Week In Review; Sunday In Preview

Over the last week, blog topics came faster than I could keep up with them — a trip to Texas, a story in the Charlotte Observer on Home, Valentines’ Love Songs, reflections on self-love, and then yestereday an anecdote shedding light into what kind of community Good Shepherd is becoming.

Along the way, Constant Contact got a bit overlooked.

And I believe it is a truly important series; the kind of inner-life-focused season we needed after the breathtaking ride we took through Home.

This week (February 17), we’ll be looking at Psalm 13 and using that as a platform for a message called Honest To God.  Get ready to have a big lie exposed as well as to hear and experience some different definitions of prayer, praise, and worship.

In the meantime, I want to give you the transcript of last week’s sermon, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?  With insights gained from both Andy Stanley and Mark Beeson, I feel like the topic of connection with God is having an good impact on the people of this church.

So here’s last Sunday’s message which I believe helps pave the way for the one this Sunday:


I love what I get to talk to you about today.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.  Why?  Because I get to correct one of the most mis-used and mis-applied verses in all the bible.  Isn’t that great?!  Aren’t you excited with me and for me?  Here’s the verse I’m talking about, Revelation 3:20:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
And how do we typically use those words and that image of Jesus knocking on the door (AV)?  Well, we use it with people who are not yet Xns, even youngsters, and we say, “See, Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, so just open the door, give your heart to him and you’ll be saved!”  Many of you here have had this verse used that way with you.  And you may have used it that way with others.

            And the sentiment of that understanding and application may well be true & right, but there’s one slight problem: that’s NOT what Revelation 3:20 teaches at all.  It actually communicates something far, far different from “non-Xn, open your heart to Jesus now!”  It communicates something better.  That’s why I’m a little adrenaline-fueled today as I talk to you about it.

            Now: why do I burst your bubble with such glee?  Because what Revelation 3:20 says it better than what we think it says.  In Rev. 3:20, John is writing to and Jesus is speaking to a church.  A real church in real time in the real city of Laodicea (AV – map).  So Jesus’ knocking, whatever it is (and we’ll see that shortly) is to the door of a church – collectively and individually – and he is saying to that church, “You are edging me out!  Let me in because you’re my deal to begin with!”  Even more interesting is the city where this church was located, Laodicea.  You know what that city was like?  It was a city known to be a banking center.  It was a city known for its history with textiles and fabrics.  And because it was a prosperous, cosmopolitan city, it was known for a fast paced lifestyle.  Hmmm . . . . banking, textiles, fast-paced.  Sound like any other city you know?  (AV – BOA Tower, Old mill, Lowe’s Motor Speedway & 485 jam at Rush Hour).  So Laodicea was like Charlotte on first century steroids.  They lived this vibe: Audio “life in the fast lane.”

            And the church in that city was caught up in the mindset of that city.  First, look at 3:14 and tuck this away:
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
Note: ruler of God’s creation.  But then Jesus looks at this busy, productive church in the middle of a busy, productive city, and they make him want to puke.  If you don’t believe me, look at 3:16:
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth
And 3:17 gives a hint into the inflated self-esteem of the Laodicean church:
You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
They as a congregation and as individuals are so self-sufficient, so full of activity that this is one prideful, accomplished, and active church.  The DO, they DO fast, and they are proud of what they have DONE.  But look at what Jesus says to this high speed, high octane church in 3:19:      
  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

            So 3:20, the one we started with, the one that has been mis-applied for so long, is in the context of a larger rebuke.  And many of you know by now context is everything.  But this rebuke Jesus is giving is a rebuke to a church, but it is a rebuke whose heart is love and whose goal is restoration.  So: to people who are saved, who are busy, who do a lot and do it quickly, and who is correcting . . . what does he say?  Look at 3:20a&b:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and . . .
            “I will come in and . . . ” and since it’s Jesus speaking we expect the next section to be “come in and give you the rule book.”  Or “come in and read you the riot act.”  Or “come in and give you your next assignment.”  Or “come in and whip you into shape!”  Or, depending on how influenced you’ve been by televangelists through the years, “come in and GUARANTEE YOUR PROSPERITY!”  But none of that is what’s next. 
Instead, it’s
eat with him, and he with me.
 I just want to eat with you, to be with you, to DINE with you.  I don’t want to give you anything to DO; I just want to give you an opportunity to BE.

