- What are you watching for in this season of life? What are you expectantly waiting for God to do?
- What is something you have believed about Jesus or God or faith in the past that didn’t align with what scripture says? Is there anything now that you need to rethink? How will testing your beliefs about Jesus against God’s word impact your joy?
- What is God doing in your life right now and how are you responding?
Good morning! Welcome to Hope City Church, my name is Peter, and I’m the pastor here at Hope City. MERRY CHRISTMAS! Don’t you just love this time of the year? There are so many great things about Christmas. I love CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, I’ll be real though, I just like them better when they’re on your house… COME ON, YOU KNOW THIS IS TRUE! NO ONE REALLY LIKES HANGING CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, but we all love looking at them.
I love the CHRISTMAS MUSIC… I’m constantly in search of some great Christmas Covers… So if you’ve got your favorite Christmas playlist, share it with me.
Good morning! Welcome to Hope City Church, my name is Peter, and I’m the pastor here at Hope City. MERRY CHRISTMAS! Don’t you just love this time of the year? There are so many great things about Christmas. I love the lights, (I’ll be real though, I just like them better when they’re on your house…). I love the music… I’m constantly in search of some great Christmas Covers… I love the movies… We all do right? Especially the Hallmark Christmas Movies. I bet you I can guess the plot line of your favorite Hallmark movie… You ready for this?
It’s the one where the busy, single executive has lost sight of the meaning of Christmas, but then a Ryan Reynolds type, not actually Ryan, but like a “budget Ryan” steps in and teaches her the meaning of Christmas again and they kiss at midnight.1
HAHAHA… You’ve seen that one, right? J I love Christmas though, because it is a time of the year that we celebrate moments. We celebrate the moments with our coworkers, we celebrate with our
neighbors, we celebrate with our church, we celebrate with our family, we celebrate with our friends. You could say we make moments happen.
· Some of my favorite moments from Christmas are watching my family sit around the Christmas Tree on Christmas morning. Being all together in our pajamas…
· Another moment I’ll never forget, is on Christmas, 16 years ago I proposed to my girlfriend. She said yes, by the way…. It was Tiffany for those of your keeping score… J
· Or then there was the year that my brother in law got a remote controlled drone stuck in AUNT MELANIE’S HAIR at a Christmas party… If you ever want to see me about fall apart with laughter, go fly a drone into AUNT MELANIE’S hair and then right when the room gets serious about how tangled up it is, watch me start giggling uncontrollably in the corner. That moment lives on in my memory forever! J
Some moments leave us saying, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (Excited)! You get MARRIED. And you move into your first apartment together and you say, well this changes everything… Or you walk into work one day, and your boss asks to see you, and slides an envelope across the table with a BONUS CHECK in it. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Or You find out you’re PREGNANT… WOAH… This is going to change everything. These are the moments that change things…[SLOW DOWN- FEEL THIS]
Or moments can leave you saying, (sad) WELL, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. You walk into work and this time instead of a check, there’s a PINK SLIP…. Pack up your office and go. Or maybe you’ve had a DIAGNOSIS come back that took your breath away. Or this last year, you signed DIVORCE papers, and you never could have seen that coming.
MOMENTS CHANGE THINGS, BUT THEY ALSO CHANGE US.
Everyone has faced moments that come from a big announcement. And I’ve got a big announcement for you today … … … but you’re going to have to wait for it. Because we need to learn something from the BIGGEST ANNOUNCEMENT EVER.
In the book of Luke, chapter 2, that’s page 699 in the Bible’s around you, we find the biggest announcement being made in a matter of moments. You’re may be really familiar with THIS STORY. But what happened in THIS MOMENT CHANGED EVERYTHING!
Look at this…
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.2
What were these shepherds doing? THEIR JOB… IN fact, if you were to make a pie chart of what the shepherds job entailed, yes, there would be feeding the sheep, there would be a little sliver of sheering the sheep, there would be a sliver of keeping them from wandering off… THE BIGGEST CHUNK OF THE WHOLE PIE WOULD BE WATCHING!
They were living in the fields, and it was now nighttime, and they were keeping watch. Which means that they were on the lookout. They had their eyes peeled for something. They weren’t sure yet, but they knew that they needed to be looking for something.
