Sunday’s Sermon | Scott Brooks | 4/19/2020
PASTOR SCOTT: Hey, Freshwater. I love that song. It’s the song that talks about how God has been good in our lives and faithful in our lives as we look back over it. There’s seasons where songs just come to life, and that’s just one of those songs that, I think, we’re all kind of singing and hanging on to.
I know some of you have asked, “Hey, what are we going to do now?”
We’ve done this series with the Covid-19, Unprecedented, and Easter. Where are we now? Where are we going? To be honest, I am so tired of talking about Covid-19. Like, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid, Covid-19. So we’re going to try to start moving ahead, and we’re going to do just three weeks here about what does it look like to move forward, and then we’re going to get back into finishing Ezekiel, and moving on to some future series that we just sense the Lord is leading us to in God’s Word.
These next three weeks are going to be about looking ahead, and what are the steps we need to take, just moving forward. You know, I don’t know. I’m tired of talking about it, you know, the whole — people talk about stages of grief, you know, where are you? Denial, yeah, we’re kind of past that. I don’t know, what is it, anger? I’m not angry. I don’t get angry at all. Depressed? Check, maybe, possibly. Okay, fine. Yeah, possibly. Acceptance? I think we’re all kind of getting to that point where it’s like, “All right, whatever,” and then you hear something else, and it’s like, “Eh.”
But what does it look like to move forward? One of the things I want to talk to you all about is there is a dynamic going on, even this past week, about large gatherings and when they’re actually going to come online. We said, “Hey, maybe — maybe beginning of May we’d do it.”
Folks, right now, if you think it is going to be May, everything is pointing to something different. That’d be fantastic. We don’t know. We don’t really know what’s going to happen here in the days ahead, whether this is going to be in two months, four months, you know, it could be longer. Whether we come in and out of this, they let it happen, then some hot spot happens, and we go right back in to stay in, shelter, whatever. There’s a lot of things we don’t know. What we’re going to talk about here is what we do know and what we can start to do here as we look ahead.
I want to just read to you a passage. I invite you to turn to Jeremiah 29.
I’ve been reading through the Bible, and I came across this passage. I may have talked about this recently this year. I don’t know. I know I was referencing this in some context. If I’m repeating myself, I’m sorry. I came across this passage, and it is one of these famous passages that talks about hope.
If you’re newer to walking with Jesus, this is one of these versus that you may want to memorize in the Bible. It’s
Jeremiah 29:11. It’s a familiar one. So many of you may know it. It says this, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
Now, this is written to the Israelites. And if you don’t know the history there, Israel and Babylon went to war. Babylon won. This is back in 1600 BC. Basically, forcibly removed all these Jews from Israel and took them to Babylon. If you don’t know where Babylon is, what is that, it is modern day Iran. Forcibly moved them over here, and they’re in exile in Iran, or Babylon. It’s not going well. It keeps happening, keeps going. They’re wanting to go back home.
Finally, God gives Jeremiah this message to them, but it’s this incredible message of hope. Like, “Hey, I’ve got you,” but the context of this was actually in the verse prior to this, in verse 5. And you have to understand that to understand this amazing promise of hope that God gives them.
In verse 5 — actually, 4, it starts with this, it says, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent — which is interesting — into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Build houses, live in them. Plant gardens, eat their produce.
“Take wives and have sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters and multiply there and don’t decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.”
I mean, put yourself in their shoes. Here’s these exiles. They’re forcibly removed from their country. They’re conquered. They saw so many people die. They survived, maybe, the trek, and watched people die on the trek to Babylon. Here comes God saying, “Hey, I got a great plan for you. I want you to bloom where you’re planted, in enemy territory, in enemy country.”
He’s like, “I want you to get married, have kids, your kids have kids, and invest.”
Who does that? Yeah, let’s do that. I wonder what it looks like for us, as to look ahead, for God to come to us “Hey, look, these are the things I to do. I want you to bloom where you’re planted. I want you to grow. I want you to move forward. Like, get up, start living, start looking at what you can do, and move forward.”
