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October 9, 2022 – Sermon Transcript

Am I a Safe Person? - Oct. 9, 2022

Pastor Mike (00:00):

You know, but, but what people really care about is how they feel when they’re around you. How do you make them feel? Do you, do you build people up and also they care about what kind of person are they becoming after they’ve been around you?

Hannah Hunter (00:17):

Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with The Gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter of the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. This week, Pastor Mike continues our series on the Vision for the Gathering Place and talks about what it truly means to be a safe person.

Pastor Mike (00:31):

You know, we all need a friend to go to when we, when, when things get tough, right? And usually like the, the friends that we should go to are ones that will help us get through whatever we’re going through. You know, ones that will link arms with us and stand by us and support us. But, but I, I must confess that there are some friends in my life that do better than my enemies in terms of getting me down. And, uh, and, and, and I, and it just, you know, the people, there’s some people that sometimes you expect them to, to lift you up to, to, to make you, you know, feel great. And, and usually at the end of the visit with them, sometimes you feel worse then when it was, when you is like, Man, I wish I didn’t talk to them. Do you, do you know what I’m talking about?

Pastor Mike (01:21):

Have you, have you had that experience? I was thinking of like a, like a, a friend of mine, and I still call them a friend, but I remember going to them just in different parts of my life. And, um, you know, because, you know, God had us together and, and usually like, so this is like a, um, a synthesis of that relationship. But usually, you know, we’d come to each other and, and I come to this friend with a, a problem or a private matter, and again, at the end of the visit, I would feel worse. And, and, and, and here’s some of the reasons why I felt worse. There were sometimes when I would talk to them, I felt that they would just minimize my problem. Ah, that’s not so bad. It’s not that real. Um, you know, you, you just don’t see it.

Pastor Mike (02:02):

Um, sometimes they weren’t even interested in what I, and what I had to say. Um, they didn’t, they didn’t really care what I was feeling. They just kind of wanted to get to the point, get to the resolution real quick, and they didn’t wanna, you know, sit with me with a, for a little bit. Um, they didn’t really even ask the question, you know, sometimes we, we’d come together and I’d want to talk to them and I wanna open up, but, but I can see that they were just too occupied, too busy, and, and they just weren’t emotionally available, uh, to connect. Then at other times, I would connect with these people and, and they would do something that just like, it burns me up as a pastor is that they would over spiritualize everything. You know, Like, like, like, like there’s a devil hiding behind every corner and you just gotta pray enough and you gotta do this enough.

Pastor Mike (02:46):

And, and, and, and let’s face it, there’s, there’s a point when you’ve prayed all you can pray, and, and you’ve, and you wait it and you listen and you studied all you can, and, and you’re, you’re still stuck. And sometimes we don’t need to hear that, that we need to just pray and, and do all that stuff. And then what would happen is then I would push back a little bit more and say, No, no, no, I, you know, come on, you know, I’ve been praying, I’ve been faithful. And then, then it turns into judging <laugh>. So the friend that I came to for support, and I open up my heart now, now that they see, you know, my, my vulnerability and all that, they, they used it against me and they start judging. And, and they, and then it’s like, now it’s like, okay, I’m the one who is guilty.

Pastor Mike (03:29):

Because sometimes I try to talk to them and then they would flip things. And this is a weird thing, but it happens in some of these relationships where you’re, you’re talking to about your problem and, and then somehow everything gets flipped. And now they’re talking about their problem. And I’m guilty cuz of their problem. So they, they would flip things and, and then they would become defensive. And I’m like, Whoa, whoa, why are you defensive, man? I’m the one who’s hurting here. But they would get defensive and then they would start talking about themselves over and over again, and eventually they would become the victim. And, and afterwards I said, Man, that was just like a, a waste of my time. I feel like I feel empty. I feel just like, uh, just depleted my, and my energy is gone. And then the, the, the cherry on top of the Sunday, a few Sundays later after, you know, I’ve, I’ve shared my heart and went through that horrible ordeal in, in very different ways. Like I said, this is all not one occasion, these are like several examples, but this always seems to come out. My business comes out <laugh> by, by other people, you know, and people will start talking. And so the person that I confided in, you know, um, just broke the trust.

