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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - The House Always Wins

Levi Lusko - The House Always Wins

Levi Lusko - The House Always Wins

The point is, yes, God can and is worshiped when we are by ourselves. All of us to seek him and to individually give him our, render him our worship. Render him awe, render him glory. But there's something different, something unmistakable, hear me, that happens when we worship him together. In some unique way that he has promised to bless, there is something that happens in the assembly. There's something that happens when we refuse to be the elder brother outside. I'll just do it my way alone. It should be how I think it should be. I go out in nature to worship. Or I go read poems to worship. Those are all amazing and great. But what God has promised to inhabit is the praises of his people. Is us coming together to worship him. Our voices being raised as we say, to bring everyone, bring anyone, bring anyone into the feast. That's what the Bible says. Go out into the highways into the byways. Are you have a pulse? Great. Come on in. You'll do just fine.

So Luke 15 is where we're going to be. We're in the fourth week of a series of messages that we've called make yourself at home. And we're living in and base camping out of one of the most famous stories in the Bible, the parable of the Prodigal son. And this weekend I'm going to preach to you a message that I'm calling the house always wins. The house always wins. Someone said once, that gambling is a tax for people who are bad at math. Gambling is a tax for people who are just not good at math. Because listen to me, the odds as you gamble, are not say it with me, not in your favor. It's not impossible to win, of course, or no one would do it. It's just they're stacked against you. The who always wins? The who always wins? The house. Yeah, why do they call it that? Because Casino means little house. Casa is Italian for house.

And when gambling was illegal in different cities or villages or places, or still to this day, you would have, you couldn't go to a big gambling place. You'd have to go to a gambling den they called it. So they nicknamed them in Italy, Casino, which means little house, or little gambling den. Little hole in the wall where you could experience the rush of gambling. The hope of making it big. Especially, if you felt lucky. If you had your rabbit's foot keychain with you and it was the right day of the zodiac for you or whatever else, right? I'm really, really feeling good about my chances. Well you should just know that it's engineered that some people will win that will keep you playing. But when you do, if you do win, you're then far more lucky to be foolish with your winnings. Because your mentality is, I'm extra money.

And so you'll keep going. And every once in a while we hear the stories, it makes you think, dang, I need to get in on this, right? Like the guy this week. It was it was all over the news this week, this dude who won the lottery in Virginia. Did you hear about this story? His name was Dennis Fiers. And he won the lottery 24 times, because he bought 24 dollar tickets to the lottery. And he played his favorite number every single time. His favorite number was eight. So he bought 24 dollar tickets of eight, eight, eight, eight. And would you guess it? When pulled those numbers out it was eight, and then eight, and then eight and then eight. So every time he won, it was worth five grand. So a homie in a fell swoop, as they pulled these four eights out, had $120,000.

Now let's play this out, though. OK. The odds of a four number sequence being pulled is 1 in 10,000. So let's say for the next 10,000 days, he plays that same sequence. Well, he should be expected one time in the next 10,000 times of spending $24 to win. And if and when he does, he will have spent $240,000 to win another $120,000. Do you see why gambling has been described as a tax for people who are bad at math? I was talking to a loved one recently. A person in my life who was going through some financial distress, and is very concerned that in the future they may experience more. And trying to sound comforting and preparing to offer to pray. I said, well what's your plan? Because we pray for what only God can do, but we also do whatever we can do. And this was their response. This came to me on the phone. I almost spit my gum out. They said, I'm thinking about starting to purchase lottery tickets.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a bad plan. Because the house, say it with me, always wins. And that's precisely what the younger brother found out. When feeling like a slave in his father's house, he said, if I can only be free to go where I want to go to do what I want to do. He said, Viva Las Vegas. So he came to his dad and he said, dad, I wish you were dead. That's how it would have come across, by the way. I wish you were dead. I'm only interested in your money. I hate your rules. I want freedom. And freedom is going to come to me out of the house. Now the father did not have to comply, but he chose to. How it worked in those days, if you had two sons, which scripture says there was two boys in this house, is the older would get two portions of whatever inheritance there was. And the younger would get one portion.

