Tweetables

8/28/16 - Tweetables - He > I

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Scripture: John 3:30

Well hello and welcome to The Bridge Podcast. This is Pastor Justin. This is not our typical teaching Podcast because usually you would be listening to me live as I gave the life connection on Sunday, but this Sunday we had some technical errors, and those errors left us without a recording of the service. And so instead of missing that teaching and missing that opportunity for many of you who maybe couldn't make it, certainly we're in the last kind of, I guess, Sunday for many of you for what you would consider summer, and so you might've been gone, you might've not been able to hear the teaching, and so I'm sitting at my desk now. I'm going to record a Podcast of the teaching from Sunday. So if you want a refresher on what we talked about on Sunday, awesome. If you missed Sunday, then this is for you as well.

We continued our Tweetables series this past Sunday. I started with the question of...kind of a quick poll of the room you might say...and I asked people to participate. I guess, as you're driving in your car, as you're, you know, washing dishes while listening to this, as you're doing whatever you do while you listen to this, even run, I don't know what you're doing. But I asked people raise your hand if you've ever heard of Edmund Halley. And then I said, raise your hand if you've ever heard of Isaac Newton. As you can imagine, the majority of the room raised their hand when I said Isaac Newton, and I think we had about ten people raise their hand when I said Edmund Halley.

Everyone knows Isaac Newton or at least they usually remember the famous falling apple story. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized science studies. But without Edmund Halley, none of us would probably know Isaac Newton. Halley challenged Newton to think through his notions. Halley corrected Newton's mathematical errors. Halley prepared geometrical figures to support Newton's discoveries. Halley pushed back the hesitant Newton to write his great work. He just pushed him to do that. Not pushed back, pushed him toward. The title of that, by the way, was "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." So if you blew through your summer reading list and you're looking for something at the tail end of summer here, "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" sounds just great.

Halley edited and supervised that publication. Halley actually financed the printing of that publication even though Newton had more money, had the ability to do it...had even more access and ability to do it. Halley was so excited about the project, so excited about the advance of science, that he even fronted the money. Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the history of science. And Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence, and Halley received little credit.

Now, I just said Halley {Hay-lee} because the way you would pronounce his name is Halley {Holly}, but you guys would probably know of him as Halley {Hay-lee}. He used the principles to predict the orbit and return of a certain comet that now bears his name, but that only happened after his death. So even as he was alive, he never knew he would be credited for much of anything, and the truth is, even the comet we celebrate, Halley's Comet, only comes every 76 years. The year 1986 was the last time we saw it. I was two years old {Justin chuckles}. I don't think I saw it {Justin chuckles}. And when it comes back again, it's 2062, so that's the next time it's actually planning on being here.

So when you think about that, you're like, wow. We popularly call this Halley's Comet, and he was not concerned with credit. He got this comet, okay, but none of us really know his name and none of really know his real name because Halley {Hay-lee} isn't even how you would pronounce his name. But then, we all know Isaac Newton, who wouldn't have had any success or...maybe 'any success' is a little strong...wouldn't have had nearly the amount of success if he hadn't had this other person pushing him forward.

But see, Halley wasn't concerned with getting credit. He was concerned with advancing the cause of science. There's something to be learned here as we read our passage for today. Where is our concern? Are we really desiring credit or are we desiring to advance the cause of God, the Kingdom of God? See, Halley was a scientist who, for him, any new science discovery was so important that it needed to be published, it needed to be out there. People needed to have access. It needed to be critiqued, edited, all of this. More studies needed to be done. For him, the goal was to advance the cause, not to grow his brand or his name.

And so as we look today at our Tweetable, which we are going to cheat a little bit because typically these Tweetables have been 140 characters or less and that's all we cover, which is our Tweetable for today, but we're going to get some context because it is a small passage that we're going to cover that's our main passage, but we are going to get some context before that so that we can see what's happening in the story even before we get that passage.

So our passage today is John 3:30, but we're going to start in John 3:22. So here we go.

So people are coming to John to be baptized. This is kind of this exciting time. There's this Messianic expectation, and Messianic expectation simply means that the people at the time had had all of these prophecies about a Messiah coming. They had waited so long for this Messiah, and for them they had been under Roman rule and Roman authority, and they could not really probably stand how long this was taking for a Messiah to come to remove Roman authority, to reestablish the kingdom of Israel, to sit on a throne, and rule Israel. This was supposed to be the Messiah. You might call it the second coming of David if you know the stories of David in the Old Testament. It would be a warrior king, a warrior Messiah.

And so John the Baptist becomes this kind of picture of like 'Is he the new king maybe? Is he the new Messiah that we've been waiting for?' There's all this mystery surrounding the Messiah, by the way. Some would've thought he was a warrior, probably many would've thought he was a warrior, some might've thought he might be something different. But in this time, there is this expectation that's rising because they're oppressed. They're under Roman rule and authority, and they're leaning into these prophets who have told them the Messiah will come.