Pastor Mike (04:47):

And, and I asked myself one, am I the only one that’s ever experienced something like that? And, and I see a lot of people say, No, no, I can relate. You know, I can connect with that. And, and I’m wondering, cuz like the, these people that I, this person, I think about, when I think about other people that have these examples in their lives, usually it was committed by faithful Christians, people that, that, that, that profess Jesus Christ as their Lord. And I’m like, What went wrong? How did we get here? Yeah. You know, we have this incredible mission to extend God’s redeeming love. And the, and the biblical basis of this is what we’ve been kind of really extracting in the past several talks is in Matthew chapter 28 versus 19 to 20, I wanna invite you to please read this with me. I just want to, I wanted to get in our souls.

Pastor Mike (05:42):

Let’s just read it together. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age. I think we’re sometimes we, we miss the mark is this, this teaching component. We teach people in church, do a lot of things. We teach you how to behave. We, we, or we think we do. Um, we, we teach you what is proper protocol to, to run a meeting. We teach you, um, you know, kind of how to enter a holy place. And, and we, and we teach you all this like exterior stuff, but I think we have a hard time with actually teaching or, or growing in obedience to what Jesus had commanded.

Pastor Mike (06:39):

So what did Jesus actually teach? Just think about that for a moment. What did Jesus actually teach? You know, I think a lot of Jesus’ teachings have been hijacked by other agendas. You know, the, the, and a lot of it sometimes is like kind of like this neoplatonic, um, emphasis that you separate the spiritual world from the natural world. And that’s a big problem. So you have some that will only emphasize the spiritual, you know, as, as you know, as long as you know, you, you’re right with Jesus, as long as you’re praying, as long as you have this inner life, you know, all that other stuff doesn’t matter. And so they’ll minimize all your real world problems and they will, um, totally neglect, I mean these biblical rooted concepts of righteousness and justice and, and mercy. Then we have another spectrum of folks that, that will this only focus on the physical and almost to the point it becomes like secular humanism. Where, where you could just go and emphasize the physical so much that you don’t even need. God, we just gotta get busy with our social projects. We gotta get busy with the kingdom now and we just gotta keep on going.

Pastor Mike (07:57):

Also, we have some folks that, that emphasize so much about, like, I would say like just the law. We, I mean, even though we know that by grace we are saved and we are free from the law, but many times sometimes we, we create the, a law within our own laws, a law within our grace, and we just like emphasize just the doctrinal teaching to make sure that people are teaching right, that we are believing, right? And, and we don’t really look about how you behave because that’s a private matter, but as long as you can believe, right? And confess, right? You know, that, that, that, and, and, and we’re right and somebody else is wrong. We are okay. And so we have these, these problems and, and one thing I realize is that, you know, the, the church has been struggling with this from the beginning.

Pastor Mike (08:39):

If we fast forward from what Jesus has said there in Matthew, you know, to almost like a, a generation of Christians later to the Book of Revelation, which was many believe the Apostle John’s revelation of Jesus Christ that was given a message to the church. It was, it was a message that was speaking to specific churches during John’s time when he was exiled on the, on the highland of Patmos. But also it, it’s a timeless message for many churches. And in the first couple of, of of chapters, he actually starts addressing these, these different churches and about specific things. And I’m just pulling one. But I encourage you in your own personal study to, to go ahead and look at Revelation and kind of see what some of these churches were struggling with. Um, but one thing I do want, want you to know, you know, there’s a lot of spooky stuff going on that people speak about revelation.

Pastor Mike (09:30):

You know, sometimes people try to scare you about revelation. Um, people say that, you know, um, it’s about the end of the world. And, and there is, you know, I mean, there is a, there is a prophetic part of that. I mean, there, there’s a lot of things in in revelation there, but here’s something I want you to hold onto, is that at the end of the story, there’s good news, there’s hope. I mean, this was revelation for the immediate audience was written to give the Christians who are struggling, that are under persecution a word of hope. So if you feel like crud at the end of reading revelation, you need to read it again because you’re not reading it with the intent that the author had in mind. So keep that that in mind. But let’s, let’s look at this kind of one example where sometimes Christians get stuck.

Pastor Mike (10:12):

Revelation chapter two versus one through five to the angel of the church and emphasis, right? These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp stands. I know your deeds. Tell me if you, maybe you, you connect with this. I know your deeds and your hard work and you’re perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people and that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not. And I’ve found them false. You have persevered and you have endured hardships for my name and have not grown weary. So let’s just stop here. You know, this church in emphasis, I mean, looks pretty good on the outside, right? I mean, they, they are faithful, they’re working hard. They, they have suffered for the gospel. They, they didn’t give up. We see that they, they they, they are really about like the, the right teaching.

