Levi Lusko - From See To Shining See
Please join me in Ephesians, chapter 3, as we begin this new series, as we begin this new season, as we begin what I believe is going to be a supernatural move of God's Holy Spirit through His church, in this time at Fresh Life Church. I want to begin with a message that I am calling From Sea to Shining Sea. From Sea to shining Sea. Ephesians, chapter 3, Paul speaking, the Apostle who hated Jesus. I just always have to bring this attribute of Paul, whenever I read a book he wrote, I'm always like, isn't it amazing that the guy who hated Jesus more than anybody is now the expert on knowing and following Jesus? So I just say that for the person who has a friend in their life who they've just given up on. That person could never come to know God. You think that person could never follow God. You've stopped inviting them. You don't even pray for them anymore. You just scratched them off your list because they're so mean, or they just have decided. They've dug in.
Paul the Apostle, who wrote most of the New Testament, hated Jesus more than anybody. He woke up with "things to do today". It was like, things to do. Eat lunch, destroy Christianity, dinner, then, would be next, right? So this guy writes us a book to the church in Ephesus, but it was one of what's known as a circular letter, that was meant to be read in all the churches. And that includes us today, as the Spirit had a bigger purpose even than just what he was going to do in that moment. And that was be useful in Jesus' church, throughout all time, as a part of the Holy Scriptures, which my friend Louie Giglio likes to call God's breath on a page, which is why we tremble before God's Word. This isn't just man's word. This is God's breath on a page. Anybody thankful that God wrote a book? And He did good. It's a bestseller. It's amazing! Best-selling book of all time. Take that, JK Rowling!
All right, so, In Ephesians, chapter 3, verse 14, we find one of two prayers in the book. And it's really special to me to read anyone's prayers, right? That's an honor. You get to see inside their soul. I love getting to pray with people. I love getting to hear, especially people who when I would say, hey, why don't you pray? They would say, I'm not good at it. I'm like, then you probably are better than any of us to pray, more equipped to teach us something about prayer. Because oftentimes, when you're good at praying, you can end up in what Eugene Peterson called cut-flower prayers. Oh, it's just cut-prayers. Put that on there. It's dead. It's not connected anymore. Now it's just on the table, right? Well, at one point it was alive, but it got cut. So now there's no life anymore. Flowers on a table are dead. They just don't, they just haven't got the memo yet, right? They're on the way out. And our prayers can turn into that when it's devoid of the, I don't know how to do this! I don't know how I can make it through this!
That's what prayer should always feel like, where it's just us dependent on God, opening our mouths. So if you know someone who's not good at prayer, then please beg them, convince them, cajole them to pray, and then take some notes, because you'll learn a lot. But Paul, who kept dependent on God, and needed to, because he wrote this book, I don't want get bogged down in the particulars, because I got some preaching to do today, baby! But he wrote this book in a prison, in a dungeon. And many people place it as the first of two long imprisonments in Rome, that would end in his eventual execution. He will get out this time, but the next time he will not. And he will lose his head gladly, for the Name, and sake, and honor, and glory, of following Jesus. And he will do so with others on his mind, all the way to his dying breath.
In fact, one of his final, whew! One of his final requests is, can you please bring me some more parchment, because I would love to write just a few more letters to encourage just a few more people? He includes in his pastoral epistles, First and Second Timothy and Titus. So this is a prayer Paul is praying for the church at Ephesus, a city full of Christians he loved. He ministered there longer than any other place in his pastoral ministry. He planted the church. They are his children. They are his spiritual offspring. He preached, they listened, they repented, so they looked to him rightly as a father in the faith. And he's praying for them. Whew! I attended a funeral on Friday. My wife and I went and attended a funeral, and we watched as two girls who were in our youth ministry, who were spiritual products of our pastoral efforts, eulogize their father. And you can't watch a young girl speak about her father, her physical earthly father, without a sense of awe.
So that father-daughter, father-son relationship, it's a real thing. I couldn't help but picture, however many years hence, Daisy or Clover standing up and having to have the impossible task of speaking at my own funeral. And so, as I read this letter, where Paul prays to a church that he started, it is, I hope, with no cut-flower trite formality, that regardless of if you've read it 1,000 times, you would read it, but that you would sense the emotion, that you would be hit with that wave of feeling, and that you would feel it right here in the pit of your stomach as Paul desperately wants more than anything else for them to know God, to love God, and to have their eyes open to how wonderful following Jesus really is if you do it right. He says in verse 14, "For this reason, I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and Earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith".
