Chris Hodges - Table Topics
Well, welcome to church, everybody. Who's glad to be here today, anybody? I know. What a beautiful day, a beautiful spring Sunday. Welcome to church. We're so glad you're here. We're in a series called "7 Days," and I'll tell you more about that in just a second. But as always, I always like to start the service by looking into the camera and saying hello to all of our locations. We are one church that meets in 23 locations all across our region. God bless you guys. I love you so very much. And, of course, we're bringing this, not only this service, but all that we are as a church, into more than 20 of Alabama's Department of Corrections facilities. It's the honor of our life to be there with you. I want you guys to know that I pray for you every single day. God bless you today.
And then, of course, we have people watching online at our seaside campus and our Destin campus. And wherever you spring breakers are we're so glad we have technology that allows you to go to church. Come on, Grants Mill, put your hands together and say a big hello. God bless you guys today. It's good to see you guys in church today; and, of course, in three weeks you already heard this on the Highlands News, in three weeks we have the greatest day in history, everybody, and that is Resurrection Sunday. We're excited. We've been working for months to prepare an Easter celebration fit for a risen King, and you're going to love it, absolutely love it.
And, of course, you already heard a little bit about it in the Highlands News, but I wanted to tell you a couple of other things, and that is we're having services over 3 days, beginning on Good Friday the 15th, all the way through Easter Sunday the 17th. And on all 3 days, the services are identical in the fact that it's the same music and message; but on Good Friday we'll be adding a focus on the cross, of course, as well, on that Good Friday, and we'll have Communion on that Sunday, as well. So, as you choose which service to attend, we'll have a Friday night service at 7 o'clock at many of the locations, not all, check the website for the details, two on Saturday and then up to four on Sunday. And so, there's a lot of different choices, and that's because that's the Sunday that everybody comes to the same Sunday.
And then there's also the Sunday that a lot of people who are far from God come to church. In fact, I just read a study not too long ago that said that people that are out of church, more than 84% of the people out of church will say yes to an invitation to come to an Easter service, that of all the Sundays, if you were ever gonna invite somebody to church, your best chance to get a yes is on Easter Sunday. So, let me encourage you to think about, if you know somebody that's out of church or far from God, and invite them, invite them to sit right with you, and tell them the different service times, and pick the one that's best for them. And you'll enjoy the service anyway, but you'll enjoy it more when the person sitting next to you in church gives their life to Jesus. And I've been praying, so you guys can just join with me. I'm praying for thousands.
In fact, I believe God's put in my heart, I believe more than 4,000 people are going to come to Jesus over those 3 days. Will y'all believe with me, everybody, amen? So, yeah, so let me encourage you guys to pray and prepare, and it's going to be a spectacular Sunday together. We're in this series right now called "7 Days," and we've given you a little journal that is a companion to this series. If you haven't gotten one, they have these out in the foyer. And it does two things. It gives you a place to take some notes. Today we're on page 27. If you have your journal, you can take some notes on that page. And then also it gives you a way to have some continuing devotions yourself.
So, we gave you the verses we didn't cover on the day and gave me some other ways to study the Bible. And it's called "7 Days" because we're talking about the last 7 days of Jesus' life here on planet Earth. And from Palm Sunday to Easter, and the reason why we're doing that is the gospels do that. So, of course, Jesus lived 33 years, and the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are the four accounts of the exact same story, the story of Jesus, and he lived 33 years, but a third of the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, a third of the gospel is just on one week, the last week of Jesus's life. And John's gospel is half, nearly half of the gospel on this single week. So, we thought if the Bible is focusing on the last week, why don't we focus on the last week. So, each of the 7 messages in this series are the 7 days.
So, I started it off a few weeks ago with Palm Sunday, and then Pastor Dino did what happened on Monday and Tuesday. We're not gonna bring you a message on Wednesday, because really Wednesday was a day that we have very little, if any, verses on what happened on Wednesday. Most scholars believe Jesus retreated 2 miles outside the city of Jerusalem to his favorite place to go, which is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who he had risen from the dead, and that's the place that he rested from a very intense first few days. And, of course, Thursday begins more of a somber turn in the events of Jesus's life. It would be on Thursday that they would prepare for the Passover meal. And I almost brought you a message on the Passover meal. I'm not talking about the Passover and its meaning for us today. And he would've had what we call today The Last Supper or The Lord's Supper.
And by the way, at the end of the service today, we're going to observe The Lord's Supper together. We don't normally do that on a Sunday. We normally reserve that for a first Wednesday experience, but we're going to observe The Lord's Supper today, so I want you to prepare your heart for that. And if you're watching online, you might want to find some bread or crackers, some juice, and join with us at the end of the service. But after the supper, he had a conversation with the disciples, and we're going to talk about that a little bit. And then after the conversation, he would go to the Garden of Gethsemane, which would've been only a few hundred yards away from where they were having this Passover meal, down in this valley.
If you know anything about Israel, there's the Holy City, and then there's a valley that goes up to the Mount of Olives. And at the bottom of the Mount of Olives was a garden called the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a olive garden, olive tree garden, and there Jesus prayed. And I almost brought you a message on what the word "Gethsemane" means and talk about prayer and what do you do when you're under pressure, and really thought about bringing a message just around that event. It would be at that site that Judas would betray Jesus, betray Jesus into the hands of the high priest and the Pharisees, and they would arrest him there while he was praying, literally, and then he would be brought through a series of trials that would begin that night, all illegal hopes type trials.
And, of course, on Friday would be the day that he would be crucified. But today we're gonna talk about what happened on that day. And there was so much to decide upon, in fact, I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John's verses over and over and over and over again. There's just so much great material for such a short time together, and I couldn't get away from one thought, and that is the book of John is the only one that includes the dinner conversation. So, we don't know what they talked about after they had the Passover celebration, so they would've had that, but John includes, you ready for this? John only has 21 chapters the whole book of John, and 5 chapters, chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17, 5 chapters is the dinner conversation.
John's the only one who does this, and I think I was drawn to it because I love dinner conversations. I really, really, really love having, in fact, I've reduced my life down to the greatest thing you can do, the most fun I could possibly have, and I have lots of fun. Like, I love playing golf, and I love turkey hunting. Come on, turkey hunters. Where y'all at? I just, I love that. I love my grandkids. I love the right people at the right table with the right food and the right conversation. To me, there's nothing, nothing better, and I've grown to love this because of John Maxwell. So, John Maxwell's a mentor to me, and John has taught me how to have good dinner conversations, and he always come to the dinner table, when you're with him, prepared. So, he has table topics.
Now, I didn't know he was doing this for years. I just thought he was a great conversationalist, and he is. He's the best one in the world, but he never shows up at a dinner table without preparation on what he's going to talk about. And so, he'll come and just, and you don't know it's coming. You're eating. And orders lots of food. How many of y'all like, I like, you don't want to eat your meal. You want to eat everybody else's meal, too, right? See, I love, we order all the apps. I want to taste a little bit of everything. And then there you are. You're at the, and then he slips it in. He'll ask you a question. Like, I was with him recently, and he asked, he asked, and it was so deep. We stayed for another hour and a half talking about it. He said, he said, "What do you wonder? What do you wonder"? Like, what do I wonder? I wonder are there Martians? Like, I wonder, think about it. What do you wonder?
And we talked for hours about what we all wondered. He asked one time something simple like, "If you could go anyplace on earth you haven't been yet, where would you want to go"? And we talked about it. And he asked one time a question, it was a great question. He asked the question, "If you could do any job, and so it's not related to your calling..." I mean, I can't step out, this is not a job to me. This is a calling. So, he said, "But if you do any job, if you could do anything you want to do, just for fun, and it didn't matter how much you made, like, it probably didn't, you know, so, the money is not the reason why you do it, what job would you do"? Y'all want to hear my answer for that? Yes or no? Do you want to hear it, yes? Okay, I'd be a chef. It explains a lot, doesn't it, everybody?
I know, I know. I love, I love, I love food, and I love meals, and I love cooking, and I thought, y'all, I watch the chef shows all the time. I think I'd love to be a chef until I found out that they work about 18-hour days, and just thought, "I don't want to be a chef. I'll be a pastor, you know". So, but just great table topics. I've entitled this message today, "Table Topics," because Jesus invites us to a table. And I want you to kind of get in your mind, I want you to imagine yourself, you're there. It's the last night. He's getting ready to share some things with the people around him that are dear to him, knowing that in a few hours he would lose his life. And Jesus is so relational.
In fact, the Bible says they were reclining at the table. That means they were laid back, meal's over, heels up, and Jesus starts a series of 5 topics over 5 chapters. And here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna give you the 5 topics of the 5 chapters, and I'm gonna give you the table question that you can ask sometime this week, maybe this afternoon, maybe tonight when you're at dinner because here's my question to you and ask, "What would Jesus say if He could have dinner with you"? And I would say that he would say the same thing he said to his disciples, we're his disciples. He would say the same thing he said to them. Are you ready? Here we go. Chapter 13, so it says, "It was just before the Passover..." So, that's the Lord's Supper. "...Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father".
So, he had all pressure on him, but he loved his disciples so much he stayed there and had conversation, with all of the pressure of knowing he's getting ready to go pay for sins, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them," took time with them, slowed down for them, ate with them, had conversation with them up to the very end. Doesn't that make you love him all the more? I'm gonna tell you it does me. So, the Bible says, "He got up from the meal, and took off his outer clothing..." So, that would've been his outer coat. "...and wrapped a towel around his waist. And after that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him".
Now, this freaked the disciples out. The Bible says, in fact, they were so uncomfortable with this great leader, their Rabbi, their teacher, their Lord, they, at this point, they know he's God, and they knew this was a job for some lowly person, a servant, somebody that they would pay to do this menial task, in fact, so much so that Peter said, "No way, you're not doing this". And Jesus said, "If you don't allow me to get this up close and personal with you, we can't really be partners". And, of course, Jesus allowed, Peter allowed Jesus to wash his feet. But they were still uncomfortable with it, and so Jesus had some explaining to do, and this is where the conversation begins because "When he had finished washing their feet, he put the outer cloak back on, returned to his place".
You guys actually don't understand this, do you? You really aren't catching the importance of this. "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. But now that I," the big shot here in the room, the one that you thought shouldn't be doing this, they don't relegate themselves to these menial tasks. "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet. I have set an example for you that you should do as I have done for you. And now that you know it," what you're going to find out, it's actually fun. "You'll be blessed if you do them". If you're taking notes in your journal, jot this down.
Number one, "Your highest calling in life is to serve others". And I know you already know that. But I'm here to remind you that if Jesus sat at a table with you, he would probably bring up the subject of, "Hey, tell me what you're doing to serve others". Because we've gotta make sure that in this life we don't see ourselves as a big shot or the ones that are in charge. They were always thinking about serving others. Listen to me, don't miss this. And not for the sake of the people you're serving, which is the point, by the way. That is why we serve others because people need help. But we also do it because we'll be blessed if we do. Jesus is so desperately trying to get you to have this sense of, happiness is the word for the word blessed.
Happiness, makarios in the Greek, this inner joy of doing something for someone just because, just because you love them, just because you want to serve them, the joy that comes from that, somebody says, "I don't know what to do". It's not that hard. Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? It's all around us, y'all. I mean just, and I'm just here to stir you, even as you kind of kick your feet up or maybe go to spring break or take a day off or whatever. Even your sabbath, oh, I'm just gonna take a nap today. I'm just gonna rest a little bit today. Would you please put it in your mind, "Man, I still ought to do something for someone". And there's nothing like the joy of serving someone, finding the blessedness of humbling yourself and going down there where the toes are, come on, somebody, and serving people.
And I think if Jesus were at a table, I genuinely think he would ask you this question, and if you and I had a chance to have a meal together, and we knew this is what he's calling his disciples to do, then I would ask us, in the hope that it would prompt you to do something, here's the table question, and that is then, "What could I do this week"? Could I encourage and answer this in your head right now? "What can you do this week"? Maybe at the office tomorrow, maybe at school tomorrow, maybe with somebody next door, maybe someone that you know is sick, maybe even you want to go on a serve day, maybe you're just going to care for somebody. "What can I do this week to intentionally serve someone else"?
Great question, it's just a great question. And then he goes to chapter 14. And chapter 14 takes a twist. We're still at the table. And he's noticing that the disciples are somber, and they're extremely sad, and they were sad because Jesus is blowing up their plans. They were completely convinced, especially after Palm Sunday, the King has arrived, and we're gonna be all the executive vice presidents of this new corporation called Jesus, Incorporated. They're so excited because Jesus came in, and everybody's celebrating, and they're finally gonna overthrow the Romans, and they're gonna be the cabinet, and it's gonna be great days ahead. And Jesus keeps talking about, "I'm getting ready to die, I'm getting ready to die, I'm gonna die". And now they're all saying like, "You can't die". "Yeah, that's why I came to die". "You can't die".
And then Jesus notices how discouraged they are, and he says this, Hey, guys, I know you're down, and you're sad, and you don't want the next few days to play out. "Don't let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me". And the second thing after serving, what Jesus encourages the disciples then is he tries to encourage them and lift their spirit. It literally means to lift the spirit of. That's what that literally means in that text. "Don't be discouraged". He's trying to lift their spirits up. Now, the question is how did he do it? How did he encourage these disciples? So, if he sees you discouraged, what do you think Jesus would do, if he saw you discouraged? You would think he'd probably say, "Well, come over here and let me pray for you. You're going to get a miracle, in my name".
You know, whatever. But I want you to notice what he says next. 'Cause I know there's somebody that's listening to me right now that needs some encouragement, and you maybe need a circumstance on earth to change in a different way, and you're looking for a better earth outcome. But I want you to hear out of the words of Jesus how he encourages you today. He encourages you, watch this, "My Father's house..." So, they brought up an earthly problem, watch this, and he gives them a heavenly solution. So, they bring up a "I don't like how this is playing out on earth," and he says, "Yeah, but it's not about earth. It's about heaven".
And for a lot of people, please lean into this, you're expectations of earth are all wrong. You keep thinking God has obligated himself for everything to work out here, and you need to know that he's always been on a rescue mission to get you out of here. Like from time to times it does work out; and if we're honest, we probably have the best version of earth that there is anyway. Even on our worst day, we're still better off than most. Can I get a better amen right there? I mean, it's really true, and we keep expecting God to do something with my misery here on earth, and his answer to your misery is, "In my Father's house are many rooms; and if that were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you".
And that's not the answer they wanted to hear. He says, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I'm going to come back". Come on, everybody. Jesus is coming again. By the way, I told you I'm preparing some messages on the second coming of Christ, and I am having so much fun studying this topic. I believe it's going to be fall, probably the month of August we're going to do an entire series around the fact that Jesus is coming again. Get ready, get ready, get ready, everybody. He's coming again, "and I'm going to take you to be with me". That's his solution. "I'm going to take you to be with me that you also may be where I am".
So, here's point number two, if you're taking notes, and that is, "When earth gets hard, focus on heaven". That when earth gets hard, and maybe earth's hard for you right now, but Jesus would say, "I know it's hard, and I need you to focus on the fact that it's going to be over soon. I know it's hard, but it's going to be over soon". In fact, the way I like to say it is, "If I know God, earth is as close to hell as I'll ever get. It only gets better". Come on, somebody, say amen right there. Let me give you the opposite, though. "If you do not know God, earth is as close to heaven as you'll ever get. It only gets worse".
And there are people, I've noticed, all over this place, discouraged right now. And if you ever wanted to know how to encourage somebody, encourage them like Jesus did. Like the old song, I don't know if y'all know this song. There's this old song that went, "Some glad morning when this life is over, I'll fly away". Y'all know that old song? You country folks do. Y'all like, "Yeah, I was Baptist. I know that song, yeah". If you think about how the older generation, the generations before us encouraged themselves, they always talked about heaven. There was a funeral yesterday. I didn't attend it, but some people I know attended this funeral yesterday, and they sang, they were telling me that they were singing all these old hymns all about heaven. It's not all this God's gonna bail me out, God's coming, God's gonna... no, it was, "When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, what a day of rejoicing that will be".
Y'all don't even know that song. Y'all looking at me like a cow looking at a new gate right now. Here's the point. The truly happy people aren't putting all their eggs in earth working out. We all pray. I'm not saying don't pray for things to work out. I do, and Lord knows I want it to. But Jesus said when earth gets hard, focus on heaven. Now, I want to encourage you to encourage somebody else. In fact, that would be my table question. "Who needs some encouragement right now"? I can hear John Maxwell say, "Who right now that's in your life could use a little encouragement"? Who could probably benefit from a text, or a call, or a prayer, or a "Hey, I was thinking about you"?
And if you really want to live out this thing called the Christian faith, don't attend church. Why don't we live church out, and do like Jesus did, and actually act on this in some kind of way? And then it shifts to chapter 15, and Jesus brings up a new table topic, and he says this in John 15. He says, "Hey, hey, hey, let's change subjects. Remain, remain in me, I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself," and he starts talking about the human nature to division, and disunity, and breaking away, and being independent. He says, "It must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you're the branches. And if a man remains in me and I in him," watch this, "you're going to bear much fruit; but apart from me you can do nothing". And he talks about how he's caused your life to be a fruit-bearing life. Can I remind you of that?
That's the real theme here at Highlands, that we don't think you should just exist and know God and get to heaven. We think you should actually be on the team and do something with your life and make a difference in this world. We believe that. We believe you ought to know God, find freedom, discover your purpose, and make a difference. Can I hear a better amen out there, everybody? That's why you're alive. You're not alive to survive. You're alive to make a difference. In fact, he goes on to say, "It's to my Father's glory that you do something with your life, bear much fruit". It actually shows that you're a real disciple. But he says, "But the key is get together".
Like, stay together, keep your family together. Keep your commitment to your church. Keep your commitment to each other, your small groups. Like, just be faithful together, and Jesus would say to us, "We can do more together than we can do apart". We all know that. And now we can do more than we can do apart. Can I say this to you? You have a part. Let me say it this way, that there is a puzzle piece to God's grand design and what he wants to accomplish in this world that is uniquely you. I'm gonna say that again. I want you to let that sink in. Like, you have a part. And you're not supposed to do every part. You're just supposed to do your part. You know, we're doing that right now, by the way, in the Ukraine. The Ukraine crisis is massive in every way, and I would want to encourage you, by the way, that as bad as the world is, the church, you would be so proud of what's going on in the church, and it's actually confusing people.
There's actually revival going on because Christians have showed up in masses in all kind of movements, not just us, all kind of movements, and there's really revival going on. There's millions of refugees, and we did our part this week. We fed 9,000 refugees this week with your tithes and offerings, by the way. This week, yeah. It's not everybody, but it was our part. Forty-one thousand pounds of food were delivered on your behalf, and we just bought 100,000 Bibles that are going to be distributed all throughout there because people are open to God like never before. We're not doing everything, but we're doing something, and you have the same role in this church, and in your life, and in God's economy. You have a part, and we understand this truth. And when all of us do a little, together we do a lot.
And that's why, listen to me, I'm just begging you because Jesus would say this at the table. He would say, "Do your part". Like, do your part, whatever that is. Find your place and do your part. So, here's the content. I promise you I would ask this at the dinner table. If we had a chance to have a meal together, I would ask you, "What do you think your part is"? Like, what's your part? What do you have to do before you go to heaven, just to do your part 'cause you have a part. You have a part. See here, so the conversation then shifts in chapter 16. In fact, I'll even back up to chapter 14 because the number one most prevalent topic of the dinner conversation that night, you talk about serving, he would talk about encouraging. He would talk about producing, being productive together. But he talked the most about the Holy Spirit.
In fact, it's almost all of John 14 and it's a lot of John 16. Still at the dinner table. John's just including the whole conversation. In fact, in John 14, Jesus said this. "I'm out of here. And it's actually better for me to leave; and when I leave, I'm going to ask Dad, the Father, and he's going to give you another advocate to help you and to be with you forever". And he named a bunch of things in the dialog. Here he calls him the Spirit of Truth. He says, "And the world will have no idea about this Holy Spirit thing. It'll confuse them, actually, because they can't see him, and they can't know him. So, they'll actually think you're crazy when you talk about the Holy Spirit". And hasn't that been the case? "But you know him". Here's how you know him. "He lives in you". And he's not only in you. He's with you. So, Jesus says, "I'm one person. I can only be in one place at a time; but the Holy Spirit, he's everywhere all the time".
And then he goes on to describe how critical he is to your life, the success of your life. And some of you came to church today just to hear this, 'cause he starts chapter 16, this is all still the dinner conversation, these 5 chapters. He says, "And I'm talking to you about the Holy Spirit, so that you don't fall away". And the word "fall away," those two words in the English is one word in the Greek. It's skandalizo, where we get the word scandal. In other words, Jesus is saying, "I'm trying to keep you from scandal. And my plan to keep you from scandal is the Holy Spirit, 'cause when he comes, he'll convict you". So, that's when you were just getting ready to hit "send" on that email or text, and the Holy Spirit goes, "I wouldn't do that. You need to erase, erase, erase, erase".
That's the Holy Spirit. And some of y'all need to listen to him. He's trying to keep you from making missteps. People call it your conscience. It's not your conscience. It's the Holy Spirit that lives inside of you. And when the Spirit of Truth comes, he'll guide you. "Don't go there; go here. Talk to that person". You'll get these promptings. In fact, he'll even tell you about the future. And so, Jesus, if he had a chance to have a table topic conversation with you, I promise you he would tell you, "Listen, listen, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in you," and which somebody said, "I can't hear anything".
That's because the Holy Spirit's voice is only as loud as your willingness to listen. And some of you have so much competing voices going around, you need to slow down, maybe even today. If you would slow down today, find one moment, promise you, one moment of today and just shut the noise out and then just pray this prayer: "Holy Spirit, what are you trying to say to me"? And then just listen and obey. And I would only ask this question if I really knew you well. Okay? 'Cause this is way too deep, way too intimate. But if I knew you well like I know some of my friends here on the team, they know I would ask this question. I have asked this question. "What's the Holy Spirit been trying to tell you that you're not listening to? What has he been telling you"?
Maybe it's a dream, maybe it's a warning, maybe it's a time for this to stop, or maybe it's time for this to start. Listen to me, look at me. He's talking. He's a speaking God. Our God does not have a speaking problem. We have a hearing problem. So listen, slow down and listen. And then here's the last one. Are y'all getting anything out of this? I am so in the moment. I am, I'm like I'm at the table. I've got food all over me. I'm listening. I'm just, "Oh, my goodness, he's talking to me about don't forget to serve people. Don't forget to encourage people. Hey, stay together and bear some fruit". Hey, listen to the Holy Spirit. And then the last thing that happened, they didn't even get up from the table. Jesus just looked up toward heaven, and he prayed, and all of John 17 is the prayer. And you would need to know that your God, Jesus, who's perfect, he was perfect, he prayed all the time.
