In life, there will always be storms. Pastor Terry illustrates how we can allow Jesus to help us navigate through these storms.
We’re going to look at something that is maybe the only time in recorded human history that anything like it actually occurred. We’re going to dig right in here. Matthew 14:22 is talking about something that Jesus did. It says, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side while He dismissed the crowds.” So, ‘the immediately’ is, of course, Jesus talking to his disciples. What this passage contextually is following a miracle that Jesus gave, the feeding of the 5,000.
After Jesus did this miracle with a multitude of people and His disciples, he decided to do something. Look what happens here. “He sends the disciples off across the sea of Galilee. He himself then sends the multitudes away.” It says as soon as He was done with this miracle, He sent the disciples across the sea, the Lake of Gennesaret. They call it the sea of Galilee, but really it’s a lake. You can go there today. It’s really beautiful, but it’s not large, but it’s not small either.
Jesus says to His disciples, “I want you to go to the other side.” He sends them across to the other side. They get in their boat. Then, I can imagine them saying, “Lord, we don’t want to go right now. Why should we? We’re not going to leave you alone. I mean, we’ve done this with you. We don’t want to leave you by yourself.” But Jesus insisted. Maybe they even tried to say to Him, “Lord, we don’t think it’s wise that you stay here and we go.” It was very uncommon that Jesus would tell His disciples to just head out and then He himself would stay alone. But after this amazing display, where all the people were impressed by something that God had done through Him, Jesus sends both the crowds and His disciples away. I want us to see it in our mind’s eye for a moment.
Jesus gets out of the boat where He has been teaching right off the shore. He’s been on the mountain and all that. He sends the disciples away and then tells the multitudes that they need to disperse as well. Then Jesus is alone. Look what it says in verse 23, “After He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.” Now, there’s something really beautiful about this verse. It’s very poetic. It’s very subtle. It’s sublime.
To pray and commune, Jesus needed to be alone. He remained there through the night and was alone. But He wasn’t really alone, because the Father was with Him. I tried to imagine in my mind’s eye after Jesus sends away the disciples and after the crowds are gone, He’s by Himself. He starts to hike. He goes on a journey by Himself up into the mountain, and He’s walking alone.
Jesus was a day hiker. He liked to go on His own if you will. It says that “He gets up there and He’s in a mountain by Himself. He’s praying.” The walk by Jesus, from the sea of Galilee up into the hills, where he was praying, was all by Himself in His thoughts. If you were to be there and you were to go to the sea today, you can tell that you can actually look down on the lake, and you can see everything that’s going on if you’re up high. So, Jesus is praying there, but He’s also able to see the whole lake. He can no doubt see the disciples in their boat as well. They’re making their way, as He told them to do. Jesus said, “Go to the other side,” they’re doing what they were told. Let’s look at what it says in verse 24.
It says, “But the boat by this time was a long way from the land. It was beaten by the waves for the wind was against them.” The wind was against them. Somewhere along the way, as the boat is making its way across and the disciples are rowing trying to get across, we’re told that all of a sudden a storm hits. The sea of Galilee was notorious for having the winds come right off and hit it. All of a sudden, they could be just riled up and the waters could start churning. We’re told that somewhere, probably towards the middle of the lake, the storm hits and they start getting beaten by the waves. The phrase, “For the wind was against them. For the wind was against them.” That’s a phrase that’s like a metaphor of life sometimes, isn’t it? There are times where the winds are against us, we can feel it. It’s like something about that captures where we are in our life. Maybe we’re in that place right now, where we feel that it’s actually hard, where the wind is against us, where it’s difficult, and we’re having a hard time.