So this young son said, I want one third of your estate, that's what technically I should get when you expire. And the father was willing to liquidate his assets, which would have been ancestral land. It would have been tied up in livestock and land. And so to get one third, he would have had to sell things that had been in their family going all the way back to the tribes of Israel. But he did so. And he got that money and he gave the boy the money. And not soon after, the young man went to a far country where he wasted this money with Prodigal living. We find out later that prostitutes were involved. And just imagine, a young boy who felt constricted in his father's house, where that felt like being a slave in this house, was now just spending money like that.

That would attract attention. The wrong kind of attention. Because not soon after, a famine struck that land, just as he was reaching the end of this resource. And the Bible says, no one gave him anything. Where are those friends who were there when he was buying shots for the whole room? Where were those friends when he was footing the bill for this gluttonous, party lifestyle? Buying the drugs, buying the drinks. None of them were there to help him. No one gave him, he had nobody, he was lonely. And so he did what would have been unimaginable for a good Jewish boy, he took a job at a pig farm. Now again, you don't understand that pulled out of the Jewish culture, where you couldn't eat that unclean animal of the pigs. And his job was to take the pig bucket and to pour out the slop.

It was full of carobs in that day. It was indigestible to a human being. But pigs could break it down. And giving the pigs this food each day, he grew so hungry working for this person who did not feed him, but allowed him basically just subsistence in that time, that he longed to eat what the pigs were eating. And there the Bible tells us, verse 17 of Luke 15, he came to himself. How interesting that just the thoughts of coming home caused him to come to himself? We've described in the series sin as a form of madness. We described it as almost homelessness in your own body. There was a sense in which, while he was under the intoxicating spell of sin, which always promises what it cannot deliver, that happiness.

James says we give in to the temptation that pulls us. That's not sin by the way, it's not sin to be tempted. But when you give in to the temptation, you give birth to sin. And sin when it is full grown brings forth death. This boy was dying. But back home, he was already as good as dead. What do you mean? Well, he would have assumed his family would have already had a funeral for him. And that would be how many Jewish families would have treated such an insult, such shame, such dishonor. They would have literally treated him as though he would have already died. He, the father would say, I have only one son. And if he did show his face, he literally could be stoned to death by the law of Moses.

But as he thought of home, what he had viewed as slavery, he now realized was true freedom. Things weren't as they seemed to be when he was caught up in the deceptive nature of sin. So in even speaking the words I want to go home, because my father's servants have food to eat and even food to spare. How I long, I know my dad would never let me be a son again, but if I could maybe just maybe get him to give me a job as a servant in his house. He's now seeing his father as kind. He's now understanding his father's rules were all there for a reason. He's now dealing with all of these consequences, just wishes he could go back. And in so doing, he came to himself.

You see, you can't come to yourself by yourself. God intended for that to happen in relationship with him and in relationship with his people. It's interesting that the idea of coming to the home, coming to the house is described shorthand as coming to himself. And of course, you know the story. He approaches the house. And he's shoulders are slumped over. He thinks he'll have to ring the doorbell for a while to even get some attention. Maybe the father will just let him stand out there for three or four rings just to really let him sweat it out. And then send maybe a third or fourth tier servant to, yeah, he says you can put your stuff in the barn out back. And all of that would have been kindness, honestly.

But the text says, when he saw him a long way off, translation, the father had been on the porch looking and staring and longing and hoping could this be the day that we get to kill the calf I keep fed. The father ran. He had run from his father, but his father now ran to him to be a shield for his son from any shame that would come his way. From any dirty looks that would come from neighbors. From any stones anybody would want to throw. He wanted to be there with his arms wrapped around his son as a shield for the shame. So if you were going to get to my son, you'd have to go through me first. And then arm in arm with his son, the Bible says, He just kept kissing him.

Spurgeon says that there were seven kisses. And he preaches a sermon called the Prodigal love for the Prodigal Son, in which he gives a name to every single one of the seven kisses. And as I thought about that, I thought if one of my own children grew up and decided to rebel and turn from God's plan and turn from what their mom and I have sought to pray over them and speak over them their whole lives. If they ended up strung out and dealing with consequences wanting nothing to do with us for a time. But then eventually, were willing to come back to our home. I think seven would just be the warm up act on the amount of hugs and kisses that we would be showering upon them. And arm in arm they walked back to the house. Soon, a servant is standing at the porch. And the father says, robe, best, quick.