Pastor Mike (11:12):

And so they were, you know, they were false apostles and false leaders that, that just drew people to themselves instead of that Jesus, even back in the, in the early church. And, and they would test the teaching, they would test the character of the person. They did all of these things. Um, you know, they, they, they, they suffered, they worked hard. And, and sometimes I think that a lot of us that come from a mainline background church, we can relate to this, you know, because, you know, we don’t, we don’t want to be just, you know, some, you know, blitz church that, that maybe is, you know, a mile wide and an inch deep. You know, we, we, I hear that saying a lot in my circles as dominations, you know, like we have a tradition, we have a heritage, you know, we, we wanna have some depth to us, you know?

Pastor Mike (11:53):

Um, also, you know, we wanna make sure that, that our leadership is, is consistent, you know, with, um, with the, the general Christian teaching. There’s accountability that there’s integrity there. And so, you know, there’s a lot of things that we can relate. And then also as a church, um, I mean, we go through a lot of hard things. And when I even know, like our story at the Gathering Place, I mean, people like really suffered and put a lot on the line just to get us to, to this point. So I can connect with all of this and I can see a little bit of us when I read this, but verse four, let me continue says yet I hold this against you. You have first sake in the love you had at first.

Pastor Mike (12:34):

Older translations will say that you’ve lost your first love. And that’s not your high school sweetheart, okay? I mean, this is something a lot more than this, okay? Consider how you have fallen repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove the lampstand from its place. You know, this is a really serious warning. And, and all throughout the warnings, there’s always this warning about the lampstand going and going out and being removed. And, and I really believe that Lampstand is, is the witness of the church. I mean, because we’re called to be the light of the world, right? We’re called to, to bring some positive influence. We’re, we’re, we’re kind of need to, we, we, we, we shine the kingdom perspective online. So we, we shine God’s good news on life. And, and if we lose our first love or, or, or that love that we have in the beginning, we lose our influence.

Pastor Mike (13:36):

We lose our power, we mean, and we become a church that, that this becomes about a bunch of words or maybe we’re just a stickler for the rules and doing things right and all that kind of stuff. And we lose what is really at the heart of the matter. So I need you to, to first of all take this personally because if you feel like you’re, you’re first love, and, and, and the scripture defines like that first love is that, that love for the presence of God. Think about your own spiritual journey and was there a moment where just you enjoyed connecting with God? I mean, it was rich, it was deep, It was like, like it, it occupied all your attention and focus and your emotions we’re all directed toward that. And many of us have these kind of like first love experiences and they, and they connect in very different ways. Whether it was experience at camp or a walk to a maus or, or maybe there was just a period in your life where you say, You know what, I’m gonna take the Christian faith seriously because God has taken me seriously, whatever it is. But, but reflect on that and then just take a, do a personal inventory and say, what has changed in my life that I’m not living like that anymore?

Pastor Mike (14:51):

And then repent. Repent means changing your mind, going back to what you know is right. So how far have we fallen away from our first love that, I mean, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself and, and and thinking because, um, but I think we’ve, we’ve departed from the basic commandments of Jesus and the, and, and the heart of the basic commandment of Jesus is to love God and love our neighbor with everything we have in us. And something goes wrong when we stay in church longer and longer because it seems like we, it, it, we think that we would grow in this, but it, it, but actually looks like we do it less and less. But actually Christian maturity or, or, or this mature love is that, that, you know, we should be doing it even better. We should be like enjoying God’s presence long.

Pastor Mike (15:41):

And we should be caring about people to such a degree that we should have a reputation of whoever is the most difficult, unlovable, awkward person in there. We as mature followers of Christ, should be able to connect to them and love them. And, and not only us do it, but the people around us, these people that I’m talking about, they should actually feel loved by us. So it’s not a measure, it’s not a measure of how well I think I’m doing. What really matters is how well they think you’re doing. And man, that is hard. I must be honest. You know, we, I struggle to do both. I still, you know, struggle like, God, I wanna love you with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. But I, I get idols. I get things that, that, that pull for my attention and I know what is right, But yet you know that there’s still a wrestling inside of me.