And so at this time, John is growing in popularity. John the Baptist is growing in popularity in the region. People are coming out to the Judean countryside to be baptized, and at the same time now, we have Jesus starting to establish His ministry. But John has been around. John has been baptizing and growing in number, getting his own disciples even. And so these two kind of stories, they intersect because John baptizes Jesus, and then Jesus goes off and starts doing ministry is kind of where this is at, and here's what happens.

"An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing." And really quick we'll just stop there. Ceremonial washing was this...I guess ritual that you would do as you went into the temple. You would also do it in other spaces where you would clean yourself. It was a picture of you being clean enough to enter into the temple, clean enough as you entered further into the temple, you would do more and more ceremonial washing. Well, John is baptizing and so most likely what they're arguing about is what's the difference between baptism, what's the difference between ceremonial washing. I'm sure that was a huge debate at that time. So that continues...that conversation's happening, but then really the root of what's happening here is in this next verse. I think it's verse 26.

"They came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, that man who is with you on the other side of the Jordan, the one you testified about,' which is Jesus, "look, He is baptizing and everyone is going to Him." And everyone is going to Him. Now, all of this debate of the day about ceremonial washing and baptism, that's not really what's happening here. What seems to be happening is the debate, whatever it was, moved quickly to point out that Jesus is more popular than we are. Jesus is baptizing and everyone's going to Him, but John you started this whole baptism thing. In essence, Jesus is stealing all of our converts, everyone's going to Him, what do we do, John? You could say John's disciples have this competitive mindset. And this is what John replied.

He said, "A person can receive what is given them from Heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said I am not the Messiah." So, I'm not the one you're expecting. "But I am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete."

John pretty much says you are my disciples, you know I said that I am not the Messiah. The bride belongs to the groom. Now, the groom also has a best man; the best man has a lot of responsibility. Typically a speech, holding the rings, planning the bachelor party. In our context {Justin chuckles}, the best man doesn't really have that much responsibility honestly. He stands up there. His job is to not fall over and to hand the rings and to maybe say, you know, to say a speech at the dinner, and to maybe plan a bachelor party.

In a Jewish wedding, though, the best man had quite a bit more. He was supposed to actually present the bride. So, not the father...in our culture, it would be the father. Now, a Jewish wedding ceremony included all kinds of things. It can be seven days, so certainly our context for what a wedding looks like and the Jewish context for what a wedding would look like are incredibly different.

But the bride and groom analogy is used throughout the New Testament. The bride is the church, the groom is Jesus, and it seems as if John the Baptist is positioning himself as the best man. He played an important role. The best man, you know, they get dressed up nice, they hold the hand of the bride, take her to the groom, and it's easy maybe to mistake him for the groom for a moment. He's dressed up nice, he's standing next to the bride, maybe they're even...arms locked. But that's not who he is, and so his disciples maybe have seen him and said, 'Hmmm. That looks like the Messiah. But really he was delivering, you could say, he was handing the bride (the church) to Jesus, preparing the way. This is what John the Baptist was doing.

John knows his role, and John knows his purpose, and John is determined to stay in his lane. And from that place, he gives us one of the most profound Tweetables of this entire series that we've been in. It might be our smallest but potentially the most difficult to live out and to put into action in our lives. And this is our last Tweetable of the summer. Here it goes. Here's what it is, John 3:30.

He must become greater; I must become less. Other translations say it this way: "He must increase, and I must decrease." Imagine a best man that tries to steal the show at a wedding. What does that look like? That would look crazy. If you attended that wedding, it would be embarrassing to watch.

And then I thought to myself, I think I saw a video...not where like a best man intentionally tried to steal a wedding, but where he did {Justin chuckles}. The video, we showed it on Sunday. Obviously this doesn't work over the format of podcast audio. {Note: Since this is the blog version, the spoken description of the scene appears after the embedded video below.)

But you see the zoom-in of the bride, the groom, and the pastor; and they're standing on this like elevated platform, and there's like two steps up to them, and the pastor just gets done feeding the bride the last vow that she speaks. And at that moment, he asks the best man to present the rings. The best man is staring off into space, just completely absent what's happening. You can tell he's not really paying much attention, pretty much what most best men do in this moment, and so he catches attention, realizes the pastor's talking to him, obviously gets a little rushed because he's like, oh, man, I'm messing up my one part in this wedding.

So he hustles and hightails it up the two stairs. He trips as he's pulling the rings out of his pocket, and when he trips, he bumps into the bride and into the pastor, who are on this elevated platform with a pool behind them. And the bride and the pastor {Justin laughing} fall into the water right here at this moment during the middle of their wedding. Now it's pretty hilarious. If you YouTube that, just YouTube 'bride falls in pool,' and I'm sure it's like got a million hits at ten different videos.

But anyway, the funniest part about that is the bridesmaids start laughing and then they catch themselves laughing, and then they're like, 'Oh, don't laugh. This is serious. This is not good.' And so imagine, though, as that bride and groom think about their wedding, they're probably not super satisfied about how that went. That wasn't in the plans. The best man didn't do his job and get out of the way. The best man is the thing most people are going to remember about that wedding.

