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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Chris Hodges » Chris Hodges - Blessed to Be a Blessing

Chris Hodges - Blessed to Be a Blessing

Chris Hodges - Blessed to Be a Blessing
TOPICS: Blessing

Come on, how about we give Jesus all the praise? Come on, wasn't that awesome? Give God all the praise for that. That's pretty cool, I want to just start off by saying thank you for being a part of all of that. We had no idea what this year would look like, and turns out that we've been able to touch a lot of people's lives. And we'll talk more about that in just a moment, but let me look into that camera as I always do and say, first of all, I'm glad to be back. We had an amazing three weeks of At the Movies. Over 700 people gave their life to Jesus in three weeks. Come on, give God praise for that. A big hello to all of our campuses, we are one church that meets in 23 different rooms all across our region. I want to say a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections, we miss you so very much. Can't wait to be back up close and personal, but thank God we're able to bring our services still to you in this facilities.

And there's still a lot of people that are on the other side of the camera. Some have come back in this season, but others of you are still at home, and we're so glad we have the miracle of technology to bring church to you. I hope you've turned up the volume, hope you're worshiping God, I hope you've downloaded the children's content so you can have a Sunday school in your own home. But for those of you who are having church at home, welcome, we're so glad you're along for the ride. And for everybody who's here for the first time, welcome to church. One more time, Grants Mill, say a big hello, come on, to all of our campuses. Love you so much.

All right, I have a lot I want to share with you today, but let me begin with a few dates that I want you to know about. You already heard about really one of the most important services that we do all year long. It's really turned into one of the things we're known for. Started off just as a Christmas Eve service that has now turned into 114 services, where we will have a candlelight service. And of course, this year in this COVID reality, we've had to make some adjustments, but our dates are going to be on Saturday and Sunday the 19th and 20th. We'll give our teams Monday off to rest their voices, and then we'll start right back up Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with a lot of services, but not only in-person services, you have the ability to register online.

It's very important that you do because we're spacing things out, we're actually reducing the sizes of our auditoriums to keep everything safe. But also this year, we're providing in-home kits, and you already saw that on the video news segment. But if you don't want them, you don't have to register. But if you'd like to have them, we're actually offering next weekend and next Monday the opportunity for you to drive through without contact, you don't even have to get out of your car, we'll deliver a kit that will have just the right number of candles that you need for your family, have some Communion elements in there.

Come on, even some hot chocolate, and you'll be able to have the candlelight service at home. And so, our teams are working very, very hard, there are literally hundreds of people that are packing these kits and get, yeah, if you want to thank them, I appreciate that. Whoever started that over there, thank you. And they're doing a lot of services, so pray for our team. That's a lot, 114's a lot, but we wanted to make sure that we could do it safely, but be sure to go online and find your spot. And I probably shouldn't let the cat out of the bag, but I'm going to anyway. I just can't wait, you know? I've already given away three Christmas presents, everybody, I just can't wait. I buy them, like you got to have it now, you know?

So, but we were thinking about how a lot of the people who are in the performing arts have not had the ability to play instruments, do concerts. A lot of times, we would employ three or four string people who play orchestra type instruments for our services. And we just thought, man, there's a boatload of them that just haven't been able to play. In fact, we actually contacted musicians from four different states and we put together a symphony orchestra of over 50 people. We actually rented the downtown convention center, so we had this big football field size floor so we could space them out 6 feet apart, and your Christmas this year is not only going to have a symphony orchestra, but you were able to bless these people who have not had a paycheck in months.

Come on, somebody, it's going to be a lot of fun. You're going to love it, I can't wait. I probably shouldn't have said that. So, whenever we had the service and we do this reveal, act surprised, okay everybody? I wasn't supposed to tell you. Okay, so also four weeks from today, I believe it's four weeks from today, but four weeks from today will be the first of the year. Anybody looking forward to a brand new year? Oh, come on, somebody, yeah. In fact, 2021 does not even have to work very hard, right, to be better. So, but we are going to start it like we always do with 21 days of prayer. And I only tell you four weeks in advance because I think prayer and fasting requires preparation.

