might of Rome. To see Caesarea at the time
was to see the glory of Rome expressed in full by one of Israel’s greatest builders, Herod. And yet in a city not far
from here called Bethlehem, another king came and displayed His power. And He did it in the form of the baby. ♪ Shall come to thee, O Israel ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ – You know, two things strike me about this place of Caesarea. Number one is that Jesus
viewed and expressed power a lot differently than
our world does today. There’s a lot we can learn from that. But, you know, the other
thing that’s striking to me about Caesarea is it’s the
very place where the Gospel came to the Gentiles. In Acts chapter 10, there’s
a centurion named Cornelius, and God appeared to him
in the form of an angel. And God brought Peter to him, and Peter explained
the Gospel to Cornelius and his family. And the Bible says that
all of his family was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. See, this good news that we’re looking at this Christmas season, it’s
not just for the insiders, it’s not just for those
who have their lives all figured out or all put together; it’s the good news that’s for everybody. Yo, many, many people
journey to and from Caesarea, but in the New Testament,
it’s never anyone’s ultimate destination; it’s a powerful reminder that
this world is really full of amazing and wonderful things. But as we journey through it, we need to remember that this is not our ultimate destination or home. ♪ O Israel ♪ – Well, good morning. – [Congregation] Good morning. – Isn’t that beautiful? We just were there a few weeks ago, and the video team does such a great job. People have asked me, “When can I go?” Well, if you want information,
we don’t have a trip set up yet, but we will pretty quickly. If you would like information,
go to seacoast.org/israel and they’ll give you the
latest information about that. So I wanna welcome the campuses, say Merry Christmas to you, and hope that you are
in the Christmas spirit. Those of you who are watching
around the world online, we’re glad that you’re here too. Yesterday, Debbie and I were out, doing a little shopping. She was shopping, I was complaining. [congregation laughs] So we stopped and had lunch, and during lunch we were
each reading our phones. When you’ve been married as long as us, you can do that. I mean, it’s social interaction. There’s only so many words you can say then you go right to the phone, and so we’re reading the phones. And I was just reading the news, and I saw this story. Did anybody else see the story yesterday? There’s a lady, apparently,
she’s doing some Christmas shopping and true story in Texas. And she went to check her
bank balance on her phone, and the bank had apparently made a mistake and had deposited $37
million into her account. [faint voices talking] Anybody wanna know the name of the bank? [congregation laughs] It’s called Legacy
Texas Bank, I like that. $37 million. The story says, for her brief
moment as a millionaire, [congregation laughs] gives her name, she daydreamed about ways she would have spent the money. I love this. She said, “First I was gonna
do the tithe thing, the 10%.” I thought, “Yes!” Maybe she’s a Seacoaster online in Texas. [congregation laughs] We love you. [congregation laughs] Then she was gonna donate
some money to other things and she would have invested the rest. The problem is she told her husband, and her husband says, “You
better call the bank.” And she called the bank and sure enough, it wasn’t their money. They were hopin’ that there
was a long lost relative that had just deposited there. Have you ever had that dream? – [Man] Yeah. – But she’s hoping that
maybe they’ll give her a be-nice fee. How many of you believe that that’ll leave a little somethin’ in that bank for– – [Man] Yeah, it can be something. – Two or three, the
rest of you are bankers or work in a bank? [congregation laughs] That’ll leave a little bit there. Well, your bank probably
didn’t make a $37 million error this year, but would you
agree, we’re all blessed. We are blessed. We can look around and we say, “God has blessed us in so
many ways in our families.” And I wanna take just
a minute before I get into the message. I wanna talk to you
about the legacy offering that many of you have, you’ve
already gotten emails on and may have some communication on. Let me just explain it real quickly. Legacy is about what we leave behind. It’s more about what we
invest in the future. I remember last year, our legacy offering was
about this building. We were trying to get in here, we’re challenging everybody to pray and see what God would say in my life, and I did that as we’ve