I’ve used that phrase a couple of times in my own life. It feels like this is hard. This is a hard place. There are times we feel like the winds are against us. The older version or another version of the NLT puts it this way, “They were having trouble far away from the land for a strong wind had risen and they were fighting.” Look at that. “They were fighting heavy, heavy waves.” The waves got big and they were having a really hard time. While Jesus is praying in the mountain, looking down on the lake and the disciples in the middle of that lake that He sent them into, in the middle of a storm and it’s a very difficult one. Remember, the only reason they were in that position in the first place was because He sent them there. Jesus sent them across the lake and in the middle of that obedient movement on their part, they got hit with a storm.
Again, it’s a reminder that we could be moving along, trying to do our best to honor God, and all of a sudden life hits us, and boom, we’re in the middle of something. The winds are against us, and it’s hard, it’s really hard. The waves are high. The wind is blowing. It’s difficult. It’s difficult to move. Maybe we’re thinking, “Wow, this is hard.” In their case, it was because they had been obedient. They had pointed their boat in the direction that Jesus had said they should go, and now they were in a mess. Have we ever had a situation where we’re trying to do what God wants us to do, trying to do our best, and the next thing we know, we’re in a mess. We’re in the middle of the storm. We’re saying, “But Lord, I’ve been trying to do it your way. Now, look at this. This is so hard for me right now.”
I’m reminded of something G. Campbell Morgan, the great Bible commentator said, and I never forgot it. He said, “Whatever difficulty we have found our way into, and we have found our way into more difficulties through disobedience than obedience, that the Lord though never abandons us. He’s always there to help us out.” A lot of times we find ourselves in difficult places in life, because we created our own storm if you will. But other times we find ourselves in a difficult place. All we were trained to do was what was right in God’s eyes. All we were trying to do was be obedient and courageous. Yet, we find ourselves in a place where we’re stuck. It’s a lot like life, they’re halfway through their journey, they get hit with a storm. Sometimes that’s what we’re doing; we’re sailing along in relative calm, content to do the master’s bidding. He told me, “Go across the sea, go across the lake.” All of a sudden we find ourselves fighting for our lives.
I had an interesting incident happen to me yesterday. Actually, it was two days ago. I was thinking about how storms hit you. My wife and I were trying to get away for a day. So, we decided we were going to go and drive up to Yosemite. We’re going to leave Thursday night and then try hiking in Yosemite in Tuolumne Meadows, which is on top of the valley on Friday. I said, “Hey, let’s just take my car.” My car is a little older. It’s a good car. It’s been a wonderful car. It’s 11 years old. But it’s an amazing car. I love that car. I have an attachment to it. I know, it sounds strange, but I do, a modest one, I like it a lot. I’ve gone to a lot of places in that car. It’s been extraordinarily faithful to me over the years. That car is the car that some of you may know when I took you to Yosemite a few years back. Do you remember? Do any of you guys remember the squirrel story?
The squirrel story. Sheryl and I also had gone to Yosemite a couple of years back, almost seven years ago. A door had been left open while we were unloading things. I always blame my wife, but at the same time, that squirrel jumped in there. We didn’t know there was a squirrel. All I know is that when I came back the next morning, I looked at all those seats, those were leather seats, and it just looked like somebody had dumped a bunch of popcorn on it. I couldn’t figure out how that was possible since all the doors were locked. That was because the squirrel had jumped in during the day and rapidly had tried to find his or her way out.
So, I had a bad traumatic experience before, in Yosemite, with that vehicle. I was trying to be extra careful with it when I got there. Well, Sheryl and I, we are driving up, we spent the night outside of Yosemite. We said, “We’re going to go day hiking.” We take this trail. You can drive for two miles into a parking area. We’re driving in and then all of a sudden, about a mile and a half in on this road sometimes there’s only one lane. So, you have to make your way through it. All of a sudden, I’m looking and steam’s coming out of my hood. I look at my gauge and it’s all the way on the red. I say, “Oh no.” I’m in the middle of nowhere and we have no phone reception. The whole thing is just a mess. I say, “Sheryl, I got to stop.” So, I stopped the car and said, “I don’t know what we are going to do? None of our phones work. There are people going to be coming in and out in different directions and we are stuck here. I can’t turn.” I tried to turn the car and I said, “I know if I turn this thing on too much right now, it’s going to blow the engine. So what do I do?”