So, we'll have on our website an icon there for 21 days of prayer that you can click on that'll teach you how to fast if you've never fasted before, how to pray, how to be involved, and it's just very important. Our church was literally built on prayer and fasting. The miracle of this church is not because of its pastor. It's because of a great God that we've cried out to and depended on all these years, and so we'd really love for you to kind of educate yourself, watch the messages, read some material, and get ready for that season. So, next Sunday though, of course, is a Sunday that we have once a year that we simply call Legacy Sunday, Legacy Offering. And normally, I would give you this message on that day, and I decided this year to give it to you the week before.

And next week, we'll have a moment in our worship service where we bless this offering, and then we're going to bring you a great Christmas service next week. But today, I wanted to bring it a week in advance just to prepare us and prepare our hearts. And as always, you just ask God what you're supposed to do. There's literally no expectation. In fact, if you do nothing, we've already done a lot. This year has been an amazing year, you already saw that on the opener. But we really believe with all of our heart that this is a part, this is really what the church is supposed to be all about. And it's my job as a pastor to make sure none of us ever forget that. That we're not here just to go to church, and have our own little kumbaya moment, and just have a place where we can worship our God and let everybody else figure it out on their own.

No, no, no, Jesus said, "You need to let your light shine. You need to let your light shine in front of others". In fact, before that, he actually gives the metaphor of salt. He says, "You're to be the salt of the earth". You need to go into every place you go and the expectation of Christians is to go make things that don't taste so well, make it taste a lot better. Make every situation where things aren't doing very well, make it better. Just go make it better. Just be salt. But not only be salt, be light. So, not only make things taste better, but make every place you go, every place you go brighter. Be the light of the world. Let your light shine in front of others, but not just because it's nice to be nice. Not just because, you know, well, there's some needs and let's see if we can meet them. And not even randomly.

Jesus said, "Let your light shine, that they". And I'm going to give you a lot of that theys today. In fact, I'm going to give you five different reasons why it's important and what's the real motive behind it. "So that they may see your good deeds and," you know what? Be interested in your God, glorify your Father in heaven. Want to go, "Okay, wait a minute. No one's ever treated me like this before. Tell me about your God. Tell me about your God". And so, years ago when we started our church, in fact, in February we'll be celebrating 20 years and we have a celebration. Y'all pray that this COVID thing settles down so that we can have a celebration in February because we will celebrate 20 years of what the Lord has done.

But 20 years ago, we decide to be incredibly intentional about how we were going to do this. That we weren't just going to be random and just wherever it goes, it goes. No, no, no, we actually identified our vision, our mission's vision, or how we would let our light shine in five areas, and we call them our legacy lanes. Legacy is what you're remembered for. Legacy is what people say about you. So, these are legacy lanes. And I want to make sure you know this, especially for those of you, you call this place home, this needs to be engrained not into your mind, but into who we all are. Because literally we believe that Jesus left specific instructions about where all this goodness and kindness and all these good deeds go, when in the final words that he spoke down in Acts chapter 1... now you say, "Chris, are these his final words"?

I mean, literally this is the last thing that came out of his mouth while he was on earth. So, if you know the story of Jesus, he was born on that Christmas day, we're celebrating that. He waited till 30 to start his ministry, three years of active ministry. At 33, gave his life on a cross, then of course he was resurrected. Praise God for that, the only God who got up for the grave, come on somebody. It's not Easter, but you can still celebrate it every day, all right? And then but he spent about 40 days just hanging out, you know, popping through walls, surprising people, having conversations. Then he went to the top of the Mount of Olives. Have you ever been to Israel? Or if you've ever seen a picture of the old city of Jerusalem, usually that picture is taken from the top of the Mount of Olives.

It looks toward the west, this is to the east, so on the eastern side, or it's this mountain. And he was there with his disciples, and he was ascended into heaven. By the way, it's the exact same place that he's going to return, and in my opinion, that's going to be fairly soon. But he returned, or he left from that place, it's called the great ascension. And the last words out of his mouth is, "Go be witnesses. Go be witnesses". So, you know, do you know in a courtroom, there are several different players. There's a judge, don't be that, you're not to judge people. You're not to be the prosecutor. You're not even the defender. You're the one that gets behind, raise their right hand, and just tells their story. You're supposed to go say, "Let me tell you the difference he made in my life".