I want to underline that phrase, that's Paul's prayer, "that Christ would dwell in your hearts through faith". "That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able", listen to this, "to comprehend with all the saints what is the width, and length, and depth, and height, to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him", he prays in benediction, "who is able to do", what? "Exceedingly, abundantly, above". Superlative, upon superlative, stacked upon superlative. Paul has to get the steps out get the final one on top. And then he goes for some more, like it's Thanksgiving and the diet's out the window. "Above all that we ask, or think, according to the power that works in", who? Point to him if you know. Us! "To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus", to how many generations? All generations! "Forever and ever", come on, Sandlot! Forever! Amen!
Who's thankful for the reading of God's word? I wanted to start the sermon with a question. And the question is, have you ever considered that Abraham Lincoln spent his presidency bringing to life the good, but ultimately unfulfilled ideas that Thomas Jefferson had? Of course, the obvious example of this would be in the Emancipation Proclamation and in the 13th Amendment. What was the good idea Thomas Jefferson had that Abraham Lincoln was helped bringing to life in a more full way? The self-evident fact that didn't seem so awfully self-evident to Thomas Jefferson, that all men are created equal. But perhaps a lesser-known expression of this same principle was at play when it came to Thomas Jefferson's dream and passion that marked a good portion of his presidency, and that was a route to the Pacific. How do we get to the Pacific? How do we get to the West? How do we get across this continent? How can we accomplish it? Is it going to be water?
That's what Jefferson thought. He sent Lewis and Clark out searching for a water route to the Pacific, which ultimately was going really well, until they got to Montana. And then that plan got shot and things got crazy, and everything got really challenging. But Abraham Lincoln, on July 1, 1862, with a stroke of a pen signed into law something called the Pacific Railway Act, that would bring to life Jefferson's unfulfilled dreams. And that was a route to the Pacific. Only it would not be an all-water route to the Pacific, it would be an all metal route to the Pacific. Lincoln was into heavy metal. You have heard it here first! And with that one act, the flourish of his pen, sprang forth, 152 years ago, on May 10, something that we know of as the transcontinental railroad. "Trans" meaning across, "continental" meaning this continent. Getting across from the East all the way to the West was Pacific with two strips of metal that ran all the way across this nation from sea to shining sea. It has been called the moonshot of the 19th century.
You know I love it already, right? It has been referred to as the most gargantuan accomplishment undertaken by men. Mountains were literally moved to connect two oceans. Two strips of iron that ran all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Now, it was incredibly important for this to take place in order for America to become what we experience and know of it as today. Because if you go back a while, our country was pretty much clustered just on the Eastern seaboard. In fact, in the year 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase, three out of four Americans lived within 75 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. That is how clustered we were on the Eastern seaboard. For such a big country, which doubled in size when Jefferson purchased, we call it Louisiana, but it was a heck of a lot more than Louisiana, baby, right?
Let me say, this sucker was massive! He purchased on the cheap. How cheap was it? The question should be asked. It was just over three cents per acre. He bought a land mass from Napoleon Bonaparte that instantly doubled the United States. And then with the ceding of Mexico's California to the US, which was more than just California, and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory, that was destined to become multiple different states. Because we, where I'm preaching from in Montana, are a part of that Oregon Territory. The country was just getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger. But like the proverbial dog that catches a car, what are you going to do if you get it, right? If the dog gets the car, it's like, now what's your plan, homie? Right? How are you going to swallow what you bit off? That was our nation. That was our nation, which, by the way, even at the cutthroat bargain basement rate of less than four cents per acre, we had to finance the purchase of Louisiana. And it took us years, and years, and years to pay off our debt.
So we've got all this country, but how are you going to populate it? How are you even going to get to it? That was the big question. Consider this, in the year 1860, it was far easier to get from the East Coast to Europe than it was to get to California. You had three options. Option number one, if you're going to get from the East Coast to California, you go all the way around South America, as you see here in the illustration. All the way around Cape Horn, which is a distance of about 18,000 miles. But this was by far the most often taken way. If you were to get from the East Coast to California you got to go all the way around South America. It's 18,000 miles. It cost about $1,000 in that back then currency.
Some of you today are like, that's a lot of money. It was a lot more money in the year 1860, and it took six months. It was boring, it was dangerous, it was expensive, and it was unpredictable. Anything can happen when you risk the ocean, so they tell me. Anything can happen when you launch out upon the waters. I'm talking about the kraken gets released. I'm talking about pirates jump aboard your boat. I'm talking about a big storm shows up. And so, you're saying goodbye to your family, I'll see you maybe. What do you mean? If you're going on a six-month journey to do whatever work you're going to do when you get there, I mean, you might get there and do some work, and come back, and people you love have been dead for years. Well, wouldn't they have read the email? There wasn't an email! While you're on the ship, you have no idea what has happened back home, or if the job you went for is even a thing anymore.