This is the day that we had planned for replenishment. I had been dealing with a lot of stuff. I wanted to get away with my wife and take a walk. The next thing I know, I’m in the middle of a road, stuck, with no phone reception, with our car, heat flying everywhere, the temperature gauge is a disaster. I’m trying to figure out how to get off the center of the road here? I said, “Honey, let me try to turn the wheel. I’m going to put it in neutral and try to back away.”
A couple of people helped us, eventually. I poured some water in there. We got ourselves in the parking lot and we’re stuck in the middle of this parking lot. I said, “We can’t even call AAA. There’s nothing.” I couldn’t do anything. I’m thinking, “Oh Lord, I was just trying to get away and have a day to just catch myself and pray, get ready for this amazing service at Riordan that we were going to have.” I’m thinking, “What in the world? This is totally not what I envisioned for the day.” I’m standing there thinking, “I got to get back to San Francisco. How am I going to do that?”
Where we were located and to get out of the park from where we were located was a two-hour drive. Two and a half-hour drive to get to a place where we could get help in Sonora. But that was the way, if you were heading back to San Francisco, that’s where we would have to go. I’m thinking, “There’s no way this car will make it there. I’m going to have to get it towed. I can’t even contact the people to get it towed.” I needed to either wait for a ranger or have someone help us. What do you think we should do? I kind of prayed and took a walk while the engine cooled down a little bit. I tried to put whatever water we had in there. Then I had to make a call. We had to make a call. I said, “I think we should head in the opposite direction of San Francisco, which is only 20 miles away, try to find a gas station, and we’ll get a ranger maybe.” Long story short. I’m not trying to overwhelm you with this story, but I will tell you this really happened to us.
Instead of heading back towards San Francisco, our car, we’re just babying it along. Trying to figure it out. It looks like a top had snapped, one of the hoses is missing, and the radiator was bone dry. I’m thinking, “I can’t blow the car up. I can’t blow the car, but I can’t get a AAA, what am I going to do, Lord?” We got to this place in Tuolumne Meadows, a market. I asked if I could borrow their satellite phone. I called AAA. Eventually, what happens, we get to 20 miles to the other side of Yosemite. We actually cross over Tioga Pass, towards Mammoth Lakes, which all I can tell you is it’s like you’ve come off this elevation drop.
We found a gas station and bought some antifreeze. We said, “We need to find a car repair shop.” We can at least get phone reception. We called six different repair shops. It says on a distance that if we don’t go up the pass, back where we had come from, which would be perilous, that we are going to have to take the long run, it would be six hours. I said, “Sheryl, we’ll never make it. Six hours, I can barely drive this thing.” Somebody had helped us on the side of the road. They had tied a string to one of the hoses for us and put it in. It was just being held there as a band-aid.
We called all six shops that were recommended. Every one of them was closed, “If you want to stay over for a couple of nights, you can do that.” We got nothing. Zero. We pulled over to the side of the road. We asked, “What are we going to do? This thing’s holding, but it could burst at any moment. I don’t think we can make it, hon. I don’t think we can make it.” She said, “Hey, you know what? Let’s just pray.” Pour a bunch of antifreeze in, we’ll check it. So, we went up an elevation of about 3000 feet, seven miles, and eventually, we got to the top and it was bone dry again. We just kept feeding it. We eventually made it back to San Francisco. I was stunned, amazed, and thankful. We just kept babying it all the way home. Here’s the thing, I remember driving up back the way we had come, thinking, “Lord, this is being held together by a string. If it busts here, we’re in the middle of nowhere, with no phone, and I’ve got to be back tomorrow.”