Pastor Mike (16:33):

And I’m like, Jesus, help me. Jesus. I need to save me cuz I don’t have the power to save myself and then to love my neighbor. So where do we go? Where do we go to to, to really pull this out? Like where, where do we go to, to get some strength here? And I wanna jump to another place in scripture. It’s in John chapter eight versus 31 to 32, Jesus. To, to the Jews who had believed in him. Jesus said, If you hold to my teachings, think about all Jesus teachings. He says, If you really, if you hold onto them, then you are my, you really are my disciples. So hold my teachings. I mean, that, that means actually like live it out, practice it, I mean, makes it a part of your life. And in other texts it’ll say, if you abide in my word, in other words, um, you know, in other words, if you just live under the, the tutelage of Jesus, he says, then you really are my followers.

Pastor Mike (17:30):

You really are my disciples. I think first of all, a lot of us have a hard time holding on the Jesus teachings cause we don’t read our scripture or, or, or we’ve become just like socially acquainted with it. You know, So we can talk Christian lingo, um, we can, some of us can even maybe memorize verses some of us know that Jesus teaching is in the red letter of the, of the version of the Bible we have. So we can flip around and, and we have a couple of texts, but, but do we really hold onto it? Do we really get into it? Do we dig? And, and I hear all kinds of reasons about like why it’s hard to engage a scripture and all that. But, but I, I must confess, like for me, one, when it’s really hard, let me tell you what it boils down to.

Pastor Mike (18:10):

I’m lazy. I am lazy When, when I look at my, my devotional life and all that, and there’s those moments where it’s been pretty shallow and all that, it’s literally because I didn’t wanna put the work into it. God was available. God was there. Um, God, I mean, I have all these resources there. There’s no persecution. Uh, I mean there, there’s, there’s nothing that that could hinder me. And it’s just I’m dang lazy. And we make the gospel so accessible. I mean, we got it on apps, we got it websites. We, we get devotions mailed to us, we get on text to us, we get all this stuff. And yet I’m lazy that, that, that, that’s my, my personal struggle. I get, I get lazy. But here’s what’s so important about holding, holding on to the words of Jesus, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

Pastor Mike (19:05):

Now here’s the thing. Why we don’t get excited about that is that a lot of us have been so content with living with our brokenness and bondage. We don’t have a desire for freedom. We’ve been living in darkness for so long. We got, we got used to the broken lights and, and they’re not shining as bright they should. And then our eyes have adapted and we think to ourselves, you know, this is just the way it is. You know, it’s kind of like that, that that house that you get, you know, I mean, I think about the house that I grew up in when, when I was a little kid and, and, and my family, you know, they had the same house till I was 18 years old. Until I, until I moved out. So I mean, I have this, this very vivid memory of my house and also my grandparents’ home, um, up in Philadelphia, same, same house. And I remember as a little kid, man, everything was like bright and new and big and, and, and it was just like modern.

Pastor Mike (19:57):

That was when I was five years old, you know? But like some people in my family, like these particular houses, we didn’t do a lot of upgrades until we absolutely had to. So we had that, that, that that same olive green stove set until finally the stove went capoot, you know, that was it, that four until the stove broke it, we couldn’t cook food on it anymore. Then we changed it and then we had to, we couldn’t find Olive green anymore, you know, I mean, it wasn’t available. And then the bathroom, I mean we had this like, uh, oh gosh, what was like, almost like a aqua teal color bathroom in it. I mean like, and we had some funky colors, you know? And, and then my, my, my grandparents’ place was even worse cuz their house was even older. And, and they just like, you know, just hung to it.

Pastor Mike (20:47):

And then like, like the light fixtures and everything, lampshades all, all that stuff begins to change as it old, as it gets older. And you know what? You’re like, eh, it’s okay. It’s cool. It works. I like that. And I think that’s the problem with us is that, you know, when we, when we come, we become a new Christian. We, we, we enter the house in family of God. And, and God says, Look, I’m here to clean your house. And we get one room cleaned up and we’re like, All right, the other rooms are coming along the way, but we’re like, whoa, this room is pretty nice. And we just like, and maybe hang out in the living room and we just leave the junk room alone, you know? And, and we, and we forget about the bondage that’s there. We forget about the sin that enslaves us.

Pastor Mike (21:24):

We forget about the broken distance in our lives, the brokers, our family. And we’re like, okay, oh, what next? But Jesus promises us that if we abide, if we hold onto his words, we will know the truth. And that’s the thing. See, the more you engage in scripture, the more the light of Christ shines in your life. It kind of looks into those, those crevices of your life. It looks into those dirty, dusty places that you have. And it says, Man, you know what, this needs to be cleaned up. Or, you know what? Life could be so much more than this.