     See, eating in the time of Jesus was a way of bestowing the greatest honor and dignity upon someone else.  It’s why it was such a shock when Jesus told Zaccheus that he was going to his house that day – how do you take the most reviled man in the city and give him the highest honor?  You can do that when you’re Jesus.  And meals in that day took such a long time.  No such thing as fast food!  Or, excuse me, quick service!  They took time to recline, to talk, to laugh, to rest, to BE.  It was a sign of incredible intimacy.  Jesus says to these high speed Laodicean Xns, you’re so busy with your activity that you don’t know me at all.  So here it is, all you modern Laodiceans, part of a high octane church in a 21st Century city characterized by banking, textiles, and pace:  as pastor Mark Beeson says, Velocity is the enemy of intimacy.  The thing God wants from me and from you more than anything else – time to pause and BE with him – is the thing that our speed of life kills.  REFRAIN.

            Gosh – and this gets me – I remember when I was say between 13 & 17.  And as a lot of you have heard me say before, my dad would take me to play these pretty big youth tennis tournaments all around Texas and the US.  And we’d stay in motels which in those days had motel restaurants.  So that’s where we’d eat many nights.  And so many times when we were finishing with dinner, the server would ask my dad, “would you like a cup of coffee.”  And he’d say, “Why yes I would.”  And UUGGGHH. I knew that meant he was just going to sit and sip and ponder and take his time.  I was finished dinner, I didn’t want coffee — I STILL don’t want coffee! — and I didn’t much want to be seen in public with my dad, so I’d get all fidgety and finally ask, “can I go back to the room?”  And my dad, who was around 65 by then and pretty mellow, would say, “Yes.”     And I’d leave.

            Now, 35 years later, I realize, “what a jerk I was!”  He just wanted to sit and BE, not go and DO.  And that’s what Jesus is knocking for.  The kind of constant contact where we are human beings and not human doings, where we recognize that doing for Jesus without being with Jesus is a recipe for failure because his heart longing is an intimate, personal connection with the people he has made.  With you.  With me.

            Here’s what is so cool about that.  Remember 3:14? READ.  The Ruler of All wants to have dinner with each!  His greatness and his eternity is best seen in his smallness and his intimacy.  That’s why, given God’s character and desire, REFRAIN

            And let me let you in on a little secret: it’s your heart longing, too.  You just don’t always know it. But you were made for that connection, that intimacy with your father.  And the reason so many of you pursue what you later come to see as false intimacy – whether it’s a string of relationships or the euphoria of a drug high or even the allure of internet porn – is that you have sadly exchanged the authentic for a fake.  You’ve engaged in all kinds of misbehaviors in a misplaced search for intimacy.  And so much of your past and so many of your problems just this minute SNAPPED into focus.  That’s what I’ve been doing all these years!  It’s Jesus’ great wish for you, it’s your genetically designed great desire for him and now is the time to realize REFRAIN.

            Now: for a lot of you, to talk about intimacy with God and dining with Jesus is like (Twilight Zone music).  Or it’s like trying to nail a bowl full of jello to a tree.  It just doesn’t compute; it’s all slithery and imprecise.  And can I confess something?  Me too!  Sometimes I’m like, “Oh Jesus! (Treating him JUST like I treated my dad in those motel restaurants.) I’m too busy to just BE with you!  I’ve got a church to lead and sermons to prepare and people to visit and money to raise.  I can’t mess around just BEING.”  And when I’m like that, you know what he does?  He wakes me up at 3 a.m. and I can’t get back to sleep.  So I’ll get a book and start to read and he’s like “nope.  I got you up to pray for India (AV).” And so I’m like “can I just pray here under the covers?”  “Nope. Get out of bed, in a position of prayer, and pray for your pastor friends in India.”  So, grudgingly, I do it.  Now: God can make good things happen in our Indian network without my prayers.  But he can’t make good things happen in ME without them.  He wants to hear me, me to hear him.  He wants me to slow down even if he has to wake me up to get me there.  REFRAIN.

            Gosh, I just have this dream.  What would we be like as a people and as a church if each Sunday gathering was full of folks who in the previous week had stopped their lives at least once a day to allow their souls to catch up with their bodies?  What would we be like if our community was full of people who rested, who read, who prayed, who listened?  Who took that time simply to BE with their Lord and and to let their Savior BE with them? Who let his love wash all over them?  Because I remember when our first child was born and holding her the day we brought her home and all I wanted to do was hold her, love her, whisper to her, and smell her head.  It was a different kind of love than I’d ever had before.  And then I realized: that’s pretty much what God wants from me – to allow him to hold me, whisper to me, smell me, love me.

            We believe in this so much, we’ve got a tool we going to give you as you leave BUT we’re going to practice with you NOW.

Lights down.  Screens on.  Words appearing/dissolving as if speaking from God to person: