Brian Cropp: Well, good morning. My name's Brian Cropp. I'm one of the associate pastors here. We are in a series called Dangerous Prayers. If you have missed any one of the previous messages, I encourage you to check them out at hopechurch.com. We're also on a wide variety of podcasting services, and we have a brand new YouTube channel, so you can go to YouTube. Yeah. We can go to YouTube. Search "Hope Church in Ft. Worth, Texas," 'cause there's a lot of Hope churches. Ft. Worth and you'll find us. It's good. We have like 11 subscribers already,so we’re doing good. Yeah. Check this out.
When we think of prayer, we tend to look at it as sort of a holy decoration on top of our spiritual life. We don't often think of it having much pull or power or influence in how we are relating in life or with God. It's that thing you do. It's a nice thing before the Thanksgiving or the Christmas meal, the prayer, or we're at church. That's holy. We should probably do prayer 'cause that seems like a holy thing to do. Maybe if something really awesome happens in our lives, we'll be so excited. We'll give God a high five-type prayer.
Clearly when all of the wheels fall off of our lives and we're in crisis mode, we're quick to pray then, like, "God, please relieve all of this pain in my life." The prayers we've been looking at are a little bit different in that they kind of shed any illusion that we have control over our lives, and we're trying to get our agenda aligned with God's agenda. How we've been saying that over the past few weeks is that as we get real with the real God, we're gonna see real change in our lives. That's the tough part is the change. What change? How is that change really going to happen in our lives? We start getting anxious and feeling like these prayers are just a little dangerous.
Well, this morning we're going to look at the prayer of send me. For some of you, those two words put together, now I feel dangerous. That's dangerous. Send? No. I'm good. Don't send me. I'm fine. In fact, for some of you, those two words might be a good reason why you've never wanted to become a follower of Jesus Christ because to be a Christ-follower I have to follow. I don't wanna go. I'm good. For others of you, you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and you've been dreading this day for your whole life. "Oh no. The pastor’s gonna say something about send. I don't wanna go. Ah. This is the call. Ugh." I understand.
When I was a kid, I grew up in church. We supported a few missionaries that were spreading the Gospel around the world. They would come in through the states from time to time to report back of all that God has been doing and the people who have been taking steps of faith in the different countries where they were. I'm sure the reports were great, and God was honored in what they were doing in ministry; and many people were blessed in their reports. I'm nine, ten years old. That is not what I got out of those reports. I would watch the slideshow. Yes, I'm that old. Slides, with the big carol and the slides. I would watch that thing. They would have one and two connect us dear Kansans with whatever culture that they were a part of.
They would dress in sort of a native garb. That was the first check no for me. They'd be dressed. That's just not my style. That works for them where they are. I get it, but at nine or ten, I don't wanna wear that. Or they would show pictures of where they live. I don't wanna live there. There's no plumbing. Anyone could get into that house. I don't wanna go there. I'm not that much of an adventurous eater, and they eat different things there. I don't wanna eat that. I don't. I really don't. I would see bugs, lots of bugs everywhere you go. I'm an indoor cat. I'm not an outdoor cat. I don't do bugs. I just don't do them. Or, certainly, God in all of His infinite wisdom would never send me to Ireland or England or Australia or Canada. I'm gonna have to learn another language. I don't like school. I don't wanna go. I don't wanna learn another language, and this picture becomes what I imagine following Jesus is.
God's happy about that. He's happy to drag me crying and screaming through my life. This is what obedience looks like to me. I don't wanna go. Please don't make me go. I get it. I understand. In fact, my own call into ministry, I went to college. I graduated with a theater degree. No one expects anything from a theater major. It's a really low bar to set for expectations of what you might do, let alone what God can do with your life. Now I did want to honor God with my life. I want to take God seriously. I wanted to write plays or direct movies that helped the people working on those projects to see a Godly way of living their lives and certainly to help expose the audience to a Godly way of life, but I'm not called to ministry. I'm called to art, and that’s a very different deal altogether.
In fact, when there was a part-time position here at Hope that was offered to me to write stuff, I like to write stuff. In fact, I used to write the stuff that is in your programs. I sometimes still write the stuff that is in your programs. When you run across misspellings, I wrote that. I'm a creative writer. I'm not an accurate writer. That's what ends up in the programs, and I was onboard with the mission of Hope Church. I needed a job. The whole thing seemed to kind of dovetail together. A little bit later, a full-time position opened up, which was great 'cause I'm really onboard with the mission here. That all kind of worked together, but I'm not called to ministry. That's other people. That's not me. Until Pastor Harold kind of pressed the issue and a situation came up where, for the first time, I have to actually ask God what He thinks about my call in the ministry. Please say no.