Pastor Mike (21:56):

I think about, when I think about freedom, I mean, one thing that always excites me is that, you know what this freedom of Christ gives you the opportunity to, to totally like change your whole family tree. You know, there, there are generational things that happen and all our families have been passed down and some of those things are not good. And that freedom of Christ says, I can set you free. Let’s be honest. Sometimes the tree goes a little wonky when it was our, when it’s when it was in our hands, right? You know, we made some decisions, we created some mess for ourselves. And even that, Jesus says, I can make it right? And, and, and, and we gotta make it personal and real because think about the broken places in your life are, are, are there, do you still have buttons that are easily to get pushed? Are those buttons still active in your life? Jesus could set you free. Are there, are there, you know, wounds, hurt feelings? Maybe someone just did some awful stuff to you and you’re like, I cannot forgive. And you can’t forgive. But Jesus can make you free. Jesus can take that pain and he can heal you. He can give you a whole new beginning, a whole new story. He can do this.

Pastor Mike (23:09):

But here’s the thing. We forget about the why of Jesus’ teachings. We forget the purpose. So just take a moment and let’s just think of, let’s try to imagine like everything you can think about of Jesus’ teachings, all the things, you know, like all the stories, whether prodigal son, um, feeding the multitudes, all of those things. And, and this is where we religious people really screw it up. We really screw it up as we get fixated on the wrong things. If you’re to summarize and look at the heart of Jesus, and this is when I pray that can be reclaimed in our lives today. First of all, Jesus taught that God is for us. You gotta get ahold of that, that God is for us. God is looking for us. God is for forgiving our sin. God is for healing us. God is for restoring.

Pastor Mike (24:05):

What was lost, God is for setting us free. That’s what God is about. God is for us. And so we had to get rid of this lie that, that, that God was creating these walls and barriers and all those kind of things. That is not God’s heart. And Jesus demonstrates that. And everything that he taught and said, and dude did the other thing that, that Jesus’ teaching did. Now this is the part that, that I think is to me what real holiness is. What really setting it apart is if you look at everything that Jesus taught, one, yes, God is for us. Number two, Jesus taught that God challenges or what God resists is every single obstacle and barrier in our lives that separates us from the love of God.

Pastor Mike (24:55):

So when religious people started, you know, putting all their stuff up and you know, they started revving their feathers and saying, Hey, it’s about this and that. And Jesus saw that it was separating people from the love of God. Jesus got right up in their face and we got to see mean Jesus. And Jesus said, No, this is not the heart of God. When people were, were sick and they were exiled because of their sickness made, because they, they were shunned cuz people thought, because if you had a particular sickness or or a a particular handicap in your life that you either had a demonn or, or there was something wrong with your family, you are a curse. Jesus says, No, I heal them. I bring them in. When people, when people were taught and said that, you know what, because of somebody’s profession or lifestyle or, or status in life that they’re not blessed, we shouldn’t hang around them because we gotta stay holiness Jesus.

Pastor Mike (25:46):

Here’s what holiness is. You know what? We’re gonna break down that barrier and we are gonna connect everything that Jesus did and taught is encapsulated those two things that God is for us. And God is against any kind of single thing. Whether it’s unhealthy attachments to money, whether it’s loving the wrong things, whether it’s putting idols in life, anything that separates us from encountering God, but also any kind of barrier that hinders us from actually genuinely loving one another in that pure and holy way. So we have to understand this, is that if you really wanna see, like, I mean honestly measure like your, your your love capacity. Like how much do I really love God? Am I really growing in grace? You gotta see how much you love and care for others. That, that, that, that, that is the in, I mean, that, that’s the other side of the coin. It’s, it’s one coin. Love God, love your neighbor. And if you, if you suck at loving your neighbor, then you know what? You have a real hard problem with loving God and all your religiosity. The only one that you’re fooling is yourself. All your, all your superficial holiness, all your, all your fancy rituals, traditions, all the hns. You know how to sing all the praise songs you gotta do. All the charismatic jigs, you do all your little tambourine won’t do anything for that. It won’t help you.