In fact, the next thing he would do after he prayed this prayer is he would get up and go to the garden and pray. He got up in the morning and prayed. He prayed all night. He was constantly in prayer, and he would just simply say this: "Pray, pray about everything, everything". I'm into this topic now big time, because I'm finishing a book. And, in fact, Tammy and I took our spring break and got away, just the two of us. It was the most beautiful time. We just unplugged from everything. And Tammy likes long, slow mornings to sleep in and work out and take her time getting dressed. And I'm an early riser. And so, I'm always up first, and I like to, I'm most productive in the morning. My brain works best in the morning.
And so, I get up, you know, like 5:36, and I would write from 6 to noon, and then we always start our day with lunch together, and then we just play the rest of the afternoon and have dinner together. And that's what we did for about 6 or 7 days. And it was just glorious. It was just so refreshing, but it was just fun. But I'm writing, and I'm writing a book on prayer, everything I've learned about prayer all these years. I'm calling to pray first, and I'm just talking about prayer, fasting, and how we build a prayer culture here at Highlands. I'm very, very excited about it. But it's got me in this mode of why don't we do it more? Like, we know the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard us if we'll offer our prayers and petitions to God. Every time we're anxious, why don't we do it? And we just forget. In fact, somebody this week said, "Well, I guess all we can do now is pray". I'm like, no, that should've been the first thing we're doing. Prayer needs to be our first response, not our last resort.
And so I'm going to ask you, as we close and receive Communion together, here's my last, and I ask this at every table I'm at, every time. "What can I pray with you about? What do you need to give to God in prayer"? And if I could talk to you for a few minutes, I would say like, "What can we pray about? 'Cause I don't have all the solutions, but I know the one who does".
And with that, I invite you to bow your heads right there and take everything that concerns you, everything that worries you, every place you're anxious, everything, and would you open your hands right there where you are and just give it to God? That's what I do. I just, it's a picture for me 'cause I'm a control freak. I hold things 'cause I can fix them myself. So my little discipline is I just open my hands before the Lord, and I invite you to do that right now.
And Lord, everything that worries me, concerns me, just that it feels troubling, it's overwhelming, God we give our anxious places to you, knowing that you care for us. We cast it on you. Lord, I'm praying right now that the peace of God, the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard their hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus.
Keep your heads bowed, your eyes closed at every location. Stay with me until the end. We're going to receive Communion in just a couple of minutes. But let's also examine our life before God. If you're here today, you say, "Chris, I feel so far from the Lord," you would probably have a sense of guilt, or shame, or conviction. Maybe even the enemy's gotten involved and there's condemnation. You feel bad about yourself. That didn't come from God. That came from the devil. God convicts. He says, "I love you. Here's the way out". But it does take an act of repentance for us to get there.
Repentance means you just change your mind. Literally, that's what the word means: I change my mind, I change my direction. And there's some of you under the sound of my voice right now, it's time to change your mind and change your direction. You need to turn around from that direction you're headed, and you need to go back to God right now. And if that's you, I'm going to lead you in a prayer right there where you are. If you say, "Chris, I'm so far from God," maybe you're a Christian and you're backslidden. Maybe you say, "I don't even think I'm a Christian". You are one heartfelt prayer away from that reality changing. If that's you, whisper these words straight to heaven right now. Say:
Jesus, I am so sorry for living my life without you. And right now I change my mind, and I'm changing my direction, and I'm giving you my life, everything. I'm going all in with you. Save me, forgive me, change me, and give me your Holy Spirit to live the life I was always called to live. Thank you for setting me free. In your name I pray, amen and amen.