done this year also. But we gave toward this building. And every time I drive by here, I think about legacy. I think about how this
place is gonna be here long after I’m gone. Decades and decades and decades. Generations will come to this place. They’ll come to know Christ. Their marriages will be
whole, receive healing here. And partially, because I and
you invested in something that leaves beyond, that’s
what legacy is about. We explained how the
money works at Seacoast. We operate on a budget. We have a trustee board of
wise business people here that help us to manage he funds. And we live on the
offerings of the people, the regular tithes and offerings
that you give every week go toward buildings and people. And then also, and ministry. And also, out of there, we
designate about $2 million to go toward our local,
global, national mission outside of this place. And these things like,
they were telling me that today there will be 100,000 people that will drink clean
water because of the wells and those types of things that
you guys have invested in. You didn’t even know it, some of you. It comes out of your offering. [congregation applauds] Over a half million people
in underserved countries have received medical care because of the medical mission trips and the clinics that we’ve built in several different places. And that’s just happening right now behind the scenes because of your giving, and just our budgeting toward that. Today there will be approximately
half a million people, maybe a little bit more that will worship in a life-giving church
that’s been planted through Ark over the last 20 years. And a percentage of what you
give is budgeted toward that. And that’s exciting to me. And on and on and on. Did you know that about 1,700 prisoners in South Carolina are watching right now and watch every weekend our services? And soon if we can make it happen, soon, every prison in South Carolina’s gonna be live streaming Seacoast Church. And we think that’s a good thing. [congregation applauds] So we budget that. But what we do once a year
is we have a legacy offering, which is outside the budget. It’s like, if you’re
already giving gift, okay? But if you say, “God, You
have blessed us this year,” or maybe in faith you’re saying, “God, I believe You’re gonna bless us,” and then you pray and say,
“God, I wanna give above “and beyond so that we can do even more.” In fact my goal, now, this
isn’t the leadership team, it’s just me. I thought it might freak them out. But my goal is that we
match the $2 million that we already give away,
maybe do $4 million this year with addition to the Legacy Offering. That sound good? [mumbles] Nobody’s as excited as I am. Okay, good. And the good news is there’s
already a tithe on that that’s come in. Over $200,000 has already come
in in the Legacy Offering. This will be clearly
for the end of the year. But let me show you how
it works real quick. If you were to go to the
website, seacoast.org, is it up? Do we hae it up there? Can we get it up there? There it is. Okay. If you went to the website,
seacoast.org/legacy, you would see this. And it talks a little bit
about the Legacy Offering, and what’s goin’ on. And we try to do in our projects, we’re not just haphazard. We’re trying to get the
biggest kingdom ROI, return on investment that we can. And so we’re lookin’
for partners and places. In fact, like the church planting of the 900 churches just
about that we planted over the last 20 years, they will give $30 million
to world missions this year. And our investment hasn’t been that big, but the kingdom ROI is huge, and that doesn’t even include
lives that have been changed. But we also know that people’s hearts are moved toward different things, right? Some people are excited about buildings, and other people are excited
about next generation kids. And some people are excited
about local missions, and some are global, or national missions. And so we have what we call Legacy Lanes for all of those. There’s Seacoast Projects. You can see that. Next Generation, which
has to do with projects for children for our special
needs classes are one-by-one. We’re gonna expand that into
some of our other campuses for those with special needs. We wanna do that. And also Seacoast, the college, Southeastern University at Seacoast, there’s some things
that we wanna do there. Local Missions, which are
all of our local partners; and National Missions,
which is church planting and leadership development. In fact, let me read you a
few statistics about pastors. 4,000 new churches start