That was option number one. Option number two was to go on a covered wagon. Not a good plan. There were multiple covered wagon routes that they would try and utilize to get from the East Coast across the country to the Oregon territories, to trap some Beaver, and send them back, and get them to China, or whatever you're going to do to make your fortune, and go out there like Lewis and Clark. So these are the different covered wagon routes, which, bad things happened, OK? 20,000 people died in covered wagons, trying to get across what was known colloquially as the Great American Desert. They knew California was pretty nice. I mean, gosh, San Diego sounds lovely this time of year! But how do we get across that whole icky middle part?
Option number three was to combine both land and sea by sailing a little bit and sneaking through Panama like a sneaky sneakerton, which is a viable plan if there were a Panama Canal, which there wasn't yet. So you're sailing to try and get across land, and so many people got sick. And then you have, of course, the hostility. you can get attacked, war parties, tropical disease. Lots of different things would take place. So that was not a good plan, and would take a very long time as well. And so, of course, the idea of the Transcontinental Railroad, which as you can see in this illustration, this is a much better way to roll. This is literally much, roll, much better way to roll. This is a great idea, but it could never have happened without President Abraham Lincoln. But I want to just come back around to this idea of us having so much land we couldn't get to, because that is what is on Paul's heart as he writes to the Ephesians.
We owned Louisiana. Now we have California. Y'all, we got Oregon and we own Montana. You have so much in ownership, but very little when it comes to actual possession. Paul is trying to get the church in Ephesus and trying to get us to see similar themes. And Abraham Lincoln understood it was no good to own something if you can't get to it. In the year 1860, this is a mind-blowing realization, our whole Western frontier was essentially a across-the-ocean territory to us. You think about the connection we have now. It's contiguous. The lower 48. It wasn't, because most people had to go across ocean to get to it. So California, and Oregon, and Montana, and Utah, and Nevada, all of this were basically overseas, because you'd have to go across water to get to them. And Britain and France had both learned the hard way how particularly difficult it is for a nation to hold on to overseas territories. That's how we got started, right? Too soon. Britain, right? It's like, you can't hang on it it. It's difficult to keep hold of something that you have to go overseas to get to. And that's how we got the Louisiana Purchase, because Napoleon found it very difficult to hang on to something separated from you by an ocean.
And so, Lincoln knew that if we could put these strips of iron down, we could get across it easily on the train. And what was before dangerous, and unpredictable, and expensive, and boring, would become, could become, here was the dream, ready? Cheap, consistent, predictable, and safe. It would change, in short, the world. And that is exactly what happened when the final spike was laid, a ceremonial golden spike just outside, about an hour and 20 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, at Promontory Summit, on May 10, 1869. And 100 years later, we're on the moon. Wow! Wow! It is impossible to overstate the significance, historically, of the railroad in bringing about the following 100 years, so-called "The American Century," where the Industrial Revolution was essentially on crack. In large part, due to this two pieces of metal that ran from sea to shining sea.
Now, Americans did not, I'm sad to say, invent the steam-powered locomotive. We have the British to thank for that, our divorced parents, we can call them, where we emancipated ourselves. It was George Stephenson, and before him, Richard Trevithick, who invented the steam locomotive. It was brought to America in the year 1829. But we did what we do with all good ideas that we did not come up, with we perfected it, right? We may not have had the idea, but we dang sure made it better, right? We supersized that sucker! That's what we did. We added something called the cow catcher, the thing on the front that comes to a point, that makes the locomotive so iconic. We thought to put a whistle on it. That is a really important lifesaving thing, and simultaneously sends chills into the heart of every young boy and girl who has ever heard one.
And it's the reason a conductor is to this day on Amazon Prime a Halloween costume you can purchase, right? With five star reviews. Because it's just that sound! The sound, specifically, of a steam locomotive. I mean, I don't care who you are, and the predecessor or the ancestor of it, of course, would be the semi driving down the road, right? Every one of us, when we see a semi, there's a little part of us that wants to go, right? Come on, homie! Just do it for me! Just one time! Just do it! I just need to hear it! It channels something inside of us, the whistle. God bless the USA! We thought to put a headlight on it. It was here in America the headlight was put on the locomotive for the first time. We added brakes to it. That's important! As well as the ability for it to go in reverse. Back that thing up! And we've been doing it ever since, right? Some of you won't get that till later, and then you'll be offended. Afterwards. But by far, the two biggest improvements were, number one, the swiveling truck. The swiveling truck, which is what allows a train to go around a curve.
