It’s good to be back up here to share…
Can I just say how grateful I am for our online services… Kelly and I were out of town last Sunday, but we got to jump in and watch Allen share the message. I love his passion for Jesus and his pastor’s heart. I love his vulnerability and willingness to just put things out there… like telling you to say “Preach it, Asian Man.”
And the week before that, Conor did such an incredible job leading us to live questionable lives while curiously asking us to share poop emojis.
I couldn’t be more proud of these two young men.
Sons of thunder… both of them chasing after the heart of God with passion and fire. I love the teaching team we are building here.
David will be back in town next week and he can’t wait to be up here to share with you what God is up to in his life. This week, you’re stuck with boring old me… sorry.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at a text in the book of Acts, a book dedicated to the actions and growth of the early church. And in Acts 1:8, we find Jesus’ instructions to all his disciples. Both then and now for all of us.
ACTS 1:8 - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Each of the last few weeks we’ve looked at what does it mean for us to be for our Jerusalem… our homes and personal spheres of influence. Our Judea… our communities. Our Samaria… building relationships within our neighboring cities with people who aren’t like us.
And today, my task is to talk about what it means to be a witness to the ends of the earth.
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to hit pause and look at the need our world has for the healing power of the prince of peace.
Our hearts have been broken looking at the senseless loss of life that is happening in Ukraine. Kelly and I have been joining all of you and millions of other brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, praying for a peaceful resolution.
It’s surreal for me. I grew up learning all about this region of the country from my dad because that’s where our family is from. From a little town called Obrovo just 40miles from the Ukrainian border.
Like many of you, I’ve just looked on in frustration as each day I watch more explosions and more civilians die.
And so I pray.
I pray for peace. I pray for protection for both the Russian and Ukrainian people.
I pray for safety for the hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing Ukraine looking for refuge.
I’ve been talking with a pastor this week who spent five years as a missionary in the Ukraine where they helped start several churches and a Christian institute.
He shared with me that right now, in real-time there are over 600 people huddled in the basement cellar of one of the churches they started. They’re hungry and starving… and terrified, but they are praying and singing and trusting God will provide.
More than that, they’re also caring for the dozens of babies being left in the streets as people are evacuating the country.
In the midst of explosions and at the risk of death, our brothers and sisters in Christ are going through the streets picking up babies and bringing them back to the cellar to care for these orphans.
That’s the church looking like the church.
I asked him to keep me updated on any tangible way we can help those babies and families in the cellar. As soon as I hear anything, you’ll know.
Kelly’s just waiting to see how long it’s gonna be till we end up adopting one of those Ukrainian babies.
So much need… so much need for HOPE. So much need for Jesus right now in our world.
So much need for the church to be the church.
I want us to look at a man in the bible named Peter today. For all of us who are NOT a part of the Jewish faith, the story we are looking at is one of the turning point moments in Christianity that made it possible for you and me to embrace the Christian faith.
In Acts 10, we find the story of a Roman officer who was a very religious and faithful man named Cornelius. We find out that an angel appeared to Cornelius and told him to find the follower of Jesus named Simon Peter.
So Cornelius does what the angel told him to do and sends his people to find Peter and bring him back to him.
In Acts 10, verse 10, the story picks up with Cornelius’ people looking for Peter, and Peter, waiting for dinner, has his own supernatural experience.
Verse 10-21 "While a meal was being prepared, Peter fell into a trance. He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.” “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.” But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven. Peter was very perplexed. What could the vision mean? Just then the men sent by Cornelius found Peter’s house. Standing outside the gate, they asked if a man named Simon Peter was staying there. Meanwhile, as Peter was puzzling over the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, “Three men have come looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and go with them without hesitation. Don’t worry, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for."
Peter ends up going with the men, meets Cornelius - not a Jew but a Gentile, and Peter enters his home breaking Jewish law. He eats with Cornelius’ entire family and community around him, breaking more Jewish laws, and ends up baptizing the entire household of people made up of family and relatives, servants, and neighbors. Lots of rules are being broken.
This one encounter between Peter and Cornelius creates a domino effect of Gentiles now being accepted into the family of faith all across the world.
Imagine if Peter would have received the vision from God and instead of being obedient, he was like no way God… that’s too risky. People will think I’m crazy. They will stone me to death if I start telling people it’s ok to eat bacon. (Jews weren’t allowed to eat pork.)