He said yes. God said yes. I'm called into ministry. I can tell you, for those of you who have stepped into a call in the ministry, you know as I know now that I'm on this side of it, it's better there. It's so much better there, where you're walking in obedience with God instead of resisting what He's asking you to do. That's where the adventure is. It's better there, but it does feel dangerous to pray, "Send me," because it's risky. It's really, really risky. When we pray it, it opens up our focus. It widens our perspective on what we experience in our lives, the different people and situations that God brings us to. I don't mean this next statement arrogantly, but there's a great way to take it arrogantly. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you are God's gift to those people that He brings you to and into those situations. You are God's gift. All the experiences, all of your baggage, and everything is meant to be a blessing and to help and an encouragement to the people that you run across.
You may not be called to vocational ministry. You may not become a professional minister, but you are called. If you're a Christ-follower, you are called to your life. Wherever you find yourself, God sent you there. As we pray, "Send me," it's just agreeing with God. All we've done is saying, "Send me." “I did. I already have, and now I want to show you how I want you to be my representative where you are." We talk a lot about with missionaries that you're sent to a people group, meaning either a tribe or a nation or something. That's the cool term now is “people group.” You already have been called to three people groups in your everyday life. You've already been there. You already know them. I want to talk about the three different people groups that you are called to. There's a listing guide in your program. You can follow along there.
The first people group that you have been called to are your neighbors. This is a picture of the home that I grew up in. Well, it's one of the homes I grew up in. I spent nine years in this house. My parents liked to move. It's all in the same town, but my parents liked to move around. This house was awesome. It was a great house. It was built in the 1890s as a parsonage or a house for a pastor for a presbyterian church that was close by. I should've known when I was nine. I'm called into ministry. Anyway, staying in a pastor's house there's really, really ... lots of really cool features on the inside. There are a couple features on the outside I wanna highlight for this morning. Right down there in the bottom left corner, you can just barely see it, there was a sidewalk. It was a great sidewalk. It was an old sidewalk, so all the ground had shifted and there were these giant cracks in them, which was great for riding bikes 'cause you could pop wheelies and take off. It was so good, those sidewalks.
The other thing was that front porch. It would not be uncommon in the Cropp household for my dad to be sitting out there in the evening reading the newspaper. My mom would be sitting with him on the porch swing grading school papers or working on needle point, a gallon jug of sun tea sitting on the railing. It is so Americana it hurts, right? It's painful how Americana this whole thing is. On the other side of the sidewalk, you can't see it, but there was this large, huge easement that my brother and I would...we'd kick soccer balls back and forth or play catch. We'd ride our bikes around the block. It was great. Everyone did this, everyone. The people would be walking babies or pets on the sidewalk or just out for the evening enjoying the nice Kansas environment.
They'd stop by, and they'd say, "Hey, Dave and Ruth Ann. How's it going? The boys are growing up like weeds." They'd say, "Yeah, they are. How are your kids?" "Oh, they're doing fine. How's work?" "It's great." Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Painful. I know. It is so squeaky clean. Whatever. It's what I grew up with. The house next door, that guy who lived there always wanted me to read The Red Badge of Courage. I've not yet. He seemed to suggest that that's how I would know if I've transitioned from boy to man, if I would read that book. There's something in there. Maybe I'll get around to it at some point. The house on the other side that you can't see in this picture, I used to house sit over there sometimes.
The son of the lady who owned the house, he was into biology. He ended up working with Jane Goodall in Africa for a time. There was a boa constrictor that lived in that house. I got to pet the thing once when it was around his neck. It wasn't boa constricting at the time. It was just kinda there. He'd bring home crates of mice. I thought, "That's weird, though, but they’re food...nice for the mice. I know all of this stuff that's going on with the people in my neighborhood.
It ain't that way anymore, I mean, just given the pace of life and how we're living life and the stage of life that you might be in. You're leaving home early. You're getting home just in time to maybe tuck the kids in and all that kinda thing. You just don't ... you don't get out. You don't see the neighbors. I understand that. You might have never seen your neighbors. They might never have seen you. If you have seen them, maybe you know their face or their car, but you don't know their name. That really is a normal thing. Now, you might be the person, we all love you, you're the one who knows everything about what everybody's doing on the block. That's very helpful for information, particularly on new move-ins, but most of us, we just don't know our neighbors.