That's the literal translation of how Jesus said it. Robe. Which one? Best. How fast? Quick. Robe, best, quick. This boy is wearing my tuxedo to dinner. Get sandals for his feet, get a ring for his finger. My son, who was dead, is alive again. Strike up the band. We're having a dinner. No one's working today. Get everybody into the house. We're having a party. Friends, this is church and the house always wins. Over shame, over heartache, over grief, over guilt, over fear. This is the church. This is God's plan. This is what Psalm 68, verse 6 says, God sets the solitary in families. He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. The son was bound up in addiction. Bound up in what he thought would give him joy, but it only brought him misery in the end. Bound up.

And God took him and brought him back into a family. Brought him back into the church. Brought him back into the house. He brings those bound into prosperity. If you're bound today, God will set you free and bring you into his home. But notice, but the rebellious dwell in a dry land. It's interesting. Just as we're thinking the movie can end, they're at the feast. They're at the banquet. They're at the gala. There's another movement to the story. For the father's eyes scan, and notice there's an empty seat at the head table. Wait, I have two sons. Where's my older brother? Just then, the camera pans to outside the house. The elder brother is coming back from a hard day in the field working for his dad. He hears the sound of dancing. They had to have been dancing pretty hard to hear the sound of it from a way off. The sound of music.

There's a, God wants his church to sound like dancing. To sound like joy. Why? Because we were dead. Hello, anybody excited to not be dead today? Anybody excited to be filled with life in Christ today? Anybody excited to be headed to heaven today? There should be, Hello, y'all. And the older brother despised the sound, because he knew deep down what had happened. This is the day he had been long dreading. Approaching a servant, he said, what's the meaning of all this extravagance and waste? Your brother. Oh, don't bring him up. He was dead, he's alive now. Oh. And he would not go in. Why? The rebellious dwell in a dry land.

The father comes out. There's a second running. He runs to his son. The text says, pleading with him. Inferred from the Greek is over and over again. Please come in. Please come in. Please come in. And he would not. He would not uncross his arms. He would not come into the home. And the story ends with this son, who began inside the house, further from his father's heart than his young brother had been while he was in the pigsty. Not through the pleasures of sin, but through his proud ferrocene like heart that was focused on what he deserved, what he had earned. And he says these words. All my life, I've been slaving for you. What does that sound like? It sounds like what the younger brother began thinking the house was like.

But now that young son has realized, it's not a house of slavery, it's a house of sonship. It's a house of freedom. It's a house of joy where the rules are to bring me to God's best in his blessing. He was trying to protect me all along. Father knew best. But now, this older brother is now describing the house as the house of slavery. And I haven't been getting a fair shake. Because once you think God owes you, and it's going to perform for you, and is your dance monkey, you will always be disappointed by what he chooses. Because he's never going to do things exactly like you would do them. That's why you need God.

Every time you bump into something where God gives something that you don't think he should have done, that's a reminder to you, that's why I need a God. Because if God only ever does exactly what you think he should do, guess what? You don't have a God. You are your own God. And this boy did not receive the comforts of home, because he wasn't looking to God, he was seeking to be God. And the story ends with only 50% of the family, of the children, rather, inside the home receiving what God wanted them to have, which was all along Jesus intention. For this whole story came about because there were some Pharisees and religious leaders who were complaining about the broken, sinful, prostitutes and tax collectors that Jesus was willing to sit at table with and to let touch him. But we'll never get the full impact if we just look at what Charles Dickens called the greatest short story ever written, which is true, by the way.

Charles Dickens like Newsom's stuff. Ghost of Christmas Past somebody, right? He said that the Prodigal Son is the greatest short story that's ever been written by anybody. But you will never get the full impact if you just look at the story, at the goods of the final movement of three stories. When I was a kid, I used to love to see my dad reading the newspaper. I'd say, dad, give me the funnies. Anybody with me? Dad, give me the comics. And he would pull out, if it was Sunday I was lucky, because it was in color, right? The comics. And I loved a couple comics in particular. My favorite was Calvin and Hobbes. There's some Calvin and Hobbes people in the house? All right. I'm to show you one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes funnies. OK. Check this out. I like fall. Don't you get it? Isn't that so funny? Do you like fall, also?