What if Peter, after being given his marching orders was like, “Sorry God… no can do… that’s not how we do church around here, God. We’ve got our traditions and routines worked out real nice that fit into how we like things…. Clearly, you have the wrong guy.”
Stupid, right… nobody would ever say anything like that, right?
What if Peter… pulled a Peter?
Maybe you’ve heard about the time Peter was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and friends, but on the night Jesus was arrested and was being taken to prison, Peter was asked three different times whether he knew Jesus or not, and every time Peter denied even knowing Jesus.
So, what if, at this moment, Peter saw the mission he was being invited into and was like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about… I don’t even know Jesus.’
I know it’s crazy, but don’t forget, before Peter was a Bible hero and was proclaimed as St. Peter and has churches and hospitals and schools named after him, he was just a fiery, passionate, impulsive, ready, shoot, aim, rough around the edges everyday guy who would rather be fishing. He had a marriage he was trying to work on and a mother-in-law who kept getting sick.
He’s just a guy, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent out on a mission to change the world.
He didn’t have to, but he chose to.
What is it you are being asked to do… even called to do… but you’re not choosing to do?
I want to zero in on a phrase in verse 21…
After Peter was given his mission and Cornelius’ boys come looking for him, Peter chooses to answer the call.
Verse 21 - Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for.”
I’m the one.
It all boils down to this statement today. I’m The ONE.
Every single person will fall into the category of being ‘the one’ today.
Either you’re the one that is lost and in need of help and hope today, or you’re the one Jesus is inviting to push past your insecurities and comforts, to be a witness in your backyard and around the world.
If you’re ‘the one’ that is listening today who has lost hope or is in need of help...today’s your lucky day. Today you can make a decision to stop flirting with this faith stuff and choose to make Jesus the Lord and leader of your life.
Maybe you’ve just been checking out this church stuff or this Jesus stuff, but you’ve never committed your life to him. Well, today’s your day. I mean really… what are you waiting for?
The world’s going to hell in a handbasket… Putin’s threatening nuclear war to anyone who intervenes… I’m ready to meet Jesus, are you?
My affairs are in order. I’m ready to eat at His heavenly table. He’s reserved a spot for me and I know the fried chicken and ribs are gonna be banging.
If you’ve never surrendered your life to Jesus, really… what’s stopping you? Aren’t you tired of trying to figure things out on your own? Aren’t you tired of feeling like there’s no hope… no way out… no way through?
None of that stuff you’ve been going to is gonna fulfill you…
THAT BOY is not going to make it all better. That JOB isn’t going to provide the way you think it will. That MOVE won’t change everything… because you’re still taking you with you… and deep down you already know all this, right?
You’ve already tried it all. And none of it has cured the ache of your soul. There’s a God-shaped hole in your heart only God can fill.
Aren’t you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Jesus says… "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me… Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
For “the one” that needs it, Jesus says… I’ll give you a way out of the mess you’re in.
1 Corinthians 10:13 - God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide A WAY OUT so that you can ENDURE it.
Jesus offers you a way out, but I need some of you to hear this…
I see lots of people post this on social media or say things like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Listen… that’s bull… and it’s not helpful.
Can I get an AMEN from anybody who has ever gone through some stuff?? Can I get some applause from the people who have ever felt completely inadequate and ill-equipped for the moment they found themselves in? Like at any moment things were just going to fall apart…
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” No… God is FAITHFUL.
And when you are tested and tempted… not IF, WHEN… he’s not gonna shield you from testing and temptation. He’s not gonna put you in a little bubble and make sure little Johnny doesn’t skin his knee… ‘let me wrap him up in bubble wrap and protect him from all the evils of the world.'
Parents, help me understand this. If God (who is OUR good father) allows us to go through storms and doesn’t shield us from the storms of life, why don’t we do that for our kids?
I see too many parents determined to pamper and protect their little babies from experiencing the pain of this world. It's not preparing them for reality. It’s not helping them. It’s only crippling them creating an entitled insecure and anxious generation.
Let them feel the pain. Let them go through the storms. And trust that when the testing and temptation happens… what does the scripture say… that our Father in heaven…
…will provide a way out so that you can ENDURE it.
So they can endure it. Not escape it. Endure it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Be forged by it.
God’s word says… problems, testing… Trials produce character, and character, perseverance and perseverance, hope, and HOPE does not disappoint.
For the one who needs help, the one that needs a way out, and a rest… surrender your life to Jesus. TODAY. RIGHT NOW…
If this is you, I’m gonna pray right now. We’re all gonna pray right now. This is your moment to surrender.
That they will be overwhelmed by the presence of God in their lives and that today they will surrender to Jesus. Pray that the shackles of oppression and pride will be broken and they will be set free.
Amen. (If you prayed that prayer with me today and surrendered your life to Christ, please come talk to me or one of our team members down front after service today. We’d love to connect.)
For all the other misfits in the room… those who have already surrendered to Jesus… You are THE ONE. Like Peter in our text, you’re being called to embrace the value of obedience today.
Will you DO what God asks of you even when you don’t fully understand it?
In his obedience, Peter says, I’m the one… even though he didn’t fully understand what God was up to, he was obedient. And because of his obedience, the Gospel is now spread all across the world.
Can we all just thank God for Peter’s obedience? If it wasn’t for him, all us heathen, good for nothin' Gentiles wouldn’t have access to the life-saving grace of Jesus.
Peter was obedient…
Peter was a witness in his backyard to his friends and family, to those in his community, to those in the cities around him… and to the ends of the earth.
Peter was obedient… and it changed the world.
What will God do through you?
Seriously, I dream and pray about these things for you. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in and through you.
The power to change the world is right at your fingertips…
How do I know this?
Go back to Acts 1:8… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
For those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, you have the ability and power to change the world… but do you have the obedience to actually do it?
To ask the Holy Spirit, “Show me where to go. Show me who to talk to. Show me what to do.” AND THEN DO IT.
In the book of Ephesians, God’s word says that… "I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead."
We have resurrection power running through our veins.
Are we using it to be witnesses in our families, on our streets, in our communities, in our cities, and around the world?
We are a part of an ancestry that has been empowered by the spirit using that POWER for generations.
The same spirit that gave power to Ruth… Esther… Moses… Abraham… Joshua… Joseph… Caleb… Rahab… is available to us.
The same spirit that empowered Mary… Peter… James… John… Lydia, Priscilla, and Paul to change their world is the same spirit available to us to change ours.
We are connected to a great crowd of witnesses, connected by the same spirit… a part of a family tree and ancestry that boldly proclaims the power and witness of Jesus Christ.
So, what is stopping us from changing the world around us? Ourselves.
There was an incredibly talented philosopher in the 80s who said… “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change. Hoo. Na-na-na na-na-na nana-nana” - M. Jackson
I don’t subscribe to all of Michael’s life choices, but that statement is dead on.
The only thing stopping you from changing your world is you.
What will YOU do with the power that is available to you?
Jesus has given you power, authority, and the opportunity to change your world.
Do you have the obedience to do it? The determination?
Because this is what we’re asking of you…
To those who said “I’m IN”… I want to be on mission here at Whitewater… this is our task. To change the world.
And it’s going to require obedience and determination.
This past week, Kelly and I had the opportunity to go out west, to recharge our batteries for a couple of days and be a part of a conference for pastors and their wives from all across the country.
The conference was in Vegas… and before you get any ideas… I hate Vegas. Vegas is not what I think of for rejuvenation and restoration of my weary pastor's heart. Vegas is consumed by neon lights advertising and enticing you to disappointment, despair, and bad decisions.
So, before we went to Vegas, Kelly and I decided to actually fill our buckets at a well we knew would deliver and we went hiking in Zion National Park.
We hiked for 16 miles up cliffs and plateaus one day and then ran five miles along the Virgin River the next day… looking for Jack and Mel at Jack’s Bar… very disappointing we didn’t find them. (Virgin River Netflix series reference, ugh.)
It was absolutely beautiful… everything we hoped it would be.
One of the trails we hiked was called Angels Landing… an awesome experience and trail with an elevation gain of 1500 ft.
It ended up being a fairly difficult hike because of the snow and ice, which quite frankly we weren’t prepared for. Thankfully, one of the locals there told us “If you’re gonna do ‘angels’ then you have to have microspikes.”
And at first, I was like, listen… we don’t need no stinkin' spikes. We’ve climbed mountains five times this height.