each year in America, okay? We’re a part of that. ‘Cause we think church
planting is the best means of just seeing our country
just experience God. But 7,000 churches close
each year in America. 70% of pastors continually
battle depression. 1,500 pastors leave the
ministry permanently each month in America. 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles. 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confident, or mentor. 50% of pastors are so
discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could
but have no other way to make a living. Those are real stats. I meet these people every time. And here’s the thing
is we have made a dent in the church planting world
in a major massive way, and it’s going exponentially now. We can change this deal with pastors too. Seacoast Church can do that. And so we’ve started what
we call Pastors Collective, which is a podcast, and
also gatherings for just the mental and spiritual health of pastors and pastors’ wives. And we wanna ramp that up this year. Some of you will resonate with that goal. I wanna give into that. We’ve got global missions
that we’ve talked about all over the world. Now, if you were to click on
the view legacy lane report, and I’m gonna go all the way through this, but it has reports on all the projects. Like there’s a Project Lane Report, and the first one is for the projects. And I’ll make it a little bit bigger so you can see it. One of ’em is the Somerville
Campus new facility. And they are just shouting
right now in Somerville. Ermelo Campus, we’re
moving into a new facility in Ermelo and we’re
renovating that right now. James Island Campus, Greenville Campus. We need permanent facilities. Johns Island, on and on and on and on. We need facilities. And many in our Next
Gen we’ve got Seacoast or Southeastern University,
a fund for operating cost. Now, if you were to go over here, let me make this a little bit bigger. Can you see it? On each one of these,
it says here’s the cost, $185,000 for that one, zero-funded ’cause we’re just starting it. But that is a budgeted project, so that’s in our budget. So let’s look at one that isn’t. Let’s go down here. In fact let’s get
another Seacoast college. Here’s a Seacoast scholarship fund, so that we can help train
next generation leaders. The cost on that is $150,000. It’s an unbudgeted project. In other words, comes in
in the Legacy Offering. We’re gonna work on that. So you can go on and on and on. There’s reading in all the
different projects right now that are in our mind. Whether we’ll do them all,
probably not right away. How fast we’ll do them? That’s up to you and I. How much that we fund with. Let me do one more thing, and I’m gonna go back
here to the front page. And then it says, “Give now.” Little button Give Now. And the Give Now button
will come up with a place, so you can give online. I’d like to give, and you put a number. And then if you go, and some of us go, and you know what, I wanna give
toward the Legacy Offering. Y’all figure it out. And we have priorities. Undesignated stuff, we have
priorities on these projects. You say, “You know what,
go with your priorities. “I just wanna be a part of it.” You just do a Legacy Offering. If you’re really moved
by one of the lanes, like we can go in here to Local Missions, and it will go directly to that lane, and you can give a certain amount. So you can kind of
custom-tailor the giving toward where your passion
is or where your vision is. And so that’s what I wanna tell you. That’s all I’m gonna say about that. You can give online right
here at seacoast.org/legacy. You can give by texting 320320, and you put the word Legacy
and an amount of money or you can give through
the offering boxes, but excited about it. Anybody believe me for a
$2 million Legacy Offering this year, anybody? [congregation applauds] Yeah, it’s gonna take a miracle. Some of you don’t really
believe that but you clapped, because you like your pastor, all right? So let me give you a 20-minute message. That’s what I’ve got right now. How many of you, anybody
here ever been in a season where you felt stuck, anybody? Felt stuck. Could be stuck in a relationship, stuck in a job, stuck in a career. Maybe you’re stuck in circumstances. Stuck between the reality of where you are and the dream that you have in your heart. Stuck. Well, not long ago, or not
long after we were married, [chuckles]
that was long ago, [congregation laughs] Debbie bought me a book. I was a youth pastor in my third job. I’ve been fired twice, and I was on my way to getting fired again. I didn’t it at the time, but I was. And she went to a Christian
bookstore in Denver, and on a bargain table, you know what a bargain table is? That’s where they have books that nobody wants to read anymore. Well, this one, the original
price on it was $2.50. That’s back when Noah was on the ark. That’s what books cost. But this one was a quarter. And Debbie brought it
home, and it’s called “All Originality Makes a Dull Church.” The idea is you don’t
have to reinvent the wheel that God’s doing incredible things and to study about five
churches in America. This book impacted my life in
ways that no other book has besides of the Bible. You say, “Well, I wanna get one of those.” Well, they’re out of print. Probably wouldn’t mean that much to you, but it meant something to me. I saved up my money and
went to the appendix and any of the pastors that wrote books I read their books. And I had a dream. I dreamed of a church that
would be outside of the box. In fact I’ve dreamed of Seacoast
and I really didn’t know what to call it or what it looked like. Then I got fired again
real quick after I started reading this book. [congregation laughs] And moved my small
family into the basement of my father and mother’s
house in St. Louis, and I began to wait. And eventually a tiny
church in Northern Illinois that was desperate [chuckles]. A small farming community asks
us to come be their pastors. And we had some great
years, some good years. We had some very, very
hard years there too. But we knew just in our heart
that while this was good, this was a passing point,
this wasn’t the dream. This was a temporary stay. In fact, it was 10 years between the time that I got the dream
and the very beginning of the fulfillment of the dream. For 10 years we were stuck between reality of where we were and the dream. Now, we’re in a series
called Journey to Christmas, and my job is to talk about Caesarea. And here’s what’s
interesting about Caesarea. Caesarea doesn’t appear
in the Christmas story other than Herod. You remember Herod, the king? He’s the guy that built
all kinds of places. If you’ll go to Israel
you’ll see several of these, amazing architect. But he’s also the guy that
the wise men came and said, “We’ve heard there’s a king coming.” And he wanted them to tell
him where the king was. They wouldn’t do it, and
so he had every male child, two years old and under executed for the next couple of years in Bethlehem. And that’s why Mary and
Joseph took Jesus to Egypt. But the only connection is he built one of his palaces in Caesarea. It’s huge, we’ve seen it. Think built more time
about four or five, okay? Amazing, amazing place. But Paul, the Apostle Paul gets stuck in this transitional place. In fact he’s in prison there for two years between a harsh reality and a dream. The only thing about the Apostle Paul, he was a bad guy then he
has a conversion experience and becomes a missionary. And he plants churches all over the world. He goes on missionary
journeys to kinda see how they’re doing. On his third missionary journey, he comes home to Jerusalem
because He’s a Jew. All of the folks in the New Testament up to a certain point were Jewish. And so he goes to the temple. And there’s som rabble-rousers
that come and stir up trouble for him in the temple. We won’t get into all of what it’s about. But anyway, he finds himself
fighting for his life before a religious tribunal
called the Sanhedrin. I wanna read just a little bit of that, which I kinda understand
is they’re having a trial and he could get the
death penalty as a result. So it’s very important. Acts 23, it says, “Gazing
intently at the high council, “Paul began: ‘Brothers, I
have always lived before God “‘with a clear conscience!'” Instantly Ananias the high
priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. [chuckles] You just
can’t make this stuff up. Slap that guy right
there in the mouth, boom! Okay, got it. I love this next part. It says, “But Paul said to
him, ‘God will slap you, “‘you corrupt hypocrite!'” [laughs] I like that. Why do I like that? Paul calls him names. Should he have called them names? No, but the fact that Paul did, now he pays the consequence for it. But the fact that Paul did gives me hope. [congregation laughs] ‘Cause I call names every once in a while, not very often, hypocrite. He calls him a hypocrite. And God will slap you. What kind of judge are you
to break the law yourself in order to struck me like that? Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” Paul goes, “My bad, I didn’t
realize he was a high priest.” He says, “I’m sorry. “I didn’t realize he was,” he replied, “for the Scriptures say,” “‘So he orders his life around Scriptures, “‘you must not speak evil
of any of your rulers.'” – Amen!
– And so he [mumbles]. Hey there’s a good Amen. [congregation laughs] Whether they’re democrats or republicans, I’ll preach this one. ‘Cause this one irritates
me more than anything, but I’m not gonna preach it right now. [congregation laughs] Speak well. Speak well. Now here’s what’s funny. Paul is in a desperate situation. He’s talking about politics. Watch. Paul realized that some
members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees. You gotta understand that in Israel there was no separation
of church and state. It was altogether, [mumbles] should be. But it was altogether,
and so it was church and it was state politics. And he had two clubs in: the
Pharisees and the Sadducees. So he shouted, “Brothers, I’m a Pharisee, “as were my ancestors! “And I am on trial because my hope “is in the resurrection of the dead!” “This divided the council,
because the Pharisees “against the Sadducees.” Because the Sadducees were sad, you see, because they didn’t believe
in the resurrection. [congregation laughs] They didn’t believe in angels. They didn’t believe in any of that stuff. And so Paul yells out, “I’m a Pharisee, and so all
of the Pharisees believe “the stuff that he does.” “So there’s a great uproar. “Some of the teachers of religious law “who were Pharisees jumped
up and began to argue,” [mumbles] “or argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with this
guy ’cause he’s one of us.” That’s all I’m gonna say about that. Things don’t change that much. Don’t worry about politics. It’s gonna be okay. So it was Paul who writes back then too. It’s gonna be okay, God’s in control. God’s in control. And that night and so, anyway, got so bad. The conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid
they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers
to go and rescue him by force and take him
back to the fortress. And that night the Lord
appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged.” You think Paul was discouraged. I think probably. If you say, “Be encouraged,” that probably means you were discouraged. He says, “Be encouraged,
because just as you have been “a witness to me here in Jerusalem, “you must preach the Good
News in Rome as well.” And what he knows is that’s
the dream in his heart. He’s a Roman citizen. So Jesus Himself appears to Paul. And he says, “Be encouraged. “The dream’s gonna happen.” And what Paul doesn’t know is that it will nearly be three
years before the dream will be fulfilled. Two years will be under
house arrest in Caesarea where he deals with crooked politicians. One guy wants to bribe and
delays and delays and delays, lying religious leaders. He’ll spend several months
on the worst possible boat trip that there has ever been to Rome, where everything that could go wrong did. There’s no evidence that he
wrote any letters or any books. He’s a prolific writer. He does nothing. Can you imagine a type A personality that can do nothing for two years. He’s stuck between a
reality and a hard place on the way to the dream. Have you ever been there? Have you ever been there? Let me give you three questions to ask when you’re stuck between
the reality and the dream. Question number one is why
is this happening to me. It’s okay to ask why. You need to know why. If you’re gonna move forward, you gotta know how to respond. You need to know why. And in the why there are
four possible causes. If you’re stuck here today, or you know somebody
that’s stuck here today, it’s one or a combination
of these four reasons, these four ones. Number one it’s my fault. My fault. Anybody ever done anything stupid? And you pay the stupid tax for it. Yeah. Proverbs, this is not
on your outline sheet, but Proverbs 19:3 says,
“People ruin their lives “by their own foolishness and
then they’re angry at God.” You know anybody like that? No, get angry at yourself. And why you need to know that
is because your first response needs to be to repent. So beat yourself up, say, “I blew it.” It’s my fault. I’ll own my piece of this. And usually it’s the least
part of the piece is ourselves. The second reason that
the people maybe get stuck is other’s people’s fault. Sometimes it’s somebody else’s deal. You get caught up in their whirlwind. So what’s your response there? You need to forgive, because
so long as you’re blaming and you’re holding a grudge, I know people that are
world-class in grudge-holding. You don’t wanna be the best at that. You wanna forgive, because
the moment you forgive, and it’s a process, you
can move forward, okay? The other possible cause
would be the devil. Now he gets blamed for a lot of stuff [laughs] but he is at the center of some things. And the Bible says that he runs around as roaring lion trying
to devour whoever he can. Don’t be afraid of him, resist. Resist! That’s what you do. And sometimes it’s God. And that’s the situation here with Paul. A little bit of other people
and a little bit of God. God has you in a place for a purpose, and when you figure that out, your response is to submit to God. Submit to God. So how do I figure it out? I’ll talk to God about it. If you ask God, He’ll speak to you. I love this verse. Psalm 73:16, it says, “When