Go be witnesses. And then he got real specific. Go do it in your own city, which for them it was Jerusalem, but that's not for us. That's Birmingham, that's Columbus, that's Tuscaloosa, right? Go be witnesses in Jerusalem. And then after you've done that, go to your surrounding area, Judea and Samaria, that's America. And then actually, I want you to be intentional about doing good deeds around the world to the ends of the earth. So, this has framed our mission's portfolio. We simply call it local missions, national missions, international missions. But then we say, "Chris, I thought there were five". We have two that are specific to us, so, in other words, I think the whole church, the capital C church, every church, every Christian has this as a responsibility. If it's the last words out of your Savior, you might want to know what it is, right? But then we have an assignment that's unique to us.

And that, of course, is our own church. But then we've been given this beautiful assignment that's really not for every church. We've just been uniquely called to raise up a generation of young leaders to go change the world in a place that we call Highlands College. What I want to do is take a few minutes and just go back through those five and share with you what we are doing, why we're doing, and give you the so that. Let me tell you why. There's a so that behind all of those, and then I've got like a closing message thought that I really think is going to minister to you in a great way. But this first one is our local missions efforts. And basically what we do is, of course, we care for people who are hurting. Paul said it this way, he says, "When I am with those who are weak". And you got to understand this distinction because if you're not careful, when you're with those who are weak, you may just share in their weaknesses, and like give them some money, and never see them again.

But that's not our assignment. In fact, let me be clear that not all compassion and charity is the same. If you just give and help somebody with their physical needs in that moment and do nothing more, you didn't do what your real assignment was. So Paul says, "When I'm with those who are weak, I share in their weaknesses, for I want to bring the weak to Christ". And that's the key. "I try to find common ground with everyone so that I can save them". In other words, we make sure that our acts of kindness are connected to the love of God. Can I hear a better amen, everybody? In other words, don't just be nice to somebody, "Oh, here's $20". No, no, no, give them $20 in Jesus's name. Don't just leave a large tip at a restaurant just 'cause you feel compassion toward the server.

No, no, no, hey, connect that compassion to the fact that, hey, God loves you. And that's why we print these little cards that I'd love for you to have fistfuls of and have them everywhere, in your pockets, in your car, in your wallet, your purse. And you don't have to use it everywhere, just listen to the Holy Spirit. But there are going to be places where you'll want to do something nice, and the card simply says, "Something extra to show God loves you". So, when you go out to eat today, if you're at a restaurant, and you'll see that server who's probably not gotten nearly what they're used to getting this year because of COVID, but if you leave them what I call a honking tip, come on, every Alabamian knows what a honking tip is, right? It's for you people that are more sophisticated, that's an extremely generous gratuity, all right?

So, that's what that means. So, just go be nice, but leave this with it. See, what we do is... I told y'all I was giving you this so that. In local missions, we serve the practical needs of people so that they would open their hearts to God. Jesus said it this way, we give a cup of cold water in Jesus's name. And that's why this year, man, this year has been an amazing year to be able to show the love of God. It's like when we administered 11,000 COVID tests, before they drove up to get that thing stuck up their nose, there was somebody that saw them first who said, "Hey, we're praying for you". And through the car could say, just stretching our hands out toward them and praying for... are you hearing me? We do kindness in Jesus's name.

That's why we're doing this Saturday this Giving Hope. I love Giving Hope. I wish I could take credit for it, but our team is amazing. Years ago, we came up with this idea to create a shopping mall experience. So, used to we would just go give toys and presents to kids. And honestly, that made us the hero. But what we decided is we wanted the parents to be the hero. And so, we created a shopping mall experience where the parents can come. And then they can pick out specific toys based on their children's ages, so it wasn't even random. Like, "I can't even use that because I have a four year old, not a 14 year old". Or they can come pick out these toys. And then our team helps wrap them, and then every person who helps wrap them prays with that person, but then the parent takes them home wrapped and is able to be the hero in the story.

How many of y'all think that's a good idea? I mean, we need families to come back together, yeah. So, the kids don't even know. The parent gets to be the hero, and I love that. But two years ago, there was a lady who came to our River Chase location, and she had just had a restraining order put on her husband for severely beating her and her 10 children, age 17 to 6. And she didn't know the Lord, she just came, somebody invited her to this experience. And she was able to get toys for all of her children. And at the end, when they prayed for her, this dear precious lady gave her heart to Jesus. Right there, tears streaming down her face, and she says, "It's not the toys that I will remember from this day, it's the fact that my sins have been forgiven".

Can we one more time just thank God that lives are changed in that kind of way. I'll tell you more about that story in just a moment, but that's why next week when we give, we're going to give to outreaches like those, and to our dream centers, and to the correctional ministry, and of course we will surprise a bunch of local ministry partners with a Christmas gift. We like to do that. They don't know it's coming, but we just will surprise our team. That's through all these great ministries that aren't a part of Highlands that we just want to bless and help keep them going. But this is what our local missions efforts are all about.

But we have a second area as well, and that is our national missions area. And in our national missions area, it comes from really from this verse out of Acts chapter 16, where the apostles and the leaders of the church, they didn't just build their own churches. But instead, they went to other churches, and strengthened them, and helped those other churches grow. In fact, this verse frames a vision that happened to us 20 years ago. When we started Highlands, we had no idea, literally no idea. I mean, honestly, if I'm honest with you, I'm just trying to, we were just trying to make this thing work. We didn't know if anybody was going to come. But we had 400 people in our first launch service here at Highlands nearly 20 years ago, and it continued to grow.

And so, the phones started ringing off the hook. "How did you do that? Can you send me a copy of the mailer that you mailed out to everybody to tell them about your church"? And so, we just started giving our resources away, but I mean, like we were still paddling pretty hard trying to stay above water. We didn't know if it was going to work ourselves. We didn't have any buildings, and the office of the church was in the basement of my house. I mean, that's for four years. I mean, like this, we were just trying to make it work. But God laid it on our heart to help other churches get started. It turned into an organization that now gives $9 million away every year to new church plants.

And today to date, even during COVID, we've planted 34 brand new churches just this fall, and now we're at the total of 912 churches around, yeah. We have a national missions effort to launch new churches, and strengthen existing churches so that they in turn can reach their world. And that's what we do not only with new churches, but we also... you do this. I need you to know you do this. Like, "Pastor Chris, man, you're doing a lot". No, no, no, you're doing a lot. 'Cause everything we create for ourselves we give away to other churches. Now, 14,000 churches download our materials every month all around the world. This is what it's all about. So, when we have this offering, we will give to ARC, we'll give to Grow to strengthen churches.

And here's my favorite. I just personally like this last one and there's a story behind it. And I'm always careful to share stories like this 'cause I don't want to play on your emotions. I hate that, I hate it when pastors do that. I'm not playing on your emotions. Tammy and I always have done very well. God has blessed us. The first year was rough. I'm just letting you know, okay? We're fine, we were very blessed, but that first year was rough. It was rough. We didn't know. I'm just letting you know, okay. And regularly, about three times, we would receive a surprise envelope from another church or pastor, and it'd be like $500 check or $1,000 check. And they would write little notes like, "Hey, don't spend this on the church. This is for you and Tammy".

And tears would stream down our face and it's just like, in fact, even the first year, somebody called us who was new at our church, said, "Hey, if y'all don't have a place to go vacation, we have a house down at the beach, and you can use it". It was little things like that. And when that happened, I told God, "God, if you'll ever bless this, I mean, I promise you I will do this for others. I promise you". And now, we have the privilege. We have 160 families, pastor families, that this year has rocked their world. Some of them are new church planters, but y'all, they don't know it. They don't know it, and I've written a letter. And I've said, "On behalf of the church, the amazing people at Church of the Highlands, this is a Christmas blessing that you're forbidden to use in your church. This is for you and your families".

And y'all, we're going to bless the fire of about 160 families, why we give. It's just personal to me, all right. So, of course the international, the international is interesting. But we do have a responsibility to go in all the world. Jesus said that, this is one of his final words. But there's a twist to this one that I just want to teach on. I think they're all important, let me just say that. I think every dollar that goes to any place anywhere in the world is important. Any place the gospel goes is fine, but we made a unique decision, this is important for you to know if you're a member of our church, that we decided not just to give everywhere, that we would focus on what we call strategic missions.

And I'll explain that in a second, so that every person in the world, here's the key, has the opportunity to hear the name of Jesus at least once. And unfortunately, it's hard to believe in 2020 with all this technology that there's still a few people that have not even heard that name once. It's hard to believe that there's still people. It's hard to believe with all that the resources we have, all the technology we have, that there is still about 2,000 people groups without the Bible in their translation. It's hard to believe that there are places in the earth without one single church. And we just decided all of it's good, but we're not going to all of it.

We decided years ago that we would focus on an area of the world that's called the 10/40 window. So, it's called 10/40 because the equator comes about right here, so this is the 10-degree line, the bottom, and the 40-degree line. And if you put a window from Africa to the Pacific Rim, 97% of the people who don't know Jesus live right there. But only 3% of the missions dollar goes there, and only 1% of the missionary goes there. Well, that's not even smart. That's the worst business plan I've ever heard in my life, 97% of the need's getting 3% of the money and 1% of the people? And we just decided we're giving 100% there. Our missions dollar goes there to reach what we call the unreached people groups. You're right now translating three translations, three Bibles for three people groups who don't have a Bible to do church planning and to train the leaders in those areas.

And next week when we give, a portion of it's going to go to that 'cause we think it's so important. Y'all believe that, everybody? I mean, they should get the chance at least once to hear. And then, of course, we have Highlands College. And I talk about it so much, I won't talk about it now, a lot now. But it honestly doesn't matter what your vision is or what you desire to do to help people if you don't have the people to pull it off. I mean, at the end of the day, we don't have a harvest problem. There are people who'd eat meals today, get saved today, receive prayer today. That's not the problem, the problem is there's no one to do it. The harvest is plentiful, the workers are a few, Jesus said.

So, work on this. He said, in fact, he made it a prayer, "Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into that harvest field". And that's why we train students who are called to ministry. And here's the so that, so that they can be placed around the world and fulfill the Great Commission. And I had no idea how God would bless this. I mean, honestly, I thought it was going to be an internship. Do you want to know the truth about it? I thought it was going to be 80 kids who would just come and serve here as interns. And today, God has blessed us with the most amazing building in the city. It blows my mind. This week, we did the dedication service for the groundbreaking of the renovations we're doing on the Grandview facility.

If you want to see that, you ought to see that, follow Highlands College on the social media platforms. But a portion of what we give next week will go to scholarship students who don't have the ability to come, but who have the call of God on their life. Man, we want no graduate to graduate with debt so they can go straight into the harvest field. And of course, to continue to see that dream become a reality. And then you have this last one. By the way, can we just clap and say thank you, Jesus, for giving us that assignment? I'm still blown away. Come on, it's 1100 students now. And if God made me stop doing everything I'm doing, say, "PC, you can only do one thing".

Of course, he wouldn't call me PC. "Chris, if you can only do one thing," this is what I'd spend the rest of my life doing. I'm just letting you know I think this is one of the most important things we have ever done, will ever do. But the last one is our church. And I love the way Jesus says it. Jesus says, "I will build," say the next two words, "I will build". I like he didn't say the church. It's personal to him. Okay, I want to say this, I love my church. I mean, praise God for all that other stuff, but I like Church of the Highlands. I love my church. In fact, I'm starting a series in January called "My Church".

You know, I talk about the distinctions. Week one, my church prays. We started this church believing that the power of the Holy Spirit is still alive and well, that you can be filled with the Spirit. You can have miracles and signs and wonders, and the anointing of God, like this is not religion. Oh yeah, we're going there, that's January, I can't hardly wait. But I love he said, "My church, my church. In my church, the gates of hell cannot prevail against my church". Church of the Highlands, we build life-giving local churches all across our region. Had no idea there'd be 23 so that people can know God, find freedom, discover purpose, make a difference. And who knew how many... it wasn't me, I promise you, that I'd stand here today to be able to tell you that we have all these locations and built every one of them. Started them portably, and then build permanent locations with cash.

And this year's assignment and this year's offering is going to go to the next two that, praise God, we own property in Woodlawn, to God be the glory for that. We built them a building, and property in McCalla, and who knew? You say, "Chris, why are you doing all this? Hasn't 2020 been hard enough? Like shouldn't we just have a lot of prayer right now 'cause do you have any idea what we're going through"? And honestly, I do. I really do, I understand. There was a moment, I'm just going to tell you, there was a moment where I built this message, it was two weeks ago when I began building this message for you today. And this rarely happens, where I'm watching one of the services where I'm the speaker, and then I minister to myself.

Usually I'm going, "Why'd you say that? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life". Like but I'll watch, I always watch. And I think, "Lord, Chris, you got to get better". But two weeks ago, I'm going, "Bro, dude, that's good, man. Preach, say that". I was getting blessed. We were in the middle of the At the Movies, and we were watching that movie "The Impossible" about the tsunami. And it was that moment when the waves subsided and this family of five, there was only the mom and this little boy left, they didn't even know if the dad and the other two brothers were alive. She had a giant gash in her leg, their clothes were ripped off of them, they're trying to find a place, a tree to climb just to get some rest, not even knowing if they're going to survive, and they heard the cry of that other little boy.

And there became a tension between the mom and the boy of what they were supposed to do. And as she hobbled in unimaginable pain and as they were just wondering if they'd even live another hour, she says, "We have to go help them". And in some weird way, that's what 2020 feels like to me. Everything kind of in my natural self says, "Let's just find a place of safety. Let's just figure out if we can survive another Sunday. Who knows what's even going to happen next week, and let's just kind of get in huddle up mode, take care..." But there's the cry of a little boy and a heap of rubble that I can't, like we cannot ignore. And when I saw that tension, yeah, I mean, I'm serious. And that's the heart behind next Sunday.

Have we done enough? Yeah, it's more than enough. But I still hear, there's still the voices of people who've never heard the name. There's still voices of people who are starving right now. There's still people who... and so, we make some decisions that have to honestly, this has nothing to do with next week and it has nothing to do with your giving, this is just a principle that if you're a follower of Christ, it's who we are. It's just who we are. That we embrace three principles, the first is that God blesses us with more than we need. Like he never intended for you just to have what you need. You have more than you need.

And by the way, please don't take this as any kind of insult or, "Chris, you have no idea what I'm going through". Look, you're in America, you're in a covered building, there's heat and air condition, you have clothes on your body. You have been blessed. Come on, everybody, we are blessed. I don't care what your circumstance is, you may be hobbling, you may be wounded yourself, but we're alive. That's what that mom did, like I know I'm hurt, but I'm alive. We have to know what the more is for. And as we look around this miracle called our church, we have to know what it's for. What is it for? It's clear. "I'll bless you so that you can be a blessing. I'll bless you". That's what we try to do this year with the... if I'm honest with you, we had a meeting in March right after we got shut down.

Our executive team met for six hours. And I will tell you the first few hours was, "Okay, this is probably going, this is going to go down, and this is going to go down, and we better like start cutting back here and pulling back here, and we got to dial this back, we got to stop doing that. We can't..." We were wondering, and I remember the conversation had a change, I'll never forget it. We had this moment where the conversation flipped, literally flipped. We thought, "You know what? We had zero 20 years ago, and look where we are. We'll build it again. Let's take everything God has given us and let's give it away. Let's go for broke, if there's nothing left, you know what? Let's go out with a bang. Let's just do everything". Are y'all hearing me, why? Because we weren't blessed to like, "Okay, wait a minute". No, we were blessed to be a blessing.

Here's the second principle. And that is when we bless others, here's what I know, God takes care of our needs. So, I've not announced this yet, but what's it been, six? From March to December, is that like eight months or something like that? We're not down one single percentage point from this same time last year, not one single percentage point of your giving, your generosity, your participation, not one, not one. And there's almost nothing God won't do for the person who decides to help other people. In fact, he guarantees it. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more. "Oh Chris, that's heaven". No, no, no, in this life and in the life to come. So, you did it, like we did it.