But, thankfully, we didn’t listen to me. We listened to the locals and we got some microspikes. And it saved our butts.
We got to a point where we were like… “Man, this is tough. Are we at the top yet?”
Kelly turned to me right at this moment and she said, “Is this the way forward?”
Yup… this is the way.
To get to the top, you have to traverse the ridge of this mountain… where the snow-covered trail was at best three feet wide, and on either side were life-altering drop-offs… IT WAS AWESOME!
We made it to the top. It was tough, but it was so worth it. The top was absolutely stunning.
To make it to the top of Angels Landing, it required listening and obeying directions and instructions. AND determination, even though it was challenging, even though there were times we thought, "There’s no way we’re making it."
And it took trust, knowing that even though it was hard… even though we would be tested, we knew God would give us what we needed in the midst of it to make it through and endure.
To all of you who are a part of the Whitewater community that want to be on mission here… This is the way forward.
Obedience… determination… trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit… to make a way… to help us endure.
Over 700 of you said “I’m ALL IN”… I want to be on mission… this is the way.
ACTS 1:8 is our mission…
To step out in faith and obedience, like Peter, to say “I’m the ONE”… and go change the world.
If you’re a part of the Whitewater community and you haven’t sent us your RSVP yet… what’s stopping you?
This is not the time for indecision, complacency, or lukewarm…
Lukewarm faith won’t get us to the top of the summit… worried about preferences won’t get us there. If you’re IN, let us know… if you’re not, let us know.
We’re on a mission from God to change the world… empowered by the holy spirit. Are you in? Last time I’m gonna ask because I’m moving on and we’ve got work to do.
For those that said I’m IN, I can’t wait to see what God is gonna do through you and IN you.
Together, we’re gonna change the world… period.
This is the way.
In a couple of months, I’m gonna be on the other side of the world… in Nepal.
Why you might ask?
Because nine other pastors and I from across the country are teaming up to climb to the base camp of Mt Everest.
We’re doing this to raise money to plant hundreds of churches across the world.
Over the last decade, Kelly and I have had the privilege to help start new churches across North and South America.
And now… we get to do this together.
Together, in the months and years to come, we will be starting new biblical communities and churches throughout the TRI-STATE and around the world.
This is the way forward.
I’m inviting all of you into this Kingdom Mission.
This will only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit working through all of you… with obedience and determination.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste the time I have. I don’t want to go through life, checked out, just working for the weekend…
I want to be a part of something bigger, something fueled by passion and purpose. Something that transforms lives… and it’s happening all around us. Have you noticed? It’s happening.
Jesus is up to something beautiful and powerful here.
People from every race and background are coming together, in a community where flags of division and hatred are flown daily. Just look around 128 if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yet in the midst of all that, God is up to something ONLY God can do.
We’ve been called to be a city on a hill shining its light for all to see. And when they ask, how did that happen in CLEVES, OH… the ONLY thing we’ll be able to say… is: JESUS happened.
For this to keep happening throughout this region and around the world, we’ve got to move away from being spiritual consumers and lean into becoming spiritual contributors.
We are not FANS… we are FOLLOWERS.
We’re not called to be fans of a once-a-week 75-minute spiritual experience on a Sunday.
We’re called to be followers of a crucified King, who rose from the dead and said pick up your cross and follow me.
We’re called to lay down our comforts and preferences and follow Jesus as we crash the gates of hell to rescue and redeem a broken and lost world.
So what do we do right now?
Right now, you’ve been invited into mission and community. It’s time for you to invite every person under the sun to be a part of what we’re doing here. If you believe in it, tell them about it and get them here.
I’m gonna keep training to climb Everest (so I come back in one piece) but more importantly so that together we can start planting some new churches around the world.
In the meantime, how do we witness to those from ‘the ends of the earth’?
Think about where you shop. Where you eat. Where you invest your time, talents, and treasure.
Make a decision to be the ONE who will invest their money in fair trade businesses. Eat at local restaurants that you know are supporting families and children from other countries.
Choose to invest in the missionaries we have throughout the world.
Choose to go on mission trips as they start back up this year and next.
Choose to adopt or sponsor kids from other countries who are desperate for support and love.
Choose to make a difference in the world.
Will you step out like Peter?
Will you step up with obedience and determination?
Will you be the one?