Chris Hodges - Making My Story Make Sense
Come on, give Jesus all the praise, everybody. Come on, is that the best you have? Come on, give Jesus what he deserves, yeah. It's awesome. Can't tell you how humbled I am and honored to be a part of that story with you, just what a beautiful thing that God has allowed us to do together. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? Isn't it awesome? And what a miracle 2021 has been. A big hello to all of our campuses. We have one church that meets in 23 other churches all across our region and right into Georgia, as well, and God bless you guys today. A big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. We are in 21 of those facilities across our state, and we consider it an incredible honor to have you as a part of our church family.
And to those that are watching online somewhere around our area or around the world, we're so glad you're with us. Do me a favor, Grants Mill, like you've never done it before. Say the biggest hello. Come on, everybody. Yeah, woo, good job. And we just came out of our most evangelistic season of the year, where we do three weekends, what we call "At the Movies," and those were spectacular, and it was so good to see so many people come back to church; more than 52,000 people came to church in person over those weekends. And you ready for this, everybody? Six hundred and twenty-one people gave their life to Jesus. Come on, over three weeks. Oh, you can do better than that. That's awesome, so good.
And if you were one of those 621, or if you are one who has given your life to Jesus recently, there are two next steps that we would encourage you in, and they both can happen today at our services, and that is the next thing that Jesus asked, and I didn't ask it. Jesus, the one you surrendered your life to said, now that you've made this inward commitment to him, "I want you go public with your faith," and that's what water baptism is all about. And at every location after every service, there's the opportunity to be water baptized. And you might think, "Well, I didn't come prepared". And that's why we've prepared for you. So, we have all the clothes. So, we have, we have the underwear, hair products, everything you'll need to be a part of that day. And I just couldn't encourage you more to go be a part of that.
You just say, well, "Maybe I have plans". Text whoever you need to. Tell them you'll be about 20 minutes later. Follow Jesus in what he asked you to do and be public with your faith. And then the second is it's very important, once you become a Christian or renew your commitment to Christ, to get involved in a good local church. And, of course, we think we are one, but there are many in our area. And step one of the Growth Track is today at every campus, and step one basically is our membership class. So, it'll give you all the information you need to decide whether Church of the Highlands should be your home church or not. So, be sure to maybe check that out as your next step, so you can get involved in a local church.
Today, I want to answer a question that I think is one of the biggest questions that people are asking in the whole world today, in fact. And that is, "How do I make my life make sense"? I think people have always asked that question. I think people, because there is part of God on the inside of us, so you're not just a natural being with a body and a soul. You have a spirit on the inside of you. And Ecclesiastes says that God has set into the human heart the thought of eternity. So, you can't get away from it, even if you're an atheist or consider yourself an atheist, you can't take the God out of you. There's a part of you that will always wonder what does this all mean? How do I make my life make sense? And then if you add to that the last 21 or 22 months of what we've all experienced, I think the sense of loss of meaning is greater than ever before and studies show it.
So, in the past three months, 30 million people have quit their jobs. A lot of people are tired. Things don't make sense anymore. They're watching their life's movie, and there's nothing on the screen. More people are attempting suicide. Many people are committing suicide. A lot of that happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I read one study that a police report came out that more people had attempted suicide between Thanksgiving and Christmas than the previous 11 months. So, it's just a season where I think people are asking this question.
Now, I always like to start something kind of funny, and this little thing that John Maxwell gave me, who's here this week, and I encourage you to be a part of the Impact Conference, if you can online with us. But John Maxwell gave me this years ago. I think the last time I read this was about seven or eight years ago, which means a lot of you have not heard this, and it's just so funny. It's not theologically correct, but it's funny, and I enjoy it, and it's called, "Life Explained". And it goes like this. "On the first day, God created the dog". And that's where it's not theologically correct. But anyway, right there, okay.