I tried to figure it out, “all I got was a splitting headache.” Everybody ever been there? Watch what he does. “Until I entered the sanctuary of God. “And then I saw the whole picture.” Does that ever happen to you? Have you ever gone to
church and it felt like the preacher was preaching your story. Was all up in your mail. Everybody had that happen? Everybody ever had? It’s God. God wants to speak to you. That’s why [chuckles] listen,
I love going to church. I even go to church on vacation. I go because I wanna see if
God has anything to say to me. And it doesn’t, it’s not tied
to the quality of the worship or the quality of the preaching. I was at a church not long ago, worst possible worship in
the history of the world. They were terrible. They were awful. [congregation laughs] And God spoke to me that
day during the worship. If your heart’s right,
you know, God can speak. So I ask God, ask God, ask God. A lot I’d like to say about
that but let’s move on. [congregation laughs] What can I learn from it? Not only why, but what can I learn? Look what Paul learned. 2 Corinthians 4:17, he says, “For our present troubles are small, “they won’t last very long.” Let me talk to you about
Paul’s present troubles. Here’s another Scripture
later in your outline sheet. Think it’s on the backside, probably won’t have time to talk about it, ’cause this is a 20-minute
message, maybe a 22, possible 23 and a half. I don’t know. [congregation laughs] Paul’s small troubles
are he was left for dead three times, ’cause they beat him so bad. Took everything away from him, had resistance at every
town that he goes to. But he says, “You know what? “Our present troubles are small “and they won’t last very long, “yet they produce for us.” That’s what can I learn in
the midst of a stuck place? They produce for us a glory
that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. In other words, it says,
the problems in your life will not last. Luke 2:1 says, “And it came to past.” Everything comes to pass. It’s not gonna last. The problems don’t come to stay. The problems are temporary, but it says the rewards are permanent. The rewards are permanent. And so, so what are the results? Romans 5:3 Paul writes this also. He says, “We can rejoice too “when we run into problems and trials “for we know that they
help us develop endurance “and endurance develop
strength of character “and character strengthens our
confident hope of salvation.” Turn to somebody next to you and say, “Boy, there’re some endurance
being cultivated in me.” Will you do that? [congregation laughs] Yeah. So, why? What can I learn from it? Here’s the most important
one, how should I respond? When you face a roadblock to your dream, you’re either gonna grow through it or you’re gonna give up on it. You’re gonna become
what God wants you to be or you’re gonna shrivel and
your heart is gonna become hard. It’s your choice. It’s your choice. When I go through a tough
time, what happens to me is not nearly as important
as what happens through me. Would you agree with that? So how should you respond? I’ll give you three things, pray. Pray. When you find yourself in a stuck place, you kinda have an idea of why and you know you wanna learn something through it, then pray. How do you pray? Philippians four in verse six says, “Do not be anxious about anything, “but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, “with thanksgiving, present
your requests to God.” He’s saying you can either worry or pray, but you can’t do both, okay? So he says, “When you’re
tempted to worry,” anybody ever been tempted to worry today? Yeah. That’s an indication it’s time to pray. How do you pray? You pray with Thanksgiving. God, thank You for watching me. Thank You for my family. Thank You even for this circumstance because You’re gonna work
something through me. And through this, pray. Second thing you do is find
strength in those around you. Find strength in those around you. It’s hard enough to feel stuck, but it’s really hard
when you’re stuck alone. Would you agree with that? – [Man] Yes. – Paul is on a three-year detour. There’s no writing,
there’s no productivity. He’s at the hands of
self-seeking political figures. Here’s a question. Did Paul go through Caesarea alone? It never mentions specifically
anybody else being there, but there was. Let me tell you how I know. There’s a clue in the
next chapter, Acts 27, again, ready to go on a boat ride. And the writer of the story says, “When it was decided that
we would sail for Italy,” say the word we. – [Congregation] We. – What does we mean? There’s more than one person there. Who was that person? He was the writer of Acts. Who is the writer of Acts? Luke. Who wrote more of the New
Testament than anybody else? Trick question, ’cause
you’re gonna say Paul. No, he wrote a lot, but Luke wrote more of the New Testament. The Book of Luke and the Book of Acts. Where did he find the background material in the book of Acts? Hanging out with Paul
[laughs] in Caesarea. You know who else was
in Caesarea with him? Jesus was [laughs]. There’s no indication that