So John shares this principle with us of like, I know my role, I'm the best man, I'm here to prepare the way for this marriage. And this principle to him, he makes it personal. Jesus must become greater, and I must become less.

But hey, we live in a world that throws us lie after lie, and they're so easy to buy into. So lie #1 that we buy into that makes it very difficult for us to live out John 3:30:

Live in a way that increases your possessions. We desire stuff: newest, best, most up-to-date, accumulate more and more. And this is the story we're told. We can become people who live our life for the next purchase. Life becomes something that gets us to the next purchase, to the next vacation, to the next experience, but this isn't how we were designed to live. When we live this way, we've bought into a lie. We've bought into the reality that our possessions may very well possess us. So lie #1 that keeps us from living this John 3:30 principle is that we live in a way that increases our possessions.

We can also live in a way that increases our position. That's a lie we're told. We're told live in a way that increases your position. You know, we all want to probably be more powerful. We all probably want to be more respected. Many of us want to be first. We want our team to finish first if we're at work or for watching a sports team. We desire to position ourselves on the top. As the great philosopher and theologian said, Ricky Bobby, once said, "If you ain't first, you're last." Right? {Justin laughs}

And so we buy into this type of lie that we need to position our life around being first. And there's this show on Netflix called House of Cards that I watch, and I remember one point in House of Cards where the main character, Francis Underwood, was talking to another politician. They were doing some kind of behind-the-scenes shady business, which probably is what actually happens in politics nowadays.

And sometimes when you watch House of Cards...it is a mature show, so if that's something you're into, awesome, but it's interesting because Francis is this character who's really dark and is this character you follow, and sometimes he'll step away from a scene that he's in, and he'll narrate a scene. And you realize as you're watching this...you're watching the conversation but you don't necessarily always know what he's thinking. But he'll step away and tell you what he's thinking. And so after this scene with this politician where he pretty much pays him off, like he's going to get a certain amount of money and that seems to satisfy this politician.

Well, Francis steps back and goes into narrate mode, looks right into the camera, and tells you his intentions. And he said something like this...I didn't...I couldn't find it. I didn't go back and get the exact quote, but I remember it so vividly. He said something like, 'He's interested in wealth. I'm interested in something far more valuable: power.' Power. See, it doesn't take House of Cards to know that there's many people that live in a way to position themselves higher on the chain. They want more power. They want to accumulate position. The higher they can position themselves, the better. Well, that's a lie when we think of the John 3:30 principle that we must become less and He must become more.

Another lie we buy into is:

Live in a way that increases your fame. We all have something to say, and we want someone to hear it, and now we have this great platform called social media or blogging, and there's so much that the technology revolution has given us. It's given us new platforms. Almost daily now we have new platforms, and some of them are sticking, and we're having to navigate and learn new things. Some of you are just now navigating to Facebook. You're like, wow, this is amazing. And some of you are like, Facebook is the oldest thing ever. I closed my account. I don't even care about Facebook.

Because we're seeming to try to find these platforms where our voice can be heard, where we can connect with one another, and these are really healthy...except as I listened in a documentary recently, that we are becoming the "like" generation because our desire, especially for many young people, is to see how many friends we can get, how many likes we can get, how many comments...how many positive comments we can get. And when we are trending, there is value found there. It causes us to live life in a way that orients ourselves toward more likes, toward more friends, toward more followers, toward more plays.

The goal is to increase our fame. Interestingly enough, this was one of the first...was part of one of the first sins. When the serpent said to Eve, "You will not die. God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you," this is what the serpent said, "will be like God." The first temptation was a temptation to be like God. All of these three have that in them. All of these three lies we buy into are part of the first temptation - to be like God, to have access to everything, to have...to have all possessions at my hands. We buy into that. To be all-powerful, to be the most powerful. We buy into that lie to be like God. And we may not think of it that way, right? But that's what's happening. We're buying into that lie, the lie the serpent sold Adam and Eve, and we're continuing to be sold today.

Finally, even, as we talked about just this last lie, the desire to be worshipped, the desire for fame, the desire for likes. The first temptation of the serpent is simply this: you must increase, and God must decrease. And this is not just the first temptation, it is a temptation that plagues us to today and almost everyone in between. And so here's our three take-home / takeaway Tweets that might be helpful for you as you navigate this.

First:

When we live increasing our investment in this world, then we live for very little. But - when we live for things that are eternal, when we live in a way that grows the Kingdom of God, we live with our minds set on eternity. Sharing our faith with others, caring for others, investing in relationships, being a friend to those in need, serving our community and our world, giving generously out of our resources.

Our next series that we're going into, even this Sunday coming up, is Time, Talents, and Treasures, and we're going to talk about all of our resources that we have at our disposal and do we lock them up in a vault or do we use them to further the Kingdom of God. To further the Kingdom of God even within us. How do we do that?

