1. Can you think of a time when God interrupted your life with something unexpected (good or otherwise)? What did you learn about God during that season or experience?
2. Why, do you think, does God often work in ways that don’t always go according to our plans or what we think He “should” do?
3. What is God inviting you to do right now? What does the still, small voice in your heart say that might feel uncomfortable but aligns with God’s word?
Welcome to Hope City Church! So glad you’re here. My name is Peter and I’m the pastor here! I love our church; I love what God is doing here. It’s crazy! Last week, I had the privilege of announcing some amazing news, our church received a gift of a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS to help us secure a permanent home! Nothing says MERRY CHRISTMAS like the thought of moving towards a permanent home, a space where we can see our church grow and serve more people.
I’ve got to tell you though; this has definitely thrown a wrench in my fall! It’s been crazy! Since finding out about this gift in September, Tiffany and I have been working with our overseers to pray and seek God’s direction on this. We’ve been meeting with people in our church and community. It’s been a bit of a wild roller coaster. I know… it’s crazy good. But at the same time, it’s been one of those moments that has changed everything! Like we were headed into the fall thinking oh man, we’ll just be doing similar things to what we did last year, gearing up for Christmas, leading our staff team, and serving our church, and then all of a sudden, we get a call out of the blue! Hello, I’ve been instructed to send Hope City Church ¼ of a million dollars! WHAT!!!!
You’ve had interruptions like that, moments that almost take your breath away. Right? They could be good moments, and they could be scary moments. You’re minding your business and enjoying the day, and all of a sudden your kid comes in and says I don’t feel so good, and then BLAH… the stomach bug strikes your house. AND THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING! Hahahaha… Right?
Or you’ve been going through your day like every other day, and you get an email that says, I’d love to talk to you about an opportunity… It’s you company’s biggest competitor, and you know what this means. They’ve got a job offer, but it would mean more travel, more time away from home, and more money. But IT WOULD CHANGE EVERYTHING.
I’ll tell you what, when I first heard about this gift I was so excited! I mean, who wouldn’t be… And then I started to think about it more and more and realize that this came with a lot of responsibility. We have been entrusted with someone’s legacy. We hold this in our hands. And I’ll tell you what, I started losing sleep. It was keeping me up at night. I’d fall asleep and then wake up in the middle of the night and just lay there thinking about what was going to happen next. This wasn’t the plan for this fall. It was not what we expected. We had a plan… but God interrupted it.
Have you ever felt like the interruptions in your life are overwhelming? Did you know that this time of the year is one of the highest times of the year for STRESS? There are Relational Tensions, Financial Strains and there is the reality that you still didn’t lose the 15 pounds like you swore you were going to. A recent study showed that more than 84% of Americans said that they were moderately to overwhelmingly stressed during the Christmas season.
And yet, once again, we find ourselves in good company. We aren’t alone in this. In fact, the very beginning of the Christmas story is filled with characters who were stressed, and tense. Think about it. Everyone who heard about the fact that Jesus was going to be born, a savior, how did they react? WITH FEAR AND ANXIETY! In other words, fear and anxiety marked the earliest Christmas encounters.
Think about it.. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds—ALL heard the same Christmas message, and ALL of them responded in FEAR! Look with me at the first of the people to hear about the coming of the messiah. Jump over to Luke 1:26-34 that’s found on page 698 in the Bible’s around you.
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 1
Sometimes we become so FAMILIAR with something that we lose APPRECIATION for it. We take it for granted. We even have the saying: Familiarity breeds CONTEMPT. You know… it’s when you’ve become so accustomed to something that you almost no longer see it.
This happened to me the other night at the UTC Mall. I walked in right by the elevators and there was an information desk there that I was CERTAIN was brand new. Tiffany said, that it’s always been there, and I was for sure that she was wrong. So, what did I do? I proceeded to walk up to the lady and ask if this desk is new. She said, “No sir, we’ve been here for 5 years. I said, yes of course, I know that the mall has been here for 5 years, but what about this desk. This is new for Christmas, Right? No sir, we’ve been here for 5 years. Like the desk has been here for 5 years? Yes sir.” Turns out, she is always right. But I should have known that.
Sometimes we get so accustomed to seeing something that we no longer actually see it. That is what we are praying for this Advent season. We’re praying that you would sense God in a new way this year. That the birth of Jesus would take on new meaning, and that the activity of God in the life of our church would inspire you like never before!
For instance, everyone knows the Virgin Mary. You don’t have to be a Christian to know Mary… whether you went to Catholic School or not … the Virgin Mary is easily one of the most recognized historical figures of all-time. And so because you’ve got one of the Most Famous Characters of all time … in one of the Most Famous Stories of all time … it’s easy to lose the AWE & Wonder. Until things are shown in a different light.