It had been meant to be a replenishing drive and hike. I can only tell you that every time I put my foot on that pedal for hours, I kept thinking to myself, “At any moment, this thing could blow up on me and this is a disaster waiting to happen.” So my stress levels were so high. Some of you know what I’m talking about, you’re thinking, “At any moment, this thing could blow apart, this whole thing could shoot out, that little thing holding it together.” Yet, having made it, I was thinking, “Lord, a lot of times.” So, someone said to me, “So, how was your getaway?” I said, “Oh, I went there to get away from pressure. I had such a rough day and a half. You won’t believe it.” I came home and I said, “Lord, that’s like in life. Sometimes those storms hit us. The next thing you know, we’re in the middle of something and we weren’t prepared for it.” I’m just thankful I’m here right now, it’s just a blessing to me.
Verse 25 says, “In the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea.” Here they are, in the middle of the sea of Galilee. They’re trying to row that boat. They’re sailing across and in the middle of this storm. They’re fighting to try to get it to work right, just to get across, they’re doing everything they can. This is one of the most remarkable things in the scripture. It says, “In the fourth watch of the night, He came to them.” Look at that, “Walking on the sea,” It’s around 3:00 AM. That’s the fourth watch. So, they’re in the middle, they’re fighting. I don’t think He ever lost sight of them, by the way. But what I know for sure was that He came. “He walked right out of the Father’s presence onto the sea.” One gets the impression from the texts that what scared them to death was not the storm, which was awful. But what really scared them was this apparition, this thing, this ghost-like figure moving towards them. It was bizarre. It was surreal. It was dreamlike. It was frightening. It was terrifying and unsettling.
Verse 26, “But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. They said, ‘It’s a ghost.’ They cried out in fear, ‘What is that?'” Most of these men were fishermen by trade. They knew these waters. They had fished in them since they were young. They knew storms in that sea. They understood how to get through that. But none of them had ever seen anything like what they thought they were seeing. It shook them to the core. It was a troublesome, inexplicable one.”What is that? Do you see that? It’s a ghost. It’s a spirit. What is that?” In the middle of the storm, imagine in your mind’s eye, the waves, it’s dark. The waves, water is flying, it’s moving, they’re trying to get across. All of a sudden they see this figure. What is that walking, it seems, on the water? They can’t tell. They cry out. They’ve never seen anything like it.
It says, “Immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.'” Basically, He answers their fear with His presence, the master of the waves that seek to overwhelm you. There is an aspect of Jesus that can only be known in the storm. There is an aspect of a relationship with the Lord that only can be known in the storm. It’s not in the sunshine but in the storm. Perhaps some of us are in that storm. It might have to do with a health issue or a relational issue or a life stage issue, financial issue. But I want to assure us, all of us, there is an aspect of our relationship with Jesus that can only be known in the storm. They saw him in the storm.
Peter appears to have been caught up in the whole experience. Once again, he spoke first this time. It was an explosion of faith based on what he saw Jesus doing. Look what happens. Verse 28 says, “When Jesus said, ‘Take heart, it is me. It’s not a spirit. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.’ Peter answered, ‘Lord.'” At this moment, Peter seems just stunned and amazed. When they said, “There is a ghost,” Jesus says, “No, it’s not, it’s me.” When that happens, Peter appears to be caught up in the moment. He says, “If it is, bid me come.” Think about it, “Bid me come to you, command me, invite.” This is where Peter’s impetuous nature paid dividends because he was fearless, he was bold. It’s possible that initial courage was Peter’s greatest quality. He dared to test the Lord, but he also had enough sense to ask first. He says, “If it is you, call me to you.” I assume at that moment, Peter was just overwhelmed in faith. I’m trying to think about what it would have looked and felt like. Everybody’s stunned. Everybody’s trying to process. It’s Jesus, what in the world?