Our takeaway Tweet #2:

We are pretty impatient people. I remember a story. I was at Wal-Mart once, and we were in Wisconsin. I was at Wal-Mart and I'm circling around the parking lot. I'm one of "those people." I'm circling around Wal-Mart, I got two kids in the back, it's snow on the ground because it's Wisconsin, it's pretty much all the time, right? And we're driving around and I'm like, I'm getting a really nice parking spot today. Today, I am willing to sit in this warm car for 10-15 minutes if I have to, to get a front row or pretty close to front row spot because I don't want to walk these kids all the way through all this snow, you know, so I was like, I'm going to do that.

So I'm circling around. Of course I'm not the only one with this idea. There's other people that have this idea. They want to circle around, too, so we're circling around. Finally I see this lady about ten minutes in walk out and walk to her car, which is like three parking spots from the door, so I'm like YES! So I pull up right there, I turn the turn signal on, watch her load her groceries in. I'm like, yes, I got a spot, totally worth it, awesome. And she goes in her car and proceeds to like check Facebook or I don't know what she's doing on her phone, but she's just sitting there, has no desire to leave that spot now, and it's been like five minutes. It's been a good amount of time. And I'm kind of like sitting here like, you saw me while you were unloading your groceries chillin' here, what's happening? You know?

And then...this big old truck pulls up behind me - and when I say 'big old truck,' I mean like monster-truck huge - pulls up behind me, and I was like, okay, what's happening here? And he didn't have the room to get around me I guess, or didn't have the ability to, I don't know, but he just starts honking at me. So I'm sitting here impatient because this lady isn't backing out of her spot. Now this guy behind me is impatient, honking his horn, and finally gets to the point a couple minutes in where he just lays on the horn, like just lays on the horn. And I'm like, well what am I supposed to do, man, I'm not losing this spot because the moment I leave this place right here, some other person's going to come in, going to take my spot with the turn signal, and then this person's going to decide to move out.

So I'm sitting here; I'm standing my ground, and I'm like, 'Please don't run me over.' Please don't run me over because he's in a huge truck, probably could've ran me over. And what he does, he pops it in reverse and like guns it as fast as he can. Like there's no way he looked behind him, and he was angry, you could see it in just the way he drove this car. He was impatient, so he's flying backwards.

Finally, the lady leaves, I get in the spot, I go in, and let's just be honest, most of our adventures to Wal-Mart require patience, right? We're sitting there, maybe in a busy line to figure out how we're going to, you know, get through the line {Justin laughs}. I mean, what's so frustrating about Wal-Mart is you go in, you get your groceries or whatever you're getting... Okay now, by the way, Wal-Mart isn't necessarily a place I frequent, but in that, it is a very convenient place to go. You've got kids, you got one-stop shopping here. Then you get there, and you're like, oh, this convenient place where I can one-stop shop has 45 lanes, awesome. But 4 of them are all that are ever open, and so now I have to wait in a line as long as this.

The point I'm trying to get to is, on that day alone, in that small little story I just told you, I was impatient. The guy behind me was impatient. The people in the store were impatient. The people standing line were impatient. As people got back out to their cars, they were probably leaving impatient. We live in a world that tells us we deserve instant gratification and if you want something, then you deserve it right now. You deserve it fast, and we all want to be first. We forget the words of Jesus that the first will be last and the last will be first. And we forget the words of John here, that we must decrease and Christ must increase.

Here's the difference, though, and here's the reason patience is so important in this key to us decreasing and Christ increasing in us even. When we live patiently, we are open to serving others. When we live patiently, we are open to seeing the needs of others. When we live patiently, we are open to Jesus being greater and us being less. Because when we are in a hurry, life becomes all about our needs. In that moment, I was not at all concerned about the guy in the truck behind me. I couldn't care less about his needs. I was concerned about my needs. That's not the posture or position that we should place ourselves in if we are asking for Christ to increase and us to decrease.

So patience is a huge part of this because we live in a world, again, that tells us we need it now, we need it now, it's yours to have now, instant gratification, so we need to start creating rhythms in our lives that allow us to have more patience.

Our final take-home Tweet (#3):

The more we lean into the life of Jesus, the more we are protected from desiring things like possessions, power, and fame. We become okay with the idea of decreasing because we see the bigger picture, we see Jesus, we see Jesus elevated, we see the power of Jesus on display in the world, we become more concerned with advancing the cause of Jesus than elevating our name. This is why John the Baptist spoke with joy. Right before John said, "He must become greater; I must become less," he said these words: "The joy is mine, and it is now complete." Meaning, 'I was the best man, and I did my job well. I followed the will of the groom, and I delivered the bride, and I got out of the way.'

And we have a job. Our job is to elevate Jesus to a broken world. May we have great joy at the end of our lives when we see that our work made a difference in the Kingdom of God. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, may we increase our investment in the Kingdom of God. May we grow in patience and become aware of the needs around us. God, may we look more like Jesus each and every day. May we immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus, in the teachings of Jesus, in the life of Jesus, and may that be an encouragement to us as we fight and push back against some of the lies we are told. Jesus must become greater, and we must become less. May this be the motto of our journey through life. May we be marked by humility instead of pride. In the name of Jesus, amen.