Pastor Mike (27:12):

And we do have to understand that our love for, uh, for our neighbor, our love for others, it is fueled, it is powered by our relationship with God. And so we got, we, we have to have this, this mutual mutuality. We have to have this together. So you could say, I mean, man, churches do this all the time, especially churches are ready to die and close. They say, Oh, we’re a welcoming church. We’re a friendly church. You know, they, they, they say that stuff all the time. But I guess the question we need to ask is, it’s not what you think, but how do people feel when they are around you?

Pastor Mike (27:49):

And then if you think about that example that, that I gave, one thing I I I came to, to this conclusion later on, who I thought in the beginning that person was a mature Christian, is cause I knew the Bible better than me. That, I mean, that, that was really why I went to them. Cause I thought they knew the Bible better than me, but I saw that it was manipulated. There was an, there was an agenda there, it was all about themselves. And what I really came and realized is that that person was not a safe person because safe people are those people that have allowed God to redeem their lives. They’ve encountered God’s love in such a way that it changes who they are. Now, I will say that sometimes even outside the church, there’s some safer people out there than there are inside the church because God’s grace is at work everywhere and some people are more open to God than those that have been sitting in the church for years.

Pastor Mike (28:48):

So I guess you gotta ask yourself this question, am I a safe person? So here’s something, I mean, it’s a challenge that we need to, to think about again, when, when it talks about going and making disciples and doing this, if we’re really doing this right, you should have a reputation among those that are outside the faith as being one of the safest people that they know, nor words their relationship with you must be one of the safest and trustworthy relationships that they have. And if and if they’re not, if you are not viewed by others, if you’re, And let me tell you something, man, I, boy, I I, I was taught that I drank this Kool-Aid for a while and, and I knew the people that made the mix. Okay? But you know, there’s some that’ll say no. The reason why I’m not like this, because I’m not like the world, you know, I’m not of this world and therefore the world hates me and all.

Pastor Mike (29:41):

No, the world, the spirit of the world hates Jesus. Okay? The people love Jesus. People love Jesus when they see that real faith, they, when they see the real Jesus, when they see the Jesus that that that goes beyond and pushes those people love that the spirit of the world, yes, that hates Jesus. Because you know what Jesus is about tearing down every kind of border and boundary and obstacle that hinders that. So don’t buy on that thing of like, well I just don’t have any secular friends cause I’m such a good Christian. I think it might be the opposite. Okay, so am I a safe person? You know, what do you strive to be one of that safest people

Pastor Mike (30:28):

In your family? You know, like, you know, like when family gossip breaks out, right? When there’s a family, you know, like there, there’s a bomb in the family. You know, you got that one relative that just went off the rail, you know, Or you got a whole bunch of them that went off the rail. I don’t know how your family is, but I know how mine is. But anyways, um, you know, that stuff happens and, and you know what, you know, sometimes like family, you know, like there’s that family shame game, you know? And so like, they get embarrassed. So, so they, like, there’s some people that they just don’t tell, right? Cause like, and the reason why they don’t wanna tell us cause they know that the story’s gonna get out more. It’s gonna get twisted, it’s gonna be used against them and all that. Are you like the last person to get the news in your family? Better? Ask your question self. Why, you know, in the workplace, you know, do you, do you, do you make connections or friends or are you just kinda like this loner or when, or when you got to work across that, like other offices and stuff like that? And, and maybe network in the community. Do people welcome your presence?

Pastor Mike (31:28):

And then here’s the thing that, you know, we think that, that our, our our bad behavior excuses all this stuff, because you know what? We, we attend the coolest church. You know, I go the biggest church or the coolest church or the hip church. I have the church that has all the answers, you know, and, and, and my pastor, you know, I mean, he dresses so awesome. And you know what, no one really cares about that stuff. Maybe other religious Christians do, but most people don’t care about that superficial things. They, they don’t, they don’t care about how cool things are, how big things are and all that stuff. And let’s face it, I mean, some of us can’t pull off that whole hipster thing. I mean, I mean, some of us just don’t have the body for it, you know? I mean, you know, But, but what people really care about is how they feel when they’re around you.

Pastor Mike (32:15):

How do you make them feel? Do you, do you build people up? And also they care about what kind of person are they becoming after they’ve been around you? You know, there, there are tons of polls and things on the internet you can find about like what people don’t like about Christians, but they usually, I mean, I mean there’s like, I mean there’s huge lists, but I’m gonna take it down to the simple three things. Why people have a hard time with us Christians is one that, and top of the list is what, what do you think the top reason why people have a hard time with Christians? Hypocrites. That was my number two on the list actually. Number one, judgemental. Yes, we have a reputation for being judgemental, even though Jesus said, Judge, not list EB judged. Jesus said that. And yet we still judge, we still, you know, we’re not only like the judge, but also, you know what we, we wanna we wanna plan the sentence for people.