In England, they could only run on street tracks, so all the tracks went straight, which limits exponentially the usefulness of the train. But when it can go around a corner, and there's a swiveling truck to, and if you watch even a little model train at Christmas time go around a track, it's such a funny thing to watch. You're like, what's that thing that kicks out to the side? Is it broken? No, that's the swiveling truck. It's genius! And then secondly, this is really cool, the addition of something that had never been used in the world before call a switchback. Many of us will ski this year and we will go up switchbacks. Switchback tracks were invented here in America, that would allow the train to virtually climb up any mountain maintaining a less than 2% grade, which as spelled out in the Pacific Railway Act by President Abraham Lincoln, allowed a train to ascend no more than 100 feet for every mile. And the switch back allowed that to happen.
And as this was all taking place, America, do you sense that? America had a fever, and the only cure was more railroad, right? President Andrew Jackson was the first sitting president to ride in a train. And he, along with everybody else, were like, this is the stuff, man! This is amazing! And so, pretty soon, all across the Eastern seaboard, you can see in the illustration here, we had railroad tracks. This is not too much further than 30 years past the first time a train ever is in this country. And we're like, well, let's just put train tracks everywhere, because everybody could see the benefit of having a predictable, easy, safe, non-boring, because super quick, and all of a sudden, by the way, the predecessor to TV, the window. Now, you finally, for the first time in your life, you had something to look out and see things change. Never before in history had there been something you looked at, a piece of glass you looked at, and saw the world go by.
And it fascinated poets like Walt Whitman, who had this to say. "The oceans to be crossed, the distant brought near, the lands to be welded together". As well as Robert Louis Stevenson, who rode, and spoke, and was captivated by the dream that was the railroad. But again, even with all that track running across the Eastern seaboard, how are you going to get it across the Great American Desert? Many people had the idea, many people talked about it, many people dismissed it, but Abraham Lincoln was obsessed with the train, or the Iron Horse as it was called in its day. He, before he ever even saw a train, loved the train. Growing up in a log cabin, he read about a train in a newspaper, became obsessed with the idea. In fact, at the age of 23, while running for his first office, state legislature of Illinois, with less than one year of formal education under his belt, he made it the core of his campaign, a campaign that he lost. But he never lost his obsession with the train.
And for the rest of his life, and definitely throughout his presidency, he remained focused on it. Why? Because, by the way, the building of the Transcontinental Railroad was simultaneously to the Civil War being fought. This is all playing out in tandem. Two years of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, the years 1862 in 1863, it was while the nation was being torn apart top to bottom. So here's our Commander in Chief seeing our country being ripped apart top to bottom, and what is his solution? Let's give it a tying together East to West. He knew that the vitality, how integral it was to hold the nation together. And so, he sought to bind the nation figuratively and literally together with these strips of iron that would tie us together as a country. He viewed the nation as a train.
At the time, it was 34 states. And he said, I see the country, the United States, as a train with 34 cars. And if the train is pulled apart, if some of the cars try to lead the train, the cars will overturn and we might lose our cargo. Our cargo he saw as the principles contained within the Declaration of Independence, like democracy, and liberty, and equality. So he knew it was necessary to save the train by building a train. And so, he fought for it, and he made it something that he never lost sight of. And so, of course, it would ultimately come to pass, and in the next photo, you can see the Eastern roots of the train with the Transcontinental Railroad, which he signed into, on November 17, I believe. Just two days before the opening of Gettysburg cemetery, President Lincoln signed an executive order stating that the Transcontinental Railroad would begin in Omaha, Nebraska.
Now, here's what's interesting about that. He had dedicated an entire day on his calendar to writing some remarks that he would give when Gettysburg was opened up. But he was interrupted by someone who said, we need a decision. Where is the train going to start from across the country? There was a lot of thoughts on it. In fact, it was one of the reasons it had been delayed so long, because of all the fighting. All the southern states wanted it to start in New Orleans. All the northern states wanted it in Chicago. Where is it going to go? And so, what did he do? With malice towards none, it's going to start in the middle. And don't you love this spirit? Don't you love this idea? He declared it's going to be in Omaha, and he signed, you could see the day he wrote that, November 17, 1863, this executive order, it's going to be in Omaha, Nebraska. And now, please leave my office so I can puzzle over, "Four score and", no, no, no, no, no, right?
It's amazing to think about. About history not long remembering what I'm going to said here today, but always remembering what was done here on these hallowed grounds soaked in blood. It's just incredible to think that while he was having to deal with all of the hardship of Civil War, he's simultaneously giving birth to this dream, this dream of the Transcontinental Railroad, which, by the way, when finished, would run for exactly a distance of 1,776 miles. That's just showing off. I'm just saying. Which is by no means a credit to those involved, because they were, scandals and barbarians, and so many things that we're going to talk about in the weeks to come, that just make it a fascinating story to overlay along with what God is doing, as an illustration and as a metaphor, what God we believe is doing through His Spirit in the church today. But a distance of 1776 miles in total. All right.