8/21/16 - Tweetables - We Meet

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Location: Lower Dauphin Middle School

Scripture: Hebrews 10:24-25

Can you guys believe summer's almost over? {frustrated sigh} Ahhhhh! Like, great way to start a message, Justin. Do you want me to check out? Right? No. You know, we only have two messages left in our Tweetables series, and I know you guys are really going to miss that trailer, right? Some of you are like, get that trailer outta here, I hate that kind of music. Others of you are like, party! So, yeah, you know...

But we've only got two left, and some of you have kids going to school this week even, and then some of you it's next week, and so summer is almost over and our Tweetables series is almost over. If you've been here in and out through our Tweetables series, it's kind of been this summer series that we've done because we recognize with traveling and with all these other things that you might be doing...for example, you might go on vacation, you might have travel league with one of your kids and they play on Sunday, whatever...we thought, how do we do a series that's not really built off each other, because a lot of series it's one after the other and they build off of each other. So this is been kind of a one-off series. Each one is just a one-off message, and so it's a great time to come in, plug in during the summer, and we're getting ready to ramp up with the school year coming up, some new series on the horizon that are exciting.

The whole premise of the series has been, let's find some really small passages of the Bible - small like Twitter-small, like 140 characters or less - and let's look at those, examine those, and examine the depth of those. And so you've all gathered here today, which is an interesting thing. Think about that. You have oriented your Sunday, potentially one of your only two days off of the week, to come to a space, gather with other individuals, maybe sing together, maybe volunteer and serve, and listen to a message, maybe pray, maybe give. This is kind of interesting, isn't it, that we're all here right now? Something within us says yeah, this is helpful. Right? Or this is something I'm interested in. Why? Why would we gather together on a Sunday on our, you know, one of our two days off maybe to actually be here? You could be out on the golf course, you could be out...I'm not trying to give you all reasons, okay? But I'm just saying like it's interesting that we're all here right now. Right?

So we're going to talk about that today. Why do we meet? Why do we get together? Why do we do this thing called church? It's an interesting...you could almost say phenomenon in our age when time is so crunched that we would come here, lay down an hour of our time to be here together. So we're going to talk about that.

Today's Tweetable is Hebrews 10: 24-25. Here's how it goes:

Let me read it one more time. "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another." So we're going to make three points off of this passage, this passage, this small, little tiny passage that maybe is the reason from all the way to the ancient world to now, we still meet together. This passage says don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.

So it seemed like in the early church, when this was written, some people were in the habit of saying, 'You know, meeting together isn't that big of a deal. We don't need to meet together. We can still follow Jesus without meeting together.' And while I believe certainly you can follow Jesus, I don't necessarily think it's ideal to follow Jesus without a community of believers around you. Okay?

And so some people in even today's world might say things like, 'You know, I love Jesus, but I hate going to church.' I would say, well, it's important that you're around people who are finding their faith in Jesus as well who are developing their faith in Jesus who can be an encouragement to you and you can be an encouragement to them.

So these next three points are really going to be things that I think we're all looking for. We all want these things, and the church - and The Bridge even - is primed to provide these. And so let's think about that as we go through this. What is our calling as we are considering ourselves maybe a bridge builder? That's kind of what we've titled ourselves. If you're here and you come here regularly, you are a bridge builder, and so if you're a bridge builder, I want you to listen to this and say, 'What is my calling? What...when I come to this space, what am I to do with my time here?'

And maybe you're here and you're not a bridge builder, but you're kind of exploring, examining 'Is this a community I really want to be a part of?' I would say do...put us to the test on these three things. Is this something that we really provide? Is this something we really do? Because if not, you should be looking for another community. I'm going to say it that bluntly. Okay, so here we go, first take-home Tweet.

We motivate one another toward love and good deeds. I'll never forget watching grown adults like banter and argue - in a good way - like tease each over pink yard flamingos. Okay? Let me tell you this story. This is a great story. Yes, I said flamingos if you were wondering where this is going.

My high school youth group, we used to do this fundraiser where we would have 50 plastic yard flamingos. You know what I'm talking about? The kind that stick in the ground and make your yard look magnificent. No, I'm just kidding. And so what would happen is, the youth group would go out and we would "flamingo" your yard. 'You just got "flamingoed' is what I think it would say. And kind of the way it would work was like you wanted to get flamingoed because then you could pay the youth group a fee (because this was a fundraiser), pay the youth group a fee, to then go flamingo someone else's yard. Does that make sense? Or you could just give them back to the students and kind of say, hey, thanks, that was cool, but I'm not going to pay the fee, then we would go find someone else's house to do it.