Pastor Mike (33:09):

And people have a hard time with that hypocrites. You know why I think there’s a hard time? Why, why we Christians are are just so hypocritical? Because, you know, we, we, we, we try to put on a facade and, and, and we, and we try to, you know, we, we try to fake it until we make it. But you know what, you’re not making and you’re not fooling anyone. And we think that just by masquerading with our words and, and all of our little colorful things and live in our Christian bubble that we’re gonna be okay. But if you don’t allow God to change your heart and you’re still that mean little critical person, that that is just like nit picky about stuff, you know, you, you gotta ask like, God, why am I so dang nitpicky? Why am I letting this little thing that really doesn’t matter?

Pastor Mike (33:46):

Like, none of the world will lose sleep over it except for me. What is going on in my soul? What’s really beneath that? Why do I have such a hard time with relating with my kids or my neighbors or my brother or my sister? What’s going on me? Why do I let that just bug the heck outta me? And if we’re not asking those questions, then what happens is we think everything’s okay and we’re talking one thing. We’re thinking everybody’s following, but we’re not. And third thing, we Christians, I mean, we stink at friendships. We have a hard time being, being friends. And, and so, um, here’s the thing. What will help you to be a better friend is that you gotta make a decision today that I am going to love real people and not ideal people. See so many times, you know, we, we have like, I’ll, you know, like the person that needs to be my friend, the person that I’m gonna connect with is gonna be this like perfect Christian, or they’re gonna check all the boxes or people I like, They’re my kind of people.

Pastor Mike (34:47):

And you know what Jesus didn’t do that Jesus loved real people, people that had strengths and people that were beautiful and people that, that, I mean, just had different cultures and all these things and people that, that, that were burdened with sin and that were broken and were hurting and didn’t do everything right. And, and they had more than one junk drawer. And you know, and they occasionally cussed and you know, and, and all those things, you know, they, they, they ride on on less than a a quarter take of gas and they wait till the thing goes on. The light goes on the way to try all those people. Jesus loved them. He, he loved real people and not just the ideal people. But, you know, we, Christians have a hard time doing this. And, and there’s several reasons that I think we have a hard time doing this.

Pastor Mike (35:28):

And finding meaningful people, meaningful friendships is number one, we don’t, we’re not intentional about having friendships with people who are outside our faith. We don’t do that. Well. Part of it is because some churches, you know, just get us so dang overscheduled that we have to be in church five days a week. You know? And, and we have to be doing all these things and, and, and we’re just so busy with ourselves and we don’t have time to interact or meet anybody else because when we’re not in our chi work church world, you know, we got work to do cause we’ve been neglecting our work and we had to hurry up and do that kind of stuff. And then some Christians are afraid of people who are not Christians. They, you know, they’re, they’re afraid of people that are, that are worldly. And I guess the question I wanna ask you is like, when was the last time you had someone over for dinner or, or, or coffee or had a meaningful conversation with somebody that had a different skin color than you or someone that was not of your political persuasion? And I’m not talking about one of those little peaceful dinners where you just stare across each other, you know, across the room at each other and give each other the evil eye. I’m talking about like a meaningful connection with somebody. What about, when’s the last time you had you met with somebody that and, and invited ’em to your house that didn’t have the same value system as you? When was the last time you hung out with an addict?

Pastor Mike (36:51):

Somebody that, not, not the addicts that are in recovery. I’m talking about the addicts that, that don’t even know they need recovery, but you’ve allowed them to, to be a part of your life. You know what I love about the early church? The early church. I mean, it was never this monolithic, boring place. It was not monochromatic. You know, they don’t, they all didn’t just wear gray or, or maybe beige was the color. Cause the dirt, I mean, they didn’t wear any of that stuff. I mean they, I mean, it was beautiful. It was diverse, you know, it was meant for every ethnic group. That’s why Jesus said, go and preach to all nations.