Pumpkin spice lattes forever. I like fall. OK, here's another one. You didn't react quite like Bill Wooderson and I wanted you to, but that's OK. I also like Gary Larson. Any Far Side fans? He's so funny. OK. He's so funny. Here's one of my favorite Gary Larson The Far Side comic strips. Check this out. Just the cows. You're like, I don't get it. You picked bad examples, pastor. OK. OK. Let's look at the full Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. The days are getting colder. Yes. Bugs are dying by the truckload, ha, ha, ha. Good riddance to them all. I like fall. See, now it's funny? Right? And Gary Larson intended for the full weight of the finale to be preceded by car, act like cows. Then they go back to presumably, what cows are doing when we're not around. It's funny, because it's like Toy Story energy, right? What do animals do when people aren't around?

Well, here they are. They warn each other, then they act like cows and then they go back to not acting like cows. That's funny. But it is not funny if you just look at the last punch line. You see? We ripped the parable of the Prodigal son out for all the feels. Because we get all those emotions. We like that. We love that. But if we don't, A, remember the context, who Jesus said it to and why, and B, the fact that there is one parable with three stories, will dull its impact in our lives.

So remember. Two Pharisees who did not want to come in with their arms crossed and sit at the table, because they didn't like how God arranged his church, arranged his family. And they didn't think they needed grace. They wanted a gold star on their chart from God in the sky, to earn their keep, instead of receiving grace and humbling themselves before him to acknowledge they were proudful and sinners in their own heart. And they needed the grace just like the prostitute, just like the tax collector, just like anybody else. They stayed outside of God's mercy. Jesus, hearing that, spoke this singular parable to them.

A shepherd had 100 sheep. Lost one of them. And leaving the 99 in the safety, he went out and fought for and went through all the dangers to find the lost sheep. And when he found it, he put it on his shoulders and rejoiced all the way back to the house. And said to his neighbors and family and friends, come on in. We got to celebrate. My lost sheep has been found. So it is in heaven. There's more joy over one sinner who repents than 99 who don't think they need to. A woman had 10 coins. We hear, 10 coins, we're like, what's the big deal? She won't be able to go to the gumball machine. OK. Pause right there, slow your roll. This would have been equivalent of losing a diamond out of your wedding ring. She had nine others, she should have been cool. No, she was desperate to find that lost diamond and get it reset in the stone.

So she lit a lamp. And with the light from the lamp guiding her way, she searched the whole house, leaving no stone unturned until she found that lost coin. And then she called her family. She called her friends. And she celebrated over the missing coin. And then the text continues. The final pane, what we're tempted to just stare out by itself. A father had two sons. We've moved from one out of 100, to one out of 10, to now, one out of two. And this should go, he lost the son, he found the son because his elder brother did what the woman did, what the shepherd did. He left and searched everywhere, and brought his little brother back to, that's how it should have gone.

And when he brought his little brother back in, his father so happy that his older son followed his heart, that went out and found his little brother and brought him back to the house. He said, we must have joy and rejoicing, the loss has come. But this story disrupts the pattern that we've grown so acquainted to. And it's meant to almost have a discordant tone. It's meant to be the record scratching. That we go, wait a minute, this isn't how any of this, isn't how any of this should go. And it's also meant for us to get an overhead view, a dissected view of how salvation works. What do you mean how salvation works? God is one God.

There's one God, but ladies and gentlemen, he has revealed to us that he exists as one God in three persons. We call this the doctrine of the Trinity. That father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. And yet, there is one God. Now are you going to explain this to me in a way I can completely understand it, you're saying? No, I am not. Because I don't fully understand it. But I believe it. And it's from the beginning to the end how God has revealed himself to us. From creation, let us make man in our image. And the father spoke. The son was the creative power of it. The spirit was hovering over the waters, all involved in creation. All will be involved in redemption. All the way, all the way into revelation.

We see the father receiving praise and the son as the lamb being lifted up. And the spirit lighting up the room. Lighting up as the lamp of heaven. So all are involved. And in this story, we get to see that each have a unique role in salvation. Check this out. Jesus is the shepherd. He said that. John 10, I am the good shepherd. I have come to seek and to save that which is lost. He didn't stay up in heaven and send us text messages. He came and got dirty and got a bloody nose and had his back broken under the weight of the cross for you and for me, so that he could put us on his shoulders and bring us and carry us. He did what the elder brother refused to do. He was willing to get dirty for us. He is the shepherd.

And guess what? The spirit is compared so often in scripture to a lamp. To the light that we can see by Zechariah's famous vision, helps us understand the power of the Holy Spirit works through illuminating blind eyes. Except for the spirit drawing us to the father, none of us can come. So like the lamp in the woman's hand that allowed the light to be seen, the Holy Spirit is the one who illuminates Christ and helps us to see that he is lovely. Illuminates our need for God by doing what Jesus said the spirit would do. Helping us to be aware of our sense of guilt and our sin and our need for him. Helping us to feel the tell tale heart beating within our chest. Becoming aware of our mortality. Becoming aware of our need for immortality. The Holy Spirit illuminates so we can see Christ.

So we can feel him knocking on the door of our hearts. And as the Spirit does his job, and the Son of God does his job being sent out like the shepherd that he is who lays his life down for the sheep, so the father does his job. And what job is that? He is there to welcome us lovingly into the kingdom that his son and his spirit have moved us towards. Come on somebody, the whole Trinity is on display here in this parable. And that in and of itself is significant, because God is even within himself in community.

CS Lewis called it the dance of the Trinity. That God is, there's a perpetual dance. There's perpetual motion. There's relationship and harmony even within himself. And he similarly, has called us, as we follow Him, not just to rightly relate to him, but to rightly relate to each other. He sets the solitary into families. But the rebellious, dry in a dry land. The bound end up missing out on prosperity, unless they come into that relationship. And what I want to help you see is that community which has a name. It's got a lot of names. But one of God's favorite names for his church or the community or the assembly of believers, is the house. That we are God's house. That we are God's home. And I want to help you see that the house always wins. It never fails, because Jesus never fails. Amen, somebody.

So what do we mean? What do we mean the house always wins? Well, let's spell it out. W-I-N-S. The house always wins, because here in his house there's worship. Worship. And not just worship being defined as the glorifying of God, the giving honor where honor is due. Or to put it another way, the doing of what you were created to do. So disconnected from worshiping God, you will worship something else. You'll put something else in his place, that's called idolatry. But when we start to tap into what we were made to do, and we honor and we glorify God as creator as King as sovereign as friend and as Lord, we are not just invited to worship God by ourselves, we are invited to worship together. And that's a part of the power.

Yes, go out into nature and experience God. Yes, read your Bible on your own and have your own individual quiet times. But we are always, always, always to think of our relationship with God in relationship to sons and to daughters. To sisters and to brothers. Into the family. God sets the solitary in families. And the opposite of that is a rebellious place. The opposite of that is a dry land. And here we have in our country a majority of people describing themselves as lonely. But even once a week coming into the church, 68% less likely in life to die a death of despair. You are almost 70% less likely to die from suicide, drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, simply by being in the family that God intends for you to be in. And the worship that happens together.

What does it unlock? Well, here's what it unlocks. Let's read Psalm 22 verse 3. But you are Holy, enthroned, say it with me, in the praises, plural, of Israel. Another translation puts it this way. You inhabit the praises of your people. You and I all can experience God on our own and we should every single day. We should practice the presence of God and do it every moment. But for whatever reason, he has chosen to bless the unity. And Jesus said this could even be two or three. So a few of you who have come together to form a watch party, you're watching church online but doing it together. And as you worship God through reading his word, you worship God through giving, as you worship God through singing, something happens and he inhabits that moment.

That's why we're always talking about atmosphere. We're declaring God is in this place. We're declaring a miracle can happen now. We're declaring that the spirit of Jesus is present and power to save and to heal and to touch when we come together in his name anything can happen. He has promised it, as he makes our praises his throne. This is not a common moment. This is supernatural. We are the supernatural society, J.I. Packer said, of God's redeemed. And something happens when bricks come together to form a structure. Something happens when bricks come together to form a house. You got a little bit, I got a little bit, we come together in Jesus' name. I'm telling you, miracles can break out. I'm telling you, salvation can happen. I'm telling you, anything is possible where Jesus is in the room. But we're not the only ones singing when we sing to Jesus and we praise God together.

Psalm 22 goes on. Now, I will remind you, this is a Psalm that's a messian Psalm, it's a Psalm that Jesus quoted from on the cross. Psalm 22, verse 1 says, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? So this is a song that Jesus formed at great cost to himself, as he was to shepherd dying for the sheep. But it goes on. Enthroned in the praises of your people you are. But then it says this, verse 22. Now, the author of the Psalm, Jesus says, I will declare your name to my brethren. In the midst of the assembly, I will praise you. Do you realize what is happening here? Every time our voices harmonize together to give adoration to God, Jesus Christ present and enthroned in the moment lifts his voice up and gives a victorious roar to his father for the job of salvation being completed in the church, which he bought with his blood.

We're singing, y'all, but we're not singing alone. Jesus Christ, the Son of God sings to his father. And that's how sometimes we just sense and feel God is here. That's Jesus lifting his voice up and singing in the assembly. It's unbelievable. The house always wins. Why? Because worship takes place. And where the worship goes up, God's presence comes down. Identity is the second. The church is a place where we get to come together and remind each other of our true identity. Not so much out there in the world. Out there in the world, you've got to earn your place. You've got to do something to be special. I read this week about a chef in France who took his life, leaving his wife and his young son without a provider, without a father, without a husband.

And the reason he did so was rumors started circulating that the Michelin company was entertaining the notion of taking away one of his three Michelin Stars. Apparently, they say that the only thing harder than getting a third star is retaining that star. And the thought of what that would do to his identity as a successful chef, was too much for him to bear. And so taking his life, rather than not having the identity as being one of the best chefs in the world. And the person who I heard talking about this, the head runner of the restaurant I was talking about last week, Eleven Madison Park, said he was so sorry to hear this happening, because of that pressure that his friend was feeling.

And the worst part of it all was he said, it ended up not being true. They weren't going to take away that third star. But just the thought of having that blow to his identity taken away. And isn't that just a tragic picture of life in this world where you have to continue to be enough? I need to be pretty enough. I need to be successful enough. We're like the elder brother, everything rises and falls on you. He said, I've been trying to keep your commands my whole life. Why haven't I gotten a goat? Just that pressure. But here in this house, it always wins, because honey it ain't about you. It's about Jesus. We're here to say, you're loved. Have a seat, your loved. You're enough. You're chosen. You're called. You're equipped. You got the spirit. It was never based on you, it was placed on you.

Like a ring. And you're going, I don't feel unworthy. I feel like I've not been a good Christian this week. Welcome to church. That's all of us. But how good is our God? How kind is our God? How wonderful and merciful. He's the friend of sinners like me and like you. And every week, we get to remind ourselves of our true identity. Hey, isn't it sick to be loved by God? Yeah. OK, I can do this another week, you know? And we get together to pray for each other because I'm having a hard time believing what's true. What's true? I'm loved by God. Yeah, you are. So am I. Let's get this, right? That's, welcome to Fresh Life groups, by the way, right? The whole thing is all about remembering our true identity. Made in His image, full of his love and value, filled with his spirit, sent out on mission to change the world.

And there, we also get a really great network. A network is the N. W-I-N, network. We get networked into other believers. And that network gives us stability in life's difficulties. The New Testament doesn't just describe us as a building, it describes us as trees. And so my mind naturally goes, like what's the biggest tree? Right? What do we think about the Redwood trees, the Sequoia trees. Found out that the Redwood tree, which gets like 350ft tall and can live 2,000 years. So there are trees on this planet that were literally alive at the time of Jesus. That's crazy, right? How do they handle like that many storms? That many difficult seasons? The roots.

But not in the way you would think. Because I would think, 300 foot tall tree, this thing's got to have roots going so far down. Negative. Their roots are shallow. Only 6 to 12ft deep. Well, they must be really big roots then. Nope. Their largest roots are only an inch in diameter. It's about how wide they go and where they're planted. You see, Redwood trees grow in what's known as family circles. And because their roots go out so far wide, even though they're not that deep, and even though they're not that powerful, they intermingle with each other in a way that to take one tree down you've got to take all the trees down on the other side of the circle.

So it's not their own power keeping them standing, it's what they're networked to. It's what they're connected to. And they can even communicate with each other. They can tell someone, I'm not getting enough nutrients. And they can send through the roots enough nutrients for a sick tree, for an elderly tree, for a baby tree. Yeah, all these trees are up in small groups. What are they doing? I'm having a rough week. Can you pray for me? Can you encourage me? I'm getting drawn back to these old patterns. I'm thinking about calling, because I'm getting lonely on the Friday night. And you can say, hey, let me send you some encouragement. Let me pray for you. Let me remind you who you truly are. I got this. You're not going to get knocked over. And when they do, they can go to them and say, hey, you see what I'm saying? I love you. I'm here for you.

God sets the solitary in families, family circles. And if your whole church experience is just listening to a message in a row, you're lacking on the opportunity to have people to your right and people to your left hugging you and praying for you. And then you know what? When the worst happens, they're beating the ambulance to the hospital. They're there to stand with you in the crisis. They're there to be with you in the difficulty. And they're to be burned with you in the fire, if that's what it comes to. But you're not going in there alone, because God is with you. And I got your back, yo. To be your family can even, at times, be more powerful than a family that comes from nature.

All right. So network. And then the S, service. We get to serve him. I was talking to my daughter the other day about heaven. And one of my favorite descriptions of heaven is the phrase, and his servants shall serve him. And his servants shall serve him. That's one of the things you're going to do in heaven. But we don't have to wait till heaven, we get to serve him now. We get to be that chosen generation, that royal priesthood, that Holy nation, God's own special people. We get to help go get the fatted calf for the next lonely boy. We get to get the ring for that next lonely girl brought in. We get to be a part of the welcoming committee for the Prodigal who's about to come home. We get to grab the leaves and make the table a little bit longer. We get to get extra chairs out of the room and bring them in to make it all happen.

We don't just get to be, yay, it's awesome to not go to hell. We get to fight for those who still don't know they are loved by heaven. We get to serve. I know you're like, oh, gosh, this is the time where you twist my arm. OK, I should serve a little, I should give a little, I should, OK, OK, OK, OK. How much do I got? How much, what's it going to take? Just please. Please. Like you're doing God some big favor? Like God, who owns the cattle on 1,000 hills and made the world by speaking it needs you? Needs your help? Oh, he's not going to get it done without you, big strong man? You are not doing God any favors.

Let me put it another way. He doesn't need you to serve him. You need to serve him. You need to serve him. What happens if brought into the house, reminded of your son or a daughter, you failed to serve? You become like the Dead Sea, instead of your destiny, which is to be like the Sea of Galilee. Two major lakes in the nation of Israel. One is full of fish, full of life, full of plants, full of people, full of towns, the Sea of Galilee. And the other is dead. There's not even a fish that can live in it. There's no animals, there's no birds, there's no plants. And they're both fed by the same river. The Jordan River flows into one and flows into the other. Why is one dead? Why is one ten times saltier than the Pacific Ocean? Why is one 35% salt content? And the other is a wonderful habitat for all kinds of creatures.

The answer is that the sea of the Jordan River flows into both of them, but only the Sea of Galilee has an outlet, too. The Dead Sea just takes it in, but never gives anything out. So what happens if you always take in but you don't give out? You become salty and spiritually fat. You need to serve to become what God intended for you to be. To be fresh and flourishing as a son or daughter in the house, you need to be using those gifts. You need to be challenged. You need to be on a team. You can't just take, take, take, take, take, take, take without having a conduit to pass that out. Because like the Dead Sea, you'll evaporate off most of the water, but you'll just hang on to all that salt. And it won't make you any fun to be around. So we need all of these things. W-I-N-S. The house always wins.