Here we are, we've got work to do, but this has been the worst year and I want to say it's been the best year ever. We couldn't have services, so we invited other churches to come use our cameramen and our technology. So, church after church came and recorded their services here 'cause they didn't have the cameras to do it, so that they could have online church. And in some way, it's just like, here's the last one. And that is that the more God blesses us, the more he expects us to bless. So, he blesses us to be a blessing, and then he takes care of us, and now we have more again. But now it's not that they go, "Haha, take that, 2020". No, it's not for that, it's like more is required. In fact, Jesus said, "Much is required from those to whom much has been given. Their responsibility is actually greater".

So, there's a tradition in the Jewish tradition that I'm going to tell you about as I close. It's the coolest thing ever. So, in the Jewish tradition, I always thought honestly this was the most unfair thing, one of the most unfair things I've ever read in the Bible. But you don't question God. You know, surely there's a reason. I did not know until two years ago what I'm getting ready to tell you, that when a Jewish dad gives his inheritance to his kids, no matter how many there are, the oldest gets 50%, the others divide the next 50%. So, I have five kids, so that means my oldest would get 50%, and then the other four split the next 50%. He gets what was called a double portion.

In fact, it says it in Deuteronomy that you're to acknowledge the son as the firstborn by giving them a double share of all that the dad has. Why in the world? Does he just like him more? Watch this, I did not know this until two years ago. That son is the first sign of his father's strength. That means that son, it was given double so that if the dad ever dies, he could be like the dad and take care of the rest. He had to have more because he was supposed to represent the father's strength when the father's not there anymore to provide. The right of the firstborn belongs to him. In fact, that word in the Hebrew literally means the responsibility. "Okay, Chris, that's Jewish stuff".

Watch this, this is New Testament. Talking about the church, "You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn". You know that God considers the church the firstborn. So, he's good to everybody, but he's better to us, but not so we can be better. He intentionally wanted you to have more joy, more peace, more money, more ideas, more love so you could have all of that? No, no, no, so that when the Father wasn't here, you could be a representative of the Father's strength. So, the lady who got saved two years ago earlier this year got leukemia, and then two months ago got COVID, and four weeks ago passed away. Her ten kids are now, I can't tell the family name, but the ten kids are with the grandma, the grandma's doing an amazing job, she's a hero.

Our teams have worked very, very closely and you've already been helping them. But just yesterday, our team that does all this outreach stuff and I were talking, and talking about the legacy offering. And normally we would wait, but we decided this year for the lead gift to help that grandma and these 10 kids, 17 to 6, wait, wait, wait. And they don't know it, but I'm announcing it now and they're going to hear it right now 'cause this is River Chase, you guys, that you as the lead gift of Legacy 2020... They're getting a brand new van and groceries for a year on your behalf 'cause we're the firstborn, we were supposed, and I just couldn't be more prouder of you guys.

Honestly, these dream teamers who told me the story yesterday, it took forever 'cause they're just sobbing and the people that involved. That's what it's all about, y'all. This is it, this is it. So, just do what God shows you to do. And forget the offering, just do it anyway to your neighbor and to the server at the restaurant you go to. Everywhere you go, let's be the light of the world.

And so Father, help us. This is an amazing opportunity, 2020 has been the worst. And God, you turned it into the best. And God, now in this Christmas season, here's our opportunity again to show the love of God to all of our legacy lanes and to people who aren't expecting it, to pastors and to ministries. And so God, a week in advance, I just pray for blessing over our people. God, I pray that you'd just speak to them. Lord, let them just hear from you and do whatever you show them, I pray.

With your heads bowed and your eyes closed, if you're here today and you say, "Chris, I'm far from God. I'm hurting so badly, I don't know that I could help someone else". And if today you feel like you're distant from God and you're lost and you don't know Jesus, or you're a Christian and you've backslidden and you feel shame and you feel guilt, and you can walk out of this room or leave this service at home free, saved, forgiven. You're one heartfelt prayer away from that being a reality. If that's you, campus pastors, come join me on stage, I'm going to pray a prayer and then they'll take it from the amen of this prayer. If that's you, pray this. Say:

Jesus, I need you. Please forgive me. I confess my sins. I've turned away from you. Today, I'm turning back to you. Be the Lord of my life. I believe you're the Son of God. I believe you rose from the dead. And today, I give you my life. In your name I pray, amen.

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