Usually they would be looking for predators, for wolves, or any other wild animal that would want to harm their sheep. They also needed to be on the lookout for thieves. Those people who would come in the middle of the night and raid their flocks. The shepherd’s job was to protect the flock not only from predators, and thieves, but also weather. If foul weather was coming, it would be their job to herd the sheep towards safety.
But in this moment, everything changed, because these shepherds weren’t just watching weather, or predators… tonight they witnessed ANGELIC MESSENGERS. Why?
Because PT. 1 WATCHING FOR GOD LEADS YOU TO WITNESS GOD. Is it possible that the shepherds were chosen by God for this moment because God knew that they would be watching? Their whole job was to be watching. Imagine laying in a field, watching sheep… You have no iPhone to be scrolling through keeping you interested, you have no NETFLIX to pass the time with. You are literally watching the night sky. Watching the edges of the pasture for movement that doesn’t belong. Your eyes are accustomed to the stage that was set for the ANGEL, the messenger of God.
God often shows up to speak to those whose eyes are accustomed to looking for Him! Think about it… what happens when you enter into a pitch black room. Have you ever walked into a space SO dark that you cannot see anything around you, even those that are in the room with you? If you have, you know that the worst thing for you to do is just keep walking. So instinctively you stop, stand still, and let your eyes adjust.
Did you know that God created your eyes to perform what scientists call, “Dark Adaptation”. [Lights Off] Dark adaptation is the process in which the photoreceptors in your eyes begin working to make sense of what is in front of them, no matter how low the lighting is.[Lights slowly coming back on]
This is an intentional process. One which takes some time, sometimes it takes 20-30 minutes to fully adapt to the low lighting. Too often we walk into the darkest places of our lives and we expect to see God right away, we expect to see what He is doing, and it’s possible that we haven’t allowed the spiritual eyes of our heart to slow down long enough to focus on Him and what God is doing.
I wonder, what is it that you’re watching for this Christmas? As a church we’ve entered into the ancient tradition of ADVENT. A time of waiting, and preparing, of hope and expectation. However,
we know that this time of the year is often more congested and overrun with distraction than any other time of the year. So, what are you watching for?
Many of us would say that we are waiting for a moment… the thing that is going to change our lives, and my question is, are you watching for it?
God honors your watching and waiting. If you want to witness God, you’ve got to watch for God. Keep your eyes open, keep watching for what God is doing, because EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE IN A MOMENT.
These shepherds find themselves staring up at a celestial Imax theater, eyes fully accustomed, ready to see, and BAM—God’s glory is on display. And the Angel says to them,
10 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 3
This message is amazing. The angel says, a savior has been born. Just listen to those words. A savior is here. The one that is going to change everything has arrived on the scene. This is the moment in the move is when the music swells… the other characters start looking around and recognize that although their situation was looking bleak, it’s about to change. Because the hero has arrived. HOPE IS HERE. A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN. And THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!
One of the things that we learn from this big announcement is that, Pt. 2 GOD’S NEWS IS GOOD NEWS. What did the angel say to the shepherds… The messenger said, don’t be afraid, I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY. It was delivered to the Shepherds first, but it wasn’t only meant for the shepherds. This message was meant for more—I bring you good news of great joy that will be for just you and your friends. NO! It will be FOR ALL PEOPLE.
Christmas reminds us that these moments when God breaks in and gets our attention, they are filled with Good News! I talk with so many people who say, I used to be religious. I used to go to church. Or I only go to church now out of obligation. These stories are filled with the same kind of plot line. There was some judgey lady named Karen who seemed to be the church mom, and moral police, who couldn’t believe that you pierced your ears, or dyed your hair. Or there was an overzealous church leader, Derek, that laid the guilt trip on the entire church for not showing up to a church workday that month. And do you know what, people get tired of that. They put Jesus, Karen, and Derek together and they move away from that.
Christmas reminds us that God Moments are Good Moments. In fact, God’s news is GOOD NEWS! If the words said about Jesus aren’t good news, you should go back to the words Jesus actually said. Afterall, what was the sign that the shepherds were looking for, how were they going to find this SAVIOR? Would he be in a palace for kings? Would he arrive to upper class white people? Where was this MESSIAH going to arrive?