Pastor Mike (37:26):

You know, it highlights the diversity of God, the creativity of God. And yet we, we hinder all that kind of stuff, huh? The other, the other problem that we have when we, when we have a problem with being friends, is that when we think about somebody that’s outside the faith, we do it because they’re a project. We gotta convert them. We have to fix them. And you can’t make real friends that way. You can’t do it. Another thing is that then there’s other people that, that are like, Man, I’m bold. And they always talk about their faith, you know, and they’re always turning again, that relationship into a project because they, they can’t talk about anything else. And, and here’s the thing, you know, like they don’t know how to connect with the, the things that are important in other people’s lives. The things, I mean, there, there are some core things that every human being is important to them.

Pastor Mike (38:16):

And maybe they don’t have the, the pseudo God language like we do, but there is a way to connect to their heart and actually get to know and get to see them, you know, because like these real friendships and relationships, I mean they, they, they boil down to the real issues of life, the things that are, that are most significant. And then, but let’s not, let’s not ignore faith. We have to talk about our faith, but how do we do it? It can’t be some kind of plastic gimmick or some sales spiel, you know? So throw the book away. How to, you know, make friends and manipulate people. You don’t need that, okay?

Pastor Mike (38:57):

Let it be organic. Let it be just like talking out of like your own story. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Let people see some of your scars. Don’t bleed all over ’em, you know, but, but, but, but, you know, share your life with them cuz that’s how real friendships are. So, and then here’s another thing. For some of us, this love, our neighbor is so hard for us. And if you say, I’m not trying go love my neighbor, but you, you just, you know, you haven’t been doing in a while, People see right through that too, <laugh>. They’re gonna realize that, you know, you’re, you’re just, you know, your pastor gave you a challenge and you’re, you know, you’re just trying to do that, you know, But let’s just start by trying to like our neighbor and people actually see that you like them. I’m telling you, it helps a lot if you genuinely like the people around you. Because again, living out Jesus teachings means that we choose to love real people instead of ideal people.

Pastor Mike (39:59):

So here’s what I wanna challenge you to do. I want you to take this to heart, and I want you to, to this week, tomorrow, wherever you go, I want you to try to say, God, help me to see the people that are alone, maybe the most rejected person that you encountered. Maybe God help me to see people that, that don’t have community, that are, that are, that are, that are lonely, that just kind of maybe try to find that the biggest sob in your office place and say, you know what? I wanna try to figure out, like, I mean, I wanna get to know them. I want, I want, I want to cross that boundary. You know what, maybe it’s gonna require you to volunteer somewhere. May, it’s require you to, to mentor some students. Maybe it’s gonna require you to go, go to a shut. May it require you to make some phone calls, but you’re gonna have to show interest when you connect with these people. You’re actually gonna have to listen and you’re actually gonna have to share your life because you know what we can only love in the way that, that we’ve experienced Jesus’ love and remember his love redeems, all broken things, all the lost parts of our lives. Jesus can transform all of it if we allow it.

Pastor Mike (41:22):

And that’s why it goes back to the heart of why do we extend God’s redeeming love is because we have a understanding that, that there are parts of our world, parts of our personal lives, there’s parts of our friends, there’s people that we deeply care about whose lives need to be redeemed. And everyone’s like, What’s a strategy pastor? Like, where are we going? Well, you know what? Just open your eyes. Like, look, look where the brokenness is. Look where the hurts are. Can you see God? You know, change our, our structures here. Can you see God break the institutional racism? Can you see God going into the education system? Can you see God redeeming the marketplace? Can you see God do these things? Can you see God heal your family? Can you see God heal your heart? Can you see God actually do it? That’s where we start extending God’s redeeming love.

Pastor Mike (42:19):

And that’s also how we know that we’re free because you know what we have the ability to see and we’re willing to go into it. I love Eugene Peterson’s, um, translation of of, of the Bible and the message translation. Listen to John three 16. Everybody knows John three 16, but just listen to this. This is how much God loved the world. He gave his son, his one and only son. And this is why. So that no one need be destroyed by believing in him. Anyone can have a whole and lasting life. I like that God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point and accusing finger telling the world how bad it was. He came to help to put the world right again, Anyone who trusted him is acquitted. Anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence, Know without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one of a kind son of God when introduced to him. So all we have to do is love people and give them an opportunity to see Jesus. And the most simple way that we can do it is making a decision today to say, You know what, God, I’m gonna love real people and not just settle for the ideal people. Can we do? Let us pray.

Hannah Hunter (43:58):

Hey beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Visual Reach here at the Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday worship service at 11:15. For more information about our community and faith, check out our website at Thanks for listening.