Add to all of our ... just our regular schedule, there are the news stories and the movies and the television shows that inform us that around every corner is a child snatcher or a serial killer. Or, certainly if I invite my neighbors into my home for just a nice, normal meal, they're scoping out the interior, and they're gonna rob me blind some night. Neighbors are scary people these days. I understand that. You are scary to the rest of your neighbors, too, 'cause that's just how it goes.
What would it be like if God has already sent you into that neighborhood or that apartment complex? He's already sent you there; you're there on purpose. If you started, and I'm telling this to myself as much as anyone else, if you would make intentional time to get out of the house, to say hi to Dave and Ruth Ann as you're walking around the block, even just praying for the different houses that God would bless them or give you opportunities to talk to the folks inside those homes, who knows what God might do in your neighborhood. You're already there. You've already been sent. Just start praying, "Send me." Who knows what relationships, what situations could come up where you get to be God's billboard, you get to be God's representative right there.
The second people group that God sends us to ... has already sent us to are our coworkers. Work is a gift from God. There is a curse because of sin on our work, so it does take on a bit of a grind to our lives. I get that. Sometimes just that drive into work becomes one long pep talk. We can do it one more day. We can do it one more week. We can get through this thing. If you're a stay-at-home mom, man, those prayers get short and intense 'cause the commute is really short. The demands on work, really intense, really fast. Wherever we are, we're gonna spend most of the daylight of our lives at work.
What would it be like if work wasn't just about, "Oh God, please help me get all of my stuff done today," but was, "How can I be Your representative? How could I be Your billboard at work?" Yes, you need to get your job done. It's not just a platform for evangelism, but how could you be praying for your coworkers? How could you be an influence in different situations that you find yourself at work? What might God do in the culture of your office? What things? I don't know, but you're already sent there. You can already start praying, "Send me," and see how God moves in your place of work.
The last place where God has already sent us is to those who are far from Him. These might be neighbors. They might be coworkers, but they’re all kinds of people that God brings along our paths throughout our days and our weeks, where people don't know God. I don't know, as we start praying, "Send me," and our perspective gets wider for what God might be doing in other people's lives, maybe their lives shift in some way where now they weren't open to God, but suddenly something's happened. They realize the way they've been living life just ... it's not working anymore. Now, I might be open to Jesus. I don't know. There's been this customer who comes by, who's always nice to me, and I think that they are going to church. Maybe I'll talk to them. I don't know. We just don't know how God might use us as we start praying, "Send me."
It's very easy to look at ourselves. We look at ourselves in the mirror every morning and we wonder, "Why did God call me? I'm flawed. There's got to be other people that God could use. I just barely got in the door. God is probably going to use all the professionals. He's gonna use professional people, the ministers and the pastors, clearly the missionaries. God bless the missionaries. He's gonna use them. He's not gonna use me. I don't have that gene that says, 'Send me.' I just don't have that genetic mutation that makes that a likely possibility. I'll just do the ... my level of Jesus. I can't pray, 'Send me.'" I understand. Here's the deal. God's been sending ordinary people just like you and me for a very long time, a very long time.
In fact, as you look at several of the folks in the Bible, it's interesting to see how God called them and what their initial knee-jerk response to God's call is. We might know the end of the story 'cause it's familiar to us. There's that, but we see how they first respond to God. Even if we don't know how the story goes, I know what the holy thing to say is. I know if I was a holy person and God said this statement, I know what the right answer is. Then you read what they actually said and you think, "Oh, no no. That's what I would say. That's not what a holy person would say." It sort of gives credence to the idea that people in the Bible really breathed air and really had blood flowing through their bodies and lived in real places in real time. God was actually saying these things when we read their accounts. See if some of these responses to God's call don't hit a little too close to home. They do for me.
The first person I wanna highlight is Moses. Moses. Moses. His first response to God was, "Send someone else." Moses. It's like he was looking at the situation that God called him to and said, "There's gotta be somebody more capable. You called the wrong number, God." That's how this goes, but this was God's call on Moses. He said, "Come. I will send you to Pharaoh that you might bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." Very clear. There's not a lot of gray area in that call. Moses is not an idiot. He knows what God is asking him to do. Pharaoh is the leader of the super power in the world at that time. They were the nation; Egypt was the nation, dealing with all of the first world problems of the day. Pharaoh's got a lot of power. If he didn't like you, you're gone. You're dead. It's over.