What would inevitably happen is we would start the flamingoing, and the students would never touch the flamingos again because then that person would pay our youth pastor at the time, and they would get their friends and go flamingo one of their friends' yards. And it was this back and forth, okay? And here's the deal, it was this fun, competitive, silly thing, but it was funny because this community of people would look forward to this random fundraiser every year. Okay? Like the ones...are we getting close to flamingo time? Are we there yet? Like they're so excited because they couldn't wait to flamingo their friend's yard, who like the homeowner's association was like, 'NO! No flamingos in the yard this year!' You know what I mean? And like we would be like, that's the yard we've got to hit first, guys. Two a.m., let's get out there! Throw some toiler paper in the trees while you're at it. {Justin laughing}

So we would have this great time, but the cool thing was - what it was actually doing is it was this community of people spurring each other on toward helping students get to camp. Students who couldn't afford to get to camp, this was a fundraiser that helped them get to camp, and I'm just sitting here thinking, man, what a cool opportunity of these people who are able to make fun out of this game, but also be able to then say, hey, I'm going to pay, and I'm going to pay again, and I'm going to pay again to go flamingo all these people's yards because I know that this money - and this is a fun thing - but I know this money's going to help so-and-so kid get to camp who wouldn't be able to go otherwise. And so it was cool to see even this competitive nature spur each other on toward doing good things. And so I think here in the community we're called to spur each other on, we're called to motivate one another toward doing good.

You know, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started this, I guess, pledge. It's called The Giving Pledge. It's this group of people that...here's what it is: The Giving Pledge works to inspire very wealthy people in the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or upon their death. So to be a part of this, I think you have to be a billionaire. That's the first thing, so I'm disqualified. Maybe you're out there and you're like, 'Oh, I might join that group.' I'm not.

So maybe this is a group you want to join, but if you want to join the group, here's the catch: you have to be willing to donate 50% of your income. Now some of you are like, of course, if you have that much money, you could donate 50% of it. The truth is, though, anybody in the world who usually gets to this point of wealth, there's always a reason to hold onto it. Right? There's always another thing once you get into a certain level of wealth, there's always the yacht you could buy or I don't even know what you could buy at that point. The football team, right?

So like there's always something else, but these people have to...if they want to join The Giving Pledge, they have to say, no, the something else is giving. Like I want to give away over half of my net worth. I think Bill Gates is at something like 90% of his net worth he's given away or he plans to give away. That's just crazy! Now it's important to note Bill Gates is, based on Forbes' list, the #1 richest man in the world, so talk about a leader giving away that much of his wealth as being the world's wealthiest person, and I think Warren Buffet was ranked third by Forbes.

But this pledge and this leadership of these two individuals to spur other people on toward love and good deeds could potentially end malaria in my lifetime. It could potentially provide HIV and AIDS education and treatment for the world. Clean water is a big issue in the world. It could potentially fix that issue. That's how much money we're talking about as these billionaires pledge to this giving pledge.

Waves and waves can happen when we spur each other on toward love and good works. And so the church - while we maybe can't do it on a financial scale of that proportion - we are called to think creatively, to be a space where we motivate one another toward good work. And so sometimes we need someone in our life who thinks a little different than us. Right? Not every billionaire's out there saying, hey, I think we should give away 50% of our wealth. Oh, that's a great idea. That's how I got here. Right? No, that's not necessarily the greatest idea. It took some creativity. It took someone thinking differently.

Here's my question: If you say, 'I can do life alone. I don't need other people. I don't need community,'  and you walk away, do you get that perspective? Do you hear that different voice saying, 'Hey, maybe there's another way. What do you think about this creative idea? So in the church, we're supposed to be this place where we hear new ideas, where we're even adventurous in our giving, where we make radical decisions to say, 'How does love and good deeds lead in my life?'

The reason community is so essential is because on our own, we are bound to become selfish. We are bound to become self-focused. When we enter into community, we see needs that we were not aware of. We see passion that other people have that maybe we don't have. We become connected to that, and we become passionate about that as well, even though we weren't even passionate about it before. And so as our passion grows, we are able to enter in with love and deeds and serve in that area. So this is the first take-home Tweet.

The second one, if that's not enough...

We are designed for community. Last week we opened up the message talking about Genesis and talking about light. Let's go back to the creation story. God creates. God creates all kinds of things, then He finally creates Adam, and He places Adam in this pretty sweet garden pad that he has. You know what I mean, right? He gets to name all the animals and do all that. I don't know how he came up with some of the names, but anyway...that was funny, guys! Hippopotamus, think about it, okay? Anyway, whatever, alright.

But God looks...and He looks at all this creation He makes and He's like, the sun and the moon? That's good. Then He's like, He's like, the oceans and the land, that's good. How many of you guys went to the beach this summer, right? Or have plans to go to the beach. It's good, right? The ocean? And so He's like, this is good. And then He looks at the plants, and He's like, this is good. If you're the type of person who likes to plant flowers and do that kind of thing, you know, that's fine. Adam was cursed to do that. You can do it for fun. But if that's your thing, God looks at it and says it's good. You know what I mean? And then He looks at the animals, and He's like, it's good. And then He looks at Adam, and here's what God says: It is not good. It is not good for the man to be alone. This ancient statement from Genesis rings true today. It is not good to be alone. So we know how the story goes. God creates Eve in the story. But we need social interaction. Adam was craving something that nothing in his surroundings, nothing in his environment, could provide for him. He needed social interaction.