I mean, they have no control over their life. They have no control over what’s happening, just very similarly to us. We don’t have any control of how all this is going. Very little control.
I believe God is saying, “It’s time to move forward. Let’s go forward. Let’s start to look up, get our head from down here to up, and start to look around. Look forward.”
So we’re going to talk about what it means to look forward. And I do believe God has a plan for us in the middle of this. I want you to hear that right now. God has a plan for you. Just think about that. Like, God has a plan for you. He wants you and I to move forward, to look ahead, and to start living for him.
If we’ve been stuck or if we’re in this — and we have. We’ve just been kind of
trying to figure out, reeling, and it’s time to just start looking ahead.
There’s some things as a staff we’ve been praying through, “What are you calling us towards now? We’re done with that. What are you calling us towards?”
Over these next few weeks, we’re going to talk about some of the tangible steps we can make. The first one I think God would have us do is actually pray. If you read, after this promise, where it says, “‘I know the plans” — in verse 11 — “I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you future and a hope.'”
Then he says, “‘You’ll call on me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes.'”
This is where it gets very specifically to Israel and the prophesy here, “‘And gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you” — which is a whole other story — “declares the Lord, ‘And I will bring you back to the place of which I’ve sent you into exile.'”
There is a part of this promise that’s not for us; it’s for the Jews. They’re dispersed everywhere, and God says, “Look, I’ll bring them back.”
When I look at this prayer here, this is something that reiterates over and over again in the Word. Old Testament and New Testament, God says, “If you seek me, you will find me. When you pray, I will answer your prayer.”
So this little whole thing here about prayer, that’s for us. As a staff, we were just talking, and in our time of prayer and talking through what are the steps ahead, we all sense that we’re not done praying. Like, we had a great week this past week. Seven days, this prayer vigil, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a week to pray.
It was so great seeing all these people signed up. In the morning, in the evening, throughout the day, just praying. We were praying for those three areas, right, for God to purify us and cleanse us as a church. For God to forgive our nation, to have mercy on our nation, and to give wisdom to our leaders. In the third area of, “God, would you fill us with the Spirit. Fill us with your presence. Fill us with fire.”
Those three things. Yet, we as a staff believe we’re not done. Like, there’s something — there’s something more here that we need to pray for. So as we begin to look ahead, one of the steps we want to call the church towards is prayer. Specifically, those same three areas.
We want to challenge and call everyone who calls Freshwater home to pray 30 minutes a week. So pick your day. Pick the time you’re going to pray 30 minutes. It’s not — we’re not going to try to do the 24/7 thing. You pick one day out of the week you’re going to pray for those 30 minutes, for those three topics.
We want to pray this as long as we are not together. It stops when God finally gathers us together. We don’t know when this is going to end, but it will end when we finally get to worship together. Would you join us as we pray? We’re going to send out another sign-up sheet. It’s encouraging to see who all is praying, and that we’re not alone.
There’s going to be 60, 70, I don’t know, spaces per day, 100 spaces per day, where everybody can sign up on the day they’re going to pray, just that one time a week. All you have to do is once. Pray. We believe this is the time. This is the storm. This is where we look around and say, “Oh, Lord, unless you move,” right?
This is the moment where the storm is in. The disciples are scared to death, and they’re calling out to God. God calms the storm, right? This is where God does his best, is in these storms. We believe it’s still ahead of us, the times of prayer.
I want to think, not only just looking ahead here, but look ahead 100 years, and what would it be like to look back on this, right? To look back with perspective and say, “Man, Freshwater Church prayed. Freshwater Church actually just — they were this people that were praying before, but they spent time praying, and they saw God move. Something broke out there at Freshwater, and from Freshwater that spread out to the city, that spread out to the state, that spread out to the country.”
That’s the kind of looking forward that we want to call our church to, so pray.