So what does this mean to any of us? Because certainly it is a fantastic, tragically, probably forgotten story. But we are living in a country that was shaped by the railroad. In fact, by 1930, this is what the train tracks crisscrossing our country would look like. This is the year 1930. Yeah, train crazy. Just train crazy. Choo, choo! That's an amazing proliferation. Once we had one Transcontinental Railroad, they went ahead and made four of them, using all of the original routes that anybody had ever theorized, and a whole lot more. And so, now you have a network of iron rails and iron horses bringing people, and commerce, and ideas, as well as communication everywhere. And so, our country that is rich in material, and rich and in products, it's now able to go from here to there, from there to here, from here to there, from there to here.
And so were we. You didn't have to be a millionaire anymore. You didn't have to have $1,000. You could be a newly arrived Irish immigrant from Ellis Island. You could be anybody, and you could afford the $65 coach fare, with some hard work, to ride across the country and make your dream come true in the American West. As by the way, simultaneous to all of this, 1848, is a little thing called the Gold Rush, when gold is discovered in this newly acquired territory, soon to be named the state of California. And so, now everybody's wanting to get out there, and now just about anybody can. So now we can get to our possessions. Now we can get across the country.
And that is Paul's heart again in the book of Ephesians. He wrote this book, jot this down this is so important, to help us see it is vital that you access your inheritance. The first of a few takeaway truths here today. From sea to shining sea. What good is it to own something you can't get to? Right. Paul wrote Ephesians to help the church see it's not enough to have something if you don't have access to it. And so, he prayed that the church full of believers at Ephesus, who were crushing it, and killing it, and doing great, would be filled with the knowledge of God, that Christ would make Himself at home in their hearts. Why? Because they were just scratching the surface of what it means to know Jesus. So Paul says to the church, what you need to see today, open your eyes! There's more in store! He's not done! He's not finished!
So what does he say? He says, I pray, they don't want to understand the inheritance they have, how much they own, what is theirs in Christ. That's the heartbeat of Ephesians. He puts it this way in chapter 1, verse 11, "We've been given an inheritance". What does that mean? We've been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the Council of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ, should be to the praise of His glory, that your life would unfold into all that He has in store for you. It's put this way in verse 10 of chapter 1. He says, and I love this verse so much. It's just one of the great verses in the Bible. It says that, oh, not verse 1, verse 3. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ", notice this, "who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ".
What is he saying? He's saying, don't forget about California. And what about Nevada? And homie, there's Utah! It's not just some great American Desert. There's some great stuff in the Great Plains. There's a lot more in store for you! You're just piddling around in New England, when you could be surfing in San Diego. He's saying, you got to get across to your possessions! You got to get to the next level. You got to get to the next up. Some of you, I'm concerned that you gave your life to Jesus, but you've been standing still at that moment. You've been stuck at saved, and not moving into all that's yours in Christ. Some of you have taken a lot of steps of faith and you've gotten tired, so you've gotten content there. And you've remained where you are instead of going to where you're meant to be. No matter where you or I are at in Christ, we are merely meant to see it as a step on the journey to the unfolding riches of following Him. And that is why from the beginning to the end of the Bible, there's this idea of movement and Westward expansion, and we've got to keep going, and as we follow Him there's more in store.
You see it in Genesis 13 when God tells Abraham, lift your eyes and look where you are! Go northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward, for all the land you see I give to you and to your descendants forever. And we, the children of Abraham, are meant to see this as a part of our assignment as well, to walk forward into the world that God has given to us, and be blessed and to be a blessing. And how do we do? Psalm 113:3, "From the rising of the sun to it's going down". Or where does the sun rise? East. Where does the sun set? West. What do we do? We praise the Lord's name. So as we go, we bless! As we go, we praise! As we go, we sing! As we go, we heal! As we go, we touch! As we go, we create! We are meant to be God's agent of change in a sin-soaked world, bringing the song of the redeemed with us everywhere we go, from sea to shining sea.
Mark 16:15, "Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the message of God's good news to one and to all". Matthew 8:11. This is in Heaven now. Whatever we do or don't do until that time, this is what God sees heaven looking like. It's a feast where many come from the East and the West, and sit down with who? Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven. Well, what separates us from where we are to that realization, from where we are to that coming to pass, all that separates us from that is expansion, and connection, and sacrifice, and the hard work involved. That's what Isaiah said, "Enlarge the place of your tent. Let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings". This is the church's mandate. "Do not spare, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left". To the East and to the West, to the North and to the South. And what will happen? "Your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited".