A study in solitary confinement concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes as torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. Just 15 days in solitary confinement. The study found that after 15 days, there was irreversible harm psychologically done. In 15 days of solitary confinement. However, and this should be interesting to us, many prisons in the United States even will allow far past 15 days of solitary confinement. That's very interesting.

We are not designed to be alone. We are designed for community. The science of being alone - think about it - is all around us. We can see people who are lonely. We don't have to trust in a scientist who says hey, I did a study and just so you know, 15 days of solitary confinement, that's probably the limit. We can probably think of people in our lives who are lonely, and we can probably say, yeah, that's a tough way to live.

Loneliness is heavy. We can even look to the movies. Think about this. Castaway, right? How many of you guys remember Castaway? You remember Tom Hanks and he's delivering FedEx boxes and he ends up on an island. He's there all by himself. What does he need? He needs food, he needs water, he needs shelter, and that's all he needs. Right? That's all he needs, food, water, shelter. That's all he needs. He gets that. That's all he needs. What else did he need? He needed Wilson! Yes! He needed companionship. He needed community. He's even arguing with this volleyball. We never saw volleyballs the same after this, correct? Like, it's wild.

And so even there we recognize our need for community, our need for relationships. We see it on the silver screen, we see it in our own lives, we see it in our friends, we see it in the scriptures. You are designed for community. If you do not have community, it is unhealthy for you. And so this is a place where we come together, and we have community together. We have friendships, relationships, opportunities to learn from one another, opportunities to grow because one person may have more wisdom than another, and so we get to tap into that wisdom and say, oh, tell me about how you think I should handle this situation because I've never been up against this before. You have; tell me about it.

We get opportunities to grow from one another...opportunities that are only available when we have authentic relationships in community, and that's something we're striving to provide here at The Bridge. We have life groups and growth groups and here on Sunday mornings. So plug in, get connected, get community.

Our last take-home Tweet is this:

We thrive on encouragement. So we need community, we need relationships, we need that; but what makes us thrive - like be our best - is when we have encouraging relationships. William Arthur Ward said this: "Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will never forget you."

Encourage me, and I will never forget you. We can all probably think of the person in our life that spoke a word of encouragement to us, and it like clicked something in us, and it gave us the confidence we needed to take that next step that we were really unsure of. Maybe it was a teacher, maybe it was a coach, maybe a mentor, maybe a friend, a parent. I don't know who it was in your life, but here's the deal: The moment that person spoke that word of encouragement in your life and that thing clicked and you took that next step, you aren't going to forget that person. That what that person did for you was so incredibly powerful, but what that person did for you cost them nothing. Way more powerful than any monetary gift that that person could've given you was that word of encouragement. And so here in this space, the more encouraging we are to one another, the more we thrive as a community, and the more we thrive as individuals. Encouragement is necessary for us to thrive.

I remember my youth pastor {Justin chuckles} asked me to speak - I think it was the end of my freshman year, maybe my sophomore year - he asked me to come speak at a...yeah, the end of my freshman year...he asked me to come speak at his junior high camp. And this was a junior high camp where multiple churches came together, it was a weeklong camp, I've just finished my freshman year of college, okay, and I'm back for the summer. And as I'm considering this offer, I'm like, wow, I don't know...I don't know if I'm ready for like 200 middle-schoolers, and teaching in front of 200 middle-schoolers because like I've never really taught before. I've never stood on stage in front of people before, I've never given a message before. He's like, oh, you got this. Just, you know, we'll talk it over, we'll figure it out, it'll be great. I'm like, uhhhhh, alright, I'm in. You know, you encouraged me, so I took the step.

And then we prepped for it and we did it, and here's the deal. I know those CDs exist somewhere for what I did that week, and if I find them in my storage stuff, I want to burn them because I guarantee you it was terrible. Like it's real...like it was bad. I'm confident it was. Some people have like told me...I've had junior highers tell me, 'I remember when you spoke at camp!' But I'm like please don't remember, don't tell anyone, it never happened, I wasn't there, there's no photo evidence.

Like...but the thing is, like he gave me a chance. He encouraged me along the way. He encouraged me during the week because there was like five messages that I had to give, and even during these things where I'm growing each message, he's encouraging me, and even afterwards he's like, 'Man, you did so good. You've got...this is your gift, you just need to keep developing it, and you need to keep...' And now, like, I like realize I actually...I'm okay at this talking stuff. Like I'm okay at giving a message. Like I'm not where I was back then. I've developed this gift. But he saw something in me that very few people around me saw. And then he encouraged me even to the point of taking a risk to encourage me by the way.