See the reality is … the Christmas Story is OUTRAGEOUS. Think about this … a 12-14 year old girl (which is when girls were betrothed in those days) … was visited by an ANGEL … Let me pump the brakes here … I don’t know where the idea that angels are these chubby, little babies with wings came from … but it’s not the Bible! No, in the Bible … Angels are FIERCE, War-Like Creatures, capable of decimating entire nations at God’s single command. Today’s scene is no different:
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
Do you know what Mary was thinking about? Who am I that you would be here with me… What am I going to do? A BABY? My life is going to change. Here she was minding her own business, just like you and me, she was planning her wedding… scrolling through Pinterest at everyone else’s ideas. And BAM this bombshell hits. But from the Christmas story, and from Mary we learn something really important.
Pt. 1 INTERRUPTIONS ARE OFTEN GOD’S INVITATIONS. Mary was focused. She was doing her thing… minding her business. Suddenly God “interrupts” and says, I want to invite you to something BIGGER. Something BETTER. We see this pattern throughout scripture.
MOSES, what was he doing? He was tending his flock, and he was INTERRUPTED by a burning bush. And God spoke to him and invited him to lead God’s people out of captivity.
PETER, this guy was out fishing with his brother, and everything was going to change for him. He was INTERRUPTED by a traveling carpenter who said, FOLLOW ME and I’ll teach you to fish for men, and you’ll change the world.
JESUS, this poor guy couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without being interrupted all the time. As a matter of fact, even Jesus’ interruptions were interrupted. Like the time in Mark 5 when Jesus got out of a boat and was interrupted by a crowd where a rich man asked him to take a detour and heal his daughter… and on that very detour, Jesus was again interrupted by a bleeding woman also in need of healing. INTERRUPTIONS ARE OFTEN GOD’S INVITATIONS.
Invitations to what though? God’s mission is to see God’s people be agents of restoration and hope in this world. To go into the world and preach the gospel, or the good news about Jesus… that the words were true of the prophet Isaiah, when He spoke on behalf of God saying,
1“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 6“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.Isaiah 42:1,6-7
God has invited us to be a part of what He is doing here on earth. Christmas is the start of this… this first interruption, was an invitation to join God in something spectacular. Yes, you have a plan, yes you’ve got your day laid out, but then someone walks into your office and starts pouring their heart out to you. You lean in. Parenting is the same way… the real moments of parenting are not found in the times when you have the family meetings and you sit down to discuss the issues at hand. No, real parenting happens in the heat of the moment, out of nowhere when you least expect it. Interruptions are an invitation.
C.S. Lewis put it this way, “The great thing is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘real’ life. The truth is… what one calls the ‘interruptions’ are precisely one’s real life.”
Which then begs the question: Where are you being INTERRUPTED? Where in your life, did you have your own plans, your own timeline, and then some way, somehow, everything got INTERRUPTED? Guess what, God Wants to Meet You THERE. What you call an INTERUPTION … an INCONVENIENCE … what if it’s actually an INVITATION for a DIVINE INTERSECTION?
What if it was God inviting you into what He is doing here in Sarasota? How will you respond? Do you have the COURAGE to face it in FAITH or are you overwhelmed by FEAR?
Isn’t it amazing that whenever God wanted to do something INCREDIBLE he used ordinary people? Think about it… Who was Moses? He was a murderer on the run. What about Peter… he was an average fisherman. What about Mary? She was a teenager. She hasn’t even proved herself yet. There’s no track record. There’s nothing to show for it.
Look what Mary says…
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked2
There’s a lot of people in this room who side with Mary on this one. You might say, true… how can this be. She’s just a peasant. She’s from Nazareth. Just little old Nazareth. And yet we know that PT. 2 GOD DOES THE EXTRAORDINARY THROUGH THE ORDINARY.
Some translations say, HOW CAN THIS BE? Mary fills in the first blank when she says, How can this be, I’m a virgin. But you and I fill that blank with any number of other excuses. God invites us to something, to do something, to give something, to meet a need, and we say, yeah, but God, how can this be? I’m not qualified, I’m not smart enough, I’m not wealthy enough. I’m not… And we ask the very same question as Mary, and yet Mary shows us along with a myriad of other stories in scripture that GOD DOES EXTRAORDINARY THINGS THROUGH ORDINARY PEOPLE.
3 years ago, Tiffany and I decided to start Hope City Church. And along with 42 other people we raised $200,000 to get everything we would need to make our church happen. God does extraordinary things through ordinary people!
Last week, I told you about the fact that this fall we started to look at the potential for our church to move towards a permanent home. We found out that we were going to need $500,000 in our bank account before we would be able to move forward. The discouragement was real. It was overwhelming. How could we possibly do this? And then in the matter of one short phone call, we heard the news that God had provided $250,000 through one couple’s generosity to our church. We went from needing $500,000 to needing $250,000 overnight. That’s a GOD SIZED MOMENT.
Well, after praying about this, and talking with our overseers, I approached our staff team, and key leaders and asked them to pray about what part God would have them play in the preparation for our permanent home. Tiffany and I prayed about it, about what role God would have us play, how much above and beyond our tithes we would contribute to the permanent home for Hope City Church. I asked our Overseers to pray about what God would have them do. And if you want to see an example of how God does the Extraordinary through the ordinary… look at this. Today, I’m excited to share with you that our staff team, overseers, and Tiffany and I have collectively pledged $151,370.00 towards the Heart For the House Campaign. This means that God is again providing miraculously… We have a current need of $98,630 to reach $500,000 by the end of this year!