We have to be willing to access our inheritance. And step two, welcome the weirdness. Are you willing, it's a great idea. Amen! Amen! Amen! Are you willing, though, to welcome the weirdness? For following Jesus is to step out in faith again, and again, and again. Risking the ocean again, and again, and again. Across the continent again, and again, and again. And in such a way that it's going to be, by definition to others looking on, that's weird. Why would you do that? And so, I just want you to welcome the weirdness. Not tolerate the weirdness, not sort of accept and just see it as a necessary evil, I want you to welcome the weirdness. I want you to cherish the fact that it's not how this world rolls. In fact, Jesus led us in the charge in this way. John 7:5, "For even his brothers did not believe in Him".
Mark 3:21, even His own people, when they heard about His ministry, "they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said," what? He is out of His mind! God told me to ask you, are you willing to be called crazy? Because that's what it's going to take for you to see God's dream for you come to pass, in business, in your family life, in your marriage, and how you approach dating, in how you roll at school, in what you look at online. You have to welcome the weirdness! We are a peculiar people! It has never meant to be a thing that we're just like the world, doing just what the world does. In the railroad days, when the idea was being, throughout the '30s and '40s, man, if we had a railroad to get across the country, it'd be pretty great.
Senator Daniel Webster from Massachusetts said, and I quote, "What do we want with this region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands, whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever put these endless mountain ranges"? I got a few ideas. "What could we do with the Western coastline 3,000 miles away"? Well, his math wasn't good, number one, "rockbound, cheerless, and uninviting". And you know what? A man named Theodore Judah, pictured here on the screen, welcomed the weirdness. Yes, we celebrate Lincoln, but I'm going to tell you something, there are many unsung heroes. No, put him back. He's just a boss. And don't you love his little sweater vest? Dude! Theodore Judah! It couldn't have happened without dreamers like him. Asa Whitney before him, others alongside of him, but this man, he was the one who fought, fought, fought, fought, fought, fought, fought, knowing you couldn't just start from the East. You had to go to the West and start a railroad from this side too. He was the one who figured out how to get through the Sierra Nevadas. He was the one who had the epiphany that we can follow the route of the Donner Party.
That seems crazy. They ate each other, guys! And he's like, we can put the railroad here. And the world said, no! The world said, that's weird! The world gave him a nickname. The nickname was Crazy Judah. And went back and forth in the country, back and forth in the country, trying to tell people, no, we've got to do it! We've got to do it! We've got to do it! We've got to do it! They said Crazy Judah at it again. He wasn't crazy. He was a visionary. He was a dreamer. I say, here's to the crazy ones. I say, here's to those who don't accept what has been. I say, here's to those who are willing to do something no one's done before, to see God accomplish something that's never happened before. And I'm telling you, church, we are living it right here, right now! I have long believed that God chose for us to come to Kalispell, Montana, to send this broadcast out not only to our countries that we reach, not only to the states that we reach, not only the church, but to do so from here. Wow. For His good pleasure, and because He has a sense of humor.
That's awesome. There's not a question I've been asked more in my life than, why Montana? And I never used to know, because I didn't move here because it's great skiing. I didn't move here because there's great national parks. I actually didn't, I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't know Glacier Park was here when I moved here. Didn't know. Had never really heard of it. Didn't come here to live my Yellowstone, Kevin Costner life. Didn't come here because it's awesome. We've discovered all those things along the way. Didn't come here because I grew up in Colorado, and the channels for me, the nostalgia, that was a pleasant welcome gift that surprised me after the fact. In the 15 years that we've been here, we've fallen in love with this region, but I didn't know why God sent us here specifically until we heard about the rain that hit the Continental Divide.
And I am ashamed that I didn't pay attention in school enough to know that water could hit a mountain and end up in one ocean or another, depending on what side it landed on. But I'll never forget the vision that I felt like God gave me of, why here? Why this place? Why of all the places you could end up? Because there's people everywhere that need Jesus. Why would He choose to do this here, Fresh Life, with us? I believe because of what we've seen. Just this last message. I mean, every time we get up to preach, you realize where people watch the sermon from, are participating in this church from? Show me how many states. Show me on the screen. How many places? All of them. From sea to shining sea. Including Alaska and Hawaii. But that's not all, because every time we preach, show a wider shot. What are we getting see God do? God is touching the world and He's doing it for you. God is touching the world, and he's doing it through you. His rain that falls here is taken by His Spirit, through His grace and His goodness, and I say, why stop here? Why not go there? Why not enlarge the place? Why not fight for more? Why not step out in faith again? But it's going to feel weird. Why? Because of where things are going.