This is the community. The community that encourages one another that sees in someone else something they maybe don't even see in themselves, even the people closest to them might not see in them and comes alongside and says I see this in you. It may not be developed yet, but I believe God is doing this in your life, and I want to help you and encourage you any way I can. What a beautiful thing we miss out on if we say, "I love Jesus, but I don't need the church. I love Jesus, but I don't need community.' No, we need community because this is what the church is called to.

Even science says this. There was this treadmill study done...which by the way, doesn't that sound terrifying? Can we just talk about that? This treadmill study done like where they have people come in and they run.  Like for me I'm like, if you told me like to sign up for a science like...like test thing, and I walked in and there was treadmills, I'd be like, 'I'm out.' You know? I'd be like I was hoping this'd be the one where I get to eat a Snickers bar and tell you how it tastes. That's what I was in for. I wanted that one.

So, no thanks to the treadmill one, but apparently they got a few people to sign up for this treadmill study and this is how the study works. They took three different groups of people and they all ran on the treadmill once, and they got their time for what they ran. Then they came in and they ran again, and they got their time. This was to give them a baseline, like where's this person's average time kind of at. And so it gave them a baseline.

Then they came back like a third time, and the third time, they took one of the groups off to the side, they let the other two run, and then they took that third group and put them on the treadmill. And what they did was, twice a minute, they would tell them something encouraging. Something like a personal trainer might do. Something like, hey, you got this, push harder. Does that make sense? Some word of encouragement they might give them. And the groups that didn't have the verbal encouragement were demolished by the group that had the encouragement. And they told them, run as best as you can, try to beat your time from last time. All three groups were told to run as fast as you can, try to beat last time's time, try to do what you can. The study found that verbal encouragement led to the runners giving maximum effort and the belief even that they could do it.

See, verbal encouragement in the church leads us to maximum effort and loving and good deeds. Maximum effort in serving others before ourselves. Maximum effort in laying down our lives for the betterment of someone else when we encourage one another, and even more so, a belief that changing the world is possible. Because it's so easy to become cynical, right? All you gotta do is turn on the news and watch like 10 minutes and you're like this world is a mess and nothing is...nothing's savable.

Well, the truth is when we encourage one another in this way, it does something in us that says good's possible. Maybe I can actually be a part of the good in this world. Maybe something I do can matter. It begins to give us purpose. It begins to tell us take the next step, keep running, don't give up, hey, let's...actually let's bump up the pace...because we were encouraged by someone else. And so this community is to be a community of encouragement.

Finally, there was a study done by a mega-church. They did this study where they sent out to their entire community these fliers where they wanted to know why don't you go to church. Like they...this is not just to their church community, this was to their whole community. They were like, hey, we want to know why you don't go to church. If you don't go to church, tell us why you don't go to church. And so they got back...here's what the top five reasons they got back were: church is boring, church is irrelevant, churches always ask for my money, I'm too busy, and I feel awkward at church. Those are the top five reasons. I think some of the reasons are probably pretty valid maybe in their experience.

But what if you flipped the question? What if you flipped the question and ask why do you go to church? Certainly you guys have a ton of reasons for why you're here today. I would say part of your upbringing, part of your tradition, I would say just your life has influenced your reason for being here today. But one might be, 'I leave motivated to love and do good for others.' Another might be, 'I'm part of a community, and I've learned that I need that.' Another one might be, 'I love encouraging others and being encouraged by others.' Like what if we left church every Sunday feeling motivated to do good in the world, connected to the community we were designed for, and feeling loved and encouraged? Think about that. This would make us primed to share the Good News, and that's why community is so essential. And so may we at The Bridge be that kind of community. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we thank You that You call us to community. Not just because You want us to gather but because You recognize we are designed for it. We are designed to be together. We go further faster with the encouragement of one another. We thrive on that. Lord, we thank You that You've designed us this way where we need one another. We can't be on an island alone. Being on an island alone will break us, so we pray for anyone in this room who's experiencing loneliness that You would provide for them a friendship, that you would provide for them in this season, Lord, even more so that they would recognize that no matter how lonely they are, that You are with them.

God, we thank You that You've given us this community. We pray that we would be the community you desire us to be, that we would be a place that motivates others toward love and good deeds, that we would be a place that sees a gift in someone and encourages that gift. Lord, show us those opportunities because we are all part of the community. This isn't about leaders who stand on a stage or volunteers who volunteer in a space, this is about each and every one of us seizing the opportunities to be creative in the way we love, to be creative in the way we motivate others to do good deeds and even do good deeds in our own life, and creative in the way we encourage one another. Lord, give us that creativity, and may we grow stronger as a community because of it. May we be more primed to offer hope and life to those searching for it.

God, we thank You that You provide for our every need, and the need of community is a great need within us. So may we never become cynical to where we give up on community, to where we give up on relationships. Lord, even if there's deep hurt that the church maybe has done to us, God I pray that you would be working and healing that so that we could reconnect in a meaningful and powerful way and live in the way You designed us to live. In the name of Jesus, amen.