The second thing is, as we look ahead, in the days ahead — the response of the church has been amazing these past couple weeks. As I look at giving and what’s come in, it has been amazing to see how many have been giving sacrificially. Some stories we’re hearing of people saying they’re jumping in for the first time to give. But I want to tell you, it is so encouraging to see where we are right now and how much has come in.
The piece that’s hard — and I’ll just be honest. This is part of my mess, but I grew up, you know, watching the mess that happened with Jim Bakker, and just these greedy pastors and what they did with it, and how they fleeced the sheep. I just — for me, it’s hard to talk about money because I just see that stuff, and I don’t want to be like that. I have to get over my own thing. I’ll get counseling after this is all over. Don’t worry about it.
Here’s where I am. We need to talk about it because we don’t talk about it enough. I’m going to be really direct here, and just because — here’s the thing, if we’re going on a crisis pattern of giving, that’s not good.
It just isn’t. It’s not a way to live this Christian life. If we just say, “Hey, we’ve got a crisis,” and then that’s how we respond, oh, then everybody gives, it’s not sustainable.
Here’s what I want to do: I want to speak into those of you who are not giving, who call yourself a Christ follower, but you’re not giving. I want to speak to those of you who are following Christ, but you hardly give. I’m not talking about the amount, I’m talking about the sacrifice. Plain and simple, God says this, “If you are not giving to me, you’re robbing me.”
He makes no bones about it. He says in another place, “If you’re not giving, you love your money more than me.” He says in another place, “You say you trust me, but you don’t. Your lack of giving is the proof of it.”
You trust more in your provision and ability to provide with the money you have or you’ve earned than you trust in God’s ability. You may argue with me and be like, “Well, whatever,” and get defensive, but I’m telling you, it’s what God says.
It is in his Word. The proof is in the way — in what we do and how we treat our money. If you don’t give to God, you’re hoarding it, whether because you’re greedy or because you’re afraid. The reality is, in this fallen word, there is never going to be a good time to start giving.
Here I am, talking about giving, in this crazy moment, and you’re saying, “Let’s wait until this all gets over, and then I’ll start.”
No. There’s never going to be a good time. That’s just a lie from Satan. It’s give, period. Give. That’s where this goes. If you’re saying, “Well, where do I start, how do I start,” when I was growing up, I was taught you give 10 percent right from the beginning.
Some of you may argue, if you walk with God but you’re not giving, or you’re not giving much, “Well, the 10 percent thing, that was with the Law.”
No, it isn’t. Read Genesis. It was before the Law. It was a response of worship. It was a response out of provision. That’s where this started. You read Genesis, and it was a response of, “Oh, my Lord, the blessing. I’ve got to give you worship. I have to show I know this is from you, and you are the one who provides. You are God of all. Jehovah Jireh.”
For me, you know, I was trained. Back in high school, you know, I had a choice. My mom and dad were like, “It’s up to you now. We told you. It is time for you to decide.” When I started in high school, I just — it just always was what I taught and what I read. I start off with 10 percent. In high school I did that, in college where I was poor. Anything I made, it was 10 percent. It was never mine. You see that in the Word of God. It’s not ours. It’s His. It starts with that.
It says, from the beginning, “No, this is God’s.”
This money I earn, this job I’ve earned, it’s from the Lord. I didn’t get this job. I didn’t get that job because I’m strong or somehow I’m doing — no. This is the Lord’s.
In seminary, when I was dirt poor, like really, really poor, 10 percent. It’s just — there’s never a good time to start.
I’m going to tell you that. There’s never a good time. That’s what the world says. Right now, it’s the best time, because you know.
Kids, you’re never too young to start giving to God. Students, you’re getting your first jobs. I’m telling you right now, it starts now. The pattern starts now. This is when you start to say, “Wait a minute, it is the Lord that provides.”