He was there physically, but He appeared to Paul
at night before he went. And I think He was there all the time because Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Some of you feel stuck
alone this Christmas. Maybe you’re new to town. Maybe you’re unemployed. Or maybe this is the first Christmas since you lost a loved one or since the health issue that started. The first are hard. I had a friend text me last
night after the message and she said, “You know what,
the first Christmas was hard,” because she lost her husband. She said, “The second one is harder.” The first one, she was in a
kinda a gracious numbness. And she said, “It’s been a
struggle this Christmas.” And sometimes it is. So what’s the antidote? Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets
the lonely in families. “He leads out the prisoners with singing.” You know, you may be lonely right now. Did you know that God
planned for your loneliness before you ever became lonely? God has a plan for it. He says that, “He sets
the lonely in families.” I believe that’s talking
about your spiritual family ’cause sometimes we can
be alone in a family and still feel alone. But He’s got a spiritual
family for each one of us. That’s the beauty of small groups, where we can go and we can be honest and we can have lifelong friendships. That’s what the church is supposed to be. It doesn’t matter what we
look like on the weekend, it’s how we relate to
each other into our world throughout the week. You can find friends here. In fact, some of you are lonely here today and you’re gonna find a friend today. I wanna challenge everybody here. Listen, you’re here for a purpose. Either to find a friend or
be a friend, how about that? Let’s just connect the dots. One of the ways we do this is
don’t leave church so fast. [congregation laughs] Go get your kids. We don’t want your
kids, we love your kids. [congregation laughs] We don’t wanna raise them, they’re yours. [congregation laughs] Go get your kids, slowly
walk out of this building. Slowly walk, and be thinking,
what do you want me to do? Do you want me to be a friend
or do I need a friend today? And the Holy Spirit will prompt
you and you’ll meet people. That’s gonna happen. It happens all the time, look around. Find strength in those around
you, pray, and remember that your circumstances
don’t limit God’s options. How many of you are happy for that? – [Man] Amen. – We all have reasons why
God’s promise or dream doesn’t apply to us. I’m too old, too young. I’ve done this, there
are things in my past. I’m addicted, it isn’t medically possible, hasn’t happened yet, it’s not gonna happen as if God is unaware of our situation. Let me tie in one Scripture
from the Christmas story. In Luke chapter one in verse
34, an angel comes to Mary. It’s a young girl, maybe 14. Says to her, of course, they
married a lot earlier then. He says to her, “You’re gonna have a baby “and that baby is gonna
be Emmanuel, Jesus.” Mary says to the angel, “How will this be since I’m a virgin?” The angel answered her, “The
Holy Spirit will come upon you “and the power of the most
high will overshadow you. “Therefore, the child to be born “will be called holy, the Son of God. “And behold,” in order to build her faith, “Your relative Elizabeth,”
they all knew she was barren they called it back then. Fertility issues we would say today. And she’s well past childbearing years. That’s been a painful thing for her and her husband all her life, but she says, “Elizabeth in her
old age has conceived a son, “and this is the sixth month
with her who was called barren “for nothing will be impossible with God.” I want you to see this. God deliberately chooses
to use an older woman, past childbearing years, and a young girl who’s never
had sex to bear children to show you that God is never limited in His options to deliver the promise. It didn’t matter that Paul was in chains. It didn’t matter that the
politicians were corrupt around him and were lying and bribes. I didn’t matter that the religious leaders were lying because of their
own desire for money and power. It didn’t matter. God was able to bring about the dream. And today, I just really believe I was praying in this
building before we came in and thinking about the campuses. And I believe that there
are gonna be some miracles in this house today. I believe that some of it is gonna have to do with infertility. I don’t know why I was
thinking about that, but I feel like God just
dropped that in my heart. Some of you, your miracle is gonna be around the same miracle, similar miracle that we
celebrate the Christmas story. Others, it’ll be your family,
relationships in your body. Take advantage of it. Let’s open ourselves to
God as we respond to Him. Lord, I thank You for Your kingdom. I thank You for how wonderfully
You’ve knit us together. God, I thank You for Your direction. And, Lord, when we feel
stuck, that You’re there and that You’re able and that You will. And so, God, I pray that
Your kingdom would come and Your will would be done in this place. In Your name we pray, Amen.

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