"And he said to the dog, 'Hey, sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone comes in or walks past your house. And for this, I'm going to give you a lifespan of 20 years.' And the dog said, 'That's too long to be barking at people. Just give me 10, and I'll give you back 10.' And God agreed. On the second day, God created the monkey and said, 'I want you to entertain people and do monkey tricks and make them laugh. And for this, I'm gonna give you a lifespan of 20 years.' And the monkey said, 'That's too long to do monkey tricks for people. I want to do like the dog did, only live 10 years, and I'll give you back 10 years.' And God agreed. On the third day, God created the cow and said, 'Hey, you need to go into the field with the farmer all day long, suffer under the sun, have calves, give milk, support the farmer's family. And for this, I'm going to give you a lifespan of 60 years.' And the cow said, 'Too long. That's way too hard a life to life that long. How about I'll do like the others did, and instead of 60, just I'll live 20, and I'll give you back 40 years.' And God agreed. Then on the next day, God created man. And he said, 'Eat, sleep, play, enjoy yourself. And for this, I'm gonna give you a lifespan of 20 years.' And man said, 'What? Only 20 years? How about I take my 20 years, the 40 the cow gave you back, the 10 the monkey gave you back, and the 10 the dog gave you back, and let's make it 80 years.' And God agreed. And that is why for the first 20 years of your life you eat, sleep, play, and enjoy yourself".
How many of y'all see this train a coming, everybody, right? "For the next 40 years, we slave under the sun to support our family. For the next 10 years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last 10 years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everybody who goes by". Life has just been equated to you, all right. So, let's pray. No, I'm just kidding. That's not all, that's not all. So, what I want to do is I do want to help you make your life make sense. I think after salvation, that's the most important question of your life. Who's gonna pay for my sins? Will it be me or will it be Jesus? And that's your, you have a choice there, and that's a great, the most important decision to make. But the most important question next after that, that God gets involved in is making your life make sense. For a lot of people, they're experiencing what my friend Donald Miller says, calls the narrative void.
So, again, I'm looking at the movie. It's like I can even see my life, but there's nothing on the screen. Or for a lot of you, there was something, and your story just ended, but you're still alive. So, you're in this place that just, it feels tired, and it doesn't make any sense anymore. You need to know in the Bible, the Apostle Paul used this thought to reach people far from God. So, in Acts chapter 17, it's a great story. I'll read it. It's quite a bit of Scripture, but I'm gonna read it quickly. It says Paul was actually in Athens, so a place of great thinking, right? And he was distressed to see that the city of Athens was full of idols. So, they had found things to worship, but obviously it was not bringing them any satisfaction. So, that's what an idol is. An idol is that which you give your time, money, and attention to; therefore, you're worshiping it.
So, it can be anything. It can be shopping, it could be sports, it could be football, it could be your job, it could be things that really get a lot of who you are, but it's not scratching the itch anymore. So, he reasoned, he knew that was the case, so he reasoned, he went and had discussions in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as going into the marketplace, which is what the church needs to do, as well, not just have the conversation here. We need to have it out there, as well, day by day with those who happen to be there. "And a group of epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him". Which I think it was a healthy debate, one that we probably should be willing to be engaged in.
"And some of them asked, 'What is this babbler trying to say?' Others remarked, 'He seems to be telling us another thing to worship It's a foreign god. We've never heard about it.' And they said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. So, they took him and brought him to the meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, 'Hey, we want to know because it's kind of piquing our interest about this new teaching that you are trying to present. And so, you are bringing us some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they...'" Say the last word. "We would like to know what they..."
Just tell me what all this means. I think it's the question people are asking. "(And the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their whole time trying to figure out how to make life make sense, talking about the latest ideas, listening to the latest ideas.) So, Paul stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said, 'Hey, people of Athens! I see you're trying hard. You're not bad people. In fact, you're trying to find something that is deeper than the surface.'" And he called it religious. "'I know you're religious, you're trying. In fact, I walked around and looked carefully at your object of worship, and you even have an altar set up to a God, and you don't even know what his name is. So, you call it: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.'"
And my friends, this is the condition of Planet Earth right now. They're trying to find something. They don't know what it is, and it's not scratching the itch anymore. "So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship, and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 'That the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord.'" The Lord means a personal Savior, one you can be close to. "...of heaven and earth". And he doesn't live in organizations. He's not in denominations. He's not in church buildings. He's inside of you. He doesn't dwell in temples built by human hands. "And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives you the very breath that is in your lungs and breath to everything else around you. And from one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth".
And he was very intentional about creating you. You're not a random outcome of your parents' intimacy. No, you're an intentional being with appointed times; 2021 and you, he picked it. He looked at all of time, from Adam to now, and he said, "You are going to live here". And not only in this time, but also the boundaries, or the stage, or the parameters of your life, for us, that's America, Alabama. It's this moment in history.