Peter says, “If it is you, I want to come and join you.” So, “Peter got out,” verse 29, just take it for what it is. “Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and he came to Jesus at what it must have felt like to walk on water.” I don’t know how many steps he took. Maybe only one or two, maybe three or four. I don’t know. As far as we know, he’s the only other human being who’s ever been able to do it. The Bible doesn’t even try to explain it. It just says, “Peter got out, took the step, and a little bit more. He started moving on the water.” I don’t think Peter thought too much that was his strength. I don’t think Peter thought too much that was his weakness. But I know this, I think, Simon Peter was the forefather of all extreme sports lovers, that’s what I think. He just decided to go for it.
Realistically, Peter’s reason for asking was not a diversion or for the thrill. It was to get to Jesus. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. It’s me.” Peter said, in essence, “If it is you, then let me come to you.” Jesus said, “Come.” It’s just that simple. Was it one step, two, three, four? I don’t know. But for a moment, maybe seconds, he was defying gravity. God gave him the ability to defy gravity for at least a few steps.
In verse 30, “But when he saw the wind when he actually started realizing what he was attempting to do, and what was actually happening, Peter got afraid.” Who can blame him? No life jacket. He understood, “I’m in peril. Men die here all the time when they fall off the boat. Now, what did I do? Crazy me trying to walk to Jesus. Now in the middle of these waters and I’m about to die and beginning to sink.” Look at that, “Beginning to sink,” was it one step, two, or three? I don’t know. All I know is that once he realized this shouldn’t be happening, this is crazy. He took his eyes off of Jesus. “He started sinking and he cried out, ‘Lord, Lord, save me.'” As he looked at the wind and the waves, his faith broke, didn’t it? The initial courage that got him to step out, which was perhaps his most eminent grace, was not capable of sustaining. Once he fixed his eyes on the circumstances and realized the danger that he was in, his faith caved in and he began to sink. This is what we, as His followers, will have happened to us when we take our eyes off of Him as well.
Peter, in desperation, cries out, “Lord, save me.” A cry that we must all make, I suppose, for eternal life. A cry we make at various times in our lives. Have you ever made that cry? I have. Lord, help me here. Lord, save me here. I’m going down. I need you to help me, save me, Lord. If you’ve never cried that prayer, that’s a cry of salvation, yes. That’s a cry that we open up our hearts to God, yes. But that’s also a cry at times in our lives we need the Lord’s help. We realize, “This thing is going to overwhelm me. This is too much. This is too hard. This storm is hitting me. I can’t, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Lord, help me.”
Verse 31 says, “Jesus, immediately, reached out His hand and took hold of him saying to him, ‘Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?'” Immediately, in capital letters, notice that Jesus stepped in with His strong hand, caught Peter. Then two things: He saves him, and then lovingly reproves him. “Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt me?” It’s like Jesus said, “Peter, you had this.” I wonder what everybody was thinking. I think Peter didn’t hear anything Jesus said. I just think he was in shock. I wonder what everybody said to Peter. I don’t know how everybody processed that. How do you process what you just saw? How do you even make sense of what seems senseless, impossible, incredible? It says in verse 32, “They got in the boat, the wind stops.” Look at that. “And those in the boat worshiped Him saying, ‘You are the son of God. Truly, you are.'”
Whatever else men say, “You are the son of God.” It was a special moment. I hope we can see this, the essence of worship is to declare who He is. I want to go back and finish this with a few things. Things around sustainment. I want to talk about a couple of just thoughts to carry home. Here’s one of them. I want this time to have meaning for all of us. When we jump and fail to get it right, it’s important to remember the Lord is still with us. He won’t abandon us. Peter sank, it’s true. But he took a step or two. Even though he failed, he started sinking, he got a gentle rebuke on top of it. I know the Lord loved him. I know that he loved that he even tried.
I found myself thinking about this moment of Peter stepping out and then the Lord rescuing him because he couldn’t sustain it. He had an amazing step of faith, didn’t he? He took a couple more, but he got scared, normal. I was sitting there and thinking about this. It brought me back to a time when my kids were really little. Now, they’re all grown up. Our oldest son’s 30. My oldest daughter, who was singing right here, Chloe. I remember when they were both little, very little, a long, long time ago. A time that will never return. It will never return.
Let me show you a picture of them when they were little, show you one, look at those two. That is my two oldest ones, Caleb and Chloe. This is Chloe. That’s our youngest guy, Jacob, and Chloe. Caleb, Jacob, and Chloe. Then we had one more, Aubrey. They’re all older now. Why is he showing us pictures of his kids when they were little? What’s going on here? Because I found in my mind’s eye, I remember a moment where Caleb and Chloe were just little, they were five or six. I remember how we had this table, it was a little plastic table, a Fisher-Price table. I think they still sell them actually, the little ones, plastic. The kids would sit on them, you could write with crayons and stuff like that, and have little picnics on them. That was the purpose of the table. But what ended up happening is that all the things that you buy, kids turn them around and use them for different purposes. They were using it as a jumping board onto the couch. I remember, because at the time, Caleb and Chloe, who’s here actually, were jumping and laughing. They were jumping from the table onto the couch as kids do. They were giggling, laughing, and jumping. So, Caleb, he’s laughing and jumps from the table onto the couch. Then Chloe, who’s about two years younger than him. She’s laughing and jumping from the table to the couch and they’re just giggling away. Then Caleb decides, “Okay, I’m going to move this table back a little further.” He gets up and jumps from the table to the couch. Chloe’s giggling with him and they’re just having a great time.
I’m watching them. Then all of a sudden Chloe’s laughing and giggling. She gets back because remember, Caleb had just moved the table back. She’s laughing and giggling. She gets onto the table and then she looks at the distance, and I remember her face. All of a sudden, she started shaking. She started realizing that, “Well, it was all fun and games a moment ago.” All of a sudden, she looked at it and was thinking, “I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it.” She wasn’t laughing anymore at that moment. I’m not saying I always have these moments, but I do remember this one. I walked over and I watched Chloe just standing there shaking. I said, “Chlo, you can do this.” No, I didn’t know if she could or not. I said, “You can jump. You can do this.” I said, “But here’s the thing. If you jump and you don’t make it, I’m right here, I will catch you, but you’re going to have to trust me, okay?”
I remember she jumped and, truth is, she wouldn’t have made it, actually. She wasn’t going to make it. It was this fearful jump. It was a scary one. I remember I caught her. At that moment I was able to say, “Do you know how proud I am of you? Do you know how proud I am of you? You trusted me. You trusted me.” I think that’s how the Lord is with us.
Even when you don’t do it right, or you don’t have enough, you trusted me, I got you. You’re my son, you’re my daughter. I’m proud of you. Be courageous in your faith. Step out. I got you. I love that. The key, after we jump and start to walk, is to keep our eyes on Him. That’s so obvious. We’ve got to sustain the gaze. So much easier said than done. You throw that out there, so easy, so much easier, just keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s a Christian cliche. I get it. But it’s true. It’s true. Peter got his eyes off. He got scared. He started looking at the situation. He started empowering everything that was against him. He stopped, he lost his focus.
I’m saying that, when we start looking at our problems and we start to magnify the problem, instead of the Lord, who can walk with us through anything, we begin to put ourselves in a place of peril. Now, even there, the Lord will help us. He’s not going to abandon us. That’s one thing I’ve come to understand. Even when we fail Him, He will not fail us. He is there. A lot of times, this is what magnifying Him means. It means, “Lord, I’m going to get my eyes on you. I’m going to stay close to your words. I can choose to focus on what is wrong. I can choose to focus on how I’m feeling. I can choose to focus on why I should be afraid. But I am going to focus on you to help me to do it right.”
That is power in worship, like what we just did. When you magnify, what does it mean? It’s to make God bigger. No, this doesn’t make Him bigger than He is. It makes Him bigger in our eyes though. It reminds us of who He is. He reminds us to keep our eyes in the right direction. Don’t panic. You understand when we’re panicking, which I was tempted to do, we lose our creativity and our capacity to problem-solve. The Lord wants to teach us how to keep our spirit from falling apart by the pressure we may feel. Some of you may be under enormous pressure. You may have a very strong sense of what it is taking to lift this thing. The Lord is with us. Keep our eyes on him. Faith in His word.
Here is the last thing, and we’ll leave it right here. It’s a long one. I would rather try with Peter and follow the word of Jesus, sink and survive than sit with the 11 watching. Learning from our mistakes is a huge asset that prepares us for future victories. If you take out the survival part, then I think I would rather sit, actually. Survive, if you take that out, I’d rather sit. But I’ll say this, sustainment does not always mean getting it right. Every time we try and survive, we learn. In that sense, even failure can contribute to our larger and long-haul success. We learn, even if you fail, it’s okay, even when we’ll get it right, it’s okay. Everything is a learning opportunity that God can grow us in.
As I sit here and as a church campus, we’re going to step off the boat. We will get a chance soon. We’ve been talking about this now for months. What we’ve been saying? Lord, what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to go, at some point, to two services at the other campus, where we’ve been meeting. Are we supposed to look for other options? We had a team negotiating with the new group, with the place where we’ve been, what do you want us to do? Show us the way, Lord.
I’m going to suggest to all of you that, in a way, this is the core of this campus. We started this campus as a way of creating more space for people to come to Jesus than what we could do at the mission. We started out with that dream of creating room for people to come and grow, and come and meet Jesus. To have a place of their own, and be able to share the gifts that we offer as a people, as a church.
One of the things we’re being brought to now is, we have to make a call and we’ve made one, we’ve made a call. Based on what we were being presented with, I told everybody who has been at the community gatherings that I was going to mention at the Offsite. Every year, we have to figure out one week where we have to be away from that campus because they have that food festival there. So, we have to go somewhere. Sometimes we’ll go to this place and we’ll go to that place. We’ve gone to different locations and made the best of it. What an amazing group of people who helped come so early and set this up so that we could have service here. We chose to make this auditorium into a sanctuary, where His name was loved and proclaimed. It’s different than anything we’ve ever done really. It’s a different place and location. It doesn’t quite feel the same for us, but yet, at the same time, we’re sensing that God had called us to make a decision to jump somewhere.
This was the Offsite location that we said, “Okay, we’re going to go to this Offsite, Riordan, we’re going to Riordan, and what a blessing. It’s opened up and we’re going to be able to have a place to go. It will be different, but it’ll be fun. They’ve got a lot of other things that we didn’t have at the other location. We can do this, we can do this as an Offsite for one time in the year. Let’s go for it.” Everybody has worked so hard to make it happen. You see that there’s parking, children’s ministries, and all the setup. This is not our stuff. So, we’ve had to bring in things to set up a portable community to do church here and try to utilize the space as best as we could. Everybody’s thrown their heart into it, and many of you have just prayed for this moment.
It seems simple, but it’s really challenging to set up a service and do it well. It’s amazing, we have a lot of things here that you get to have, it’s a blessing. Afterward, we’re going to have time to eat. We have a barbecue at the center of the court, what is that? We never had space to go have lunch together out there. So, this is going to be a real blessing. We were really praying about what we were supposed to do next. In the course of preparing for this, the opportunity presented itself for us to be able to move here. It did. What happened was, the other campus, that we’ve turned into our home, made it clear to us that they really wanted to change the equation. So, we told them, “If you do that, we’re going to have to at least look at other options.” We had no idea this was going to open up. But we have officially. We have signed an agreement that can carry us potentially, if we so choose, into the next eight years here. It is a miracle. It is a miracle.