What God is asking of Moses is walk into Pharaoh's office and say, "Hi. What God is asking of me is that I ruin your economy. You are the super power. I would like to take that away from you. I would like to take one to two million of your Jewish slaves, just gone, in a day. We're gone." He's dead, and Moses knows that. "I'm going on a kamikaze mission. If I follow God, it's over. I'm dead." He also knows, "I'm talking to God, so I need to be respectful. I need to back out of this in a way that ... either way, I'm between a rock and a hard place." This is how Moses replies to God's call. He says, "Who am I," how humble Moses is. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children out of Egypt?" So noble.
God is also not an idiot, and He replies, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain." I love that aspect to the call on Moses. "You will know that I called you when you're successful." I love it, absolutely love it. You will know that I was with you when you come back to this mountain alive and with one to two million Jewish refugees. That's how we'll know that it's been a success. God doesn't give us a lot of guarantees in our lives, and we're actually grateful for that, because life would be super boring, super dull. If you knew before watching the Super Bowl what the score was, why watch the game? There's no point in watching the game. Or, there's been a movie you've been dying to see and someone tells you how it ends. Eh. Spoilers.
Or, I remember in college, my roommate, my dorm roommate, had a Sega system. We would play Sonic the Hedgehog until it was going out of style. It might've already been out of style when we were playing. I have no idea. Those first two levels, they're always the same, always the same. They got boring after awhile. You wanted to skip ahead if there was some button to skip ahead to level 20 where you always died 'cause that's where the challenge was. That's what walking with God is like. Life is uncertain, but it has so much more flavor and adventure to it because God doesn't give us the whole script on how our life is going to play out. God does equip us if He's going to call us. He equips us. That is one guarantee that He gives us, and that's what He gives to Moses, "I will be with you. I'm going to walk with you through this. I'm not letting you know how it's going to play out, but you can know I am with you every step of the way."
The next person that I wanna highlight is the prophet, Jonah. You might be familiar with Jonah. His first response to God's call was, "I'm not going." Also sounds very familiar to me. This was God's call on the prophet, Jonah. "Arise. Go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it for their evil has come up before me." But, Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Again, a very clear cut call of what Jonah is supposed to do. Now, I understand it's the 21st century, and we've been out of school for awhile. Our ancient Middle Eastern geography is a little sketchy. Here is a map of sort of what is going on. You can see there in the middle, Joppa; that's where Jonah is. It's a coastal city. Up there towards the right is Nineveh. Nineveh is the capital city of the nation of Assyria. Assyria, not a nice place, very vicious, very violent war-type people, bloody, nasty, gross—it's bad. Not anywhere close to water is Nineveh. It's never needed to get on a boat. It's a walk over to Nineveh.
He gets on a boat, and he goes to Tarshish. Now, according to this picture, Tarshish is in what is now Spain, but a quick cursory look at a Wikipedia article on Tarshish, and you will discover nobody knows where Tarshish was. Now, I think that Tarshish exists, but based on a variety of different ancient writings, it could be Britain. It could be Spain. It could be India. It could be eastern Africa. It could be a lot of places. The point is, it's a long way away from Nineveh on a boat. God doesn't need him to get on a boat. He gets on a boat, and he's going far away. You might know the story. He gets on the boat. He gets off the boat into the ocean. Please kill me. He gets swallowed up by a fish who takes him back to the coast, barfs him on the coast there. He still has to do the walking journey into Nineveh. Still has to do that.
He goes, and he preaches this message of repentance. "Please stop being gross Assyrians. Please start repenting. Turn from your wicked and sinful ways and start following God." They do. It's a huge revival that breaks out in Assyria. Then we get to find out why Jonah got on a boat in the first place. It's brilliant. This is what he tells God. "Oh, Lord, is this not what I said when I was yet in my country. This, this revival that I'm seeing, this is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relenting from disaster.” God, I know You're a nice guy, and I don't want the Assyrians to have any taste of Your mercy, any taste of Your forgiveness. I don't want them to know You."
That's cold. That is cold-blooded from a prophet of God. Well, this is what this means for you and me. It's possible that God might call you or call me to people we don't like. He might call you to places you don't like. Here's the deal. He might call you for two reasons. The first is God loves everyone—everyone God made so that they could get to know Him, and He even likes and loves and died for your enemies. They need to know about the salvation and the transformation that's possible through Jesus. Also, there's something going on with you that God wants to work on. He might call you to those people that you don't like so that you can deal with the resentment or the hate or the bitterness or whatever is going on there, and you can get rid of that part of you and be more like God. It's possible God might call you, like Jonah, to people you don't like.