The Wall Street Journal, yesterday, published an article that shows what's been happening when it comes to people not going to church, but identifying as having a church in the country. Show me the graphic on the screen. This is from 1940 till now, percentage of Americans who belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque. The already drifting downward secularization has exponentially increased in the midst of COVID, and on the other end of COVID. So what does that mean? That means if we are going to not just belong to a church, but be the church, we are increasingly going to be the weird ones in our country. And I say, welcome the weirdness! My family, as for me and my family, we will be planted in God's house. We will build the church. We will give our dying breath to see Jesus's dream of the expansion of the Gospel, and liberty and salvation ring forth. There's more. We'll talk throughout the series about what it means to embrace the process, because it's great to sign into effect a law that we're going to build a railroad. And then, you've got to build a railroad.
And so, I hope you come back. There's a lot I haven't said about how the sausage gets made, and how the elephant gets eaten. One of Theodore Judah's favorite analogies for building the railroad, harnessing an elephant. As Martin Sandler put it, in order to build this road, "the highest bridges ever erected would have to be built, tunnels through mountains of pure granite would have to be constructed. All of this had to be accomplished without bulldozers, without rock drills, without modern explosives. A Transcontinental Railroad", people, "would have to be built entirely by hand". Wow. And I tell you, this dream God has for the church being expanded, it's a wonderful dream. But I'm telling you, some days it feels like bulldozing through granite, and some days it feels like having to build a tall bridge. But I'm telling you, I'm here for it. I am in for it. I am all in. Because my life has been changed, my family's life has been changed, I've watched God changed lives, and I am thirsty for more!
I say we go until from sea to shining sea there's not a person who doesn't know how good it feels to be saved, refreshed, made whole, unleashed in their calling. I have a dream! It's a dream that didn't start with me. It's a dream that started with God. But when we get gripped with that dream, what do we want? We hopefully want, like Paul said, to see it bigger, to see it wider, to see it move beyond. We want to believe in a dream that we would be filled with the knowledge of the fullness of God, which, by the way, does not mean you get more of God. It means He gets more of you. More of your time, more of your heart, more of your passion, more of your resources, more of your focus. I am thankful when I see where our country is going. I'm not jaded, I'm not a skeptic, I'm not bitter. I look at it all, and I see in an opportunity. I see an opportunity for those of us to have to really be counted as followers of Christ.
When cultural Christianity is no more. When we will get to say, I am a follower of Christ or not, standing on nothing else, and no longer having the distraction of "are we a Christian nation or not a Christian nation" being really the big thing. We will get to like followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire, and followers of God in the Babylonian Empire during the exile. Are you a Christian or not? Are you willing to be counted as a follower of Him or not, like Paul to his death? I think you will see that there is Grace in that choice to be numbered. And then lastly, we will see throughout the series that to get to where God wants us to go, you've got to go across not around. That was the thing, right? Because South America, isn't it around? Going around Cape Horn? Around, around, around, how are they going to get to the coast? They're going to get there by going across. It's across, not around.
And when you stand, and I hope you will at some point in the series, on a railroad track, what are you going to see as far as the eye goes? Across. Vertical and a horizontal axis. That is what we're going to build. That is what we're going to focus on. That is what's going to happen. The cross! The cross! The cross! The cross! The cross! It's a Cross, not around. Around is religious obligation. Paul said, I don't want you to go around. What is it? Ephesians 3:20, how are we going to get the exceedingly, abundantly accomplished? "He does it not by pushing us around, but by working within us His Spirit, deeply and gently within us". When this golden spike season culminates on December 5, with an expansion offering that we, as His people, above and beyond our ties would say God, do more.
Enlarge, expand our version of our golden spike, our going through granite. It will not be because we're getting pushed around by religion, and I'm obligated to because it's the thing you should do, and that's what God wants me to do. No, it's across. It's across, not around. It's a Cross. It's what He did to save you, and being so touched by that, and so shaped by that, and so altered by that, that you're giving a Cross. You're getting to put a Cross down. You're getting to put your railroad tie down. You're getting to put your rail down. You're giving to put your spike down. Because you're, why would I give? Because I have to? The Cross. The Cross. It's a Cross. Not around. It's the Cross. I don't give because God wants me to. I give because I'm called to be an imitator of God as a dear child. My son wants to do what I do. My daughters see their mom, want to be like her.
My daughter Olivia texted me this week and said, dad, did you know there's a Rough Riders museum in New Mexico? I said, honey, that is the sweetest thing you have ever texted me, ever! My 16-year-old daughter is interested in the Rough Riders. Why? She wants to be like her dad. She's grown up around her dad. And I am a psycho about the Rough Riders. I will go to that museum. I will. Tell you all about it. I want to imitate God. I want to be into what God's into. God so loved the world He gave. I'm going to imitate God. The Cross tells me I got to give. Why? Because I want to be like Him. And that's what He does. He gave you life, and He gave you His life. That's why we give. We go across, not around. I'm done with this thought. The one who had the dream never got to ride the train.