You say, "Well, why did God do that"? Watch this. God did this so you'd have enough of it on the inside of you to know that there has to be more and that it would make you seek him. I think the greatest reason why I love my job so much is that I don't have to fight for this. People are trying to make life make sense, and they know they don't have the whole rest of the story, and it makes people seek him. That's why I love my job. And perhaps reach out for him and perhaps the best news of the day: some are going to even find him and realize he wasn't as far as I thought he was. It wasn't as hard as I thought it was. "For in him we live, and move, and have our being. And as some of your poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'" What is Paul saying? Paul said, "Hey, guys, you're not just a happenstance. You're a story that God has involved himself in".
And I maintain a lot of people are living in a story that there's no story anymore. There's a blank screen. In fact, I would submit to you that what a midlife crisis is, is when one story ends and another one has not begun yet. So, Psalm 139, here's the way the psalmist David said it. He said, "For you created my inmost being: you knit me together in my mother's womb. I am wonderfully made, fearfully made; your works are wonderful. I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me even when I was in my mother's womb when I was yet formed; and all the days ordained for me are written in your..." Say it out loud. "...in your..." The book, there's a book. Hey, y'all, there's a book. That's the intentionality of your life.
There's a book, to which some people say, "Are you saying to me God wrote all this"? God wrote, I mean, there's a lot of good, but God wrote, God wrote this? Which I think really raises a theological question that not even every denomination or Christian tradition agrees on. And that is, who is writing our stories? And for a lot of you guys, faith is your author, so you're just letting whatever happen, happen, and I'll deal with what, as it comes. And God is not getting involved, and I don't have any choice. 'Cause if I had a choice, I wouldn't choose this. And there is a lot. I'll give it to you. There's a lot that is thrust upon you that you have no choice in. I mean, none of us chose to come to this earth. The next thing we know, we're coming out of our mother's womb gasping for air, right? And none of us picked a lot of who we are. 'Cause if I'd have picked who I am, I wouldn't be 5'8" and shrinking. I'd be 6'3".
Come on, somebody, right? So, I didn't write all of this, for sure. But if fate is your author, you're living a miserable life. And I would like to tell you today there's more, and life will never make sense if you're just letting whatever happens, happen. So, some would say, "Well, is God writing"? And there's certainly God writes a lot of it, but I think God more creates the stage. As the Bible says in Acts 17, he puts us in appointed times, and he gives, notice, not a specific place, just boundaries. He puts you in a place where, really, I would suggest to you that you have a lot more control over the story you write than maybe you think you do, and that God wants us to take the reigns of our story, and he'll get involved in that and even lead us and guide us into the process.
This is what I believe. And I think if you believe this, you're in a different seat in your personal life, and that's one that is a bit more empowering, and honestly, more hopeful. And maybe if more people knew this, they wouldn't end up taking their life, thinking there's no other way out. Yes, there is. So, recently, I was with my friend Donald Miller, that I mentioned earlier. He has a company in Nashville called Story Brand. He's written a book called "Story Brand". And it's a secular company. He's a Christian, but he has a secular company that helps businesses and organizations define what their mission is and helps basically tell it, where people want their products.
So, he tells stories. It's "Story Brand". It's a great book. And I was recently with him at a seminar up in Nashville and listening to him bring a lecture on a new book that he's writing that's coming out in January called "Hero On a Mission". And I highly recommend it. It's not out, yet, but you can preorder it. He gave me an advance copy. So, I've been devouring it, and I've already been thinking these thoughts, and I've just so enjoyed the book. And in the book, he describes the fact that every story has characters, several characters. In fact, you knew this, if you ever watched a movie or any kind of story. Every story has a victim, right? This is the damsel in distress. This is a person who's in trouble. It's the person who needs to be rescued, and it's basically a person who says, "I can't help myself. I'm stuck. There's no way out, and it's going to take somebody else to get me out of this situation". That's the victim.