Do you know how this happened? You are sitting amongst the most generous people I know. God is using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. People have dipped into retirement accounts; they have leveraged their future in order to make a difference today. People have sold things in order to give above and beyond their tithe. They have not done things, and in not doing those things they were reminded of what a privilege it is that we get to build his church and provide for God’s House.
I know right now many of us go back to the How Could THIS HAPPEN Mindset. We say, I’m not… or I don’t have…
Let me show you one more thing this morning. The Angel steps in quickly. Look what he says,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God3 Luke 1:35
The Angel reminds Mary, it’s not about you Mary. It’s not about your abilities. It’s not about your goodness. It’s about God’s GOODNESS, God’s ability. God’s power, God’s ability is going to work through you. In fact, that’s not at all what God was asking for from Mary. He wasn’t asking for her previous mothering experience. It wasn’t about her resume, or accomplishments.
No… We learn that PT. 3 GOD DOESN’T NEED YOUR ABILITY HE WANTS YOUR AVAILABILITY. Are you willing. This is what God is seeking! Mary could have said, what if you come back in a few years God? What if once Joseph and I are married already. That would go over a lot better with my mom and grandma. We’ll have a house by then. Joseph will have a successful carpentry business. We could support this Son of God. But now God? It’s not looking so good. But God wasn’t seeking her ability, just her availability.
Let me introduce you to Gabby and Eduardo… Take a look at this picture. Do you see their little heart for the house piggy banks? Last week they heard in Hope City Kids that we are saving for God’s house, and they were challenged by this. They wanted to find a way to give towards the Heart For the House Campaign. God was moving in their hearts. So what did they do? They set up a lemonade stand on their driveway and sold 50 cent cups of lemonade.
God is going to use Quarter of a Million Dollar checks and half dollar cups of lemonade to build His house! Don’t miss this…. God doesn’t need your ABILITY… HE WANTS YOUR AVAILABILITY. He wants your willingness.
I love how Mary concludes her visit with the angel. What started out as a fearful INTERRUPTION has turned into a DIVINE INVITATION, and she recognizes this. Look at Mary’s words in verse 38…
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” 4
In other words, God, I don’t see how it’s possible. But I’m going to trust you. I will obediently follow you. Mary had her own legitimate doubts and questions, and yet she still had the ability to see that she was in the midst of a GOD MOMENT and she had the courage to believe the angel and surrender her will to God. My friend Dave Adamson says it this way, WHEN WE GIVE GOD OUR AVAILABILITY, HE GIVES US THE ABILITY.
This Christmas we are inviting you to boldly and courageously give to the Heart For the House Campaign. We believe that when our heart beats for what God’s heart beats for we will see God do some amazing things here in Sarasota. In fact, we believe that it will honor God. We have a new goal of $98,630. It started out at $500,000 and now we are at $98,630… Is God amazing or what? Let’s close this gap this Christmas.
Would you be willing to be available to God? What if God is asking you to do more than is comfortable to you. Mary was invited into what could easily be described as an INTERRUPTION, and yet it was the DIVING INVITATION that would change the world.
We believe that our Heart For the House Campaign is going to change everything. You can give online using the legacy fund, or you can put a check in the heart for the house envelope that we have included in your program. Maybe this year, you would like to tithe on the growth of your stocks, we are able to receive those gifts as well. Reach out to me and I can send you info on how to do that. Maybe you’re looking at your giving over the course of this past year and it’s not quite where you want it to be, or where you committed it would be, and you want to catch up on your tithes, this would be an incredible time to do that here in our Heart For the House Campaign.
We are looking to close this gap of $98,630 by the end of this fiscal year, by December 31st. We want to start this next decade on a great footing, in step with where God is leading us as a church. Would you pray and ask “GOD, WHAT PART DO YOU WANT ME TO PLAY IN PROVIDING FOR YOUR HOUSE? GOD WOULD YOU CAUSE MY HEART TO BEAT FOR YOUR HOUSE?”
Together, we are going to see God do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
In fact, this Christmas God may use you to interrupt someone else’s life. Today on your way out, we’re giving everyone a bag of goodies… We’ve got candy canes and invite cards to pass out. This is what we call the Hope City Candy Cane Drop. You’re going to take one of those invites, and we’ve punched a hole in the card for you to slip the candy can through, and hang it on someone’s door in the parking lots, or someone’s cubicle… What if God used a simple candy cane and invite card to INTERRUPT someone’s day? Do you remember who invited you to Hope City? It’s as simple as this.
No matter what you are experiencing right now. I pray that you would be going through this Advent season with the courageous faith of Mary as she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you’ve said.” Imagine what you will experience this next year, this next month, or even this next moment when you surrender your will to God and accept His Invitations.