The plan, and again, we had to sit down and look ourselves in the face and say, “Do we want to make this jump?” We decided that, after we prayed, a door swung open in a way that we could not have anticipated. It wasn’t our plan. Our plan was to try to figure out a way to make the other campus work because that’s the building we had known and where we felt comfortable. Remember, when we started there, it was big and we started filling it up. There were things about it that we’ve loved. Now we came here and realized we’re going to be here either December or January as it stands right now. I will totally keep everybody in the loop, pray, pray for this.
The community gathering, try to make that a priority in the next. We’re going to do one in October on the 7th. We will try to get there in November. You know what? I’ll tell you something. On one hand, what do we do with all this space? We have so much space. We have parking space that now it’s costing us something, we’ll talk about that. But the fact of the matter is, space is now available to us. The ability, over time, to turn this into more of a home, that has our feel to it. To let this campus settle its roots here, to have the space for children’s ministry, a gathering center court where we can have fellowship. We don’t have to rush the beauty of having a separate parking space from us, from a gathering space.
I’m spending a lot of my time at the mission campus, I do that all the time. But we’ve never had, in San Francisco, the opportunity to have on a week in and week out basis, a sanctuary of this size. Now, I realized right now, it’s way more space than we need. By faith, and you don’t hear me say that a ton, but I want you to pray, if it’s in your heart, on the seats that are not now occupied, pray that the Lord would fill them in the coming years. At some point, this entire auditorium, there are almost 1,200 seats here, would be filled. Some of the people who are going to fill them are people you love.
When we opened up the Lake Merced campus, we took a leap of faith, a step of faith, and asked God to give us the courage to sustain it. It took volunteers and the community throwing their hearts into it, many of you were there. You poured everything, resources, sweat equity, you volunteered, you jumped in, you helped make it happen. It’s your church. Then, we were able to see people, in my case, people I loved dearly. When we opened up that campus, they started following Jesus. It was a miracle for me to see my father-in-law and mother-in-law begin to follow Jesus. It was directly connected to that campus. I don’t know who is going to fill the seats that are open, but we should pray into it for the coworkers, the family members, the friends, that God’s destined to bring in, to know Him, to love Him in this remarkable opportunity that we’ve been given as a people to step out.
Maybe it’s not walking on water, but it is walking by faith. We’re going to walk by faith together. I’m going to ask you to think about taking this journey fully, embrace it, let us all be courageous together. Let’s love God. Let’s watch this next chapter unfold. Let’s be a part of launching it together. It’s such a wonderful thing for us to be able to do. I truly have no idea what’s going to happen, except that we are going to be courageous, step out in faith, and ask the Lord to give us all the strength we need to sustain it. Pray into it. I’m going to pray. We’re going to pray. We have a closing song and then pastor Sam’s going to come up and give us the logistics for the rest of the day, but let me pray over this.
Lord, as we’re getting ready here for a time of giving, I just want to ask that you would let the words that we’ve been sharing together. I know that on the surface, it seems like it’s almost incredible, how are we going to possess the land as it were? How are we going to occupy what we are now beginning to engage? How do we improve it, make it our home, and a place where we can bring people, a place where we don’t have to rush. Where we can settle in and have conversations afterward and safe places and spaces for our little ones to grow and learn about Jesus. A place to bring people too, who don’t know Him yet or are seeking? I thank you, Lord, for the opportunity that we are being presented with, and we want to trust you with this. This situation we find ourselves in, it’s about you, and we just love you. We ask for your blessing over these closing minutes, and then over the rest of our early afternoon. Let there be a wonderful, beautiful spirit. Even for those of us who maybe are not always comfortable with change, let us see the opportunity that is before us and be courageous in our faith. We pray into the harvest, 30, 60, a hundredfold, people coming to know you, coming back to know you. By faith, we pray for the return of the prodigal sons and daughters. For those who’ve never known your name, to speak it in love. We ask for your blessing. Bless our closing time here. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.