And by the way, for a lot of people, lean in here for just a second, a lot of people have chosen the victim role, to which they say, "No, I haven't. I haven't chosen anything. Victimhood came to me. I didn't do this to me. Others did this to me". But you have chosen to stay there. And every time you choose to stay there, your life story stops right there. And you actually empower the second character, and that's the villain. That's the one who put the person in that bad place. They're the character who's responsible for ruining everybody's story. And there's villains everywhere. But listen to this. Villains are simply past victims who, because of their victimhood, feel so bad about where they are in life that the only way to feel good is to bring everybody else lower and below them.
So, they criticize and belittle and hate. And there's a lot of haters out there. And I feel so sorry for the haters. I don't get mad at the haters because the haters are just victims who became villains, just trying to feel better, but they make everybody else really small. But here's what you need to know, and that is that most people choose these two roles as coping mechanisms that simply do not work. "Man, I can't believe I, and I can't believe they, and I'm never gonna, and I'm stuck, and now I'm stuck in a role that ruins my story". But there's a third character in every story, and you know this. It's the hero. It's the person who swoops in and saves the day. This is James Bond, baby. Let's go. It's 007.
Now, the problem is, now listen to this, most people don't choose this role, because they think you have to be like a James Bond type of hero, capable, strong, good-looking, and with a Porsche. Come on, somebody, right? Just, that's what you have to have. But it's not true. Heroes aren't strong and capable. Heroes are simply those who had every opportunity to be a victim or a villain, but accepted it as a challenge that happened to them, chose to be transformed, and now lives their lives to help other people on a mission. And this, my friends, is your opportunity to have meaning in your life because all of us could play the victim or the villain. It's easy, and everybody's doing it. But I believe God is calling us to a hero mentality to say, "Yes, this happened to me, but I rise above it. And God, I'm asking you to transform me and heal all the broken places and let me get back to work again and help others". Can I hear a better amen, everybody?
Yeah, this is, yeah, you're seeing it, you're getting it. And by the way, there's one more character in the story that you might not have thought of, and that is the guide, the guide, and the guide is the character who helps the hero. So, they assist them or enable that, and that's what God is to us. By the way, the Holy Spirit is described by Jesus in the book of John as the guide. In fact, the word in the Greek is Paracletos. That means he'll be right beside you, and it's a picture of if you pick up one end, he'll pick up the other end. He'll help you. He'll be a part of your story and enable your story, which is the part that God plays.
And by the way, that role is not exclusive to God. It's also our role, that once God does a work inside of us, we go around just helping people, right? Let's go help people live out their best stories. In fact, I'd like to think that that's my role as a pastor. Some of our preacher friends always say, "Yeah, God called me to preach back in 1975". No, God didn't call me to preach. To me, that's such a small role, called to preach. I mean, I like to preach, but I'm not called to preach. I'm called to be a guide in people's story and help them be empowered by the Holy Spirit and have their hearts healed and transformed, so they can go out on mission and make a difference and feel that sense of fulfillment and meaning in their life. That's what it's all, yeah, you're getting it.
By the way, one of the best parts of the book that I did not know, so I never even had this thought before until just a couple of weeks ago, as I was reading the book, and that is that all four characters exist in all of us at different times, even sometimes in the same day. Like, let me show you, that when we say, "Man, there's no way out, this is never going to get fixed. I can't believe that happened to me". We become a victim. In that moment, you become a victim. When you say things like, "Dude, you're just an idiot," any time you belittle or make someone feel small, you just became a villain. Anytime you say, "You know what? This is hard, but I accept the challenge. We'll rise above, we'll figure it out, I'll give it a shot, I'll give it a shot," you become a hero. And anytime you say, "You know what? I think I'll live to help somebody else," you just became the guide.
And here's the key thing, and I want you to lean into this, and that is then, therefore, who writes our stories? We choose the character we want to be. We get to choose that. God gets involved, certainly, and there's a lot of it that's written by our God, but he guides us to this place, so that we can be the character that we want to be. So, how do we make our lives make sense? Well, if there's narrative void, a movie with nothing on the screen, then therefore we need narrative traction, something to live for. Now, that's easier said than done. And in the next couple of minutes, I want to try to help you get some narrative traction that I think will answer the question, "How to Make Life Make Sense".
So, a lot of you guys know I wrote a book that came out in May called, "Out of the Cave," and a book on depression, and it's done very, very well. I'm just, I'm pleased, but I hate the fact, too, that it's done so well, because that means the need is just so great in the area of depression. In fact, I did, yesterday, an hour long television, radio show for Moody Bible Institute, and we did a lot of calls, and just, I was overwhelmed by the number of people who just so crying on the phone, needing this for their lives. But one of my favorite parts of the research of the book, I did two and a half years of research and writing for "Out of the Cave," most I've ever done for any book.
I did a deep dive on the life of the Jewish Austrian psychiatrist named Viktor Frankl, who lived in the 1930s. Before World War II, he had a medical practice, a psychiatry practice in Vienna, Austria. In fact, he was writing a book called, "Man's Search for Meaning". He was working on the manuscript for this book, and he was putting out a different idea than the idea at the time by Sigmund Freud that was life's all about pleasure. Freud was telling everybody, "Just find happiness". You know, go on vacation. Just work hard and buy things and just enjoy your life. Which I'm not against any of that, but that won't bring you meaning, and that won't satisfy. And so, he said, "Oh, it's just about the pursuit of pleasures". And Frankl said, "No, it's not. It's not about pleasures. It's about meaning; and if you don't have meaning, you numb your life with pleasures".
And so, you're not satisfied at all, and you know that before, if you've ever had something that was pleasurable, but it lost, it stopped giving you pleasure. Because that's a psychologist term called anhedonia, if you want to look it up, and it means this used to really scratch the itch, and this is not gonna do anything for me anymore. It's kind of like that first bite of a delicious slice of pizza. Can I get a better amen, somebody? It's nothing like that first bite, but that fourth slice doesn't taste anything like the first bite. Why? The law of diminishing returns. And for some of you, you love God, but you're in a story right now that has diminishing returns. Like, the credits, there's still a movie playing, but it's just the credits, and you're missing something.
By the way, I started a podcast. I've only done five episodes. They come out on the first Monday of every month. It's called "The Grown Leader Podcast". Check it out if you want to. But tomorrow, the episode that comes out tomorrow, I do this deep dive into Viktor Frankl's life. And to help people understand this, 'cause I'm convinced this is what it's all about. And what Frankl did, he actually, when the war started, his wife, knowing they were going to be taken by the Nazis, sowed his manuscript into the lining of his jacket, and they were taken, separated, of course, and he went to three different concentration camps. They ended up taking his coat, burning it, so he lost his life's work for "Man's Search for Meaning".
When the war was over, he discovered that his wife was murdered, his mom was murdered, his dad was murdered in the Holocaust. By some miracle, he survived the Holocaust. But when he came back out, he resumed his practice helping post-Holocaust survivors, mostly teenagers by the way, helped them find help. And not a single patient committed suicide on his watch. They were all suicidal and not one committed suicide because he created what he called logo therapy, meaning therapy, and logo therapy basically is three things, and that is that you need, every person needs something, some kind of work that brings you meaning, with a community of people that you love, and learn the art of taking whatever suffering you experience, and turn it around for the good, like redeem it in some kind of way.
In fact, even when he was in the concentration camp, he was basically, he wasn't a religious person, but he was ministering to other people in the concentration camps, saying, "Hey, we need this, there can be some meaning to all this". And they were like, "We're getting ready to be gassed to death. Where is the meaning in this"? And he goes, "One day, they'll talk about us, and perhaps this will never happen again". He had this incredible ability. Well, guess what, everybody? He might not have been religious, but all those, he didn't create logo therapy. All those are biblical principles of what God is all about.
So, I'll give you some narrative traction. You ready for it? This is Frankl's thoughts in the Bible's words, that really are the Bible's thoughts that Frankl just discovered. I love it when science figures out what God has always been saying. Yeah. And that is that we all need, and you need, and you need, and you need it, wherever you are, you need vision of a better future for yourself and for the people around you, that what people who have meaning, and sense, this sense of meaning, what they have is, they have ideas. And they just dream of ways to make their life better, so that they can make other people's lives better. And that makes sense because Proverbs 29 says, if you don't have vision, you'll die. You're living a movie story with nothing on the screen.
And then secondly, that we need a group of people, a family. We need to be connected. I love that word "connected" to a community. And it's deep. It's not like just, "Oh, yeah, we show up in the same room". I don't know your name, but I'm glad you're all here. No, no, no, like, it's a family dynamic committed to the same vision. When he was treating his patients, the first thing he did was put them in small groups, and then he told them, "Come up with a project. Do something together that will impact somebody else's lives". And this is a biblical concept from the wisdom of Solomon. It came from God that two are, say the next part. Two are better. It's better. Like, none of us are as good as all of us. And let people say what they want to say about mega churches, and maybe they're right in some instances. I don't think they are, but I know they have complaints about it. But no one can deny that when we all decide to do something together, we can make a big difference on Planet Earth. Isn't that right, everybody?
I mean, that's just a fact. Because it has a good return, if we'll just do it together. And not only having some kind of meaningful work of vision, of a better future for yourself and for others, and doing it with a family of friends, which to me, honestly, if I'm very honest with you, the most satisfying part of the work that I do is not just seeing the results, but it's doing it with you. I get to do it with you. Like, we have become family. It's like to do with Sam, and Michael, and Katy, and Blake, and Katy, and just like it's I have friends that we get to do mission together. And it has become, 38 years later, the most satisfying part of my story. It's that I have a family. I get to do this with people that I love. Like, we can plant churches, then to go play golf. Are y'all hearing me, everybody?
'Cause you need it, and you need it too. One is too small a number to make a real difference in this world. And then we need to be able to take whatever suffering that we experience, engage, and redeem every conflict that challenges the vision that God's given us, that when someone comes along and criticizes us, or writes about us, or says something negative to us, or complains against you, or does something to you, you have a choice. You can be mad about it, and you just became a victim again. Or you can rise above it and turn it around for the good. Because Romans chapter 8 says that we know that in all things, that means even the bad things, that God can work it together for the good to those who love him and to those who are called according to his purpose.
So, I ask you, what compelling thing are you trying to bring into this world? And who are you doing it with? And how will you respond to the inevitable conflict that's going to come our way? And I would submit to you, let's do it together, let's make a difference together, let's be a family together, and let's overcome obstacles together. And my friends, that's what next Sunday is going be all about. Next Sunday is not an offering. Next Sunday is an attitude. It's a season. It's a mindset that I think will do enormous amounts of good around the earth. Lean in, listen. But it's better than that. To me, it answers questions. And if you'll allow it, it'll make your life make sense. 'Cause next week, we're just gonna give whatever God puts on our hearts to give.
And I never ask anybody to give anything. I just ask you to ask God, and then we have one offering a year that we give away. And if you give it, I'd like for 100% of us to give, and we'll give 100% of it away to places like our local missions' efforts. We have every intention, we're ready to purchase eight more mobile Dream Centers in eight cities, where we have campuses that don't have any Dream Center expression. But after next Sunday, there's going to be in eight more cities in Alabama the ability to respond immediately to any crisis, and help people, and to serve people every weekend, and to go into correctional, yeah. And we're in a bunch of the correctional ministries, but how about we go in all of them? 'Cause the state's opened the doors for us to, and how about we give to our local ministry partners? Yeah, you're getting it.
And then our national missions, as of last Sunday, we planted 994 churches across America. And in January, we're going to cross 1000, and we have a vision of planting 60 more churches in 2022. To God be the glory, yeah. And then one that's really near and dear to me is this Christmas blessings that we've been doing for the past 20 years. It started with just helping one couple, and now it's we have about 70 or 80 couples who have dire needs. These are ministry families with kids that are sick or just situations that were difficult. Maybe it's their first year of planting a church. And honestly, this came from in the first year of the church, you know, we had 400 in the first service at Highlands, 200 in the second, 130 in the fourth, third, 110 in the fourth, and 90 in the fifth, and then spring break hit, and that's when I realized there's a lot of people got lake houses.
You know, they weren't there. It was just, and so, I didn't know if this was gonna work, and I was having the time of my life. Don't feel sorry for me. I was living the dream every day. But we got to the holiday season, it's tight. And I don't even know how anyone knew but this pastor, who I didn't even know that well, sent Tammy and me a $2000 check with a note that said, "And you can't use this on the church. This is for you and your family". And I remember weeping at the mailbox, saying, "God, if you'll ever make our church work, I will do this every Christmas for the rest of my life". And Lord willing, next Sunday, there's about 70, I think it's 72 couples that we're gonna surprise them at the mailbox, everybody, and bless them this Christmas.
So, yeah. And then things like Bible translations. You've heard me. I've talked about it "At the Movies". And for the first time in history, all the church Bible translations organizations are now under one banner, which means we can get the work done faster. You ready for this? You ready? Wait, wait, you're taking up my time with all the clapping, everybody. There are about 3700 languages that still don't even have a page of Scripture, which is a tragedy. In a high digital, high capacity, wealthy generation that we live in, and it frustrates me, honestly. And I told this group, I met with them. They actually came to Birmingham for me to meet with them. and I told them that I would use every ounce of influence that I have, that first of all Highlands would get involved, but I'll use every ounce of influence I have to get as many churches and pastors to adopt this project, and we think, I think it's gonna happen, that by 2033 there will be the Bible in every language in the world, for the first time in human history.
That's gonna happen on our watch. And then finally, you have this miracle, this thing. I don't even know what to say to you anymore about this, because it is so much bigger than anything we ever dreamed. I mean, I'm telling you, church, it's mind blowing how God is pushing this vision forward. And if you just physically went and saw what God was doing over at Highlands College in that Grandview campus, it's, we're not this good. God, God is blessing it. And what an honor it is to invest in the lives of students and to give them a place to be trained and placed in the world. And let me be clear. None of what we give next week will fund any of our budgets, missions, salaries, even the building projects we're in right now, completely paid for, debt free. To God be the glory. To God be the glory.
But I'm asking everybody, I'm just asking you to pray and ask God. And I don't have a number goal. I have a participation goal. I just look for all of us to do something. And I'll close with my favorite, my favorite generosity verse in the Bible that ties the whole sense of meaning thing together. Watch this. So, it's written to a pastor. Timothy was a pastor. And Paul said, "Hey, Pastor Timothy, tell your congregation to use their money to do good. Tell them to be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always ready to share with others. And by doing this, " Hungry people get fed. That's not what he says. I mean, that happens, but that's not what he says. Notice that by doing this isn't to the people who get it. It's to the people who give it. By doing this you, tell your congregation "they're storing up treasures in heaven as a good foundation for the future, and they experience true zoe life".
The word "zoe" in the Greek means a life that is full of vitality. I'm talking about a life where the movie starts playing again, and you get to lay your head down at night saying, "I'm making a difference with my life". So, what do we do? Pray, plan, participate. Just do what God shows you to do. And next Sunday is going to be a glorious time together. And everybody said a good amen. Let's pray. Let's be very still for just a couple of minutes. I'll close quickly. But I do think these are moments right here where some of you are thinking, "I think you preached this just to me 'cause my life hasn't made sense for a long time". And that's because you're going to need God to redeem your life and help you take the reins again of your own story and to give it a sense of meaning.
And I'm not even asking you to join this church. I'm asking you to join God today. And if you're here today and you say, "Chris, I need that sense of meaning," what you need, you need the power of God inside of you to redeem your life, and that begins by surrendering your life to the control of Jesus. So, if you're here today, I'm going to invite our campus pastors. Pastor Blake, come on up to the stage. I'm going to let every campus pastor close their own services. But if you're here today, say, "I need that, I need a sense of meaning, and I'm ready to surrender my life to God's control. I'm ready".
And I'm just gonna tell you, I'm gonna ask you to lift your hand because I think you need to get bold. I think you need to grab the pin today and be bold with your life. And so, if that's you, you say, "I'm ready, the story has stopped and I'm ready. I need God in my life. I'm ready for some meaning, and I'm ready to surrender to Jesus". That's you, at every location, get ready. If that's you, and you want to be included in this prayer right now, lift your hands as high as you can. Say, "Count me in this prayer". Yes, yes, yeah, just all over, lift it up and leave it up. Be bold today with your life. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, just all over this room, way at the top. God bless you. Pastor Blake, come on, just lead them in this prayer and help them know what their next step is today.
Pastor Blake: That's amazing. We're so proud of you. And for those of you that raised your hand, I'm gonna lead you in a prayer. Maybe you didn't raise your hand. This prayer is open to anybody that wants to pray it. So, right there where you are, just say these words. Say:
Jesus, today I give you my life. I don't want to be in control anymore. And so, I ask you to forgive me of my sin, make me brand-new, and give me a real relationship with you. Jesus, I want to live out the purpose and the plan that you have for my life, and today I make that commitment to do so. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for changing me. I will never be the same again. In Jesus's name, I pray, amen and amen.