Both Judah, Theodore Judah, Crazy Judah, and Lincoln would be dead by May 10, 1869. How did Theodore Judah die? Crossing Panama. He picked up yellow fever and died within a week of arriving in New York City, in his hotel room. President Lincoln, of course, would die after assassination. The first president to ever be assassinated. And the longest, most emotional train ride of his life would occur as a part of his funeral procession. It's very interesting to me that the, quote unquote, railroad president, his presidency both began and ended with a 1,600 mile train ride. Never before had a president ever traveled so far to take the oath of office, and to get there, he took the train from Springfield, Illinois, up to Washington, DC.
And so, when he was shot on Good Friday, in Ford Theater, by John Wilkes Booth, the nation sent him home on the train that he loved so much. The Lincoln Special they called it. And they stopped in every city along the way. And over 25 million people got to say goodbye to the dreamer, got to say goodbye to President Lincoln, who had tied the nation together with these bands of rail that, even as he was being laid to rest, were being built, were being put together. And it's interesting to me to think about that, the train ride he never got to take, because I believe that as we do things for God, we are unleashing dreams that we may not get to see the fruit of until Heaven. Right. We're going to tell you as many stories as we can, but you and I, when we get to Heaven, do you realize how many people that we're going to get to meet? I mean, I'm telling you, it is overwhelming to me. And it's my favorite thing in the world.
If I'm in an airport, or if we're in a grocery store, and you see Jennie and I, please come say, hello. People always apologize. I don't want to bother you! If you don't bother me, don't be weird, but take a minute, please, and say hello. There nothing, because it's overwhelming in a large setting, but when it's one person, you have a quick moment. And I'm telling you, there is not a day of travel, not a day that goes by where someone doesn't say, what God's doing at Fresh Life has touched their soul, has touched their marriage. And you all, I always, in that moment, say, on behalf of Fresh Life, praise God! On behalf of. That's not just Jennie and I. I know we're on the platform. It's a family. It's an army. It's in Billings. It's in Whitefish. It's in Salt Lake. It's dedicated in Jackson. Here's to the crazy ones! Here's to the dreamers! Here's to the believers! We might not know what God gives till we're in Heaven, but I'm telling you, He's doing exceedingly, abundantly, beyond what we could ask, or think, or imagine. Now to Him be glory in the churches!
And so, Father, I thank you for opening our eyes. Real quick, open your eyes. I know you're praying. Peek, just peek. I want to put my title up so you could see it. From See to shining see. That's what it's going to take. Man sees the Holy Spirit can help us shining see. Supernaturally see. Man looks at the outward appearance. God sees, God shining sees. OK, shut your eyes.
God, we see, but help us see. God we see, but we want to shining see. Jesus, You live in our hearts. We want You to be at home in our hearts. We're filled with God. We want You, God, to have full access to us. So I pray for Your people, I bless Your people in Your name. I thank You for the journey we have been on, and I thank You for the journey we're going on. And as we embark, as we hear You, the conductor of our salvation, the Captain of our faith saying, all aboard, we want to get on that train and head West. We don't want to miss the magnificent mission that has been said of it, there is nothing like it in the world. And that's not just true of the train. That is so much more true of the train of Your church that goes marching on.
If you're just aware of God's presence, and wanted to just tell God I sent to you, I see you, I feel you in this, could you just raise up a hand to Heaven?
Thank you, Jesus. Thank You for what You're doing. Thank You for all across the church and online, as it spills over as far as You take it, the rain of your spirit into the oceans of this world. Thank You for what You've done, thank You for what You're doing, and thank You for including us in it.
You can put your hands down. And if you're here today and you don't have rest in your soul, Jesus said, "Come to Me, all ye who labor". Going around South America. Around. You're lost on the covered COVID wagons of self and sin. Jesus says, "Come to Me, and you will have rest". If you want to board the easy, predictable, smooth, wonderful joy of having salvation inside your heart, that gives you peace to even handle an execution, like Paul. If you would say, I want to give my heart to Christ today, I'm going to pray a prayer and I want you to say this with me. Church family say it with us. For those praying, this is your moment. This is this is like your wedding day inside your heart to your King. Say this, mean it. He'll hear you.
Dear God, come into my life. Invade me with Your grace. Thank You for dying on the Cross and rising from the dead. Help me to follow You no matter what. I am all in. In Jesus' name.