As we keep these in our mind, as we keep these in our focus, we find three takeaway truths. Number one, when planted we prosper. Planted in the house, prosper in his courts. That's Psalm 92:13. We have a foundation for the difficult days. And when the storms of life come, you won't be taken out. You can have deep joy even in chaos. Secondly, when partners, write it down, we profit. When partnering in the local church, God's plan, we profit. This is an undeniable truth when you read scripture. Everything you financially give that helps him extend his kingdom to people, we literally can have the promise of an ROI on that investment we made.

Philippians 4:17. Paul told this church, you should give. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek, look at it, the fruit that abounds to your, say it, account. You have an account. What's in it? Your heavenly investment portfolio. Paul said, I was going to take care of me. I'm going to keep preaching his word, he's going to bless me. I just don't want your account in heaven to not have any of the blessings he wants to have in it. So if you partner with the church, doing whatever role you do, whatever part you play, you get rewarded on the entire work that you invested in. If you own a company stock, whatever profit there is, you're getting a part of that. Not just an individual aspect of that company. So when partners we profit, when planted we prosper. Third and finally. When persecuted, we prevail. We prevail.

Jesus said, if you follow me the world hates me. It stands to follow, they're going to hate you. There will come pushback, there will come attack, there will come those difficulties. But most assuredly, Jesus said, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. Historically, the church has thrived, multiplied, and to the present day, proliferated when persecuted. And we should and we need to pray for the persecuted church around the world. But also should, in some senses, feel a sense of awe. Almost even lucky about that.

I don't say that tritely, I don't say that flippantly. I say that with a good understanding of the Greek phrase behind the word blessed. Blessed are those who are persecuted for my name. Oh, how lucky they are when they get to see and experience what I will do through that difficulty that they were entrusted with. Spurgeon said, the ship of the church never sailed so gloriously along as when the blood of her martyrs sprayed upon her deck. When persecuted. This is why I'm saying, it's not a mistake to invest your time and to invest your money and to invest your life into the church. Because Jesus gave you this promise.

I, Matthew 16:18, say to you that you are Peter. You're just a little pebble. But on this rock, the confession of who I am, I will build my church. And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Ladies and gentlemen, the house always wins. Jesus has given his promise. It will be attacked, it has been attacked, it'll be attacked more. But flip to the end of the story. Flip to the back of the book, that's where the answers are. And in the back of the book, this church that will be attacked all the way to the end. What will it look like, revelation seven.

After these things I looked and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed with white robes and palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice saying, salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb. I'm telling you, this is what the church is. This is where the church is going. This is what we've been called into. Oh come on, give God some thanks if you're grateful to be a part of the only thing that will outlast everything. The blood bought, spirit filled, Father adored, church of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Oh come on, give him some Sunday morning praise.

There is a building in Barcelona, Spain that's been under continuous construction since 1882. My sister got to go there and she was telling me about it. It's called the Sagrada Familia. The sagrada Familia. This is a photograph of the Sagrada Familia. It's been under continuous construction for 141 years. The original architect who started building this cathedral to glorify God died. And so another architect took it over and assembled the plans and began working on it. And then he died. Seven other architects beside the first have been at the helm. There was once a 16 year pause, because all the blueprints got burned in a fire. And so they had to figure out what the actual intention was. And the building goes marching on. Here's a glimpse of the inside of it. It's astounding. Continuous construction since 1882. But the estimate, if they were able to work in earnest, it could be done by as soon as 2026. But it's highly unlikely that they're going to meet that deadline.

I only say that having been a part of any construction ever, and also knowing this little tidbit. If you pull back to see what's around it, they say that for it to reach its actual expression that it's actually intended to, they will have to cut away 3,000 homes and demolish the structures where currently 3,000 families live in order to finish what it was fully meant to be. Here's the great thing about the Church of Jesus Christ, is he's building it brick by brick. It doesn't tear down families, it builds them up. We don't find our houses and our families doing worse when we build his house, we find him building them up. But the construction is not finished yet on Jesus's church, either. It will continue to be built and we get to be a part of it.
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