I’m going to tell you, when you give it, and it’s a sacrifice, you give it and say, “Oh, Lord, you’re worthy. You’re worthy,
Jesus. I want you to know my heart does not love money, it loves You. It loves you. You’re the one that provides for me, and I’d much rather have you provide for me than me, somehow, think I can manage this and provide for myself.”
It’s these declarations that get involved and wrapped up in this thing. It is an act of worship. As we move forward, I wonder what will be said of not only Freshwater but your life, my life, when we’re before God. As we’re moving forward, God sees what you’re doing and what I’m doing with my money. He sees whether we view this as an act of worship. He sees whether we see him as our provider.
I want it to be said of my life, I want it to be said of Freshwater Church, that this was a church that always, always loved God above money. Always trusted in God’s provision above anybody else providing for us. See, our mission is to glorify God. It is. That — that is our mission. Our mission is to glorify God by being connected to Him, by worshipping Him. It starts there. That is the first statement of our church. Worship Him.
It is an easy step. Pray, give, and the final thing here is this: Connected to God’s mission. And I know right now, this is a hard time. We’re pulling back. The mentality is to pull back and take care of ourselves or whatever. It’s hard. Or you’re just trying to cope and trying to get through this. I mean, this was — I had a bad day or two this past week. I did. It was really bad.
I don’t know if I should tell that story, but somebody cut in front of the line at the transfer station. Somebody totally cut in front. They have the new Covid stuff. I’m waiting patiently to take my trash, and somebody got in front of me, went right in, and I’m honking the horn, acting like a real, solid Christian. It was bad. So I get it. We have our bad moments I probably shouldn’t have said that. Can we edit that thing out? Is that okay?
Here’s the thing, God, there are people, there are people who don’t have Christ. I mean, we just said, “Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me. With my life laid down, I surrender now, I give you everything. Your goodness,” right?
He’s faithful. They don’t have — they don’t even have a connection to someone who is faithful like that. They have no idea what the goodness of God is. Their foundation is sand, and it is eroding. They’re looking for lifelines right now. And we’re a church who is called to have this mission, as we move forward — that you may get tired of me saying this — but we are not going to forget the lost here.
We will not forget them. They’re dying out there. They’re now looking for answers, because it is one of those crises — and we see waves of this happen when we have cultural crises like this — but people are looking for lifelines.
Are you looking around? Look up. As we start to move forward, who is around you?
We’re offering, again, Alpha. It is starting here at the end of — end of April. We’re doing an eight-week thing. We’ve kind of been floundering, like, how do we do this, trying to catch up to speed here. We finally got the plan here. We’re going to be doing it on the Zoom call.
Who can you invite? We’re seeing churches running this, and they’re having a crazy response. People are interested. People are hungry. People are feeling safe to do it because they can do it in their home and just press hang-up, you know, I’m out. There’s a lot more safety. People are looking for this thing.
I just remember reading a book this past year about this gal in Korea, this woman who is a Christian, arrested, tortured, beaten, starved and, yet, she never stopped looking for people who didn’t know Jesus. Even in jail.
Folks, are you looking around? Are you looking? As you look forward, are you looking for those who are looking for a lifeline? We can’t forget the mission. A lot of stuff is changing. A lot of stuff is going to go away, but these things won’t go away. Prayer, giving, the mission. As we move forward, let’s keep focused on these things. I want to just end with this.
I want to end with this promise. It says here in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.'”
God has a plan for you. This hope was fulfilled in Christ. He is our hope. His hope doesn’t disappoint us because God — Paul writes, “God has poured out His Spirit into our hearts.”
It doesn’t disappoint us. His hope is in you right now. As we move forward, no matter what gets dashed, pulled back, given back, taken back, I don’t know, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know we have a future in Christ.
You need to hear that. If you hear anything else, we can start to move forward because we do have hope. We do have hope. We have Christ. That is no small thing. We have Christ, his presence poured into us by the Spirit. You have hope.
Christ has a plan for you. Don’t ever forget it. He’s got a plan. It’s a good plan. As we move forward, let’s place our hope in Him, our Savior. God bless.
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