The message said, He would arrive in a manger, wrapped in bits of cloth. In other words, You’re going to find ROYALTY IN RAGS. You’re going to find MAJESTY IN A MANGER. The savior of the world makes his entrance in the very place where animals eat and sleep. The angel just said that the savior of the world, the Christ child was coming. BUT he’s not going to be found in the Ritz Carlton, but in an animal shelter. This is why Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8:9
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.4
Why did God have His Son Jesus born this way? Because Jesus was good news for all people. No one was excluded. No race, no ethnicity, no gender. God sent Jesus FOR ALL PEOPLE.
If you’re watching, and if you’re listening, God can bring YOU a word that will change the world! Jesus is the savior of the world, and Jesus has called his followers, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. He says that people will know that we are his followers if we have love for one another. Imagine, people who are
skeptical of what we believe, but jealous of the way that we treat people. This should be true of us because God’s News is Good News! And as the Church here in Sarasota, we are God’s light to Sarasota!
This September, we felt God leading us to prepare for a permanent home here at Hope City. This past year has been an amazing year here at our church.
We: · Celebrated our 2nd birthday as a church · Sponsored Tatum Ridge’s first Day For Hope, caring for 70+ students… helping them get ready for the school year, and feed their families. · 3 weeks ago we baptized 8 people · We’ve dedicated 12 kids
· We’ve seen SISTERHOOD take off with 155 women at this past brunch and almost 90 women at Sisterhood Nights. · In Hope City Family, we see on average 130 kids a weekend. This is almost double where we were this time last year. · Hope City Youth has blossomed in it’s first year, with an average of 35 students every weekend!
God is doing something incredible. Now, listen, we aren’t all about numbers here. Every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story matters to God. It could be easy to dream about what we could do with a permanent home, we can imagine worship nights, youth nights, family movie nights… community events, and any number of other things that we could do to be #FORsarasota. I will tell you what, it is so exciting.
I started making some calls, I started to do some homework—what would it take to move in to a permanent space? I started to LOOK AROUND… and I found that in order to get into a permanent home, we were going to need about $500,000 in the bank. That would be what we would need to secure a space … it really would be just the first major hurtle towards a permeant home. I don’t know
about you but $500,000 is a lot of money! It was like the air got sucked out of my lungs. It felt like I walked into a DARK ROOM and my eyes couldn’t see anything. I went home and I looked at Tiffany and I said, I DON’T SEE how this could possibly happen. I was so discouraged.
And yet, there was this gnawing sense in my soul that God wasn’t done. There was still more. I just needed to keep watching and waiting. Keep looking, scanning… Paying attention to what He is doing.
Several weeks later, on a Thursday late afternoon I received a phone call. Is this Pastor Gowesky? Yes… This is Paul from Edward Jones Investments. I wanted to let you know that I’ve been instructed to send Hope City Church a Quarter of a Million Dollars for your future permanent home.
I immediately said, Matt, Justin, is that you guys?
After I wiped my eyes, and pulled myself together, We realized that I was in the midst of a moment. This was a moment unlike any other before it. God was on the move. He was taking action.
When I called to thank the individuals who gave this offering to our church, they said, I want you to know 2 things… 1. You can’t out give God. 2. We want your church to know that they can do it. That’s right… Did you catch that? This couple doesn’t even attend Hope City Church. They’ve just seen what our church has been doing #FORsarasota and in the lives of people.
Can you believe this? Hope City Church has been gifted ¼ of a million dollars to begin the process of finding and securing a permanent home for ministry for years to come so that we can engage the faith of every generation to instill faith in the next generation.
Can we just take a moment and celebrate what God has done? (Clapping) SO GOOD! In fact let’s take a minute and honor GOD for that moment… for what He has done.
God, thank you for what you’ve done… thank you for providing for our church in a miraculous way. We pray Lord that as we follow you, you’ll continue to provide for us in both meaningful and miraculous ways. WE LOVE YOU, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll do next! AMEN!
Watching for God Moments is not enough. Look at what happens next, there’s something for us to learn:
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 5
The shepherds experienced a moment with God, and then they went and did something about it! Did you see this? Their response was simple: GO, TELL, & CELEBRATE! The angels left and they talked for a second and then acted. They got up and went to Bethlehem. They searched for the messiah. Scripture says that they FOUND Mary and Joseph because they were actively looking. Then they returned GLORIFYING GOD and Praising God because of what they had experienced. There was nothing more that they could do than say, GOD, YOU’RE AMAZING! YOU’RE SO GOOD, GRACIOUS, AND LOVING! The shepherds model something very important for us. And that is that, PT. 3 GOD’S ACTION INVITES YOUR REACTION.