The third person we want to look at is the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah gets the gold star for the day. He has the response that God wants out of all of us when God calls us and that is, "Send me." Isaiah has this vision where he is in the presence of the Lord and His holy angels, and this is what he writes about part of that experience. He says, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am. Send me.'" How many times in your life have you volunteered for something, and you had no idea what was involved in the ask? Somebody just said, "I need a volunteer," and you raised your hand. Once. Maybe. Maybe once you replied that way 'cause we wanna know “Am I gonna get ripped off? What all is involved? What are the facts here?” That is not what Isaiah does. God says, "Who's gonna volunteer?" He's quick to raise his hand and say, "Here I am. Send me."
This is what God wants our response to be, because while you might be wise in not quickly volunteering when a person asks you to volunteer, we know that all of God's ways are good. We have confidence that, while all of what God is asking us to do might not be all of the fun that we could expect out of life or it certainly may not be as easy as we'd like to be, it is good; and it's better than if we said no. We can raise our hand before the Lord, and we can say, "Here am I. Send me" with confidence that wherever God is going to lead us is good. We also, when we read just a few verses before what we just looked at, Isaiah is like a lot of us. We know that we don't ... we're not worthy of serving the Lord. We're not worthy of being a part of the tribe and the family of God. Uh. I don't feel good about that.
Isaiah experiences this forgiveness and mercy and welcoming into God's presence in a very unique way. I think part of the reason that he raises his hand and says, "Here am I. Send me," is out of gratitude, out of love, out of worship of who God is. How could I not say, "Send me," because all of what God has done for me I am so grateful. Whatever you ask, I'm in. What do you want from me? If you ask me to jump, I'm gonna ask, "How high?" May that be my knee-jerk response when God calls me. May that be your response when God calls us. You may not be asked to be a professional minister. You might be. If God calls you in that direction, please say yes. You may not be. My guess is, for most of you, the life you're currently living is the life that God has called you to. God is sovereign. He's put you in these places on purpose to be His representative where you already are.
As you step out into obedience, as you pray, "Send me," and have that perspective widen, you get to experience God's power in your life. You get to see the power of God move through other people's lives in ways you never would have if you had said no, or "Send somebody else," or "I'm not going." This morning, you may fall into one of a few categories. One of those might be that you are like many times, when some dude is standing on a stage talking about are you gonna step out? Are you gonna follow God? You're just all balled up on the inside like, "Eh, I know God is calling me, but I really don't want to. I really don't want to. Eh." I've been there. I've been there way too often. I can tell you, it's better on the other side of obedience.
You can do this just between you and God, but if you're all balled up in there and you know faces, you know names, you might know locations of where God is calling you, with sweaty palms, with all of the butterflies fighting in your stomach, raise your hand and say, "Here I am. Send me." It's better out there on the adventure with God. You might be here, and you have no clear call from God. You have no desire to poke the bear. "He hasn't called me. Why would I introduce that into the equation?” It's better out there on the front lines with God on that adventure, even if He hasn't called you to something specific. He has called you to your life. Go ahead. Raise your hand before God and say, "Here I am. Send me." It's better.
You also might be in a position where, in the past, you've raised your hand. You've said, "Here am I. Send me." You were sent. It was good, but the road's been a little long. It's been harder than you anticipated. It's been full of some disappointments that you weren't expecting, and you're tired. You're burnt out. I also understand that. I've been there, too. There are occasions, there are moments, when sitting down and taking a break, that makes a lot of sense. That should not be the go-to position. That should not be where you sit for the rest of your life. Still, raise that hand and say, "Here am I. Send me," because my experience has been when I am feeling burnt out, when I'm feeling worn out, when I'm feeling stretched beyond what I can physically or mentally or emotionally deal with, God brings rest into the schedule. God brings people to help support. God brings along the resources that are necessary if I will just keep taking my next step and saying, "Here I am. Send me."
Out there with God is where the real adventure is. We've been playing this song, “Highway to the Danger Zone,” before these messages. It really is just a veneer. It's only a danger on the front side of it, as we're, "I don't know what God's going to do." But the real adventure, the real safety is out there with God in obedience. I want to pray for us this morning as we go throughout our weeks, as we send ourselves out into the rest of our weeks.
God, we confess that praying, "Send me," puts a lot on the line for us. Just hearing those two words put together can call into question if we even want to follow You at all. Yet, God, we know that You are good, and You have our good in mind. Wherever we find ourselves this week, at home, at an office, at a restaurant, in a park, wherever we find ourselves, please open our perspective enough to see that, while we might have driven ourselves there in our car, You have sent us there on purpose. And what might You want to do through us in the lives of the people around us? Lord, widen our perspective. Give us courage. Give us grace. Give us the faith to raise our hand and say, "Here I am. Send me." In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.