In fact, every moment invites our reaction. From heartbeat to heartbeat… It’s too easy to go to a concert, be moved by the music in the moment and not let it change you. But don’t forget that Moments Change Things, but they should also CHANGE US too!
As a church in order to move forward in preparation for a permanent home we need $500,000. But because of the MIRACLE OF THE MONEY, we are already 50% of the way there. God took what seemed impossible for us, and said, watch me!
This is why Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20, he says,
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us.”
Paul is saying, GOD CAN DO IT! He can do more than we can even think. Don’t PUT GOD IN A BOX! 2019 was an incredible year! But it’s going to be incredible to see God do immeasurably more in 2020.
God is in the business of making moments that leave people saying, “WELL THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!”
Today, I want to invite you to ask the Lord, “God what part would you have me play in providing a permanent home for my church? As I mentioned, we need to raise an additional $250,000 to close the gap on $500,000. But God can do that.
Why? Because we want to see God do immeasurably more in the lives of people. We want to see God move IMMEASURABLY MORE in this NEXT GENERATION. We want to see men and women choose Jesus over everything. We want to help IMMEASURABLY MORE people take their next steps in their journey of faith. Most of all, if God is asking us to prepare, we want to be obedient to whatever He asks us to do.
Would you help us close this financial gap? This December, would you give to our Heart For The House Campaign above and beyond your tithe in order to help Hope City prepare for our permanent home? There is a special envelope in your program today, your kids are getting a piggy bank today for them to participate… IN fact, we want to encourage you to talk about this as a family… Don’t m
on this God Moment. You can use the envelope and put a check in there, mail it to the office, drop it in an offering bucket, or you can give online using the LEGACY FUND. We are believing God for this… We are believing that God will use you to close this gap I know this is a big number… but let me tell you what… God is a miracle working God.
This Tuesday, while I was preparing for this message. I received an email that said, Can my husband and I come see you today? Typically I would have said no, because it was a Tuesday, and Tuesday’s are reserved for me to write, and prepare for Sunday’s message. But I said, yes, and I told them where to meet me.
30 minutes later they show up and they ask me how I’m doing, and then they ask about the church… And after I tell them about the exciting things going on here they said, well, God directed us to write this check out to Hope City, and we want to be obedient. And they put a check for $10,000 in my hands. And do you know what they wrote on the memo line? BUILDING FUND. We hadn’t gone public with this idea yet! They had no way of knowing about the $250,000!
Do you want to know something else? THEY DON’T ATTEND HOPE CITY EITHER! They live in the community and they see what we’re doing. They’re cheering you on. They see the difference that you all are making in the lives of people.
We can do this!
Today, I want you to put something in your HANDS that I hope challenges your HEARTS. I want to remind you that God’s Heart Beats For God’s House. This Christmas we are standing in the midst of a GOD SIZED MOMENT for our church. THIS IS HUGE. We have an opportunity to move forward. God has had his hand all over the start of our church, the early days of our church, and even now the future of our church. We want to get in line with God’s heart. We want our heart to beat after what God’s heart beats after.
Everyone on their way out today is going to receive one of these hearts. I want you to take this, put it somewhere you will see it, put it on your window sill, put it in your kitchen, put it in your car, let it remind you that we are in the midst of a moment here at HCC, and we don’t want to miss it. This should bring us INCREDIBLE JOY!
At Christmas we are reminded that OUR SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN, and that because of that it is Good news that brings GREAT JOY for all people! This news CHANGES EVERYTHING! In fact, It is good news that brings GREAT JOY #FORSARASOTA.
God’s heart beats for His house! God uses moments to make us and change us. Don’t miss out on this moment in the life of our church.
Even more, I wonder, what could God be doing IN you this Christmas as you WATCH for Him?
1 Jon Acuff’s Instagram post from Dec. 1st 2 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Lk 2:8–9). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 3 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Lk 2:10–12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 4 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 8:9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles. 5 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Lk 2:15–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.